A light February flurry

…of gardening, at last!

It sure has been a quiet winter on the MBaF front. I’m a fair-season gardener for sure, and even my Gardener’s World magazines festered largely untouched some months.

But for a few hours, on a couple of recent days, the feeling of spring’s approach has begun to cajole these green fingers to flex.

Today has been one of those days, and it happened to coincide with no work and Miss MBaF at nursery. I couldn’t deny it any longer. Seeds. Were. Sown.

Hello 2016, and in Delia Smith’s immortal words: Let’s be avenue!

 

Pea Douche Provence sown. Over-wintered Nigella potted on.

 

 

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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. 

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.

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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!

And we’re off…my 2015 plan

I really wanted roast parsnip with our dinner tonight, but I completely wimped out of the required allotment trip. The freezing winds, sleet and mud just weren’t for me today.

But weather like this is spot-on for one important task. Planning.

So, in the comfort and warmth of the living room I got the pencil, paper, ruler and books out. And this is the plan:

  • Cabbage – under-rated but such a useful veg, cooked and raw, and liked by all our family. Also, our soil seems to grow brassicas extremely well. I guess it must be on the alkaline side (they like that), though I haven’t checked (maybe I’ll get around to that this year). Planning to grow a row each of autumn and winter varieties.
  • Some kind of hardy leaf – undecided whether to grow spinach or some kind of kale. I think spinach is a bit more adaptable as an ingredient, so that might swing it.
  • Early potatoes – I haven’t decided on the variety yet but I’m after something with a the distinctive sweet flavour of a proper new potato. I grew Charlotte last year and they were tricky to cook fresh out the ground (outer disintegrated when the middle was tender) and didn’t have the flavour I’m looking for. I think older varieties like pentland javelin or sharps express might suit me better. I’m not bothering with maincrop this year. They take up a lot of space and I’m unconvinced I could tell the difference between homegrown and shop-bought once roasted or baked.
  • Carrots – I’ve been tentative about committing to carrots! But with some half-hearted effort last year I got promising results, so this year I’m planning to take the plunge with a few rows sown successionally for a long harvest. I think they could be a winner with Miss MBaF too.
  • Beetroot – roasted beetroot was a recent discovery that I’m keen to enjoy much more!
  • Lettuce – I’m really quite crap at growing lettuce. I’ll use some new varieties this year and try to motivate myself to cut and wash it.
  • Peas – love them fresh for the pod. Gotta be grown. One row got hammered by pea weavil last year (no, I’d never heard of it before either), but now I know what to look for and I have a spray to treat the young plants with if necessary.
  • French beans – we’re not keen on runners so I’m going to stick to frenchies this year. And I’m going to grow them on a straight row of supports instead of a wigwam, as the tops got too tangled to pick like that.
  • Sweetcorn – one last try. Last year was a disaster: terrible germination, no crop. I haven’t worked out how to improve the germination yet, will have to read up…or just buy young plants. The plot is very exposed, which really doesn’t help, but I’m planning to shelter them behind the beans (sorry beans!).
  • Flowers – I’ve started a little plot for cut flowers, they’ll need some shelter too I’m sure.
  • Fruit – but I’ve blogged about that plenty.

So that’s it. At some point before too long I’ll have to work out what happens after, when the first crops are lifted and I’m thinking ‘what next’? But for now, I need to start seed shopping.