Archive | July, 2013

Summer fun

26 Jul

OK so my mission this week was to get some stuff done on the plot and entertain the kids at the same time. As it was a beautiful day I packed a picnic, lathered everyone up with sun cream and set off round about when the midday sun gets fiercest. On arrival I unveiled my latest pound shop purchase to keep them entertained – a pair of plastic squirty bottles and once filled they happily pottered around squirting all the plants and each other. I showed my eldest her now out of control pumpkin plant which is making a bid for fruit corner.

pumpkin out of control

No one told me pumpkins took up this much space!

I also showed them my one and only cauliflower to make it from a seed. After keeping a very close eye on the brassicas to find out exactly how a cauliflower grows I was surprised to stumble upon a fully formed one in my raised bed. Both kids instantly said yes mummy, but we don’t have to eat it do we?

cauliflower

My one cauliflower!

After a leisurely picnic we finally got around to making a much promised scarecrow which was followed by several choruses of the dingle dangle scarecrow song for good measure.

b D and scarecrow

The world’s smallest scarecrow?

I hadn’t realised it would be quite so small but they seemed delighted with it, asking if it would come alive after dark. My youngest stood amongst the ailing potato plants for ten minutes pretending to be a fellow scarecrow. So far so entertained.

herb garden going to seed

Herb garden going to seed.

I can’t say I got an awful lot done other than water, plant some more beetroot and make the dinky scarecrow but it was a nice summer holiday activity. A change from the garden or the park, coming up close to nature – they spotted bugs and birds and as the picnic was hungrily consumed I remembered this was a little slice of my imagined plot rather than the harsh reality of weeding in the midday sun. We could just be at the plot without needing to do anything much. The potato plants looked even worse and so the one time I did pick up a digging fork was to see what was going on underneath the ground. They probably weren’t the most bountiful potato plants to ever be harvested but from three plants I got half a bag’s worth of spuds. I set the kids up with one final task – washing them – as I tried to level the ground off and pulled up what weeds I could.

spuds and beetroot

Plot grown spuds and a beetroot.

On arrival home I thought about an article I read recently (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/13/no-freedom-play-outside-children) that said some kids spend as little as 4% of their time outside compared to our grannies’ generation who were free to roam a fifty mile radius. I guess the plot is my way of giving them a bit more of the outdoors, to feel connected to the food they eat even though until the tomatoes and cucumbers come to fruition, there is very little chance of getting them to actually eat any of it besides the spuds.  

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The Arthur effect

23 Jul

I was going to use the title ‘The Arthur effect’ for my last post but then realised I needed to use my month long absence as a starting point because when you blog about allotment gardening anything that deviates from the relentless battle against weeds needs to be utilised for all its worth. Last time I was at the plot it hit me that most of the plants that are currently thriving are thanks to my uncle Arthur. He gave me the courgettes and tomatoes. Even the potato plants from his seed potatoes look healthier than the ones grown from my batch of seed potatoes I bought from a well known gardening shop. The brassicas are my own work – grown from pound shop seeds. Ditto the pepper seedlings – I had six originally but now they are down to two.

Peppers

My pepper seedlings – slugs ate 4 of them

The flower border which I can now see for the first time in months is also courtesy of my uncle, it lines my now depleted and weary looking potato patch.

potato patch with flowers

I can see my flower border once more.

There have been other self grown triumphs – I planted beetroot in the bit once known as the pond. The drainage job we did of chucking loads of sand in there has really worked, I had to water them from day one. The only problem was deciding how to use the beetroot as I have never been a huge fan and the only dish I use them in is a soup which right now it’s too hot to even contemplate. I picked some the other day and made a roasted beetroot and chickpea salad along with tomato couscous all flavoured with herbs from herb garden. I am now a convert to beetroot and wish I had planted more than seven.

beetroot with couscous and herbs

It was yum!

And there has also been some lawn growing activity. Ken did a grand job of tidying up the grassy edges of the plot on Sunday. The grass hadn’t been cut for well over a month but in a couple of hours it looked respectable if not 100% tidy.

20130721_130317

The whole freshly-trimmed plot.

Our plot doesn’t look quite as pristine as maybe we had hoped it would by now, everything has taken so much longer and life always gets in the way but we are seeing slow progress, it’s taking shape. Things are growing, a lot of which I’ve been given but some have also grown from my pound shop seeds. The only trouble is life once more gets in the way – the kids are off till September and the only way I can persuade them to accompany me to the plot is with promises of making a scarecrow or building a sand pit. Great summer holiday activities but as we play and get creative I expect to see the weeds take hold once more.

Back to blogging

20 Jul

What a difference a month makes and what a month it’s been. Too busy to blog, too busy to garden, too busy to socialise. At times it felt as though I was even too busy to breath. The details of the busyness are the usual work life balance getting slightly skewed – examining for EDXCEL at the same time as doing the first course I have done in ages and trying to make time for my normal job, the kids, forty minutes of daily meditation on top of marking as many really badly written essays as one can muster energy for at the end of an already long day meant that for a while at least the allotment dropped off the list of priorities.

It was interesting that this time of stress and deadlines coincided with me doing a course in how to deal with stress more mindfully. You could say it really helped test my mindful mettle. I learnt on the course how at times of stress we drop the very things that nurture us, that give us joy, that keep us sane. Stressed and busy? Bye bye friends, laughter, yoga, eating healthily, sleeping well etc. It is just what we humans do. But for once I kept one thing going and that was my daily meditation. Not because I am particularly good at sticking at things but more because I had paid 200 quid for the course so I wasn’t going to bail out just for a bit of marking.

Fast forward a month, the stress has dissolved into a long hot summer. I am one day away from finishing work for two months. The course has finished, I am about to pay for the teaching mindfulness course with my hard won marking wages. And it is time to start nurturing myself and that unloved plot again.

I didn’t totally abandon the plot in that time but all I had time to do was water. The weeds were left to their own devices. My once pristine path is now sprouting weeds. The potato patch was so over run with weeds the potato plants themselves were beginning to die. So my first task had to be clear the weeds and save some potatoes.

weeded potato patch

My emaciated spuds!

This took the best part of 6 hours in the baking sun. This has made me pledge to never listen to anyone who says just leave potatoes to the weeds, it’s a fallacy which next year I’ll ignore.

It wasn’t just weeds that had grown though. My raised beds are thriving. The tomatoes have wee green tomatoes on them and I cut two courgettes from those previously ailing plants. And the raised beds with the broccoli and lettuce were also rather fecund.

tomatoes thriving

Thriving tomatoes

courgettes thriving

      Thriving courgettes

thriving brasicas

Thriving brassicas

Fruit corner was also thriving – weeds and thistles have overtaken the little bit of lawn I had managed to grow. A lot can happen in a month, weeds can conquer, plants can bear fruit. It seemed a little disheartening to see the total domination of weeds in fruit corner once more but then I found myself accepting that the weeds can be pulled up (once again) and at least during this busy time the plants were watered and for a month water was all they needed to thrive. It’s true that it’s unclear how many spuds we may get from those now emaciated plants and yes, I regret saying a bit too loudly to anyone who would listen that we’d planted potatoes because any idiot can grow them, even me. But at the moment everything else, including the weeds, is doing well. And spuds are quite cheap to buy whereas purple sprouting broccoli…. I’ll stop there in case I jinx it.