Day of the Triffids

London woke to a pretty dreary and overcast day this morning. Not the most inspiring of days and it seemed to push me into the dumps as I arrived at the plot. I haven’t been keeping my eye on the allotment stores recently, the shed was clean out of digestives and my cup of tea just wasn’t as revitalising as usual.

Day of the Triffids

I wandered round the garden sipping tea and imagining the future, a day of the triffids style future where the weeds grow to 6 foot and throttle you as you reach hopelessly for the hoe.

If I’m sweating with dread in February just imagine when the growth really starts to kick off. You have to pull yourself together when the weeds on your plot start to give you daytime terrors. I put the cup down, stopped stressing about the future and just knuckled down to the here and now.

I like gardening, it never fails to ground you.

First strike today went to the old rocket and spicy salad leaves bed. The rocket has been a super provider but has now past its best and the spicy leaves are so overrun with nettle plants that my salads have a tendency to give far more bite than is healthy. Both were whipped out at the roots and plonked in the compost bin. First tidy patch sorted and I have space for something new now.

Cats Cradle

My early planting of broad beans have been very successful, maybe even too successful? They have been pushing at the top of my fleece cloche for a few weeks now and bending at the tips. Today I decided it was time to expose them to the elements and whipped of their toasty covering.

Most of them are flowering so hopefully they wont be traumatized by any more frosts. I spent about an hour tying myself in knots with about 100m worth of twine, fashioning a cats cradle support. There is very little wind protection in that particular spot and the beans are effectively trying to stand tall in a wind tunnel.

Chard

Carried away with the weeding, I whipped off more of the cloches and cleaned around the chard and cabbages.

Everything started to look beautiful again, I began to smile and contemplate my next cuppa and a future decidly more rosy and bountiful than it seemed when I started.

Swift Potato

I finished by planting my first row of spuds! How ridiculously early is that? The traditional date for planting potatoes is Good Friday which this year is particularly early anyway so I’m not sure what possessed to me to anticipate the great day by about a month.

I’ll do my best to keep them cosy and earthed up til summer arrives.

Oh and did I mention that my sweet peas have germinated? What a glorious and uplifting day its been.

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Leaf Feast

Not a great weekend for allotment pottering but I can enjoy a cup of tea in a nice dry shed even on the worst of days.

The ground was too wet to dig which is a bit of nuisance as there is only a smallish patch left to complete. I opted instead to do weed tickling but this was half-hearted, I am not convinced of the usefulness of hoeing weeds when its damp – you just end up transplanting them in clumps.

Sack o Salad

The 7-year old rocket is beginning to look as though it has run its course, so I took the shears to part of it and came back with this sack load.

Along with an early plucking of onions I think I have the makings of a fine leaf feast.

There are signs of spring approaching around the pond, the primulas have gaudy red buds and the hellebore (planted at Christmas) is already flowering. I wonder when the frogs are going to move in.

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All Quiet on the Allotment Front

Well it hasn’t been all that quiet it’s just been so stressful recently that I’ve kind of gone into blogging hibernation.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been offered a super shed for use on the plot and I’d roped in the help of my mum, dad and brother to help erect it, after I’d dismantled it and delivered it to the plot.

So, full of excitement and enthusiasm I set too on the shed, whipping out screws and nails, or at least I would have done if I hadn’t shredded every screw I touched. The flippin things wouldn’t budge and faced with the enormity of my task I sat down in a little sulky heap and tried to remove all shed dreams from my memory banks.

Shed Foundations

Following a call to the family, I discovered that there are many people way more talented than me on the DIY front. It seems my brother knows special tricks for the removal of stubborn screws and the shed dream was back on. With excitement creeping back, I booked the van (after checking it would take an 8x6ft shed) and then headed to the plot to prepare the site.

Seems a little strange to prepare the soil for planting a shed but I was worried about it becoming a safe haven for bindweed if I left any roots. Now I risk the shed sinking instead but the ricketier it looks, the safer it will be.

Early last Saturday morning the 4 of us headed to my friends to start ripping the shed apart. What a job that was. After getting all the screws undone but before pushing the shed apart like a pack of cards, the question was asked – “should we not just put it back together and leave it well alone?” Clearly there was an inkling of the trouble ahead.

We continued and after about 4 hours had the shed piled up in a heap ready for me to go and fetch the van, parked about 8 miles away in central London. I was a little concerned when I saw the van, VW Transporters aren’t that big really, but I had asked the question and was told it would fit so I drove it back.

So much for asking questions and really I suppose you shouldn’t trust anyone to do trigonometric calculations when you are quite capable of doing them yourself and discovering that the doors are more than a foot too short! Curses! Where do you get a whopping great van without notice at 4pm on a Saturday. No where is the answer.

We carried the shed back into my friends garden. I went back to drop the useless van off and spent the rest of the evening trying to get my dad and brother drunk on vintage port so that they weren’t too concerned about all the wasted effort.

Next morning I managed to hire a massive hi-top transit van and we were back on the job by 9am. Vintage port gives the sort of headache that doesn’t welcome early mornings and hard labour. Still, the shed fitted like a dream and we were off to cause havoc at the allotment site.

Sunday morning is no time for trying to squeeze the biggest damn vehicle ever down the middle of the site. I must have disturbed just about every plot holder there and anxiety levels were sky high. We unloaded it pretty quickly though and I skulked off to dispose of the van. By the time I was back it seemed the shed was almost up! And I promise I didn’t take my time, I was only gone for about 15 mins. My brother is clearly an ace at construction.

Shed Erectors 1

I didn’t really do a lot, I just looked on with gradually declining anxiety and fetched screws. When I finally got to look inside I discovered that my dad and brother had knocked up some fantastic staging and laid a laminate floor! This is definitely going to be a home from home.

With the shed up my brother had to shoot off home (and I didn’t even give him any lunch). My mum and I set too with the organising, finding special spots to hang the tools and finishing off the shelving. As if they hadn’t all done enough by this point they started digging over some of the areas I’ve missed, planting bulbs around the pond and constructing a permanent bench. I had to drag them away eventually so we could get some dinner.
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It’s almost a wonderful end to the weekend except for the fact that I seem to have broken some allomenting by-law. The shed is apparently too big for the site. Quite a bit too big. Now I’m living in fear of being issued an eviction notice and having to go through the whole sorry process again. If push comes to shove I may take a chain saw to either end and make it smaller that way, but it would be a terrible shame.

So at the moment I am keeping a low profile, I need to go up to the plot to plant an apple tree and empty my overflowing compost bucket so I think now would be a fine time – tis absolutely belting it down. I bet I won’t see a single soul there. I’ll be able to plant my tree and sit in my dry shed admiring the view and waiting for the bulbs to poke through.

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Chard Nurturing

Compost Heap

I staggered across to my allotment today, laden with compostable materials. Not sure what the heck happened on the waste front last week but I’m going to blame the veg box. I could barely carry the bag of peelings, vacuum crud and shredded paper and by the time I added my friends sack of grass clippings to the load I was really struggling.

Still, it’s got to be done. Compost is my new passion of the moment and as I have three bins to fill I can’t slack on the waste production front. I was even tempted to pick up a few discarded pumpkin heads on my way but that was just too much.

It was practically dark by 3pm today so I had to light my way by a rather impressive bonfire. It was my best so far and actually managed to make an impact on my mountain of couch grass roots. It’s also provided a good heap of high potash ash that should give my fruit trees a good spurt for next year. I’ve been building the fire on the site I’ve earmarked for the Spartan tree due next month.

Lacewing Hotel

I’m really enjoying the preparation stage of this allotment and am just a tad worried about what I’m going to do when I’ve got everything sorted. I have a low attention span and get rapidly bored by tasks so the new plot is ideal for me – every 5 mins I can hop to a new job. Today I did bonfire building (which is actually quite hard to get bored of), lacewing hotel making, weeding (doh!), transplanting, manky chard nurturing, cloche making and compost stirring.

I was fortunate to find my broad beans pretty much in one piece but I wasn’t going to risk it with the pigeons and chose to knock up a protective fleece cloche with my last bits of blue piping. The fleece turned out to be the perfect size, something like 8m by 1.5m and it only cost £2.99 from Wilkinsons. Wish I’d got another pack at that price.

I mentioned last week that my first delivery of plug plants had got lost in the postal strike. Well my little chard plants and assorted brassicas finally turned up after 3 weeks locked inside a cardboard box. Most of the plants were complete mush as you’d expect and went straight into the compost pile but a few of the chard plants seemed to have a few leaves still in the land of the living. I’ve nurtured them on my windowsill for a few days and stuck them in the plot next to their more vibrant brothers today. I’m not holding out too much hope but fingers crossed.

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Bright Lights

Ruby Chard

It didn’t look like a great day for spending on the allotment. However, I had a number of tasks that needed to be ticked off the list so I headed off early to beat the inevitable rain.

I took the plot on rather too late in the year to sow any winter crops, so early in the month I ordered a selection of plug plants from Delfland Nurseries. Royal Mail scuppered my horticultural hopes when they vaporised my plants somewhere in the midst of their industrial action. Thankfully the nursery had a few more plants left and kindly sent me out a replacement. I may be about 3 weeks too late but my lovely little organic plants had arrived and they needed to go in the ground pronto.

My organic plug plants comprised: 6 spring cabbages, 6 calabrese and 12 “Bright lights” Ruby Chard. In addition to these little head-starters I had 157 bulbs to plant around the pond. Bulbs always look so easy when they are packaged up and I get carried away with the bulk purchase value but planting 157 bulbs is no mean feet. My pond is not so big either and the planting may now be a little over dense. I suppose spring will tell.

Neighbourhood Salad

My lunch for the day was almost entirely local, a very suitable dish for the plot. It was a potato salad, made with the pink fir apples donated by neighbours to the right, a cucumber from the neighbour to the left, tomatoes from Devon and a handful of my own 7 year old rocket.

As usual all the beds needed weeding and as most of the broad beans have popped above ground I could finally see well enough to have a dabble with the hoe. The garlic isn’t up yet though so I decided to leave the flush of green seedlings to another weeks colonisation.

Finished off by covering my brassicas in a new enviromesh contraption and wrapped up the plot as the rain started.

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Industrial Espionage

Dads plot

The Great North Run travel arrangements put paid to all plans for allotment labouring this weekend but I was able to do a reccy of some East Yorkshire plots and pick up more veg growing tips.

I think my dad was having payback thoughts after all the hard work he did on my allotment but “unfortunately” it was raining and we all know its not a good thing to dig on wet soil! Shame. Doesn’t stop you from admiring the handiwork of others though. They have some pretty productive plots in Bridlington but they seem excessively keen on brassicas, who needs 50 spring cabbages and 20 plants of purple sprouting? I am only jealous of course, I love purple sprouting and was just a bit too late with the plot to source any plants.

Bridlington Allotments

I met a couple of allotment holders who were happy to demonstrate the art of seed collection and monster onion growing. I am now going to scrub all the dahlia seeds from my order form and go out on the scrounge for dead heads. I hope to have a patch of prize specimens this time next year. As for onions, I’ve been alerted to the labour required to grow a monster, no wonder I only end up with pickling onions. The trick seems to be to grow them from seed, then keep em watered, manured and fertilised. Can’t go wrong.

Rocket

I acquired a little pack of spicy salad leaves this weekend so on my return to London I made a quick trip to the lotty to sow them. I was going to sow over my row of rocket as I’d given up hope of the 6 year old packet producing anything but when I arrived I was greeted by a flush of green seedlings. How satisfying! Now I have two rows of salad stuff for the autumn.

The weeds are up in my newly dug bed as well. I must have missed some of the couch grass roots and its too late to dig it over again now. I’ll have to hope I can exhaust them with repeated hoeing.

I’ve been trying out a new website called myfolia, I think it is still in the beta testing stage but it is worth keeping an eye on. You can set up unlimited gardens such as home and allotment and then record all your planting details and journal entries. I think its going to be a really useful tool for monitoring successes and failures. If you use flickr for your photos it will automatically link into these as well, very pretty.

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End of Week One

Pigeon Thwarter

My parents are heading back to Yorkshire today but we were up early enough to cram in a quick trip to the lotty. We needed to see if the shed contraption was still in existence and construct a brassica protecting cloche. Talking to a few locals on the site yesterday indicated that my biggest threat was going to come from pigeons, so huge netting contraptions are required.

Mum with Fork

My mum can’t resist the urge to dig when she’s spots a weedy patch so the trip was extended as she attacked the last remaining heap. Over the last few days we’ve only managed to escape from the allotment by whining insistently until my mum finally gives in and hands over the fork. Anyone with digging requirements would do well to try and attract my mum to their plot!

Me and dad filled the time by creating another architectural wonder and planting a few rows of onion sets. I’ve also snuck a row of rocket under the enviromesh – I had a small bag left over from my last allotment days, not sure I can hold out too much hope for a massive of crop from year 2001 seeds though.

All in all, I think it’s been an incredibly successful first week. My folks have been relentless labourers and shown that weedy patch absolutely no mercy. I couldn’t have hoped to have any crops planted this year if it wasn’t for their help.

Side by side

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