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Half-Baked Blog - The Allotment

Getting to grips, or losing my grip, on a Midlands allotment.
2020 || 2019 || Website's Guts

7th March 2020 - Frantic Pruning

Morning everyone!

It's Saturday morning, and I'm sat downstairs in my chilly house, keen to bash out a few lines before cracking on with the day. So far this year, I've been quite poor at keeping this blog updated. To be fair, it's been busy and I've struggled to get much done at all this year. However, the last few days have marked a considerable success for me and the allotment; the first crops are in. With the last frost for a little while hopefully passed (it's been a warm winter) I've got three of my four broad beans planted out after they grew like fiends on my windowsill. They are in the big bed, by the various fruits, and currently not inhibited by the fruit bushes that grow on the other side of them, as they have no leaves. I'm going to get the fourth one out today, and set a second batch off indoors this week so we can get a somewhat staggered crop.

The radishes I sowed straight into the bed have not done so well, despite the liberal application of good compost. I think, in hindsight, I planted them poorly; too deap and generally not well at all. The broad beans are trouncing them for sure. We have some aubergines going on the upstairs windowsill. Of perhaps 10 attempts, I have four plants that have germinated, and my focus is now on nurturing them to a point at which I can get those planted out too, though I don't think that will be for quite a while yet.

In other news, I've been pruning like a fiend. I have hit the main raspberry bed with gusto, and unceremoniously cut out all the dead vines and plants that have meant it's somewhat congested in there, and has been since we got the allotment. It took an hour, but now I have a raspberry bed that looks healthy, if sparse; with rows of budding plants ready for action without their dead comrades. Hopefully, we will get a better fruiting crop this year.

In a similar way, I've started attacking the fruit bushes with my snippers of doom. First up the ramp have been the blackcurrant bushes. I've tried to be more careful with these, removing obviously dead wood and clipping back to the point of budding on live branches. They've been thinned out a lot, but I think this is for the best and I can't wait to see how they perform this year. In the old bramble bed, the fruit bushes I uncovered when ripping out brambles have been a bit more of a challenge to work out. Where they were seeking light before, some branches have grown along the floor, rooted themselves and come up at strange angles. Working out where the bushes actually are, pruning back dead growth and staking out good branches has taken some time, and clipping runners has meant I've been able to plant three or so "new" bushes that are now seperate to the main ecosystem. It's going to take a couple of years to get these bushes into any kind of "form", as at the moment they're just staked, straggly messes that are going to need some TLC. I am excited to see what they can become, though.

Finally, gooseberries. Last year we had no fruit from these at all, and their location in the allotment is probably not quite ideal. I've planted a new (Poundland) gooseberry bush in a better location with the blackcurrants, but the old ones have been left wild and I'm fairly sure a couple of them are just dead. Pruning them back has been challenging, as the spikes are horrendous and the builder's gloves I use for gardening (I'm a cheapskate) struggled to cope with the barbs. Over the next week, however, I'm hoping to get them into a more compact shape, with dead wood cut away and the dead bushes removed.

The emerging problem on the horizon at the moment is the rapidly growing New Year's bonfire pile. Originally meant to be a bonfire, it's turned into a waste heap for organic material in the middle of the allotment that now stands two metres high and two metres long. It hasn't been dry enough for me to get the chipper out recently, but the time is definitely approaching when I'm going to have to chip as much of it as possible before burning the rest. It's going to be a hell of a chipping marathon, though!

Anyway, I've got breakfasts to make and I'm itching to get outside. Time to get upstairs, get dressed and get out there... perhaps with the chipper. Thanks for reading!

25th February 2020 - Quietly Busy, and Weathering the Storms

To think I nearly bought a small polytunnel for this month. With the weather we've had, that would have been a massive error. It would be in orbit by now, or flying somewhere in the Peak District.

Hi! I am sorry I've been quiet since the New Year. Despite winter being "quiet" in my head, it's actually a hellishly busy time, and I've spent a lot more of it in the allotment than you would have thought, as the evenings have crept out a little in February, enough for me to get out for an hour after work each day and make progress without a head torch.

Well, I've had a pretty eventful start to the year. In my previous post, I alluded to the fact that I'd never known what a hoe was for until relatively recently, and I'm ashamed to admit that this is indeed true. I had no idea. It took an Adtube video from Titli to open my eyes to the potential of this awesome tool, and I've finally found something that rivals sweeping in the satisfaction stakes. How sad is that? When I want to relax, I now just grab one of my two hoes that we inherited with the house, head out to the allotment and dislodge some evil weeds. I've not exactly been regular with it, but I've no doubt that it's been making a difference, especially in the giant bean bed.

Talking of the bean bed, I've made a lot of progress in the big bean bed. You'll recall (or maybe you won't) that I decimated the cultivated brambles at the end of last year, and I've been slowly working on bringing that bed up to a useable state. It's not been turned over for years, and has been chock-full of weeds until fairly recently; or at least until I discovered how to hoe. Now, it's looking much better. I'm still working on clearing the weeds, but they're definitely losing the war. Huzzah! Upstairs, at the back of the house, I've got broad beans and aubergines in pots germinating. I'm hoping to get the broad beans planted out in early March. At the moment, they're doing well and are about the size of my thumb, growing at a rate of knots. In parallel, there's a second set of broad beans out in the bean bed, currently protected by the cold frame until they appear, and to keep them a little safer from the cold weather that M assures me is on the way this week. I've sowed my first load of radishes, which will help to flesh out the salads that will keep M fed and happy for the spring whilst she's at work. She says she doesn't like radish, but I'm not sure if she's tried home-grown ones before; perhaps it will be different.

It's not all been fun and games. Storm Dennis knocked down part of the perimeter wall, so I've got the unenviable task of learning to bricklay so I can sort it out. Here's hoping it goes smoothly. There's not a lot you can't learn with a Youtube video and a healthy dose of optomism, that's for sure. Sorting the wall out will also allow us to finally repair the gate, which is currently only a rotten garage door that is somewhat wedged in place.

There's so much going on. I really am sorry I've been so quiet. I'll be back soon; there's so much to share in my catalogue of horticulture fails. Thanks for taking the time to listen.

21st January 2020 - New Year, New... oh wait, still the same.

Happy New Year, one and all. I've actually been fairly busy in the allotment over the last couple of weeks, but I've been keeping it quiet and am going to make a few seperate posts about, rather than lumping it all in as one. If you want a teaser, I can tell you this much; I got some grit stuck in my eye, decimated some weeds, realised my rhubarb isn't dead, worked on my compost heaps and finally learned how to use a hoe at the grand old age of 29.

Anyway, here's to an exciting year of actually eating home-grown foods, rather than just clearing overgrowth in the allotment. M and I have been to Wilkinsons and spent a whole £8 (I feel this to be a lot of money) on seeds, getting excited for our year ahead of eating, learning and failing. And lucky you; you'll get to read about it here.

I will follow with some actual content in the next few days. You'll all be pleased to know I've started using a digital camera instead of my constantly-blurry phone, so there may even be some decent images!

Thanks for stopping by, and be sure to check out the posts from 2019. Here's hoping for an exciting 2020.