The sun has got its hat on....

Finding enough containers for people to carry their plants home in is always a problem, but the visitor above had it all worked out, bringing plants to swap and taking a few home again with no trouble at all.

It was a lovely sunny day (always an opposite worry to the rain problem in that if it's too nice, there's a danger everyone will go to the beach instead) and people turned out to swap and browse the edible plants, indulge in the homemade refreshments and even took home some free sunburn to boot.

The borrowed hen and bantam Light Sussex-mix chicks played the cute card with all the visitors, who got a good look at them thanks to the eglu and run we have on loan (they're a great invention, but well out of our price range) and the rabbits also enjoyed the attention, with plenty of young visitors to admire their digging skills.

David's canopy provided a little shade over the seating area, but the coolest place to be was definitely the new rustic bench in the willow dome, which has really come into its own after a weave and haircut in the winter and is looking fantastic this year (I'll get a picture later: it's currently too dark due to the storm clouds which kindly waited until after the open day to roll in).

Our information boards were given a new lick of paint and chalk, to help guide visitors around the allotment and provide a little information about the crop rotation, nectar bar, hops etc.

Thanks to Maria, our volunteer who turned up and did a sterling job handling and adding up all the donations (I had originally said she could just do the swap stall so she didn't have to add up so I feel really bad about that) and to Lynn, Bethany and Eleanor who talked to visitors about recycling, compost and all things crafty, and also emptied their pockets on biscuits, cakes and plants!

Making hay while the sun shines

While David was busy scything, I tackled the soft fruit area at the bottom of the orchard, where the strawberries and raspberries were struggling for light against the grass and docks. It took me a lot longer on my hands and knees to do this small patch than it took him to do the whole meadow area, but to have taken a scythe to this bit would have meant the end of fruit for the season, so it was worth the extra effort.

Luckily, we had a few sunny, dry days so we were able to make a few bundles of fresh hay, which is now smelling sweetly in the polytunnel for its final drying out session. The rabbits have already given it a thumbs up when they had a little taste earlier (and they are very fussy creatures) so it must be good.

It might look like a patch of weeds at the moment (and possibly some people may say that's because it is) but the wildflower meadow and native hedge (above and below) are starting to take shape. We've got about six different types of grasses coming up, the wildflower plugs (red valerian, vetch, wild carrot, plantain etc.) planted last autumn have survived and the spring-sown grass/wildflower seeds are also doing well. There's also been some random plants which have colonised all on their own - which is even better - among them speedwell, chickweed and some delicate white flowered plants I've yet to identify.

I've been continuing to get plants ready for the plant sale on Bank Holiday Monday, and already regretting having so many tomato plants to pot on. Last year, we had none and lots of people asked for them, so I hope that wasn't a blip and I'm left with dozens this year. So far, we have living salad packs, cabbages, brussels, broccoli, chillies, tomatoes, a few different flowers for attracting wildlife, and raspberry and strawberry plants. I was a bit late getting the squashes and courgettes sown, so I'm not sure they'll be through in time.

The Greenfingers Club worked very hard on Thursday sowing pumpkins, squashes and courgettes (I also enlisted a few hardy souls to help with potting on tomatoes) in the polytunnel and planting out brussels sprouts and sowing peas in their raised beds. They also helped support the scrambling trial bed peas with some pea sticks (off cuts from a neighbour's silver birch pruning) and planted out some strawberry plants so they've now got their very own patch to look forward to later in the summer.

The chickens have an extension: thanks to an ingenious pop hole in the existing fence and a chicken wire tunnel they can now safely get into the soft fruit area, which they love as it's packed with bugs, grass and under the shade of the ash and hawthorn trees. They've been fenced off some of the more reachable fruit, such as gooseberries and redcurrants, but it gives them a bit more interest without having the run of the whole allotment (and the pick of my young cabbages).

The brassicas are in the bed and either under the new mini greenhouse or under mesh, as I've already seen cabbage whites circling and the jackdaws have also got their beady eyes on anything that's unprotected at the moment. The emerging first earlies have had their initial 'earthing up' and I finally got the last of my main crop spuds in next to the hops. Beetroot and parsley seeds are in the high raised beds now, and runner beans, french beans and peas have been sown in the polytunnel in root trainers.

This one went to market...

This picture was taken before Marv from Muddy Fingers kindly lent us his windbreak, as we seemed to have located our stall at Bill Quay Farm's Open Day in a wind tunnel and, coupled with the fact that it was unseasonably cold, keeping warm was nigh on impossible. However, despite the weather, it was a really good day and we made a whopping £37 selling the living salads and borage and had some interesting chats with visitors about the garden, so it was good to get the word out that we exist.

It's that time of year when everything is growing so fast it's difficult to keep up with the pricking out and potting on, and I have some rather desperate looking tomato plants that are crying out for attention. I think the fact that another allotment holder keeps leaving perfectly potted on tomato plants in the polytunnel when I'm not looking is a very unsubtle hint that I should get a move on.

We have some new additions to our hens, which I haven't got photographs of yet, but I'll hopefully post some up in the next week or so. When there was just three hens left they seemed pretty nervy and unsettled, and are now much more content as a gang of five and are all very vocal. There was the inevitable squabbling for the first few days while the pecking order was established, but they seem to be getting on fine now.

There is now a wildlife pond near the willow dome ready and waiting for a few frogs to move in and the first early potatoes are just poking up out of the earth. Victoria and I sowed salads in the high raised beds and some leeks in a tray in the polytunnel and parsnip seeds are also in (sowed in toilet rolls under plastic in the hope I can germinate them more successfully than usual). Elsewhere, red onions are in under membrane and cabbages and peas have been transplanted.

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