Author Archives: Helen Wheeler

About Helen Wheeler

I am an Artist living in Manchester

The allotment in June…

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I am rather behind this year due to having a number of failed seedlings and life just generally taking over, however, we have been down at the allotment quite a lot over the past few days and it is starting to look back up to speed.

The onions are progressing well, although as usual the red onions don’t seem to be doing quite as well as the white onions, still better than previous years.  My sweet corn seedlings failed dismally, so I must admit that I cheated and bought some excellent specimens from our local garden centre Golden Days.  They are now planted out and seem to be doing well.

Peas and beans have also been planted.  For my main crop of peas I am using a variety called “Telephone Peas” that I have bought from The Real Seed Catalogue.  I have used them previous years and found them to be very successful, producing very tall stems of plentiful tasty pods.  You do need to be careful when picking as the pods seem to swell before the peas are very large, so patience is the key when growing these.  I would definitely recommend this variety.

Similarly I have planted a purple climbing bean called “Cosse Violette“, once again from The Real Seed Catalogue.   I have also found these to be very prolific with an excellent taste.  They are really simple to freeze as well so great for long term storage.  You can also simply tell when they are cooked as they turn from purple to green when they are ready to eat!

We have also sited two compost bins at the end of two of our beds as our cold compost areas are getting full.  Our home compost bin has been very successful producing wonderful rich compost for potting up plants.  Generally I regularly water the compost bins and every so often add compost activator.

I am really pleased with our herb garden.  We have lost a few plants over the winter, but those that have remained are thriving and I have been left with a small space to plant a couple more herbs.  At the moment I am considering Feverfew and Sweet Basil.

Carpeting the paths has been really useful this year as we have had limited time at the allotment.  It has really helped to suppress the weeds in these areas which has meant our time at the allotment has been spent completing the priority tasks of weeding and planting beds.

Allotment Award…

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When I attended the allotment AGM last month I found out that I had received an award from Manchester City Council for my allotment in 2011!!!    I received a “Highly Commended” award, which was the lowest level to receive a certificate, but I am still very pleased.  It is currently residing in pride of place on the fridge.

I really did not expect to receive an award at all.  It has been a real boost and has spurred me on to improve our allotment even more this year.  Although I am definitely not counting on receiving an award next year due to an overgrown fruit patch at the back of the plot that needs serious attention.  It is going to be attended to in the next month or so, so watch this space!!!

Planting potatoes…

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Today I have been finishing planting my potatoes.

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Almost 2 beds are full, with 2 rows of potatoes in each.  We used to dig trenches which was back-breaking work, but last year I purchased a long handled bulb planter which worked really well and makes light work of the potato planting task.

I buy my seed potatoes through the allotment society which means I get a great selection at a great price and place the order in October / November time.  They are ready for collection from the Allotment Shop in February / March.

Potato varieties I am growing this year are:

Charlotte – Salad Potatoes  BBC Charlotte Potato Recipies

Aaron Pilot – First Earlies

Kestrel – Second Earlies – a firm favourite which lasts exceptionally well in storage or if left in the ground

Markies – Main Crop  Markies Potato Information

King Edwards – Main Crop

For a great resource that tells you all about the many varieties of potatoes  try the potato council website www.lovepotatoes.co.uk.

The new year begins… tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes…

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After winter the growing season begins again.  Of course there are things that can be grown over winter, but from March/April onwards seeds need to be sown in earnest and the hard work begins.   I have recently cleaned out the greenhouse and for the first time bought some tomato plants to put in the grow bags.

Why? You might ask.  Well, every other year I have grown my own, but I never seem to get fruit until September which means many of them don’t ripen.  Unfortunately I have limited space in the house for starting them off early and my greenhouse is not heated.  I noticed last week that the local garden centre had some excellent specimens for reasonable prices so this week I decided to spend a total of £7.50 on a selection of 8 plants.

They are far more developed than my seedlings have ever been at this point of the year, some are even starting to develop flower trusses!

Another new method I am trying this year is only planting 2 tomatoes in each grow bag instead of 3.  Also I am ‘extending’ the grow bags (so-to-speak) by placing in pots that we have cut the bottoms out of to allow the roots to grow freely and which allows me to  add more compost.  Finally, for watering I have sunk a smaller pot in the middle of the two plants.  I shall see how successful this method turns out to be over the coming months…

Ladybirds – the gardener’s friend

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Ladybirds are great for your allotment and should be encouraged.  I have had loads on my allotment this year.  Ladybirds eat aphids which makes them exceptionally useful.

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If you are interested in finding out which types of ladybird you have on your plot try the UK Ladybird Survey website.  This website has a wide variety of information included on it and aims to help the recording of ladybirds within the UK.

The Harlequin ladybird is not native to the UK and is causing problems for our own native species due to it being the worlds most invasive species.  To find out more, including how to identify and record sightings of the Harlequin ladybird, go to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey website.