allotment, Garden blogging, Garden Meme, Six on Saturday

Six on Saturday – 4 August 2018

My Six on Saturday is an allotment update.  The ground is like concrete, I am going daily for about an hour to water and ‘stock take’.  There is little else to do, so I am appeasing myself that I am building up a tan and tightening my biceps carrying heavy watering cans from the trough to the plot.

First an apology I have broken rule 7 of Six on Saturday:

Not too much verbiage. ….it’s easily done, but since there are Six things, and a growing number of Six posts to read in a typical week, consider being a little frugal with the wordcount.

1. Protecting sweetcorn husks

53FDD0D5-C284-4534-9FF4-B6E9E46E5F11The sweetcorn (Northern Extra Sweet) is coming along a treat, despite the strong winds last Sunday.  I have staked them and built up the soil around the base of each plant – there are only 8.   I read that night visiting animals have a panchant for ripe sweetcorn and it’s recommended to protect the husks with large plastic bottles until ready to pick.  Now, I’m not sure if this was a wise thing to do.  I have carefully punched holes in the top so they don’t sweat.  Any thoughts on this?

2. Pumpkin update

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I planted 3 pumpkin plants and have 3 pumpkins,  there is an abundance of female flowers but no more male ones,  I wonder if that is the norm, I don’t needs lots anyway.   The one with the yellow bottom I can’t stand up because the stem is too short, the one at the bottom right of the photo is now on its end so with a bit of luck it will become round in shape.  I’m seeing a lot of posts on FB allotment group pages of pumpkins splitting so fingers crossed mine will be ok.

3. Cauliflower protection 

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This is allotment life on a shoestring.   I had a freebie packet of cauliflower seeds so for a bit of fun I sowed them in pots.  Only 2 came good and because the ground was so hard when they were ready to plant out I put them in a doubled up growbag.  Someone told me an elderly gentlemen on her allotment said they thrive on solid ground, he compacts the soil with a roller and drills thin holes for his plants.  She said his cauliflowers and cabbages are the envy of their plots!   Anyway – my homemade cage.  Despite putting collars around my two precious plants they are still swarming with whitefly.  Rather than buy a cage, or netting, I found an old net curtain I was about to throw away and made my own cage.  It’s a bit rickety but I am hoping it will do the job.

4. Blackberry heaven 

When I took the plot over a number of folks told me that the blackberries were always fabulous and they were not wrong.  Last week I picked a punnet full and decided to make blackberry gin.   There are so many recipes on the Internet but all are roughly the same, however, they vary in the time that the gin is ready from 2 weeks to 3 months and I’m  not sure why or if it matters.  I’m going for 2 weeks in time for my daughter’s birthday.

Ingredients

250g Blackberries

70cl Gin

100g Sugar

Method

1. Put the blackberries in to a 1 litre sterilised bottle or jar

2. Add the sugar

3. Top up with the gin

4. Shake well

5. Store in a dark cupboard and leave for a maximum of three months, shaking the bottle every week or so.

This recipe is courtesy of NicholasJon.

5.  Apples galore

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The little apple tree on my plot would appear to be some type of Pippin.  They are still very small and it could be due to the lack of water. I understand they are usually ready in September so we shall have to wait for a taster session then.   I’ve seen recipes for spiced apple gin 😄😄, so much better than eating every apple from the tree.

6. Baby strawberry plants

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I am wondering if I would do better to put these little strawberry runners into individual pots rather than a new bed.  Any advice please?

If you’ve been a great reader (thank you) and got to the bottom of this post, please now pop over to The Propagator Blog who hosts this weekly meme and has lots of contributors it’s always great to peer over the fence at other peoples gardens.

 

allotment, Garden blogging

Is Frippery Ok on an Allotment?

I had a strange conversation with a passing fellow allotmenteer this morning and am still pondering if she was being derogatory or funny.

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She stopped as she was cycling by, nodded disparagingly at my scarecrow and asked:

Do you think that works?”

I laughed and replied:

I don’t think so but it does work in as much as people stop and talk to me.”

This was received with a bit of a snort so I continued:

“I have always had this fun idea that allotments should have a scarecrow and sunflowers.”

Much to my surprise she said:

“That is a misconceived idea of town folks don’t you think?”

Which she then followed with:

“I grow vegetables.” as she cycled off!

I know I’m only a beginner and this is my first allotment season, but it made me wonder if I do have a misconceived idea.  When I looked around there are lots of vegetables being grown, in particular an abundance of sweet corn, but only about 3 other plots with sunflowers and no other scarecrow that I could see.  What is your take on this?  Should an allotment be a place for a little bit of frippery or should it be taken seriously under the control of the ‘allotment mafia’?

Now that is off my chest, let me share the goodies growing on the allotment today.

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The blackberries are almost ready for picking – there will be some jam cooking soon!

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The sweet corn is coming along just fine, with at least two silky tops of emerging cobs on each plant.

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After a slow start and the first lot of flowers being eaten  I’m delighted with the sugar snap peas, and collecting a good harvesting on each visit.

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I’m gobsmacked with the pumpkins and how fast they grow.  This one has doubled in size since Sunday.  Something had a little nibble but I think it’ll be ok.  It was recommended that I place the pumpkins on stones or slabs to prevent them from rotting, so I found a few large stones lying about the plot and have used them.

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There is a little apple tree on the plot, but I have no idea what variety they are, or whether they are cookers or eaters, but I expect I’ll find that out soon.

I’m happy with what I am doing, although I have made a few rooky errors, having a scarecrow and sunflowers are not one of them!  What do you think?

allotment, Garden blogging

Sunday Morning on the Allotment

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Oh boy it’s hot hot hot!  It is far too hot to do any work on the allotment, anyway the ground is so hard you can’t get a fork in to do anything.  All that can be done is massive amounts of watering.  I have two large watering cans which I fill from one of the strategically placed troughs on the site.  All of this has three benefits (1) free exercise (2) firm biceps and (3) in this summer of 2018 – a healthy tan.

Of course there are other benefits, good fresh food.

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Today I picked my first mangetout peas.  Only a few but it’s a start.

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On 5 June I planted out tiny sweetcorn plants, they were only about 4” tall.  A month later they are romping away and producing ears which is exciting to see.  Clearly the sweetcorn is relishing this weather, on some of the other plots it is a good 6 foot high.

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The other plants enjoying this weather are the pumpkins, now full of flowers.  I was given three tiny weedy plants only about 3 weeks ago and they have really taken off.

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I’ve inherited an enormous thornless blackberry which is laden with berries just about to ripen. Fingers crossed I get to pick them before the pigeons have a go.  They are not in a cage, and I’m thinking I will buy some blacknet to drap over them, my only concern with is I read that any netting should be taut to prevent birds catching their feet.

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The flower bed is looking promising too, the sunflowers have beaten the snails and are sporting some large blooms.

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When I took over the plot at the end of April, there were three small globe artichoke plants.  I’m not sure that happened to two of them, I suspect it was my fault being too  gung-ho with the strimmer.  As this is an old plant I let it go to flower and it now has a very fetching purple bonnet.

This hot dry weather appears set for sometime and whilst we all like a sunny, dry summer day, it is about time now we had some decent rain.  Everything is looking parched and all the grass has gone brown.   So from a gardener’s point of view I am hoping for a bit of a wet spell, but perhaps only at night please.

EOMV, Garden blogging, Garden Meme

End of Month View – June 2018

I am a complete allotment newbie, so I am learning on the job with the help,of reading other allotment blogs.  If you are new to my blog (hello and welcome!) I am ‘caretaking’ a half plot allotment for an elderly lady who can no longer manage it herself but she is loathe to relinquish it.  She is happy for others to look after it, she pays the allotment fee and it’s mine to do what I wish.  I am on the waiting list so will only manage it until I have my own.  It was terribly neglected and since April we have had almost no rain so the ground is rock hard and it’s been very difficult to get it looking the smallest bit cared for.

The plot at the end of April (when I took it on)

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The plot as it looks today (1 July 2018)

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I have decided to work a few beds and keep the rest tidy.  I’m loathe to spend lots of effort only to have to walk away in March, which is when I believe I’ll have a plot, the waiting list is very short and they have recently released 10 half plots so I’m almost at the top of the list.

The pumpkin patch 

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The plot consists of a few little square beds and I have used one at the back for some pumpkin plants I was given by a neighbour allotmenteer.  They were initially quite spindly but had plumped up a bit after a few weeks and we’re ready to plant.  They now have flower buds so fingers crossed I will have at least one pumpkin for Halloween.  I have left all the dead grass hoping it might work as a mulch.

Flower patch bed

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Not having a garden anymore (😢😢) my main plan is to grow flowers on the allotment.  As I’ve already said I’m not going to invest anything this year, but did buy  a few summer bulbs.  All the gladioli are coming up, which I am delighted to see and should be a bright orange/red flower.  The lilies have struggled and I’m not sure why, but there is still hope they will be late flowering.  When moving the dahlias into my daughter’s garden I inadvertently broke off a shoot, which I put in a small pot and am happy to say within a couple of months it is looking good so now lives in the allotment flower bed.   I think you always have to have sunflowers on an allotment and I raised four plants from seed, planted them when about a foot high.  The snails had two of them before I had to breathe.  The other two I protected with a thick bed of slug wool, which I also put around the dahlia.

The vegetable patch bed

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I had to think carefully what vegetables I could grow in one bed and came up with sweetcorn, sugar snap peas, pak choi and  mangetout peas.  The sweetcorn is coming on great guns loving the sunshine.  I have a few flowers on the mangetout but something has nibbled the tops off the sugar snap.  I’ve strategically placed a few bird deflectors so hope they may get a little protection now.

Odds and ends

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Do you sometimes buy seed packets without any idea as to where you are going to plant them?  I did this with a packet of Thompson & Morgan climbers.   Having started them off in seed trays, they are now happily growing at the back of the vegetable bed.  From left to right they are Morning Glory ‘Grandpa Otts’  Cardinal Climber and Spanish Flag which has a lovely red flower and is great for cutting, it should really be in the flower patch.

And finally…what is this white flower?

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As time goes by it is clearer to see the plan of the plot and where various beds and paths are.  At the front of the plot there is a triangle space which I am keeping tidy with strimmer.  I’m not sure what grew in there but there is the odd verbena bonariensis and a shrub with the most beautiful white flowers.  I don’t recognise it and neither does my PlantSnap app.  It has very woody stems and initially before they flowered I thought it might be a chrysanthemum.   Do you know what it is?

UPDATE:  I’ve been informed it is Achellia ‘white pearl’.

As always, a big thank you to Helen at The Patient Gardener who hosts this monthly meme.  Please pay her a visit and take a look at her wonderful garden.

EOMV, Garden blogging

End of Month View – May 2018

They say better late than never! No longer the owner of a garden I was feeling a little melancholy, to say the least, when reading the links to the various blog posts for the End of Month View. Whilst looking at the photos of other gardeners flowers and plants I realised there is no reason why I can’t still join in even though I no longer have a garden.

I left my lovely garden in Worthing at the end of April, moved to Emsworth and now only have a patio, however I do have an overgrown bindweed choked allotment that I offered to look after whilst waiting for my own to come up.

It is only half a plot, owned by an elderly lady who is loathe to relinquish it (naughty!) and advertised for someone to look after it. Whilst not ideal, it is something to do until either I am offered another plot or I can persuade the lady to pass it on to me, which can be done apparently if we send joint letters to the council. It is so overgrown, but has lots of wonderful fruit bushes. I am making myself work on one area at a time and not spend any money!

The other gardening project I am involved with, (again not mine!) is helping my daughter and son in law renovate their large overgrown garden. I have written several blog posts on our progress titled Restoring a Hampshire Garden. They are both still learning and I have given them an idea of what to plant and in what positions. Also I brought a lot of plants from my old garden for transplanting into theirs. There were a number of precious plants with memories that I was not going to leave behind. Last week we planted the grasses, including a rather beautiful Pennisetum ‘Karley rose’, Penstemon ‘Husker Red’, Dahlia ‘Preference’ and a bright pink echinacea.

As for my own personal gardening, I am getting into container gardening in a big way! A couple of years ago I completed an online course for container gardening with Learning With Experts, and my tutor was the inspirational Harriet Rycroft. With extra words of advice from Harriet plus the likes via Instagram I have been busy planting my own container garden just outside my patio doors.

The patio faces south, and is bathed in sunshine from early morning to late afternoon. There are a lot of trees around and I have had an issue with squirrels digging up the pots. One morning I came out to find all my freesia bulbs missing. Magpies and pigeons are also a nuisance.

Turning to good old Google, I read that chilli flakes and especially Birds Eye chillies were an excellent deterrent. I added gravel around the base of all plants and gave them a liberal sprinkling of chillies and so far, fingers crossed, the squirrels have kept a wide birth.

Talking about trees, there is a fabulous Monterey Cyprus opposite the entrance drive which has a tree preservation order. It does block out the sun for a couple of hours mid day, but that’s no great loss, a little shade can be a good thing.

There you go, that is my End of Month View, and although I no longer have my own garden I am keeping very busy. It is very hot working on the allotment during the day so I am trying to go early evening and soon hope to be able to post some photos of it’s progress, but it’s a bit daunting and sometimes soul destroying. The bind weed grows overnight, apart from pulling it up daily I can’t really do anything constructive until the autumn and the slugs have eaten all my sunflowers – but that’s gardening for you!

Garden blogging

I Have an Allotment!

When faced with an overgrown allotment and not know what to do first, as the song goes: “Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start.”

I finally moved to Emsworth at the end of the day on Friday 20th April after my Buyer’s solicitors took things right up to the wire on completion day.

I met the lady I am caretaking the allotment for on Sunday and started work in earnest on Tuesday. The plot is the one in the left hand corner of the photo with the apple blossom tree. You can see how overgrown it is. It certainly stands out from the others – but not for long.

I know she said her previous helper hadn’t worked on it for while but I wasn’t expecting it to be so overgrown! However, we all know how quickly weeds and grass take hold so it may not have been left that long.

There are five raised beds, and the rest of it is broken up with chipped bark paths, so I decided to break up the work and deal with one segment at a time. My first day was dedicated to clearing one bed, with excellent soil, so that I can start to plant a few veggies. I was very firm with myself and set two hours and tried very hard not to get side tracked doing other things on the plot. It’s amazing what catches your eye when doing one job and before you know it you’ve wandered off to another part to start clearing that patch. You have then done a little bit of this and a little bit of that, walking away at the end of the day looking back and seeing nothing tangible.

There are a lot of hidden gems, with strawberries running everywhere, an apple tree, which I am told has cooking apples, and lots of lovely currant bushes of various types. I will have to start jam making!

What made me chuckle was the ‘shed’. Another allotment holder told me that they all clubbed together with bits and pieces to make this shed, which now sadly has almost collapsed. I did chuckle at the blue ‘Fire door keep shut’ sign.

Now I’m retired, I need some structure in my life so a couple of hours a day will give me something to focus on. Also whilst the plot needs to be returned into working order that may well be enough hard work for the time being. I am on the waiting list for a permanent plot of my own so must be sure not to put in so much effort only to find in a year or two the owner decides to relinquish the plot all together. I suppose that is the risk of caretaking. Meanwhile it is exciting to have an allotment to work on and I’ve always enjoyed a challenge. I have decided to keep one half of the allotment tidy and concentrate on the other half growing vegetables and flowers in the raised beds.

Today (Day 2) I went back, after the torrential rain this morning, with a strimmer and cleared the front of the plot. Someone said to me to follow the National Trust idea of always making sure the first 18″ of a border tidy and weed free as that is what most people will see initially. Good thinking. There appears to be a trough around the plot giving it a sunken effect, and unfortunately it also acts like a moat, so this afternoon it was rather wet around the edges.

My job tomorrow (Thursday) is to tidy up this blackcurrant which has grown wild. Friday I will be back in my daughter’s garden to move some rose bushes to make a new border.

Who needs to pay for exercise classes with an allotment and a garden to work in!!