Tag Archives: equipment

Never Ending Harvest

26 Sep

Since taking on our scrubby corner of paradise 4 years ago the constant questions from friends, family and anyone vaguely interested has always been ‘Have you noticed your food bills have gone down since taking on an allotment.’ The answer has always been a resolute no, not in the slightest. The cost of buying equipment, seeds, manure, compost and other allotment kit has always far outweighed the occasional £2 shaved off a shop because I don’t need to buy any spuds that week.

However this year had anyone asked me (no one did this year, perhaps they me too brash in previous years) my answer would have been do you know what, yes I think I have probably saved about a tenner each shop since July, so plentiful has the harvest been this year.

This in itself led to more spending – so often the way – my slightly lower food bills fooled me into thinking I could now afford an organic veg box to supplement my harvest and now I am signed up to the veg box scheme I’m confident that will go on long after any savings can be felt.

I made some raised beds at home this year and from them I have had a constant supply of courgettes, cherry toms and lettuce, loads of lettuce. I haven’t bought any bagged lettuce all summer. This has become so ingrained that even my husband remembers to go out to the garden with scissors rather than buy more lettuce when there’s none in the fridge.

At the plot itself I have had a constant supply of cucumbers, potatoes, more tomatoes and now our apple tree is finally giving us our first harvest, three years after we planted it.

The cherry tree, blueberry bush and gooseberry bush were all rather disappointing but still I am pleasantly surprised that it’s been such a good year given that I have hardly been there – something else always crops up. Something else I enjoy a lot less, like reading work emails, or keeping up with governor related stuff or having a driving lesson.

The crops are all done now, alas there is no such thing as a never ending harvest but it’s been a good summer on the plot and growing veg at home was good for ensuring things got harvested regularly while I am so busy. I spent 2 hours at my plot this morning and, just as the weather gets cold and winter draws in, I realised I really should go there more often. Perhaps next year.

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.

lettuce

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

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

 

Rue the day….

16 Apr

So yeah, I was saying I am the world’s biggest slacker-gardener and an expert in shonky doings when it comes to all plot-related things. This thought has niggled me for the last few days, I woke up wondering if my wobbly green house thing might still be standing.

Today I had to find out. After a day plodding through work for my diploma I promised myself a fleeting trip to the plot to check on my construction and my poor carrot seedlings, still languishing on the shelf, well guess what? As I walked towards my plot I could see something was missing, the mini greenhouse was gone.

rue the day 3

Luckily it hadn’t travelled far and was miraculously undamaged. Whether a kindly plot neighbour placed it in its final resting place or if the wind did, I will never know but it’s undamaged and intact. I looked around hoping there were no witnesses as I hastily collapsed the whole thing and packed it away, slightly shamed, in the shed.

Why not reassemble it? Well my three runner bean seedlings that it was purchased in order to protect are dead. Five weeks on my window sill, two days on the plot. Se la vie! It’s a steep learning curve this gardening malarkey.

The carrot seedlings were also wilting so I hastened myself to shonkily plant them. Aware of the irony, that here I was again doing things in a less than perfect fashion, but what could I do? I had a grocery delivery at 4pm, the clock was ticking and the seedlings looked like they wouldn’t survive another night on the shelf. So plant them I did.

First I had to prepare the seed bed. This involved a bit of membrane peeling back and collecting a plant pot full of slugs and weeds, followed by some digging and hoeing. It was only when I was sprinkling grass seed and watering it in that I realised a trip to the plot is much like a microcosm of my life, what ever it is that actually needs to be done often gets left till the very last moment.

rue the day 1

I spotted the carrot seedlings with only ten minutes left to go. Oh yes, them, I found myself thinking. I hastily planted them out, added manure and compost and covered them with a friend’s old shower door as a makeshift cloche. I will probably return to find the shower door flat, with the seedlings squashed because in haste perhaps I didn’t do it very well but I figured that is better than going back tomorrow to find all my carrot seedlings dead on the shelf, planting no longer a viable option.

rue the day

rue the day 2

And when I left the plot today at ten to four, I did at least get a small buzz of knowing I had, in my unique half-baked way, got the job done, finally. For now at least.

Getting (re)started

4 Mar

So a week or two has passed since I last visited the plot and made my list of things to do. Since then it has vanished from my list of priorities. I was all ready to go for a run today but ended up carrying my kids safety helmets which was enough of an excuse to ditch the run and amble to the plot instead.

getting started 3

As I arrived in the early morning dazzling sunshine I had mild regret over two things: I didn’t bring my shades and I was wearing my running shoes and not my wellies. Within two minutes of walking to our plot the early morning dew had soaked through my running shoes, giving me damp foot, a condition I was very familiar with before buying my new wellies.

getting started 2

But it wasn’t all bad. Arriving so early in the morning meant I saw mist steaming up off the plot, it looked alive. Smoking. Despite the neglect and lack of doing much towards my to do list, it’s all still looking in good shape but I do need to get going on the weeding and the grass path making (once again).

getting started 4

And I need to plant the cheap Aldi trees, one thing we have managed to do in the last month, scared they would sell out for another year and we’d be left doing expensive mail order trees. They are residing in the shed awaiting planting. I marked out where they will go and covered the patches with membrane over a year ago so it shouldn’t be too hard a job to plant them soon. I just need to wear my wellies and commit to spending an hour or two there.

getting started 1

The other thing I did today, inspired by several friends who have already started growing all their seedlings indoors or under cloches, was start planting indoors ready for April and May. I planted several seedling trays with carrots, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers. While I was at it I also planted some coriander, tired of paying for it when I could just farm my own again.

getting started

And on many trips to the shed as I potted away I spotted further proof that this is all much needed, albeit brief, allotment attention. Spring is just around the corner.

Optimism about autumn

11 Oct

In the spirit of mindfully having gratitude for what you have and also somewhat inspired by my sunnier natured hubby who proclaimed autumn to be his favourite season, I have been thinking about what I like about autumn. So here goes: I have finally switched on the heating and the house feels all cosy when I come in from the plot. Yesterday I gave the kids their first hot chocolate of autumn and they cupped their cold hands round it and happily slurped.

The colours on the leaves, of course. The prospect of storing pumpkins in my shed – come a zombie apocalypse I shall dine on pumpkin (if I can get to shed without being got at). And everyone keeps giving me apples. I have bags of the things, I even turned some down today.

I admit I have now some what exhausted my list in the reasons-to-be-cheerful-even-though-winter-is-just-round-the-corner thought experiment. One glaring omission to that list is that I have still been able to visit the plot in between showers. The bad news is this recent wet weather has made me face the fact that my pink festival wellies are not long for this earth.

optimism welly

Holey to say the least

Optimism

I am reduced to doing this!

That is not the sock of an old-school tramp but instead is mine. this is the palava I have to go through every time I go to the plot. I wrap my sock in a plastic bag and then put on the holey wellies. This for once isn’t miserliness that has made me do this, I just keep forgetting to go to a welly shop. How often does one need to visit a place that sells wellies in a lifetime? I cannot say I have ever bought a pair besides the pink festi wellies that were bought at a festi during predictable inclement British weather.

My first job today at the plot was to rearrange the netting that had blown off during all this blowy weather we’ve been having. I inspected the grass paths I sprinkled with pound shop grass seed and was pleasantly surprised by the progress.

Optimism grass path

I have a new path

Then I decided it would be a good day to harvest my second batch of beetroot.

optimism beetroot optimism beetroot leaves

I left the roots out to dry and added the leaves to the compost

Once the beetroots were gone I dug the area where they had been, applied manure and covered it with more membrane. It was the last scrap of membrane from a very long roll I’d bought online more than a year ago. It started to rain so I gathered up the beetroot and stood in the shed for a while. As I looked out I realised my plot is now more covered with membrane than it ever has been but in the spirit of optimism I tried to ponder the extent to which there would be far fewer weeds to tackle come spring, rather than lamenting the ruined aesthetics of membrane as-far-as-the-eye-can-see.

optimism more membrane

More of the black stuff!

Fruit bushes

19 Sep

Part of my long term plan for the plot is to have an edible hedge. This really is a very long term plan as the cheap fruit bushes I buy are nothing more than a stick with roots at the start of their journey. It is hard to imagine them ever bushing out let alone producing any fruit. It’s true I could buy more developed bushes that cost in the region of 20 quid a bush plus post and packing or I could go to the 99p shop and get a stick with roots!

I spent yesterday morning digging the strip that borders with our neighbour. It has always been very weedy and it has taken at least two lots of membrane to keep these tenacious weeds at bay. According to plot neighbours it might be OK to buy fruit bushes from the 99p shop but I cannot vouch for their membrane – every roll I bought disintegrated within weeks, doubling the work and making me lament my miserliness.

fruit bush section dug

What I dug yesterday

I came across more weeds, broken glass and lots of pegs – this time they were my own, I had used them to hold down the useless membrane, so I washed and kept them for future use.

fruit bush pegs

So many pegs!

I then set about getting my stick with roots ready for planting. I forgot to soak its roots as advised on the packet, for one hour so made do with ten minutes. I added bonemeal – also from the pound shop – to the earth as apparently that helps create healthy roots. As the stick with roots was brown in a sea of brown mud I then marked it out with some little white border things. I got 16 for a quid and I wasn’t really sure what I would use them for. I am not on commission from our local pound shop but compared to our lovely local garden centre’s prices I know I would be unable to do much planting if I always had to pay their prices.

fruit bush soaking

10 minutes should hopefully be enough!

fruit bush planted

My first blackcurrant bush planted

Today I returned, dug, got a bit wet from the rain and remembered to soak my gooseberry bush’s roots for the required hour. Apparently autumn is the perfect time to plant fruit bushes because as nothing much is happening in the top half of the plant the roots can really get established.

fruit bush gooseberry

My second gooseberry bush planted and hopefully protected

It’s been hard work this week, I have been digging like mad as I don’t know how long this free time and enthusiasm might last. My attitude is dig while you can. Yesterday I regretted not bringing a flask so today I came prepared. My plastic seat was all soggy from dew, so how glad was I that I had bought a cheapo garden seat cushion from my fav shop to be utilised at just such a moment as this!

fruit bush cushion

Guess where I bought my cushion from?