April 2006


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Saturday April 1st
Another showery day with sunny periods and strong winds. Decided to sort out the potato bed, as the lower part of the wood terracing was on the ramshackle side of Heath Robinson (or Rube Goldberg, if anyone´s in the US and reading this). Called into the wood yard to get the necessary planks, then hoicked them up to the plot. A few hours of faffing later, I´d got the whole of the more central bed done, and two downhill sides of the outer one (the upper side is an older bit of wood which should last the season). The upper side of the inner one proved to be a pain, as I only needed thin pieces of wood to edge the path rather than raise anything and I´d just got to that bit when the showers started in earnest. Dodged one lot (sheltering in the shed) and the second lot was a very large cloud, so grabbed tools and ran for the car. Plum still needs to get up there, but at least now I can do the potatoes if only it dries out enough to dig!
On the more positive side, a red kite came to visit and wheeled over the lotties for quite some time. It came back again later, so we are hoping it was looking for suitable nesting sites.

Sunday April 2nd
Same again weatherwise. Have had another 0.2" of rain in the past few days since I last looked at the rain gauge. Up to lottie with the plum, which indeed did fit in the car (phew!) and it went straight into its hole. Spent the next half an hour or so finishing off the raised bed from yesterday and re-jigging the position of the upper side of the further one. Now all are the right width and I can still walk past the leaf bin. Sorted out the carpet paths while I was at it, then moved on to the pile of prunings I´ve been trying to ignore. Shredded them to 6" bits in between heavy showers spent hiding in the shed, and filled a plastic bin liner with them. Couldn´t resist peeking in the carrot cloche and there´s shoots! Huzzah! Loaded the wheelbarrow with a pile of manky carpet bits, added the prunings and trolleyed it to the car and thence to the dump. Hope I don´t get punctures like I did last time I drove into the place - didn´t have much choice this time as I could barely lift some of the carpet pieces. Unloaded in a particularly heavy shower and then went back for the rest of the carpet. Filled the boot with it and the rustiest piece of corrugated iron which has now been consigned. Plot 2 now looks a lot tider, though there´s still a lot of clearing to do in the mid-section by the greengage - some chicken wire, more carpet and a lot of charred wood. When that´s gone I´ll finally be able to make one last raised bed for salads (will always be covered so the tree leaves will not be a problem) and the small pond. Decided not to go back up as the wind was getting quite strong - about 20mph was forecast and I can believe it. Tomorrow´s forecast is sunny all day (typical, given I´m back at work) but I can go up afterwards for an hour or two! Sharp frost Tuesday though thanks to the lack of cloud.

Tuesday April 4th
Up after work in lovely sunshine - we seem to be having cold and clear interspersed with warm and showery. Now back in cold and clear. It´s dried out enough to be able to dig again - could do with getting potato trenches sorted but didn´t fancy that, so tackled the rubbish on Plot 2 again - now all removed to the edges so I can remove it easily - and then started work on a path above the top beds. Now have a nice walkway, which needs carpeting and boarding on the upper side. There´s a lot of bindweed roots in there which I can´t get all of without a complete dig-over (and it´s the clay seam) so I will resort to painting with glyphosate when shoots appear. Meanwhile, moved the Lidl cold frame to under the greengage and filled it to about 4" with manure and sieved soil. Should be a nice bed for salads, and nettable too. And there´s still room for a pond of some description. Left about 8pm after peeking at the carrots - loads up now! :-)

Wednesday April 5th
Another fine, dry day, so took the rake and spade up to the plots. Sorted out the carpeting over the new path (so it doesn´t go muddy when it next rains) and then bagged up the rest of the rubbish. That can now be barrowed to the car and disposed of, and things will look *much* tidier. 


Growing plastic: top end of Plot 2. New plum on far right, greengage at left.

Then to real work. Weeded the very end of the potato bed, getting out all the wretched creeping cinquefoil, and then dug up all the garlics I seem to have got growing nicely. They got put in with the rest of the garlics, which are looking extremely good. That freed up the whole bed for the potatoes. Shifted the carpeting off the bed, dug

the first potato trench and manured it. If I do one a night then they´ll be done by Easter.  Just need to get the tubers up there to plant before I do the next trench, as  this one needs to be planted up before I  can do the next one.


Garlic Marco



Spring cabbage Excel - hearting up nicely


Thursday April 6th
Possibly the last evening at the allotment for a while - forecast for tomorrow is rain. But tonight was lovely, though a bit colder than yesterday. Took my chances and went up to the lottie with the early potatoes. Don´t have nearly as many as last year - managed to get them into three rows, of International Kidney, Red Duke of York and Kestrel. Trouble is, this pushes the maincrops into more than one bed, so more shuffling of the plans is anticipated. And I don´t like having the blight-prone tomatoes right next to the spuds, so I could do with shifting them to Plot 2 if possible, and giving the cabbages a bit more room. Anyway, planted the earlies into my manured trenches - and I shall be putting the vitelotte maincrops into that bed too, as they´re not exactly large. Lovely sunset, with sun pillar.


Saturday April 8th
Resowed a few tomatoes in the gaps in the modules. Realised that the reshuffled plans didn't allow for the fact that the spring cabbages are going to be clear of that bed in the next few weeks so I've got another one to play with if needed. Brassicas get followed by legumes so somewhere else to plant beans :)
Again visited the wood yard and got a load of small pieces to do top edging: took a couple of remnants too which actually were almost full size and perfect for more ends.  Finished off the potato bed properly to replace the long piece of flimsy stuff, and did two more uphill long edges. Now only need a couple of lots of 8" timber and I'm done (apart from the grass path edges which can get done any time). Finally starting to look tidier. Decided to lose the giant sage bushes while I was at it. The chopped one has gone to be recycled, the large one (visible on the left hand pic) is now by the madly flowering forsythia. Hopefully won´t get tripped up by it now.

080406_3 080406_4

When I´d just put out the wood that I´d got, and after it was fixed into the beds. Six bits to go (and two are just end pieces by the grass path so not essential).

Sorted out the edge of one of the plot 2 beds too: the old onion bed had never been edged in the centre. Has now. Repaired another gap in the flint edging too with a small offcut. Won´t be able to do any more edging for a week or two as next weekend´s Easter and I doubt the wood yard will be open. Still, it will allow me to get the onions and rest of potatoes out, if the weather´s fit! Walked round and saw what was the state of play, and found that there´s a thistle up in the flower bed. Must wait for the wind to drop and glyphosate it. There´s also lots of unidentified seedlings under one of the bits of carpet. Won´t survive. Some definitely identified seedlings in some of the beds - the pot marigolds are off! Good :) Put up the canes for the sweet peas and runners, since they were in the way on top of one of the newly edged beds.
Rained heavily about 8pm, with hail too. Not for long enough though.

To do list:
Rest of the bed edging ü
Plant seed potatoes maincrop ü
Plant onions, last of the garlic and the shallots ü
Strim the grass paths ü
Carpet the bare earth paths
Shift all the rubbish to the dump!
Finish sieving the old compost heap and use to top up the new raised beds ü
Sort out the rest of the top of Plot 2 and make tidy ü


Thursday April 13th
Still quite rainy - I think I will start keeping a graph of rainfall as measured by my garden gauge. So far this month we´ve had over an inch - admittedly only half what is the average but we´re only halfway through the month.
The seedlings are doing well - might as well show the prep work going on at home! Now have modules everywhere, with more germinating daily. I have an odd feeling that I´ve overdone it again... and this is before the beans, courgettes and sweetcorn go in!


Clockwise from top left: chillies (assorted) and cucumber F1 `Tiffany´, tray of chillies, minicole cabbages, 21 aubergine `Violetta lungha´  and Moneymaker (all the pots!) a big pot of basil `Genovese´ and the heated prop with helipterum roseum `Pierrot´ and Cosmos bipinnatus Sea Shells. Of the aubs, I´ll probably keep four, six others are spoken for and the rest will go to a plant sale at work.


Clockwise from top left: tomatoes (San Marzano 2 and Cream sausage), Rudbeckia `Toto´, Busy Lizzies `Expo white´, Leek Autumn Mammoth `Verina´ (Unwins, who still haven´t got their website fixed), Lettuce `Romana Lentissima a Montare 4´ (It´s a bolt-resistant Romaine, if you don´t read Italian :) and Beetroot `Cylindra´. Oh and another pot of basil :)

Of this little lot, the cabbages are on the verge of going in the cold frame (once the resows have germinated), the spare aubs will be off to their new owners or to work before I have to go to my annoyingly-timed conference, two cukes will be off to Dad this weekend and I hope the lettuces and beets will be planted out. Must get them and the leeks into the cold frame tonight to join the summer broccoli and red cabbages! So I will be able to claw back some room (about 6 tray´s worth) to put the next wave of seeds (the cucurbits) in. Then, if they´ve germinated ok, I can shuffle them sideways and plant the runner beans and sweetcorn just before I go.
To sow this weekend:
Kale `Green Curled´ cold frame ü
Beetroot `Boltardy´ cold frame ü
Tomato `Tumbler´ inside ü
Purple Sprouting broccoli (Rudolph and Early Purple) cold frame ü
The cucurbits... uh oh! (inside) ü
I think I´m not going to have much room again very soon... thankfully some of these are going to be outside, and the tomatoes are only 6 in number. Need to pot on the other ones though.

General observation on the seed planting this year: I put in a thermostatic plug to control the electric conservatory heater instead of trying to rely on the inbuilt (and largely useless) one. It has done brilliantly - the temperatures have been a lot more stable and the plants are looking a lot more compact for it. Even the indoor cabbages are neat and upright instead of flopping everywhere. And it´s probably saving energy too, as the inbuilt used to stick on or off, I´d never know if the temp had dipped too low (hence setting it on the high side) or was frying the plants. I can now set the temperature threshold lower and know it would stay pretty much within a couple of degrees. Course now it´s April, I´m getting sunlight hitting the roof, so the upper temps are getting higher, and I´m not getting the daft situation any more where it´s 25oC and the heater´s still stuck on...

Good Friday April 14th
Thanks to unforecast rain and Church and whatever, didn´t get to the lottie until very late in the day so only spent an hour or so faffing. Dug out some more of the compost heap so the newest beds are getting topped up. Daffs are nearly all out now and are fantastic. I´m wondering whether to cut a couple of spring cabbages for Mum - it´ll take a couple to feed both of them for Easter Day, but the danger is that spring cabbs do tend to bolt suddenly, and I would rather get them young and small than flowering, especially as I´ve got a lot of them and only 3 weeks before I´m away. Ok I think I just talked myself into it :) Brought back a few leeks.

Easter Saturday April 15th
Another very short visit to grab the first spring cabbage to deliver to parents. Was bigger than I thought once disentangled from the rest of them. Also took up the water tank, after having attempted to glue plastic sheets over the hole. Because the tank was distorted around the hole (the piping must have been pulling downwards) it was very difficult to get a seal, leading to the silly situation of having to put a phonebook and two 40l bags of compost on top to get it to flatten... and then the reverse situation on the inner seal. Then filled in the gap with glue. Whether the glue works or not is anyone´s guess: only one way to find out!
Sowed all the cucurbits: 1 courgette Parthenon (all I had left), 5 courgette Defender, 3 courgette Gold Rush, 6 Marrow Long Green Striped (trailer), 9 squash butternut sprinter, 6 squash Hasta la Pasta (Spaghetti Squash, some for Maggie). If that lot grow I´ll drown in them, and have to give away a lot! Also sowed 6 tumbler tomatoes: that gives me two spare seeds. The `sowed´ are now more than the `to sows´ in the seed plan. Summer cabbages and broccoli, the cylindra beets and 1st lot of lettuce now in the cold frame to harden off. .

Easter Sunday April 16th
Lovely morning, having watched the sunrise over the hill at 6.40am from the cross-denomination sunrise service in the park. Managed to get up to the lottie for an hour with all the better onions (the Stuttgarter giants) and plonked them all in at 6" spacing. Now have enough modules again to do the next sowing of brassicas. Had to dig out a lot of the chard to make room, and it´s got amazing roots! Gave some away and then ate a fair amount of the remainder for Sunday lunch together with another spring cabbage. Together with some shallots, the last of the frozen French beans and garlic, they were the only things homegrown in Easter Day lunch. Next year I´ll hope to have broccoli as well, but I´ve hoped that before! And more carrots. Can´t believe I ran out a month or so ago...
Rained very hard and very briefly at 3pm. Did a bit of approximation calculating and worked out that 5mm of rain on a 6´ x 4´ shed is 8.75 litres of water (roughly 1.92 UK gallons). So in a year of average rainfall here (30.5", or 77.5cm) the shed collects 1356 litres. Total capacity of all my butts is about 750 litres and in summer I use about 1-200 litres a day. So I can only collect 7-14 days of water in a year of average rainfall.

Ouch. I really have to reduce my water use.

Easter Monday April 17th
Bit more organised today. And a nice Easter Egg, or rather eggs to come. Have definitely got Great Tits nesting in the box! Realised I was being peeped at, and hid where I could see, and saw one of the pair with a beakful of fluff disappear into the box (the female I think, since the other was outside singing!). A few minutes later it was out again, so I think they´re at lining stage. Really pleased. It also means I´m unlikely to get gooseberry sawfly this year.
For the rest of the day, managed to cross out quite a lot of the to-do list. Started off by planting the maincrop potatoes: one and a half beds of them, interspersed with carting buckets of water from the tap to the butts to vary the tasks. The half bed has the Pink Firs and the Rattes, the other the Sarpo Mira, the Blue Moon and the Picasso. The Vitelottes are in with the earlies. Moved on to the shallots, and put them in the other half of the bed, after topping it up from the compost heap. Also had to redo the edging, but it´s a bit that´s still in flimsy old stuff, so not surprising. Very pleased with how that bed now looks (though it´s helped by the nice sieved surface! And the new water tank seems to be water tight so far, and I´ve put it immediately adjacent to the other one so it will overflow into the smaller one.
Chris and I swapped brassicas - one of my spring cabbages for purple sprouting broccoli and red kale. Yum. Finished off the day by digging the last of the leeks (only one bolted this year) and then raking the bed over so it´s ready for the scorzonera.
Also managed to get two bags of rubbish into the car boot, so they can go to the tip first thing tomorrow. If the weather holds (it´s supposed to be cloudy but dry) then I´ll strim the paths as they certainly need it, and possibly go to Crownform for the last of the wood.


Onions, with garlic in the background


Shallots, the new water storage and maincrop salad potatoes

Tuesday April 18th
Weather definitely held - though this time I remembered to put on some sunblock after coming home yesterday looking like the proverbial reindeer... :)
Started off by gluing patches over both water tanks´ top holes, so I should be able to get more water into them. The base hole repair seems to be fine. Then fired up the strimmer without much effort, and strimmed all the paths. The wood edging makes this a lot easier. Now it looks a lot tidier on both plots. Not sure how the birdies will have responded to the racket given their box is by a path - but hopefully by strimming it now, before they´ve laid, means I won´t have to redo it for a while and they can get on with raising a family. Then moved on to the compost heap sieving again, and trolleyed several wheelbarrows of nicely sieved soil down to what was the leek bed. It´s now flush with the top of the wood (so should settle an inch or so) and has three rows of scorzonera in, thanks to a very kind person on Allotments4all who sent me a packet of a German seed variety. Supposed to be 30cm long, hence the need for a very deep bed! This is definitely deep, but deep enough? I shall see! The seeds are like little pieces of straw-coloured wood, about 2cm long, so easy to sow individually. Didn´t sow them nearly as thickly as I did the salsify last year! But tons of room in that bed - might even risk some carrot fly resistant carrots too. The compost heap is almost flattened now - if anything, it´s excavated lower than the general level by more than the remaining hump, so once I´ve chased out the bindweed, I may just fill it in.
Was hungry by then, so dashed off home for food and then came back again later to do a tidy-up and sow some carrots. Took longer than I expected as I couldn´t find the Autumn King seeds and had to go and buy some new ones. There´s a row now nicely tucked up under the cloche. Realised I was not feeling well at all (chocolate, wine and cheese in an evening are not a clever way of avoiding migraines the following day) and had to go home earlier than I´d hoped, so didn´t get in the next lot of parsnips. The last lot still aren´t up though I know they´re germinating - something bit one of the loo roll tops off so the foxes must have cubs - and in putting it back together, I spotted roots coming out of the seed.

Saturday April 22nd
Utterly gorgeous day, apart from forgetting that warm temperatures which induce T-shirt gardening also means it´s warm enough for things that bite me. Now sporting some dozen bites and I´m not sure I´m going to get much sleep tonight. However I did remember the sun block so at least I won´t be itching from sunburn as well. Apart from that, the greengage is out, the Vic plum is almost out (never seen flowers on it before!) and huzzah - the cherry has a few buds on it, too. Hello, spring. The parsnips are appearing, the first red tulip´s out (there´s 20 of them all told, so the bulbs are settling in nicely) and the redcurrants are covered in buds.
Ah yes, the currants. Stupid here didn´t take the netting off properly and so they were all growing happily through it. Had to cut larger holes in the mesh on all the bushes to get it off again. Now they´re all unencumbered and I can put the net back on again when they have grown all their leaves (and berries). Luckily the holes aren´t that big even with the cuts so birds still won´t be able to get in.
Sowed another 20 parsnip rolls. They should be up and running a bit faster than the last lot unless we get another prolonged cold spell. The carrots are still happy under the cloche but I did take the ends off to ventilate it as it was rather hot inside. Planted another trayful of onions - this time the original lot which got leggy. There is still a bit of room in the main bed (after I took out the last, enormous chard plant) but I´ll need overflow space for the last tray and a half. The chard has self-seeded - seedlings all over - so I shall have to watch out and transplant them when needed.
Transplanted the module lettuces into the cold frame and into the middle of the parsnips. Also sowed some radishes into the cold frame: hopefully I´ll be able to mesh them against the flea beetles and I might actually get some this year. Transplanted the cylindra beetroot into the scorzonera bed, as it´s definitely deep enough for them to get to a decent size.
Finally spent some hours forking over the last part of the compost heap. It wasn´t as straightforward as I´d hoped as there was a big piece of rusting corrugated iron underneath, with bindweed central growing in the grooves. Weeded most of it out, and when I managed to lift it up, there were loads of snails and hundreds of woodlice underneath. Yuk! Bagged up the charred wood that was there, shifted the iron and raked the whole thing level. Then transferred the wooden box cold frame to the space - it fits nicely! The greengage should be a lot happier now as it doesn´t have half its roots sheltered by iron, and it ought to cope better with limited rainfall. I hope. Took four binliners of rubbish and perennial weed roots to the car, and that will get dumped/recycled tomorrow. Finally I´ve got the top bit tidier! The rusty iron will also make its way to the recycle, but only when I´ve got the car rigged for large stuff as I don´t particularly want it damaged by the jagged edges.
It was a good day for sun haloes too. The top part of a circumscribed halo for a fair bit of the day followed by a pair of luminous sundogs as I was leaving, and balloons.


Sunday April 23rd
A completely different day to yesterday. Drizzly, cool and not nice for being outside. Unless you happen to be running the London Marathon, in which case conditions were almost ideal. After being kept up half the night by the bites, I wasn´t terribly keen to do much, but did manage to sow 8 each of sprouting broccoli `Rudolph´, early purple sprouting broccoli, curly kale and Savoy cabbage `Ormskirk Late´. Some seeds were quite old so it remains to be seen if they grow. They´ve two chances. On the courgette front, the Defenders are all up, so´s my lone Parthenon. Two Gold rush have started to push up the soil, but the butternuts, despite the heated propagator, are refusing to show. Rearranged the modules so the growing ones are outside the extra heat while the rest are still inside. Looks odd but should work. Potted up the cucumbers straight to the massive pots, as it didn´t seem logical to do a halfway house when they don´t like root disturbance.
Did a dump run, so yesterday´s four bags are now consigned to recycling/composting/whatever.

Monday April 24th
A fine evening after a so-so day, so podded up to see what I could do. Decided to tidy up the bed by the shed, which will be broccoli, since the summer sprouting is currently on the verge of being ready to plant. Put the broom handles in the shed and the carpet on the old manure heap at the bottom, which is currently growing fat hen like a lawn. Cut another spring cabbage that looked rather pale - and ended up giving it to Maggie since I still have the last of the last one at home. Planted up another punnet of sad-looking sturon onions - mostly in with the overwintering Electric red onions. Only a few of those are looking in any way decent, so I might as well add a few others where the old set had shrivelled. It was a tough winter for overwintering plants. Garlic however seems to have relished the cold - it´s way over a foot high and looks really rather nice.
Had another go at the rock face part of Plot 1 - loosened a lot more stones. I now need to go back and sieve them out. Cleared up more rubbish - I can´t believe I managed to miss a load of metal pipes (!). Now they are in a bucket in the car, ready to get dropped off at the recycle as I go past. Shifted some path carpet about, and realised too late that the Stanley knife´s at home. Next time!
Typically, the slugs have already eaten some of the lettuce seedlings. Buried the smaller beer traps and went hunting for the flat beer. Found an old drinks bottle with something brown in, sniffed it and wished I hadn´t! It was the comfrey liquid. POO! Furtled about and found the (identical) one with the beer in, so now the traps are baited. It´ll probably rain now.
Found another thistle sprouting in the flower bed, so it got the same treatment as the previous one (which is now dying). Hoed a lot of the topped-up beds, as they are growing lots of weeds. Finally decided to photograph a few things and discovered I´d left the digicam at work. Hey ho.
Plum is out, cherry coming out and greengage is flowering but losing a lot of the flowers for some reason. All of them are white and very pretty. The gooseberries are humming with bumble bees and the redcurrant Jonkheer van Tets is flowering too. Not too far off the main blackcurrants, and then the last currant to open (the Red Start redcurrant). The apples are poised to open - have a horrible feeling I´m going to miss them by being away, but that can´t be helped. And my red tulips are opening. And the Autumn King carrots are off already - it´ s barely been a week since they were sown!

Plan for this weekend:  the tricky sowings.
Have to work out whether it´s best to chit and plant up, like I did last year, after I get back, or sow direct now and hope. Left to sow:
Sweetcorn `Lark´ F1 tendersweet                        
Sweetcorn `Minipop´ F1 minicorn                        
French Beans `Safari´ filet-type Kenyan beans      
French Beans `Berggold´ yellow ones                   
Runner Beans `Enorma´ as usual                           
Pea beans (Heritage beans)                                  
Soya beans `Ustie´ which definitely need chitting!  

Tuesday April 25th
Cucurbit progress:
3/3 Gold Rush
1/1 Parthenon
5/5 Defender
3/9 Butternut Sprinter
2/6 Hasta la Pasta
0/6 Long Green Trailing
The LGT marrow always takes forever to germinate so I´m not too worried (that and I´ve got heaps of seed for that one!). I could do with a couple more spaghettis and butternuts up, but pleased with the others. Hopefully the Parthenon will be ready to go in mid-May (it was the first up) and I can follow it with the Defenders and Gold Rushes. The squashes I hope to put not only in a dedicated bed, but all over the manure and compost heap area!

Wednesday April 26th
Another escape after work. Started by cleaning out the trug as it was getting to be part-joinery box, part-nail store and part-tool carrier! Now all the nails and tacks that were lurking with intent to stab me are safely in a recycled box, and I can see where everything is again. Watered the carrots and parsnips - no more of the latter up, but the Autumn King carrots are now sprouting happily. Not bad for a week. Put the cloche back, raked the rest of the bed flat, and then hoed all the beds that are empty, as they´d been germinating weeds happily. Lot to be said for the stale seedbed approach. The outdoor lettuces are another one down to the molluscs, with none of the latter in either trap, but the cloche ones are starting to perk up very nicely.
Peeked under the last bit of carpet and found nice, damp soil but with a few lurking volunteer spuds - they got dug up. Pity they were the heritage ones, too, but the stems looked a bit manky so definitely don´t want them! Will be planting out the cabbages in that bed at the weekend - though not sure I´ve enough room! I´m back (almost) to Plan A on the beds: the overwintering cabbages will be out before I need to put the tomatoes in, so I´ll use that one for the toms. The other new bed will also be cabbages. Only snag is whether I have enough blue pipe and netting - suspect not, so that will be another purchase for the weekend. The cherry is now well and truly out: played bee and pollinated as many flowers as I could. There may not be many cherries but I want them all! Planted the last tray of sturon onions - again filling out the red onion bed. I think it´s mostly normal ones now. Fed the slightly yellow garlic with the remains of the tomato food we´d found in the shed, so hopefully that will perk up a bit. The scorzonera is coming up!
And finally, had another go at the rockface. It´s getting silly! More buckets of flint later, I´ve still got loads to go, but the firebox base is now visible and is beginning to be rockable. I may yet get it out and to the dump! Picked a spring cabbage (they are getting very big very fast!) and escaped in the dark.


Spring Cabbage Excel


Cherry `Stella´

Friday April 28th
Lovely evening so I couldn´t waste it being inside. Didn´t really want to do much - only finish the excavations! And I did, after having a brainwave and using the three-pronged cultivator to hook the flints out of the soil and generally break it up. Under the stone layer was the yellowish subsoil, which got broken up a fair bit then manured before the topsoil was raked back over.


There are little foxy footprints in the beetroot! Dug out the dead carnations so I can plant new stuff in the flower bed. Like the dahlias I just bought. Went round with tape measure and checked all the bits I need to buy wood for, and hope that I can finish the beds tomorrow.

Much better now! Though you can see there´s still rocks in the path edge. The brick was also buried. There´s another one still down there (and stuck fast). Need to clear out the firebox next and then see if I can lever it out and somehow get it to the car. Could be tricky! Then I´ve space for another water tank if I can find one, or I can excavate more soil and bring it back to a decent fertility.



Saturday April 29th
Started off by going to Crownform for the last major wood order. Least I hope it is, until the existing beds start to disintegrate. It took an hour to get this one cut and I escaped after the nominal closing time. Dropped the wood off at the lottie, again with Loraine´s help to carry it, and chatted to Chris who had been strimming, and who´d sat down to have a breather near to the apple trees. Agitated the resident birdies as we were a bit too close, so we moved off. Went off to pick up my mate Jools, and after a bit of shopping, we both came back up to the lottie armed with hammers and things. Nearly four hours later, Jools had filled up the water butts, hoed a lot of weeds in the orchard and helped with my task which was the woodworking. Did the easy bits first - the ends and sides which were on earth paths. Then finally it was the edging for the middle grass path, which was anything but easy, especially as the wood had to be slightly proud of the grass but buried deep enough to stop the worst couch I´ve got from getting in. The path, which was rather wonky, is now straighter, with the extra edge bits (where we widened it) now filled with stones from the rockface. Knew they´d come in handy!


I can´t believe the edging´s finally done (apart from a couple of replacement bits, and one edge I can´t do much with until the autumn as it´s already got a thin one and taking it out would cause a bit of a landslip!). Strimming will be a lot easier in future, as will keeping it tidy and weeded since the couch will now have a harder job getting in.

And to top it all, Jools heard faint tweeting from the bird box. They´ve got chicks already!

Sunday April 30th
Jools and I arrived at the lotties armed with a tray of brassicas and a large amount of Enviromesh. After some scrabbling about to re-carpet the barer paths using the carpet that had been covering the large bed earmarked for the cabbages, we planted eight red cabbages and six summer sprouting broccolis. Didn´t bother with carpet underlay as I don´t think cabbage root fly will be able to get past the ultra-fine Enviromesh that was then put over the blue piping to keep off various pests, including flea beetle and pigeons. One pack fitted the bed neatly, though we did have to hunt about for wire pegs! Pulled some rhubarb for Jools and then took her home.

Back later with strimmer, and gave the plot a tidy-up in the bits Chris didn´t get to. The wood edging on the Plot 1 grass path works very well. Now it shouldn´t be too untidy by the time I get back. Strimmed a few other plots while I was at it (with permission of course!). Then took the cloche off the carrots and replaced it with the doubled-up normal Enviromesh, so they don´t dry out while I´m away as folk can water through it. Replaced the bit of wood on Plot 2 that had only ever been a stopgap bit and had rotted. Took a progress movie and left so I had half a chance of getting to church on time.


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