Sunday, May 27, 2012

All from nothing... (Part 14)

Our efforts to transform an unused piece of land into a productive vegetable garden.

It appears that we've finally been blessed with some seasonal weather, and knowing Irish weather can turn rainy at the drop of a hat, we've done our best to get out to the allotment on the afternoons and get as much work completed as possible. 

The allotment is changing with the summer, and the beech hedge that runs along one side of it is now a riot of beautiful wine and ruby leaves.

To begin, we built a frame (using the decking wood I mentioned in my last post) for the potatoes to sit in. We had chosen to place the frame parallel with the fence of the allotment, just to the right of the gate. I dug the earth underneath the frame thoroughly - this was a job I had been dreading as it's right beside a huge shrub (that I blogged about some time ago, when I cut it back) and I was concerned that the ground might be full of roots. 

The dreaded roots...

Turns out I was right! As luck would have it, there was only one large one from the shrub, which I had to saw through. The rest of them - and there were many - were mostly nettle roots. 
After I had finished, Clare sowed the potatoes out.
(Left, our makeshift frame)

The next job on the list to get my teeth into was finally completing the forking of the soil on the left of the allotment. This took a couple of hours to do properly, as I was removing the three "R's" (roots, rocks and rubble) while also mixing compost through the soil. After finishing this, Clare layed out some new beds, and picked out whatever stones and roots I had missed. 

The utterly incredible weather continued today, so we packed up lunch for the kids and all headed down to the allotment. I finished up laying out the new beds, and Clare sowed beans (dwarf yellow and purple tepee) and peas into them (the peas were planted out). I then hammered hazel staves into each end of the beds, and ran garden twine between them. To avoid confusion, this gave us three separate structures that the peas and beans will climb up. 

 Our climbing frames.

To make sure growing conditions are are optimum, Clare tested the PH of the soil, and it appears to be PH neutral, which hopefully will be to our benefit.

This evening, I sowed out the asparagus, all of which thankfully are still alive! Fifteen plants in all, that will hopefully keep producing for the next twenty years. 

The veg in the allotment seem to be making the most of the clement weather we're currently enjoying. The radishes are flying up - I appreciate they're a quick growing plant, but this growth is great to see - visibly getting larger by the day! 

On a more serious note, when watering the vegetables this evening, I noticed one of the enemies of the allotment gardener on our celery plants - slugs! I was quite affronted by the sight of them, as I hadn't expected to see them until the allotment was more fully established. In any case, I examined each celery plant and got rid of all of them before going home. 

Our celery - which the slugs want to feast on. Constant vigilance needed!

So that's where we're at. Next week is all about forking (as usual). But this time, I'll be working the right side of the central path. Getting so close to being finished I can almost smell it. So much more vegetables to be grown, eaten and hopefully enjoyed!

The allotment as it looked this afternoon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

All from nothing... (part 13)

Our efforts to transform an unused piece of land into a productive vegetable garden.

So, it's been a while since I posted an "All from nothing" blog. There are a couple of reasons for this - work, my son's birthday, work being done to my house (which just about takes precedence over the allotment ), but primarily due to the fact that I strained my back a few weeks ago, making labour impossible (at least if I wanted to heal said injury). 

My lack of activity at the allotment weighed heavily on my mind - I'm conscious of the fact that I'm behind on the work needed to be done and that the summer is moving on. But there was little I could do save get quite frustrated about my situation. 

Clare stepped up to the tasks at hand, and spent time weeding and ensuring that the veg we have planted was kept watered and fed as necessary. 

We've rows of carrots planted that are starting to poke their heads towards the sun!

Finally, on Sunday last (20th May) I felt ready to head back up and get some work done. We all headed over to the allotment. I began forking through the soil, adding barrow loads of composted manure to the soil as I went. I made good progress, and Thomas helped me out, throwing stones and rocks I was discarding into my barrow to be removed from the site (he also got a kids barrow of his own for his birthday!). Isabelle lay in her pram and enjoyed the fresh air, keeping a keen eye on us. 
Clare weeded, and then sowed Cos Lettuce, Chard and radishes (a personal favourite of mine!). 

Parsnips, much like the carrots, are beginning to germinate.

We got a fair amount done by the time came to go home. 

Today turned out to be lovely - temperatures hitting about 21 degrees, so when I got home from work we all headed over to the allotment again. I brought over some decking timber that we sourced - we're going to use it to build a small bed for our potatoes to go in. I'll hopefully build this tomorrow. I then did some more forking, and Thomas pottered about, doing his best to help  us (though we did have to keep him from treading all over our vegetable beds!). Isabelle, clearly bored, fell asleep. 
Clare planted more celery, and packed compost around the established celery plants, which should "blanch" them, reducing their bitterness. 

Our celery bed, with the new plants to the front, and established plants towards the back.

Clare took the kids home for dinner, and I stayed on for a while , continuing to fork the soil and also bringing more compost in to mix through the soil. Much as I felt compelled to stay until it was dark, I forced myself to head home to help put the kids to bed.

The other veg we've planted out seems to be doing well, as is shown in the photos below. While Clare was sowing the celery today, she noticed that the soil was nice and warm, which is a great sign. 

Our garlic - ideally we should of planted this out months ago, but it seems to be doing well. We grew garlic last year in pots in our back garden, and were fairly successful with it. 

Half of our onion bed. Again, these are growing away happily. We did notice that one was pulled out, which I assume was the work of an inquisitive rook. Still, with a full bed of them, the loss of one isn't catastrophic.  

I've noticed a particular weed that grows beside our allotment - cleavers. These "weeds" were famed in my childhood as "stickybacks", as they could cling tenaciously to clothes (particularly school uniforms!) when they came into contact with them. They can be used with nettles to make a decent tea (which I'm going to make later in the week) and also to be made into a juice. 

As the evenings get longer, I've also noticed a rabbit or three, skulking about the fields surrounding the allotment. They look fairly healthy, and I intend to eliminate potential threat they pose to our veg by shooting as many of them as I can eat. 
Rabbits are a fantastic source of lean, delicious meat, and given their huge numbers in my locale, are a sustainable source of meat. I've been hunting them now for a few years, and enjoyed eating every one I've shot.

Bugs Bunny
I'll publish another blog later on this week. Please feel free to leave whatever comments you like, it's always great to get feedback!