Archive | April, 2016

Going Slow

18 Apr

If you want a hobby that teaches you how to go slow then surely there can be no better teacher than having an allotment alongside a job and small kids.

My life, like many people’s these days, is one constant rush. Rushing during the week to get kids dropped off and jump on a train. Rushing home from work to squeeze the last hour of the children’s evening into my own. Then we have the weekends which could be gloriously empty lazy affairs but of course invariably end up being about rushing from one event to the next. I like having a balance with weekends – it’s always good to have a completely clear weekend now and then but April is not panning out that way, each weekend is taken which means still more busyness.

I had to practice some level of acceptance as my seed potatoes remained unplanted. I managed a strip here and a strip there but it has taken me about 4 weeks to get that sense of satisfaction that comes when a job is finished, done, ticked off the list.

Each time I have visited the plot in the last month I have rued the fact I couldn’t finish planting out the seed potatoes. I’ve had to leave the job unfinished and known that it will be another week or more before I can return.

I do have gardening friends who (whisper it) question the wisdom of planting potatoes in an allotment. They logically debate the pros and cons and given that you can get a bag of potatoes for a quid decide the benefits don’t outweigh the time and effort.

As the job went unfinished for so I long I started wondering if perhaps I should adopt that logic, why bother anyway? And when I saw the final strip that needed digging over today and felt the cold numbing my fingers I also wondered can I be bothered to do this plot business anymore.

Short of setting off yet another existential crisis (come on,once we start thinking what’s the point, we could apply that to pretty much anything in our lives) the last strip set me a challenge. A challenge to be done with, so I could at least blog about something else, anything other, than seed potatoes.

After an hour the strip was weeded, dug over and planted out and I wondered why exactly it has taken me a month to do this even though I am very aware there about ten other things in my life that come before planting out seed potatoes.



Top six spring time cheats

4 Apr

Forgive the over-proliferation of posts and be reassured it won’t last long. I am back at work tomorrow and this is followed by an intensive training course all next weekend which means I will not be heading to the plot for at least a week.

Once the driving lessons resume in mid-April I will kiss goodbye to my occasional plot slots, very narrow windows that they already are, by mid April they may close up altogether. So my mission at the moment is get what I can done while I can.

I dragged the kids down to the plot for the second day in a row. There was no promise of barbecues just the realistic pledge that once we’d got our fresh air hit and legs stretched for the day they would then be at liberty to play at home, watch TV and eat some leftover Easter chocolate. For the record that bribe worked well and was much less hassle than yesterday’s aborted barbecue debacle!

I managed to get 8 more spuds planted out, another strip of clay like soil dug over and then was able to leave after only an hour and a half feeling like it was time well spent. As the prospect of busyness looms large from tomorrow onward I thought about various short cuts that have helped me so far keep my plot ticking over now I am on maintenance only mode.

My top six shortcuts this year:

  1. Cover every patch of ground you can when not using it. Today I peeled back a section that had been covered in a big cardboard box the oldest’s bike had come in. The earth underneath was soft and mostly weed free, an (almost) delight to prepare for planting.
  2. When planting out potatoes don’t bother with a trench just dig individual holes and pop each spud in with some compost or manure to help things germinate. *Disclaimer: Be prepared that you will meet a barrage of ‘you-don’t-want-to-do-it-like-that’ from the more traditional plot neighbours you may have. Be strong – smile and nod with confidence – it does work!
  3. If the window for planting things from seed has passed you by, worry not and get thee to a cheapish shop that sells all manner of plug plants. I have now got 6 very nice tomato plants for the princely sum of £3. This year I am allowing myself this luxury as I figure it’s either this or losing momentum with the plot.
  4. Chuck whatever you can on top of your seed beds, cheap compost, poultry manure, blood, fish and bones, home made compost – anything that will help break down the clay like finish and make digging easier. I subscribe to the no dig manifesto – chuck it on top and let the earth worms do the rest.
  5. On the topic of home made compost don’t waste time digging and stirring your compost. I have 3 old plastic recycling boxes in permanent rotation that I fill, leave and use. This method is low maintenance and takes about 6 months to produce really lovely organic compost that will fill raised beds and pots with ease.
  6. Don’t be shy about enlisting the help of friends and family, even the youngest or oldest relative has something to offer the time stretched allotmenteer!

IMAG0401 (1)

Spuds planted out and the ground dug over.


Shop bought tomato plug plants – re-potted and thriving.


Many hands and all that…..


Getting your spuds in the ground

3 Apr

I have now entered a race against time to get my potatoes planted before it’s too late.

On Friday I picked up the most sprouty bag of desiree spuds that Wilko had to offer and once home I realised there was an ominous fishy smell about them.

Not wanting that smell hanging round the house for too long I invited the whole family to accompany me to the plot, stating it would be good wholesome family time.

The youngest and I went first. I rummaged around the shed to see if there was any charcoal and once this had been established, the hubby and the eldest came to join us with the promise that we would have the first barbecue of the year.

Don’t ask me why or how but the hubby (who sat in a chair fanning the flames for more than an hour whilst I battled with weeds) couldn’t get the barbecue started so come four o ‘clock we were all rather hungry and had conceded defeat. Disappointment (and hunger) hung palpably in the air, the oldest was particularly affected by this no-barbecue news. She doesn’t like anything coming between her and the possibility of sausages.

All were appeased once the hubby said he’d just cook them in the oven, it would be fun, an indoor barbecue. I stayed battling the clods, weeds and clay like soil where I hope to grow potatoes this year and was disappointed to only get one row planted out before getting a text to say that late lunch was finally ready.

Despite spending about four hours there today, it felt like it just didn’t happen or at least not in it’s entirety. But I did strim, sort out the blueberry bush and start weeding one of the strawberry patches as well as tame one strip of the future potato patch.



That time of year again

2 Apr

It’s a happy fact that spring has now sprung. I can report that until yesterday I nodded in agreement when several fellow gardeners have said as many gardeners do at this time of year: ‘ I haven’t even bought my seed potatoes yet.’ Neither had I. But the 1st April came and this seemed to jolt me into action so the last 24 hours have been a hive of activity, I rushed out and bought seed potatoes. I visited my neglected plot and also made a start on getting my funky veg kit (an imaginative xmas present) up and running.

At the plot I have been strimming, planting onions and garlic (probably far too late but hey ho) and of course catching up with some long overdue weeding.

As I am a useless orange carrot grower  I don’t hold much hope for the purple haze carrots in the funky veg set but it made the kids giggle and may even entice them to eat some if they do come to fruition, so it has to be worth a shot.