Allotment

Beautiful Evenings on the Allotment

The weather at the moment is glorious. Blue cloudless sky and warm sunny evenings spent on the allotment is a tonic, the stresses of everyday life melt away the moment I step through the gate. I absolutely love it here and I’m just so happy to have the chance to work another plot after reluctantly giving my old plot up a few years ago.

allotment shed

The sunny stuff is set to stick around for a while and I’m not going to waste a moment of it. While it may be too hot to dig for lengthy periods of time and unworked ground is like concrete anyway, it is however perfect weather for painting. And that’s what I’ve started to do inside the shed.

Using the same colour as the outside it’s starting to look really fresh and bright compared to before. I still have a fair bit to do and more coats should finish it off nicely, then the bunting can go back up. The shelf unit from eBay needs a lick of paint too, then I can fill it with bits and bobs.

I’ll post some photos once it’s finished.

Allotment

Allotment Shed

The new shed has been in place on plot 33 for a number of weeks, I’ve even managed to paint it a lovely shade of cream thanks to the warm dry weather that’s been hanging around. The paint of choice is Country Cream from the Garden Shades range by Cuprinol. The shed needs another coat at least and there are a couple of tricky spots to do that I can’t reach without a ladder.

I’m really pleased with how it looks with the little window curtains.

I plan to paint the inside too and then add bits and pieces I have collected including a bargain shelf unit I got from eBay for £5. I couldn’t resist adding some bunting inside for now, it looks so pretty don’t you think?

It’s not all been about beautifying the shed, I have put in some hard graft on the allotment too with help from Rich to get some beds ready for planting. But first I need to put up some temporary wire fencing using hook stakes to keep rabbits and deer out.

I’m very impressed with my inherited patch of rhubarb! Plenty of pies, jams and crumble on the menu I feel, perhaps a gin tipple too, you know, for medicinal purposes and all that ;)

allotment

Plot 33 has changed so much since I got it in March, I really enjoy the visits there. At the moment I’m digging a small flower patch next to the shed, with plenty of annual flowers coming along in the greenhouse at home it’s sure to be full of colour very soon.

Allotment

Rhubarb and Raspberries

A quick update on the allotment, I have a shed arriving in a couple of weeks time! I’m so excited to have a little space to retreat for a cup of tea. I have some little curtains for the window and I think I’ve settled on a colour to paint it….but knowing me that will probably change so I’ll reveal once I’ve committed to buying a tin.

After uncovering the old shed base from the pile of rotting wood we noticed the front row of slabs had sunk, we raised them up and checked it was all level. I’ve also weeded the rhubarb patch and levelled off some of the soil to tidy it up a bit.

I said previously that I wasn’t going to cut the raspberries down because I didn’t know if they were summer or autumn fruiting, I changed my mind and gave them all the chop to be able to remove grass and weeds without running the risk of losing an eye, a small price to pay I feel. The neglected patch of raspberries now looks tidy and the new canes can grow without competing with grass and weeds, a touch more hand weeding needed to get rid of the last stubborn bits and then I’ll give it all a good mulch of compost.

raspberry bed
Raspberry pruning and weeding before and after.

Plot 33 is tucked under more tarp and sheeting for now to prevent excessive weed growth, except the rhubarb and raspberries of course. Meanwhile, I’m on the lookout for bits of wood to make some raised beds!

I’ll update again soon.

Allotment

Allotment Snooping In The Snow

Winter is not letting go just yet with more snow falling over the weekend. Nicknamed ‘Mini Beast from the East’ I’d say a tame little pussy cat rocked up to Bedfordshire (at the moment anyway, fingers crossed). Nevertheless, the ground is frozen solid once again and that means no veg garden or allotment tinkering. Humph!

This latest dusting of snow didn’t stop me from my usual trot to the allotments to snoop look at the plots and soak up inspiration. It never ceases to amaze me how allotment folk utilise items that others would simply throw out with the rubbish, we’re a frugal bunch and I love that. Something else I love about allotment life is the humble shed. Ramshackle, brand new, plain or unusual. I don’t know why I adore them like I do.

The sheds on the allotments are actually pretty tidy, being a new allotment site most of the sheds were bought new rather than being inherited down through the years, they haven’t had the time needed to become significantly weather-beaten or patched up. I’m still window shopping and deciding which shed will work best for me and my new plot, as well as planning the plot layout on paper. Very exciting!

Plot 33, bedraggled and shivering in the snow….

But I have plans, with sprinkles of love and bunting.

Allotment

Back To The Magical World Of Allotments

After giving up my allotment a couple of years ago I began to regret my decision. I miss the allotment site and the charm and character of the sheds dotted around, even the sound of trains whizzing along the track I found strangely soothing. I miss the general chit-chat weather grumbles, and being around people who, like me, have a deep need for being at one with the seasons and growing food from a slice of land. There’s just something about allotments, once you have the bug it never really leaves you.

I’m currently re-building stamina with regular walks around the village after having major surgery in January, more often than not I made my way to the allotments to soak in the serenity. I found myself enquiring and much to my delight a couple of plots were indeed available. A particular plot caught my eye and I accepted the challenge once more.

My new allotment looks daunting but in reality it’s not that bad. The plot boundary ends at the blue tarp, just before the grass path in front of my neighbour who keeps a beautifully tended plot. Plot 33 is a quirky and unloved little plot with a curved boundary at the top, in a lovely position adjacent to the community orchard. The shed that once stood has gone but the slab base still remains, currently hidden underneath a pile of old wood. I find myself day dreaming about how my new allotment shed will look in situ as well as paint colours and bunting. Ooh shed shopping!

Previous shed base
Community orchard entrance
Lovely view from my plot

I’ve inherited four tired-looking rhubarb crowns with my new allotment, I’m not sure of variety but they look like they could have red stalks. I’ll give them a good mulch and let them do their thing this year, then I can see how they perform. Dividing will help regain vigour but that’s a job I cannot do right now so it’ll have to wait until the end of the year. It appears they may have flowered last summer judging by the decaying matter around them.

There’s a plastic raised bed thingy of strawberries, a couple of gooseberry bushes and a patch of rampant raspberries of which I’m guessing are summer fruiting, I’m not entirely sure. With this in mind I think I will skip pruning this year and watch how they grow and when they fruit. Weeding and mulching a must!

Patch of raspberries

My new plot is smaller by comparison but I still have to take it easy. I certainly won’t be digging anytime soon for obvious reasons plus I’m a big fan of the no dig method which is probably the route I will take.

Plot 33 and I will slowly recover, together.

Allotment

Wordless Wednesday

pretty allotment
Ah! The wonderful long hot summer of 2014
Allotment

October Allotment Photos

allotment

I spent a lovely afternoon at the allotment yesterday. A dull and chilly day but I didn’t feel the chill working on the plot. It was a day of weeding, harvesting (carrots, potatoes and a few pumpkins) and generally mooching around in the shed, tidying up and sipping hot tea.

allotment, allotment shed, pretty allotment

allotment flowers, blue allotment shed

We’re almost half way into October and the plot still offers plenty of Cosmos for wildlife and picking, the flowers just keep going and going until a hard frost arrives.

allotment, raised beds

I have a couple of rows of potatoes still to lift and I’ll get that done before the ground freezes.

harvest potatoes

I’m very pleased with my carrots, they’re a lovely size with straight roots and the best I’ve ever grown. Putting rabbit fencing around the plot certainly helped matters. As much as I enjoy the comedy value of pulling misshapen carrots (you do get some strange and wonderful shapes), I was determined to grow some decent carrots this year. And I did, yay!

sunflower seedhead

Sunflowers hang their heads, ripe with seeds, I’ll cut the heads soon and lay them flat for birds to help themselves.

pumpkin october 14 0945 BLOG

This lovely pumpkin will be used for carving at the end of the month for Halloween! I finished painting the inside of the shed door before I left for home, I’m so pleased with the colour, it looks stunning against the colour of the Cosmos and pumpkins don’t you think? I’ve decided to paint the inside of my shed ‘Country Cream'(Cuprinol) and add a few finishing touches, some of which I sourced from artisans including lovely bunting which I just can’t wait to put up. I just need the paint and away I go!

Allotment

More Reasons To Visit My Allotment

allotment tea collage resized My dad cleared out items of his old fishing equipment recently, he doesn’t go anymore and his shed needed a sort out. He gave me his little gas camping stove to use at my allotment, I let out an excited squeal because I was all set to buy one. You can buy these gas stoves easily enough but mine is old (works perfectly), which I love. camping kettle So far I’ve used my gas stove with my camping kettle to make a mug of my favourite Mao Feng green tea when I feel the need, it’s really refreshing and warms me up when I’m feeling a bit cold or achy. Dad informs me he cooked quite a few hot meals and snacks on the stove, I’m looking forward to trying out a bit of allotment cooking now that chilly weather is upon us.

Allotment

Shed Painting

shed paint

I painted the allotment shed today. I fancied a change of colour.

The new paint is called Mediterranean Glaze by Cuprinol, I’ve admired this colour for a long while now and got the exact shade I wanted mixed in-store for me at our local Homebase. I’m really happy with the result, it’s just how I pictured it in my head and my shed will be a fantastic backdrop against spring and summer flowers next year. My creative and design juices are flowing with colour combinations whirling around in my head, one plant I must have growing near the shed next year is Salvia, for slender spires of intense violet-blue flowers. I grow Salvia in old wooden wine crates topped with pea shingle at home, which looks fantastic on the patio.

The weather turned out lovely after a frosty start to the morning, last night was cold and typical of October weather, we’ve been a bit spoilt with unseasonably mild weather for so long.

aqua shed

My shed is now ready for autumn and winter with its bright aqua armour. Because my shed is blue underneath, it’ll look interesting when the paint starts to weather.

Allotment

September Allotment Photos

allotment collage I’m coming out of my blogging hibernation, it’s been a while since I’ve visited the plot let alone post about it. And I’m feeling guilty. I trundled off to the allotment at the weekend to tackle a really difficult bed (we all have one area that’s the bane of our lives don’t we?). Brambles, bindweed, creeping buttercup and couch grass greeted me. Gah! My heart sank, but I got on with the job of clearing it of top growth and roots, digging over and topping with manure. It really helped to lift my spirits but I soon felt achy so decided to make the move home before my back give way completely. allotment flowers But before I left I took photos of the prettiest part of the plot, all the summer flowers are still in full swing including a lovely sunflower alongside tired ones. I did really well with the sunflowers this year, using seed a friend sent to me. butternut squash There’s plenty of butternut squash to harvest and little pumpkins, lovely big marrows (I grow them for the chickens mainly) and here’s my second year attempt at a giant pumpkin…. allotment pumpkin …..didn’t quite work but it’s the best size I’ve grown yet so I’m happy with that.

Allotment · Pests & Diseases

Gertcha Rabbits!

allotment wire fence

Our allotment site is fenced with chicken wire to prevent rabbits from entering from the railway and fields beyond. As predicted, rabbits are finding ways to get in, along with deer. It was soon obvious that all the plots would benefit from being fenced too, around half of the plots are now protected but those that aren’t are having problems with crops being eaten, including ours.

blue allotment shed

Last year the little fuzzy butts ate all the carrot tops (then dug some of them, up scattering them everywhere), dug a whacking great hole in the potato bed and pooped all over the plot. This year, rabbits or deer munched garlic tops down to the stalks and damaged fruit bushes. I’m all for wildlife but enough is enough!

allotment photo

Last weekend Rich and I put a fence around our plot using chicken wire and wooden posts, stapling the wire onto the edges of the raised beds and paths to stop anything from digging under. I’ve visited our plot everyday this week and cannot see any further damage. We covered the garlic over with wire frames about a month ago and it’s recovering nicely now. The funny thing is, I thought I’d hate having a fence around the plot, in actual fact I quite like it. It makes the plot feel more like our little place, without losing the feel of community gardening or shutting our neighbours out. And our crops are a little bit harder to get at.

Allotment · Grow Your Own Guides · kitchen garden

Growing Happy Carrots

carrots collage

We haven’t done very well with growing carrots at the allotment, our plot in its 3rd year of being worked (previously uncultivated land) is still quite troublesome in places due to heavy clay soil. Carrots prefer light soil, growth will become stunted if grown in heavy soil resulting in stumpy carrots come harvest time. Some of our raised beds have better soil than others, growing potatoes (helps to break up stubborn soil) and adding organic matter has helped with improving the soil structure, but not quite enough to grow carrots successfully, it seems.

Being reasonably inexpensive to buy and readily available all year round, am I ever tempted not to grow my own carrots? It’s true they are fussy little blighters when it comes to soil type, making them tricky or almost impossible to grow for some. So are they really worth my time and effort? For me, the taste of a home-grown carrot is superior to any mass-produced, shop bought, plastic bag carrot. I don’t mind them being forked (some shapes are hilarious!) and I enjoy the sensation of pulling carrots that I’ve grown from the earth, a sweet carroty aroma drifts in the air with each satisfying pull. Soft, feathery leaves sway in the gentlest breeze making carrots an attractive crop to grow. For these reasons, I think carrots are well worth growing.

carrot leaves

This year we’re determined to grow some decent allotment carrots, like these….grown in our previous vegetable garden.

carrotsharvesting carrots

To solve our heavy soil problem we identified a raised bed with soil that had improved the most and filled it right up to the top with good quality compost. Pushing my hand down into the compost to check the depth, my entire hand and wrist were buried deeply before my fingers found the heavier soil. This should be deep enough for our carrots to be happy. Finally, I covered the rows with plastic tunnel cloches to keep the soil warm, helping the seeds to germinate.

Carrots can also be grown in containers of compost, try using large plant pots or get creative and thrifty by using things like trugs, barrels, crates, toy boxes, car tyres or emptied water butts with the bottom removed. As long as the soil is light and the container is reasonably deep (don’t forget drainage holes), just place it in the sunshine and you’ll be pulling carrots of your own.

Allotment

Back on the Plot

rhubarb

The weather has been settled and sunny for many days now, a pleasant respite from the rain allowing many hours of work at the allotment to prepare the ground for sowing and planting. Rich made a couple of raised beds using the wood we recently recycled, our plot now pretty much finished with regards to the design and layout. Gone is the tarp covering the unused difficult area, the ground now workable.

blackcurrant bush

During a break from weeding and turning over the soil I noticed mounds of fresh lupin growth by the shed, the beautiful shaped leaves easily recognisable. Fat leaf buds on fruit bushes are beginning to burst open and crisp white broad bean flowers sparkle in the sunshine. A previously sleepy allotment, suddenly bursting into life.

lupin leaves

IMG_6151broadbeans Blog

Simple pleasures, just one of the reasons I enjoy gardening and the outdoors so much.

rhubarb crumble

After grafting at the allotment there’s nothing better than a warm serving of rhubarb crumble with a cup of tea, the first crumble of the year always tastes the best.

Allotment

Allotment Addicts

Allotment Addicts

Allotment Addicts is a photo sharing group on Flickr, created by little old me. If you upload photos to Flickr and love taking photos of your allotment, seedlings, harvests and of course the shed, pop along and join Allotment Addicts group and share your photos with the world!

http://www.flickr.com/groups/allotmentaddicts/

Allotment · Chickens

Recycling and Chicken Therapy

feeding chickens

A shed business adjacent to the allotments allows us to take away their scrap wood, they’re happy to let us in the yard at the back to take what we need. Today we rescued some wood from a potential bonfire, which is where the wood ends up if nobody claims it. In the yard there’s a flock of free range hens, they belong to the owners of the shed business. They’re friendly girls and followed me everywhere, I must be a chicken magnet. I enjoyed feeding them little bits of grass, they stayed close and gobbled down earthworms sheltering under planks of wood as we removed it. Clever girls.

feeding chickens

Thanks to the kind folk at the shed business we have plenty of wood to make more raised beds for our allotment, and I enjoyed spending a bit of time with their chickens. It cheered me up a bit, I’ve been feeling low ever since losing Hermione (my Columbine hen) to a heart attack yesterday. She passed away in my arms and it was the most upsetting thing to witness. She appeared healthy prior to yesterday so it was a bit of a shock.

chickens dustbathing

columbine chicken

Goodbye my princess, our garden won’t be the same without you strutting around with your fabulous hair do x

Allotment

Hello Old Friend

allotment in winter
The allotment in winter, thanks to a mild but very wet winter, the weeds are still growing strong.

The weather continues to be dreadful, not the sort to be pottering about in gardens or allotments that’s for sure. Because of the weather I’ve avoided our allotment for weeks, today I made time to look around to check how everything was bearing up. Much to my surprise the shed still stands where we built it and our plot isn’t underwater. As I stood there examining everything, I felt that I, we, and all the other plot holders have been incredibly fortunate, the whole allotment site looks remarkably good considering. I noticed weeds growing happily, I didn’t get around to completely weeding every bed and I only covered the beds where I plan to grow potatoes. Now all I need is a little dry weather to sort this out, not a chance at the moment *rolls eyes*.

I snapped a few photos of the allotment using my phone:

self-sown broad beans in february

Broad beans growing happily (of course they are, I didn’t plant them!), sown by Mother Nature herself.

garlic february

Garlic looks great, I’m so pleased I put extra effort into weeding the garlic bed and topping it up with fresh compost and a sandy seed compost to help with drainage. I must have known…….

scabious flowering in february

Scabiosa ‘Butterfly Pink’ still flowering and showing no sign of stopping anytime soon, you’ve got to find room on your plot for a plant.

carrots eaten by wild rabbits

Naughty, naughty rabbits!!!

rhubarb patch

Timperley Early rhubarb looking great, a little frost nipped but strong and healthy.

I’ve missed our allotment, it’s like an old friend. I even miss the hurried fly by visits, you know, when life gets hectic. As it does. Roll on spring and drier weather. Please?

Allotment · Wildlife

Mason Bees

allotment shed

Mason bees were attracted to our bee box at the allotment last May, it was fascinating watching them building nests within the hollow tubes. Mason bees are non-aggressive solitary bees, they are very small and do not sting unless really threatened (a sting is not usually painful and only females are capable). They do not swarm, bother people or produce honey, but they are prolific pollinators. Named because of their habit of making compartments of mud in their nests, which are made in hollow reeds or holes in wood. Mason bees will also use handmade or purpose-built bee boxes to nest, hollowed out bamboo canes or tubes will attract them, drilled holes in wood blocks will attract them too.

mason bee

Nest building begins in spring, it’s a good idea to have a bee box in place beforehand if you’re thinking of providing a nesting site to attract them to your garden or allotment. Site bee boxes in a position that receives early morning sun, on a tree, post, wall or shed for example. Have a go at making your own Mason bee box or purchase a ready-made box suited to Mason bees. I particularly like these examples http://myfriendlygarden.co.uk/product-category/for-bees/

Allotment

New Year Visit to the Allotment

Yesterday I went to the lottie, the sun was shining which was a lovely break from the heavy rain and damaging winds that have been hanging around lately, surprise surprise much the same today. After spending a couple of hours hand weeding and generally mooching about (as you do), I sat on our bench made from tree logs by the shed and enjoyed my sandwiches in the warm sunshine. It was so lovely I didn’t need to put my coat on. Looking around at my surroundings, my plot and others look as if they’re trying to wake up already.

broad bean plants
Broad bean plants growing happily in what was the pumpkin patch during summer.

Growing happily in the strawberry bed and pumpkin patch (the latter a tangled mushy mess) are broad bean plants. Probably the result of rodent or bird activities, I didn’t plant them but if I had they certainly wouldn’t survive to this stage (I don’t have much luck starting broad beans in autumn!). One plant is flowering. Will I be picking broad beans soon? I wonder….

Flowering broad beans in January!
Flowering broad beans in January!

I noticed Calendula ‘Flashback Mix’ flowering by the allotment shed, colourful small flowers entwined with grey skeleton stems left over from summer. We’ve seen just one hard frost so far this winter, obviously not enough to wipe these cheery little flowers out completely.

Calendula flowers hanging on in January
Calendula flowers hanging on in January

Remember the garlic I planted recently? Well, they’re poking through the soil already, soldiers standing to attention. The rhubarb patch is waking up too.

Timperley Early rhubarb beginning to grow in winter
Timperley Early rhubarb beginning to grow in winter

I’m a big fan of Timperley Early rhubarb, a super early variety great for forcing for an even earlier crop. I won’t lie, I was tempted to place my forcer over the crown but I’ll be patient and give my rhubarb another year to grow even stronger before inflicting greed and a terrible case of sweet tooth upon it.

Allotment · Harvest

Last Allotment Visit of the Year

parsnips

Today I went to the allotment to dig up parsnips for our Christmas Day meal, probably my last visit to the allotment before the new year arrives. The parsnips look and smell amazing, ‘Gladiator’ always does well for me.

The next few days ahead will keep me really busy but it won’t all be about Christmas, we have a special birthday to celebrate too, our daughter will be sweet 16 (which makes us feel old!).

Allotment

Garlic Planting

planting garlic

End of the year preparations are almost finished at the allotment, just a couple more beds to weed and lightly dig over and plot 4 will be ready to rest over winter. Time ran away with me a bit this year, luckily the weather has been very accommodating, allowing plenty of time to catch up and complete jobs that I’ve usually finished before now. There are plenty of carrots and parsnips left over to harvest, but these are being saved for our Christmas day dinner. Yum.

germidour garlic

At the weekend I started planting garlic, usually I grow ‘Cristo’ but I couldn’t get it from my local supplier so I chose ‘Germidour’ instead, a French variety well adapted to British growing conditions. I was drawn by the striking purple stripes along the sides of the bulbs, after splitting each bulb for planting I was amazed at the size of the cloves.

planting garlic

I space each clove by stretching my thumb and forefinger apart and place the clove on top of the soil, it’s a rough planting distance but it works for me. Once I’m happy with my rows I make holes with a dibber and place the cloves in, covering over with soil (make sure the pointy end of each garlic clove is facing upwards).

raised bed with wire mesh cover

I use a wire mesh frame to cover the garlic bed, this stops birds and other allotment wildlife from disturbing the garlic. Once they sprout I remove the frame. Hopefully I’ll grow some whoppers!

Allotment · Harvest · kitchen garden

Harvesting the Carrots

harvesting carrots

This year I grew carrot varieties that I’ve never tried before. After looking at so many tempting choices, I settled on a main crop variety called ‘Flakkee’ and a yellow-skinned variety called ‘Jaune Obtuse du Doubs’, a French heirloom with a beautiful sweet taste. Both nice varieties and trouble-free to grow if you fancy a change from your usual favourites.

carrots

I’ve just realised, I don’t have a photo of the yellow carrots! If I get to the allotment this weekend I will grab one. They’re a lovely colour and look fantastic grated into a salad.

carrots

I’m looking forward to browsing seed catalogues and websites soon, I’ll probably order new varieties for next year. I quite enjoy the challenge and unpredictability of growing new things.