Saturday, December 29, 2007

All in now.

Whilst I normally plant our garlic in late September or early October, this year some had to wait until today due to other commitments. Some of the cloves had started to shoot so it really needed to be planted. Be ruthless and only plant big cloves as shown in the top picture, any small ones can be used in the kitchen so as not to waste them.

Despite the recent rain and frosts, the growing medium in my raised beds is friable and ready for planting as shown in the bottom picture. The last bed of garlic is now in and tikme will tell if the later planting makes much of a difference.

Hative de Niort Shallots

Despite keeping them cool and light, a few of my Hative de Niort shallots have started to sprout. Shallots are traditionally planted on the shortest day (December 21st) but few people have ground that is suitable then and thus plant them in February to March.

As some have sprouted I have planted the lot in 4" pots and have them in a cool greenhouse. They can be planted out at the begining of February in my raised beds which will be nicely warmed up and not waterlogged. By then the pots will be full of root ensuring them a good start.

Chrysanthemum propogation

Its a bit late I know, but today I forced myself out of my flu bed and lifted the chrysanthemum stools from the allotment, which despite the recent frosts were in good shape. The top growth was cut back to about 6-8" and the stools were roughly planted into big trays in the greenhouse.

These will produce lots of shoots which will be taken as cuttings and used to make lots more plants for the spring. The top picture shows a stool with new growth which will be good cutting material in a week or so. Strangely, it also has a bud. Mmmm.

Blackcurrant care and propogation

We have well over a dozen blackcurrant bushes on our plots and as they are now 4 years old it was time to take out some of the oldest wood to keep the bushes fruiting well and full of vigour. The old wood is taken out right down to the ground.
One thing to be well aware of is big bud disease. This is shown in the middle picture, the bud being big and swolen compared to others on the bush. It is caused by mites which swell buds and come the spring, these mites invade surrounding growth imparting a revision virus which cause the bushes to become sickly and unproductive. Any signs of big bud should be pruned out and burned.
This pruning left a big pile of sticks, but before burning or composting I always take a load of cuttings which are great to plant in any spaces that appear or as gifts. You want to aim for straight-ish sticks about 12" long and as thick as a pencil. These cuttings can be plunged into a nursery bed, about half their length and left for a year, or as I do, plunged around a deep pot and left somewhere out of the way till they show signs of growth when they can be potted on individually. Most will strike they are that easy.

Spring is only around the corner

Several weeks ago I salvaged a load of packing wood from work to cut into kindling sticks. After cutting several sacks full I "batch cut" the rest into pieces ready to be screwed together as nestboxes. I had enough wood to make about 20 boxes, the first 8 went up a few days ago on the allotments.

Below is a link to an easy set of plans to make your own boxes.

Now is an ideal time to make and site bird boxes.

Christmas Day

As well as 13 family members coming over for Christmas dinner, we also had Wellie and Trousers for a couple of nights too.
Trousers was such a boon in the kitchen (well he is an ex chef) that all went brilliantly especially our new recipe of leeks and cavelo nero in cream, topped with parmagio regiano cheese. A dish to die for, honestly.
It was great having so many people for dinner, gifts were exchanged, fun was had, fellowship given, a grand meal demolished and even a dragons snout made an appearance (see the Viz profanosaurus for more info).

Monday, December 10, 2007


Forget those farty sprigs, this is real mistletoe. Form an orderly queue ladies