Thursday, 26 January 2012

The new allotment: soil improvers

In my latest Guardian blog post I talk about soil and how best to feed it.  Click the screenshot above to be taken to the website or click here.

Saturday, 21 January 2012

A Winter's technical hitch

Hamamelis x intermedia in my garden

The seasons appear to be in the midst of a technical hitch.  Perhaps it’s just that there’s a delay or it could just be that a proper Winter has just passed us by only to be replaced by a semi-spring.  Whatever the actual reason, I wouldn’t mind a little bit of a cold snap to return a bit of natural order to proceedings and reset the balance of the seasons.  Oh, and kill a few slugs too!

On a similar stroke, things have been a little bit behind schedule on the blogging front too (apologies) but life, work, animals, taking on the role of allotment secretary and starting a new business have all eaten away at my time.  So, to make up for lost posts I’ve put together a mini-roundup of what’s been going on.

I completed my ‘Image of the Day’ goal!  When looking back over my photographs from last year it’s hard to believe that the allotment and garden was covered in a thick blanket of frost on this day a year ago.  This library of images, mainly consisting of cake and dogs if you haven’t already had a gander, has proven itself quite valuable as a useful resource from which to reminisce, compare previous years growth and pretty much anything else you want from it.  From tracking my days I now know that one of my orchids has flowered for over a year, I can see that the frogs at the allotment have spawned almost a month earlier than last year and then of course, the blatantly obvious – I make and eat a lot of cake!  I’ve decided that I’m going to carry on with it as an addition to the blog and I hope you enjoy it as much as I do too.
Galanthus nivalis pushing their way through dead Iris sibirica foliage

In terms of weather and the garden, we’ve had quite a mild and damp start to the year. Despite this my garden doesn’t appear to be too badly affected as my snowdrops are on time, my Iris’ are slightly earlier than last year and the other plants aren’t knocked completely off kilter.  One of the plants that did surprise me in the garden though, and not because of it’s unseasonably early flowering this time, was the Hamamelis or Witch Hazel.  Last year it didn’t do a thing beyond looking slightly miserable and out of place but this year it’s already outdone itself.  Smothered in blooms it’s doing exactly what I planted it for – providing a good splash of colour and early season scent.  I have no idea why it’s put on such a show this year but I can’t help but think the milder weather has helped coupled with lots of moisture in the soil.

In other gardens things are quite different.  In complete contrast to my garden I noticed that Fuschias, Lobelia, Geraniums, Osteospermum, Antirhinnum, Hydrangeas, Roses and many other plants including a Loganberry and a Blueberry at the allotment were all in full flower.  Many plants simply appear to be continuing to grow and bloom when they should almost certainly be dead or at least dormant.  I have a sneaky feeling that Mother Nature will redress this balance shortly.

At the allotment the new beds are coming along well and I’ve added my homemade compost to the new lasagne beds.  This stuff is two years old and should be like rocket fuel as not only does it have plenty of green material in it but it also has a lot of well-rotted chicken manure too.  The beds are in quite a shady spot and so I’m contemplating growing quite a few greens and other tolerant crops. The other beds are still waiting to be forked over but as the soil is so wet I’m holding off on this for now.  The eight inherited currant bushes on the new plot have been pruned to open them up and improve their structure and in terms of harvest I’m pretty much out of winter veg.  There are a few holy cabbages left to eat and beyond that it’s just kale, purple sprouting broccoli and leeks left.  In fact, I think the chickens have eaten more of the greens than I have.

And that’s it for now.  If you‘ve recently taken on a new allotment plot please don’t forget to take a look at my Guardian blog and for those of you who would love to win £20 of free seed just click here to enter the competition.

Monday, 2 January 2012

New Year competition: win £20 of seeds

To get the New Year off to the best start possible I’m offering three lucky people the chance to win £20 of seed from the fantastic Seed Parade.  You’ll get to choose for yourself which seeds you want to win and if you take a look at the Seed Parade site you’ll begin to realise that this prize really will allow you to buy a lot of excellent quality seed.

To enter the competition, simply leave the answer to the question in the comments section below.  If you retweet @ryansgarden promoting the offer or share a link from the competition on the Ryan’s Garden Facebook page (you must like the page to share the link) let me know in the comments section below and you’ll gain an additional entry to the competition.  The number of entries will not increase if you retweet or share links more than once.

Question: Which Beetroot cultivar from Seed Parade did I grow last year?

Good luck and a big thanks to everyone who has supported Ryan’s Garden over the years including the readers, sponsors and the great companies that have offered some excellent prizes for our regular competitions.  

Here’s hoping 2012 is as fruitful as the last!

Terms and conditions: This competition closes at 23.59 on 31.01.2012. Any entries received after this time will not be counted. Entrants must be UK residents aged 18 years or older to enter.  By entering this competition you agree and consent to your name being published and by taking part in the competition, entrants are deemed to have read, understood and accepted all of the Terms and Conditions and agreed to be bound by them. The winner will be selected at random and will be announced here on the blog.  
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