Archive | May, 2014

One man went to mow….

29 May

Pity the person married to an avid allotment gardener. On one of their rare and precious mid term, mid week days off, when they have a wee break from the grind that is driving down the the M11 to work they will, quite possibly, be asked, very politely of course, to please please assist with the cutting back of fruit corner.

It’s a fact that we had let it grow so high, too high for our little cylinder mower to be able to quell. I had attempted some valiant efforts in cutting it, trimming it and generally trying to tackle the beast. Grass areas had seemed such a good idea last year when we weighed up (literally) the pros and cons of bark chips V grass. Low maintenance bark chip may well have been but how the hell do you shift all the massive sacks of the stuff in the first place. Carrying a small pack of grass seed seemed a better bet last year and you know, it does look good. We have our grassy fruit corner, a place for the kids to play and once the fruit trees grow a bit more there will be shade too.

But first it had to be hacked back. So that is where we headed this morning. The kids safely despatched in some local trampoline day session, we had our one day of freedom and laughed about the fact we were spending some of it at the plot. Arrival was actually closer to midday as we both had late nights last night thanks to a monumental delay on my train service out of London that saw me having to get the tube to Epping and then sharing a cab with three lovely strangers. One of those experiences that make you realise how great trains are when they actually run on time.

So we lingered over tea (me) and coffeee (him) before finally saying, Octonauts style,  OK let’s do this. The arrival of my hubby drew various gardeners towards our plot to say hello as he rarely makes an appearance during the week. Lovely friendly sociable times but also adding to his humiliation of mowing a jungle with a cylinder mower picked up cheap in front of a small crowd. All this aside though, the hubby did a grand job.

fruit corner mowed

I had a less physically gruelling task but not a pleasant one – I was snail and slug destroyer extraordinaire. I scooped up dead ones from beer traps, placed any others I found in said beer traps and, whilst weeding and because I couldn’t be bothered to continually  keep walking over to the beer trap to put more in, I started to impale the ones I found. This might sound grim and rather heartless but the little blighters have started to devour my potato plants. Is nothing sacred? I thought they hated potato plants and that is why they are such a reliable and easy crop to grow.  But I was wrong, hence this is now war!

Finally at around two we realised the kids would soon need picking up and we had promised ourselves a pub lunch so we chucked in the towel for the day. It was hard work but the grass is much shorter, there are a lot less slugs and I picked some of my slug proofed lettuce and had it for supper.


I grew that and the slugs didn’t eat it – result!

Life and Death on the Plot

23 May

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The hope was that this would be an inspirational post entitled ‘The Arthur Effect Part Two’ which builds on last year’s post all about how the plants my uncle gave me went on to do well. But this year is turning out to be quite a different one and so I was tempted to call this post ‘Plants my uncle gave me that I have accidentally killed’.

The pictures above document the demise of some lettuce seedlings he gave me, the remaining beetroot seedlings that now look well past their best, the pea plants, once lush and green, now brown and withered and the last remaining pumpkin plant which is hanging on in there.

However as the final blog title suggests it isn’t all doom and gloom down the plot, there are many splendid things growing there too.

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My courgette seedlings have all grown and I was gifted a new batch of pea seedlings by my brother-in-law. The third batch of uncle Arthur’s lettuce seedlings which I replanted after batch 1 and 2 were eaten by slugs have flourished thanks to slug proofing the pot they are growing in with pound shop fleece. Tomatoes round two are also doing well as are the cabbage seedlings he gave me. And I got my first humble harvest of onions from the batch I planted in October. And my scatter and grow approach to carrots and turnips seems to have at least produced some seedlings at last.

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The two unstoppable things that grow on the plot are grass and weeds. The edging, mowing and weeding has become such a never ending story it barely warrants a mention but this week I claimed back my edible border from the jungle of weeds that surrounded it. No idea if the sticks-that-may-one-day-become-fruit-bushes are still actually alive or not but I guess not being suffocated by weeds will give them slightly better odds. I also weeded my onion patch and replanted in the gaps where I harvested, so that corner of the plot at least is looking quite tame.

More mowing will ensue this weekend when we attempt to claim back fruit corner!

Slug fest

13 May

I seem to have some kind of hybrid bionic slugs on my plot, feasting on whatever I plant. In my last entry I listed carrot seedlings, beetroot seedlings, lettuce seedlings and now my pea plants as having succumbed to their insatiable appetite but now there are more casualties.

The pea plants are just about hanging on in there, but for how long I cannot say. I went there on a mercy mission this morning to dig yet another slug beer trap as they seem impervious to even the finest poison garden shops sell. There I was on the plot having one of those moments you’d rather not share – clutching a can of basics lager at 9.30am, topping up the beer traps having scooped out a large stack of dead molluscs.

But the latest casualty, gone for good are my pumpkins, at least two have gone completely, only one seedling remains despite putting eggs shells, gravel and poison near to them, the robo-slugs have remained undeterred.

dead pumpkin

Now you see me…

With all this slug carnage and frost I can only assume that last year, my inaugural year of being a gardener, I just got very very lucky. I actually had a moment today when I thought (whisper it) is this really worth the effort? I mean how much is a sack of spuds anyway? I could buy organic veg for a year on the amount I have spent on equipment and compost. And let’s not get started on the time it continually sucks from me….

But despite the rant, it isn’t all doom and gloom. I finally planted my blueberry bushes, as I have decided perennials and fruit bushes are where it’s at for a gardener of my limited talents. And I planted out a container of carrot seeds. A friend did really well with her container grown carrots last year so this has inspired me to use a now decommissioned recycling bin for the very same purpose.

And I have broad beans! OK so half my plants have been blown over by the wind and I can’t say I am overly fond of broad beans but surely there will be a nice homous-y type recipe I can use them up on and it beats having the slugs eat them.

broad beans


Too busy to blog!

9 May

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I have been having ‘one of those weeks’ for about the last three when I have been too busy to blog. This may cause a wry smile, as barometers of busyness go I know it’s not that big a deal, being too busy to blog. But still, I miss it. I take photos and upload them and then they don’t get used and the thing about the plot is things move one so quickly that they soon become old news. So here is a pictorial guide to all things plot related.

In recent weeks I have planted peas, tomatoes and it seems both were put out too early. The tomato plants’ patch now looks more like a tomato grave yard and the peas have been ravaged by slugs. I have attempted to cut grass, been edging like a demon and I beseeched the hubby to do some mowing too. Before he escaped to London last weekend for his birthday treat of drinks and a concert, he was sweating down the plot trying to tame a jungle.

It was worth it though, half the plot now looks better and I keep edging the other half hoping that might help when it too gets its turn to be mowed. I was there this morning uncovering long forgotten gooseberry and blueberry bushes. I still have more blueberry bushes in the shed in need of planting, once more postponed till next week.

And even when things get planted they don’t always work out. The tomatoes have been killed by frost, ditto the first lot of carrots and beet-roots. The pea plants are so slug nibbled that I have finally started using horrible slug killer AKA pesticide because I have tried everything else to no avail. Those peas had collars of sand paper, were sprinkled with egg shells and gravel, netted over and had a beer trap amidst them and yet still they have shrunk every time I go back. So today I got real, thanks to a fellow mum-gardener who gave me a huge tub of poison. I sprinkled and tried not to think too hard about their little mollusc brains being fried.

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The pumpkins are also showing signs of slug ravishing but the cabbage I planted is looking good and, as I think I probably wrote last year, thank goodness for rocket, the seemingly one plant at the moment that can even survive on my pest infested plot. And this general busyness has meant I have only just got my potatoes in so at least if they do grow, I should be able to be fairly confident they won’t succumb to frost.