We’re not long back from the allotment after another gloriously sunny Sunday spent in my happy place. I took the big camera down today and had great craic documenting all the new life that’s popping up all over the place. If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know that I’ve been sharing regular updates from the plot using Facebook Live video and I hope you’re enjoying the news.
Have you spotted this week’s Lidl brochure yet? I’m delighted to say that my homegrowing tips and advice are free for you to pick up this week to go along with the seedlings and produce that will go on special tomorrow morning (Monday 3rd April). Some of the items that will go on sale I got 10 days ago so I wanted to give you an allotment update and show you how the products have come along since I planted them at the allotment. This post is picture-heavy, you have been warned! 🙂
Firstly we need to talk about waterproof boots. I had a pair of boots for the allotment that had lasted 5 years. They got holes in them and despite being incredibly comfortable I was walking around in puddles all the time so invested in a new pair last week. For anybody wondering they’re a pair of hi-tec leather waterproof boots and this is the cleanest they’re ever going to be!
Some of the over-winter produce at the allotment we’ve let to go seed (which is simply a way of explaining that we’ve allowed it to flower). This was purple sprouting broccoli and the reason why we allow some of our produce go to seed is really clear in this picture. Can you see the bumble bee? Honey bees are the divas of the pollinating family and it’s still too cold for honey bees to be foraging for nectar at the plot but it’s the perfect weather for bumblers. You’ve probably spotted a few of them zipping about the past few days. If you can, please try to leave some flowering items in your garden for the precious bumble bees – even if it is dandelions – we need to keep these vital part of the ecosystem fed at this time of the year when flowers are at a premium.
Speaking of flowers, we have cherry blossom. I’m so happy to see the blossom appear on this particular cherry tree. We’ve had it for a few years but kept it inside the polytunnel last year which wasn’t the right place for it and it never blossomed. This year the cherry tree has a new home in a raised bed and it is thriving.
Just beside the cherry tree is this new arrival. This baby tree we hope will thrive in its new home and there were whoops of joy this afternoon when we realised that it was sprouting. This is a Szechuan pepper plant which obviously isn’t normally grown in Ireland. However, we are reassured by Mark Diacono that it should go just grand at our allotment and it travelled exceedingly well (and promptly) from Mark’s Otter Farm. We’d been promising to buy one of these plants since we first tried fresh Szechuan that Mark had brought to the GIY Gathering nearly 2 years ago now.
These are the fresh butterhead lettuce seedlings from a module tray that Lidl sent me 10 days ago. With an interloper on the right hand side that we had planted in the same pot (spot the difference in leaf!). They’ve since doubled in size and I reckon we should have small lettuces to eat in about 3 weeks time. We are keeping these lettuces in the polytunnel to accelerate their growth. I also planted one of the seedlings outside and it’s still thriving, albeit at a slower rate than indoors.
The polytunnel is so well suited to vines and this isn’t a grape vine, it’s a kiwi vine. It’s variety Kiwi “Issai” which is suited to colder climes, it’s self pollinating so we don’t need two of them to get fruit, and the skin will be thin and not unlike a plum when it’s ready to eat. Which is great because I’m not a massive fan of eating that hairy brown skinned variety we’re used to seeing in the shops!
10 days ago we got a small tomato seedling, about 4 inches in height from Lidl, variety “Ailsa Craig”. It’s a hardy salad tomato which is a great cropper and very popular. It’s similar enough to the salad tomatoes you’d buy in the shops but the flavour is like a tomato on steroids. It’s the only way I can describe it. To eat a tomato warm from the sun, picked straight from the vine is indescribable. You’ll need to grow your own to experience it. The seedling has thrived in the polytunnel in a large pot, so much so that we’ve already had to train it up the cane. It’s pretty much trebled in size since potting on (moving into the bigger pot), and already has signs of flowers.
More shiny vine leaves in the polytunnel! This is one of our grapevines which has burst back into life this week. I think the bit of rain in the middle of the week helped it. We plant the grapevines close to the edge of the polytunnel so that the root ball is located outside with the vine inside to benefit from the heat and extra light.
Did you know that every strawberry flower will eventually become a strawberry? As you can see this batch of strawberry plants that Lidl sent me are already bursting into flower. I’ve planted them outdoors underneath a prickly gooseberry bush to protect the fruit from the birds, and I’ll use straw to place underneath the fruit once it starts to grow to keep it dry and away from the soil.
It wouldn’t be an allotment update without some peas (plus some slug pellets). This first sowing we started indoors and moved outside into one of the raised beds last week. It’s nearly time to start putting the supports in place and this year we’re going to skip a frame arrangement. We’ve tried frames the past few years and it can be fiddly to get at the peas once they’re grown. This year we’re going for a wire system. It’s good to vary things up and try new methods I think.
This is my most favourite picture of this month (and given it’s only just started it has to be good). What 8 year old wouldn’t like to learn how to use an impact driver (drill)? Precious moments today learning life skills with his Dad. They were using ‘galvo band’ to attach the second level to the new raised beds which will hopefully save my aching back and knees.
The rest of the day we spent planting up more seeds for the season ahead. They included sweetcorn, melons, cucamelons, garlic chives, basil, aubergine, and I’m sure there was buckets more but I’ve got brain fog from the work we did today.
Then the 8 year old got hold of the video camera and shot a vlog which will be coming soon. Plus on the way home I wandered down to the harbour with the big camera and got some lovely shots which I’ll share later on in the week.
Gosh it feels great to get outdoors!
Remember just sow one seed. If you sow one seed today it’s one more than yesterday. xxx
Disclosure: This blogpost was sponsored by Lidl Ireland, who simply asked me to share the joy I have for growing food in my own words and photos.