FYI

Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hothouse disaster averted, Queen Marking, allotment judging, community orchard and some great news!

What a difference a week makes! We've had some good news this week, the permission for the community orchard we've been talking about has been granted (though we cant start work until the autumn), and I've been given a different branch at work! The new branch is 10 miles closer to home (and a much easier drive, which should halve my travelling time), a lot newer building and a better size, smaller but with the same range of stock (making it much easier to run on our new staff structure) and means I'm going back to working for my old boss, a fantastic guy whos the best manager I've ever worked for! (Originally he was my branch manager, helped me get promoted to supervisor, then when he became an Area Manager he was the one who appointed me to my first store as manager!) I'm really looking forwards to the new branch and working for my old boss again, its going to be a lot less stressful and will free up 45 mins to an hour a day!

So, we got to the plot at a reasonable time today (our first of 2 days off), to see everything has shot up! Its got to be something to do with all the rain we've had recently, but most of our crops are looking really good, full of vigour and growing at a tremendous rate (unfortunately, so are the weeds, but thats another story!! Lol!) The plots arent looking too bad at all really, a few weeds coming up in the paths and a fair number of weed seedlings in the beds (which with the ground being so wet are impossible to remove with the hoe), but as soon as we get a dry enough spell for the topsoil to dry a bit we'll soon have it weed free again! Unfortunately the second visit of the Trafford Allotment Judges (the top judge who comes to check the plots that could be on for a possible certificate) has already happened, so removing the weeds wont make any diference to the judging, but will allow our crops to grow to their full potential! We should find out the judging results on Monday, so fingers crossed that the plots werent too weed infested to negate our earlier hard work in the hopes of getting a certificate!

The garlic is now finally ready for harvest (hopefully tomorrow, if the rain breaks for long enough), the early spuds are also looking about ready too, so we're going to take them tomorrow and plant that bed up with some more leeks!

The sweetcorn / squashes / pumpkin / sunflowers are all growing like mad, looking really good this year! Mind you, Lee thought he'd try and make you think that they were even bigger, so he had me take..........

......... this picture, in the hopes you'd think they were up to 9' tall already! Lol!

Mind you, its not all good, the blight we've been treating against seems to be gaining the upper hand in a couple of beds, this one of early spuds will be coming out tomorrow, along with......

........ this bed of second early spuds! We'll be planting the last of our leeks into these beds once they've been emptied!

The early maincrop spuds however are still fighting the blight, we'll keep treating them with bordeaux mixture and see how they go!

The late main spuds are looking much better, hardly any signs of blight here!

The heavy rain and winds we've had recently have also taken their toll on our hothouse, some of the brackets that we've reused from the old plastic greenhouse (that broke last year and we cannibalised to make the hothouse) have given up, so some emergancy repairs had to be carried out! Fortunately none of the plants were damaged in the collapse!

So, some of the things we spotted today....... the first broccolli crown is beginning to form!

The grapes are fattening up nicely..........

.............. and the first blueberries are now ready!

The brassicas are looking fab..............

............... as are the maincrop onions, these 2 are 4 1/2" diameter, and still swelling! Looks like its going to be a bumper year for a lot of crops!

The Dwarf French Beans are cropping like mad, we've had french beans the last 2 nights, and theres enough on the plants to allow us to freeze a few lb tomorrow!

The turnips and swede are fantastic, another bumper crop from these this year methinks!

The early runner beans have topped the cane supports and have loads of flowers, another possible bumper crop!

The borlotti beans are just topping the canes and beginning to flower, so hopefully these too will be nice and productive!

The Climbing French Beans however are still only just climbing the cane supports, so no idea yet as to what sort of crops we may possibly get!

The new strawberry bed (from seed) has alos come on really well, although we possibly may get a few fruit from it (some of the plants are flowering), but hopefully it will be well established for next year and increase our strawberry yield!

The lavender we grew from seed (in the pots surrounding the ploytunnel) is doing really good, we'll be transplanting some of these into the front beds on plot 1 next year, to supplement our soft fruit planting plans!

Whilst dodging the heavy showers today (inbetween doing the bee inspections) we talked about our soft fruit plans for next year, we've decided that these 4 beds at the front of plot 1 are going to have (from left to right) a new plum tree (underplanted with lavender and foxgloves), a goji berry (underplanted with sage and a few flowers), a redcurrant (underplanted with other herbs) and in the last bed (next to the compost bin) another goji berry (underplanted with flowers!)

So, onto our beekeeping adventure today! Pat and Colin were away today at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, so as the weather forecast looked better for today than tomorrow, we decided to get the inspections done! Aswell as inspecting the hives today we decided that as our hives are all now viable, we needed to 'mark' the queens, which makes it easier to spot them and allows you to be sure that the queen hasnt been superceeded by a new queen without your knowledge!

The queens are marked with a dot of colour on their back, the colour changes every year, so the idea is that you can tell how old the queen is from the colour of her mark. This years colour is blue, and last years colour is green! The marks are made with a special paint marker pen, that doesnt smell (which could cause the colony to reject the queen as any smell could mask her pheromones), but in order to hold the queen still - to apply the dot of paint - you have to use a 'crown of thorns'!

A crown of thorns is a queen cage that can be pressed into the honeycomb in order to trap the queen and hold her still for marking!

You have to be careful not to drown the queen, so its a good idea to dab the pen before use (we know of one queen that was suffocated when the paint came out too fast), then apply a dot to her back! This queen is the one from our Nucleus in Apiary 2.

And this queen is the one from Hive 5 (the headbangers!)

Once marked its much easier to spot the queen!

So, the inspections went ok, the bees were a bit feisty (possibly due to the weather and threat of thunder), and one from Hive 4 (Hippy Hive) managed to sting Lee through his gauntlet! (His first sting, hes officially a proper beekeeper now! Lol!) One mistake we did make tho, was to bring the super of frames we extracted into Apiary 1 before we were ready to put it onto a hive! As soon as the bees discovered it, they went beserk, masses of them went to it to remove any remaining honey that was coating the comb, so we had to leave it there until they had finished!

We didnt find any frames of honey fully capped, (although there are some not too far from being capped), so we werent able to harvest any this week (and as all the hives still had space for bringing in honey) nor did we actually need to give the super to any of the hives!

So, fianlly, a couple of pictures of the area thats going to become our new allotment community orchard in the not too distant future!

Currently its being used as a tree nursery, which was set up by Groundworks and is operated by Red Rose Forest, but due to budget changes it hasnt been used much recently, so we applied for permission to take it back, and got the word today! Not only can we have it as a community orchard, but Red Rose will help us with clearing and possibly with some fruit trees! We're going to have a word with a couple of folks from Trafford council about plans and what (if any) support we may be able to get, either through the council or from any grants that we may qualify for!

Tomorrow we're off again, so will be going to the plot and harvesting, so there could be a balance sheet update tomorrow!

Hope your crops are growing well and your harvests are bunper ones! Thanks for reading!

2 comments:

The Idiot Gardener said...

There's some good looking stuff going on there. I wish I had more space because I now have the need for some many additional crops!

Mrs Dobby said...

Thanks IG, apart from a few flowers and the fruit trees, the rest of it has been grown from seed, set or tuber, so very little cost involved (except in time involved!)

We thought at first that our back yard would be big enough for what we wanted to grow.... it wasnt! Then we thought a single plot would fulfill our needs...... nope! So then we took aa additional half plot (at the other side of the site)......... still not enough room! So when the full plot next to us became free, we took that and gave up the half plot, and we can just about squeeze everything in there now (apart from some overspill that goes in the back yard, including this year 12 toms and 9 peppers in the greenhouse, 3 blueberries, 2 apple trees, a cherry tree and about 90 strabwerry plants, plus about 75 tomatoes that we have extra (we didnt expect 100% germination) that went in very early to the back yard borders outside. These have all survived - to our amazement - and are floweing and fruiting up nicely!)

Mind you, we only had the chance to take multiple plots because at that time there were vacant plots all over the site, so we were asked to take a 2nd one. Nowadays there's a waiting list, so its not as easy for folks to expand anymore!