Tuesday, 28 April 2009

A bit o' lottie history

Look what I found in my shed - some allotment history hidden amongst the books I inherited. It was a very exciting find. These two old photos are very cool.

The 'shed end', loaded up with all manner of veg. The shed's got some trellis on it which is a good idea. Maybe I'll reinstate it :) The two sheds to the right don't exist on that plot anymore and the other side is nice and tidy these days, with 2 sheds of its own.

Look at this mega squash haul!! No pressure to produce this on the allotment myself then! Hmm, what do you do with that many pumpkins?

Pathetic weeding attempt!!

As I mentioned in my last post, I attempted to clear my strawberry row. Boy was it hard work! It's going to take me ages to do it all! Here are photos of my lame attempt. lol! You can see what I am up against. Weeds galore. I also marked my paths with canes. I am still awaiting my grass-cutting men!! Tsk!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

Picked and packed

Well, I have so many spring onions ready to eat I am spreading the veggie love! I picked and 'packed' these beauties for the folks at work.

I also got another crop of asparagus after only a couple of days. This stuff grows mega-fast! Not a problem though, I love it! Might have to get a harvesting volunteer to keep on top of it whilst I am on hols. I am sure I can find someone who likes asparagus! Having it again for tea tonight - yummy :) There's the asparagus festival on near me at the mo (started today) so I am thinking of popping up there this weekend with my aunt and uncle, who are down for a visit. We're also going for a woodland bluebell walk, I think :)

Tonight there wasn't much light at the allotment but I was there for a couple of hours until it was too dark to see (even though I still wanted to stay!). Made a start on my strawberry row. It is totally overgrown with grass and it is going to take a while to weed. I also marked out where I want my paths so my lovely lottie neighbour, John, who has volunteered to cut my grass, can see which bit needs cutting. This should also help my friend Paul know which area to strim! Aren't men handy ;)

I didn't take any photos of the lottie tonight as, to be honest, my clearing looked rather feeble and pathetic! But as you allotment folk know, lots of effort goes into something but you don't always see a big result straight away. It was also dark!

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Allotment plan - initial map

So, the plot got measured last night and I was quite surprised to find out it was over 50m by 5m (with 1m paths down each edge) - bloody big! I've made a quick to-scale map of what is where so I can start to decide this year's plan. Some things are missing so I need to add them in like the tree, pond, compost bins etc but this plan should really help me think about what I'd like where.

G.A. = globe artichokes, dark brown patches = dug over, light brown = to weed/dig, green = grass paths

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

More yummy veg

Been down the allotment tonight, measuring, so now I can plot what goes where. Also been doing some clearing and had a little bonfire to get rid of all the dead bits and pieces that were lying around.

I also picked the first crop of asparagus...

and more spring onions...

Nothing quite like fresh veg. I really can't wait until I have lots more veggies grown and ready to eat.

I really need to plant out my peas as they are growing so quickly! Everything's growing quickly - the soft fruit is starting to show little berries already after only a couple of weeks when it was just flowers.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

Asparagus and spring onions cleared

This is part of what I was up to yesterday. I wanted to weed around the crops I have growing to take away competition for nutrients and to see what I've got. This is the asparagus and spring onion bed after I weeded it. You can see top right what it looked like before - very weedy! I hand-weeded as the asparagus is coming through now and I didn't want to damage it.

I have helpers coming today - my friend Claire who came with me the first night I saw the allotment and Paul who will be watering for me whilst I am on hols. I am hoping it will be fun and we get a couple of the large beds ready for planting.

I was going to measure the plot so I can plan what goes where yesterday but my tape measure has gone walkies, so I will do that today as Paul has one I can borrow. I don't want to put things in without planning so I need to measure asap.

I met another neighbour last night, from the opposite side of my plot - Bert. He seemed nice and I think he was worried I was digging up the asparagus! I expect having an allotment is like living in a village - everybody knows what you're up to. :) Bert was telling me Rob, who had my allotment before, "kept it like a palace". Hmm, no pressure there then!

Saturday, 18 April 2009

A kind gift

Well, halfway through the day and I am taking a break from digging. Was in dire need of a drink so popped home for a rest and to quench my thirst. Stupidly I'd bought lots of food and snacks to keep my energy levels up but I totally forgot about getting thirsty and had no drink! Oops.

Anyhoo, lots of people at the allotments today. 'Tis sunny you see. Luckily not the full sun we had forecast or we'd all melt I think! I've met more friendly people today - Chris who is one of my neighbours John's brother. He was snaffling John's rhubarb!! Chris also has a plot and I think he said his shed is called Twin Peaks or something!

I also met another neighbour, the plot across the access road from mine. He is also a John. He's had his plot for 20 years and it is immaculate. Puts mine to shame. He gave me a gift which was very sweet, especially as we only spoke for about 5 minutes. He's given me some seed potatoes - Charlotte - which are ready to go in the ground now and will be good to harvest about July. It was very touching :)

Nice day for digging

Well, looking out the window it is seeming promising for a day of digging :) The forecast seems good for the whole weekend so hopefully I can get quite a lot of sorting done.

I was up early, as usual, and have done 3 commissions for glass customers. I've blogged about it on my glassy goodies blog if you want to see what they'll look like once finished. Well, best get ready to go out :)

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Some shopping and my 1st allotment meal

Well, it blooming well rained ALL DAY here. Boo @ that! I was all psyched to dig but that didn't really happen. So, horror of horrors, I HAD to go shopping again! Terrible. I hate shopping... ;) So, I did the b&q/homebase run and checked out allsorts of things I might/might not get. They have lots of veg plants on special at the mo and as I got my lottie a bit late (and I am on hols for 3 weeks!) I may invest in some of these and save some of my seeds for later/next season. I did buy a few things - some compost for potting seeds, a plastic trug-type thing kinda like a flexible bucket. I'm sure it has a proper name! It was another bargain - about £3.50 where I have seen them elsewhere for about £6. It was reduced for some reason but looked fine to me. Lovely colour blue too. I also got sucked in by a 3 for 2 on garden refuse bin bags. There is way too much to compost once I sort out the allotment so I thought it was a wise investment. I will have to make a few trips to the tip I think! Speaking of compost, the first piccy in this post is of 'Captain Compost', my new kitchen compost caddy. Don't ask me why I have given it a name!!! I was also looking at bbqs. I think an allotment party or two is definitely in order. Pimms o'clock and all that!!

I did do practical things at the allotment once I'd dumped all... sorry, put away nicely(!) my new purchases in the shed. My new plants needed a good water. Got to keep them happy before they find new homes. Still need to plan where I want things. Must remember to measure out the plot next time I am down there on Saturday. I also bought a big pot to confine my garden mint and planted that this evening. I don't want mint going everywhere as it spreads like nobody's business!

On my way back to the car, when it was virtually dark, I decided to pull up some of my veg for tea. I grabbed some spring onions (which I had previously thought were onions) for tea and some parsnips which I will have tomorrow I think.

Don't they scrub up well?!

There's nothing quite as tasty as home-grown food.

And here is what I ate. Spring onions fried in olive oil, scrambled egg, seafood and a little soy. Yummy!

Oh, I also found some rhubarb on the plot. I think it is mine! It is on the path border but it looks like it is mostly on my plot. Wahey!

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

The shed of wonderment

As promised, here's a post about my shed. It is pretty special :) My friend Claire has decided it is very 'Joanne Harris'. It does look quite romantic in a very quirky way. I guess the unique decor also has a hint of the texas chainsaw massacre about it too! It was such a thrill to find out my allotment included a shed, and a good-sized one at that. What made me chuckle is that it has a proper front door, including a letterbox and porch!! I do need to get a number for it as although I have 2 plots, only one has a number. I wonder if I sent myself a postcard it would make it to the letterbox...?! The horseshoe on the door is a warming little touch of good luck. Hope it works for me.

The first day of 'owning' the allotment I didn't have the key to the shed so I had to admire it from the outside. What struck me most was the window. It is pretty big. Once it has been cleaned up I can admire my hard work from it. It's going to be useful too as I don't have a greenhouse. I should imagine the shed stays pretty warm as it has a clear-plastic corrugated roof which lets in lots of light. I'm sure it will function pretty well as a greenhouse substitute.

Having a shed has the added bonus of water collection via a gutter. There are 4 water butts next to the shed, all linked together so water flows to the next one as each fills up. The water in these has been standing for a long time though and I think they could benefit from a clean out, but they're useful to have. No tapped butts though, however it should be easy enough to fill the watering can.

Once I got the key for the shed from 'Betty' on day 2 it was a real moment of excitement. Who knew what mysteries and surprises awaited me as I turned the key for the first time. Yes, I really did take this before I went into the shed. I thought it would make for a good photo.

Once in, this is the sight I first saw. I was like a child on Christmas Day! ...is that a plastic pigeon?! - yep, it sure is. He's now called 'Bob'. There's a better photo of him to follow, along with the retro clock I am not going to reset. Allsorts of things had been left - tools, seeds, sacks, pots, propagators, markers, etc, even a shelf full of books!

I've made a list of the titles in the column on the right of the blog. Looking through them, they seem really useful so that'll be something for me to peruse when it is too dark to work on the allotment. Being such a novice I find a real comfort in books. Let's hope they are clear and simple. I like some of the titles such as "Vegetable Plotter", which sounds like some sort of sinister activity!

Allsorts of things have been left in the shed, of varying usefulness! Here are some of them...

plastic pots, markers and metal jugs

potato sacks, canes, a dusty director's chair and a pedal bin full of old seed packets! - i threw the bike pump out!!

'bob' the plastic pigeon and the retro stopped clock

looks like the past owners had the right idea with the wine glass! lovely slate markers too

a box of string sacks, the other containing lots of seeds - see list in the column to the right of the blog

Lots more shed-related photos to follow. Will post this now and post again about the shed later. Don't want to overdo it!

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

New tools

You can't work an allotment without tools. It would be pretty difficult just by hand so we all need something to help out. Well, lots of 'somethings'! Luckily I had many either attached to the shed(!) or inside. I didn't have the starters though - a digging fork and spade, nor basic hand tools, so I went shopping. :)

Here's my new digging fork and spade - not the most expensive but they appealed to me the most. I felt a bit silly trying them out in the shop but it had to be done! They have nice rubbery grip handles and I liked the extra grip near the blade end for lifting. I doubt they will stay as shiny for long! Also in this picture is my new bucket (99p!) and my gloves - 2 pairs, which I bought a while back when I was doing conservation volunteering. One pair is thick for getting thorny things and the other pair are for general purpose jobs. I bought the more expensive gloves so they'd last a while and protect my artist's hands! The other item I've just bought is the pop-up bin which I am using to collect weeds etc in until I get a wheelbarrow. It was £3 but was the only one left in the shop and had already been a bit soiled so I was offered it half price for £1.50 - yay! I swear one day I'll use it and it will pop open right in my face though - just my luck and that thing has a real quick ping!!

This photo shows my new hand tools and some old bits and bobs. Again, the hand tools have comfortable rubbery grip handles. The last thing I want to get is blisters when I work. The other items in this photo are finds in the shed: safety goggles, metal hook and old handleless blade, as well as secateurs found at the bottom of a box in the shed which seem perfectly good to me :)

Yes, the shed, I need to post about all the finds I made once I got the key. Found something today - the green sack in the first photo of this post was a new surprise - it is full of netting!

Today's job - begin clearing the land

So, back after an Easter away I was itching to get started on my plot. Tonight I tackled the plot at the road end of my allotment. This was covered in dead squash and needed all the dry strands and fruits clearing before I could even think about digging. As you can see there were quite a few to get rid of. I filled two buckets full.

And I am afraid that is where the work stopped! My friend Paul came over to see my new plot and I had to give him the tour. He was very impressed and I have to keep him sweet - he has had experience of allotments and is offering his services as digger/waterer/company which will be great :) His mum also is very into gardening so I hope to get some tips. That is one of the things I love about gardening - inheriting tips and tricks, along with passing tools and advice along.

I also met more plot neighbours and someone else who just said 'hello' as he walked by. I am feeling very welcome already which is lovely :)

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Allotment produce already growing

I really have come top trumps in the allotment lottery. You don't pick a plot, of course, you are allocated one. I was lucky. I didn't receive one full of brambles and all overgrown. Oh no, I got one with an amazing shed, full of tools and bits of useful 'stuff', along with crops already planted and growing! Most of these I have more or less identified. Here goes...

gooseberries - don't like them myself but i know folk that do! they do look pretty amazing though :)

black?currant perhaps - i know it is either black or red currant as 'betty', the old allotment owner's mum told me so! lots of flowers anyway so that is looking promising :)


parsnips, i think - yum! [edit: yes, defo!]

smaller onions, maybe shallots? garlic? [edit: just onions]

onions [edit: no, these are spring onions - delish!]

globe artichoke (there are about 4 of these). never had them but apparently they're nice. they look spectacular so i am looking forward to seeing these

asparagus - discovered this while poking about on day2. i LOVE asparagus :D:D


um...? answers on a postcard! i have 2 rows of this stuff - not sure if they are identical, but the leaves are similar.

so, yes, very lucky! lots of goodies to get me started. will keep you posted on how they get on.

my next post will be about my amazing shed which i am in love with! hehe!

Thursday, 9 April 2009

Photos of the allotment, day1

every blog needs photos and now I have them. all 61 from day1 of being the offical owner! i picked the keys up for the shed from the previous tenants and they were really sorry to be handing them over, i think. every allotment has a story, eh. i met the previous owner's mum, 'betty', who had owned it before him and she was lovely. she wished me luck and i invited her to pop up whenever she felt like it to check how i was getting on :) i think she liked that.

so, here is my shed. have you ever seen such a quirky, fun shed? what a fab thing to inherit. it's crammed full of useful/not-so-useful things and i think it is quite charming. i think that great big window is such a bonus. it will be great to hide in here if the rain catches me out :) i am taking the horseshoe as a good omen for happy times ahead :)

i also have this little bench to sit on, take a break, contemplate life, sup wine/tea and admire my hard work. the allotment really is well stocked and i have inherited lots of fab goodies. look, i have 4 big butts! these fill with water from the shed roof so that should keep me going for a while :) i've been really lucky to get the allotment in the first place, but to get one which comes with lots of bits and pieces is a dream. i know most of the things won't be very expensive to buy but if you have 30 or so 'little bits and pieces' to buy it soon adds up. i also love the history of it too.

looking out over the allotment from the side of the shed - water butts, compost bins/heap and 2 old metal dustbins down here. you can see the little seat too

my allotment is already divided nicely into 3 areas. part 1 is near the shed...

this is furthest away from the access road and will be most likely where i spend most of my time. there are already crops growing away in this area, the 'shed end', such as asparagus (new discovery!), strawberries, onions and some sort of leafy thing! ha! such a novice!!

part 2 is full of soft fruits. 'betty' told me it was gooseberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants and that they had a fabulous crop from them last year. fingers crossed for a repeat!

i think i need to take out some of the dead bits and maybe prune a little but i shouldn't imagine i need to do that much in this area. it was nice to inherit something nicely established like this.

part 3 is the area nearest the access road. it has a few things in it at the moment but needs more work. there is a little area for me to park my car here so that is ideal for offloading/loading :)

the stuff in the front of the allotment was some sort of gourd-type squash and there are a lot of old ones left so i will try to gather some seeds and see how they go. you can see the full allotment in this photo now. the 'shed end' furthest from us, the soft fruit area, and the 'road end'!

...and just because i could park on my allotment, i did! (can you spot me!?)

so, that's the tour so far. later i'll post about the produce already growing away when i took ownership and the inside of the quirky shed :)

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

My first allotment

i have an allotment! my very first. i'm so excited! been waiting a year already and they said it would take 3 years for one to become available. 'ken' from the parish council called me yesterday and offered me a plot. went to look at it yesterday and it is perfect! imagine the best allotment ever. got it? well, i have that plot! hehehe! can't wait to be in my own bit of outdoors. one thing living in a flat i have really missed is having some outdoor space. a balcony just doesn't cut the mustard!

so much has been done already which is better than getting a daunting bit of soil. so, there is:
  • shed with massive window to sup tea in, including shelving
  • a rustic seat under a cute tree to drink wine from
  • a pond
  • globe artichokes already in
  • lots of raspberry/currant canes already established
  • a row of strawberries
  • a row of onions or something(!)
  • 3 big water butts
  • a big compost heap
  • not too many weeds/quite good soil to get going on
  • a 'friend' already called john, who said hello and gave me a tour of the plot and CLEARLY has plot envy as he was going on that i should take it and it is the best plot on the allotment!!!
allotment party anyone? ;) hehe! :D

i chose the name "The Green Grower" as it works on a few levels - 'green' in the colour sense, 'green' in that i am totally new to all this and 'green' in that i'd ideally like to be as organic as possible. the 'grower' part is pretty obvious!

this blog will be a record of day1 to whenever! i am a total novice gardener. always loved gardens and the idea of gardening and having an allotment to grow my own produce has always been a dream. now i have one so you can see how i get on. i'll also use this blog as a useful history of when i have planted things, how things have fared etc. all tips/tricks/advice welcome so do feel free to comment. wish me luck!