April 2004


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Monday April 5th

Mixed weather, so when it cleared a bit, went to the timber yard near Asheridge Road and gave them the measurements of my proposed pest frames. Went to get cash, and came back to find a pile of treated wood all cut to size beautifully. Bought some screws too, to go with the fence staples I'd got from Focus on the way back from the cashpoint, and then had fun working out how to get them in the car. Both seats down and clamped in position using the front passenger headrest, with the bottom tied to the boot lock. Had to drive to the allots *very* carefully, with hazards on because of the metre or so of timber protruding from the boot! Backed equally carefully to the plot, unloaded it all, put the car back together and went home for a hammer. Back there, started putting my jigsaw together and after hearing a cheery hello, found Clare behind me. She's fed up of digging - and I'm not surprised! All going well (but slowly) it seems. Carried on with the construction, then as some wind picked up, started stapling enviromesh onto the frame. Typically, the mesh is just too narrow to cover the whole lot, so I'll have to go back with fleece at some point and cover the remaining side. The rest looks very nice. Trouble is, the frame is too heavy for me to lift on my own! So I shall have to beg help when it needs moving. I can, however, pick up one side and prop it up on a T-shape, so I can get underneath it to weed or pick. Started the second one but had to run for cover as the next band of rain moved in.

Tuesday April 6th

Rain sun rain sun rain thunderstorm hail sun rain all blinking day. Washout. Literally. Allotment open meeting in the evening, with very few people there. Discussed publicity and also allotment watches as we've had a lot of kids running over the seedbeds this last week. The liaison said we must ring the police as without this, they can't log a problem. I said to Chris that I'd be around all this week so I doubted there would be anyone there. Hmmm.

Wednesday April 7th

Went out at 10am to try and make up lost ground for yesterday, and made a second frame quite quickly. Halfway through, gave my back a rest by going and sorting the bramble out, and so now it's tidily attached to the clothesline which is attached in turn to the vine eyes in the top of the posts. Pleased. With the twine that was left from the initial measuring, managed to tie up nearly all the summer raspberries. There are quite a few canes this time, including one I can't tie in because it's way out of the row. Typically it's one of the larger ones so I'm not cutting it off yet. I'll wait till after fruiting and then dig up the root and move it back to somewhere sensible. At 3pm I became aware of a load of teenagers climbing down into the allotments from the shrubbery, despite me being there hammering, and gradually they noticed me. Then they started to surround me -  it was very frightening so I rang the police. They were chucking stones at Lee's greenhouse and I found it very nerve-wracking, and was glad that the girl on the end of the emergency line was happy to stay there until the police got to the scene. Unfortunately they were spotted and the kids pegged it, but I didn't fancy staying there any longer and after going and meeting with them at the car park, went home. Had a very funny headache in the evening.

Thursday April 8th

Another showery day, so did some spring cleaning before finally getting up to the allotment with trepidation that I was going to find my plot in bits. But it wasn't (phew). Found Dave digging away and after swapping stories it turned out he'd called the police last Friday, and they'd stopped half a dozen 13/14 year olds who'd been running over the plots and the building site. He helped me shift a frame so I could work on the larger one, and I continued with it. Of course *now* I realise that putting the fencing staples in first makes it a lot easier! Dave disappeared after a while, letting me know when he went. Jim appeared about 20 mins later, just as the rain reappeared, and he'd seen the gang stalking me yesterday and had also rung the police. Apparently they'd just sat at the top of the road, watching. I guess that explains why it took them so long. Had to abandon strimming and completing the broccoli frame due to increasing rain. Nearly there. Soon  I'll be able to start weeding! Plan for the next time the rain lets up: finish tying the taller raspberries, prune the buddleia and weed the orchard. And plant some more tulips!

Good Friday April 9th

A glorious day. Finally. Lots of other folk up there too. Finished making the carrot frame by attaching fleece to the side hole. Then started on the large frame at which point Chris appeared, armed with her strimmer. We decided to both make noise at the same time and got cracking. Strimmed the paths around plot 1 and nearly managed to do plot 2 as well before I ran out of petrol! Pruned the buddleia, so have a lot of peasticks now. Had picnic lunch and then got going on the broccoli frame again, scrabbling about trying to get enough netting to cover it. Phone rang - Dave Burgin with manure, so had to dash into town to get cash. Now have large, neatly tipped heap at the bottom of the new plot (and for some reason, a dead rat). No shovelling required to get it off the access road, thank heavens! Finished the frame with as much net as I had, then started to clear and trowel-dig the old cabbage patch. They've all bolted so have decided not to grow the Savoys this year, just twice as many minicoles (which lasted to March anyway). Whitefly everywhere too. So a fair bit of weeding got done before I started to feel a bit wobbly (sun had rarely gone in and I didn't have a hat) so called it a day at just before 6pm, only to find the blasted box of new netting I'd hidden in the cold frame. *sigh* Least I can finish the broccoli cage now. The cages are quite large - I should have asked the wood chap to make them 3.4m not 3.5m, as there is only *just* room for me to walk through the middle when they are abutting. Well, at least there'll be lots of room inside for the brassicas! Chris and I started to leave and found Maggie had appeared, so caught up with her, and swapped some of my pussy willow with some of her narcissi. Told her about the wedding and finally escaped after 6 good hours of furtling. I can dare start on the spuds soon! Totally forgot to take any photos.

Saturday April 10th

… But no spuds today.  It looked like rain, and continued to do so most of the day. Started by planting another pot of the old tulips, and then the Jermor shallots. Two of them were slimy - but growing. Decided to err on the safe side and chucked them. Finished off the broccoli frame at last (with new netting) and realised I'd left the rotation plan at home so I couldn't move the darn things to their proper positions. Finished tying up the summer raspberries as I had the string, pruned the (budding!) autumn ones and then finished weeding and clearing the cabbage beds. Moved two barrowloads of manure (not claggy, easy to lift and not smelly - much nicer than last time and so much easier to shovel!) onto what will be the leek bed, and raked it over. Not digging in - I'll leave that to worms. The leeks will go out at the end of May as usual, so they'll have a good 6 weeks. I can fork it in nearer the time. I'll do the same for the runners. Meanwhile I have a large bed ready for the summer onions. Also stabilised one of the carpet paths by levelling the ground under it and putting stakes in to stop it sliding. Haven't removed any carpet yet. Last year's manured plots are where there's carpet and where the leeks are, so I have to get the leeks out before I plant the cabbages! And build another frame… probably a ? size one, as that should cover the need for two abutting one another and leave me a path! Weeded the edge of the carpeted patch and then the occupied leeks as then it'll be easy to get them out and get the cabbages in when necessary. Tomorrow, if it's nice enough, I'll carry on the weeding up into the orchard area. There are some huge grassy clumps so should be straightforward. If the bindweed doesn't get too bad…





Manured new leek bed and alliums. The main summer onions will go in the bed at front right.

Sunday April 11th

Up at lunchtime and took so many tools I had to back the car up and drop them off! Started off my weeding the orchard, which took ages and had a lot of really horrible clumps of grass in. Dug out the wild bramble by the upward side, or at least I hope I did (there was a lot of root). Planted a couple of pots of Geranium narcissi, evicting the hawthorn and the gladioli to do so. The gladdies can go in plot 2. Manured the autumn raspberries with the old stuff (quite crumbly now) and was brave enough to try some digging and manuring of plot 2. Not much, and there was a slight ouch after three rows so decided the back was telling me that was enough for one day. Just stiff muscles more than anything else. The plot is awfully stony - I realise now how good plot 1 is! Am throwing the larger flints into a pile to build up a path across. Have to dig the thing in order to get sensible soil levels - the contours are all over the place at the moment. At this rate my spuds will be in a month later than last year. Went back to standing up for a while so tidied the loganberries. Least I think they're loganberries. Most of the canes are very long and spineless, apart from a couple in the centre which have worse thorns than the bramble. Now all tied in to new wire supports, though the supports aren't really high enough and so they're all bent over. Much better than they were - I spent half of last year trying not to walk into floppy canes over the path. Finished off the strimming after Dave helped me start the silly thing - had no strength left in my arms and couldn't pull fast enough! All in all, fairly productive. Plot 1 is now ready for planting stuff, assuming I get the rotation sorted (and allowing for the half-size beds at the raspberry end) and I can get someone to help me shift the frames into position (wherever that may be).

Monday April 12th

Another nice day, so started by going to Chenies and buying new pickling onion and beetroot seeds as I seem to have finished the old ones. And three bags of compost, for my carrot plan, and cheated by buying six iceberg lettuces and six summer broccoli plants. And a cucumber (only just remembered that!). Then off to the allotment, and took the car up as no way was I wheelbarrowing the compost. Almost immediately I got help to shift the frames, then finished planting the Topper shallots. Only one reject from today's bunch, so have 42 all told. Then got going on the carrot bed, digging out a trowel-wide trench and filling it with the compost. Lee appeared for the first time in ages, together with the whole family. The gradient on the carrots was too steep really so collected a few bits of wood and started to make a rough raised bed - it worked very well especially after Lee donated a piece to finish off the edge. Sowed one row of the pelleted Autumn King, one of Early Nantes 5, one of beetroot (Boltardy again, this time early enough for the anti-bolting to be useful), one of pickling onions and one of spring onions. I am not sure the latter will germinate as the seeds are very old, but they have two chances. Carrots aren't supposed to like compost but they can't be any more forked than they were in the soil. The frame popped neatly over the top, but it really is too big. I wish I'd had them made 3.3m long! May have to shrink it the hard way. Have hacksaw… But at least then there will be spare enviromesh to stop a base gap! Had to dig up the crossways path, but that then allowed me to plant four of the lettuces. Got the frame more or less flat to the ground, but there are still gaps where flies can get in. I'll solve that later, when there are actually carrots up to worry about. At last one bed looks neat. Tomorrow is a bit more digging, I think, if the rain stays away. Chris had a go at lower down, and made as much progress as I had, which made me feel a bit less decrepit. Called it a day about 7pm after I started to feel light-headed with lack of nibbles. Left the broccoli under a frame, so it's safe!

Tuesday April 13th

Woken up by awful sciatica. Here we go again.

Monday April 26th

At last I make it back to the allotment to do something other than watch. It's amazing what two weeks does at this time of year. Back not feeling too bad again, mostly because this time I was pre-armed with exercises and knowledge of what one should do when it goes! Dunno what set it off. Perhaps leaning so much over the carrot patch or moving the compost bags. In any case, the Early Nantes are off and galloping, and there are a few of the Autumn Kings up too. The beetroot are well and truly off. A few pickling onions are looping up too. Rhubarb is pullable (so I did) and the gooseberries are starting to grow. There are flowers all over the redcurrants, both old and new plots. I need more netting! The apples are covered in blossom, as befits the good year of their cycle. The planted lettuces look fine and the ones in the boxes aren't totally dead, so might be able to get them going again. Pulled up a lot of groundsel, which is taking over the new plot. Unfortunately the ground was rock hard and even a trowel wouldn't go in. So much for the potatoes. However, pulling back the carpet on the plot by the frame was good - the soil was damp, friable and weed-free. Planted 32 minicoles, and collared them with the carpet underlay I'd been given. Still a few little ones, so I left those in the modules. The pigeons can't get at them, anyway! Watered them in and then coated with Derris, just to make sure the flea beetles stay away as well. They look very healthy at the moment. Pity I planted them at that end of the bed, since the frame is way too large. Definitely need to make a smaller one. Meanwhile the pigeons can't get in, so I'm happy. Tempted to start off some turnips in modules to fill the gap. Took a huge leek home.

Tuesday April 27th

Another lovely day, though hazier than of late. Up to allotment after work, not even attempting to do the spuds this time. Took three trays of onions up instead, and after filling up the first bed, moved onto the main onion area. Decided to be generous with the spacing, so they get a good chance of being decently sized, and had managed three and a bit rows of 15 before faint rumbles were heard. They didn't quite sound right for planes and when spots of rain started and the rumbles got closer I finished off the second tray as fast as I could, took a few hurried photos and ran for it. I grew up with a golfer in the family and the rule was always to leg it for shelter if you hear thunder. Quite a spectacular storm followed, so I won't need to water the onions or anything else tonight :-). Pity I hadn't got more of them in, but I've got plenty of time yet. Shallots meanwhile are growing leaves like crazy, so with luck I'll have a good crop of those this year. Need to clear the leek bed soon, and freeze them. With luck the ground will be diggable again now, so the spuds are next!


Teeny early nantes carrots just visible through the Enviromesh


Minicole cabbages - all 32 of them!

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Views of the orchard and fruit area, in full bloom. The biennial apples should be good this year.


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