Spring Panic

Absolutely stunning spring morning, shamefully wasted away in bed, and then followed by an afternoon trip to the plot, accompanied by a flurry of soggy hail – my favourite.

I’ve slipped into my usual March panic. The year is galloping along and I feel as though I must be behind. Surely I should have seeds bursting from the ground by now. As it is I haven’t even got round to sorting my seed packs into planting order.

If I bothered to check out last years progress I’d probably remind myself that there isn’t really much advantage to be gained from planting early. The carrots never germinate and all late sown seeds come into there own in late April/early May. I’ve still got that white rabbit panic though: “I’m late , I’m late”.

The purple sprouting broccoli has sprouted at last, the pigeon netting did the trick and I managed to pick a whole buckets worth of the delicious treats.

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Identification Challenge

My parents visited again this weekend and while I was spoiling myself with another half marathon attempt, they were perusing the seed aisles at Wisley.

Here’s my share of their finds:

Assorted Squash

It’s a pack of 10 assorted yet edible Italian squashes. The seeds were packed together so there was hours of fun trying to identify 10 unique varieties. I could seperate 5 distinct seed types before bundling the remaining into a large nondescript pile. I still haven’t  a clue what any of the seeds are, I’m assuming that the large seeds give rise to the larger squash and maybe the bent seed is the crookneck squash but I suppose I could be completely wrong.

I’ve labelled them with the vague impression that I may treat this as an identification puzzle. There is a very slight possibility that I may label my sowings properly this year and eventually manage to marry seeds with fruit and then if the pigs fly, I might save the said seeds and be full of enlightenment this time next year.

Or not of course.

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Month in Pictures – June

So June has been and gone and I can’t believe I managed to miss the summer solstice. I was pleased to discover while putting together this months – Month in Pictures, that I was at least on the plot on the 21st – sowing more carrots. If the summer solstice is also known as midsummers day, that would also suggest that I missed the whole of the first half of summer, I’ve been assuming we were still in spring – when does summer actually start?

Month in Pictures - June 08

June was a good month on the food front, the broad beans were finished with but were replaced at the end of the month by runner and borlotta beans. Spuds were worth digging up from the 2nd week, although I’d probably have got some earlier if I’d taken some anti slug measures.

Seeds germinated at break neck speed this month, it’s worth remembering next year that I shouldn’t stress too much about getting all my plants in early – they soon catch up.

I’m already planning next years seed order, I suppose it’s a bit too early to send the order off but I’ve made my choices of squash, pea, bean and tomato seeds from the Real Seed company. I’m going more exotic next year and avoiding some of the poor choices from this year.

I’m not bothering with Feltham First next year, they may over winter well and crop early but they are gross. In fact I am wiping all smooth peas off the drawing board – only wrinklies will enter my seed box from now on. I think I could manage 3 rows of broad beans as well, I’ll stagger two sowings of Aquadulce and then try something different for a late spring sowing.

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Fireside Gardening

With the recent spate of inclement weather the green fingered addict has to look elsewhere for a horticultural fix. Here are a few of the ideas I came up with:

Plant Lables

While I was forced out of the garden this Easter, thoughts naturally turned to DIY and the flat ended up with a spring clean, a new lick of paint and an assortment of new shelves. With paint brushes and offcuts of wood littering the worktops it was an easy step to start rustling up a few homemade plant labels.

These are made from edging strips coated in white paint, the writing is done with a permanent marker and then coated with a layer of clear varnish. I reckon these will last a good few years and hopefully I won’t lose the next row of parsnips I sow – I can’t find the one I planted a few weeks ago.

Allotment Plan

Even with plant tags it can be quite easy to lose track of the layout of your plot. I’ve heard recently of a few websites that are offering plot design and garden layout tools so I tried out Plangarden which has two week free trial before asking your for a $20 per year subscription.

This enables you to draw up a visual image of your plot. I’m using it here to remember which variety of spud belongs to which row and to determine how much space I have left for everything I have left to sow.

It is its pretty useful but I’ve done it now and can’t quite see why I would carry on and pay for the subscription. There are a few other features such as a planting guide which aims to tell you according to location when it is appropriate to start planting. For my location it tells me that the last predicted spring frost will be the 25th April, so just one more month of anxiety to go.

There are two other gardening websites that I am much more convinced by and would like to recommend to you, these are myfolia and blotanical and both are free.

Myfolia is a beautifully designed website, it enables you to keep track of multiple different gardens eg veg patch, herb garden, flower bed and then monitor individual plantings in each. From there you can write blog posts and progress reports related to your plantings. It is linked to the online photo albums, flickr and picassa, so is very easy to create visually impactful posts.

I think this site is going to be invaluable when it comes to looking back and deciding when was the most successful time for planting broad beans for example. I have two rows planted a month apart and I will keep the progress reports going until they both crop.

The only thing about the site that I don’t like, is the enclosed nature of the website, I think you have to sign up in order to view the content so any blog post you write will only be seen by other members. This isn’t really a problem for me as I have an external blog anyway but I’d like to see an rss feed (or somesuch) that sucks in my existing posts rather requiring me to recreate them inside myfolia.

I’m sure things will change though, the developers are really keen to receive feedback and have made some great enhancements recently. For example the site also provides a few widgets to transfer myfolia content to your blog, on the lefthand toolbar I have a widget from myfolia detailing my latest plantings.

Apologies for the length of this post, we are now approaching the “and finally” bit.

And finally, there is blotanical. This is a great site, essentially a community of garden bloggers. Blogging communities are fairly common but this site has been designed so well you end up wanting to go back daily and as a result you are introduced to so many great blog posts and bloggers. I’ve never actually come across a site that manages to be quite so “sticky”.

All member blog posts are displayed on the site via an rss feed and can be viewed in all their visual glory, from within the blotanical site. You are encouraged through a membership point system to comment on and vote for outstanding blog posts. I’m not quite sure how I feel about this, I believe the voting system is sometimes used as a means to gain points rather than to highlight worthy reads but you aren’t obliged to join in.

Anenome

If you have a garden blog, I would really recommend signing up for blotanical, my readership numbers have trebled since I joined last month and a lot of new and welcome commenters have come my way. I’ve also been introduced to a number of local and more exotic fellow bloggers, so I am never short of something interesting to read.

Phew! All done, have a flower for lasting this far.

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Day 3 – Firestarter

firestarter

I’m not a particularly skilled arsonist, a heap of dried weed roots, decades old piles of the Evening Standard and the key ingredient – lighter fuel and a zippo. Still no flippin flames. I would be useless with the survivalists flint and tinder method. I did eventually get a hint of a flame but as you can see, I didn’t manage to make much of an impact on the ever growing pile of crud.

I took this week off to try an get a head start on this allotment (and to get some long runs in) but unfortunately my immune system decided it was an ideal time to take a break too. I’ve got a rotten cold and am therefore struggling to make much of an impact of the plot. I’ve sent out an emergency parental visitation order though, weather permitting my parents will be here at the weekend to lick this place into shape!

worm

I managed a bit of soil tickling today and uncovered this worm who is clearly feeling as sorry for itself as I am. Quite cute for a wriggly thing.

One task I can manage from my sick bed is allotment planning combined with seed ordering. I’ve got a couple of bulbs of garlic, 2 bags of onion sets and a pack of broad beans, winging their way to me now. Just about the only things available for me to plant this late on. Hopefully I’ll find a source of spring cabbage plants before its too late as well. Oh and I also fancy installing a raspberry fence which is another autumnal task. Dunno how it got to be autumn so soon, I’ve still been holding out for a summer. Can’t hide from the seasons when you’re gardening though.

I paced the plot out today and it seems I have a 40ft * 40ft plot – jolly handy having foot sized trainers. I drew up a temporary, back of a fag packet, plan today, based primarily on a stash of flag stones that I’ve spotted in a corner – hopefully they are free for all but I suppose I better check before I nab them.

Allotment Plan

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