Thursday, 25 December 2008

Christmas day

Merry Christmas and a great growing new year to one and all

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Pre Christmas dig

Its nice to have a break from the Christmas madness. I squeezed a visit to the allotment into the mayhem of today between clearing out the old toys and taking Owen to a birthday party. Our tree still isn't up and there is a lot of other sorting etc to be done, but hey I have dug a little bit more of the patch. It was an hour of peace and quiet. It was warm and almost spring like today which is strange after the last few weeks cold snap.

When I will get to go again I'm not sure,dependant on the weather,work and the festivities it might even be next year (although escaping for a quiet hour on Christmas day when the niggley squabbling of the boys breaks out will be very tempting).

I looked today and thought so much to do. I might need to make another one of my not likely to be completed lists just to cope with my flitting around the plot. I realise from watching Alys on Friday's GW that there are better ways to plant garlic than what I have done luckily I've got another bulb so I might do her ridge method to give better drainage. Then we will see which does better a la jedi or a la alys.

I've covered part of the area planned for next years potatoes with a mulch of newspaper, cardboard and landscaping fabric just to help with the digging in the new year. Dug the little square salad bed and part of what I suppose is our main bed. I was just about to cut down the dead nettles when it was time to go, I really noticed that here is lots of tidying up to do our neighbours seem to be cracking on with tidying. On one of our adjoining plots the shed has gone so I think that the old man who hadn't really worked the plot last year expect with intermittent help from his family has given up, its that time of year when there is likely to be change as the notice is up to pay the rent.

Our site has been threatened by the plans to put an underpass for the train line and It is thought that we might lose a few plots where the lane and gates are. There has also been mention of asbestos in the land near the train track in the local paper, a little worryingly they are surveying the lane for evidence of this before they commence any building work. I think the people in the local houses must be concerned if they do disturb something. I'm a little anxious as asbestos and allotment health don't really go together. I might have to talk to some of the plot holders to find out what is going on.

Sunday, 7 December 2008

Jedi Garlic

For the last couple of weeks allotment care has amounted to passing it once on the train (the day my car broke down). As I glanced from the window down to the patch things looked pretty much in the same sorry state as when I last visited in person. My sense of guilt at not having done more to the patch by now could possibly be felt in the whole carriage. My sense of wanting to be there rather than on the train was overwhelming.

Weekend weather and family activities mean a rapid allotment visit has to be slotted in where we can.Today was cold but sunny so after the visit to the town's Christmas carnival we arrived at the allotment about 1:30pm. The ground was still frozen in most places on the patch. Up until now I hadn't considered how little sun our end of the site gets at this time of year. As the sun is low we are thrown into the shade from a few trees and the nearby houses.

So frozen ground makes me think should I really be putting garlic out, oh why didn't I get it done weeks ago, but one thing I know it won't grow on my window sill. Owen helped me plant out the cloves once we ad hacked at the frozen ground. For some reason (well star wars is the sort of thing little boys think about far too much) Owen said its "jedi garlic". I certainly think it needs to be jedi garlic if it is going to survive what we have asked of it.

We did pull some lovely leeks as well which are now part of a tasty soup, yum.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Plans and Forecasts

Looking ahead to the weekend I could not believe that the forecast for the weather meant that I would be able to go to the allotment on Sunday. Even better that on Saturday while at a collograph printing workshop I would not have any regrets about using precious time to learn to print as it would be raining outside. I should have known that things were not going as predicted, when out of the window were loads of rowing crews competing on the Cam in good winter conditions. Hmm.

When I was woken at 5:30 am today (baby decides its a early breakfast day) the BBC weather still gave me hope of tending to the patch today, but by 9:30 there was definitely cloud in our area of East Anglia on the latest forecast. Shortly after this forecast it rained. It only seemed to rain over us. When we drove just 10 miles down the road there was no rain, as we came back closer to home a little later in the day the cloud was still sitting over our little town. Grrrr!!

This is my (sadly ornamental) cherry tree, photographed today in the wet with its last few leaves clinging to the branches. It needs to be cut back and reshaped. Does anyone know the best time to do this? I sort of know what I want to do but any advice would be helpful.

Still despite my missing the best bits of the weekend weather it's not all bad - I may have a print that I can use with a bit of scanning and adjusting for making Christmas cards this year.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Got rid of the guilt

Yep I made it down to the patch this afternoon. As you can see from the picture the light was failing by 3:30pm which is so demoralising as it feels very wintery. Things generally look OK my leeks are still there and won't be long until I pull them up. The ground was soft and sludgy which means it is easy to dig but my shoes became a pair of rather uncool mud platforms. Well I didn't get a lot of digging done (after a good deal of time spent distracted with other bits and pieces) but at least some digging is better than none.

I'm taking a leaf out of the Alys Fowler book who begins with discussing gardening on the slow track - now that's more like it - "dig a bit".

Alys does offer this up as the philosophy for life - to be part of the slow movement. I could definitely buy into it. What I can't do is "Once I stopped separating my work from my identity it all fell into place." Hmm. It's cool if your job is similar to your hobbies and you can slow it down or even mix the two. But I'm a wage slave and it is best that work does not leak into my home life as it could push out the fun things I like to do, and stress me out to boot. In fact work has affected my blog life recently, as you can see the drop in posts coincides with returning to work after maternity leave .Some times I have dreamt of improving work home balance with ideas of working for myself, working when I want to. However I've avoided the ideas of starting a business from say my photography hobby as I could end up hating photography - but Alys's approach where I just do some some slow photography could be tempting!

I was amazed today with how tidy some peoples patches are. Clear brown freshly dug earth, neatly stacked canes and planks, pruned plants, compost bins filled and covered - there is a high standard to aspire to on our site. Also security seems to have been stepped up with notices about locking up - pinned absolutely everywhere. Apparently we have had vandals as well as thieves it seems.

As for my plans:
  • I must collect leaves before they have all gone as I would like to make leave mould (perhaps an after school activity for next week)
  • Some more digging
  • Prune the gooseberry bush its untidy and out of control (I better find out if I should do that now)
  • Cover and mulch the area for the potatoes
  • Oh and get those onions and broad beans in ASAP

Monday, 3 November 2008

Baking, birthday and guilt

What have I been doing? Can I really have been too busy to post? Or has so little of a horticultural nature happened that I couldn't post - ah now we reach the truth. I've not been to the patch and I feel so, so guilty. I miss the patch lots. I haven't got my onions in, or my broad bean seeds they just haunt and taunt me from the kitchen window.

The evenings are dark now so no chance of visiting the plot after the school run, a plan which I concocted in my head as a way of getting on with things when I returned to work after the freedom of maternity leave. I am concerned for my mental well being that I should contemplate such grand plans. That I consider the logistics of them feasible with the other things that I intend to get done in about an hour and a half of the day - still a girl can dream of super powers eh?

After the strain of all the half term excitement I hit a bit of a birthday lull, which did not encourage productivity. However I did treat myself to Alys Fowler's 'the thrifty gardener' as a little pressie. My sofa habit was not all bad as well as a little reading I also did a pen and ink drawing my first bit of art work in years.

I had stepped forward to join Mrs Be's Bakeathon (on her other blog) but my attempts were more of flash in the pan than a week's worth of yummy eating. I managed one lot of slighty burnt chocolate brownies they were disguised with a dusting of icing sugar. Is burnt chocolate better than no chocolate?

Today a letter from a friend arcoss the globe kicked my bottom into posting, I had written the rather short apple day post but not added a photo and had not bothered to publish it until today. I hadn't expected to recieve written complaints just because I had not posted in ages - you must be the reader that got me to over a 1000 hits checking for an update. I hope that fills the gap Carol ann - as you can see not a lot is going on and I feel a little bit of allotment guilt. Now I just need to get my special time juggling gloves on and all will be back to normal.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

Apple Day

I've never been to an apple day event before and I was curious about what happens at one. They seem to have apple days all over the place these days in the East of England. We went to one in Tring and we met up with the cousins at the same time - so it was three boys running around an orchard and attempting to eat rotting windfalls. Boys eh?

They did love the demonstration of apple mashing and pressing and tasting the lovely juice that was produced.

It was a good shopping opportunity for me as I bought a jar of apple chutney and some wooden wine cases - I think I saw Alys Fowler using these for planting salad veg in her own quirky cutesy way

John bought some cox's orange pippin and blenhim orange variety of apples.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

A dream allotment day

When we got an allotment in my minds eye I saw how it would be - all happy grafting. We would become a beautiful cheerful gardening family heading to the allotment at weekends producing bountiful veg and of course the sun always shining. Each one of us would become attuned with nature and the great outdoors.

It could never be a drag.

I would never be seen shouting loudly when at the patch. There would be no need to constantly tell Owen "stop it". He would never be bored but entertained by all the possible jobs he could do. My baby would be gurgling happily not wailing when he found himself at the patch. Oh yes and John would not try to forget we need to visit the patch, but skip there happily, knowing exactly what needed to be done.

Then today happened.

The weather looked pants so my hopes of going to the allotment were small. Owen had a birthday party to attend in the middle of the day so when we got back I nearly fell over when John suggested we go. It was trying to rain but we thought to persevere and the wind was whipping across the town so not too promising. Huw did not murmur as we arrived at the site and sat in the pushchair happily and yes he was awake (although I'm thinking to blame the drugs he is taking - antibiotics - as he has been unwell on and off since I returned to work. I must look up the sedation effects of Augmentin as that's all that's different about his routine at the moment!) At the plot Owen immediately got stuff out of the storage box to do. Have I walked into a parallel universe?

At the plot next door our neighbours were at work with their young son, I've not seen them for many months. They were struggling to entertain him. Dangerously I suggested to Owen to get his Tonka truck out and go and play with him. To be a kind bigger boy. Knock me down with a feather. My son put his angel hat on and did exactly this and they played happily together until we left for home. Huw continued to be chilled and watched on contentedly from his pushchair.

We have strimmed some more of the paths and we have dug some more of the beds, finally the plot is starting to regain a sense of shape. I have hope that we will be well ahead for the spring because of all the autumn digging we intend to do. The plans for next year seem so possible now if this ambience lasts into further visits.

I also had a good chat with our neighbours and know which potato variety they found the best this year and what they plan to grow in 2009.Such a satisfying day, pinch me for I may be dreaming.

Tuesday, 30 September 2008

Gardening club at the school

I am so over the moon that the school now has a gardening club and that Owen chose to join it. Secretly I'm even pleased that I offered to help out. It really is fun to see the kids digging in the dirt. My group found a millipede, the poor thing came under such close scrutiny especially from the boys.

I love going along as I have no idea what I will be doing and I don't even need to worry about planning it as it's not my club. For the last two weeks I have helped plant out strawberry transplantings into two old white sinks. The kids are keen but very chaotic.

I have no expertise to offer as I know little about running a club and just have some haphazard gardening knowledge. Teacher will be all to aware of this if she takes a peek at my plot, which is a stones throw away from hers, as the limitation of my knowledge is on full display. The good thing is one of the gardening gurus from the allotment site (often to be found in the shop that I find a little intimidating) visited today to offer advice. I think he was a little surprised I was there but he quickly realised it was in the context of mother not gardening guru.

I wonder what we are going to do as the year unfolds, I'm keen for suggestions of things to do especially if it is raining. I want to be helpful not pushy as I could really empathise with Mrs Be and the new help for her club. Mind you if I just keep checking in with 'Carrots and Kids' I'll have no problems as I expect to see lots of good suggestions to follow.

These gardening clubs seem to be all the rage at the moment and I'm not used to being fashionable so its going to be a strange experience.

Sunday, 28 September 2008

Everybody's at their plots

I had trouble parking down at the site today. It was literally bristling with activity everywhere. I popped into the shop to pay my membership and order potatoes and onions for next year. I got a little bit of chat today, I do find the shop a little bit intimidating probably because when you order stuff you have to give your plot number and I feel that I'm judged as soon as I say it as a hopeless grower. They know the state of my plot and are I think often on the brink of penning me a letter about it.

On the plot next door they were putting up a new shed which they seemed to be having fun deciphering the instructions, but intuitively had put it together very quickly.

I left on my own this morning to get on with some digging the others were to join me later about lunchtime. We got quite a bit done, I have space now for planting garlic and winter onions. John strimmed a large area of grassy weeds ready for us to mulch and cover overwinter, this is where the spuds are going in next year.

Owen was very industrious he built a dinosaur sculpture out of garden bits and pieces. He also found some earthworms, it is impossible to explain to a 5 year old that he shouldn't touch earthworms as they don't like it.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

Sunday catchup

It's lovely to have had such a warm and bright weekend even with the sad damp note of autumn wafting on the breeze. Autumn is my favourite time of year, the colour of the leaves turning, the anticipation of warm fires and wearing woolly jumpers and a sense of new plans hatching. I think the sense of a new start at this time of year comes from being a child and having the start of the school year, and this is heightened by Owen now being at school.

I have such a large new beginning this autumn, with being back at work. Oh and the mad plans that I listed in my last post well none of that happened last week after work as - the baby was unwell and a total how do we manage work,home etc panic set in.

So Sunday has been catch up day. I cut back the first lot of raspberries and weeded around my leeks. I just couldn't quite get around to do digging in the time that I had.

Still we did manage to get a visit to a garden centre today, they had a bucket of 50p seeds packets and I got this little lot. I thought I would give seed sprouting a try as they were so cheap. I hope they taste good well at least it is something that I could grow that the slugs won't eat!

This working lark is really tiring I really hope that no one else is ill this week as I've got an allotment and garden to sort out.

Sunday, 14 September 2008

Saturday, 13 September 2008

Quick the sun's out

This afternoon we took advantage of the sunshine and headed to the patch. It's apparently the new year for gardeners according to the new guy on gardeners world. So I thought that I would resolve to make a good start to the year and do something today.

In fact, that is not the reason that I need to crack on and be organised about my cultivation. Time is short now as d-day arrived and I returned to work on Monday after a year of maternity leave. I'm shattered already. And I'm over whelmed by the amount of conversation that I have had to be part of this week after the strange quiet of being at home with a baby. Yes baby's are very noisy but its a noise that requires less concentration than complex conversation. Huw seems to be happy at nursery and after a full week there he seems to have developed loads in confidence and in his walking, lets hope it continues. I do miss him and I would prefer to spend my time at the allotment with him than at work if I had a choice, but who wouldn't? On Friday the week ended on a high with Huw's birthday, I even managed to cook a carrot cake to celebrate.

Huw almost at one point today seemed happy with the familiarity of being taken to the allotment today. However this did not last and wailing was a large feature of the time we were there.

One of the main things achieved at the plot today had to be John putting together the pallets I got ages ago (through freecycle) I now have a fantastic compost bin. Thank you.

I started clearing ground and digging an area of he patch over - there's loads to do!

The plan for this week if I get down to the plot after work (highly ambitious I think!) is:
  • cut back the first bed of raspberries
  • dig the area where the gladioli are
  • cut down the nettles for compost
  • weed around the leeks (again)
A final shock is that Owen wants to join the school gardening club, this is a new club for this year run by his teacher. His teacher has a plot at our site and not too far from ours. His teacher was there working today, now what is the etiquette for this situation? Should we walk over and say hello? I think possibly not as the reasons for being their might be to escape from work etc and you wouldn't want to have to be sociable with one of the snotty urchins when you have relaxed enough to forget about them. Although I would like to have taken a look at teachers plot just to see if he will come back with some good tips from gardening club! Lets see if Owens enthusiasm lasts I'm not convinced it will.

In a mad moment I thought I'd offer to help with the club if she is inundated with interested children, but I've restrained myself from saying anything until my worklife is more settled - Mrs Be at carrots and kids might approve of me getting involved as she runs a great gardening club.

Finally, we also have livestock at green patch - can you see whats hiding in our weeds?

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Fantastic Sunday Dinner

Tonight we had the best meal so far from our allotment, pink fir potatoes and corn on the cob. It was the sweetest corn and the freshest I have ever tasted. We picked the corn today in the drizzle. Owen was so excited when we picked the ears - as corn on the cob is one of his favourites, and was one of the plants on his list that we must grow on the allotment.

Even Huw couldn't get enough of the kernals I picked off to give him. He was slightly grumpy when the supply ran out!

We have got enough for another meal so a reasonable harvest from so few plants. Next year I think we will be expected to grow many more sweetcorn plants if the kids have a say.

I bought some winter onions today from the allotment shop, so I hope to get some space ready to plant them out in october. October, thinking about it already it makes you shudder.

Tuesday, 2 September 2008

advantage of a small harvest

The freebie newspaper dropped through the door this week and I looked through it to find an article about the recent thefts down at the allotment site. I had seen signs up asking us to report any damage or theft from our plots. I had not realised that it was still continuing to be a problem. Its so sad that people would come in and steal from the plots, I would be absolutely livid to loose my produce that way. As I see it currently, the only advantage of having such a small poor harvest is that there is little to steal.

My plot is far away from the main gates, the back gate near us is rarely unlocked, so hopefully that cuts down on opportunistic thefts for me at least. If you had to pass some of the fruit and veg that I pass to get to the plot, veg which is beautifully plump and ripe and ready use, veg which taunts me with my innability to grow it - then I suspect you would not walk through to the ugly weedy area to do your poaching.

Sunday, 31 August 2008

Our potatoes

Am I the only person who wishes that our weather forecasts weren't so scaremongering? Not to mention inaccurate? If I had listened I would not dare to poke my nose out of the front door. When I did, I found that it was dry. Yes, we had a couple of light showers but I managed to wash our campervan (a whole family event), then go into town for a spot of lunch and to buy new school shoes with the rest of the tardy mothers. There is nothing quite like being last minute tomorrow I better check that the trousers etc fit although if its warm I might get away with sending him in shorts on Wednesday. The new school year signals more change for us, my plan is to get very organised.

When I got back from town the severe weather warning storms that the bbc had expressed such concern about had yet to materialise. So I shot down to the allotment alone to dig up our pink fir potatoes. I dug up a whole row and have to say were pleasantly surprised with my haul. These potatoes went in exceedingly late, they had chitted for months, once planted they had been ignored I planted them deep and then intended to earth them up further but this got slightly forgotten. I must of planted them deep enough as only a couple are green. So all in all this is much better than I had hoped for.

Just as I had finished the digging up the row there was the most almighty crash of thunder, my feet separated from the ground as I jumped in fright. I hate thunderstorms so I legged it rapidly from the site, we have had a little heavy rain this evening but it didn't develop into a proper storm.

Every day the bbc forecasters warn of weather problems it seems to me they are scared that if they don't say its severe people might complain of not being warned but in fact all they are saying is that we will be having some typical British weather. What will we do if it really is severe and we are all become immune to their warnings.

Green Thumb Sunday

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Thursday, 28 August 2008

Work perk

My little baby is about to start nursery and has been having some trial visits at the moment. His nursery is at John's work, which has very nice grounds and this is one of the reasons that I like the nursery. Owen when he was at the same nursery went on lots of long walks. I had time to kill whilst Huw got into the swing of things so Owen took me on one of his favorite walking routes yesterday. We spied some apple trees full of fruit and lots of windfalls on the grass.

I mentioned it to John in the evening, he said they had received an email around the site to say that the apples are ready to be picked and eaten if people wanted to help themselves.

We returned today for another nursery visit today and this time Owen and I went scrumping while we waited!

I had a bucket, and picked up all the rotting windfalls for composting or maybe making and preparing a bean trench. We also took a few apples from the trees to eat. We weren't greedy but I hope nobody saw us with the bucket and jumped to the wrong conclusions. Now how do I convince John to collect a bucketful of rotten apples in his lunchtimes?

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Patch Holiday

Yes you guessed it, we have been away. Its funny I missed going to the allotment, or what I really mean is trying to plan in a visit to the allotment. I also found it werid not to be able to dip into the cyber world. It was a good holiday near Cardigan. It was a week very reminiscent of my childhood holidays especially with regard to the weather. Although holiday with the boys is more a change than a rest. Owen did have the chance to become slightly feral running wild with his cousins. I didn't manage to visit the gardens near by, or any of the nurseries so I came home with nothing to plant or grow. I think I should introduce a holiday rule to my life - that I must return with some thing horticulturally related from any future holiday.

So last Sunday I had been back at home for about 24 hours, where I had been endlessly loading and unloading the washing machine with fear of more rain. I could not hold off any longer and shot down to the allotment alone, it may of only been for 45mins but it was pure bliss and totally peaceful. My most restful moment of the week!

I expected a glut of courgette/marrows to have sprung forward in the week away, instead the plant looked like it had been through a war and it only yielded one micro baby courgette.

The weeds had gone nuts again and I released my leeks from their grasp yet again. These leeks are becoming my prize leeks not because of any phenomenal size but just because they are not under attack from slugs and the only thing I have left really growing well. I did by some kale and cabbage plants at the open day and they seem to be currently holding their own so fingers crossed.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Scarecrow Show

These are a sample of the fantastic scarecrows from our sites open day

Monday, 11 August 2008


Our site had its open day on Sunday. Dutifully as members we toddled down in the afternoon, just as things were winding up. A little earlier than I had expected. The site looked great lots of snazzy scarecrows had appeared on plots for the competition (if I feel inventive I will try and make a slide show of the clever creations for a future post - I'm sure ali the frog will love the scarecrows as she is mad on them).

The open day is great because even if you have a plot on the site it still means you can take a good look at your wider neighbours work without feeling like your snooping. It was good to see what everyone else grows and how they choose to do it. The snooping helps feed my ideas for next year.

As you walk across our site it feels that the best kept plots are nearer the gates and main paths. Things get a little more dodgy as you get to the end of the site that we cultivate. As we have struggled in our first proper year, it has been reassuring that our neighbours are in a similar state of uncontrolled cultivation. One of our neighbours has been growing carpet and potatoes only this season and that seems fine to me. Some of the other plots close to us, I suspect, may have recently been encouraged to take their plots in hand judging from the sudden flurry of activity on them.

We have toiled on our plot and I know that it does not look good despite this hard work, but I now want to stand in the middle of the site and shout "I do care".

What was most upsetting about our open day was this sign.

Yes our plot is beyond this sign in the area not to be seen, the area where we don't have green fingers, the area of ugly plots. Is there a hazard to the public presented by wandering down this end of the site, if so, is it something as a plot holder I should be aware of? Or is it that the public should be spared the knowledge that growing things is hard and not always beautiful.

If mum had managed to harness Owens enthusiasm (not too keen when I tried) and revamp our scarecrow and build him a friend then enter the competition it would have been a shame as it probably would have gone unseen.

I wonder if I'm going to get a letter to improve our plot.

Sunday, 10 August 2008

Green Thumb Sunday

These are my beautiful gladiolis they were a deep red and I particulary love them at the point before they open.

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Saturday, 9 August 2008

Little cheerful things

Today has been a good day for a few nice little things happening so I am cheerful despite the rain.

My 'Rhiannon' streptocarpus which I recently repotted (possible danger in tampering with plants that like to be pot bound) has for the first time this year started to flower. I was a little worried as I thought my tinkering had finished it off especially because I have treated it to feeding tablets too.

When the flower stem unfurls there are usually several beautiful flowers on each stem (if I get them then I'll try some macro photography for the blog). This individual plant flowered frequently with multiple stems and a lot earlier last year, so there was a genuine cause for concern. They are a plant that is tolerant of a little abuse and they can be propagated easily so they make a good houseplant for me. There are many beautiful varieties and Dibleys nurseries specialise in streptocarpus. Of course its my vanity that makes me grow a plant that shares my name but I have to say it's the only plant that does, as far as I know, so that when I stumbled upon it a few years ago I had to have it.

Also today I collected a rake and hoe through the wonders of freecycle and a kind lady called Pauline. These will mean that we both can hoe and rake at the same time down at the patch that has to be cool.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Teething trouble

I've decided to put all my growing woes down to it being my first year. I could call it teething trouble at this point. I plan to take time out to think about how to manage year two a little better - I'm thinking of doing a one thing a week to do list, to try and get a great looking plot next year. But the road to hell is heavily paved with my good intentions already. I'm unlikely to stick to it.

Huw was up in the night frequently last night, this is because his top front teeth are making an appearance. I had a choice this morning - either to take advantage of it or to catch up on my sleep. I went to the patch after dropping Owen at football, Huw realised that it might be good to grab a nap at the allotment when I parked up the pushchair.

The first thing I did was put the broccoli plants in sadly in the same spot that I had recently put the sprouts in - only one of those remain. I did know that I was condemning them when I planted them out and the same goes for the broccoli. Well its a poor choice, either to die in a polystyrene plant cell ignored at the house or take your chances against the slugs down at the patch.

I so, so wish that things looked a little better down at the patch especially as this Sunday the allotment association has its open day. Loads of people were sprucing up their plots today at the site. I weeded around my leeks which was hardly a noticeable improvement but some of the plants made a huge sigh of relief as the bindweed strangler was escorted from the leek bed. One of Owen's friends is coming to tea next week so my difficult decision for the weekend is going to be tidy up at home or tidy the patch -nothing is ever straight forward eh.

I left a comment with SWD about weeds, and the fact that when cultivated properly they can make good baby shading and just to give some visual evidence here is a picture of my weed problem today. Oh, and the guys on the railway track in the hi vis gear provided some entertaining evesdropping on their banter I'm not sure if they knew I was there.

We have some fire tongue beans appearing which is exciting so I might get a mini meal from those as there are not many plants thanks to my sluggy friends. I picked a courgette today (there is only one) which was not quite a marrow and it seems to have appeared from nowhere. Now I have to decide what to do with it.

One last thing, is anyone else sick of scraping thunder flies out of their eyes, nostrils and ears? I hate thundery weather.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Thursday, 31 July 2008

Gran's Plot

There was little doing down at the patch today. I did make a 'mad' visit to water the plants. I know that it is stormy and since half past four it has been trying to rain. The little sprinkles that have fallen have dried up immediately so I couldn't rely on nature for the water. Now that I have been down to give my little green ones a drink this evening it will probably pour down.

Owen and I got the brussel plants in on tuesday but it was such a stressful visit I think I will avoid going with both kids on my own for a little while, I was shattered and we were barely there for an hour. I have surrounded the plants (not kids) with a mix of bran and slug pellets and it seems to be OK when I looked this evening. They have been planted in the major danger zone where the butternut squash and celeriac were devoured. Good luck to them I say.

I had promised a little post on our visit to grans allotment in Wales. So here goes. Despite her woes about this being a poor year due to the cool and wet welsh weather, I thought it looked great. There was a carpet of small windfall apples under the tree. Gran cut flowers for the house while we were there and it made me think I must grow more flowers on the patch next year. I am definitely going to try for more sunflowers as I recently passed a florist where they were charging three pound a stem.

Grans weeds were definitely well in control compared to our patch and I could feel allotment jealousy setting in.

The main task we had been roped in to help with was to harvest some potatoes. Owen absolutely loved this, it was probably a great thing to do as he can now see why we want to grow things, the yield from their plants was good. about a bucket full from a short row. (Grandad couldn't tell me what variety we were harvesting as apparently there was some sort of labelling cock up at the chitting stage).

We returned for lunch after our harvesting and Owen was amazed that he was eating the potatoes he had just collected. He also had the one and only welsh strawberry on gran's plot.

Even better we got given a bucket full of spuds to bring back home, maybe we don't need to grow our own we just need to visit gran weekly. Getting a bucket in to the boot with all the baby stuff and toys was challenging but we weren't going to leave them behind as I suspect that our harvest won't be so good.

Another thing I noticed is that Huw's allotment phobia is not just reserved for the green patch but any allotment he finds himself to be parked in especially upon waking. I'm sure he will be talking to a shrink about my effect on his ability to stand in vegetable gardens in years to come, " I just feel I need to scream when close to a courgette plant, why do you think this is doctor?"

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Trug buggy

I mentally braced myself and we all went down to the patch yesterday evening after tea. With the heat of the day I thought it best to disregard the kids normal bedtimes, a family walk would do us all good.

Well things were not so bad.

  • sweetcorn and leeks are doing well
  • courgettes are flowering
  • recently sown chard and beetroot are now little seedlings
  • I have a little green tomato on some flowers on my plant (although it does not appear to be living up to its big boy name)
  • kale and khol rabi seeds don't seem to be doing much germination
  • my foot tall sunflower seedling (the last one standing from the intrafamily competition) has been taken out. So do we have lumberjack slugs? It appeared to have been felled then eaten. If its rabbits there is little other evidence of their activity
  • Cabbage are still their but do look a little ropey. So are down for some TLC this week.
  • a notice has appeared on the site about security and recent thefts of produce
We also managed to harvest some chard, some beetroot and few more broad bean pods. As I was expecting little from the visit I hadn't thought to bring anything to collect things in. So I balenced them on the buggy roof until I remembered Owen had a sand bucket in the storage box which I could use to walk them home.

What needs doing this week ( I don't know if I should post a list again but hear goes)
  • plant out purple spouting brocoli and brussel sprout plants. I had to buy these yesterday to replace the ones I had grown from seed that I then killed through neglect, this last hot weekend amounted to the final nail in their coffin
  • dig up the potatoes
  • clear the onions
  • sow another row of pak choi
  • strim the weeds
With Owen for some holiday fun, another job that needs doing is to repair Scott the scarecrow and make a friend for him. We can then enter the site scarecrow competition, as we did not manage to do the marrow growing for the marrowthon.

Monday, 28 July 2008


As you may have guessed we have been away for a few days. With the start of the school holidays a visit to the grandparents in Wales was in order. We had a great time and visited their allotment (more of that in a later post I think). Before we went I managed to collect a bumper harvest from our plot, yes we got three broad bean pods. We podded them and got about seven good broadbeans. I took the fruits of my toil to my mums in a sort of proud yet in a kind of sad way. Owen had fun opening the pods and of course there weren't enough of them to get bored with doing it. The only thing I can say is they tasted very good, they were a red variety (red epicure) I will grow them again next year. I also plan to put in a different over winter variety as well to try to get a good harvest.

Now that we are back I need to go to the plot today but I don't know if I can bear to go, the lovely hot weather has probably toasted the little greenary that the slugs haven't munched.

Monday, 21 July 2008

Cabbage and Bran

Yum, I hear you say. Was that tonight's dinner? Do you as a family not worry about methane pollution?

I managed a rapid visit with Huw today to the patch, his chilled mood was not likely to last long so I knew I had to be quick and purposeful on my visit. With so much to do and so little going well, what was I to focus on? I made a choice and left the house with a pot of young cabbage plants riding on the roof of the buggy they can go in next to my improving red cabbages. The green cabbage had a speedy ride to the site. Then they were quickly planted out with Huw watching all the activity with an air of increasing boredom. Mum was trying hard to keep up an interesting commentary. "And now we need to water them before we can go home as they need a drink" "One final thing Huw, we need to sprinkle them with bran". His eyes seemed to widen with concern "bran?" and he leaned forward in the buggy. Wow! brown snow was descending as mum flounced around the cabbages.

Death to the slugs she cackled.

This had better work as all my hopes are placed in my cabbage basket. Frankly I have no idea how you should administer the bran.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

I admit defeat

Last night I went to the patch to try and catch up as we had not been at all over the weekend. I got summoned back as the baby was kicking off, its not his fault he is miserable with a cold that started on Sunday. I was frankly very happy to return home. It was very depressing, when I walked across the patch I was walking on a slippery carpet of slugs. I've never seen so many, they are on everything. I thought that they didn't like alliums but they seem to be eating them as well.

My, well protected with pellets, celeriac are reduced to two plants. The lovely emerging pak choi have been chomped. I am going to abandon this year I think, it is rapidly running away from me, and I'm going to put my recently acquired knowledge into planning next year. There are so many things I would do differently I need to write them down.

I did visit in the stormy downpours on Friday and I weeded in the rain. There was only me and one other nutter who considered it worth tending to our plots at the site braced against the elements. The rain got very heavy (really tamping down) and once the thunder began to ring out I panicked and made a run for it. I desperately weeded around my cabbages which were becoming choked, as all my hopes of any produce are going to be placed into the brassicas. I have more cabbage to go out and my broccoli and sprouts I will just need to muster up some enthusiasm to put them out.

I did manage to peek at "grow your own" magazine in tescos while waiting for John to select a birthday card, they had an article on ways to beat slugs. I need to go to a 'horsey' shop to buy industrial quantities of bran. I think I might try this suggested method as it is relatively cheap and it doesn't just deter them, it kills the little gits!

There is little chance of me getting to the patch tomorrow as its school sports day and the weather is due to get wetter as the day goes on. My sons' social lives and the weather are making it very hard to get to grips with the plot.

Last weekend was great we managed to visit Celia Hart in the Cambridge open studios We went as a whole family to visit which is always a little bit anxiety provoking as you can't guarantee how the boys will behave. Our visit was great, Celia was very accommodating discussing her beautiful illustrations and working processes. She also introduced us to the under gardeners, Owen was quite taken with Sylvie. I also got to see the famous purple podded peas and the progress of the three sisters in her lovely walled gardens. I must try the three sisters next year either down at the patch or perhaps in the back garden.

I made a little purchase of some beautiful cards to remind me of my visit. I chose three with illustrations of heritage peas and beans these came with a free pack of seeds I chose the "salford black" runner bean. I can't wait to give these a go next year. I also got a card with a leaping hare they are such fantastic animals and Celia's linoprints capture there nature so well.

It was great to see how linocuts are made and I think I will be try to do a linocut print myself in the near future. I am interested in how to make one what will work or not and I'm now even more inspired from seeing the Celias work in person as well as on her blog.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Godzilla slugs?

Made it down to the patch today after the recent rains only to find things have grown loads since just Sunday. A lush carpet of green weeds had returned in some of the areas that I had already weeded on Sunday - thats what I call fast.

Brace yourselves but, the few remaining broad beans I had left in situ (as their blackfly was not as bad as the rest) now have big pods. Where did they come from? Can you here me jumping up and down with excitement? Maybe I will be picking them at the weekend at this rate.

Now I don't know much about slugs and all the different types of slugs there may be, but I must have a godzilla slug somewhere on the patch. I might have to have a stake out overnight, with a torch and camera ready to catch it in action. I intend to send evidence to the spring watch team. It must be big, really big, it took out a six inch and fairly strong sunflower seedling. I have visions of a gruesome green slug rearing up, growling loudly and chomping plants while all the rest of the minibeasts and animals on the patch run from its path. Sadly its Owens Sunflower that copped it. So from the intra family sunflower competition mine is the only one standing - not good to celebrate this victory I think and I still need to break the news to Owen.

John did show me a news article about a slug that eats worms that is invading gardens currently.

The celeriac seedlings have been munched a little I have tried another protective ring of slug pellets today to try and save them.

On a positive note its good weather for brassicas my red cabbage are going good guns.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


I am also chuffed and slightly amazed as Mrs Be of 'Carrot and Kids' has given me an award for my blog it is unexpected especially as I didn't realise such things existed. What is great is to receive it from Mrs Be as her blog is so inspiring. I struggle to grow things with two kids and she produces lots of veg with the, err, assistance of five kids and runs a school gardening club - now that is what I call a mummy gardener how does she find time to blog?

The award is the 'arte y pico'

There are some rules that accompany the award:

1. Choose 5 blogs you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and contribution to the blogging community, regardless of the language.

2. Each award should have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.
3. Each award winner should show the award and put the name and link to the blog that presented him/her with the award.
4. The award winner and the one who has given the award should show the Arte y Pico blog so everyone will know the origin of this award. Translated, it means "the peak of art."
5. Show these rules.

So onto the difficult bit, those who I wish to award with the arte y pico. I think that some may/must have been awarded before;

I love matrons very robust get on with it and give it a try style to life, gardening and bloging you can find it
down on the allotment.
Celia Hart is an artist and garden blogger with a love of heritage plants at purple podded peas her linocuts look fantastic and she has inspired me to give printing a go when I get some time ha ha (I last did some in school!) I also hope to visit Celia in person as part of Cambridge open studios.
I recently stumbled upon pencil and leaf which is just the most beautiful blog, if only I could really draw. I know that I will visit and visit this blog.
Then there is earthwoman I think she chooses to grow the things I like, but does it much better than I do.

Finally, I am going to keep back one of the awards for a little while because there are lots of fantastic blogs that I have only just found so I have some reading to do, if I am to do the award justice.