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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
I have a couple of rows of potatoes still to lift and I’ll get that done before the ground freezes.
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!
Sunflowers hang their heads, ripe with seeds, I’ll cut the heads soon and lay them flat for birds to help themselves.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
We have some exciting news to share! Mason bees (Osmia rufa) are making nests inside the bamboo cane bug box, sited on the allotment shed. Mason bees are solitary and do not form colonies or produce honey. The Mason bee gets it name due to using mud in building nest compartments, rather like a stone mason constructing a house. After mating, males die and females begin collecting pollen and nectar to build nests. After laying her eggs (males at the front and females at the back), the female seals the entrance to the tubular nest using mud. Mason bees may nest inside reeds or holes in wood made by wood-boring insects, some British species make their nests in empty snail shells. Luckily for us, 3-4 females have chosen to use our bug box.
The bug box is in full sun, sited approximately 5′ 8″ high, this is the first time the box has been used by bees. The bees were very calm considering we were about, using the shed and nearby area as we usually would. Mason bees are usually non-aggressive and will only sting if they are really threatened, ie being held between fingers. They would much rather get on with the job of building a nest rather than defending it.
We’re thrilled to be able to watch the bees, they’re brilliant little pollinators and very welcome on our plot. Plot 4 is certainly living up to its name – The Little Haven.
Choosing to ignore mixed and confusing weather reports (along with a threatening sky on and off since the weekend), I decided to give our allotment shed a much-needed lick of paint. If you already follow me on Pinterest you will notice I have a ‘thing’ for blue sheds.
Naturally, blue was the colour I had in mind, although I did toy with the idea of painting our shed seagrass green. I finally settled on a shade of baby blue and now the shed is cheery and a welcoming sight.
The colour will also be a gorgeous backdrop for annuals that I love to grow in the raised bed surrounding the shed, such as shades of pink Cosmos ‘Sensation Mix’ and Sarah Raven’s ‘Bright Lights’ (deep orange and tangerine blooms, new for me this year). Sunflowers will dazzle against the baby blue (although I’m hoping at least one becomes a true giant and exceeds the shed height) and the fuzzy purple haze of perennial Verbena bonariensis will be even more striking. Foxgloves are almost ready to burst into flower and Lupins are not far behind.
Potatoes are growing and require ‘earthing up’ frequently, so far (touch wood) we’ve managed to keep the burrowing bunny out of the potato bed by laying a sheet of wire mesh on the area of interest, weighted down by bricks, although this will need to be removed very soon. Strawberries are looking promising with lovely large flowers, blackcurrants and redcurrants are swelling nicely.
The rhubarb patch is looking incredible this year, we only planted it last year and it’s already trebled in size.
I’ve put a lot of hours in at the allotment since the weekend, I’m delighted with how neat and tidy the plot is looking.
A few days ago we managed to source more free wood, this means we can get on and work the unused part of the plot this year. All of our raised beds are made using wood no longer needed by a shed company located next to the allotment site, they’re delighted when the allotment holders come along and take the wood away, putting it to good use. I’m looking forward to seeing the plot change again soon, not only from our input but with summer on the way too.