Category Archives: raised beds

Honeyberry

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This is my Honeyberry, I bought it two years ago from a shop that was selling it off cheap. I felt so sorry for it I had to buy her and bring her home, (this happens to me a lot).

Honeyberry are actually a form of edible honeysuckle ‘Lonicera caerulea’ some people call them blue honeysuckle or edible honeysuckle. They originally come from Siberia, Northern China and Northern Japan. Like blueberries they are extremely high in antioxidants and vitamin C, but unlike blueberries they aren’t picky about their soil and will grow quite happily in most soil types. The berries make good jam or can be eaten fresh.

So far I have to say ‘she’ is a ‘tough old boot’. Last year whilst we were having work done on our house, the boys threw a load of top soil right on top of her in the raised bed. I didn’t fancy her chances, I thought she was gone. I finally found her whilst digging around with my hands carefully feeling for branches, which I gently brought to the surface as best as I could. Needless to say last year she didn’t do much of anything, a few leaves and certainly no flowers. But today whilst I was checking around the plot I spotted she was blooming away, Result!

I am painfully aware she doesn’t have another mate to pollinate with, maybe I will find another one another day, but for now I thought I would see if I could hand pollinate and just maybe this will fertilise the flowers. I have no clue on earth if this will work. But it’s a worthy experiment whilst I keep looking for another one to put nearby.

So in the spirit of experimental allotmenting I took my little paint brush and tickled all the flowers. Just maybe this will do the trick… Time will tell
!

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Globe artichokes (Cynara scolymus) are drunk…

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I can only assume my Artichokes are drunk! I have a raised bed which is stuffed with them, I like to grow them for the bees, which adore the huge flowers in summer. Massive purple thistle like heads open up around July time. They are so massive they look like they are straight from Jurassic times. I can only assume it’s been so mild this winter they think it’s early summer and have grown their huge buds early!

I hope this won’t affect the plants through the year, I’m not entirely sure what to do. They have been there for about 8 years so maybe with age they get confused. It could be time to sow some more incase they die this year? Have you noticed anything odd in your garden or plot, would love to hear from you.

Time to empty the compost heap

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What a big job, I’m so glad it’s done! I have, like many allotment growers, raised beds. Some of which aren’t exactly raised, in fact, you could say are sunken.

Well today I have emptied my compost heap and filled my last ‘sunken raised bed’. I’ve being filling that heap all of 2013, a mix of kitchen scraps, old weeds, horse manure, cuttings, cardboard even dust from my Hoover.

Now the bed is finally filled, the key is to leave it to settle before doing any planting. It will sink a little whilst it settles and obviously is going to need regular hoeing as any weed seeds start to wake up. But it’s full of promise.

Now to start work on the new heap, the gardening wheel turns again! Happy gardening my friend! X

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Kale and allotment snobbery

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I do love vegetables, to me they are the ultimate plant. Many have long histories, they are fascinating to grow and the amount of varieties keeps even the humble carrot interesting, the best bit of it all, you can eat them!

This is a staple in our house, we all love it, Kale.

It’s a meaty veg with a proper bite to it. Tastes wonderful in stews with all sorts of meat, amazing with pasta or just on a plate with butter and cheese grated on the top.

One of the reasons I particularly love it is, well apart from it’s taste is, it looks beautiful. Curly Kale with it’s zig zag edged leaves, it’s adorable – it’s a tough old bird too. Especially the dwarf kind.

She’s not bothered about shade, full sun, soil type as long as the soil isn’t water logged she will grow through it all. I sowed these last spring and she is still giving wonderful harvests in winter too. Slugs don’t really bother it, maybe the odd caterpillar in summer and pigeons aren’t the least bit interested, it’s a tough cookie for sure.

I mentioned allotment snobbery, well that’s because I was shocked to my socks by a comment from another allotment holder last year. I was minding my own business picking a huge basket of it one sunny day, when the bird song and serenity was broken by a woman who invited herself onto my plot.

“Kale I see” she said in a voice which reminded me of a school teacher.
“Oh yes! Isn’t it lovely? It’s really tasty” I replied.
“They feed it to horses you know, I don’t bother with it” and off she tromped in her golfing shorts and head visor.
I sat there for a minute slightly confused, “what was that all about?”

Well The moral of this little tale is thus…

As I walked down the allotments last weekend to have a look what wonders and exciting things people were up to (there’s always something) I walked past her plot, I could help but notice it was barren; nothing to eat at all!

So my golf short wearing friend. ‘I’d sooner eat like a race horse all year round, than like a King just in the summer! (I’m also blowing a raspberry too) X

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Aquadulce Claudia – over wintering broad bean.

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In November last year I sowed some over wintering broad beans called Aquadulce Claudia. I have never sowed them before, but I love broad beans and the idea that I could have a cheeky early harvest in late spring really excited me.

I sowed them in three different locations to see which location would be best for next Autumn.

– The first were sowed in an unheated Poly tunnel

– Second unprotected in a raised bed

– Third where in a raised bed but under a home made cloche made from corrugated plastic.

Results so far:

The first set popped their heads up first, but then disaster struck, when mice snuck into the Poly Tunnel and dug all but two up, then to add insult to injury snails started to nibble on them. They are still growing the tallest, but they do look very leggy, which would suggest, even though the poly tunnel is bright the light level may not be ideal for them.

The unprotected ones came up last but more germinated, although healthy, still small.

The last set grown under the makeshift cloche look brilliant however not as many germinated. The ones that did come up, look fab. Lovely and strong, good colour very healthy. The corrugated plastic is completely clear, unlike the slightly opaque Poly tunnel.

It’s still early doors with regards which way is best, but now spring is approaching things will start to speed up.

It’s quite an interesting experiment. Hopefully in the late spring I will be munching on wonderful bright green Broad Beans covered in garlic butter… Well that’s the plan!

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Working out next seasons planting

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Last night, G&T in hand, I slowly started working out what needs to go where on the allotment next spring. I have a gardening note book with crop rotations in from 2010 it’s lovely to see what I have planted over the years. Goodness only knows where the past 10 years of other rotations have gone! I work on a four year rotation: salad/free bed, onions/roots, Legumes, Brassica. And they follow each around my plot, never planting in the same spot, well, apart from things like Raspberries etc.

I could plan it all out on a spread sheet or one of those fancy Gardening Apps but there’s a kind of mediation to drawing it out and colouring it in. Whilst your drawing a line your mind can think about what crops should go where, it feels more grounded to me.

This is how I do it anyway, I like doing it like this, but everyone works in a different way. So now it’s time to sort through my seeds and see what I need.

Yipppeeee spring is coming!

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What’s been happening?

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Sorry I haven’t been around the past couple of weeks, I have been busy. Each year I help with a toy appeal in my area, to ensure that kids in my area all get some toys on Christmas day. Its heart breaking to think some kids get nothing as their parents simply don’t have enough money to spare. Well this year I sorted it out so each child will be getting loads, it was my most successful one and I feel so proud.

So after doing 13hr shifts at work and running around doing my own families shopping I can finally relax. All the toys have been dropped off at the various charities and have been wrapped and ready to go!

I have been keeping busy though on the allotment, usually in the dark! I put my Broad beans in November and they are finally poking through. The soil was still reasonably warm so with the help of a make shift cloche to protect them from the 90 mph winds – here they are!

To be honest I’m shocked it stood up to the wind but it did! Each year you learn how to make your constructions a tiny bit better. Also you find out a little bit more on which seeds to use at what time of the year. These are over wintering beans they are called ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ AGM. They grow long green pods filled with lush big beans, Which can be sown in spring or autumn and take about 25 weeks to pod up! Nice to keep some parts of my allotment busy through the winter, whilst I thumb through seed catalogues and dream up next years planting scheme.

Here’s a picture of my home made cloche, just after I made it and a month on, you can see the broad beans just poking through!