January 2006


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Sunday January 1st 2006
Happy New Year again!

This year we ate our Christmas Dinner at New Year instead, given we were away at Sirīs parents for the actual feast. Had a lovely local goose, and broke the record for the number of veg Iīd grown. Sausages and bacon were from the Farmersī Markets in Beaconsfield and Berkhamsted, and we ate the Sárpo Mira as mashed potatoes, the Highland Burgundy Red and Salad Blue as roast potatoes in the goose fat (These were excellent! Red and blue crispy roasties!), leek, marrow, white cabbage, runner beans, French beans, parsnips roasted in the goose fat, red cabbage, garlic glazed carrots... and very full we were too.


The roasties, just before parboiling. They kept their stunning colours amazingly well!


Sunday January 8th
After a snowy/sleety frozen day yesterday, scampered up to the lottie to do some necessary clearing, and found myself embroiled in pruning. Started with the autumn raspberries, which are now nicely back to ground level. Need to go and sort out the summer ones - theyīre very overgrown! Had a good poke round the apple tree, and uncovered a lot of the bulbs from the leaf cover so I could see them and not tread on them. Two snowdrops out! They are the Galanthus elwesii so not a surprise - theyīre always out this early. All my other bulbs are happily only just poking through apart from the new bed which I buried very deeply indeed - hope not too deep! Thatīs only showing Crocus tommasinianus so far.  Somethingīs been digging up the older crocus corms, so Iīll bet thatīs squirrels. Grrr. Then moved on to the bramble. The thing seems to have grown for England this last season and so I had to whack it back pretty hard and pull out a lot of tip-rooted bits. I am hoping to route it round the top of the old compost area this year, so that I can actually get to the best green gooseberry which after several years of determined pruning is trying to rival the brambles for growth rate. Nearly had to take off my fleece to remove thorns as a particularly long briar was stuck in the hood at one point! At 3oC it wasnīt exactly warm (three high-neck fleeces and a ski polo made sure I was!) but then it started to drizzle and I carried on since my fleece hood is quite good. Didnīt realise how wet I was getting as a result! Finished off the pruning, realised it wasnīt drizzle so much as proper, grown-up rain with attitude and ran for cover, leaving a huge pile of very prickly prunings blocking the path between my two plots. Any more raiding parties will get a shock!
Managed to tug out and clean up two leeks before dashing back to the car and heading home. Still, not a bad couple of hours and it blew away some cobwebs. Rain continued for the rest of the day and was still going at bedtime. Good. We certainly need it!

Sunday January 15th
Not really an actual allotment entry: was away for the weekend, and got back to find thereīs been a bit of a meltdown on the allotments4all forum: half the people seem to have vanished to another new forum. So very sad - have seen this happen before on a mailing list, exactly the same cause too.

Itīs pretty much standard group dynamics: a group of folk with one interest in common get together to talk about it. Gradually they get to know each other, and start chatting on other subjects. Group polarises between the chatters and those who want it to stay on topic. The mailing list I was on got shut down because the moderator was so unhappy with it - two more sprang up to replace it (one serious, one chatty) and about 10 years later, one is still going. The chatty one. Go figure.

 I havenīt been asked to leave or invited to go to the other forum so I am dropping out completely as itīs the only way to prevent becoming stuck in the middle. Back to usenet for my queries, I guess! :-(

Saturday January 21st
Gorgeous day - mostly sunny with a bit of fast-moving cloud that didnīt hang around long enough to be a pest. Ground very soggy; it doesnīt drain too well at this time of year. But dry enough to do stuff. I seem to have spent most of todayīs lottying (6 hours!) pruning. First the bramble; it was partially done but needed to finish it off and get the prunings into a bag. Eventually got it all under control, then decided it was the turn of the gooseberries. Specifically the red dessert ones, which Iīve never managed to control yet. They grow like hell each year, so that when I started they were miles taller than I am... By the time Iīd finished, they were about 3ī high at most, and a lot narrower. I can now walk down the orchard path without being attacked. Prunings got stuffed on the old compost area; Iīll chop them up or deal with them when I can get the car down safely. Have giant pile of teasels, another of forsythia and now one of gooseberries. Pulled back the carpet on plot 2 to see what was underneath and found it was very clayey and full of invertebrate life. Perfect place for the pond. Hope the last week in March is nice, as Chris and I have booked it off, so we have decided to refelt the shed.
   After Chris went, I resorted to weeding. One bed later (last yearīs marrows) I took the fork to the parsnips as I could see there was still something there. And found that there was a trio of `snips that were decently shaped though small (from being together). Proves that I donīt really need the loo roll technique after all - I might as well just plant them straight in and theyīll give me proper roots. Got some salsify and some of the giant twisted carrots then called it a day, since I was getting cold and tired and the bed was tidy. Forecast on the BBC for tomorrow was overcast, so might manage to get up there tomorrow as well

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Before and after on the old trailing marrow bed. Luckily wasnīt too bad before, so was fairly quick to sort out.

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The two gooseberries after their severe pruning. The one on the left was initially bigger than the enclosure created by the broom handles and about 2ī higher... The other one was pretty much similar.

Sunday January 22nd
BBC wrong yet again! Frosty start then hazy sun all day. Colder than yesterday but still glorious, so got a lot done. Started off by cleaning the bird box. There must have been a good 4" of moss and hair in it! Also a dead egg between two layers (so not recent) and a few grubs of something in the bottom. Gave it a good brushing out. Iīm sure I was getting told off while I did so - blue tits chirring at me all the while, so I told them this des.res didnīt come furnished as I couldnīt guarantee its safety otherwise. We shall have to see if anyone decides to refurnish it! Decided to weed the runner bean plot, and worked my way into the sage. Decided to weed that too, which turned into giving it a bit of a haircut, then into a severe haircut. Got most of the grass out though (resorting to gardening knife to get one crown out!). Now have a lot of sage, despite giving away a lot! Also got given some Jerusalem (f)artichokes, so we shall see what happens with them. I shall plant some and eat some. Probably not advised just before going to church though! Then did the runner bean trenches for this year. Last time I dug out a large trench down the middle and filled it with manure. This time I did two trenches down the sides, so more work but hopefully manured the bits that perhaps didnīt get some last year. Had a look at the plan for the year, and realised that the sweetcorn bed (which needs manure) has salsify listed in it too, though I probably ought to alter that as Iīve been given some German scorzonera (longer than the stuff we get here). Hauled the last bit of scaffolding over and finished making that bed more raised. I shall fill the path edge bit with bought topsoil and compost, hopefully a perfect mix for growing long root crops. Meanwhile, the carrot bed is about done with and so I can turn the compost in soon. Should make a good onion growing place! Planted a few more narcissi here and there. I hope they still grow - will make for a very late show though! The main bed of them is just starting to show leaves. I did plant them extremely deeply so I can grow flowers on top of them, so Iīm not surprised.
Met some more newbies - Mel and her sister Dawn (hope I got that right) and saw some other arriving (though didnīt get to chat). Another chap came round looking for one for his son and we think that theyīre pretty much all taken now, at least the ones which are easily workable. Now for the not-so-easy ones. The transformation of the allotment site has been amazing - shows what publicising them can do.

Thursday January 26th
Blimey. Just discovered Medwyn (of giant veg fame) has a diary at http://www.medwynsofanglesey.co.uk/Articles/ArticleIndex.htm  and itīs full of amazing information such as how to stop rust on leeks (put a teaspoon of washing-up liquid in a litre sprayer and spray them with that). It also gets rid of white and greenfly. I think I shall be doing a lot of reading in the near future... especially if the weather tomorrow is as snowy as the BBC seems to think. Metcheck however doesnīt think so, and after the Beebīs poor track record recently, I think Iīll hope for the latter being correct. Going to be a bit chilly though. Windchill will be severe it seems. Brrr!

Saturday January 28th
This year didnīt go to Rytonīs Potato Day, choosing to go to the Hampshire HDRAīs event instead. Itīs a bit closer to home, and was listing a lot more varieties than Ryton was. Chris went up, I went down :)
   Very impressive displays and though theyīd not got the Royal Kidneys (ironically, Ryton did...) they had International Kidney so Iīm back with the original. Just hope to goodness we have a wetter summer so the waxys are waxy and not veering towards floury! Ended up with 70 tubers (ouch). Maincrops: 12 Sárpo Mira, 4 Picasso, 5 Ratte, 5 Pink Fir Apple, 6 Vitelotte (blue!) and 4 freebie Blue Moon (a new variety). Earlies: 8 Red Duke of York, 12 International kidney, 8 Kestrel. For pots: 3 Rocket and 3 Mimi. So mostly the same as last year with a few changes, ie Iīve swapped the so-so 2nd early Estima (which needs water to be waxy enough) for the early maincrop Picasso, which everyone on A4A thinks is incredibly prolific. Half as many again of Sarpo Mira (so we actually have enough for more than just Christmas!). Have cut down on the kidneys, as I didnīt use all of them and had a bagful of sprouts! And there were no Highland Burgundy Red or Salad Blue at either site, though the Vitelottes look fun (if small). Luckily Iīve got a couple of sprouting HB Reds that I unearthed from the depths of the understairs cupboard during yesterdayīs clearout so I can keep the strain going. Chris phoned halfway through the morning as Ryton didnīt have any Edzell Blue, so I was able to get her some. I also got a silly number of Enorma runner beans - half a pint for Ģ2 which turned out to be 136 beans! Got to have a chat with Phil who was coordinating things, and somehow ended up on the door collecting entrance fees for 3 hours! I was very glad to be wearing my gardening fleeces as it was freezing!


  On the way home, couldnīt resist the temptation to whizz down the M25 away from home, and get some spring garlic from Wisley as it was rather cheaper than going all the way back in a week or two. So now I have to find somewhere to put that!


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