It poured with rain, it froze, it snowed and the tail end of hurricane what-ever-your-name-is lashed its vicious tongue all across the land. That and a brief spell in hospital meant that it wasn’t until the 28th that it was nice enough to spend a pleasurable afternoon up at the allotment. I cleared away the bean poles, dug over some of the beds and have come to the conclusion that a bag of mulch spread over the area in the summer was worth every penny. Not only did it keep the weeds at bay but also kept the moisture in. This has saved me a lot of backache on the digging front. This lot in the photo above took me a couple of hours to thoroughly get rid of the weeds.
The storms that raged in January were Storm Eleanor, Fionn, David and Georgina. I’ve renamed the collective word for storms in January as Daisy as you can’t get angry at Daisy.
The wind had done a bit of damaged with broken frames and tangled nets. But nothing too serious. At least I’ve still got some brussel sprouts, parsnips and carrots to harvest. In fact my butternut squash has stored well and so even in January I was able to cook my own produce. Well done me!
Stuff I’d over looked in December were two packets of camassia bulbs. They were bursting inside their packets so I quickly stuffed them in some pots so at least they had a chance of survival. I’m hoping that in the spring I can put them in the front garden with the others.
Its February just around the corner and no doubt more love will be bestowed upon my plants and seedlings as February is when I get sowing.
Twice it has snowed in December! This doesn’t happen often and is so exciting when it does. I have created a Christmas dinner bed and noes the time to harvest. Although to be practical I couldn’t grow it all in one bed as roots and brassicas don’t have the same needs and my Swiss chard got shaded out by the Brussels. But under that snowy blanket lie the brussels and broccoli, then a discrete breathing space before rows of parsnips. The carrots needed a less fertile area plus different netting needs. Those carrot fly never give up and so they were sown in an adjacent bed.
My Christmas trug looked a treat though and worth all that effort.
Those parsnips weren’t the usual pointy shape. I suspect that I didn’t prepare the ground well enough. But they tasted fantastic roasted.
Disaster were the leeks who came out in an infestation of onion leaf minor and the whole lot rotted in the ground before I noticed. I had to destroy the lot and realise that I’ll have to give leeks a miss next year in an effort to quarantine the area.
Highlights of 2017 were a trip to the Chelsea Flower show, courgette cooking mastery, saucing endless tomatoes and general faffing in my small town garden. I’m happy with what I did last year and vow to spend more time up at the allotment so that problems get spotted before they get out of control. I’m pleased that I’ve set up a better composting system and pleased that my crop rotation study will improve things hopefully.
There comes a time when you have to get down and dirty and back to basics. I mean getting to grips with the soil and its need for nutrients. This reality hit home after a second year of poor sweetcorn yields and I just knew that the only soil-u-tion was digging in compost or muck. This has caused many a dilemma. For years, because of the bad access at the plot , I’ve used chicken manure pellets tossed about the place randomly. So its time to get serious and crazily enough I have a compost heap already that was full but I couldn’t get in it to dig it out.
A single compost heap will not do either as digging out the lovely stuff underneath meant climbing in and removing the top rotting layer. So I hadn’t basically.
I spied a few pallets at the back of where I worked and so armed with a tape measure was able to pick out three matching palettes. I don’t need massive pallets either as I well never fill them in one season.
I only needed three so that I’d have brilliant access.
Positioning I placed the new pallets at right angles to the old compost area so that any inter-shoveling between compost areas would be easy. I simply tied them together with a corner stake that I hammered into place.
My original enclosure was modified by sawing the top three rungs so that I could get a shovel in easily. I sorted through what was there and am pleased that loads of lovely crumbly black gold is now ready to use.
Now that I am sorted with the hardware the system is obvious. New vegetation, kitchen scraps and non-weed matter goes in the new compost enclosure while I dig out the old and use its bounty.
Dog and Cat Poo. But horse, cow, chicken and rabbit droppings are great.
Tea and Coffee Bags. Rip open the bags and empty out the grains and discard the bags.
Citrus Peels and banana skins.
Onions and potatoes if left whole. This is because they might continue to grow so squash them up.
Fish and meat scraps.
Glossy or coated paper.
Sticky Labels on Fruits and Vegetables.
Coal fire ash.
Sawdust from treated wood.
Perennial weed seed heads or roots. I don’t want to risk that pesky bindweed any opportunity to multiply.
A compost recipe
Combine green and brown materials (no poo). Brown being garden soil that will contain microbes and good bacteria and even lovely worms
Sprinkle water over the pile regularly so it has the consistency of a damp sponge.
Stir it up as that will get everything in contact with all the good bacteria
When is looks like its rotted down use it! Don’t worry if there are bits of twig etc as you can always sieve that out.
Bulb planting time and I am joined by a cute little robin. I had only recently learned why robins like to accompany you whilst gardening. Obviously I have just disturbed the top layer of soil and by doing so made all those tiny insects and worms available to feed on.
But where did this little chap learn that if it hung around with the humans maybe it’ll get a cheap dinner? In ancient times robins used to follow wild boars as they scavenged the top layer of ground for roots, fruits and maybe a truffle or two for tea. Robins learnt not to be afraid of these large animals and so grew confident with their company. Now don’t you go and compare me to a wild boar though my hair has been particularly ravaged on this gusty October day. You could say I’m sporting a wild look, but that’s where it ends. I’m happy for my little robin to follow me about. It makes a funny little chirp and curious vibrating flutter when it’s about to join me. I don’t hesitate to talk to it either. That’s not because of modern folklore’s theory that it’s a dead relative visiting. It’s a robin wanting a good old feed before winter and I’m happy to oblige.
Oh leeks why for art thou ruined? The allium leaf miner is the culprit. It has munched its way through my lovely leeks! i done lots of research and basically I need to destroy the lot to break this little critters life cycle. plus in future not only do I need to cover brassicas and carrots in netting but now alliums too. This teeny little thug reached the UK in 2002 and has spread around the country at an alarming rate.
So how am I going to beat this pest?
So how am I going to beat this pest? This beastie appears in March and April having overwinter in the soil. The female flies lay eggs near the base of young leek plants and makes small punctures in the onion/leek leaves in order to feed on the sap. This is where further rot can get in too and so when I harvested my leeks I notice a brown trail where the grub had munched its way into the juicy fleshy bit. When I pulled off the outer layers a small dark rice-grain-sized brown pupae wedged was between the rotting layers.
Preventing the allium leaf miner from causing damage is to prevent the flies laying eggs. I’m going to cover the crop with insect proof mesh / fleece during the two risk periods that is March to April and mid September to mid October.
Or plant onion sets and leeks after the first danger period has passed and harvest before the second danger period occurs in September / October.
You may have noticed that Halloween has revved up a gear this year. Don’t be tempted to buy one of those fake pumpkins down the garden center, please buy a real one and carve it yourself. Its so much fun, really cheap and a chance to be creative. Plus when you’ve finished you can leave the pumpkin out for the wildlife to feed as squirrels love them. It doesnt stop there either you can plant one up with with plants for a dramatic effect and lastly they make good compost. So just do it!
A traditional design with freckles!
What a mess, but be sure to keep the seeds.
Biro cases were used for spikes on my pumpkin hedgehog
All together and they look fantastic.
So proud of my hogs.
Any pattern can be achieved with an apple corer and a drill
Its easy to add an ikea cupboard light
When they haven’t made the grade, plant them up. Funky hair-dos and crazy plants will last all November long.
Not everything in life is a bed of roses, so the saying goes, and so the day after the Chelsea Flower Show my step father died. It has been awful witnessing someone slowly be destroyed by Alzheimer’s and so things have been put on hold a little bit. I still had to work but suddenly I had also had a new set of carers to organize for my 91 year old Mum. It didn’t go well as I had to sack two. One for taking my mums bank card and PIN number, the other for allowing the carpet man swindle £240 cash from my vulnerable mum.
The responsibility has been overwhelming and took a toll on my health. But I managed to get though it and out the other side. My salvation is to loose myself in my gardening, it really is the best therapy. Things didn’t stop and I still have issues to solve but the garden soldiered on….
I did a bit of a revamp in a dull area of my jungle garden.
Then there wasn’t a shortage of cut flowers. Calendulas and zinnias performing brilliantly…..
Calendulas and erygium and curious wild unidentifed flower.
Veggies started to yield and often I was badly prepared for harvesting but nothing got wasted…
Ok, I did give away some of the cucumbers but the rest were eaten fresh or baked and frozen.
So strange times came and went. I’ve been sad and stressed by other things, my allotment kept me focused. Even though I had to force myself to go there I always ended up feeling proud and positive and darn right happy! 😀
A privileged walk around the gardens at Chelsea for Garden Answers magazine
I was lucky enough to get a press ticket on press day and trying not to get all giddy as it was my birthday too. So I took my camera and photographed my favorite gardens and uploaded to instagram and facebook. It was so fabulous just to absorbed it all and also it was the best birthday EVER!
The weather was glorious the planting sensational I just wanted it to never end. It was lovely to talk to some of the designers about their gardens and I came away with so many ideas for the magazine and my little garden at home.
However those rabbits days are numbered. But first….
The glorious sight of snow drops spurred me on this month with a little revamp of the front garden. So many passers-by stop and look but that is all they see, just snowdrops. So a bit of ever-green was needed. A few shrubs had perished so they needed digging out and replacing with box balls. These will link with the box that are in the containers. The black grass around the center planter also gives the garden more ordered look and the box will give another texture. This compliments the random carpet of snowdrops and three white hellebore give it an elegant and delicate white theme.
…and other goings on. My plot this winter is looking very respectable thanks mainly to the leeks, parsnips, chard and cabbage. Brussel Sprouts look tall but a bit sparse in the brussels department but still plenty for dinner. I mean we are not entering any beauty competitions are we? Just as well as the parsnips have man-i-fested(see what I did there) much hilarity. I needn’t say any more but it’s still fun to laugh at a suggestively rude food.
The sweetest thing
On the last day of October I harvested the sweet potatoes that I grew in a large pot in the green house. It was quite a sight seeing the vine develop but after all the effort only a few shapes imerged. The UK climate is just to chilly for them but mazingly satisfying to unearth them.
And sow on
As always a little late I got to sow some broad beans. Not expecting much, but they still surprised my by germinating. Its so worth it, and they WILL grow so just do it!
The night before Christmas
The week before and I got my garlic in too. Gold star for me!
What in the hell are Wilkos and other garden centres doing by selling painted succulents? I only hope it doesn’t harm the plant apart from looking ghastly. EPIC FAIL
Not going to hark on too much about the weather but really the rain storms and heat spells have resulted in lots of productive growth at the alottment. My squahes were roaming around the place, and in one of those ‘lets get things done’ moods I battled with the squashes and won!
Giving it careful thought, I wanted my squashes to end up resting in little hammocks. An unused netting pack was the perfect thing and I twisted the netting into a rope and weaved the rope into and onto the wigwam.
Then the task of persuading four eight foot vines and their babies through the netting. It worked a treat, though I’g reccommend not wearing earings, necklace or a shirt with buttons. I spent more time disentangling myself and feared that I might actually be trapped in the netting.
Other alottment news was the continuing task of getting the paths between the raised beds in order. So I picked a cool day drank Red Bull and success! I’ve only one more to go, so might leave that for winters job list.
A flying trip to Wisely with my sister to take my ninety year old mother out for an airing was lovely. Apart from the compulsory glide round the rose garden, we decided that the wheel chair needed more power that I can bodily give so decided that the downhill path nearby looked convienently interesting. So we discovered the herb gardens with an interesting thyme bed. Also a cute little garden with an interesting tree canopy.
My little garden got a corner revamp this month. I wanted a shaded space to sit and relax and found an area where I could extend the paving by adding gravel. Shabby black chairs got a lick of paint but the table was now so rusty it is destined for the dump. However, as I only wanted a table for coffee cups, and only really needing two chairs, I cut the back and arms off the worst rusty chair and voila, a matching table. I used paint left over from the she-shed french doors too. I am so pleased with the colour as now the chairs really stand out.
Whilst placing the chairs, I couldn’t resist using the table for a display of grey succulents in terracotta pots. I also have a big pot nicotina that filled gap. Lavender and a pot of the annual Didiscus ‘blue lace’ completed the colour scheme, almost as if I had planned it.
My big ‘annual’ success is Cosmos ‘Cupcakes’. They have a unique flower shape with petals all fused together, forming a bowl. But one rouge plant produced extra petals in the center and so saving the seed of this plant is a must.
I also went on a two-week holiday and actually left my garden properly prepared (for once) by extensively dead-heading practically everything. I was so pleased when I came back to see lots of lovely blooms welcoming me back. The deadheading worked a treat and meant that didn’t really need to do much except admire the view.
I’m also especially proud of the front garden were the combination of crocosmia and sedum buds looking fantastic.
In my green house my cucumber has been roaming around the tomatoes and peppers, using the other plants as support. I finally caught it hanging with the chilli peppers. How cool is that?
At the allotment there was plenty to pick including my first head of broccoli. But more problems: this time with a neighbouring gardener putting up a football goal six foot from my plot. It has meant that kids are playing ball games and this doesn’t mix with vegetable growing at all. I also suspect that it’s the kids that have vandalized previously. Very difficult to prove and trying to convince over-protective parents that it might have been their little darlings as resulted in strained relations.
The drawback with privately run allotments is that the rules are often all done on good-will and very casual. Despite reporting the incident to the caretaker, unfortunately the goal is still up a week later.
We will have to see what happens, as I may have to explain more specific detail to the parents what happens when a football destroys a bed of treasured leeks, and how much it will cost them in compensation. Maybe that will help.
Will keep you updated.
A blog about my gardening exploits to inspire, even if its looking like its all about go wrong. (Which it does, alot)