Tag Archive | Attracting bees

Growing Cauliflowers And Making Comfrey Tea

On Tuesday this week I dug up my cauliflowers, which were a heritage variety called ‘English Winter’, which I sowed in May last year. They stood all winter long and I was a bit concerned that I would just have leaves without the lovely white cauliflowers….but finally in April the cauliflower heads began to form and the result was beautiful large white caulis.

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The ground where they had stood for a year was as solid as a rock and it took me ages to fork the soil over. I then raked a dusting of Blood, fish and bone over the area and then planted the red onions that I sowed back in January this year.

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This week I planted some more cauliflowers that I sowed on the 14th February. They are a variety called ‘All year round’. As usual I walked, danced and jumped all over the area, as cauliflowers especially like firm soil and this helps to stop them from ‘blowing’.   It also helps to add organic matter in the autumn, so it has time to settle.

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After planting the cauliflowers I tread around the plants with my foot and then I cover the cauliflowers with environmesh to stop any little flies getting into the curds when they form.

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I noticed my curly kale is now flowering beautifully. If I don’t need the area straight away, I leave the kale to flower as the bees love it:

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This week I picked our last purple sprouting broccoli, which is quite sad as my youngest daughter loves it….but I also picked our first asparagus of the year which is great.

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When I walked around my plots I noticed my first globe artichoke is forming which is also great….my in-laws love these so I make sure they have the first ones of the season:

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One of the jobs I completed this week was to cut down my comfrey before it flowers, so it doesn’t self-seed everywhere.

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I put some of the comfrey into my compost bins as it is a great compost activator and I used some of it to make an enormous pot of comfrey tea.

Comfrey tea is high in potash as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers which is why I have a whole bed dedicated to comfrey plants, which I cut down three or four times during the growing season.  If you are buying comfrey to grow, the experts tell you to use a variety called ‘bocking 14’ which doesn’t self-seed, however I just took a root cutting from my neighbours allotment to get me started and I didn’t have a clue which variety it was.  Self-seeding has never been a problem for me as I always cut it down before it flowers.

To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin. I then put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill with water.  I use this feed once a week after the first tomatoes begin to form. 

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As I use a lot of comfrey tea, I made mine in a water butt. I put the comfrey into an old curtain and then weighed it down with a brick and I will leave it for a couple of weeks with water covering it.  I always make sure I cover the liquid with an old piece of wood or a lid, as once I didn’t and I ended up with maggots in it!

After two weeks I will remove the comfrey and put it into my compost bin.  The result will be lots of smelly comfrey tea liquid, which is free to make and the plants love it.

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This week I also sowed my wildflower seeds. I had previously raked the area to remove any large clods of earth.

I mixed the seed with dry horticultural sand and then scattered the sand & seed mixture over the area and raked them in.

I then covered them with bird netting until they germinate.

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If they are half as good as the last two years wildflowers, then I will be pleased.

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I also noticed that one or two strawberries have started to form, so I surrounded the strawberries with straw.

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The straw stops the mud splashing on the strawberries but it also acts as mulch, keeping the moisture in and stops annual weeds from germinating. I made sure it had rained before I spread the straw to ensure that the ground was moist.

The bale of straw only cost me £3.40 from my local plant nursery, so it was really worth it. I also had some left over to use elsewhere if I need it too.

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When I looked closely I noticed that a few of my strawberry flowers had turned black….these are the ones that the frost caught last Friday and sadly they won’t turn into strawberries now:

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But not to worry, there are plenty that beat the frost:

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Inside my polytunnel I removed the perpetual spinach that had turned into a triffid …it had gone to seed and was now huge!

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I dug it up and replaced it with a couple of barrows of compost from my homemade allotment compost, ready for my next crops.

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I noticed next to this area, the two rows of carrots had started to germinate with the radish in between that I sowed on the 11th April.

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The lettuces in my polytunnel will also soon be ready.

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The only thing I am disappointed with so far is my tomato plants. I had four greenhouse tomato plants spare, so I put them into my polytunnel. Unfortunately, even in the polytunnel last week’s frost managed to damage some of the leaves which is a shame, but I can already see new growth in the centre so hopefully they will be ok.

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Finally, I planted some lavatera that I have grown from seed. These are the hardy annual type that do not become thugs and they will live and die in one season. They grow to about 60cm high and will hopefully look beautiful and again attract beneficial insects to my plot.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.  I hope you have a good weekend.

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Mouldy Banana’s And Beneficial Insects

To begin with, I thought I’d show you my first broad beans of the season.  These are an over-wintering variety that I sowed in pots at the beginning of November.  As the weather was dreadful, I didn’t plant them out until February and to be honest I nearly put them in the compost bin as they were so ‘leggy’ by then.  However, I had room in my polytunnel so I put them in there, tying each one to a cane to try and stand them up.  I didn’t think they would come to anything and I have been proved wrong, so I am very pleased.

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The above broad beans went straight down to my father-in-law, as he absolutely loves them.  He has been very poorly recently and has only just come out of hospital again, so this put a smile on his face.

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My strawberries are finally growing well, even though they are slightly later than usual, due to the cold spring we have had.  I always lay straw around my strawberries, as this stops the strawberries from rotting when they lay on wet ground and it also helps to stop annual weeds from germinating around them.

Another job I do is to put a net over them, or the greedy birds will eat all of them.

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A long time ago, I was told I wasted space at my allotment by growing too many flowers. Yes I agree, if I didn’t grow so many flowers I would have more space for vegetable plants. However, I strongly believe I would also have fewer vegetables to harvest, as there would be less insects around to pollinate my crops.

You only needed to stand and watch my wild flower patch last year, to see the buzz of activity there. It was absolutely amazing to watch and took my breath away every time I stopped and stared.

As an organic gardener, I try really hard to encourage beneficial insects into my plot , as they keep the ‘bad bugs’ at bay. As an example, if you watch blackflies, within a few days you will see the ladybirds having a feast on them. I don’t use pesticides as these will not only kill the ‘bad’ insects, but it will also kill the ‘good’ ones too.

I try to let nature do the work for me.

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I try really hard to attract bees onto my plot from early spring until late autumn, by planting a continuous range of flowers. As an example, I stood amongst my poached egg plants for less than ten seconds a couple of days ago and managed to easily take photos of four separate bees:

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 After the success of last years wildflower patch, I decided to have another go.  Last month I sowed the seeds and they have started to come up now, together with seeds that self sowed themself from last year.

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The plants that are growing from last years seeds are far more advanced than the seeds I sowed last month and I have even got a flower on one of them:

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 If this years display is half as good as last years, I will be happy.  Below are a few photo’s of last years patch:

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Two Mouldy Banana’s:

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will know that I hate waste.  However, there is always something that you find lurking at the back of the fridge or the bottom of the fruit bowl that you have to think hard about how you can use it.  So what on earth could you do with two mouldy, black bananas’ that only look fit for the compost bin?….

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…..I made a lovely banana cake:

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Banana cake

2 very ripe bananas’s mashed

170g caster sugar

170g self-rising flour

170g soft margarine

3 eggs

Half a teaspoon of vanilla essence

1 teaspoon of baking powder

Plus extra margarine and flour for lining the tin

A little icing sugar for dusting.

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Preheat your oven to gas 3 / 325F / 170C

Line a medium loaf tin by greasing the tin with margarine and dusting with flour

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Put all the ingredients into a bowl

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Mix until they are all combined and pour into your loaf tin.

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Bake for approximately 1 hour. 

(Test the cake is cooked by inserting a skewer into the cake and if it comes out clean then it is cooked).

Dust with icing sugar when cool.

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Enjoy!

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at approximately 4pm.