Archive | September, 2014

Belated Birthday Blog

25 Sep

It’s an all too familiar thing to over hear or find yourself utter – where has the time gone? As parents we say it all the time as we express surprise that a friend’s child who we haven’t seen for a year has miraculously grown by one whole year’s worth. And I also find myself expressing the same kind of platitudes about my little blog. I am well overdue for penning not just any old blog entry but my second-birthday-as-an-occasional-blogging-gardener entry.

As second birthdays go there is not an awful lot to report, all is well on the plot, a kind of strange calm hangs over it and I found myself realising, with amazement the other day, for the first time in the two and half years that I have had it, there is nothing much to do. It’s quite wonderful.  Some of my mega-sized-plot neighbours lament that there are simply not enough hours in the day but for me, a mere small holding at 4.5 rods, there is little that needs doing right now.

Admittedly I do slightly regret going with green manure on one of my raised beds as this will sometime, in the near future, require a bit of digging when I had vowed to follow a no dig plan for my allotment, AKA lasagne gardening because all you do is layer compost on top of compost and let the earth worms do the hard work.. This change of heart towards the high maintenance qualities of green manure only came about in a typically British-unable-to-say-no-lest-God-forbid-I-offend-anyone kind of way when a kindly plot neighbour gave me a packet of green manure seeds which of course left me feeling duty bound to use them.

Another job on my now happily small list of things to do is dealing with the huge pumpkin. Now too big to carry home single handedly for me, as a committed non-driver, I have to wait for an emptyish weekend and a willing hubby before I can harvest said pumpkin. As emptyish weekends are about as rare as chicken’s teeth this month and next, there is a distinct possibility that the slugs may well eat that pumpkin before we do.

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Aside from green manure and pumpkin (singular) there is not much else to do right now. I have not gone mental digging grass paths this autumn as I did last autumn as I now know they are quite high maintenance for someone as time impoverished as myself, so I may as well stick with membrane for the rest of the paths, even though it makes for a patchwork quilt effect of a plot. Admittedly the other day when struggling to find something to do I decided to finish off an opened pack of grass seeds on a still membrane covered section of fruit corner but that small two foot corner is thus far the extent of my grass sowing this year.

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Another thing I have been resisting is  replanting the edible border I have been trying (and failing) to cultivate since we started tackling the plot. I have one solitary pound shop blackberry bush that has sat in the shed for months in need of planting but when I looked at it today I was tempted to just chuck it in the compost, a kind of allotment version of cutting out the middle man, if the middle man were to be me soaking it’s roots and then lovingly plant it only for it to still be a twig poking out of the earth a year later. Why go through all that disappointment? Perhaps next season I should buy my fruit bushes from somewhere a bit more reputable.

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Even though we are fast approaching October there is still much to harvest. The courgette plants are continuing to produce and the cucumbers have finally, after three months of anticipation, come into fruition. I harvested the last four pears this morning. I dug up all the spuds a month ago and swiftly used the ground where they once were to plant leeks. Brassicas now grow where the broad beans were, showing that nothing on a small little plot like mine stays the same for long. Perhaps that is why I love the plot, it teaches better than any of my mindfulness courses the real meaning of impermanence.

At home I have grown chillis, peppers and tomatoes which have managed to stay blight free, a first for this novice gardener. When I stood back today soaking it all in it was amazement that struck me, for the fact that the plot still manages to lure me down there several times a week even though there is little to do and that I still enjoy my time there immensely. I think when I took it on as my ‘next’ project, two and a half years ago my husband (so used to my flights of fancy) just smiled and possibly thought here we go, let’s see how long it lasts. Now he probably wishes it had been a passing fad, that way he wouldn’t have to hear, in tedious detail, my latest weeding escapades and also he wouldn’t be sent on endless plot based missions such as gathering giant pumpkins or digging up green manure.

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Creating a child friendly plot

12 Sep

With the holidays a distant memory I have been pondering how it was I managed to get the kids to visit the plot at least once a week during that lovely long six week break. There was quite a lot of ‘If you go to the plot and let mummy dig for an hour you can do some art/have an ice-cream/or whatever’ type moments. Bribery never feels like your finest moment of parenting but it does get results.

But also they love being there, once they are there. So reflecting on it (with pictures) here is my guide to creating a child friendly plot.

1. Grow things they actually want to eat, fruit is always a winner.

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2. Encourage them to plant their own flower garden.

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3. Don’t bore them with details such as ‘this is green manure’

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4. Encourage them to grow their own pumpkin ready for Halloween

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5. Raid your nearest pound shop for loads of kids’ gardening equipment, always get metal forks/spades/watering cans if possible; they know straight away plastic forks are useless and will only nick yours if you try to fob them off with anything less than metal.

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6. Turn their once boring plot that grew radishes, onions and carrots into a strawberry patch and watch interest peak.

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7. Give them genuine manageable tasks to do like washing muddy spuds or shelling beans.

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8. Take a picnic, blanket and some toys. If not in picnic mode always have a cereal bar to hand and let them share your flask of tea.

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9. Encourage them to unleash some of their boundless energy on finding and removing slugs, snails and caterpillars from your plot.

Going on bug hunt mega slug Going on bug hunt caterpillars

10. If all else fails bribe them with the promise of an art or baking project once home, in payment for not being a complete pain whilst there.

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