Thursday, May 17, 2007

Strawbs on the way

At last I got around to weeding the strawberries today: they were sprouting thistles by the time I got to them, so they've been a bit neglected, but fortunately I've shoved so much manure and compost into the beds that the soil is about the best on the allotment and the weeds just jumped out.

The Honeoye I planted last year have been a bit disappointing - small plants still and only a handful of strawbs. They aren't much further along than the Cambridge Favourites next door, either - but perhaps it's just that it's their first season.

The Cambridge Favourites, on the other hand, are in their second year and quite amazing. I don't think I've ever seen so many strawberries per plant - must be a good dozen to 20 each. They're still tiny but should produce a fantastic crop - that is, if I can beat the slugs and mice to them...

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Planting, planting, planting...

This time of year I abandon everything else in the rush to get my baby plants into the ground. That means my poor allotment is looking increasingly shaggy - grass up to my knees and weeds in the strawberries. But the coldframe is full of hardened-off veggies which demand to be taken to their new home.

Today it was the turn of my calabrese - Pacifica is a good mid-season hybrid which I'm hoping will take the place of my poor failed Tiara (early) sowing. Just two seeds germinated - I still don't know quite what I did wrong - and then I turned up this morning and found that one of the seedlings had been eaten by slugs.

Since one early calabrese plant is too sad for words, I've filled up that row and the one next to it with the Pacifica. I try to sow three "sittings" of calabrese - otherwise you get a glut which can't be frozen easily. Last year the whole thing was a failure as the drought got the lot; this year the Tiara have, as I said, turned up their toes, and I was away on holiday when the Pacifica germinated so though I got lots of lovely seedlings they were very leggy. Time will tell how they survive their bad beginnings.

The third late sowing is currently two seed-leaves in my greenhouse, but looking lovely and healthy so if I can keep the slugs off (beer traps have been set!) I might yet get some sort of crop...!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Juggling glass

I have two greenhouses. Yes - I know, it's a bit much. The worst of it is, I have a secret yen for a third one, too.

One greenhouse is at home - that's currently stuffed to the gunwhales with bedding and cutting flowers for the garden, but also raises all my veg seeds (I prefer to have them where I can keep an eye on them). Outside it are also two rather ramshackle coldframes, soon I hope to become one very large and less ramshackle one, where I eventually evict all the baby plants when the pressure to use the borders inside the greenhouse becomes too great. The process has already started - today I took out one of the benches and planted my cucumbers out. They're "Cum Laude" - an F1 female-only variety which cost a small fortune but I hope will be worth it. They've formed some great little plants, at least.

The next bench will come out once I've evicted my tomato plants. They're currently growing into small monsters in 3-litre pots, waiting for the automatic watering system to get itself sorted out up at the allotment greenhouse. I've just bought a dripper system from Two Wests - great online greenhouse/watering/gardening site - which connects up to a water butt. So far, so good. The plan is to feed the hose through a hole in some marine ply which I've replaced one of the glass panes with. However - if you've ever taken a close look at water butt taps, you'll know they're not exactly standard. So I've had to order a new connector - one of the ones with a screw thread to fit any size tap - and an in-line filter as they don't supply them with the dripper kit (to their shame - there's nothing more infuriating than realising you've got to search out another bit of kit to make the first bit work).

Once they've arrived and I've got it going, off go the tomato plants and I can free up another border for the aubergines and peppers. I did also want to grow melons this year - but the slugs have taken a good munch at the growing tips so I'm not sure the plants will make it through.