What a glorious weekend we had, and what better way than to spend a few hours of it up on the allotment. Needless to say, the William Fowler Allotments were a hive of activity, with everyone busy on their plots and enjoying the sunshine. It seems like only yesterday we were surveying the barren wastes of the snow-covered landscape!
The highlight of the weekend was picking the first of our perpetual spinach since November. We discovered perpetual spinach quite by accident when we got a job lot of seeds from eBay in 2008. I’d tried to grow ‘proper’ spinach in the past with no success, so was a bit dubious. But to our delight, we found Perpetual spinach (leaf beet) is amazing stuff. The baby leaves are delicious in salad and when bigger, the flavour of the cooked leaves is spectacular. It is easy to grow and, unlike spinach, doesn’t bolt or need huge amounts of water. What’s more, it has a productive lifespan of around a year!
This year’s perpetual spinach seedlings are currently growing in newspaper tubes in plant houses. Although we’ve tried planting them straight in the ground, we’ve not had a lot of success. Last year we planted them in modules, but they were incredibly delicate and hard to transplant. So we’re back to our old tried
and tested newspaper method, and looking forward to getting them in the ground in the next couple of weeks.
If you’ve never grown ‘PS’ before, we can thoroughly recommend it! Planted in early April, you can expect to pick the leaves from late May until early winter, when it goes into a dormant phase. By the beginning of March it starts to grow again, and can be harvested until the end of May or beginning of June when it goes to seed.
Planting and sowing were on this weekend’s agenda. With low night-time temperatures forecast this week, we’ve had to take a few precautions. The swede seeds have been sown and watered, and covered with cloches for a bit of added protection. The first beetroot are in, again covered with a cloche. Last year we lost everyone of our early beets, and were unsure if they’d been eaten by the birds or rotted in the ground.
We grow our peas and mangetout at home in half pop bottles – a more manageable version of the guttering trick. Despite being in the plant houses, many of the seeds failed, but it does get very cold here in Chipping Norton! However, the survivors were planted out this weekend and we have some interesting ‘Peatopia’ structures gracing the beds. As well as the ‘climbing frames’, we’ve taken the precaution of rigging up some net cages to protect the young pea plants this year. The pigeons took a great fancy to them last spring, so we’re not taking any chances.
I’m easily seduced by seed catalogues and gardening books! When I saw pictures last year of a little man picking peas from plants which were as tall as he was, I decided these were a ‘must have’. So this year’s varieties are Alderman (5ft tall, if the seed packet can be believed) and Early Onward.
Meanwhile back at the ranch, there was much more sowing to be done. The plant houses are back to full capacity again and the runner beans and sweetcorn are underway. We’ve got more plants than usual this year, as we’ve grown extra to be donated to Team Attitude at Altitude’s charity fundraising plant sale on May 3rd.
I’m not sure we’ve got a lot to do next weekend on the allotment! But no doubt we’ll find something to occupy us for a few hours, even if it’s just sitting on the ‘patio’ enjoying a cuppa and admiring the fruits of our labours.