storm dennis

17 Feb

It’s half term and our plans changed at the last minute today, partly thanks to storm Dennis – we were meeting family in Cambridge but storm Dennis meant the trains were not running on time so we rearranged. I asked the kids what they wanted to do instead and they surprised me by saying a bike ride and then a trip to the plot, I didn’t even need to bribe them with chips at the nearby pub.

First thing we noticed on arrival was the shed window was missing, the kids ran off to their secret base and left me to do a hasty repair job using string and wood to fix it back in place. Then I spotted the pond from years before had returned. And the weeds were slowly claiming back the uncovered beds. It’s been literally months, possibly even six, since I was last at the plot and I was thinking perhaps I should throw in the towel, admit that I just don’t have time at the moment for gardening but going back there today reminded me of all the reasons I love having an allotment – it’s messy and muddy, windy and wild and I hardly ever have much veg to show for my efforts, last year half the stuff I grew went unharvested as I didn’t have any time to pick or dig the stuff once it was ready but being there today and doing even just half an hour of weeding was exactly what my busy mind needed. And really we have storm Dennis to thank for us bothering to go down in the first place.




8 Oct

It’s been a low maintenance summer on the plot, I didn’t grow much, my potatoes failed due to lack of water and my cucumbers were a bitter disappointment (literally!). In my garden my tomotoes, courgettes and runner beans did better as I was on hand to adminster water as required.

So really the only thing that has succeeded this year at the plot is our apple tree – fruited for the first time proper giving us many bags of apples – it’s the first time in more than five years of allotmenteering that we have fruit to give away.


The only other success has been pumpkins which is a muted success compared to other years. I made a quirky new bed a few months ago – house shaped, long story – in which to plant them.


Fast forward a few months in which I have done no plot blogs and not much gardening either and behold I have two pumpkins and a marrow from a plant I believed to be a pumpkin plant! Kids harvest festival veg donations and Halloween sorted in one go!



the big thaw

5 Mar

I’m not sure if I have experienced such a dramatic snow week as when the beast from the east struck last week. It was hard juggling all the usual work and childcare commitments amid train cancellations and school closures of course but there was also something rather lovely about last week for those who were lucky enough to not have power or water cut off, hunkering down and embracing the snow was quite wonderful.

It was almost as though time itself stood still. A chance to jump off the conveyor belt of the normal daily grind. The look on the children’s faces when I picked them up early last week (their one and only snow half day that they got out of the bad weather) was a delight I will never forget. They came running round the corner and started chattering about the snow man they would build. In the end they just made two huge piles of snow but had fun doing it.

I popped to the plot today to ensure the beast from the east hadn’t mauled my little corner of calm too badly. All was well and tranquil there, signs of the cold snap were in short supply.

Everywhere looked green and spring like already, only the many frozen water butts hinted at the weather last week.


The new roof on the shed had survived storm Emma and looked ready to withstand further onslaughts should there be any.

Not much in the way of green shoots at the plot but my garlic and rosemary at least persist. Back home I was amazed to see my spring bulbs that had surfaced before the snow had sprung back up now the thaw is complete. Flowers can be hardy things I find.


it’s bean so good

27 Oct

I’m finding it hard to believe that I have harvested once again from my runner bean plant, literally the gift that keeps giving. This has been the first year when I have successfully grown runner beans of any worth. In the past I have harvested a handful and then nothing more. But the sunny spot in the garden that I randomly chose has seen it flourish from spring until now.

About three weeks ago I meant to dig it all up and put it in the compost as I was sure October would bring it to a swift demise but as so often happens time ran away and I shelved that task for another day, in which time I have had 2 or 3 more servings of runner beans.

So feeling slightly smug about my lack of time and actions in the garden, sometimes letting things be can be the best course of action.

Today I figure I have harvested from that generous plant for the very last time but still I haven’t had time to dig it all up and untangle it from its trellis frame, so who knows. It can’t go on for ever but maybe there will be one more serving from this gift that keeps giving.

Autumn Sorting

9 Oct

It’s that time of year when there is a lot of foliage to clear away and sort through. Weeding before winter, grass cutting before it gets to wet to wield a strimmer and lots of previously fruitful veg plants that now need to be dug up and composted.

I have a realistic level of acceptance these days about what I can achieve at the plot. I never have that much time down there. This week for example I am in London 3 days and then teaching 2 other days and so my days of meandering down to the plot while the kids are at school are not going to happen this week at least.

So I have been doing short pockets of plot activity the last few weeks and I have learnt that you can get a lot done in 30 minutes. If you arrive with a clear purpose and mission it will get done or at least get started depending on the size of the mission statement.

So yesterday I went with the mission to clear and weed the patch which I grew garlic on and today in another 30 minute session I did the same for the neighbouring patch where the cucumbers had flourished.

I was rewarded for my toil with 7 more cucumbers – the very last crop of this year plus a plot neighbour gave me a bag of tomatoes which was an unexpected bonus. Not bad for a half hour stint.


Previous micro visits have seen me clearing away the sweetcorn that did so well and digging up the last of the spuds although admittedly that was in a longer one hour visit but still I have learnt a lot about going there a with a clear focus, doing one job and then heading home. It works well with a busy life and this colder weather.


the plot-ness monster

7 Aug

It’s summer and the silly season hits the news and making headlines in our household is a rare sighting of the plot-ness monster.

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Mainly used as tempting bait to lure my youngest down to the allotment today this inflatable character was actually a gift from a kindly plot neighbour who on hearing that the kids were delighted to see this beast among his beans he then gifted it to us. The plot-ness monster as he is now affectionately called, resides in our shed, has a little lead and is taken for walks around the plot when the weather allows.

Today was one such day. My youngest is now old enough to be helpful while he visits the plot, he watered all plants without soaking himself about two hours before yet another unscripted (as in not predicted by the BBC) monsoon like shower poured fourth over our little corner of the world.


Gifts are part of the joy of having a plot. Only yesterday another plot neighbour gave me a lovely bouquet of flowers which I happily took home along with the veg we harvested.


And inspired by a fellow allotmenteer online who this week dug up the hugest potato I have ever seen I dug up 2 of our potatoes plants. A mix of sizes and quality but no whoopers to be seen, with 16 more potato plants to dig up it’s fair to say potato season is here.


Meanwhile my little plot in my back garden is doing well and giving us a plentiful supply of beans, lettuce and tomatoes.

It had been a week or more since I last went to the plot and it is not a good time of the year to leave it even for that short period of time. With all the rain the grass was high and most of our time today was spent cutting grass and weeding before succumbing to a cuppa and a flapjack.

But at least this unpredictable and rather inclement weather means things aren’t getting frazzled and dying when left alone.



harvest time

3 Jul

It’s been a busy few weeks with work and family life filling up most of my waking day. Somehow though I have managed to squeeze in at least 4 hours plot time each week.

Partly helped by the fact that even though I am working five days a week, two of these days are at home in my freelance capacity so if I decide to go to the plot to do some watering I can.

I went there today, the grass needs cutting once more but I busied myself with watering and harvesting. Enjoying picking all the fiddly blackcurrants I could reach. Taking my time not to get scratched as I picked the biggest crop of raspberries so far.

Harvesting, like weeding and watering, requires time and energy. Not only do you need to pick what you have grown, you need to pick off leaves, wipe off mud and bugs, carry it home and wash it and then work out exactly what to do with half a carrier bag of broad beans.

It all takes time hence why I try to grow what we frequently use – salad, courgettes, potatoes. Low maintenance no brainers is what I need right now.

Having said that though I am now about to google how to make blackcurrant cordial and also will do some nice but rather high maintenance salad thing with the broad beans which involves blanching and then peeling them.


Addendum: I didn’t make cordial, opting instead to make knicker bocker glories with home made raspberry sauce.

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ship shape

14 Jun

I have been going at the plot a bit gungho of late. Mainly as I know I have several weekends when I will not make an appearance. So this means I have been going there as much as I can manage. This has involved bribing the kids with chocolate, crisps and even a pub supper just to ensure my plot desires (strimming, weeding – I am easily pleased) are fully met.

The result is satisfying to say the least. It’s looking really proper again. It won’t last of course. I am away this weekend and then won’t be around for several more after that. Could anything illuminate the fact that everything is impermanent better than an allotment?

Weeds get controlled. Grass gets cut but turn your back, take your foot off the pedal and they all creep back.

I’m enjoying the proper-ness while it lasts. All too soon the jungle will reappear of that I have no doubt.


How it was few weeks ago and how it may well look next time I visit!

the Arthur effect: 2017

1 Jun

As mentioned in my last post I have been gifted a whole load of beautiful seedlings from my uncle Arthur. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. I have had little time and not much luck with growing seedlings on my window sill this year – the seeds I got seem to be hit and miss, luckily the one thing Arthur didn’t provide – cucumbers – has thus been the only thing I have managed to successfully grow from seed so far this year.

It was also fortuitous timing because my mum, bless her, delivered them all (how she fitted them into her car I do not know) the week before half term.

I have had a whole week off from the treadmill that is my working life. Time to potter and relax in the garden with the kids. I can’t describe how glorious that has been. During that time both my garden and my allotment have been thoroughly pampered with the arrival of these lovely plants and I can now hold my head up high among the old boys on the plot. One even complimented me today as I arrived with a tray of courgettes and pumpkins to plant out, ‘what beauties!’ he exclaimed. Believe you me there has never been such flattering words about my own spinderly, home grown efforts!

At the plot.

And at home.

low maintenance-ish

25 May

When I took on the plot more than four years ago it required huge amounts of work. I knackered my little finger up whilst being on driven doing mode, pulling up knarly weeds with my bare hands. Everything had to be formed, each part took weeks.

But as well as being hard work it was a labour of love and very satisfying as it all came together. There are still unconquered corners of our plot that somehow always slip down the to-do list but nowadays the plot doesn’t need that much work.

My principle tasks always seem to be weeding or strimming, weeding or strimming. Today I did both as well as covering my gooseberry bush with netting, determined this year I will harvest some berries rather than let the birds have them all. I have not planted hardly anything this year and my attempts to grow seedlings on my window sills at home have had mixed results. It was all looking a bit like I would need to make an emergency trip to a garden centre and buy some ready grown tomato plants when along come Uncle Arthur, to the rescue once more. He kindly donated as many plants as my little outside ledge can hold. Tomato plants, courgettes, pumpkins, beans, lettuce and (a new one for my plot) sweetcorn.

I will plant these out at the weekend and over half term, it will make a nice change to do something other than strim and weed.

On arrival today the plot was rather overgrown and under loved looking but by the time I left two hours later it looked like my reliable little corner of peace and tranquility in a crazy world.