Tag Archives: garlic

it’s feeling a lot like springtime

20 Feb

I may be getting ahead of myself here but over the last weekend the heating has hardly come on, I have uncovered the washing line from it’s winter covering and I have been to a local snowdrop Sunday – which to me always symbolizes that spring is on its merry way.

So today as we walked to the plot on the last day of half day (an extra day tagged on in fact courtesy of an inset day) I felt a spring in my step.

At the weekend I had seen my brother who has also taken on a plot and he asked me how the plot was and I felt slightly shamed and sad – the truth is I haven’t been there for months. I don’t have much time these days and I worried as we talked that I could end up losing the plot if I continue to ignore it.

So returning today was much needed. The kids are now that bit older so they can actually play nicely on a nearby rope swing without a major fall out and I don’t have to keep worrying that they might stagger onto someone’s prize geraniums by mistake. (Disclaimer moment – that has never actually happened but it has been a distinct possibility!)

And I needn’t have worried about the plot – it is ticking over nicely. No sign of the broad beans or garlic I put in months ago but the rest of the plot is under cover, weed resistant and hence very low maintenance. Come spring proper I will only need to peel back the membrane, do a light dig/weed and get planting.

A far cry from all that back breaking toil I did four years ago, but for now the plot is on maintenance mode so I don’t think my fears of losing it will come to pass just yet.

The kids played so nicely I was able to strim all the paths, mow fruit corner and feed and water all the fruit bushes and trees. There isn’t much else to do apart from sort out some rubbish and de-clutter the shed so after an hour or two and a cheeky flask of tea we headed back, happy in the knowledge that spring is just round the corner and with a bit of luck it shouldn’t be two months before our next visit.

a frosty trip to the plot

30 Dec

Often described as a dead-week, the week between Christmas and New Year is actually perhaps the closest many of us get to an extended period of real genuine non-doing. A time to disconnect from work and just be with your nearest and dearest. This of course can come with its own challenges but as the week is nearly over it’s also worth reflecting how precious a week of non-doing is these days.

If my kids read this they would perhaps laugh at the idea of me ever having a non-doing week as there have been chilly picnics at nearby Audley End and several frosty walks through a nearby forest. Yesterday they were promised a lazy day and both declared they would not leave the house, even to venture into the garden.

They kept their word but by today my youngest, a spirited seven year old boy, was asking when that promised trip to the allotment would be. For want of better plan I said how about now and left the hubby in charge of lunch. We walked down to the plot in the fog and enjoyed getting some fresh air whilst aware we were the only people out and about bar a couple of dog walkers. I often make the comparison that having young kids is akin to having a dog, they really do need to get out at least once a day which makes non-doing a challenge to navigate.

Once at the allotment we planted out garlic, dug up some frozen onions and weeded a frosty patch of earth where we then planted out broad beans. No idea if this is the right time to do it, we found the broad bean seeds and went for it. My son enjoyed moving worms out of harms way and breaking a frozen pond in an abandoned plot next door. His hands got soaked and frozen and he shivered all they way home but we both enjoyed a brief bit of purpose amidst the non-doing along with a well-earned flask.

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Now I have been out of the house I feel settled enough to enjoy non-doing for the rest of the day! I predict by tomorrow my feet will start itching for action and adventure once more though and I might think of another excuse to escape to the plot.

Return to the plot 2015

22 Feb

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The patch formerly known as ‘the brassica spot’, now just a mass of weeds.

My guilty pleasure of late has been following ‘The Big Allotment Challenge’. This is a double guilty pleasure because it is pretty trashy TV plus every episode served to remind me that I do actually have a plot languishing unloved and un-visited since December 2014.

Inspired by watching the final last night and being left in charge of a five year old who badly needed a walk, today we ventured down to the plot. Admittedly there hasn’t been an awful lot I could have done in the last two months except plant some garlic and feed the few things growing there. The boat has been well and truly missed on the garlic front and my brassicas were sad to say the least. A weedy mass replaces the patch I last saw sporting purple sprouting brocoli, now all gone, eaten by slugs or rotten.

We also dug up the pitiful sprouts that didn’t make the Christmas dinner table. My youngest enjoyed having a dig and collecting sprouts for the compost.

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A paradise for hardy five year olds!

But as always with the plot there were signs of optimistic life too. The leeks are coming along slowly but surely and my broad beans are now little seedlings, looking OK, if in need of a feed. I sprinkled manure round both, dug up the manky sprouts and then headed home to the promise of hot chocolate.

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A hint of new life!

It was a brief but useful trip as it reassured me I do still have a shed (always a worry over the winter, that it might just take off in high winds) and reminded me how much I do love to go down there. Last term I was too busy to do anything, getting sucked up into the busy-ness of work and kids. But today was good, it reminded me that everyone of us needs a pastime in which we can totally lose ourselves and which takes our mind of work. For me the plot ticks those boxes. Luckily it has never been 100% about the produce I grow!

In a bit of a pickle

7 Nov

Pity the poor gardener at this time of year. Some people may feel delight as the shops fill with Christmas paraphernalia but for a gardener it means only one thing – most of the garden stuff in mainstream shops like Wilko and the pound shop (my two fav places to stock up on gardening related clobber) have cleared the shelves of all gardening stuff and replaced it with tinsel and plastic tat till April.

My mission to get some onion sets, garlic and some pots to re-pot my indoor chilli  plants failed miserably this morning and now only a trip to the out of town garden centre will get the goods. I still managed to spend a lot of money during this retail therapy spree but not on anything gardening related.

It’s been a  month since my last post and that’s because not much has happened plot wise. My newly planted grass path was indeed a grass path too far – it is still a bare brown patch, all the seed has washed away or been eaten by birds.

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We did manage to harvest the second pumpkin in time for Halloween. It was one of the last evenings before the clocks went back, you remember those heady days, when it was still daylight at 5.30pm? The pumpkin was swiftly whittled into a classic pumpkin lantern by the hubby. Being a waste-not-want-not environmentally friendly type the left over flesh was of course used later that week in a pumpkin curry.

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The last fresh plot grown cucumber turned to mush in the fridge, they are not the type of vegetables that sustained peasants through harsh winters that’s for sure. Luckily I did pickle some earlier this month so the glut still keeps on giving. I did two varieties of pickles – sliced cucumber and gherkin-esque ones, from all the half grown baby cucs I harvested when I dug the plant up.

I am now left with three large jars of pickled cucumber in a household of non pickle eaters, there is no way I will work my way through that lot so I plan to at least off load one jar onto my mum. As I have nothing else to blog about there now follows some random pickle pictures.

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My most recent trip to the plot was only a week ago. It didn’t warrant a blog post as it was with the kids in aid of half term entertainment which means I got very little done. It was however a glorious sunny day that saw us shedding our coats and having a picnic. A week ago today in fact. Seems hard to believe on a day like today when I found myself, instead of buying onion sets, stocking up on thermal socks and tinsel in readiness for winterval

Crop Rotation

16 Mar

One thing that any gardener with even the smallest of plots can attempt to do, to keep pests at bay and to encourage nutrients to be replenished, is a basic crop rotation system. These can vary in the length of time they span, the most common being a five year crop rotation system. I don’t have the space or quite possibly the brain capacity to do a five year plan, so I have plumped for a simple three year crop rotation system. I’m sure I will overlap at times and mix up my root veg with my fruiting veg, like I did last year but essentially I will stick to it as best I can.

I made it down to the plot not once but twice this week. I am slowly waking up to the fact it’s there, it exists and I need to get on with things. Top tasks have been sorting out patches with weeds and old Brussels sprout plants. So I dug up those huge beasts and slung them in the compost.

I did a little light weeding, nothing too taxing. I realised I need more compost and pots to get things planted. I bought seeds yesterday and the hubby bought a huge box of blood fish and bone – a truly scary sounding fertiliser recommended by seasoned gardeners. I then read all about veganics (vegan organic gardening) and almost immediately regretted the purchase. Next year perhaps!

I need to weed everything that is uncovered. The purple sprouting broccoli, which I picked a bumper crop from this week, looks like it is growing from a garden lawn. My fruit bushes (or sticks that might one day grow into fruit bushes) are now surrounded by weeds as is my garlic, onions and broad beans.

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Abundant crops!

I know I need to stop procrastinating and just get weeding but something always seems to get in the way. This week I blamed the fruit trees taking up most of the space in our tiny shed. I couldn’t access my weeding bucket to collect all the culprits, so really what was the point?

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Leeks!

I also need to harvest my leeks and rotate that bit of land for my spinach seeds that I am hoping will grow, as they like damp shady spots which the pond area certainly is.

There are other good things growing too. Mainly on my kitchen window sill. The seedlings I planted in a sudden spurt of energy a few weeks ago are now surfacing. Seeing these seedlings come forth has partly knocked me out of my plot denial.

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Seedlings, a real sign of spring!

And our now one year old pear tree has started sprouting buds a plenty, as it did last year. This year I must get around to getting the fleece that so many old allotment hands told me I needed to protect the delicate flowers from the wind and ensure a bumper crop is possible. So the list of things to do keeps growing!

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Spring time buds!

The unrelenting march of nature

21 Feb

Life gets so busy at times that it’s easy to neglect a wee plot. I have also been feeling ever so slightly smug. When I think back to this time last year and how much digging there was to be done I feel relieved that there isn’t as much to do this year. But this has led to a bit of plot lethargy and as I discovered today I can feel as smug as I want, it won’t keep nature and all her weeds at bay.

I had a rare thing during half term – a day without the kids. My one day of ‘holiday’ was spent mainly in front of my computer lesson planning, catching up with paperwork and also covering my hair with green gloop which smells not dissimilar to some natural matter I might use on the plot. Henna is a real bind to apply, it shows a certain dogged level of commitment to all things organic, when even your hair dye is soil association approved.

At one point during the day I looked at the blue sky and the bright winter sun and reflected on how often I have had to be outside in the rain this week. The one day I have without the kids and it is sunny. Then I realised that doesn’t have to mean I am housebound too. So I indulged myself to a fresh air stroll to the plot.

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Happily the shed is still standing (again, I know but I have lost count of the windy nights we’ve had since my last visit).

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And the purple sprouting broccoli is coming into it’s own. I picked a small bag’s worth today. The plot has been ticking along on it’s own this last month but I realised as I surveyed my little corner I need to shake off my complacency and do the following tasks very soon:

  1. Get weeding before they take over everything. Oh yes the battle of the weeds commences here!
  2. Buy some cheap fruit tress before it’s too late to plant them. I fancy a plum and an apple tree this year.
  3. Plant out more broad beans, garlic and onions before winter finishes so I have two rounds of crops.
  4. Shake off my winter induced plot denial, it’s nearly March for goodness sake!
  5. Plant some more grass paths in the never ending bid to introduce some order to our unruly plot!

Not a huge to-do-list, I don’t want to overload myself before I have even re-started but one that will keep me busy for now and help me take back control of our plot!

New Year’s Resolutions

9 Jan

When most news outlets have photos of green gloop with headlines shouting detox this new year, you know the whole detox phenomenon has become well and truly mainstream. I can remember when I was a lone eccentric detoxing every January,  now Andrew Marr proclaims he has gone ‘dry’ this month. I realise that last sentence sounds a bit like someone reminiscing that ‘all this used to be fields’, but who cares, I am old enough to get away with it now.

One of my first resolutions this year was to never do a fruit detox again. Man it was horrible! I have done it for twenty years but this year my body was clearly saying no way, not three days just living off fruit, you will cave in. And I did, on day two. At least that’s one resolution I won’t have any trouble keeping.

The other resolutions (I’m a dyslexic ex-perfectionist – of course there is more than one resolution to fail at every year) are much simpler than usual. Someone asked me at a New years day soiree what my resolutions are and I said instead of ‘start doing x’ happily my resolutions this year are ‘keep doing x’. Psychologically that helps with the staying power. Keep up the plot, keep up the writing, keep up the running, keep meditating, keep drinking moderately, keep happy.

I can already guess which one I might not keep up. I deliberately started running last year so I wouldn’t have to start it in January. And I thought I was looking forward to taking it up again but on Tuesday morning a strange impulse came over me. I became incredibly chatty with fellow mums, we chatted and chatted until I could do displacement activities no longer. I finally started running only for it to rain and for me to get very wet feet.

The field where I run is seriously water logged and so it was with some trepidation I considered going back there. After considering it this morning for several minutes I felt the plot calling as it hasn’t for a long time.

I have not been down the plot this year. My last visit was mid December to hastily pick sprouts for Christmas. With all the winds that have been lashing I was again concerned about our shed.

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Still standing!

Happily it was still there, the only casualty was my poor tangled wind chime. I untangled it and let it continue doing it’s job of scaring off birds and annoying plot neighbours. A quick scan around showed the pond is back (again) but other than that things have been going nicely in my absence.

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The pond is back!

There were more brussel sprouts to pick and the purple sprouting broccoli looks like it has finally sprouted something that looks edible.

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The last time I put up a picture of sprouts, I promise. Let’s just call winter a slow news season!

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Blurry broccoli!

The best thing I spotted on my fleeting and chilly trip back to the plot was my latest raised bed, which I fashioned out of a £1.99 roll of lawn bordering, seems fairly abundant in onions, garlic and broad beans. And the tiniest scarecrow in the world still stands.

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Raised bed three – looking productive

It was good to be back. On a day like today you are guaranteed a quiet and uninterrupted visit. It was not nice enough to actually drink the flask I had made myself but when I walked home, which takes me past the water logged field which I attempt to jog round, I felt a shiver of appreciation that I had been to the plot and hadn’t panted my way round a sports field.