Tag Archive | Companion planting

A Busy Week In The Garden

Well I can’t start today without mentioning the wonderful celebrations that went on in Leicester on Monday evening at ‘Leicester City’s Victory parade’.  I watched it all on the TV, but Mr Thrift was lucky enough to enjoy the parade at Victoria Park with my sisters and brother-in-laws, together with approximately 220,000 other people….this was absolutely amazing as Leicester City’s population is only 330,000!

Mr Thrift said the atmosphere was wonderful and it was an evening that he will always remember.  This event really did bring the city together.

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This Week In The Garden:

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The nights have been cold this week in the garden so I have made sure that my tender plants have been under cover at night.  I will continue to keep a close eye on the weather forecast for now.

However, as the end of May is near I decided to plant a few things making sure they have adequate protection just in case there are still cold nights to come.

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I started by planting out the runner beans I sowed three weeks ago in newspaper pots (they grow so quickly).  I put up some bean poles for them to climb up and then planted the beans.  I also planted some nasturtiums that I sowed two or three weeks ago from seed around the beans, as these attract the blackfly away from the beans – also if there are no blackfly around, I add the leaves to salads as they have a lovely mild peppery taste.

I then put some glass around the plants to give a bit of protection:

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I then planted out my outdoor cucumbers which are a variety called ‘Burpless tasty green’ which I have been growing for a number of years. Over the years I have had fantastic crops of outdoor cucumbers in warm summers, but I have also had one or two years where the plants just sat and sulked in the cold, wet conditions…..I’m keeping my fingers crossed the weather is good for this years crop!

I support the cucumbers by tying them to canes as they grow….but for now I have given them some protection from the cold and slugs by covering them with old pop bottles until they are established:

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I have also used pop bottles to cover the parsley I planted this week, as these plants are still small.  I again grew the parsley in newspaper pots, as this stops any root disturbance to the plant and the newspaper just decomposes in the soil.

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This week I also ‘squeezed’ in some beetroot into my plot (again sown in newspaper pots and covered in bottles for protection until they are established) ….

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I then planted my red cabbages which again I had grown from seed.  I made sure that I used my foot to firm around each plant as brassicas grow best in firm soil and then I put a home made cabbage collar around each plant to stop cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of the plants.

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I then planted my swedes in an area next to my cabbages so I could put a net over the whole lot to stop the birds, as they LOVE to eat brassica leaves!

Just before I put the net over the brassicas I sowed a ‘catch crop’ of radish between the cabbages to make use of every spare piece of ground:

“A ‘Catch Crop’ is a crop that reaches maturity in a relatively short time, which makes use of the ground in between crops until they are established”

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I also planted some spring onions that I grew from seed in a small area under my environmesh that was not being used, next to my garlic:

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And I planted some khol rabi under my net in a space next to my Spring cabbage:

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As my kitchen garden is small, I am determined to grow as much as possible in every spare bit of ground I can find….however I also want to make the area look attactive with flowers for me and for the beneficial insects.  These insects will in turn pollinate my crops and eat the pests that visit my garden.

So this week I planted some Calendula that I grew from seed:

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Calendula is a hardy annual that I grew for years at my allotment and I also grew some last year in my new kitchen garden too.

My Calendula at my allotment

‘Calendula Alley’ at my allotment

Hoverflies, bees and butterflies all love the Calendula flowers and as an extra bonus, the petals are edible and look really pretty scattered into salads….so I think it’s always good to try and squeeze some of them into a vegetable garden somewhere:

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This week my mangetout was ready to plant out.  I had sown it in guttering a couple of weeks ago and kept it in my mini-greenhouse until it had germinated, as I think I get a far better rate of seed germination this way:

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I decided to put the mangetout in my new planter as my polyanthus and cowslips had just about finished flowering.  I don’t know if you remember but I bought all fourteen plants from my local nursery in the middle of April for just 40p each…..and they have flowered continuously since then, so this was a real bargain:

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I moved each plant to a different place in the garden to flower again another year.  I then added a bit more compost and a handful of blood, fish and bone to the planter and then I planted the mangetout …. hopefully it will grow up the trellis at the back.

I will add more plants to the planter another day:

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Another job I did this week was to ‘thin’ my leeks once again as there seemed to be so many growing in the tray.  Hopefully they will grow stronger now there are less of them….I must remember not to sow them so thickly next year!

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 I also ‘thinned’ my carrot seedlings which I am keeping in my greenhouse.  Normally it is best to ‘thin out’ carrot seedlings in the evenings to help prevent carrot rootfly, however as I thinned them out in the greenhouse then they will hopefully be ok.

I sowed these seeds far too thickly as the seed packet was a few years old and I thought most of them wouldn’t germinate….I was very wrong!

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Back in March I sowed some ‘cut and come again’ lettuce in my greenhouse and we have had a good supply of salad leaves over the last month or so. However the supply of leaves was just about finished and so I decided it was time to pull them up together with the remaining radish that I had sown around the edge of the salad leaves.

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This made room for me to plant my remaining indoor tomatoes.  As you can see from roots in the photo below, the tomatoes were ready to be planted:

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I also planted a couple of french marigolds next to the tomatoes as they are said to repel aphids and they look pretty too.

My greenhouse seems to be growing well at the moment and this week I noticed I have my first little cucumber growing.  I am being very careful not to overwater the cucumber plants as they don’t like to sit in wet compost.

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I am still continually tying my cucumbers and tomatoes to their supports as they grow and I am removing side shoots from the tomatoes when I spot them.

I also had room to plant some lettuces in my greenhouse that I have been growing from seed….I am trying very hard this year to have a continuous supply of salads (as we eat such a lot):

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Around the garden this week I have been weeding as we had some nice dry days at the beginning of the week.  Unfortunately I have been finding a lot of bindweed growing in a particular bed so I have been digging out as much of it as possible.  Provided I keep removing the top of the bindweed after it emerges out of the soil, it will eventually exhaust itself and die – but this takes a long time.

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Improving our lawn area:

Finally this week I turned my attention to our lawn.  After using a ‘log roll’ a couple of weeks ago against our fence I found had a tiny bit of it spare, so I cut it in half with a saw and fitted it neatly around our bay tree:

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I was very pleased with the results.

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I then decided to take off an inch of our lawn at the end, to make it easier to mow and keep tidy:

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While I was doing this I found a ‘leather jacket’ so I took a photo to show you….

“Leatherjackets are the larvea of craneflies (daddy long-legs) that live in the soil.  They can be very damaging to lawns and can eat the roots and stem bases of small flower and vegetable plants.  There are usually more around after a wet autumn”

  For now I won’t do anything about the leatherjackets, but I will certainly be keeping an eye out for any damage in this area.

There is a lot of information about Leatherjacket damage on the RHS website here.

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We have now managed to stop yellow patches appearing on our lawn by pouring water on the grass every time Judy (our dog) goes to the toilet.

However at one end of our grass there are still some bare patches where Judy used to run around going mad at next doors dog when he came out.  Judy is a lot calmer now and so I decided to reseed these patches.

I covered the new seeded areas with whatever I could find to stop Judy from running over it…hopefully soon the seeds will germinated and then thicken up quickly:

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It has been lovely spending so much time in my garden this week, especially as Judy has been ‘calmly’ waiting for me, enjoying the sun……this is something that I never thought she would do, so I savour every peaceful moment of it:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back next Friday as usual.

Have a great week!

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A New Gadget & Blogging Once A Week

At the beginning of the week it was really warm and I decided to take a day off from the allotment.

Mr Thrift very kindly took me to Barnsdale Gardens in Exton, Oakham.  This is where Geoff Hamilton filmed Gardeners World from 1983 until he sadly passed away in 1996.

It was Geoff Hamilton’s series called ‘The Ornamental Kitchen Garden’ that inspired me to have a go at growing vegetables, which has obviously grown into a passion of mine as I now have four allotment plots.

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The gardens were beautiful and so peaceful.

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I particularly enjoyed seeing the gardens that I remember Geoff Hamilton constructing on Gardeners World and it was great to come away with some new ideas.  One such idea was to grow ‘Lady’s mantle’ (Alchemilla mollis) around the base of fruit trees, which will act as a weed suppressant and a mulch to retain moisture around the roots of young trees.  You can see this in the photo below:

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If you are ever passing, the gardens are really worth a visit.

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I had a lovely visit from my nephew at the allotment this week.  He is rather good at photography and he took a photo which I thought I would share with you.  There are quite a few empty beds at the moment waiting for the more tender plants which will be planted at the end of this month, after any risk of frost has passed:

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You can see in the photo above that the lavender hedge that lines one of my paths will soon flower and look beautiful.

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This week I purchased a new gadget to try…. A ‘Bentley patio, paving and decking weed brush’ for £12.99

I get fed up of spending hours on my hands and knees each week weeding in between my paths.  As you know I am an organic gardener and I won’t use weed killers (glyphosate) on my plot.  Therefore I decided to treat myself:

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I didn’t buy the cheapest weed brush I could find, as I wanted to make sure it was a good quality brush that didn’t break after a few uses.

This brush is like magic as the hard wire bristles simply ‘brush away’ the weeds in between your slabs, as you can see in the photographs below.

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Obviously perennial weeds will grow again as the roots are deep below the slabs, but if you brush regularly then even the hardiest perrenial weeds will ‘give up’ growing after a while.

I found this brush particularly good at ‘brushing’ away horsetail (Equisetum arvense) that grows between the slabs outside my polytunnel.

An hours job per week has now turned into a five minute job and I think this brush is worth every penny.

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I have noticed a few things at my plot this week:

The first thing is my oriental poppies have started to flower.  My friend gave me a cutting a few years ago and it seemed to take a long time to become establshed, but last year I had a few flowers and this year it seems to be even better.

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You can read about oriental poppies here on the Gardeners World website.

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Another thing I noticed was a lovely Iris that has popped up in one of my flower beds.  I can’t for the life of me remember planting it, but I shall leave it there as it is beautiful:

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The perennial cornflowers (Centaurea montana) are now flowering in my flower patch, together with the aquiligias.   I always think perennial cornflowers are like ‘marmite’….you either love them or hate them….I love them:

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When I looked, I noticed my strawberries will soon be ready ro ripen:

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And I also noticed that the fruit trees and bushes seem to be doing well.

The golden gages, pears and apples all developing nicely:

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I have also checked the pheromone traps and I can see that the plum moths and codling moths are active, as some have already been ‘lured’ into the traps:

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One sad thing I have noticed this week at my allotment is that I think a few of my onions are suffering from the ‘allium leaf miner’ again.  The tell tale signs are white dots on the foliage and the foliage seems to twist.

I wrote about the allium leaf miner here if anyone is interested.

There is nothing I can do about it now but I think I will have to reassess how I grow my onions next year if there is alot of damage to my crop from this pest.

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This week at my allotment I planted out my runner beans.  I don’t usually plant tender plants out until the end of May, but they were getting a bit big (due to all the hot weather we have had) and I have sheets of glass ready to cover them if we have a late frost.

I also planted nasturtiums in between the runner bean plants as a sacrificial plants.  Blackflies prefer the nasturtiums to the beans, so it keeps the beans clear of the flies.  Also as a bonus, if there are no blackflies around, you can eat the peppery nasturtium leaves and flowers in salads.

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I also prepared the area where I will be planting my tomatoes at the end of this month.  At the end of March I spread manure over this bed and then covered it with weed suppressant as I hadn’t got time to fork it in.  I have found if I don’t fork the manure into the soil then it just dried in clumps on the top of the soil.

By covering the manure I was hoping that the worms would do some of the job for me…and indeed they did:

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….but there were still the odd bits that needed forking in, so I set to work turning the soil with my fork:

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This is the area that had my wildflowers in for the last two years, so this is the third time I have dug it over and I was astonished to find this in my soil:

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How on earth did I miss it before?  You can see how big it was next to my fork.

Another one of those crazy allotment mysteries!

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My chives have been looking beautiful this week and when I have stood and watched I can see lots of insects buzzing around them:

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But unfortunately as beautiful as they are, they now aren’t providing me with any chives to pick for our salads.  So at this time of year I chop some of the stems back and this allows the chives to regrow and provide me with another lot of fresh pickings in a few weeks time.

I also leave some of the chives in flower, for the beneficial insects to still visit.

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I don’t know if you remember that back in March I started to re-vamp the area at the back of my allotment.  This is the area that I moved my shed from last year.  I planted a quince tree here and also dug a small area at the back where I transplanted some rosa rugosa from my garden at home (so I could use the rosehips when they are established) and I also transplanted some ‘vinca minor’ (periwinkle) from home to cover the bare soil around rosa rugosa.

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I’m not sure at the moment whether I will woodchip this area or grass it…I will decide later on in the year when I have more time.

Until the plants become established, the ground around the vinca and rosa regosa is quite bare.  So I decided to transplant some calendula, that self seeds freely around ‘Calendula alley’.  You can see the established flowers in this old photograph below:

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I also transplanted some calendula in the old tubs at the back of this area too

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I think this area will be a lovely area to sit down and have a picnic, when it is finally finished next year.

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When I started my blog nearly two years ago, I wrote a post every day to get my blog established.  In January 2013 I decided to write just twice a week, however I am finding this incredibly difficult with other commitments that I have.

  One of my new commitments is learning to play the piano and I really enjoy practising every day as I find it a good way to relax (especially after stressful days).  I also enjoy writing my blog though and I don’t want to give this up.  So after lots of soul searching, I have decided to write my blog just once a week now and publish it on a Friday only.

I think this is a good solution which will allow me time to still blog and do other things (and write about them for you).

I hope nobody minds this too much.

I will still answer all your comments, as this is my favourite part of blogging.  If you haven’t left a comment before I would really love to hear from you.

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One other thing I wanted to mention, is my followers on ‘Twitter’ are growing rapidly, which I am very pleased with.  Therefore I have started to use Twitter more by posting little ‘chestnuts’ of information or ‘top tips’ on there every few days when I think of them.

So if you have a Twitter account you can follow me by clicking on the ‘follow’ button on the right hand side of this page or visit my twitter account ‘@Mrs_Thrift’

I was a bit nervous about using Twitter in the beginning as it sometimes gets bad press, but there really is nothing to it.  You can ‘follow’ or ‘unfollow’ people whenever you like.

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Anyway,  thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be here every Friday from now on.

Holidays And A Good Harvest

It’s lovely to be back blogging again and I have so much to tell you, but equally I have had a lovely break.

At the beginning of the school holidays we went to Scarborough and had a wonderful time.  We stopped in a Travelodge again for six nights and it cost us just £230 for two adults and two children with breakfast included…..what a bargain!

We were so lucky with the weather, as it was really hot the week we were there and we spent every day on the beach.  The sea was so calm and clear, we could even see little fishes swimming around in it.  With the heat, it felt like we were abroad.

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My friend at my allotment watered my polytunnel for me while I was away and he did a grand job, but I must say I was worried about my other crops as it was so hot and I had told him not to bother watering them, but they all seemed to be ok.  I was very pleased that I had planted my runner beans on top of a runner bean trench, that I had filled with old peelings, etc. during the winter, as this would certainly have helped to retain the moisture.

My Runnerbean Trench

My Runnerbean Trench

You can read how I made my runner bean trenches here.

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Since we came back from our holiday I have been frantically harvesting all my crops at the allotment.  What a difference a year makes!  This time last year it was really wet and crops were struggling to grow, but this year is a bumper year for most things, though I have found that some things are still behind due to the cold spring we had e.g. pumpkins, butternut squashes and my early apples.

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I’ve tried to remember to take photos of the things I harvested over the last couple of weeks, but I did keep forgetting.  So here are the few pictures that I did take:

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Remember the ‘cauliflower stomp’ I do before I plant my cauliflowers, to tread the ground down so it is firm (as this helps to stop cauliflowers from ‘blowing’)…. I thought I would show you proof that it works:

I'm very proud of my cauliflowers

I’m very proud of my cauliflowers

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My runner beans have been doing well too.  I thought I would show you a picture of some of the beans the plants have produced as I think they are amazing.  One of them measured nearly 15 inches, which I know isn’t a prize winner, but I think it’s great for every day runner beans.  This variety is called ‘Enorma’, which is supposed to be one of the most successful exhibition runner beans, which has been given the R.H.S. Award of Merit.  I can see why, as they not only grow to a good length but they also taste delicious :

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I don’t know if you remember, I planted Nasturtiums next to my runner bean plants, as blackflies prefer Nasturtiums to the beans.  My runner beans are showing no sign what so ever of blackflies, but the nasturtiums are covered.  This shows that companion planting really does work, as I really don’t need to spray my runner beans with any pesticides:

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My second early potatoes were ready when I got back from holiday, so I dug them up and brought them home.  Early potatoes won’t store as long as late varieties, so I make sure we eat them first.  As I couldn’t stay too long at my allotment, I brought them home and laid them on my table to dry out and then I put them in sacks ready to store until we use them:

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I noticed my early potatoes did have a lot of slug holes again, though they can still be used.  I wonder if there were so many slugs around in the soil after last year, that we are bound to see lots of holes?  I would love to hear how your potatoes are and if your earlies have also suffered from slug holes?

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My flowers have been beautiful this year too and have the added bonus of attracting beneficial insects onto my plot:

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It’s been a pleasure taking some cut flowers home too:

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The only job I have really done at the allotment over the last few weeks other than watering and picking, is to plant a few more lettuces in my polytunnel, to keep us from running out:

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I’m really amazed I managed to get them to fit in my polytunnel as it’s full to bursting point inside of it:

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I still have so much to share with you, but I think I better finish for today.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.  I will be back on Monday as usual.

Still Planting And A Walk Around My Allotment

I have usually planted most of my seedlings by now, but as this isn’t a normal year (due to the cold Spring we had), I still have some to plant.

This week I have been busy planting various things and I must say my allotment is getting pretty full.

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I started by planting some more cauliflowers.  As usual I prepared the ground by raking in some blood, fish and bone a couple of weeks ago and then just before I planted them I trod over the area and jumped and danced on it.  Brassica’s all need firm soil and you may remember that I also did this with my brussels a few weeks ago.  One of my readers (Paula) said I had invented the ‘Brussell Sprout Stomp’, which made me laugh.

One of the main reasons for cauliflowers ‘blowing’  (loose heads, where the curds don’t grow together) is the soil isn’t firm enough.  So I suppose you could now name the dance ‘ The Cauliflower Stomp’.

I covered my cauliflowers with environmesh:

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This week I planted my ‘outdoor’ cucumbers.  They are a variety called ‘Burpless Tasty Green’, which I have grown for a few years now with great success.  The skin is slightly prickly so I do peel them before eating.  They taste lovely, with no hint of bitterness, which some cucumbers have.

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I also planted some more spring onions, as we eat loads of these and I like to make sure we have some available for a long as possible over the summer…

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…and some beetroot and parsley:

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Finally, I planted some Nasturtiums next to my runner beans.  These are great companion plants as they attract blackfly.  The blackfly prefers the nasturtiums to the runner beans, so the nasturtiums act as sacrficial plants.

Nasturtiums next to my runner beans

Nasturtiums next to my runner beans

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The broad beans in my polytunnel are still producing some lovely pods for picking…

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…and I had a lovely surprise this week as I found my first two strawberries ready for picking.  I took them home and me and my daughters all savoured the lovely, juicy, sweet strawberries together.  There really isn’t anything that tastes as good as freshly picked strawberries.  If you have never eaten homegrown strawberries, you really do not know what you are missing as they taste nothing like supermarket strawberries, that are only bred for a long shelf-life.

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Now we have had some warm weather and some rain, things have begun to grow nicely.  I had a walk around my plot yesterday and I noticed a few things.  The dahlias that I grew from seed have begun to flower:

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The apples and plums are beginning to form nicely:

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My second early potatoes have begun to flower:

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My spring cabbages are finally ‘hearting up’:

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The first peas that I sowed this year are nearly ready:

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My polytunnel is growing well:

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And the lavender that edges both of my paths, is nearly in flower:

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The bees will love the lavender after my poached egg plants have stopped flowering.  When I stand amongst the poached egg plants there is still such a buzz of activity there:

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Finally I thought I would show you what I do with lettuces after I have picked them, if I don’t use them all at once.  After taking off the few leaves I need at the time, I pop the rest of the lettuce into an old pot full of water.  Just like flowers in a vase, the lettuce stays lovely and fresh for quite a few days.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

  I will be back on Monday at approximately4pm.

A Week Of Planting Tender Crops

The weather has been beautiful this week, making it a real pleasure to work at my allotment.

I’ve had a good week there, as I have started to plant out my tender plants.  These plants are the ones that can’t tolerate any frost, so I have kept them at home until this week.

Two weeks ago, I prepared the soil by spreading some blood, fish and bone fertiliser over the area where the plants were to go.

Unfortunately, the week didn’t start off too well as I had an accident with my first set of plants…I dropped a whole tray of sweetcorn, face down on my path!  Every one of my home sown plants either bent, or snapped in half and they were unusable. Only a ‘gardener’ can understand how upsetting this was for me, I just kept looking at them in disbelief!

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Luckily, a wonderful nursery in Syston came to the rescue and I managed to get some replacements.  They were really reasonable in price too, as they were £2.00 for twelve plants, which isn’t as cheap as growing them from seed but cheaper than buying ready grown, tasteless ones from the supermarket.

I planted the sweetcorn in a block.  Sweetcorn is wind pollinated and by planting them in a block it gives the male flowers at the top of each plant more opportunity to shed their pollen on the female tassels below.

Afterwards, I planted my butternut squash plants in between the sweetcorn.  I do this as it saves space, but also because the leaves of the squashes are quite large they help to prevent weeds from growing and help to keep moisture in the ground (as the ground is shaded from the sun).  I have grown my sweetcorn like this for a number of years and I have always had a good result.

My sweetcorn with butternut squashes between them

My sweetcorn with butternut squashes planted between them

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This week I planted my outdoor tomato plants.  They are a variety called ‘Outdoor Girl’.  I use this variety as they fruit slightly earlier than other outdoor varieties and this gives me a chance to get a decent crop before the dreaded ‘blight’ hits.  You can read about tomato blight here.

If you live in the UK, you can use a wonderful website called Blightwatch UK.  If you register, they will email or text you (free of charge), when the conditions are perfect for ‘blight’ in your area.  It doesn’t necessarily follow that you will suffer from blight, but it will remind you to check your plants.   You can find their website here.

I also planted some ‘Tagetes’ in between my tomatoes, as they are one of the best organic controls against aphid infestations, as their foliage has a scent which aphids hate….and they look nice when they are in flower.

My tomatoes

My tomatoes

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My courgettes and patty pans went in this week and my pumpkins too.  The allotment society is having a pumpkin competition this year and we were all given two or three seeds each to grow.  My daughter won last year’s pumpkin competition with a pumpkin that weighed 24.4 kg.  I wonder if we will be lucky again this year.

Last year's winner

Last year’s winner

This year's plant

This year’s plant

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I like to make sure we always have salad leaves, as we eat a lot of them in our house.  So I sow lettuces often through the spring and summer.  I planted some this week and I covered them to keep the birds away:

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Finally, I planted my celeriac (which incidentally need lots of water to get decent sized plants) and I also planted my swedes.  My swedes were still very small, so I put mini cloches over them (made out of pop bottles), to protect them from slugs, snails and flea beatles.  The mini cloches will also keep them in a sheltered environment until they are bigger.  You can see from the picture below that I also put a small cane in the cloche, this stops the wind from blowing them over:

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Things seam to be growing well around the plot at the moment.  I noticed my gooseberries seemed to have appeared since I last looked:

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and my strawberries seem to have grown just as quick…

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My poached egg plants that attract the bees and hoverflies are looking beautiful now…

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and the flowers in my flower bed have sprung into life, together with my ‘sink’ of alpines:

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I love days at my allotment when the sun is shining and the weather is warm.  Days like these make me very grateful for living the life I do.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.