Squirrel's Garden

Blogging the highs and lows of my attempts at allotment gardening

Location: Sherwood Forest, United Kingdom

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Clouds and Silver Linings

Yesterday, in one of those rare moments this month when the sun shone through the raindrops, I noticed an accidental piece of artwork in my garden.

I was sitting bemoaning the fact that the weather was keeping me out of both my garden and my allotment. Half finished jobs lay abandoned to the inclement weather and it felt they were leering at me for not giving them the attention they demanded. Staring through french doors leading out to the back garden I watched the raindrops bouncing on the patio. Many of my plants looked bedraggled and hung their foliage and flowers as if sulking whilst the weeds seemed to spread their open arms and lift their heads in joy. I glared accusingly at them all.

Suddenly the rain stopped and the sun shone brightly.

Then I saw it. It had been there all along but now it came into its own in the rays of the sun.

Grabbing my camera I tried to capture on film what I saw with my heart. I hope you like this too.
The wagon wheel was just leaned against a low wall whilst I decided where I wanted to put it once I have been able to extend the patio area. If this rain ever stops long enough to let me do it. Still they say every cloud has a silver lining and today this was the one I found.
I think it looks lovely with the lillies and ferns.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Flaming June!

This season has been appalling. It has rained almost continuously now for weeks and the temperatures have been below normal for the time of the year.
Widespread flooding had occurred both locally, and in neighbouring counties, with many homes still under water 3 weeks after the event and have little hope of being back in their homes for at least a year.

This is reported to be Sherwood Forest which our allotments overlook. This person seems to be making the most of the unexpected, temporary lake.

This is Bilsthorpe, a neaby village that I lived in before coming to live here.

The access road to the houses and playing field is under water.

Down on the allotment it is a sad picture even though we have been much luckier than many others due to our raised position and sandy soil.

Onions have been pelted by the driving rain which has battered and bruised the leaves. This has left them open to disease. Also their waterlogged roots have left them open to mildew and rot at the base.

Everything is sitting in water saturated soil which is very cold to touch. It is the soft leafy crops and strawberries that seem to have suffered most. In the end I took my nets off the strawberries and let the birds have whatever they could get to before the slugs and rain got to them. My turnips have also rotted in the ground.

On a more positive note I had decided to try my hand at growing celery for the first time.
I dug a pit approximately 4ft by 6ft into which I tipped well rotted farmyard manure. I topped this with shredded paper mixed with chicken manure before replacing the topsoil. This formed a raised bed into which I planted my celery and a few celeriac plants. I created a netting cage around this bed and watered daily with a weak comfrey mixture. As you can guess this was before the rains came and I was watering twice a day to keep the ground well moistened.
Then down came the rain but the celery seems to be loving both the cool and the wet as does the celeriac.

The other positive feature is the new poly-tunnel which has given shelter to many young plants, and myself during recent weeks.

The potatoes under straw are now being slowly harvested and I am very pleased with the results of most of the varieties we have tried so far. The biggest casualty was the International Kidney (Jersey Royals). For some reason a resident mole had decided to play underneath this row and undermined the seed potatoes so much that they hung suspended above the soil. There were many very small potatoes, about the size of a peanut, and only a few of edible size. These were relished with some freshly picked salad vegetables and a locally produced pork steak.

First Early Potatoes Under Straw

I am conducting my own experiment and here are the results so far
Potato Tasting

International Kidney Nice but nothing special
Did not perform well under straw

British Queen Performed very well under straw, but little scabby.
OK boiled but nothing special perhaps still too young as they are an early main crop
I lifted more of this variety at the end of June. Much more mature, nice white potato, which made very nice mash.

Swift Very nice boiled and tossed in butter.
Also lovely cold or cold sliced and butter fried
Fair performance under straw

Mayan Gold Very golden with a buttery taste,
First picking picked as new potatoes but they are early main crop.
Roasted in skins – Delicious
Grown in buckets, lots of small tubers

Rocket Extremely nice flavour, Kept shape boiled
Like a nostalgia trip.
Performed very well under straw

Maris Peer Performed very well under straw.
Yet to be tasted as so far they have been given to friends.

Only another dozen varieties to sample.

The golden beetroot has also been wonderful but I am eagerly awaiting the Bulls Blood variety as this is a vintage variety that I recall from my childhood.

The Duke of Edinburgh students have harvested many of their first crops which included
Beetroot, carrots, various types of lettuce, radish, spinach, spring onions and broccoli. They are in the process of clearing the ground for late sowings if the ground ever dries out enough to sow or plant.

Student's Beds

Their potatoes, cabbage, leeks, celeriac, chard, broad beans, outdoor tomatoes and cucumbers are holding up very well at the moment so I am hoping that their wet experience will not deter them from growing their own veg in the future.

My most successful crop this year is my wonderful crop of weeds. They are many and varied and seem to go from strength to strength. In fact the more my cultivated crops sulk about the weather the more my weeds seem to thrive.

Anyone know if any village is holding an annual weed competition this year?