Saturday, June 25, 2011

Growing in small spaces

Before all the recent rain came along, I was at Karl's house for a BBQ in early June. Since he bought a house it has been difficult for him to get to the allotment so he tends to grow veggies from home in his petite garden. It's actually quite an achievement considering how much space he has to work with. It is a very cute little garden and he uses every inch wherever he can. Karl used to drive me potty with his haphazard planting in the early allotment days but now he has a space that has to be meticulously planned and organised each year. It is impressive how he manages it all.

Karl's garden consists of two decent sized bricked beds, one raised smaller bricked bed and a patio floor. He experimented with square foot gardening last year where he grew something different within 1 square foot in a bed but I think this received mixed results. See

This year he has mostly grown tomatoes in the larger beds and made good use of sturdy sacks and troughs for smaller plants. He is growing asparagus successfully from a large black pot (a plant that was very difficult to grow on the allotment) and he is training peas up a spiral support. The herb sack is especially well made with little pockets of thyme varieties. You can find strawberries growing in little planters alongside the bed walls and random pots of prepared seeds ready to pop up over the summer. Even the smallest corner is a home for the humble watering can.

I adore the homemade look to people's gardens. There is so much more personality in a back garden than an allotment as you can truly put your stamp on it. I love the personal touches of lanterns, baskets and tealight holders that are interspersed amongst the plants at Karl's. It is a very thoughtful and snug kitchen garden.

Potatoes in sacks
Fig tree and spiral growing peas
Herb sack
Hidden watering can storage
Tomatoes and strawberries
Lanterns, candles and baskets
*I'm sure Karl will correct me on some of the above information but this is just my observation.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

May & June on the plot

We've had a funny old spring so far. Heatwave in the week leading up to the Royal Wedding and then endless rain throughout most of May and June. It has not made planting easy at all.

The good news is that produce has been popping up although we have had some surprising failures. Such is allotment life! We had our usual lovely crop of strawberries but I made a mistake leaving them without netting and they have been nibbled by the birds. Raspberries are doing okay too. Just a few tasty ones popping up here and there. Not bad seeing as they were only transplanted at the end of last year.

The broad beans are doing very well. I have been spraying them with washing-up liquid frequently and it has helped them grow taller before pinching the tips out. Only one plant has blackly on it so far and I scrubbed it down before pinching (and squishing) all the growth and bugs out of the top. Messy but at least the plant has a chance of producing pods now. You have to be vigilant with broad beans and really look after them during flowering otherwise they get massacred by blackfly aphids. The ladybirds have also caught onto the aphids and are helping me out by munching on them too. Very handy natural predators.

Other successes are the potatoes, both varieties are doing well and the Apache have started flowering.
Our biggest disappointments have been the courgettes and runner beans which have been attacked by something being netted. The courgettes were fantastic under the cloches but once they had established, we took the covers off and something ate them! Really surprising as we usually do really well with courgettes. The runner beans have also had a very slow start. We have planted them twice and only half have come up. Again, I think something is having a nibble despite netting and slug pellets. Very strange. (rabbits???)

One of my allotment neighbours has kindly given me an assortment of climbing beans to plant as he has too many. They are a mix of french and berlotti I think? We shall see what happens. Weirdly - nothing has eaten these yet despite not being covered at all!

Just one more thing…
We have an extra recruit on the plot! My friend, Abby, has asked if she could help out on the allotment to learn about growing veggies. Not sure how much she will actually learn from us but she seems to be enjoying it so far! Together we have planted carrots, beetroot, spinach and the mange tout. It certainly makes a difference having a team on the plot working together.

(Apologies for the late posting - technical problems!)

Friend or Foe?

Broad beans flowering

Cabbages (looking a bit nibbled!)

Part of a donated bean selection (Thanks Paul!)


Dave's potatoes

On closer inspection - VERY nibbled cabbages

Something ate our courgette plant! :(

Spuds looking luscious and green

Spuds close to flowering soon

Raspberries! (delicious)

Some runner beans have made it (but not all)

Wonderful strawberry bounty

Dave's tomatoes

Dave's tomato construction