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DIARY 2017

 

 

I am pleased to be back for another year and hope you will join me down

 on the plot for another challenging year.

 

 

JANUARY

 

2017 has started very cold and foggy; the plot is not the place to be for now but as soon as the weather improves I shall carry out the last of the winter pruning to the fruit trees and check the grease bands are free from any debri. I have arranged to have my fig tree professionally pruned towards the end of the month; it has got too large and out of hand for me to deal with. Any winter digging if conditions allow should be finished this month and spent crops consigned to the compost heap. Continue to check over regularly any fruit and vegetables in store.

28th and little has been done on the plot; the very gold frosty weather has continued only beginning to warm up at little now. Because of the frozen ground I have started off my shallots in the greenhouse in small 3” pots. Onion sets can be started in the same way in cell trays. I am continuing to harvest parsnips which have been some of the best I have grown.

 

FEBRUARY

 

The month has started mild but very wet it is still impossible to get on the plot but signs of spring are beginning show with the daffs poking through now. It is still far too early to be sowing any seeds even in the greenhouse, the light levels are very low and anything that germinates will only become leggy; wait till the beginning of March.

20th and it is amazingly warm for the time of year; I have been able to get all my grow frames, runner bean frame etc. erected in good time so they are ready and waiting for use later on.

This is the month to finish any pruning to apples and pears while they are still dormant and check all soft fruit is tied in against strong winds. Give the strawberry bed a good tidy up now by clearing away dead and dying leaves and weeds.

In the greenhouse I have laid out the seed potatoes to chit. This can be done in egg boxes or cell trays. If there is a threat of frost cover with fleece or newspaper.  Prepare pots and trays ready for the first sowings in March.

The plot is beginning to come alive again with all the spring bulbs giving some welcome colour to brighten the dull days.

 

MARCH

March has blown in like a lion and is very cold so don’t be in a hurry to start sowing or planting outside yet. Frosts are forecast so keep the fleece or newspaper handy ready to cover potatoes or anything tender in the greenhouse, I am making a start in the greenhouse with the first seeds, sowing broad beans Robin Hood, 1 seed to a 3” pot,  peas Hurst Greenshaft 5 seeds to a 3” pot, beetroot sowing several seeds in a 24 cell tray, leeks, cabbage,sprouts, lettuce and celeriac in a small seed trays; covered with a fine layer of compost all covered with a propagator lid till they germinate. Tomatoes, Fandango, Mountain Magic, Cherrola and baby plum Santonio I have sown but keeping them indoors till they germinate as my cold greenhouse is not warm enough. Annual flowers can the sown this month continuing through to April; I am starting off with French Marigold and Statice.

 

16th I have been let down by the tree specialist who was coming to prune my over grown fig tree; I decided to tackle it myself and although it did take several days I am quite pleased with the result. Hopefully it will now be easier to maintain.

 

We have had some very warm days and spring has finally arrived to the allotment. 

 

 Taking advantage of a very warm day I have planted out the shallots which I had started off in pots and sown a double row of parsnip tapes under a tunnel of enviromesh to protect them from a very active fox. First of the second early potatoes ‘Foremost’ have been planted now and I shall continue with main crop.

 

APRIL

 

The last week in March we had unusually high temperatures for the time of year and now the beginning April is continuing the same.

Sowings made in the greenhouse last month have come on in leaps and bounds; I am planting out peas, broad beans and beetroot. Some of the early potatoes planted last month are already showing their first shoots and will need earthing up.

 

Daffodils are starting to go over and will need dead heading regularly, remove the whole stem and leave the greenery to die down naturally; this will feed the bulbs for next year.

 

April is a busy month in the greenhouse, seedlings will need pricking out and those already pricked out potted on into 3” pots. This month all the vegetable and annual flower seeds can be sown now. I am sowing Courgettes, Butternut Squash, beetroot, lettuce, and French beans and Peppers;  Runner Beans I leave till May when I will sow direct into the ground.

Spray Chrysanths that have been over wintered in the greenhouse will be making good growth now; cuttings will root quickly; take a 3” new shoot, removing the lower leaves and inserting about 5 or 6 round the edge of a small pot. Place in a cool part of the greenhouse till rooted then pot up.

 

Weeds are also growing well so keep the hoe going even on vacant ground, this will chomp off any emerging before they get a chance to take hold.

 

Easter week-end and with virtually no rain this month the ground is now getting very dry; however the nights are chilly and unless you can cover plants there is still as risk of frost. I have planted out Onion sets Rumba and Fen Globe which I first raised in cell trays, also Broad Beans.

There is still plenty to do in the greenhouse, potting on tomatoes, celeriac, leeks, cabbage and sprouts. My butternut squash has failed to germinate so I have made a further sowing. Although I am still harvesting Purple Sprouting I have sown a few seeds for next year.

 

Asparagus is starting to crop now and needs to be cut regularly.

 

Strawberries are in flower and if you have not already done so, tidy up the plants and remove any weeds.

 

28th Bank Holiday week-end; with the recent frosty nights the potatoes have had their foliage clipped but they should soon recover.

 

I have planted out the sprouts ‘Montgomery’ but because of the lack of rain and the ground is so dry, I dug a deep hole first for each plant and filled with 2 watering cans of water, allowed to drain before setting the plants deeply up to their seed leaves, watering again very well, firming in with the heel of my boot and mulching; finally covering with netting to deter the pigeons.

 

 

MAY

 

Bank holiday week-end and at last we have had some very welcome rain but nowhere near enough. This is the month when most of the major planting takes place so it will be a busy time. With the threat of any frost now gone I shall be setting out tomatoes, courgettes and beetroot, sowing runner and French beans and my second sowing of carrots and lettuce,

Now is time to hang up the Pheromone Traps in apple and plum trees to prevent the codling moth and ensure grease bands that have been applied are free from any debri. The blossom has been wonderful this spring so we are hopeful of a good fruit harvest this year.

 

The foliage on the early spring bulbs and wall flowers are starting to go over now, leave the bulb foliage to completely die back before removing but the wallflowers can be cut back or removed to the compost bin; all the time the bees are enjoying them I shall leave for a bit longer. The ground can then be forked over ready for further planting.

 

20th of the month and after a prolonged dry spell we have had some much needed rain. Everything including the weeds are now growing well. While the soil is now nice and moist I have mulched the onions and as much ground as I can. This will also help to keep the weeds down and the moisture in. Potatoes are ready to be earthed up, peas are in flower, tomatoes are ready to be tied in as they grow now and the side shoots removed. I have made a further sowing of carrots, lettuce, beetroot; sown runner beans 2 beans to each cane. Planted out celeriac and now gradually planting out bedding plants. French Marigolds, Impatiens, Statice and Antirhhnums.

 

On the fruit plot the strawberries are starting to ripen; I am removing any runners. If new plants are required they can be left and pegged down later to root. Aphids are becoming a nuisance on the plums and cherries and it can help to deter these by pinching out the tips.

 

I am continuing to harvest the asparagus and now the first baby beetroot and carrots.

 

A selection of photos taken on 23rd May.

 

      

   

JUNE

 

Flaming June is true to it’s word and has started being very warm indeed; this is the month when harvesting really gets under way with the first of the early vegetables being the tastiest. Every year it is still a thrill after all my years growing vegetables tasting the very first baby carrots which I think are my favourite. But it is still time to be sowing more for an ongoing supply. I have sown autumn cabbage Unicorn in a seed tray in the greenhouse and more lettuce; Lettuce like cooler conditions to germinate this time of year. For some reason quite a few of my runner beans have failed to germinate so I am sowing more of those, it is not too late and also French beans can be sown direct this time of year too. Turnip and Kohl Rabi are quick growing crops for sowing now.

 

June is the time when we can enjoy our plots but do not be too complacent the weeds will keep growing so keep the hoe going on all vacant ground and hand weed where necessary.

New canes are now growing on the soft fruit, loganberries, tayberries and blackberries, these need to be tied back sand supported to avoid being snapped off. New growth on grapes should be pruned back to 1 or 2 bunches of grapes. Prune new growth on red currants by about 2 thirds to expose the fruit to ripen. Netting may be needed to deter the birds although I do find very few are taken.

 

18th and the hot dry spell continues; watering is a priority to vegetables that are cropping now, such as peas, courgettes, French anmd Broad beans, beetroot. Water copiously every few days rather than a daily dribble so the roots stay in the cool rather than being encouraged to come to the surface for moisture and getting burnt in the hot sun. Hand weed where possible to avoid disturbing the soil to keep as much moisture in as possible. I have now stopped cutting the asparagus, allowing it to grow to make fern. This will feed the crowns for next year’s crop. 2 of my strawberries beds are finished. I have given the plants a good ‘hair cut’ and weeded well. They will soon make new growth for next year. Remove any runners as they appear unless you need them to make new plants in which case they can be pegged down to root. Tomatoes are growing well and need to be tied in and their side shoots removed on cordon varieties.

 

I am now harvesting, carrots, beetroot, lettuce, cabbage, peas, broad beans, potatoes, raspberries, loganberries, tayberries and red currants.

 

26th – After the blistering heat we now have cooler weather but no sign of any rain, most things seem to be surviving, I have picked the last of the peas and broad beans, the last of the lettuce bolted but has been replaced with new plants. I have also panted out winter cabbage Unicorn, but first filling the planting holes with water and allowing it to drain several times, setting out the cabbages, watering well again and mulching to keep the moisture in. All the soft fruit needs regular picking now; my new bed of Malwena strawberries and doing very well considering they haven’t been watered at all. Continue to cut back any excess foliage on the grape vines and water well. Courgettes are cropping well now and a good soaking once a week is better than a daily dribble.  

 

 

It is now cherry picking time; to enjoy these at their best always cut with scissors to avoid damaging next year’s buds.

 

JULY

 

July is the month when harvesting is in full swing and keeping on top of the fruit picking and vegetables is almost a full time job. Give priority to the soft fruit but don’t pick in wet weather as it will soon go to mush. French beans, peas, courgettes that grow quickly will need to be harvested almost on a daily basis now. Outdoor tomatoes are starting to fill out now and will need regular watering to swell the fruit.

 

Try and make final sowings this month of salad crops, beetroot, peas, beans, and main crop carrots. Plant out leeks, winter cabbage, kale, sprouts and purple sprouting.

 

In the greenhouse, prick out seedlings of Sweet Williams and Wall flowers into cell trays and grow on to plant out in September.

 

21st. After only one heavy down pour we are desperate for rain. Now the first of my soft fruit, loganberries, tayberries and raspberries are finished I have made a start cutting out all the old fruiting canes, selecting the strongest ones for next year, removing any weak ones and tying in; first making any repairs to the supports and wires. The grape vine needs to be kept watered  and the grapes thinned carefully with pointed scissors taking care not to damage the fruitlets left to develop.

 

I have made a start now lifting main crop potatoes Desiree; leaving them in the greenhouse for a day or so to harden their skins before storing in hessian sacks in a dry cool dark place such as the shed or garage. Use any damaged ones first as they won’t keep. Tomatoes are starting to ripen now too; remove some of the lower leaves to give them full sun.

Onions will be bending over now, don’t force them allow it to happen naturally.

 

AUGUST. 

 

A reminder first of the G.A.H. & G.A. Annual show is to be held at St. Mary’s Parish Centre, Alverstoke on 19th August.

Anyone is welcome to enter; there are classes for adults and children. It is intended to be a fun day out for all the family. Show Schedules are available at any allotment store or on line at http://www.gosportallotments.btck.co.uk/

 

Back on the plot, the end of July saw the return of cooler weather with very heavy down pours. This has caused some tomatoes to split, these should be picked and used as quickly as possible as they won’t keep. Onions and shallots too will need some extra warmth to ripen. Ease them with a fork to break the roots and either leave in the sun or transfer to the greenhouse to finish ripening and the skins are papery. When they are completely dry they can either be plaited on to strings or put into nets and stored in a frost free shed or garage. Only store those with thin necks.

 

I am continuing to lift main crop potatoes Picasso, finishing them off in the greenhouse for a day or two to allow the skins to harden before storing in hessian sacks; Use any damaged tubers first. Leeks can be earthed up now. Keep picking French and runner beans and courgettes to keep them cropping.

 

It is not too late to make final sowings of salad crops, beetroot and quick maturing carrots.

 

On the fruit plot, most of the soft fruit is going over now, raspberries, loganberries etc. the old fruiting canes can be cut to the ground then select the strongest new canes to be tied in for next year; removing any weak ones but first making any repairs to the frame work. Continue to prune the new growth on apples and pears back to a pair of outward facing leaves to encourage fruiting spurs for next year.

 

17th and the Blight has arrived. Some tomatoes have been affected more than others, Fandango and Cherola have succumbed but so far the Mountain Magic have stood well and showing no signs as yet. Fortunately I had lifted all my main crop potatoes before it struck. If you have been affected, all plants should be lifted and either burned or disposed of. Do NOT compost and make sure any canes, secateurs etc. have been thoroughly washed.

 

With the Show only 2 days away I have been lifting various vegetables to enter. I am particularly pleased with my large carrots this year, onions have faired well and so has the cabbage.

 

‘Nairobi’

The badgers have been active and overturned one of my water butts, 40 gallons of water wasted and a lot of clearing up to do but luckily no damage to any crops as yet.

 

 

 

Bank holiday week-end and it is now very warm. The blight has taken all my tomatoes except for the Mountain Magic which are still holding their own and looking good. Not the tastiest of tomatoes and with slightly tougher skins I think they are still worth growing.

‘Mountain Magic’ tomatoes.

 

 SEPTEMBER

 

Seed catalogues are starting to drop through the letter box already with lots of new varieties to tempt us with but time enough to study those later on; for now there is plenty to do still on the plot before any bad weather prevents from getting on the soil.

Many of the winter crops already established such as leeks, sprouts, cabbages, parsnips will need to be tidied up; remove any dead and yellowing leaves and consign to the compost heap. Make sure sprouts are firmed in and given any support to stop the roots rocking in the winter winds. Continue to cover brassica’s with netting as the cabbage white butterflies are still about and birds will soon damage the tops.

 

Clear away any spent summer crops and fork over the soil, keep weed free by hoeing regularly now. Or use the space to plant out spring cabbage, broad beans, onion sets and garlic. I shall also be planting out Wallflowers and Sweet Williams to flower next spring.

 

Try to finish cutting down summer fruiting raspberries, loganberries etc. and tie in the strongest new canes for next year. Finish any pruning to apples and pears. Harvest apples when they come away in your hand easily, pears are a little more difficult as they ripen from the inside out. Better to harvest while still firm and ripen on a sunny the window sill. Strawberries that have finished fruiting can be given a good ‘hair cut’, and remove any runners that are not needed to peg down to make new plants and consign to the compost bin. They will soon make new growth for next year.

 

Last week of the month and with the weather still warm and moist it is making for ideal growing conditions. Broad Beans, onions and garlic can all be planted up to the end of October and even into November if conditions ae still right. Vacant ground should now be kept weed free and if possible cover with a good thick layer of well rotted compost. I have taken delivery of a fresh load of horse manure which I will be layering with all the green waste I have from the annual weeds, peelings from the kitchen, flowers, dahlias etc. This will rot down over winter to give me plenty of good compost to use in the spring. I also dig a deep trench where I can on vacant ground and fill this with any waste before filling in.

 

A reminder it is the Michaelmas Fayre at Alverstoke on 30th September when the G.A.H. & G.A. will be holding their usual stall selling produce, plants, flowers, jams etc. If you have anything to spare please bring along on the day or hand to any committee member or storeman. This is our main fund raising event and will be gratefully received.    

 

Shallots, Butternut and chillies prepared ready to take to the Fayre.

 

OCTOBER

Thank you to all those of you who contributed to our fund raising stall at the Michaelmas Fayre; despite it starting off very wet, it did dry up by about 1 o’clock and the visitors started to arrive; I think we exceeded all expectations by selling out completely.

 

Back on the plot a damp start to the month and the weeds just seem to keep on coming. Annual weeds can be dealt with by hoeing and if possible a good mulch of compost laid now should keep them at bay for the rest of the winter. Anything perennial will need to be dug out first.

 

My first job this month is to remove the old Tayberry which has been in now for about 25 years and past it’s sell by date. The fruit has been very small this last few years and it’s taking up too much space for very little return. I will also finish pruning the apple trees. Conference and Concorde Pears are ripening now, pick while still firm and finish off in the greenhouse or a warm window sill.

 

17th and a reminder it is the G.A.H. & G.A, Pumpkin Fayre on Saturday 29th at the Alverstoke Parish Centre. Anyone is welcome to enter and classes cover a wide range of baking, preserves, wines, spirits and cider to fruit, vegetables and flowers. A show schedule can be obtained from any site stores or on line at http://btckstorage.blob.core.windows.net/site9028/pumpkin%20and%20produce.pdf

 

Back on the plot the weather is still un-seasonally mild and the soil is ideal to plant onions and broad beans to over winter if you haven’t already done so.

I am now continuing to compost all spent flowers except for the dahlias and chrysanths which are continuing to give a lovely display, layering well with horse manure which will help it to rot down for use in the spring. Wood chippings that have rotted well on my paths I have scraped off to mulch the flower beds and then topped up the paths with fresh chippings.

 

I have harvested all the chillies now but still have plenty of leeks, parsnips, celeriac, cabbage, carrots and sprouts to see me through the winter with potatoes, onions, shallots and butternut in store.

 

Care should be taken to see that any bonfires are damped down and put out now before leaving. Water that is normally turned off at the beginning of October has been left on for now and the Council will monitor its use.

 

NOVEMBER

 

Now the clocks have gone back and the days are shorter my thoughts are turning to the maintenance jobs that need to be done before any bad weather sets in for the winter. I am spreading a good layer of compost on as many beds as I can and repairing and replacing any edgings that have rotted. The shed has had a good turnout, my tools cleaned and where necessary oiled and stored for the winter. Canes can be plunged into a bucket of disinfectant, pots and trays washed and stored ready for use in the spring. I find my Enviromesh is easy to clean washed on the cool cycle in the washing machine. I will also be giving my shed and compost bins a coat of wood preservative to.

 

 

One foggy morning before it cleared to a very bright and warm day.