Monday, 30 April 2012

In the summer..

Seeing as I am not a first time vegetable grower, I can take huge quantities of optimism from freshly dug soil and the increasing daylight hours we are getting at the moment. But if you are a first time vegetable grower it can be difficult to generate such high hopes so early on. I think this is why a lot of people who take on allotments don't last even the first year. The first few months are a lot of hard work, the hardest work you will ever have to do on your plot and there is almost zero reward apart from dull, brown, soil. If it's going to be this hard, then why bother, especially when it comes to April and all it seems to do is rain, rain and well.. rain!

Amy had a little bit of experience with growing vegetables last year, but we did start late and we did buy plants from garden centres, so after planting our courgettes out we were harvesting them in 4 weeks. When you have to plant the seeds yourself in February, March and April and drag yourself up to the allotment on the rainiest of rainy days to water the seedlings in the greenhouse it can be quite a chore to focus on the long term goals.

The most frequently uttered phrase when we are at the allotment is 'in the summer...'. I have to remind Amy that in the summer we won't be looking at patches of bare earth and puddles on the patio, but in fact there will be runner bean plants towering over us, potatoes being earthed up weekly, pumpkins enjoying the beer and sun as much as we are, and sausages sizzling away on the mini barbeque. But snap out of it Martin! We are still looking at bare patches of land right now. But wait, should that be we were looking at bare patches of earth yesterday, but today something has changed. Yep, there is another weed, but what is this? The emergence of the first pea shoot, the onions have started to grow, wait that rhubarb can be picked today. Bring on the custard!

The vegetable section of the allotment (80% of the whole allotment) has been split up in to 4 large beds for alliums, potatoes, legumes and brassicas which will work on a classic rotational basis (sort of). There are also smaller beds for courgettes, sweetcorn, root vegetables, asparagus and pumpkins.

Approaching from the shed the bed on the right is for courgettes and is covered by carpet to keep the weeds off until we need the area,(I'll be doing a post sharing my courgette growing secrets in a week or so). Next the bed on the left is covered with fleece and has potatoes underneath, none have poked through yet, but I'm sure it won't be long, we planted them on Good Friday. On the right the allium bed is really taking off with 2 rows of shallots, 3 rows of red onions, 2 rows of brown onions, 1 row of perpetual onions and 2 rows of garlic...

Moving on up the lottie, the next bed on the right is currently covered in very well rotted horse muck which I need to dig in ready for the brassicas. I was in such a dilemma regards how to prepare my brassica bed, every book and every website conflicts with one another, so I trusted the oldest book I had, so fingers crossed!

The bed on the left is for the legumes. We started some broad beans off in an old grow bag at my Grandad's house and we have transfered them up to the allotment now they are big enough. We've planted a second lot of broad beans directly in to the soil to offer a successional crop..

The new bamboo structure for the runner beans is a big sign that good things are ahead...

Peas have also gone in to the ground and I've put the pea sticks in all ready to hide emerging pea shoots from pigeons, penguins and mice.

At the top of the allotment is one big wide bed, which is going to be 3 smaller beds for sweetcorn, pumpkins and root crops respectively. I just need to source some wood to make the bed divides, but that might not be done until the end of May or the beginning of June. It looks a bit messy, plenty more preperation needed before the end of the month..

So, although I keep saying 'in the summer..' the first rewarding signs of growth and the first harvest of raddish are already upon us. Looking back, there is life all over the plot. Broad beans, peas, potatoes, onions, shallots and garlic are all growing well in the ground. I can't wait for Amy to see what the allotment will look like in the summer, it's going to be spectacular. I promise!

Visit us again soon to see our amazing new soft fruit area!

Thanks again!


Sunday, 29 April 2012

Laying the foundations..

...or the slabs in our case!

Seeing as we are now back online, I am going to be writing several blog updates over the next week or so, focussing upon a different aspect of the allotment each time. After today's post there will be 4 more catch-up posts; veg beds, soft fruit area, navigation and sustainability.
We've had the allotment since the end of February, so almost 2 whole months now. Having the smallest garden in the world at home, and having to use Amy's Dad's house to home our beehive and chickens, we do not have a play area for ourselves. Seeing as we are two young adults, you might think the idea of a play area is quite odd, but what I really mean is somewhere where we can both sit out in the summer, drink chilled ginger beer and pick fresh produce from all around us and maybe accompany all of that with the odd barbeque here and there.

Being the main grower of the two of us, I really want to get Amy more engaged with things happening on the allotment, and to date I have to admit she has exceeded all expectations so far. When we got the plot the first thing she mentioned was a paved area to sit, and being the loveliest partner in the whole world (sickly I know!), I set out straight away to make her area, and I showcased the beginning of this side project in this post here.

If you forgot what it looked like, here it is..

Apart from substantial weed growth all around and the abysmal weather, a lot has changed since this picture. Those rotten bamboo canes in the old blue waterbutt have been thrown out, that rusty old metal bin has been moved to the 'wild area' and of course that particular greenhouse in the picture was stolen! The Rhubarb crowns have burst in to life at the edge of the second raised bed, and the whole 'freshly dug' bed in front of the paved area is now full of establishing onions, shallots and garlic. A third mini raised bed has taken up residence on the left hand side of the bed and is now full of plastic bottles we have grown...

...I meant lettuces......

We currently have little gem and lollo rosso in the raised beds but there are iceberg and more lollo rosso seedlings just emerging elsewhere. The other raised beds are full of....

....and other emerging seedlings including beetroot, swiss chard, perpetual spinach and a hell of a lot more raddish!

We had a taste of the very first raddish the other day. Amy always thought I didn't like raddish and that is because out of principle I refuse to eat shop bought raddish. You can not compare the taste of the shop bought stuff to the home grown crops which are so quick and easy to go. They indeed were delicious and most were perfectly formed!

Following on from the theft of the greenhouse, my grandparent's actually bought me 2 more for Easter which was very kind of them. These have been bolted to the shed and cemented to the ground and are therefore unmoveable, they have also been marked with our names and plot number! In a way the burgular did us a favour, because if we didn't have 2 greenhouses now I don't know what we would be doing! The two are rammed to the brim and we have so many seedlings that constantly need potting upwards and onwards. Here is a sneak peak....

We actually have about 30 courgette plants, it's a good job they are one of our favourite vegetables and we have a whole bed dedicated to them! Bring on the glut!

So anyway, in case you were actually wondering here is Amy's area/the potting area/the shed today..

Not bad hey with table and chairs too, we even have a parasol in the shed, but I think that is a bit optimistic in this drizzle!

I also spoke of the 'wild area' and this is something that happened by accident. We inherited an established rosemary bush and we planted a few rhubarb crowns nearby. This patch has burst in to life but was missing something. So the old rusty metal bin is now in the bed and the plan is to have a clematis grow around it in the summer, but then use it for holding bags of leaf mould in the winter. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work, but we shall see! Here it is...

I'm hoping all of the contrasting colours and leafy growth will look great in early summer.

Well that concludes today's mini tour and update. Check back over the next couple of days for a re-cap of the vegetable beds and soft fruit area!

Thanks for reading. It's now my turn to catch up on your blog too!


Wednesday, 25 April 2012

A taste of things to come...

It is with absolute pleasure that I am able to announce that we are back online!

We now have 2 fully functional laptops between us after a period of time with only our phones to use as internet access and therefore there has been no blog posts for a while.

The allotment has transformed superbly over the last few weeks and we can not believe how well things are going. You would not recognise it from the day we took over to now. We are so proud of our achievements and we are so pleased to have a small taste of things to come.

We had planted raddish seeds in a raised bed planter days after getting the plot, and it was very rewarding to have a nibble on the first few a couple of days ago.

I'm going to do a bumper pack of blog updates over the coming days and week so check back for more pictures and blog entries.

As a teaser, here is the picture of the first raddish out of the ground. You can see some of what the allotment look like now in the background.

It was delicious!!!

Speak soon,


Thursday, 12 April 2012

Happy Birthday Blog!

Wow! It's been a whole year since we started blogging again and if I might say, we've done rather well in my opinion. I did have the urge to do a review of the year in January like so many other bloggers did, but that would have actually been a review of the last 10 months as opposed to a year. So waiting until our blogging birthday was definately more suitable.

Every year, it is nice to go back and look through the blog posts that have accumulated. Having made around 150 posts, averaging about 3 per week, it can take a long time to look through them all. However, it is really beneficial to refresh your memory of what you should be doing now and also remind yourself of the things that worked particularly well and then of course.. those that didn't!

This is where it all started again. A spontaneous trip to a local garden centre resulted in us returning with a bag of early seed potatoes and some courgette plants...

These courgettes were a fantastic success, but the potatoes which we grew in bags were not so great. After giving up my allotment 2 years ago to concentrate on studies it was definately nice to get my fingers dirty again...


This was a very exciting month. Amy who had never grew anything before was witnessing tomato plants shoot right up  and we also saw those two measly courgette plants burst in to a jungle of foliage. This month also brought our first pickings of courgettes too. Simply delicious..

The above photo show our measly patch turning in to a green canvas of leaves and growing produce..

It was nice to get the bees back. After 3 years of beekeeping I have still not managed to harvest a good deal of honey. I only ever intend to take what the bees don't need and with the bees being quite a small colony they have never produced  a great deal. I'm hoping for a much more vigorous honey crop this year. The first inspection of Spring is upon us!

My highlight of the year was adding the Bantams to our ever growing very, very, very, very small holding. Having had 2 hybrids for eggs already in an eglu classic, it was nice to add some more chickens to the menagerie. Lesley and Geraldine our two original hens were rather shocked to see the impecably beautiful bantam trio of Margot, Barbara and Mrs.Weaver pitch up across the path in another eglu. These young, point of lay ladies came to strut their stuff and takeover the ruling of the roost.
There was some sadness to this story. Who can forget when one morning a 'cock a doodle doo' rang throughout the house, and upon very close inspection we realised that Barbara was more of a he than a she. No wonder there was a short term lack of eggs from these 'point of lay' pure breeds.
Here is Barbara in all of her 'cock-a-doodle-doodlingness'...

Anyway Barbara was replaced with Barbara II or Barbaradeux as we like to call her. The Bantams have been laying better than expected through winter and have been putting Lelsey and Geraldine to shame at times.


Our first green pepper came this month along with plentiful amounts of courgettes, tomatoes and mange tout. The potatoes however were a bit of a damp squib, with the potato in bags experiment being less successful than I had hoped it be. A lovely sunny month full of fresh produce on the table, what could be better?


A new academic year saw our blog posting tail off slightly, but good things still happened in our good life...

This month saw us doing lots of nice things inside rather than out. We got our Christmas cakes baked and I also helped Amy bake her first loaf. It is certainly a taste to savour, fresh homemade bread. We also went foraging in the park for crab apples which made a splendid jelly. Christmas things started to appear in shops and our countdown really began..

One of Martin's favourite times of year and not only for the soul reason that it is his birthday. October is a month of Orange. Orange leaves on trees and of course the wonderful pumpkins that emerge on doorsteps around the world at Halloween. We had an extra special Halloween this year with our trip to Disneyland Paris. A truly magical month, but food produced in the garden started to dwindle..


Our only post in November was an introduction to Barbaradeux. It certainly started to feel like Christmas in this month. Barbara was definately glad she wasn't a turkey...


 We had a very merry family christmas this year, which was splendid. With the bees sleeping for the winter, and the eggs starting to come to a stop we weren't up to too much in our good life venture but we did get crafty and make some homemade cross stitch cards for our nearest and dearest..


A very happy new year! Christmas seemed to have flew by without stopping and it was time to sit exams for us both. Not the best month from the 12. Roll on Spring!


Amy's Birthday was celebrated for what seemed forever. With such a large family we had birthday meals here there and everywhere but she certainly wasn't complaining..

I taught Amy how to make perfect bread this month and I think you can agree she is a quick learner..

February is such an important time for vegetable growers and gardeneres. The seed potatoes are ready to start chitting and it's time to think about early broad beans and garlic. Tomatoes and Chillis can be started off too, a small taste of things to come..
A late Christmas present came to us at the end of February in the form of our new allotment. Initially being allocated Plot 16 brought so much happiness, but when faced with the decision betweet Plots 16 and 114 there was only one clear winner. Plot 114 became our new home and definately ensured next month was going to be a busy one..


Like I stated earlier, Plot 114 ensured March was a busy month for us. Clearing the site and getting it ready for planting took some time but we are sure that it is going to be worth it come harvest time..

What next?
Well here's to another year of blogging for a start. We have really enjoyed giving an account of our good life and sharing it with all of our 54 followers and those who don't follow publicly aswell. We have really enjoyed reading everybody elses blogs too and we always try to publicise others blogs as much as our own, so I think that this month I will start featuring our favourite blogs in special posts. You can learn so much from every blog you visit.

For us, Plot 114 is such an exciting project. We can't wait to get things in the ground and start picking them soon. Martin also fancies some new chickens, but that is something we will have to see about, and we really hope that we get a honey harvest this year no matter how small.

One thing we are really keen on is improving the readability and graphology of the blog. So all of your feedback will be appreciated. We hope to include better quality photographs and more posts sharing hints and tips as opposed to just accounts of our days. We've already taken your feedback on board to remove the word verification process when posting comments.

Last but not least we really, really want to thank all of our followers and readers. Our site has been visited over 10,000 times in just under 12 months and from all corners of the globe too. Thankyou so much and we hope you continue to visit throughout the rest of 2012 and beyond.

Thanks again,

Martin and Amy

Friday, 6 April 2012

A rare opportunity..

I have a very brief period of access to a computer this morning, so I'm just going to let you all know that we are still alive but the computer isn't! Well almost isn't..

Our allotment is coming on fantastically and we now boast a barked area, patio, stone paths and more..

The only setback so far has been the theft of our mini greenhouse - a most peculiar crime indeed which I shall tell you about when we are back to normality at this end.

We already have a post written and scheduled for 12th April - a very special date and you will see why if you visit back then to have a read.

We can't wait to share pictures with you and write all about it, but for now it's Good Friday and hence time to plant the potatoes.

We hope you all have a fantastic Christmas... I mean Easter. But you can't be sure these days judging by the weather!!

Martin and Amy