A novice's guide to producing his own food

Stepping up a gear

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On the left and right of the fruit cage are the rasps. The strawbs are in the middle.

On the left and right of the fruit cage are the rasps. The strawbs are in the middle.

All of a sudden the allotment seems have entered a new phase. After months and months of digging, mulching and sowing in bare earth, the plants are now roaring ahead, and I’ve even been able to harvest something.

The winter onions were an unsuccessful experiment. Despite being planted before Christmas, they’re only a few weeks ahead of my main onions, so (as I need the space) I’ve decided to dig them up  for use in salads. The lettuce in the greenhouse is also ready to eat. At last, the hungry gap is over.

Although there is substantial growth at the allotment, the biggest change is probably in the greenhouse. Up until now, it was being used to bring on as many seedlings as I could. Hundreds of peas (Alderman and Hurst), beans (Blauhilde and Wisley), leeks, lettuce, chillies and tomatoes have all been brought on under glass.

Gradually, however, most have been hardened off and replanted in the allotment, leaving only the tomatoes and chillies. The toms are getting too big for their pots and need to be placed in grow bags. This means a complete clear-out of everything in the greenhouse – three staging benches, plant pots and bags of compost. From this weekend on, it will devoted to growing only cucumber (they arrived in the post today), chillies and, most importantly of all, lots and lots of tomatoes of varying colours and sizes. Nearly all have been grown from seed, but I’ve also acquired about seven freebie plug plants.

Sorting out the greenhouse will my big job for the weekend. But I’ve also got to see to my bees. The swarming season is nearly upon us, so I have to get a brood box ready to split the colony. I do have one already, but the comb has gone a tad mouldy, so I’ll replace the lot.

As for the allotment itself, well, I don’t think it has ever looked better. Not everything is in the ground (there’s still stuff in the cold frame), but for the first time since taking over the plot, I can say it is pretty much weed-free. It’s only taken me three years! The fruit cage was always the worst offender, but, as you’ll see from the pic  above, it is looking spotless. The strawberry plants and raspberry canes seem to be enjoying this unseasonably cold and damp spring. (Note to self: I’ll need to put up the netting before the fruit appears).

This is definitely the most exciting (and busy) time of the tear for grow-your-owners. Just about everything is in place, and, aside from keeping on top of the weeds, it’s mainly down to the weather from here on in.

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