Allotment Diaries – March 30th 2017

One of the things I’m looking forward to about our Grand Adventure is taking a boring and uninspiring patch of land and creating greater biodiversity on it, encouraging wildlife in all sorts of forms. So it was nice at the allotment today to see a few signs of returning biodiversity in what has previously been a muddy spludge. A quick survey today spotted bees, butterflies, hover flies, ladybirds, and an awful lot of spiders having a party in the bottom of the cold frame.

The broad beans are flowering (that’s where the butterflies are hanging out) and Chris and I planted a salad bed – lettuce, radishes and quick-growing spring greens all went in, so let us (haha!) see what happens there!

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Allotment Diaries – March 2017

Maybe it’s that the tree is in full bloom, or the flowers are out, or the sun is shining. Maybe it’s the fact that for the first time since October you can sit on the ground without immediately getting soaked to the skin. But for whatever reason, it feels like we’ve turned a corner with the allotment. For the first time, it’s beginning to feel more like a food-producing patch and less like a lengthy re-creation of the Battle of the Somme.

Flowers at allotment march

I kind of wish I could remember what I planted here – the plan says “Flowers” 🙂 Whatever they are they’re pretty.

(ETA – Roz tells me they’re crocuses 🙂 )

Sowed two drills of spinach behind the cold frame, next to the garlic. We still have plenty of spinach seeds left, either for taking to the new house or for later sowing (see, I’m learning here!)

The hazels are starting to come into leaf and there’s new growth on the raspberries which means we didn’t kill them with over-zealous pruning. And the autumn olive seedlings, which I fully expected to fall over and expire the minute I turned my back on them, are still upright and apparently doing well.

The hyssop didn’t make it, but I’m not altogether surprised as it was borderline when I put it in the cold frame. Rosemary and marjoram are both thriving though.

Grass needs a trim, but cutting the grass requires being there at a time other people are there to get access to the lawnmower shed. Will probably have to go down of a Saturday morning, rather than in the afternoons when it’s nice and quiet and I can pootle about and do things in my own slow and inefficient way… 🙂

Autumn Olives – Lessons Learned So Far

Autumn Olive ( elaeagnus umbellata) is a  deciduous shrub or smallish tree, originally native to eastern Asia. It’s a good nitrogen fixer, and it has small berries that appear to be similar in taste and usage to redcurrants – they can be used to make jams and sauces, on pastries, or in cakes and in trifles.

Autumn olives are regarded as an invasive species in certain parts of the US, but they’re not invasive in the UK so it’s ok to grow them over here.

This is our first go at growing autumn olives at Meddwl Coed. I’ll level with you, it’s our first go at growing any kind of tree from seed, and the fact that they’ve been left to my tender mercies and survived thus far is pretty impressive (and a little surprising 😉 )

The seeds were bought from Forestart , who sell 250 seeds for £1.50 plus postage. We cold stratified them in my salad drawer for three months, from the end of October until the end of January. In retrospect, I would have left them in the cold for another two weeks, because I wanted to plant the seedlings outdoors at the end of March rather than in the middle of the month to avoid late frosts.
Autumn olives

We put the germinated seeds in compost and grew them on the windowsill. Of the 16 seeds that showed sign of germination, nine have grown into full seedlings. Some didn’t grow at all, and a couple grew a bit and then kind of fell over and died for whatever reason. And now they’re pretty much ready to plant out, in the raised bed and with tree protectors (plastic bottles with the tops and bottoms cut off ) to give them a bit of shelter.

Fingers crossed!