Pick of the week

Now then dear readers. Do you remember all those week ago – after a disastrous attempt at growing peas and mange tout at the allotment – I sowed some in guttering?? And then, a few weeks later, I stuck ’em in the allotment??

Well dear reader, I have marvellous news! Despite being far too late in the ground, the mange tout have persevered, enjoyed the late summer/early autumn warmth, and are cropping!! Hoo-bloody-rah!

I’ve had three pickings from them so far, and plenty more coming (until the weather kicks in, I suspect). It feels like such a late-season bonus – the guttering was really an experiment to see if I could evade the allotment nasties that did for my seedlings in the ground. But I kicked it off so late that I wasn’t sure much would come of it.

(And, admittedly, the peas were a disaster; got in the ground and gave up the ghost)

In other news, the wonderful – and long-awaited – sweetcorn harvest was overwhelming us. I didn’t want to waste it and let the cobs overripen, so Miss MBaF and I wheeled up to the plot and picked the lot.
  

I cut them in half, par-boiled them for a couple of minutes, cooled them in iced water and put them in the freezer. Now we don’t have to have them with EVERY meal, just the ones that they go with!

What’s been your Pick of the Week?

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Hap(pea) travellers

It was inevitable that, at some point, my peas in their pipelines had to find their way from the guttering in our front garden several hundred yards up the road and into the allotment earth.

They’ve done pretty well in the gutters, germination was very high and the mangetout in particular (I think, I forgot which was which) were looking really healthy and shooting up quickly. The [probable] peas started well, but had begun to lose colour and look a little bit sad.

And now the time had come for their exciting adventure! Mr MBaF helped me manoeuvre both 2.5m dirt-filled gutters into the open boot, over the back seat, between the front seats and onto the dashboard (lucky I don’t have a nice, or clean, car!).

My trug provided an anti-wobble wedge, and we were off!

  

Mr MBaF was busy with DIY at the house, so once the legumes were loaded, I was flying solo. But it was surprisingly straightforward to extract the pipes from the car and carry them to the plot.

I used a bit of the allotment’s new muck pile, and dug over the area destined for the seedlings – before creating two shallow ditches.

I had thought that the rows of peas would be easiest to transfer if the soil was damp. But transfer of the first row (mangetout, I think) was a very messy affair, where I had to separate the row into smaller sections (breaking roots as I did) and push them along the pipeline. So I took a different approach with the second gutter, leaving it dry, and literally letting the row slide out into the prepared plot. This worked really well and was quick and clean.

I firmed the rows in, gave them a good soaking and stuck the pea sticks in along both rows for support. Then made some anti-pigeon foil ‘sails’ to blow around in the wind.

I know what you’re all thinking: it’s really a bit late to be planting peas. Yes yes, I know, and I’m not really expecting them to produce a crop. But it’s been a useful experiment for next year – a way to get my peas established without the bloody weevils having their wicked way with them.

And you never know, maybe we’ll have a late summer pea bonanza!

Peas in the pipeline

For the second year running my peas and mangetout have been chomped by bugs. My plot seems to have pea weevils, at least I’m pretty sure that’s the cause, though none of my neighbours seem to suffer the same fate. 

Last year I carefully sprayed them with a pesticide quite successfully, but it was just too windy whenever I tried this year and I didn’t keep on top of it. 

So a couple of weeks ago I called it quits and hoed the whole row – I’d had it with peas. 

…and then I changed my mind and had a cunning plan – one that I’d heard about and seen fellow bloggers trying. 

I called for help on our amazing village Facebook page (snippet below with names removed to protect the innocent)

  
 

Amazing! Seriously I could write a whole blog on how brilliant and helpful this page is!

So, two lengths of guttering acquired, I filled them with a compost/soil mix and sowed one with peas and one with mangetout. The gutters are in the front garden, away from the little pea-munching blighters and close-at-hand for watering. I’m using netting to stop the blackbirds digging about. 
  
It’s a bit late for sowing peas, but I’ll keep my eye on them and – if they manage to grow into strong little plants  – I’ll slide them into a row at the allotment. 

Strong plants should withstand a weevil attack. We’ll see how it goes. 

Pea muncher

I’ve not had much time for the allotment or garden in the last coupla-weeks. But we’re off for a short break from Wednesday, and there are a few urgent jobs to get done.

My lovely healthy Hispi seedlings have been shouting “Plant me out, plant me out!” for a week or so. 

 

hefty hispi seedlings

 
Tonight I took pity on them and got them in the ground.

 

hispis in the ground…at last

 
Brassicas like to be planted firmly – they don’t enjoy their roots rocking about in the wind. So when planting my cabbages I pop them in a hole, backfill with soil and then stand carefully with a boot either side of the seedlings – close to the plants – and do a little half-jump. This firms them in securely, and creates a bonus dip that holds water – reducing run-off and wastage during the summer evening rounds of watering.

Once planted and watered well I covered my cabbages with butterfly netting, slung over the fancy U-shaped supports my Dad bought me.  I have high hopes for my Hispis – the plot tends to ‘do’ brassicas quite well, and homegrown cabbage is yummy.

I had loads of seedlings left, so my favourite neighbour got those.

After the cabbages, I moved up the plot to break open my pea sticks and put them up around the up-coming peas and mangetout. I quickly spotted the telltale signs that something’s been enjoying the tender young shoots already. 

pea weevil damage on the mangetout seedlings. My soil looks dreadful close up!

Pigeons are always under suspicion, but I’ve seen these notches around the edges of the leaves before. Last year, in fact. I’m pretty sure it’s pea weevils again – the little blighters.

The RHS says that chemical control is usually unnecessary because the plants can withstand the damage, but that’s not my experience from last year – so tomorrow I’ll be taking my spray to them I’m afraid.

overly tall pea sticks to keep the pigeons out – i think the weevils may still squeeze through!

 
It’s tempting to shove the sweet peas and climbing beans in the ground before we go away – avoiding the problem of working out how to keep them watered while we’re gone. 

Maybe I’ll hedge my bets and plant half tomorrow and keep the rest under cover just in case of a last frost. 

Toddler-friendly allotment jobs. Part 2.

Unless it’s harvest time, Miss MBaF can take some convincing to join me at the allotment. I don’t tend to drag her there if she’s not keen – it’s really not worth the stress – but yesterday she said she wanted to help me sow the peas, so this morning I gently persuaded her and ….well, OK I dragged her there.

I don’t subject her to time-consuming gardening jobs – as with everything in toddlerdom, it’s all about quick-wins. So, having already dug over and prepared a passable seed bed for the peas (I figure it doesn’t have to be the finest tilth, when the seeds are so big), we got straight into the action.

Seed packets are fiddly, so I put a handful of the dried peas in a little trug and showed Miss MBaF how to put them in a line along each side of the row. And then I left her to it.

Miss MBaF sowing peas

Miss MBaF sowing peas

The result was patchy, but she’d kept inside the row (apart from the handful she threw goodness-knows-where). I spread the ‘busiest’ areas out a bit when she wasn’t watching, and then we did the same with a short row of mangetout. I raked the soil over the seeds and then Miss MBaF enjoyed collecting water from the trough in her little watering can, and giving them all a good soaking.

IMG_4529

While Little Miss was busy with the sowing, I got to work filling up the first of the ‘raised beds’ I’ve added to the plot for her. These are two old car tyres that I found in a pile of discarded furniture and play equipment behind our village school. I thought they would be a great size for her to plant veg or flowers in. Unlike most little people, she’s not that keen on getting too messy, so with these she can stay on her feet and still ‘garden’.

Car tyre 'raised beds' for Miss MBaF

Car tyre ‘raised beds’ for Miss MBaF

As you can see she’s already decorated one of them, and maybe we’ll get around to doing the second at some point. So far, she’s said she wants to grow carrots, tomatoes, a sunflower and ‘pretty flowers’ in them. There’s not much space, so we won’t manage all of that.

Today we planted some garden centre-grown flowers for another quick win. They might get replaced later in the season, but I thought it might inspire her to see some ‘prettiness’ quickly.

The plan was for her to dig the holes and put the plants in. However, I noticed some red ants running about on the soil, so I did the digging and planting while she got the plants out of their pots and did the watering.

Dianthus, scabious and something with a name I forget in the first planted tyre

Dianthus, scabious and something with a name I forget in the first planted tyre

Hopefully, there’ll be lots more toddler-friendly tasks to come this season!