“Peppers”

In contrast to last week, this week I’ve not been quite so lazy and the plan is starting to come together.

So, I feel I should start with the peppers, or as you’ll soon discover ‘peppers’. Those of you who read last week’s blog will remember the really tall pepper. It was so much taller than all the other peppers and I was super impressed with it. Well, turns out it’s a sunflower! I noticed a flower starting to form at the top of the stalk. So, I don’t, as I thought have a world record breaking pepper, I just have a fairly large dwarf sunflower. Never mind. I’ll get the hang of this gardening lark eventually!

I took Louis to the plot during the week. We went in the evening when it had cooled down a bit. The paths were starting to look a bit overgrown again so I dragged the lawnmower out from its hiding place. Louis was immediately interested so I showed him how to use it and he was away! He mowed all the paths and did a pretty decent job. I then showed him how to use the strimmer which he absolutely loved and spent the rest of the visit strimming anything and everything. Who knew the way to encourage him to come to the plot with me was to give him access to power tools!

The pumpkin, despite my gloomy forecast seems to be doing ok. I was pretty sure it was dead after taking a hammering from the recent frost but it looks like it has the beginnings of some flowers and we all know what flowers mean don’t we? Prizes! No…Pumpkins!

As well as visiting in the cooler evenings I also spent a few hours working on the plot yesterday morning. I felt it was time to move some of the plants from the green house to the ground. I had even made a plan – which I am unable to show you as it was in the back pocket of my gardening shorts when I popped them into the washing machine last night. I stuck to the plan and planted peppers, aubergine, cauliflower and sunflowers. Obvioulsy, I no longer know what the plan was so I will just have to make the rest up!

Last year I planted the peppers in the pots but this year I’ve put them in the ground. They’ve taken the bed where the cucumbers and cucamelons were last year. I’ll have to think of something else for the pots.

I had to look up some information about planting the cauliflower as I haven’t grown them before. The internet advised me to dig holes about 2feet apart and fill them with water so the plants are going into nicely watered soil. I think I did it right. It also advised to cover them, which I didn’t do but I will do when I can find something to cover them with so, for the time being they’re on their own!

I decided to follow the same instructions for the aubergines. I figured digging a hole and filling it with water was a pretty good way to plant most things! The aubergines and the cauliflowers have all gone in last year’s potato bed. I’m not growing potatoes this year – I ended up with far too many last year.

After I’d planted all that lot I had to decide where to put the dwarf sunflowers (which weren’t even on the plan!) One of Louis’ alliums from last year has come back, right in the middle of what was the onion bed, so I thought it might be nice to plant them in a line with the allium.

After last week’s blog and my mention of the dead branches on the chrysanthemum J. from Random cafe very helpfully told me I should cut back the dead branches so the plant puts all its energy into the flowers. So I took the secateaurs to it – some of the branches were really thick and tough to get through but it’s looking much nicer now.

As predicted the strawberry patch is already producing lots of fruit. I picked 5 strawberries yesterday but there are loads more that weren’t quite ripe enough to pick and even more that will be ripe in the next week or so.

The greenhouse is looking pretty empty now – only the cucumbers left and a rather sorry looking runner bean given to me by another plot holder. Not entirely sure what I’ve done to it but i’m hoping I may be able to revive it. I didn’t plant the cucumbers yesterday because they need slightly more planning than the other plants. I need to put something together for them to climb up. Last year I used the wooden frame a previous plot holder had kindly left on the plot – this seems the obvious choice to use again. A job for the coming week, because one of the cucumbers won’t be contained in the greenhouse for much longer! I’ve had to remove the top shelf to make room for it.

Here’s how I left the plot yesterday. Quite pleased with the progress thsi week. Feels good to have actually got some plants in the ground. This week will be putting the cucumber structure up and planting the cucumbers as well a lots of watering as we’re currently having very dry, sunny weather – absolutely gorgeous but not much good for keeping my plants watered!

Protect the Pumpkin!

8 weeks in lockdown, or is it 7? It could be 27 to be honest as I’ve lost all sense of time! I have woken up more than once and really had to think about what day it is.

I haven’t made very much progress on the plot since the last time I wrote (honestly, I’ve been properly lazy!) but we have been down there a few times and enjoyed the fresh air and sunshine.

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So, my new toy was a strimmer that J. from the cafe gave me. I have not, as planned used it to tidy the edges of the beds yet (told you I’ve been lazy!) but I did have a little go with it just to see what it could do and I’m sure, when I have the energy it’s going to make tidying the edges of the beds much easier.

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On one of my visits to the plot, everyone was in a bit of a panic because we were due a frost – I was totally oblivious because, although I should keep an eye on the weather, I don’t. My idea of keeping an eye on the weather is to look out the window! All the other plot holders were busy covering all their plants with everything from plastic bags to plastic boxes. This is when my utter laziness came into its own – I’d only planted one thing (the pumpkin) so I only had one plant to try and protect! I found some plastic packaging in the shed (don’t ask me why I had plastic packaging in the shed!) and some tent pegs and set about making some kind of makeshift protection for the pumpkin. This is what I came up with.

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I’d like to be able to tell you it did the job, but I’m not entirely sure it did because this is what the pumpkin looked like after the frost.

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Michelle assures me it’s not dead but, as much as I trust Michelle I have to say, I’m not entirely convinced and I’m reserving judgement for the time being. I hope it’s still alive as it’s the only pumpkin I managed to grow this year.

The strawberry patch is looking great. It’s covered in flowers which should all turn into strawberries. There are also strawberries growing already which is brilliant news. I’ve spent a bit of time weeding the strawberry patch this week as it had a lot of weeds and grass in it.

I am a huge fan of Orla Kiely so I was super excited to receive these this week. A lovely present from my friend, J. who understands my Orla Kiely obsession and wanted to cheer me up. I’ve even used one pair and got them dirty!

As mentioned before, due to my complete lack of motivation I still haven’t planted anything or even made a plan of where I’m going to plant yet so all the seedlings are still in pots either at home or in the mini greenhouse on the plot. The peppers are doing well and there are still new ones popping through. The tallest one is now around 12″ tall and I am really going to have to think about re-potting them all.

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The cucumber is doing even better and not only is it well over 12″ tall but it also has flowers.

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The greenhouse is filling up with cucumbers, cauliflowers and aubergines, and yesterday one of the other plot holders gave me a runner bean plant that she didn’t want so that’s in the greenhouse now as well.

I’ve planted the sweetpeas. Yesterday morning I felt like I should be on the plot doing something but I just couldn’t get motivated to get myself down there. I messaged Michelle and she suggested I pop down for a cup of tea with her. This was genius on her part because it got me down there and I ended up doing a bit of weeding and planting the sweetpeas. They were getting far too tall for the windowsill so they really did need to go out. I put them at the base of the trellis and I’m hoping this year they’ll stay there!

The chrysanthemum has made a great comeback after being moved. I’m not sure if I’m supposed to get rid of all the dead branches or just leave them.

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Rhubi, as ever is doing very well. I haven’t harvested anything from her recently but I think I may be able to pretty soon.

Here’s how I left the plot yesterday. Unfortunately, I had to leave in a bit of a hurry and I forgot to close the greenhouse and I didn’t water anything so I am just about to take a walk down there with Louis to put that right. I must make a plan of where I want to plant things this week and making sure the beds are ready for all the planting is a must this week aswell.

 

 

Fully Clothed Gardening

Yesterday was World Naked Gardening Day (yes, it’s definitely a thing!) but I’m sure you will all be relieved to know, I did not participate – I stayed well away from the allotment, and my clothes stayed firmly on! I went to the allotment this morning and am pleased to report, my fellow plot holders clearly felt the same as me and were also fully clothed!

The main news for me this week is, I was given this little beauty!

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It’s a petrol lawnmower and it may have changed my life! My friend, F. messaged me and asked if I’d like it as she was buying a new one. If you remember how long the grass on the paths was, you’ll understand why I jumped at the offer. F. only lives round the corner so I drove round to collect it (sticking to social distancing rules, obviously) I love it! It took me a few minutes to get the hang of it but once I did I was away. The paths went from this:

to this:

It is, by no means perfect, but I can at least now walk along the paths and still be able to see my wellies. The edges need tidying up but I’ve been given another new toy that should help me with those that I will, hopefully, be able to share with you next time. Overall a very satisfying morning at the allotment and, as an added bonus the grass cuttings are great for the compost.

We’ve had a few more seeds germinate which is great news as it means I’ll have something to plant in the next couple of weeks. Still only one pumpkin but what a pumpkin! It just kept growing so quickly I had to put a taller stake in the pot – I didn’t have a stake so I used my initiative and broke a wooden clothes hanger into a useable support. I decided today, it had just become so big it needed to be planted outside properly. Unfortunately, this meant preparing the pumpkin patch, which I still hadn’t done so I headed down to the plot this morning with only one job on my mind.

Fortunately, we’ve had a fair amount of rain over the last few days which made weeding the pumpkin bed so easy. It only took me about an hour to completely transform the bed, ready for the ladder and the solitary pumpkin plant. Very pleased with this.

I’ve decided to try the ladders again this year because I just love how they look. So, the first plant of this growing year has been planted.

I still have lots of seedlings at home on, pretty much every available windowsill. Still only 1 cucumber from the ones I planted at home but lots have popped up from the tray I sowed at the allotment.

The peppers are doing well – going to keep them inside for a little while yet as they don’t like the cold.

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The cauliflowers seem to have come from nowhere. At one point I thought I was only going to have one plant but, all of a sudden loads started popping through the surface and yesterday I had enough I was able to share them with the cafe volunteers and put the rest in the greenhouse.

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We have an allium! It’s one of Louis’ rogue ones that he planted in the onion bed. Still quite small but looking forward to when it really shows us what it can do as they are just beautiful.

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Talking of flowers – the dahlia from last year looks like it will be making another appearance. There are definite new shoots coming through and today Michelle gave me 2 tiny little dahlias she’d grown from seed to go with it. I tried to remember how big the original plant grew last year to leave enough space but, knowing me I will have either wildly over or underestimated and they’ll end up growing on top of each other or look like they’ve taken social distancing to the extreme.

The sweet peas are doing really well on the windowsill at home and will soon be ready to plant out on the plot. I still have the trellis up ready for them and I’ll keep a close eye on them this year to make sure helper no. 2 doesn’t dig them up as weeds!

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As huge amounts of people take up growing their own plants during the lockdown, I am so grateful to have my little allotment. It’s a space we can go to when we feel cooped up in our flat that provides us with fresh air, physical exercise and peace and quiet (as well as food!) My mental health has definitely benefitted from having it, both before and during the lockdown period. Here’s how I left my little calm space this week.

Jobs for next week include weeding the remaining beds and tidying up the edges of the paths with my new toy!

 

 

Happy Birthday, Michelle!

As we enter week 5 of lockdown we have definitely found a routine (of sorts) – Louis’s mainly consists of sleeping and eating with the odd personal training session thrown in, while mine is a mixture of collecting food for the cafe and the food bank, shopping, my daily exercise class, and the allotment. I am still only visiting the allotment about twice a week and Louis generally only sets foot outside the flat at the weekend, either to come to the allotment or walk to the shop. Today marks the end of the Easter holidays and the day, under normal circumstances, Louis would be heading back to college for his final term. I have to be honest and admit we have seriously struggled to do any sort of college work even before the Easter break but, today I’ve convinced Louis to take up an art challenge set by his college tutor. After some careful questioning, I have ascertained it’s ‘Monsters Versus Aliens’ – he is, quite clearly watching far too many DVDs!

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Those of you in the UK will know we have had beautiful sunshine for most of the 4 weeks we’ve not been allowed outside (typical!) I thought it would make it more difficult (all that lovely weather we can’t make the most of) but actually, the few days we’ve had when it’s been overcast I have found harder to cope with. As far as I’m concerned bright sunshine makes everything a little more bearable and, of course, it means we can visit the plot. I’ve managed 3 visits this week and Louis just the one. He spent most of the time in the shed but he did venture out with a spade at one point (it was very fleeting, I didn’t manage to capture it) and he watered a few beds (which I did manage to photograph)

I’ve been busy with all the seeds this week. I re-potted most of the aubergine plants and took them to the cafe to share with the volunteers and the customers. These are all I have left now but as there are 11 seedlings I think I should have enough!

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If you’ve managed to take a walk around your local streets over the last few weeks you can’t fail to have noticed all the rainbows in people’s windows. So, we thought we’d join in. I have a wonderful die cutting machine on which I was able to cut these fab rainbows. I made 4 for us and I sent some to friends. I cut them in sticky vinyl so I could stick them to our windows. I love them and, hopefully people walking past will enjoy them too.

The pumpkin (still only one I’m afraid) is doing brilliantly. So well, in fact, I had to re-pot it this week. I’m going to leave it in the pot on the windowsill at home for a little while yet as I still need to prepare the bed it will go in on the plot. I’ll use the ladders like I did last year although with just one pumpkin plant it’s going to look a bit empty.

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As Louis has been stuck in the flat, I’ve been trying to do things to brighten his days. While searching online for some shampoo bars, I came across these shark bath bombs. Louis absolutely loves sharks but is not the biggest fan of baths so I thought this would be just the thing to convince him to wash! He loved them and had great fun pretending the shark had bitten his arm. They’re from a company I follow on Instagram called Soul and Soap and, not only did Louis have fun with them, they smelt absolutely amazing.

It was lovely to see the pear and apple tree blossoming and the first signs of the fruit starting to appear. There were also plenty of bees buzzing around.

Nothing yet from the organic cucumbers and the yellow courgettes in the shed and still only one cucumber and cauliflower at home.

The sweetpeas and peppers, however, are doing amazingly well. There are too many peppers for me so, like the sunflowers and aubergines, I’ll re-pot them and share them at the cafe. The sweetpeas are all mine though, as I didn’t manage to get any last year (you may remember helper number 2’s over-enthusiastic weeding!) They’re getting pretty tall so I’m not sure how long I can keep them on the windowsill before I’ll have to plant them out and let them grow up the trellis.

Rhubi is still doing well. I left her alone this week so no crumble for us.

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I was surprised to see lots of flowers in the strawberry bed. Not sure why I was surprised as it’s the right time of year for them but I was. The strawberry bed has really spread out – it’s probably twice the size from when I first planted it so I hope that means I can look forward to twice the amount of strawberries!

It was Michelle’s birthday last week so when I met her on the plot on Sunday morning I took a surprise for her. (A socially distanced) Happy Birthday, Michelle!

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In between eating the cakes on Sunday, I also tackled last year’s potato bed. It was covered in weeds and I should have made a start before now as I have another 2 beds to weed and dig over to be ready to plant out. This took me about an hour so I’m hoping the other beds will be as straightforward so I can be ready for all the new plants (mainly aubergines at this point!)

Here’s how I left the plot this week. This week’s jobs are to weed the remaining beds and have a tidy up ready for all the lovely planting although, at this point, I’m not entirely sure what I’ll have to plant!

Ladybirds and Lockdown

We are about to start week 4 of lockdown in the UK and we’ve started to find a rhythm to our weeks. I have my exercise class most mornings at 9 and Louis has his personal training sessions on Monday and Thursday afternoons – all done via video calls and I’m trying to use all the time in between wisely. We’ve been to the allotment a couple of times since my last post, mainly to have a break from being cooped up inside and for some fresh air. I’ve done a bit of weeding and collected some more seeds to plant at home. We also had another cuppa at the table with Michelle. No broken mug for me this time! I ordered a beautiful enamel mug online so even if I drop it (which I will!) it won’t break. Perfect for the allotment.

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Rhubi started bolting! I’ve obviously been neglecting her because by the time I noticed this had happened!

I remember reading about this last year and it’s possibly due to not having enough water which would make sense as it has been pretty dry here over the last few weeks. So, I pulled off the stalks with the potential flowers and gave her a good drink. It’s currently raining, so that should help.

After I’d removed the flowering stalks I harvested some stalks to make a crumble. I added peaches and blackberries to it and we had a lovely pudding which lasted us a few days.

This is how Rhubi looked when I left her yesterday.

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I’ve planted more seeds. I spent some time on the plot planting yellow courgettes and cucumbers. I’ve left them down there as I’m running out of windowsill space at home!

The miniature sunflowers have been growing beautifully. I re-potted them this week and shared them with the volunteers and customers at Random Cafe yesterday. I kept a few for myself which I’ll plant on the plot in a few weeks but, for now they are on my balcony.

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I’ve also planted sweet peas – hopefully they’ll survive Helper No. 2 this year! I planted them a week ago and already they’ve germinated and I can see some growth. These will go by the fence to grow up the trellace when they’re ready. Thank you Michelle for the seeds.

My kitchen has, temporarily turned into my potting shed! This is what it looked like this morning while I was planting some lettuce seeds.

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I still only have one cucumber seedling and one pumpkin, but just look at the pumpkin!

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The aubergine seeds seem to have all germinated at once! They took a while to do anything and I thought they weren’t going to, so I planted a few more and now there are LOADS of them! Hopefully, I’ll be able to share these too because I am definitely not going to have enough room for all these plants on the plot. A job for next week is to re-pot these. These photos were taken a week apart.

The peppers are also doing really well. One, in particular, appears to have had a burst of energy and has outgrown the rest by some distance. Again, there are far too many plants for me to use on the plot so it will be a case of sharing with anyone who wants one.

I’ve seen lots of ladybirds on the plot this week – none of them getting up to any shenanigans this time! I even brought one home with me.

Here’s what the plot looked like when I left it yesterday. Not much happening apart from the grass needing a flippin good cut!

During this time we are immensely grateful to all the keyworkers who are continuing work to keep us safe and carry out essential services. The first photo is a note my mum has on her front door, the second is a poster Louis coloured in and the third is a very unexpected present I received this week (from a key worker).

Thank you xx

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#stayhome #staysafe

I can’t quite believe how much has changed since my last blog post. This global pandemic has had an impact on all our lives in so many ways it’s almost unbelievable. It’s certainly surreal. I’m going to continue to publish these blog posts, partly to keep things as normal as possible for me but also as a way of documenting how this pandemic has affected our lives. I may publish more often than I normally do, I may publish less often, I don’t know yet because I, like all of us can only take this one day at a time.

As per government guidelines I am still able to visit the allotment every day if I wish. However, I genuinely believe just because you can do something does not mean you should, so we have only been on the plot twice since the lockdown. The last day we were there was a beautifully sunny day. Michelle was there as well. Michelle and I usually go for a cuppa after working on our plot but we, obviously can’t do that at the moment so, instead, we had a socially distant cuppa at the allotment table. I even took some homemade cookies. It was so lovely to sit in the sunshine and forget the world for a little bit.

And if you’re wondering why I was drinking from a broken mug – I dropped it on the way to the allotment but it was the only one I had so it was that or nothing!

The wedding in Devon (which feels like such a long time ago!) was beautiful. The hotel was lovely with the most amazing views. We had booked to stay from Monday through to Friday but we ended up heading home on Thursday as by then all the shops were starting to become low on stock and lots had closed.

Also, it was raining!

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I’ve planted lots of seeds at home. My windowsills are now almost completely covered in seedlings – who needs ornaments? So far I’ve planted aubergines, miniature sunflowers (if you’ve never seen these just wait, they’re super cute) peppers (of course) pumpkins, cauliflowers and cucumbers. I love watching them grow and check them each morning to see if any more have appeared.

The cucumbers have only just made an appearance today – well, I say cucumbers, I mean one single, solitary cucumber. I loved growing the cucumbers last year and we eat a lot of cucumbers in my house so I hope some more start to appear soon.

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The aubergines took a while to get going but seem to be making up for their slow start.  We’ve gone from 2 last Thursday to 11 today, nearly a week later.

Peppers are another favourite for us. Like the aubergines, they seem to be making a slow start. One seedling popped through the soil about a week ago and another one appeared this morning. Look closely – you can just see it.

It’s safe to say the miniature sunflowers are doing the best so far. I planted these before we went to Devon. They’re growing so quickly.

21st March was World Down’s Syndrome Day. I normally hold a coffee morning at my house but this year, as it fell on a Saturday we were going to hold it at Random Cafe. Obviously this couldn’t go ahead but it didn’t stop Louis and I rocking our socks!

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This is now the 2nd week of lockdown and so far we have watched a live shark and turtle feeding from Plymouth Aquarium, joined in with a singalong with Electric Umbrella (look them up – they’re amazing!) done a bit of homework (not much!) Louis has had a visit from a shark and a panda, we’ve had personal trainer and exercise classes via video link, I joined in a virtual pub quiz, we had a virtual pub session and I’ve done lots of cooking!

Here’s what the plot looked like when we left it at the weekend.

Our walk to the allotment takes us past our local pub so I’d like to leave you with this photo of the front of the pub. Stay safe x

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Seedlings and Signs of Spring

I haven’t been down to the plot much since my last blog post –  there’s so little to do down there at this time of year. Couple that with all the rain we’ve had so far this year and there’s little point in going down there.

So  I’ve just been going down there to top up the compost bins, and the last couple of times I’ve been able to hang around for a while and enjoy the peace and quiet, and fresh air. If I’m forced to self isolate because of Covid-19 I can see me retreating to my allotment quite a lot – at this time of year there’s never anyone there so I’d be on my own!

I harvested all the leeks last weekend. I hadn’t planned on digging them all up – I only dropped by to take the kitchen scraps but it was a nice day so I decided to have a bit of a potter which turned into digging up all the leeks. I haven’t actually made anything with them yet but they’re all prepared and ready to go when I need them.

As you can see, the spring onions are still in the ground but I’m going to have to dig them up soon too, before they go to seed.

I’ve continued with the DIY at home. This time it was the bathroom. I totally forgot to take any before photographs but the walls were white before I started and now they’re grey. I’m pleased with it.

The main allotment news is, I have (finally) started planting seeds! I know I am miles behind most people but better late than never I guess. So far I’ve planted pumpkins, lettuce, cucumber, pepper and aubergine. I was super excited to see some little seedlings this morning!

And even more excited to see how much they’d grown by this evening! These are miniature sunflowers seeds, given to me by Michelle – thank you Michelle.

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My window sills have now been completely taken over by seeds – which, I believe is the absolute best use for window sills!

I haven’t yet taken my 2 helpers to the plot this year as it’s just been far too wet and miserable (even I’m not that mean to make them work in the rain!) I saw a post on social media this week from our local cake shop – they’d made 150 cupcakes for a local charity event, but due to the Covid-19 scare the event was cancelled. This meant they were left with the 150  cupcakes. They did something really positive – they offered the cakes, via the social media post to anyone who wanted to stop by and collect some, for a donation to the local charity. What a great idea! I popped in with my 2 helpers and picked up these absolutely gorgeous cupcakes.

We’ve had a really mild winter and, because of the lower temperatures a ridiculous amount of rain. So much rain, infact I can’t actually move the water butts as planned because they are all nearly full!

We’re definitely coming out of winter and moving in to spring. The pear and apple trees are starting to blossom, which I absolutely love.  It’s always so lovely to see signs of spring as it means we’re heading towards longer and warmer days.

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I’m very aware I haven’t updated you on Rhubi for a while and I know she has some keen followers. She’s doing very well. You might remember I cut her right back at the end of autumn, as per the instructions in my gardening books. I didn’t cover her this year as it didn’t feel cold enough and, as ever she’s done me proud and made a strong come back.

These photos are a week apart so she’s not doing so bad.

We’re off to a wedding in Devon this week so I won’t be able to make it down to the plot again until next weekend. I’m going to have to leave the seedlings to fend for themselves for a couple of days but I’m sure they’ll be fine.

This is what the plot looked like when I left it today. The grass needs cutting and there are weeds everywhere so lots of work to look forward to!