Pumpkin and Peppers

Yes – I have actually managed to grow something! The (one and only) pumpkin is doing well and I think it’s safe on the rung of the ladder so, with a bit of luck (and gravity!) it won’t be eaten by anything. As you can see from the photos it’s currently a very dark green. It’s been such a long time since I grew…well, anything I’m not sure if it will eventually turn orange or stay green. I guess we’ll find out.

So, that’s it really – join me next time for another thrilling update!

Oh, ok then, I’ll tell you what else is happening but brace yourself, this could all get far too exciting for some of you!

First of all the cucumbers. I’ve had quite a few cucumbers off the 4 plants so far, however today I had to dig up 2 of the plants as they were decidedly dead. So, only 2 plants left. If I’m honest I probably have enough cucumbers now so if they don’t produce any more I won’t be that sorry.

I’ve had to dig up the kale and the broccoli. The kale had been eaten to within an inch of its life and the brocolli really wasn’t doing very much so I decided to just cut my losses and dig them up. They went in the compost bin so they are at least going to be some use eventually (because they weren’t any flippin use in the ground!)

This morning was beautifully sunny so I met Michelle on the plot for what we laughingly call ‘work’ (‘work’ mainly involves drinking tea and chatting until we feel we should really get up and do something – basically it’s lots of tea breaks with short bursts of work in between!) I’m sure Michelle gets so much more done when I’m not there to distract her. Anyway, in between the tea breaks this morning I pulled up all the dead sunflowers and put them in the compost and moved the gladioli from where the water butts are eventually going, to the new flower bed. (I know the last photo doesn’t really show the gladioli in their new bed very clearly but I forgot to take a proper photo of them)

Aswell as the pumpkin I also have a squash. I’m almost embarrassed to mention it or call it a ‘squash’ because, technically it isn’t (yet!) It’s like a little baby, potential squash. I thought it was the only one I had but Michelle spotted another baby, potential squash this morning so I have 2 possible squashes (See! I told you this could all be a bit much for some of you. I really hope you’re all ok!) First photo was a week ago – it hasn’t grown much has it?!

Rhubi is doing marvellously. I’m not allowed to harvest her now (for some reason that I’m not even going to pretend to understand) She’s absolutely enormous and I know I worry about her every year and every year she’s absolutely fine but I need to start thinking about what I do with her over winter. I seem to remember cutting her right back and covering her up. It seems such a shame not to be able to harvest the stalks at the moment.

When I was able to harvest Rhubi I used the stalks to make rhubarb gin. Then I used the gin infused rhubarb to make rhubarb cake which has gone down very well with the volunteers at Random Cafe (last week we all got quite giggly after eating it!)

I also have some baby peppers! Can you contain your excitement?! I did warn you! The 2 plants have survived but only one of them has any peppers on it, but it has lots. Unfortunately, turning up so late in the growing season they now have no time at all to grow anywhere near big enough and they certainly won’t have enough time to turn red.

So, after a not very productive week, here’s how I left the plot today. No plans, as such for next week. Just wondering how many plants will survive?!

Flowers…but not much else!

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything and lots has been happening on and off the plot. If you talk to any gardener at the moment they will probably tell you this year has been a bit of a funny one. Everything seems to be really slow if it’s growing at all. We’ve had unusually hot weather and not enough consistent rain which has confused everything. All this is to explain why I have almost nothing growing on the plot – getting my excuses in early!

Let’s start with something that is growing! The cucumbers. They got off to quite a slow start and I lost the first plant but they’ve had a bit of a growth spurt in the last few weeks and I’ve even had some cucumbers off them which is reassuring because I’d be really worried if they started producing aubergines! Cucumbers are one of those plants, along with courgettes that feel like the fruits just suddenly appear out of nowhere. One day you look and there’s nothing and you go back a few days later and there’s a fully grown cucumber.

The pumpkins are also doing really well all of a sudden. Again, they seemed to take ages to do anything at all and they’ve finally decided to grow. I have a fairly large fruit on there now and lots of flowers. Every time I visit the plot the plant has grown visibly and I have to wind it round the ladder which seems to be working really well this year.

We spent a few days in Leeds a couple of weeks ago, visiting my sister and her family. We spent most of the time relaxing in her garden but we did visit a garden centre one morning where I finally got round to buying some flowers for the plot – weird that it took a 4 hour drive to buy them but as we know if there’s a hard way to do something I’ll find it. I’m not even sure I can remember what I bought. I think one’s a geranium. I couldn’t decide where to plant them so they’ve been sitting in their pots since I brought them home. When I was on the plot this weekend I noticed one of them had started to flower so I felt I really needed to get them out of their pots. I decided the best place for them would be in the empty cauliflower bed. I’m hoping to move the gladioli there aswell and just make that a flowerbed.

Talking of flowers, the sweetpeas have finally flowered! I was almost losing hope this would ever happen. They seemed to be growing taller each week but with no flowers – so at long last we have flowers (which was sort of the point of planting them!)

This is clearly the week for flowers as there are also a few flowers on the strawberry plant – and we all know what flowers on the strawberry plant means – strawberries! Hopefully there’s still time for them to grow before the season’s over.

The purple sprouting brocolli is definitely not flowering or whatever purple sprouting brocolli does – sprouts? Anyway, it’s neither flowering nor sprouting which has been a massive disappointment as it seems to have survived being brutally attacked by anything with teeth since I planted it but all we have so far are lots of leaves and nothing else. Never mind, I’m not taking responsibility for this one as it’s been such a bad year for everything I’m simply going to blame the weather (tune in next year to see what I’m going to blame my terrible gardening skills on when next year’s brocolli still doesn’t grow! I’m joking of course, I won’t be growing flippin brocolli next year.)

More flowers – this time on one of the pepper plants but, surprise surprise no peppers. I really thought putting the cloche over them to create a mini greenhouse would help them grow but it doesn’t seem to have worked. Even if the flowers produce peppers now, it’s a bit late for them to have much growth and there’s definitely not time for them to turn red. So another disappointment this year.

I spent a couple of hours at the allotment yesterday afternoon – more to spend some time outside away from the flat, so I spent quite a lot of time just sitting in the sunshine watching the birds but as I was there I felt I should at least do something. I ended up clearing the far corner of the extension. If I’m honest it wasn’t a particular priority as the squashes have died (shocking I know!) so they don’t need the room but it gave me something to do and it looks much nicer now it’s done. I totally forgot to take any before photos, I guess because I didn’t really realise there was going to be an ‘after’ but you can see how much I cleared from the pile of cuttings I added to the compost.

So, here’s how I left the plot this week. No actual plans for next week – possibly doing some sort of plant growing dance round the plot to encourage the plants to do something – anything!

Face Masks

Big news this week in the UK is masks. As of Friday face coverings are compulsory in shops. I have a few – some I’ve bought and some have been made for me and I’m happy to wear them whenever I’m required to. My sister, who has always been great at sewing made Louis a very cool Avengers mask. I was really worried about convincing Louis to wear a mask but he was very happy to put on the Avengers one  – at one point I even had to tell him to take it off when we came out of the shop.

Not really any big news from the plot this week. We’ve had a lot of rain and a bit of sun which has meant  the pumpkin has nearly reached the top of the ladder which has pleased me no end. No flowers on it yet but the way things have been growing this year I’m happy with anything right now! These 2 photos were taken only a few days apart.

The cucumbers have also had a growth spurt but, unlike the pumpkin they have flowers. The tiny cucumber I spotted last week has grown and is now quite big. It definitely looks like something out of Roald Dahl’s BFG but I know from growing them before they taste great no matter what they look like. I was hoping the plants would find the trellis and start climbing up them but they didn’t so I’ve had to attach them with string.

Sadly, I’ve had to dismantle the cauliflower protection and clear the bed. The cauliflowers had been eaten so much there was only stalks left so it was just a waste of space keeping them. I’m not sure if it’s too late to put something else in the bed but I’m thinking flowers. Michelle has lots of flowers on her plot – loads of dahlias which I love (my one has all but disappeared) and marigolds. Her plot looks so colourful and happy so I may look for some flowers I can plant now that will add some colour as we go into Autumn. Ooh, allotment shopping – my favourite!

It doesn’t look like I’ll be getting many more strawberries from the strawberry bed this year. The bed has grown so much since I first planted it and it continues to produce runners so, instead of just pushing them back into the bed to stop the bed spreading even further I decided I would try to make some new strawberry plants. I had a quick read up of what I needed to do and it’s fairly straightforward. I picked some pots from the shed and filled them with compost. I then placed them next to the strawberry bed and put the new runners into them. Hopefully the runners will establish themselves in the pots and I can then cut them from the main plant. They recommend you do this every year or so to ensure you have a steady stream of new plants as strawberry plants only last around 3-4 years before you need to replace them. Make the most of this – one of the very few times you will find me doing anything so organised and forward thinking!

The cloches seem to be doing their jobs quite well. One of the tiny peppers has definitely been eaten by something (no dount a flippin slug!) but the leaves have all survived and the kale and brocolli seem to be doing ok too.

The peppers in mum’s greenhouse are doing really well. We still have the 2 peppers, both are growing well. The cucumbers are growing tall – not many flowers but one tiny cucumber (yay!) and the aubergine is looking great with a few flowers.

I still have one of my pepper plants on my kitchen windowsill, just as a bit of an experiment to see which ones do the best. So far, it’s definitely the greenhouse, although the one on the windowsill isn’t doing too bad either – it has quite a few tiny little buds which will, with a bit of luck turn into peppers. Depending on how well they do inside I may decide to grow all my peppers indoors from now on – stops the bloody slugs getting to them!

Nothing to harvest this week apart from some blackberries. I’ve not made anything with them, so far I’ve been eating them as they are – they’re so tasty. We’re off to Leeds next week to visit my sister and I think I’ll take her some rhubarb as Rhubi is ready to harvest again.

This is how I left the plot this week. Not sure if I’ll make it down there next week as we’re off to Leeds to visit my sister – it may just be a flying visit to pick some rhubarb. So I don’t have any plans for the coming week for the plot, it will just have to cope without me!

Fortresses

So, the last time I wrote I had lost almost all my plants to pesky slugs (or whatever) and was seriously considering giving the whole thing up as a bad job – I know I didn’t actually write that but I was defintely thinking it. Things have improved slightly since then and I no longer want to give my plot up but I am still annoyed at the slugs! They are still eating everything in sight but only on my plot it would seem – if I could insert an emoji here it would be the rolling eyes one.

The new cloche turned up. It was exactly the same as the other one so it was super easy to put together – I’ve put it over the peppers. As I mentioned before the idea of the cloche was to give the peppers a bit of heat to help them grow, but the cloche is now having to do the extra job of being a protective barrier against the flippin slugs.

Michelle gave me the idea of piling up some soil round the edges of the cloches to, basically seal them and thereby stop anything from crawling under any gaps. I like this idea so I’ve done it to both cloches – there is nothing getting in there I can promise you. There’s nothing getting out either though so if there were caterpillars already in there before I piled the soil up round them, they’ll be having a field day by now!

I don’t normally use slug pellets – I prefer not to kill hedgehogs, BUT I felt using them in the sealed cloches was pretty safe as any hedgehogs that come snuffling round for slugs wouldn’t be able to get into the cloches to eat the slug pellets. So I sprinkled slug pellets – fairly liberally it has to be said, in both of the cloches. I’m really hoping with all these measures I’ve put in place my peppers might actually survive.

The cucumbers are finally starting to do something. A few flowers have appeared in the last week and I spotted a tiny cucumber when I was there on Friday. Everything seems to be taking ages this year – not sure if it’s actually taking longer than usual or if it just feels like it due to lockdown, either way I’m starting to get a bit impatient as I just want to see it all growing!

I noticed lots of ripe blackberries when I was on the plot on Friday. Michelle had a very convenient kilner jar (you’d think she’s done this before) which she filled, I found an old mushroom tray in the shed (you all know, despite having done this before I’m still not organised enough to have proper containers!) which I filled with blackberries. I also spotted some apples which hadn’t yet been eaten by anything which I picked before anything could attack them. Michelle and I both made crumbles – Michelle an apple one, me an apple, blackberry and peach one.

Mum’s greenhouse is doing amazingly well. I checked it on Sunday and I can’t quite believe how big all the plants are. There are flowers on the cucmber plant and I didn’t notice when I was there but in the photo you can see a tiny cucumber. The aubergine plants have flowers and are so much taller than the ones on the plot. And the pepper plants now have 2 peppers growing with the potential for lots more. Overall, the greenhouse is winning!

Nothing from the strawberries this week – I feel they may have peaked. I’ve noticed a few flowers recently so I may be able to harvest a few more strawberries but it won’t be many and, of course the strawberry bed is open to the elements (and the slugs) so my hopes aren’t high we’ll have any more fruit from it.

The pumpkins seem to be hanging on in there with a couple of flowers but not much else happening. I’ve seen people on Instagram pollinating their pumpkins but I really don’t understand what they’re doing (I thought the bees did all that) so I’ve left mine to their own devices. The original one still looks a bit ropey but it has a couple of flowers on it so it might be ok.

It’s a slightly better story with the squashes – they’re look pretty healthy but they’re still not doing much. Only one flower and nowhere near the amount of growth I would have expected by now. I hope all these plants realise pretty soon, we’re well into July!

I don’t even want to mention the cauliflowers – I’m pretty sure I’m no longer allowed to call them cauliflowers anymore. All that netting and they were still eaten by something. I probably should clear that bed and put something else in there but I’m not sure I have the amount of optimism it would need to plant anything at the moment!

Rhubi hasn’t let me down. I think harvesting her a couple of weeks back has done her good because she looks better than ever.

As ever, a couple of shots of how I left the plot this week. We’ve had a bit of rain so it’s all looking fairly lush and green – I just wish something would grow!

Marauding Beasts (and where to find them)

Michelle and I finally managed a full day on the plot in the sunshine. We were there from around 9am until around 4pm – Louis even joined us! We stopped for lunch (I nipped out to the local chippy) but, apart from that we spent the day working hard.

There were A LOT of chips!

I spent the day moving the compost bins. I think, the last time I wrote I was thinking about moving them and had cleared a space for them. Well, it turned out to be a much bigger job than I’d anticipated and it took me almost the whole day to finish the move. I thought it would be a simple case of just (don’t you love the word’ just’ – one of the most misused words in the English language!) lifting the bins off and shovelling the compost across to the new spot. It wasn’t!

The first bin – the one that’s been in situ the longest, was very full, much more full than I realised, and the bin just would not move. So I had to take some of the contents out before I could even think about moving it. There was compost in there! I know I shouldn’t be surprised – it is a compost bin afterall, but I really am! And there wasn’t just a bit of compost, there was loads – enough to mulch the whole plot when it needs it. I was also surprised at the amount of worms in there (I know – it’s literally how compost works but this is all new to me so allow me my surprise!) So, I emptied the first bin enough to lift it off and move it to its new spot.

I was left with the remaining contents of the bin to move. As you can see from the photo there was still quite a lot of uncomposted paper etc in there but the process of moving the contents meant they all had a good mix up which will help it all decompose. The second bin, having not been there as long was a much simpler job. Both bins are now in place in their new homes and I’ll be concentrating on filling the 2nd bin from now on. Hopefully, by the end of this season I’ll have enough compost to cover the whole plot with a thin layer of compost as a mulch.

The compost bins in their new home

Once I’d moved the bins I realised, despite having cleared a space for them, the area immediately around them was pretty overgrown so, of course I set about clearing that aswell! I think it looks much better and I’m really happy with where the compost bins are now.

Since then we haven’t managed another full day on the allotment just the normal couple of hours at a time and I haven’t done anything as large scale as move compost bins unless, of course you count making rhubarb gin! I hadn’t harvested the rhubarb for ages so I felt it was time to take a few stalks. I toyed with the idea of a crumble until I remembered I still had the bottle of gin I’d bought last year to make the first batch of rhubarb gin so, of course gin wins over crumble! If I remember correctly, last year’s offering was very strong as I’d left it fermenting for ages so this time I made a note of when I put the gin in and I’ll leave it the suggested 4 weeks this time.

I spent the morning on the plot today and came away feeling a bit disheartened. I completely lost all 5 pepper plants – eaten down to the stalks, one of the kale is almost gone, the broccoli has been eaten as have all the cauliflowers and I have no idea what’s happened to the chard – only about 3 plants left. Proper miffed!

I knew the peppers were likely not going to last so I’d already bought some replacements from a local selling site. I’ve planted 2 on the plot and have kept one at home to see if I have better luck inside away from everything that can eat it. I’ve also ordered another cloche to cover the peppers on the plot. The idea of this was more about giving them a bit of heat but it will, hopefully also protect them from slugs (or marauding beasts as I’m now calling them)

Oh, and the spinach bolted so that’s gone aswell!

All in all it feels like I’m not having very much luck at the moment. There are some bright spots though, the cucumber plants are doing well – no flowers yet but lots of growth and the pumpkin plants have flowers and are spreading out nicely.

I’m doing so much better with flowers. The sunflowers are looking great and most of them have multiple flower heads. The sweetpeas seem to have found their feet and one of them is noticeably taller having finally found the trellis!

We also have surprise gladioli (the best kind!) I told you I was doing well with flowers. These were the original flowers Michelle gave me way back at the start of all this and they’ve suddenly appeared again in front of the water butts. Not the best place for them to be fair but it’s where I originally planted them so I only have myself to blame. They look amazing and they’re so tall I’ve had to stake them today.

It looks like I’m going to have a bumper crop of blackberries – so, the one thing on the allotment I haven’t touched is doing really well. I think that says it all really! I didn’t cut the brambles back much this year so there are absolutely loads of blackberries and some of them are nearly ready to pick.

Finally, mum’s greenhouse. We popped over there today to have lunch with her in the garden and while I was there I had a wander down to the greenhouse. It’s just amazing. It’s all growing really well. One of the aubergines has a flower and the cucumber plants are getting enormous with, what look like potential flowers on a few of the plants. The pepper plant has an actual pepper! There’s hope for home grown peppers this year afterall.

So, here’s how I left the plot this week. Feeling a bit fed up that so many plants have been chomped but still hopeful I’ll end up with something (anything!) At least I have my compost.

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.