Look! Our radishes are forming.
The cold frame together with warmer weather has warmed up the ground enough for planting shallots and carrot seeds in alternate rows to help prevent 'pests'. We moved the cold frame along the bed to warm up the next bit of ground.
We have decided to venture to the beds above the greenhouse, that we have been trying to ignore! We cut back the weed growth on the 2nd and 3rd bed and covered it in cardboard. our plan is to plant a load of free spuds we've been given through the cardboard and weeds to, at the very least, improve the soil and also increase our potato harvest. Fingers crossed.
We had a wee peek under the upturned barrel to see how the 'forced' rhubarb is doing. Oh yes, it has grown enough for us to pick (lesson for me in how to pick rhubarb properly...been doing it wrong for years!?!) and take home to make ...stewed rhubarb with yoghurt and rhubarb, orange and ginger sponge. Yum yum!
It has been quite hard work in many ways so far, so on Wednesday, a beautiful warm day we collected a shelving unit we used in a previous Greening project and installed it in the greenhouse to lift our trays of seedlings and growing plants off ground level. It looks rather lovely and more importantly does the job. We then made cups of tea and just sat on our plot in the sunshine plotting to demolish the shed...... very lovely.
Friday 26th March
what an exciting week its been at plot 33! today Anne finished digging over bed 5 and planted all the first early potatoes, while continued to potter around the plot weeding the other beds and having a bit of a tidy up (resting up and taking it easy is sooooo difficult).
earlier in the week while sorting out the spare cardboard in the greenhouse I checked on our hot bed experiment unfortunately its not been a complete success the heap has quickly cooled ( i think the manure wasn't fresh enough) it has rotted down more than the rest of the muck we have and retained enough warmth to be an ideal house for what looked like a field vole who scuttled around the greenhouse before disappearing off into the wild. We decided to move the heap outside to our new designated composting area just behind the greenhouse incase it came back to nest. Started adding non cooked left overs that we are collecting every Friday from B'arts Bread in Common free food scheme.
We ended the week by planting the oregano moved from bed 4 in its new position next to the lemon balm and rhubarb all in all the plot is looking really good as long as you dont look past the greenhouse!
So far a busy week, making the most of the good weather. On Monday we did more digging on the potato bed and clearing on rhubarb bed, planting our first two rows of first early arran potatoes and admiring the wonderful growth in the greenhouse!
On Tuesday we picked up a load of bricks from my daughters' back yard.
Wednesday: more digging in potato bed, preparing it for second earlies spuds. We boiled an egg on the camp stove, and added it to our salad along with some of our own chives #eatingfromthe plot.
After sustenance we planted the rest of the first early spuds, continued with digging and clearing and Rachel used the bricks to create a cold frame, to warm the ground so we can hopefully get some of the beans planted outside a bit earlier.
Friday 19th March
I'm not allowed to dig this week :( Doctors orders and well i cant lift my arm anyway its most frustrating . However we got to the plot bright and early for a cuppa with our social media guru Val and sat watching the birds flit around the plot
After Val left we set to on the fiddley and not too strenuous task of pulling grass out of the rhubarb crowns using hand forks to loosen the soil and before we knew it we had removed a big bucket full of roots
we noticed a little grass poking through on the no dig bed and also a few seedlings had popped up so Anne raked the whole bed over spreading out some more compost we found and disturbing the seed roots at the same time. Then on to the bed by the greenhouse my shoulder was feeling much better so I though I'd give digging a try alas no one fork full and I quickly swapped to cleaning a sheet of pollycarb from home to help warm the soil ready to so some seeds direct in a few weeks time leaving Anne to the heavy work (although I did come and help picking over the previously dug bits with my hand fork so I didn't feel too useless )
We decided to use an existing compost bin to put the free manure into (it was piled up on bed 5) to allow it to decompose for next year. It soon filled up so we spent time emptying a second bin full of weeds, a mass of roots and old compost. It took some doing but we dug it out and sieved through it . It gave us more compost to put on our no dig bed and an empty bin for the rest of the manure. Bed 5 now ready for for a dig over, the plan being to plant the first early potatoes that are currently sprouting on my bedroom windowsill.
We are really looking forward to welcoming people onto Plot 33 and to involving them in our growing and making projects. One of our on-going groups is Wonder Women, a very diverse group of women who meet to do creative stuff together for our sense of wellbeing. We get involved in arts projects across the city. We are currently collectively making a bold decorative sign for the plot. I went out on my bike and delivered a bag of materials to each of the women (who come from all over the city) so they can each create three decorative letters that will make up our sign. Watch this space to see the result and to find out what our next project might be. This series of activity with Wonder Women is funded by a Stoke-on-Trent City Council Covid Grant.
Monday 8th March
First task: remove the oregano from Bed 4 (some things have to go) and give it a final dig over ...oooh it's looking good, ready for planting when things warm up a bit.
Having done some hard digging we had a break over a cup of tea and using high tech scrap of paper and pencil we thought about what we would like to grow and Rachel worked out what should go with what and where. So thinking realistically that we will have 5 beds prepared. The first one will be for flowers, the second for rhubarb and herbs, the third for potatoes, the fourth for cabbage, kale and kohlrabi, the fifth for onions, leeks, garlic and carrots and we will create spaces for a pumpkin, courgettes and kuri squash.
We are going to remove some slabs from the greenhouse to make more growing room for loofahs, tomatoes, aubergines and cucumber. What a plan! And a blackbird keeping an eye on our progress.
We had an over the fence meeting with our colleague Deb Rogers and Liz, an arts student from Staffs Uni looking at how we move into face to face sessions once we are able. Looks like our first one might be with a student placement from Staffs Uni working with out Wonder Women group....watch this space. We will be introducing The Wonder Women next week.
Friday 5th March
March is the month for sowing and growing things on. I spent the morning pottering around at home in my greenhouse setting tomatoes, potting on Aubergines and the exciting crop of Loofah plants. Each year i like to grow something new and loofah has been on the list for a few years now. In January i got some seeds and set them. Having never grown them before id asked about and been told the take a while to germinate and have a lot of seed failure, need a long hot season to mature the fruits. not all this advice is true within 2 weeks 7 of the 8 seeds had germinated and were growing strong . According to the radio as i pulled up to the allotment sales of loofah seeds has rocketed this year! and the advice was to set them now. I wish i had known they're starting to get big now.
monster loofahs in need of canes tomatoes starting to show through
Once on plot 33 it was a day for digging carrying on with bed 4 where we left off last week. we managed to finish the bed apart from the last corner which houses a Oregano or Marjoram plant (im not sure what the difference is )that will need lifting and the roots cleaning before replanting somewhere we've not quite decided where to put the herb bed yet.
Once again we left with a feeling of having accomplished something
A cold start with very heavy ground, so we decided to leave the digging for the moment and to investigate the fruit bed at the top of Plot 33.
It is a bit of a mess. See pic below from January.
We started to clear all the dried weeds and brambles etc. growing around and through the bushes and revealed a very busy fruit bed. Lots of black currants, red currants, gooseberries, an apple tree and in between them all raspberry canes. It seems a shame to remove it all but it will need thinning out and the apple tree digging up and replanting. Rachel's well informed suggestion is that we do this and then see what happens this year. You never know there could be an amazing crop there.....we will see. We did cut the raspberry canes down to the ground.
Oh yes, and accidentally found three frogs under a stone
Just clearing out the surface weedy stuff has made a massive difference....you could almost feel the bushes expanding into the space. Digging over the bed will be a gradual task.
While working on the fruit bed the sun came out. So, after a cuppa enjoyed while watching two buzzards circling overhead, we dug over a bit more of the single dig bed and transplanted some aquilegias (columbine, granny's bonnet), identified by Rachel, to the 'flower bed'.
For anyone like me ...I googled aquilegia .. here is a pic of 'aquilegia vulgaris'. So much to learn.
Greening Stoke is a project run in partnership between Festival Stoke and Letting in the Light. We are based in Stoke-on-Trent.
We are started this adventure in January 2021 in the middle of a national lockdown. Gradually, as things begin to open up, close down and then open up again, Rachel and Anne abided by all the Covid-19 Government guidance, worked in a socially distanced way, to prepare and maintain Plot 33 so that they were eventually able to invite the community to work with them.
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