Friday, 25 November 2011

My Guardian blog: The new allotment

Today saw the launch of a new series of blogs posts I'm writing for The Guardian.  Posts will focus on taking on and developing an allotment plot and this will run on a monthly basis.

I really hope you enjoy the new blog (just click the image above) and I look forward to reading your comments!


Sunday, 20 November 2011

A Quick Allotment Update and the Competition Winner

With the days becoming ever darker and with the cooling temperature there is little for me to do in my garden or on the allotment plots aside from tidying up and carrying out a little bit of landscaping work.  Even if I wanted to do more the chances of me doing so any time other than a weekend is highly unlikely, unless of course I don a head-torch and garden by torchlight (there's an idea!).

The focus at the plot right now is on finishing off the dead hedge around the chicken coop, with the stems from the 12ft Buddleia I cut down, and then mulching the remaining beds that lay empty.  All of the garlic has been planted ahead of colder weather and this year I'm growing eight different types in all: Elephant garlic, Albigensian Wight, Lautrec Wight, Picardy Wight, Solent Wight, Chesnok Wight, German Red and a Purple Heritage variety.  After last years success I'm really looking forward to see how each performs.  I'm also toying with the idea of sowing broad beans at the moment but I'm yet to find the time.  My spring sown crop did really well so there's no issue if I don't get round to it.  Hopefully I'll get a chance next weekend if frost hasn't arrived by then.

Parsnips, Cabbage, Kale and Brussels Sprouts are all ripe for the picking and I'm just waiting for a nice frost to sweeten the parsnip roots.  The chickens continue with their moult and are now lacking tails and bum feathers, which makes them look quite ridiculous.  At least we're still getting one or two eggs a day.

In other news the the 'grow your own' book giveaway has come to an end and James Howard was selected at random as the lucky winner.  I really hope you enjoy the books as they are both great reads.  Also, for those of you that didn't enter keep your eyes peeled as another competition is just around the corner!

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Dahlias: To Store or Not to Store?

With the first frosts of this Winter making themselves known the question of whether or not to lift tender perennials, especially those that are tuberous, raises its head and this annual dilemma looms large at the forefront of my mind.

In many areas of the country lifting is not so much of an option as it is an essential part of garden maintenance.  In my part of the world, however, you could probably get away with a deep mulch of organic matter and a large dollop of hope.  Last winter, of course, was the exception to this otherwise carefree approach and the lingering seed of doubt that was sown begs the question - to store or not to store?
If you follow my blog you will have read about my pound shop cutting garden.  The Dahlias were definitely the stars of the show and as such I want to make sure that I can repeat this next year, despite their somewhat low cost.  Lifting and storing the tubers will be nothing more than a 10-20 minute job but the task itself will allow me to save what I currently have and increase my stock next year if I choose to take cuttings.

To lift your Dahlias, simply wait for the first frosts to blacken the leaves, cut down all top growth to around 15cm (6 inches) and lift the tubers carefully with a fork.  The cut foliage can then be added to the compost bin.  Remove all loose soil and fine roots from the tubers and place them upside down, with the stems facing downwards, in a wooden box or plastic tray (the kind you find at fruit and vegetable markets).  Leave the tubers to dry for around 3 weeks in a frost free place and then place the tubers the right way up and cover them with vermiculite, coir or dry compost.  Store the tubers in a cool space, free of frost, and make regular checks for rot.  It’s as simple as that.  When Spring returns, simply place the tubers in trays of good compost, in a sunny position and give them some water that will initiate the tubers to sprout.
This is pretty much what I’ll be doing this weekend along with planting the majority of my Alliums and possibly making pickled red cabbage ready for giving as gifts at Christmas.

In other news, the chickens are still producing one measly egg a day, despite a recent worming and improved diet, I have taken delivery of next years seeds from the fantastic Seed Parade, and I have been nominated in the Horticultural Channel TV Awards 2011 under the category of the best gardening/allotment blog of 2011.  Thank you to those of you who nominated me and if you wish to vote for me you can do so here.  Good luck to everyone else who’s been nominated in my category and all the others too.
Web Analytics