Sunday, 5 August 2012


Activity on 29th July

It’s such an abundant time of year, although we’ve been a bit behind in the growing season, a due to the wet conditions we’ve had. Some ripe blackberries were on offer the hedging that runs along the fence towards the gate to the Garden- a lot more are ripening so we appreciated the sample of delicious fruit to come.

Dave’s wildflower patch was planted back in April, from good value wildflowers seed mix bought in Aldi (a good tip from Dave - a good place to buy wildflower seed mix at a low price). The area was sown with a combination of a wildflower mix &  a bee friendly mix- with the emphasis on attracting beneficial bees  & insects. 

The Usual Suspects: Wildflowers Poppy and cornflower standing out
Sow thistle (white fluffy seeds like dandelion in the centre of the picture)
The mix worked really well, amongst the more common species you would expect to find in the mix, such as poppies & cornflower, Dave highlighted the few more unexpected/under-rated varieties which are very good to have in  a wildflower patch, such as sow thistle (which we recently learned is edible as salad). We sampled the leaves & flowers which have a similar taste to dandelion leaves. Yellow campion & marigolds were also thriving in the patch.

We noticed a few hoverflies in and amongst the wild flowers- perfect insects to attract as the larvae eat aphids & other pests, & the flies themselves pollinate flowers & plants as they feed on nectar & pollen. Dave commented how concerned he was about the low number of bees in the Garden this year- a reflection on a world-wide issue of dwindling bee population, another plot holder had noticed this too. The lavender bush is usually buzzing.

Perhaps it is due to the wet weather pattern this summer? Although in previous wet summers the bees have still thrived, especially on the lavender bush. This is a worrying fact. Luckily we did spot a few bees around the Garden, we must ALL keep encouraging them!
A bee sighting- but where are the rest of them?
Behind the wildflower border the hawthorn, blackthorn & rose whips we planted along the picket fence earlier this spring were looking well, although it will take another 3 years before they will big enough to act as  a ‘security hedge’.
Picket fence where Hawthorn, Blackthorn & Rose 'whips'  have been planted
In the meantime, some large patches of nettles growing up to the fence provide some barrier, although somebody had recently damaged the fence in a break-in, which Dave has now mended.
Across from the fence and the path, a field lies before Leek Road. We learned that this will soon be turned into a car park for Staffordshire University. Although I am aware that the current parking available is not sufficient for the students & staff, initially I didn’t like the sound of this fact. However, Dave mentioned that this could increase security for the site. I hope that more people will notice the allotment site (and how beautiful the site and surrounding area is!) when parking their cars and walking towards the University. Perhaps this  will help promote the site to more students and staff.

There’s still time to plant carrots, to be harvested in January. Ben & I sowed ‘Autumn King 2’ Variety. Dave advised mixing sand into the soil in the raised bed, to open up the soil structure to provide a looser soil that the carrots can easily push their roots through.
Sand to be mixed into the soil with a fork

Ben mixing the sand into the bed
Ben mixed sand into the bed using a fork & we held a bit of the mix back in a bucket to cover over the broadcast seed.
Broadcasting the Seed
We planted the seed by broadcasting (scattering the seed, rather than planting in rows) evenly spaced &  then covered with ¾ inch of the remaining soil & sand mix. Rain clouds were looming, so we didn’t water the seed in, as we usually would. Ben commented on how it is good to grow carrots in raised beds, about 2ft deep, as carrot flies cannot fly above this height, so hopefully the crop won’t be affected by carrot fly.

The Raised Bed- carrot seed just sown

The Lemon Balm, Mint & Sage plants are in abundance, & getting a bit out of control. Between these & the potato plants the path has been consumed. 

My favourite combo: Lemon Balm, Sage & Mint
I cut some of the herbs for drying at home as I frequently use these herbs to make my ‘backyard brew’ herbal tea blend- as these are the 3 herbs I have growing together in planters in my yard, & they taste great together. It was great to see these plants growing so well together on the site. To dry them to make herbal tea with in the winter, when the fresh leaves aren’t available, I simply hang tied bunches of the cut stems upside down in a dark but well-ventilated area (my pantry area has a curtain over it to keep out light, or hanging them to dry in an airing cupboard or a spare room with the curtains closed does the trick). When the leaves crumble when crushed you can bag the herbs up in paper bags or jars for later use.

We harvested a few radishes which were enjoyed grated in a salad, along with a courgette from the poly tunnel which had been missed by others & had grown into a marrow. 
A variety of Radishes- including 'white icicle'
Courgette plants doing well in the Polytunnel
The hidden Marrow
This was eaten for Sunday lunch- cut it in half length ways, roasted in the oven. When roasted some of the flesh & seeds were removed & then stuffed with chard, mashed potato & a sprinkle of grated cheese, put back in the oven until golden, and eaten with a Sunday roast. Much appreciated fodder after an afternoon working in the Garden.

1 comment:

  1. Great stuff Kate! Very comprehensive and informative.