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.


A little bit of funky art for a Sunday - perhaps not to everybody's taste but it killed a little time while it was raining this afternoon to take a couple of macro shots of the one and only beetroot. Yes my first non raspberry produce from the patch (not enough for Matron's trugblog I think). Some photoshop fun has been included.

We managed a family visit to the patch today the boys picked raspberries apart from the sleeping one. I planted out some celeriac seedlings who are on their second life as they were knocked off the windowsill when very small. John scooped them back into the pot and I held out little hope for them but they are quite strong now. They still have to meet the slugs! I planted them where the butternut squash were as there is now none of nine, hopefully the slugs are full in that vicinity. We all sowed carrot and Kale seed where the broad beans had been then the rain really set in and it was time to go.

We had a choice of doing open gardens or open studios this afternoon, we took the drier option, which might explain the picture.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008


Its funny but I remember when my mum was about my age now, her standing at the sink and saying that she had Annie's hands. Annie was my grandmother and her hands were well worked, and my mothers hands had become well worked too. In much the same way I look at my hands now and think about how much they are becoming like my mums, especially when I return from the allotment with that hint of earth look. It is my mum that has always grown things and has been mad about plants. At the times in my life when I have dipped into gardening be it flower containers right through to my allotment now mum is always there with young plants or seed gifts and advice. I feel that I am becoming more like her with a growing love of growing.
There is one way that I wish I wasn't becoming more like my mum and that is obvious when looking at my hand and arm this morning. After last night visit to the patch I had been bitten by two midges. My mum has really strong reactions to insect bites whereas I just get the usual itchy lumps that are fairly easy to get on with. However today my hand and arm are very puffy, itchy, painful and a little red. It is that irritated that picking up the baby is uncomfortable. I might have to knock on the head being on the patch after about 8:30 as the midges start looking for dinner then.