Thursday, August 30, 2007

Housework at the allotment

So, the story so far...we took over a completley overgrown patch of an overgrown field and laughingly reffered to it as 'our allotment' and had very nice dreams of how we'd turn it into a productive allotment in no time at all. That was November of last year (06) and amazingly we're not doing to badly even though the reality of what we'd taken on hit us very hard after about 5 hours of strimming couch grass!!

So here we are nearly 9 months later (some people create humans in that length of time!!) and we decided that we had got to the time of year where we can relax with the tending of plants and do a little bit of housework by tidying up the plot a bit and continuing our journey in making it look like a proper allotment and not just a field with veg growing in!

Everyone knows that to be a proper gardener/allotment keeper you must create great steaming mounds of compost and also have an area for fresh horse muck to rot down before it is spread around. In true lottie style I had built up my collection of very useful bits of wood, old doors and bits of old tin sheeting.
So, D and I decided to build a compost bay towards the back of the plot, it's made from 2 old doors (the fanlight can be seen on the back one!) and it consists of 2 bays so that when one side fills up the other side can be started leaving the first one in peace to rot down into wonderful rich compost. It's a great feeling to be more organised and it's starting to look more like the sort of allotment that you see from train windows!

Compost bins made from doors
Next we decided to make the 'muck bin', this is made from 3 sheets of old metal (old shelves I think) that I found lurking at the back of my garden when we moved in.
We've dug a new bed out of the grass to continue the flower bed area so that come next summer we should have loads of flowers to be able to cut for the house. In the corner of this bed we've put the said muck bin which is right next to the track so we can easily dump muck when we drive in. I've just been told of a riding school locally that allows you to collect as much muck as you want for free, looks like we have a trip planned!! (much to D's horror!)

Tin shelf horse muck bin and new flower bed

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Sometimes it's bloody hard work!

Ok let's admit it, I wanted to do this allotment malarkey thinking it would be all fun, writing blogs and Peter rabbit/Mr. McGregor type gardening BUT (and it is a big but!) it bloody well 'aint like that!
I've avoided adding pictures of the plot as a whole in the last few weeks as it's been a Weed ridden field! But now after a few hours of work I can show you a picture of a semi-decent plot!

BUT (another big but!) I really need to stress something here, it has been very hard work digging, strimming and cutting but I have had my very capable other half 'D' toiling away in the background and whilst it has been tough going there is a HUGE amount of pleasure and satisfaction too!

To be able to stand back and look at our plot looking cared for is so satisfying and rewarding, I feel an enormous amount of sadness for all the people that we know have only just started this year on our site and already given up but I do understand the pressure they must feel .... we feel the same pressure. It doesn't always feel good but when it does it feels bloody great.
Same view from last November
Tonights meal was Lamb tagine served with Carrots, peas, french beans, cabbage and new potatoes, all from the plot (well, not the Lamb obviously!) The Lamb Tagine (Moroccan Lamb Casserole) was cooked in the slow cooker all day whilst we were at the plot so by the time we came back it was ready. All that was needed was to cook the fresh veg that we had brought back from the plot. It really is an amazing feeling to cook and eat a meal using all your own produce.
So to anyone out there thinking of giving it all up...DON'T!!! I was told to do a little bit at a time when I started but me being me and with the help of my AMAZING assistant 'D' we had to attack the entire plot, we are getting there, it's an uphill struggle but the feeling of satisfaction is fantastic.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

SUN!!! Oh My God We Have SUN!!!

Maybe I'm speaking too soon! But my God it's nice to see some sun instead of the endless rain.
The plot is in a weird state at the moment, all the rain in the last month or so has meant that we have been unable to get to the plot to work so it is heavily overgrown with weeds and the grass paths are have grown like crazy. On the good side the crops seem to be doing amazingly well.

'Jug of baby carrots'

We have managed a couple of jaunts to the plot to retrieve crops that are going mad! The courgettes are really fab, when I went up on my own one evening I was greeted by small marrows rather than courgettes but they have still been wonderful in soups and roasted with other veg. I also decided that the carrots that I had thought were a bit of a dead loss needed thinning out. I had had very poor germination rate with both the carrots and the parsnips earlier in the year but with subsequent sowings and all this rain we now have a couple of really good rows of carrots and a smattering of parsnips which is much more than I expected.

I had read somewhere that the best way to thin carrots is in the early evening when carrot flies are less active and also to leave them until the carrots are baby roots so that the thinnings can be eaten. I have to say they were great, it was a bit of a laborious task thinning them out but we had a great crop of really nice sweet baby roots!

Marrow sized courgettes and baby carrots

I'm still finding it hard to believe that the crops that I sowed with my bare hands are actually producing veg, that may seem an odd thing to say but I kept thinking I wouldn't actually be able to grow much, I doubted myself and nature too much! Being a complete veg growing novice it is a fab feeling to be picking veg that you have grown.



Cabbage, parsnip and carrot bed (Before weeding!)

As I've said before I love allotments that have a mixture of flowers and veg and I've tried to put some flowers in, this year is a steep learning curve and the gladioli that I put in had been rescued from being 'unstaked' by my fantastic allotment neighbours Sue and Will. I turned up one evening to find that they had kindly propped up the huge flowers that I had not given a thought to since planting them earlier in the year, this really shows the allotment spirit of helping each other out. The flowers really are great, really big bold splashes of pinky purple and now that the pot marigolds have come out by the side of them it is a complete clash of jewel colours.

Not a good picture! They look better in reality!

The Globe Artichoke that we had at home earlier in the year was suffering from being in a pot and I put it into the plot not really expecting much from it but it's now producing flowers/globes.
The dilemma is, do we leave them to come into flower to appreciate how beautiful they'll no doubt be OR do we cut the buggers off, cook 'em and eat 'em??It has produced about 4/5 small to medium sized heads so maybe we just nibble a couple!

And finally at the plot ... Onions! What a bumper crop of these! I'm not sure if ours will last that long as when we harvested them they seem all to be quite thick necked (apparently a thick neck is not good!) and very wet, I have used one of the plastic plant house/greenhouse at home to put them in to dry out and hopefully they'll be good to store. They should 'keep' for months, well into next year, we'll have to see.

Drying onions

And the very last and final picture this posting is of one small corner of the garden at home, in a rare moment of blazing sun I ran outside with D's re-discovered camera and snapped away!

The most prominent flowers in this picture are the Lavatera (big pink flower shrub at very back), the dark pink rose on the right (inherited from last house owner, an amazing flower show!) and the Nicotiana (cream/white flowers in centre of pic) Nicotiana are in my opinion one of the best flowers anyone could put in their garden, the perfume is AMAZING! It doesn't really smell much in the day but come 7/8pm it is as if someone has flicked a switch and the perfume is just wonderful. The other nice thing is they are dead cheap to buy as seeds, very easy to grow and will self seed in following years as these have done here from last years plant.

That's all for now, the sun is forecast to disappear in time for the weekend just when we intended on going to the plot and making an area for the compost heap, it might be a wet working weekend.... wish me luck!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

I'm 'Shed of the week' !!!

You'll all be jealous as hell .... Jane Perrone (Allotment authoress and blogger) has only gone and made my tumbling shack 'Shed of the Week', how cool is that!?

I have more plot updates coming soon, with the rare bit of sun we are having I just 'aint got time to blog.

The camera has been found too so new pics to follow soon......