Everything's blossoming

Nothing says 'spring' quite like a good bit of showy blossom, as this cherry perfectly demonstrates. The apple blossom has also come out and each tree is slightly different, but they all have gorgeous pink/white flowers which really brighten up the garden.

I've fenced off part of the chicken run and put some grass and a herbal mixture down as feed for the chickens in a few week's time. The plan is to let them on that strip when it's grown, and sow another piece in the meantime so they can have a constant supply of greens without being out on the whole allotment as it's getting harder to keep them off some of the newly planted areas.

Victoria did a great job of tidying and weeding the strawberry bed and replanting the runners in another bed, and Peter sifted some more compost and planted out some of the brassicas in the high raised bed.

There's also some sad news from the allotment - we've lost one of the chickens, Ginger. Unfortunately a dog got on the garden and took her from under my feet where she was busy helping me weed (picking out the worms in other words). It all happened so fast and she's the biggest and slowest hen, so she really didn't have a chance. She was our friendliest and most gentle hen and I'll miss her constant 'chatter' and following me around with my fork. I know it's just a chicken, but you do get attached when you spend a lot of time with them and raise them from chicks, so I won't apologise for being a bit soppy over her.

A room with a view

Hotels don't come much more des-res than this (if you're a bug, naturally). This is our brand new bug hotel, courtesy of a generous (and very handy) parent from the local primary school, who made it for us.

The aim is to encourage beneficial insects to stay for the night, or even a fortnight, and help pollinate all our fruit and vegetables, as well as help address the good/bad bug balance.

It's located in the 'nectar bar' a strip of the border dedicated to plants which help attract insects, and it has become home for all the random wild flowers which have sprung up all over the place, as well as some additional ground cover such as thyme and sedums, which have been overwintering in the polytunnel.

We have just experienced one of those rare phenomenon which only occur once in a blue moon - a sunny Bank Holiday in the UK - which meant the housework is put on hold for another day or two in exchange for some glorious hours of digging, planting and potting on with the sun on my back and the feel of Spring in the air (as I write, we're sitting in a misty cloud and the temperature has dropped again, but we'd get bored if it was sunny all the time).

Yesterday saw many visitors to the allotment, with many first-timers encouraged by the sunshine to pop in and have a look around and a chat. Some even came back several times, and the chickens - always a big draw - nearly popped from all the corn treats proffered by small hands, all keen to feed them but a little unsure if they were really brave enough, hence why a lot ended up on the floor and consequently, in the chickens' bellies.

Maria came by in the morning, which was really welcome, as she helped prick out and pot on some of the brussels sprout seedlings ready for the allotment and also the plant sale in May. After pricking out 60 tomato plants on my own the day before, I was more than willing to share the task, much as I love it, for you can get too much of a good thing.

We also took out a few more of the docks from the soon-to-be wildlife meadow, replacing each bare dock patch with a scattering of wildflower seeds instead. It's a slowly, slowly approach on the meadow, as it's just too big to tackle for just a few people in one go, so we're aiming for small patches each time and if we finish it in the autumn instead, it's not the end of the world as it already looks miles better than when we began.

Elsewhere on the allotment, the Garden Organic trial peas are out of the polytunnel and now under fleece tunnels outside in a bed, with some birch branches for extra support. David's begun work on the wildlife pond and made new hop poles for our additions this year - Fuggle and Challenger. We also made a temporary new run for the chickens, as their over-enthusiastic digging up of the potatoes I planted a few weeks ago was not welcomed, so they no longer have the run of the allotment (their existing run near the chicken house needs resting as they've hoovered up all the greens already).

Talking of greens, the green manure - field lupins, crimson clover and alfalfa - are in parts of the beds now under fleece (to protect them and also encourage them to grow a little quicker), which will hopefully fix some nitrogen and also add some nutrients to the soil before the beans, peas and brassicas go in. If the jackdaws would only stop pinching bits of the fleece for their nest-building, it might be even better (and look less like confetti) but they don't seem to be taking the hint from my obviously rubbish ribbon bird scarers.

It's much easier to be positive about growing when the sun's shining, the birds are singing and the bees and butterflies are flying around, even when the pace seems to be ramping up so much that you'll never keep up with all the sowing/planting/pricking out that needs doing. So, with Spring comes a new beginning and a fresh start - here's to a productive growing season, complete with a proper lease (maybe I've had a bit too much sun......)

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