Summer is finally here and all this glorious sunshine has made spending time outside a real pleasure - especially if you're working. The Farmers Market yesterday was sunny and warm and when I wasn't chatting to customers you could find me sitting out front and soaking up the rays. I keep telling myself that it's going to be a long hot summer and maybe if this weather holds out my wish will come true.
The day went well and I made quite a few sales while also chatting to some new and returning customers. One lady came in to buy some soap for her daughter and it was wonderful to find that she'd heard of me by word of mouth. I have quite a few people buying soap from me regularly and it always pleases me when I hear that my products have been recommended to friends. I also met a really lovely lady who follows my blog from her home in Wales. We spent some time exchanging allotment tales and having a laugh - she's also an association secretary so we had a lot in common.
I'm ashamed to say that my allotment has seen a bit of neglect in the last couple of weeks. Whether inclement weather or other commitments were to blame the result was the same: weeds and more weeds. So last Tuesday I spent an entire day catching up on weeding, sowing seeds, cleaning up, and earthing up my potatoes. I look at the progress of other people's gardens and can't help but feel that mine looks a bit devoid of green at the moment - but I'm working on it.
Earthing up the potatoes was the toughest job I had to do since the dry weather caused our clay soil to bake hard in places. But by the end of an hour I had about two thirds of my potato plants covered in mounds of dirt and two fistfuls of blisters where I was gripping the hoe and whacking it down into the ground. I have three rows of my Pink Fir Apples to go but they can wait until next week.
My Alliums are all doing exceedingly well compared to this time last year. The January-sown leeks have just been planted out into their final positions and with all summer to grow I'm sure they're going to be a decent size. I direct-sowed my leeks for the last two years and the results were fairly disappointing. By starting the seed early and indoors I hope the chance of them getting to supermarket size will be much higher.
The shallot sets I put in two months ago have come to life and they've been busy throwing out bunches of dark green leaves and splitting into baby shallots. The chives, spring onions and Welsh onions are also doing quite well but the garlic has really been the star of the plot so far this season. I'm especially impressed with the French Thermidrome variety which already has stems as thick around as my finger.
Instead of growing my onions from sets this year I opted to try growing them from seed. They were sown alongside the leeks in January and after hardening off for the last week they've now been planted into the ground. Other than having to prick them out into individual modules they've been relatively easy and low-maintenance to grow so far. However, they have taken up much-needed space for the last four months so I'm not completely sure I'll do it again.
The main benefit of growing from seed is that there are literally dozens of different varieties to choose from rather than the two or three that are sold as sets. They come in reds, whites, golden and purples and flavours that range from mild to sharp and sweet. I'm sure there's probably some gardener out there obsessed with onions and that one day they'll be one day featured in an episode of Gardeners' World.
I didn't go too crazy with types this year and stuck to two varieties: 'Golden Bear', which is a flavoursome and quick-maturing golden onion, and 'Exhibition' which is a massive type that I'm planning on trying out for the produce shows this autumn. I'll bet they'll make some monstrous sized onion rings as well!
After discovering a love for Brussels sprouts last year I decided to grow a lot more of them in 2012. It's amazing how tastes can change over a lifetime but I never thought that I'd ever enjoy this bane of my childhood meals. In fact, I recall being made to sit at the table until I finished them almost as vividly as I remember throwing them under the table, out the window and into the vacuum cleaner hose.
So instead of two plants this year I've decided to plant eight, which should keep us in sprouts throughout the winter. The only concern I have over growing this vegetable is that our allotment gets quite a bit of wind in the cold months and it can cause tall plants to be pushed over or to grow at an angle to the ground. So as an experiment I decided to plant my sprouts into trenches and then fill them up as the plant gains height. Hopefully by growing them this way they'll have a much firmer root system and will be able to stand up to our strong Manx winds. I actually read about planting sprouts into trenches in Prince Charles' book, 'The Elements of Organic Gardening' and though the reference is a one or two liner, it really clicked with me when I came across it. I'm not sure if the Prince's gardener at Highgrove fills in his trenches but I hope it will work for me.
Back at home I still have dozens of seedlings and plants on the go - everything from sweet corn to lavender to purple-podded french beans and Japanese Burdock. Most of them are hardening off on the patio at the moment and I hope to plant them out in the garden and allotment in the coming weeks. I also have basil and lettuces planted in one of my raised beds and mulched with grass clippings from the lawn. The other three raised beds are empty at the moment but they'll soon be planted up with tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins and Courgettes. We're more sheltered from the wind at home so I wanted to put some of my taller and more tender plants out where I can keep a closer eye on them.
And last but not least, the chicken run now a lovely shade of green. I spent an afternoon painting it and I feel that it makes the structure look so much less imposing. The frame is now nearly finished and the Hubster has been working on attaching some of the steel mesh to the door with his handy staple gun. It's a bit of a job to go but we're well on our way.
Have a lovely weekend :)