Week 67 – Strawberries and Sunflowers

Another week of flying visits but, even so things are definitely starting to happen on the plot.

If I’m honest I wasn’t in the best of moods at the start of the week and I took it out on a blackberry bush which was in the wrong place – the wrong place for me, I suspect it was quite happy where it was growing. I spent a good half hour digging up the roots of this thing and I sort of felt a bit better when I’d finished. Dan, very bravely I thought (I still had the fork in my hand and I’d already told him what sort of a mood I was in!) pointed out to me, after I’d finished digging that all I really needed to do was keep cutting it back to the ground and, eventually it would die.  I pretended to be cross with Dan for not pointing this out to me BEFORE I’d started to dig but, actually, as I’m slowly learning gardening, for me is far more about the process than efficiency. I have no doubt it would have been far quicker to follow Dan’s (just in time to be too late!) advice and remove the blackberry bush without digging down (quite a long way!) to find the whole root but that digging served another purpose for me. It gave me something to do, it gave me a sense of achievement and it was physically hard work – all, in my opinion good for mental health and overall wellness. So, while I appreciate all the good advice I’m given to try and help me save time, I will probably continue to muddle along in my own slow way gaining lots of benefits (not just fruit and veg) as I go.

We have the beginnings of our first strawberries – thank you, Michelle for the very kind donation of the plants, they seem to be doing very well on my side of the site. I have done a bit of  research as to whether or not strawberries need straw under them and while there is by no means a consensus of opinion on it the majority of my books and websites I’ve looked at recommend it. The main reason is to keep the fruit off the ground where it is liable to rot. I was all ready to pop a layer of straw under the strawberry plants the next time I visited the plot, until I spoke to Dan! He showed me his wonderful strawberry patch (with lots of ripe strawberries already) and, right enough not a piece of straw in sight. Now I’m more confused than ever. It seems this whole gardening lark is very subjective – everyone has their own way of doing  things. I think all I can do is listen to all the advice and see what works for me.

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While I’ve been avidly watering all the plants in the mini greenhouse over the last week, I totally forgot about the tomato plant I’d bought at Waterperry Gardens, the lovely garden centre I stopped at on the way back from Oxford. I’d left it in the shed, as I knew it was still a bit cold for it to be outside. When I remembered to check it this week the pot was decidedly dry – this is why I have never, ever been able to keep a houseplant alive, I always forget to water the flippin things! I gave it a good water and decided the best place for it to stand a chance of surviving would be in the mini greenhouse, which involved shuffling a few pots around to make room for it on the top shelf – the only shelf tall enough to accomodate its height.

Talking of watering the greenhouse, I think I can safely say, after a week of it being in place, my mum’s wonderful idea with the tray of water wasn’t really that wonderful. It really sounded like it should work but having opened up the greenhouse a couple of times this week on pretty hot, sunny days the plants were quite dry. Sorry mum! I’m going to have to go back to the conventional method of actually watering my plants (or I’ll just rope Loius in!)

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I harvested Rhubi again this week and made another rhubarb crumble for Random Cafe (remember if you would like to follow the cafe on Instagram we’re ‘randomcafeuk’) Having positioned the new compost bin next to the old one, the first garden waste to go in was Rhubi’s discarded leaves. Hoping to see some compost soon from the original bin (I realise it will be quite some time before I see any from the new bin!)

Another quick visit on Thursday lunchtime. Having sought AA’s opinion on whether or not potatoes need to be ‘earthed up’ (the process in which you continually cover any protruding leaves with more soil) he was adamant they do or the potatoes will turn green due to too much sunlight. I followed his advice and set about covering all the leaves. This is an example, unusually for me when I chose the speedier (and more expensive!) option – bags of compost. To be honest, I massively misjudged how much compost the potatoes would need and had I realised before I started I probably wouldn’t have used them. I thought one, 40 litre bag would cover them – no. Two, 40 litre bags? Nope! In the end I used three bags of compost – a total of 100 litres of compost (the third bag was 20 litres for those a bit rubbish at maths!) to cover all my little potato plants.

And of course my little potato plants don’t stay little for very long. When I popped in on Friday they’d all grown through their pile of compost and needed to be earthed up again. There was absolutely no way I was using another three bags of compost (these are, already, possibly the most expensive spuds in Hertfordshire!) so I went for a more traditional approach (but more work) – trenches. This is where you dig a trench next to your line of potatoes (yes, we did plant them in lines – maybe not the straighest lines, but lines nonetheless) and the soil from the trench is used to cover the new growth. It was another hot, sunny day on Friday so it was hard work but, I hope worth.

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Based on the lack of leaves or any noticeable growth from the raspberry cane I decided to buy a new one – one which already had leaves on it! I haven’t worked out where I’m going to plant it yet so it’s currently residing in the shed in the spot recently vacated by the neglected tomato plant (hopefully I’ll remember this one is in there!) This is going to take some careful thought – it can’t go in a pot (as per GQT) but I can’t think of an obvious spot for it where it will be easily accessible. I’m sure I’ll find somewhere.

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Dan has announced he’s holding a sunflower competition on the site this year. If you remember, I grew two sunflowers last year but neither really managed to make it past the shed roof. A sunflower competition sounds like fun so when I picked up the new raspberry plant I also bought some sunflower seeds. There were 30 seeds in the packet and I’ve sown all of them! Obviously I won’t have space for 30 sunflowers (assuming they all germinate) so when they start to grow I’ll choose what look to be the strongest 2 or 3 and go with them (competetive? Me?!)

Here’s how I left the plot this week. A bank holiday followed by half term for us this week so I may persuade Louis and helper number 2 to join me on the allotment for a whole day.

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2 thoughts on “Week 67 – Strawberries and Sunflowers

  1. I think that berry canes are immortal. They ‘should’ die if they keep getting deprived of foliage, but somehow, they survive.
    Rad rhubarb. Rhubi has been busy.

    Like

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