New car!

Bit of a mixed bag weather-wise this week. We’ve had glorious sunshine and lots of rain – perfect weather for growing things really, although a couple of days were, possibly too hot. On one of the really hot days we visited mum’s to spend a bit of time in her garden and I managed to convince Louis to be my personal foot cooler by spraying my feet with the hose. He may well have earned himself a permanent job whenever we have hot weather!

While we were at mum’s I checked on the plants in her greenhouse. The cucumbers are doing so well, much better than the ones on my plot – annoyingly!

The aubergines and pepper are also doing so much better in mum’s greenhouse. The pepper already has flowers on it.

Meanwhile back on the plot we’re doing ok (no flowers on my peppers yet though) I haven’t actually done much work on the plot this week – I’ve just enjoyed it, which has been lovely. Spent a very enjoyable evening on the plot with Dan, Michelle and Louis this week.

Dan had given me some sunflower seeds the previous evening which I planted in the space behind the kale and broccoli. He asked me later if I’d planted them as per his instructions. My reply was ‘I’m going to say yes…but I mean no’ I got a facepalm emoji for that one! He’d given me some round plastic things to put in the gound to show where I’d planted the seeds. I used them but had lots of seeds left over so I told him I just shoved the rest of the seeds in anywhere. I didn’t – they’re in nice, neat rows but I know how much Dan likes nice, neat rows of plants so telliing him I’d shoved them in all over the place made me chuckle. The seeds have already started to germinate.

I finally got round to taking the new pumpkin plant down to the allotment. The original plant seems to have had a second wind so I may end up with lots of pumpkins.

One thing I did do this week was clear a piece of ground for the compost bins. The compost bins have become almost inaccessible due to the overgrown brambles, which means I really struggle to put the kitchen waste in them without becoming caught up on the thorns, which I’m sure is very amusing for anyone watching but not so much for me. So, I decided I’m going to move them. This is, obviously not going to be as straightforward as it sounds as they are both full BUT it will be a great opportunity to turn the contents, which is what I should have been doing but wasn’t – I know what you’re thinking, it’s so unlike me not to do what I’m supposed to!

I chose the spinach bed as it doesn’t have anything growing up the fence to hinder my access to the bins and there is enough room in front to be able to dig out any compost – something I didn’t really think about when placing the bins originally (not think ahead? Doesn’t sound like me at all!) So far all I’ve done is dig over the area ready for the bins to sit on – moving the bins is a job for next week. In the meantime I moved the spinach pots back into position until I work out where I can move them to.

I didn’t manage to tidy up any more edges this week but I wanted to show you a couple of the surrounding plots (Michelle’s and Dan’s) and why I’m so worried my plot looks untidy. Look how neat they look!

What is it about me and kale? The first year I tried to grow it, it was eaten to the point all that was left was the stalk and this year we may be looking at the same. Whatever is eating it hasn’t shown much interest in the purple sprouting brocolli (so far!) but it’s decimated the kale – even with the protection over it. Seriously – look at it!

The cauliflowers haven’t faired much better. Pitiful!

Rhubi hasn’t let me down though – does she ever?! I was going to harvest a few stalks on Sunday but I didn’t feel there would have been enough to do much with so I let her be. I’ll pick some next week. I’ll have a look for some new rhubarb recipes this week although I’m liking the sound of some more rhubarb gin.

Cucumbers and squashes aren’t doing very much at the moment but at least they’re not being eaten by anything so I’m grateful for small mercies!

The big news away from the plot this week is my new car! I was due to pick it up in April but, due to the lockdown it was delayed. When I collected it on Tuesday morning it had 11 miles on the clock – I took a photo when it showed 16 miles as it took me a while to work out how to show the mileage! It’s very exciting!

Here’s how I left the plot this week. The plan for next week is to move the compost bins and continue to enjoy the plot, hopefully in the sunshine.

Lions and Tigers and Bears – Oh My!

With the lockdown beginning to ease this week in the UK we’ve been able to venture outside a bit more and not just to the allotment. On Thursday we enjoyed our first day out since our trip to Devon in mid March – we went to Woburn Safari Park for the day. Unfortuantely it rained the whole time we were there but we still enjoyed ourselves and most of the animals were out and about enjoying the refreshing showers (sometimes when we visit on really hot days most of the animals are lazing around in the sunshine, it being too hot to do much else)

On the way home Louis had his last ever video call with his college class. He has now left college and is no longer in education. I feel very sorry for him as there’s been no prom, no end of year awards ceremony, none of the usual rites of passage to mark the end of his formal education. On the plus side – no more morning and afternoon school runs for me!

We have, again had quite a rainy week so not many visits to the plot. I spent a couple of hours down there on Wednesday morning – Michelle and I have been planning a whole day on the plot for a while now and still haven’t managed it. This week we were yet again scuppered by the weather – heavy rain expected in the afternoon. It was a fairly productive morning – I moved the waterbutts around a bit. I’d already swapped the original blue barrel, which had been there when I took on the plot for a proper water butt with a tap, on Wednesday I moved one of the water butts from round the back of the shed to the side. The plan is to have a row of connected water butts along the side of the shed so I have easy access to the water. Over the weekend I had to make more changes as the stand the grey butt was standing on had buckled – not what you want to see when there’s more rain expected. It was a bit of a faff but I transferred the water from the grey water butt to the green one and removed the stand. I’ll need to find something else for the grey waterbutt to stand on, probably breeze blocks but, for the time being at least I know it’s not going to topple over and waste all the carefully collected water.

This weekend was the Summer solstice and the longest day of the year. It was also the first time Louis has spent the night at his dad’s since lockdown began so for the first time in 3 months I had the night to myself. It was a beautiful evening and I wanted to spend it outside so I met Dan, one of the other plot holders at the allotment – I provided the Jack Daniels he provided the ice and the diet coke! We sat chatting on the plot until abour 11pm.

Incase you think all I’ve done all week on the plot is get drunk – I haven’t! I spent a couple of hours yesterday tidying the edges of my beds. You may remember I’ve attempted this before but I’m determined to have lovely neat edges to my beds, the same as everyone else on the site. It’s harder than it looks especially when, like me you are incapable of digging in a straight line! It was a little easier due to all the rain we’ve had but, even so, I only managed a couple of edges. I’m pleased with them though and once I’ve done all of them the whole plot will look much more tidy and uniform.

I’m still waiting for any of the chard to make an appearance. I think there may be one or two tint little shoots but they could just as easily be weeds – I’ll just have to wait and see. One of these is almost certainly a weed as they are 2 different types of plant. Look at all the stones that make their way to the surface in the rain.

I’m still unceratain about the pumpkin. Just when I think it’s a goner, new flowers appear – 2 this week. I have bought a new replacement pumpkin which looks incredibly healthy. I’ll plant it next week.

I currently have an overflow of plants in my mum’s greenhouse. She took the 2 spare aubergines, 1 pepper plant and some cucumber plants. The cucumber plants didn’t make it for some reason – they all died but I planted some cucumber seeds in the 3 remaining pots and all but one germinated! So we have 10 cucumber plants spread over 3 large pots in mum’s greenhouse. Mum will, of course produce more fruit from her plants than mine simply because she has the advantage of heat (and me to water them every few days) but I’m interested to see how they all do compared to my plants on the plot.

I forgot to zip up the kale and broccoli protection the other day and the kale’s been eaten. I don’t seem to have much luck with kale. Hopefully, if I remember to keep it all closed up it will grow back.

Here’s how I left the plot this week. The forecast is for some very hot days this coming week so I’ll probably have to do daily visits to water, might even do some more edging if I feel like it.

Shed Loads

I have, yet again left it all to the last minute to do any work on the plot this week. Unlike last week I hadn’t visited the allotment even once until this morning. In my defence, every time I’ve thought about a visit this week, it’s rained. This morning, however was bright sunshine so I headed down first thing with a plan to water and tidy and just generally bask in how lovely the plot is looking at the moment.

Jane, one of the other plot holders had other ideas though! Last week, or the week before possibly I noticed some of the felting had come off the shed roof leaving a rather large gap which was letting light through, and, of course if it can let light through it can let water through. Dan put a plea out for any spare roofing felt and Jane left a roll of it near my shed during the week. Yesterday I bought some roofing nails and adhesive which I took with me to the plot this morning. If I’m honest I was just going to leave them in the shed and think about it next week but Jane appeared and offered to help me fix the roof so I took her up on her kind offer. Neither of us knew what we were doing – Jane had seen someone fix a shed roof but that was all we had. Despite that I reckon we did an ok job. Jane painted on the bitumen adhesive and I secured the felting by banging the nails in. It all seemed to go ok apart from one hairy moment when I nearly ended up in a near full water butt when the lid I was resting my foot on (luckily just for balance) slipped!

The roof took us the whole morning and we both ended up with bitumine all up our arms, but it was well worth it. I have just had a message from Jane telling me she thinks we may have put the felting on the roof the wrong way – it should have gone along the length of the roof. I’ve had a quick look online and I think she’s right. I’m not sure either of us can face redoing it so it will just have to stay as it is.

Last week I planted the kale and purple sprouting brocolli given to me by another plot holder. I knew I needed to cover them, so I had a look online and ordered a cloche type thing. This morning I put it together. It was incredibly easy to do (unlike the roof!) and it was up and covering the plants within minutes. Very pleased with myself.

The netting cover over the cauliflowers is still standing. As I had to use two separate pieces to cover the area the overlap in the middle was a bit of a problem – I needed something to keep it closed. At the same time as ordering the cloche I also ordered some pegs to peg the netting together. Again, they seem to have worked remarkably well and I now have an impenetrable fortress around the cauliflowers!

A couple of the spinach plants are doing really well since I moved them into a shadier part of the plot. I also has 2 little seedlings in the greenhouse today which I transplanted into the oustide pots to replace the ones that didn’t make it. Hoping they’ll follow the example of the healthy plants and give me lots of lovely spinach leaves for my morning smoothies.

I really think the pumpkin’s had it. It looks worse every time I see it. I’ll see what it’s like over the next week or so but if it doesn’t perk up I’m going to have to replace it with something else – possibly another, healthier pumpkin plant if I can find one.

The plants I gave my mum are doing brilliantly. She had a couple of aubergine seedlings and some peppers. One of the peppers is just loving her greenhouse and is already looking like I may have to repot it soon and the 2 aubergine plants will definitely need to be moved to bigger pots.

What didn’t do so well were the cucumber plants I gave her. However, I planted some cucumber seeds in the pots she used for tomatoes last year and every single one of them has germinated and there were, what I think are peppers popping up in the cucumber pots which I’ve now moved in with the other peppers. Just shows how much they all like a bit of warmth.

My cucumbers are not doing quite as well as mum’s. The original, larger cucumber seems to be struggling a bit. Like the pumpkin, I’m pretty sure it’s on its last legs but we’ll see.

I haven’t been able to harvest Rhubi for a while because she just didn’t look ready. I noticed today there are lots of new shoots coming through so it looks like I may be able to harvest some stems soon.

Every visit to the plot involves a quick top up of the compost bins with kitchen scraps. Today, however due to the growth of the blackberry bushes they were a bit more difficult to access. I ended up having to almost crawl through to reach the bin I’m currently using. Didn’t think of that when I put the 2nd bin there. Although I can’t complain at all the lovely blackberries I’ll soon be harvesting.

I had this little visitor on the plot today. It jumped into my plant cuttings box and stayed long enough for me to take a photo of it. Incredibly well camouflaged.

Nothing yet from the chard bed. I was optimistically expecting to see some shoots this week but looks like I’ll have to wait a little longer.

Here’s how I left the plot this week. I think it’s looking great (despite the shed roof mistake!)

More Strawberries

I didn’t think I’d have anything to write about this week as, up until yesterday I’d only been down there a couple of times to do a quick water. I had planned to spend the day there on Wednesday with Michelle but we cancelled when Michelle checked the weather forecast and it was due to rain all day. As it turned out there wasn’t a flippin drop of rain all day which was a shame, partly because we’d cancelled our day unnecessarily but also because I was hoping the plot would have a nice soaking and the water butts would get some much needed water!

We did get some rain (and thunder and lightning – I love thunder and lightning!) on Saturday so I arranged to meet Michelle on the plot on Sunday morning which was due to be (and actually was) sunny. I hadn’t planned on doing much – it was more a case of being outside in the fresh air, not cooped up in the flat but, it turned into quite a productive morning.

The soil looked lovely after the fairly heavy rain the day before – rain always makes the plot look so vibrant (and much easier to weed!) so the plan was just to enjoy it and, maybe do a bit of weeding. In the end I did a bit more than just weeding.

Firstly, the strawberries. I am absolutely amazed at the amount of strawberries I’m picking this year. Last year was a bit of a poor show but this year we almost have too many. I almost always forget to take a container to put them in and this week was no exception. Luckily I’d taken my cup so I could have a cup of tea from my flask (which I forgot and left on the kitchen table!) so they went in there and Michelle had the overflow. I’ve been washing them and freezing them, then using them in my smoothies – yummy! Don’t they look gorgeous.

After I’d picked the strawberries I had a think about what else I can grow this year. I still have 2 spare beds – down to my awful spatial awareness and lack of planning. Last week I mentioned I had 1 spare bed left to fill but I forgot about the space between the sunflowers and the aubergines which I’m not sure counts as a bed but there is certainly enough space to put something in there. I still have lots of seeds in the shed including some Swiss Chard. I’ve never grown it before so I decided we’d give it a go. I felt the best place for it would be in the larger bed, next to Rhubi. After I started preparing the bed I remembered what Carolee said last week about putting the spinach in a shadier spot – this also meant I would have more space for the chard.

They’re definitely going to be in more shade next to the fence. This move left me with the whole bed free to plant the chard. Dan taught me an easy way to direct plant seeds last year – dig a shallow trench following a bamboo cane (have to have straight lines!) pop the seeds in and cover over. Simple! I managed to fit 4 rows of chard in the bed – maybe too much but, hopefully we’ll find out soon.

Ridiculously pleased with myself over this!

As I say, I moved the pots with the spinach in. It looked like a few of the plants didn’t make it as they looked a bit shrivelled. After I moved them I remembered the seeds I’d planted last week still in the greenhouse. My hopes weren’t high as I’m clearly not having much luck with spinach this year but, to my surprise there was one tiny little seedling just poking up through the soil! Hopefully I’ll be able to replace the dead ones and with a bit of luck (and thanks to Carolee) they’ll all survive in their new spot.

So, still one (small) bed to fill. Thanks to a new plot holder who offered me some of her spare plants I have partly filled the bed with kale and purple sprouting brocolli. Unfortunately, they’ll all need covering to stop them being eaten but I’m very grateful for the gift as finding anything to fill the gaps was proving impossible at the moment due to, I guess everyone being at home and deciding they want to start growing vegetables.

The peppers are doing ok and the dhalia is making a very strong comeback – I was really surprised to see all these green leaves as there was nothing there last week except a stump.

We had a lovely afternoon with mum on Friday. I’d ordered a takeaway afternoon tea from The Kitchen Croxley (the same cake shop the victoria sponge and chocolate brownie came from last week) When I ordered it, we were in the middle of a mini heatwave and I expected us to sit in mum’s garden, basking in the sunshine while we enjoyed our cucumber sandwiches and scones with cream and jam. I didn’t expect to have mum sit in the house while we sat in the garden wrapped in blankets!

Luckliy, shortly after we started eating, the sun emerged so mum was able to join us in the garden and we were able to discard our blankets and really enjoy our afternoon tea, which, as expected was delicious.

I think the pumpkin’s a goner! That lovely flower it had last week seems to have shrivelled and died. It’s such a shame as that was the only seed I managed to germinate. I’ll keep an eye on it this week (I gave it some plant food when I watered it yesterday which I hope will perk it up) but if it doesn’t improve I may have to call it a day and move the squashes in to its place.

The squashes, by contrast are looking great!

One of the cucumbers is looking a bit ropey too. Not sure what I’ve done/haven’t done to it but it’s another one to keep an eye on. Strangely, again it’s from the first packet of seeds where only one germinated – the other cucumbers from the second round of planting seem to be doing ok.

I’m pleased to announce the cauliflower protection stood up to the thunder and lightning. It needs a bit of tweeking which I’ll do next week but, overall I’m very happy with it. The only issue with netting over plants is it’s almost impossible to weed around them. I managed to take some photos of the cauliflowers but only by shoving the camera under the netting, pointing it in what I thought was the right direction and hoping for the best. It looks like the netting might be doing the job, as they all look, pretty much intact.

I left the plot this week feeling like I’m doing ok and happy with the way it all looks. Nothing in particular planned for next week apart from sorting out something to go over the newly planted kale and brocolli if I can.

Build It And They WON’T Come (hopefully!)

Lots going on at the allotment this week. We’ve had glorious sunshine all week which has made it very easy to spend time down there. Even Louis has joined me a couple of times.

The thing I am most proud of this week is my cauliflower protection (yes, you read that correctly!) After planting the cauliflowers last week I noticed they were being eaten by something (I suspect slugs but can’t be totally sure and while I’m not one to cast aspersions the slugs definitely have form for this type of thing so, yes, I’m blaming the slugs)

The only thing to do was to put up some kind of protective barrier. I already had some poles and netting which I used last year on the brussel sprouts (and look how well they turned out! For those who have forgotten about the brussel sprouts, I’m not surprised – there weren’t any! Despite all the elaborate protection they received, they never appeared) Anyway, putting past failures behind me, I tried to put something together with the bendy poles and the netting to try and stop whatever was eating my cauliflowers (I’m still thinking slugs) This was not as successful as it could have been. By which I mean it was an absolute disaster. I tried, I failed. The cauliflowers would have to fend for themselves until I could work something else out.

The problem was solved by chatting to Michelle. I often find solutions to problems by talking about them with someone else, and this time, Michelle was that someone else. This is what I came up with after our chat. I had to go to the garden centre to buy some bamboo canes and I bought the corner gadgets online. Oh – a quick word about garden centres. Ya know when people sometimes describe high streets on a Saturday night as ‘war zones’? Those people have, clearly never tried to make it out alive from a local garden centre just after lockdown has been eased! It was terrifying, people, don’t do it!

Very pleased with the finished structure but I have to point out I’ve spent around £30 to protect 7 cauliflowers!

The other big news this week is I have finally planted the squashes. I ended up with 4 plants all grown from seed – infact I’ve grown everything from seed this year due to having lots of time at home to look after them. I spent a couple of hours on the plot this morning and put the ladder up for the squashes to grow up. I only put 2 of the plants under the ladder, the other 2 went into the gap between the ladders. I know now how much space squashes take up so knew not to put all 4 plants round the ladder (I’m learning!) The ground was really dry what with all this sunshine so I gave the area a good water before I even thought about putting the plants in.

This has also been a great week for strawberries. Every time I visit I come home with a load. I’m not complaining as we absolutely love strawberries! Our local cake shop re-opened this week – I popped over and bought a chocolate brownie for Louis and a Victoria sponge for me. They were delicious already, the home grown strawberries were just an added bonus.

While I was picking strawberries on one of the visits, I found this!

What did I say earlier about slugs?!

The rest of the plot is doing nicely. For once I’m happy with how it looks. I planted the cucumbers this week. I used the same piece of wood I used last year for them to grow up but this year, due to having so many plants I planted some behind the structure

Even after planting all that lot I still had 3 left so they’ve gone into my mum’s greenhouse.

Totally forgot to take any photos of them after I’d planted them – I’ll take some next week.

The peppers are doing ok, as are the aubergines.

I spotted the first yellow flowers on one of the sunflowers today.

I also have the first flower on the pumpkin.

I decided what to put in the pots that had the peppers in last year – spinach. I checked and it’s fine to grow in pots so I moved the plants from the tray to the pots this morning. There weren’t many as not many of the seeds germinated but I’ve planted some more seeds and put them in the greehouse hoping I’ll have some more to fill the pots.

Overall, very happy with how I left the plot this morning. Lots of plants in the ground, only one bed left to fill – I’ll decide next week what’s going in that. Here’s how I left the plot this week.

“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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