Tag Archives: membrane

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.


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.

It’s chilly out there

19 Nov

I ventured to the plot this morning, encouraged by the sight of a whole day of sunshine. I forgot to look at the temperature part of the BBC weather page. It was sunny but chilly, almost freezing.  There were frozen puddles on my latest bits of membrane and the frost covered everything. I lasted ten minutes. Consoling myself with the fact that I needed a leg stretch.

Currently all over the world people are trying to write novels in a month.  I first heard about Nanowrimo years ago when a fellow would be writer told me of the great events it held in London. I finally signed up to their face book page this year and keep being bombarded by people’s word counts, one bloke said he had got to 45,000 words already. The aim is to reach 50,000 words in a month and thus have the first draft of a novel completed by December. The idea behind this is that with support and a bit of competition writers will stop procrastinating and just write.

One of the best writing teachers I have ever come across had this as her mantra: just write, whatever needs to come out, will come out. Even if you have to get the self indulgent crap out the way before the actual crafted writing commences, just write.

When I signed up to the face book page I didn’t think for a minute I would try to write so much in a month which is good as I have clocked up about 2,500 words so far this month in between writing lesson plans and blog posts. But it has reminded me that the main obstacle to writing is always the writer them self. The allotment is not going to be taking up much time for the next few months so I may as well stop procrastinating and hunker round the old lap top and see what comes forth.

chilly plot

What the plot looks like at the moment

I surveyed my plot during my chilly ten minutes and had a clear your-work-here-is-done (for now) moment.

chilly more sprouts

Must not forget to pick these in time for Christmas dinner!

Currently the only things really growing that may need harvesting soon are the sprouts and other brasicas so it’s time to step back from all things allotment related. I will miss it but I never have been that good with the cold.

chilly pumpkin patch dug

Pumpkin patch, dug over and covered.

And last time I was there I did end up digging the pumpkin patch, ready for next year’s veggies which was the last thing on my usually never-ending to do list this year. It’s always hard letting go and it took so long to make the plot part of my routine. I am probably worried once I stop going regularly I will forget it exists all over again and come back to an overgrown weedy mess. But for now I don’t know what else there is to do and with this cold weather I’m quite pleased I won’t be trudging down there quite so often. Instead I will be in the warm listening to my laptop purr, plugging away at those 50,000 words long after Nanowrimo ends.

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


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!

The arrival of autumn

11 Sep

Let’s face it: we were all in denial last week, there was sunshine, the kids didn’t need coats as they walked into school. I really thought (and this is admittedly rather greedy given the beautiful summer we have had) we were due for an Indian summer. I thought we’d get another 3 weeks at least of glorious sunshine.

Fast forward to this week and the slippers have been dug out along with chunky knit jumpers. I wore my wellies (yes still sporting the crap pink festi wellies with holes) for the first time in months today. A nearby neighbour asked me what I was planning to do today and I ummed and then said digging I suppose.

There hasn’t really been that much to do of late. A bit of light weeding, a bit of harvesting, a bit of giving the plants their feed. Re-potting or planting seedlings. But in terms of great allotment projects, like building beds, making paths and sorting out fruit corner, I haven’t had to face anything for ages. Hence my visits down to the plot have been sunny and enjoyable all summer.

But there is still a lot to do. A third of the plot has been covered in membrane since February. We agreed to leave it, let the weeds die and then tackle it in autumn. Today as I walked the kids to school wearing woolly hats, I knew autumn had well and truly arrived. It was time to peel back the membrane and face some digging.

digging b4

This is what strip 3 looked like at 9.30am

I did my usual wobbling about, lamenting the fact there were quite a few people around to witness my crap digging. I watered the earth and pulled out the last remaining ghost weeds. I only unpeeled a small section at first but once I got going I remembered what hard but slightly pleasant work it is – working on something completely new and fresh.


Strip 3 at 11.30am, about 30% is now dug

I pulled up more weeds as I went along and then tried to level it off with a hoe before sprinkling poultry manure on it and re-covering it. I am not taking any chances – it will stay under wraps till April, I am just getting it ready for then.

After all that hard work I rewarded myself by picking some more tomatoes and tidying up herb garden.

Digging harvest

At last I don’t have to buy any tomatoes this week!

digging herbs

Herb garden – the safest place to grow lettuce away from all the slugs!

Finally as I was administering feed to Dylan’s ailing pumpkin plant I noticed we may even get some home grown fruit this year. The tree I have been calling an apple tree is most definitely a pear tree and it looks like we may get one pear each!

digging pears

So autumn is definitely here. It’s time to clear away the old plants, harvest what you can and most of all dig! Before the ground starts freezing and your fingers go numb.

A mid summer sort out

10 Aug

My list of things to do goes beyond the plot. I have been toying with the idea of colouring my hair with henna for a while and today I had the necessary components to actually do this – the hubby was around to take the kids out for an adventure, I had bought some organic henna on line which was delivered this week and most importantly I have had so much family time it did not seem an extravagance to devote two and half hours to hair.

Girly stuff does not often happen in my house it has to be said and my daughter’s reaction on seeing my admittedly now rather orange hair was to burst into tears despite being excited about a mummy with different hair. ‘Why isn’t it more orange?’ she finally managed to ask, so at least she wasn’t being gingerist. The packet says allow a few days before disliking as it takes a while to settle and oxidise apparently. So for now I reserve judgement but let’s just say my first thoughts on seeing my new red hair, coupled with an old student t-shirt I was wearing to protect against splatters, was that I looked as though I should be working in a pub in Camden. Absolutely nothing wrong with that look I’m just not sure I can pull it off aged 42 and living in small town suburbia.

Bored of my youngest asking when my orange hair would go away, I decided to take myself and my new fiery mane to the plot, where hair and glamour are the last things on anyone’s mind.

I pottered and covered more weedy areas in membrane – my philosophy being why wait till the weeds are three foot tall?

More membrane to choke off the weeds

Covering up more weeds before they choke off my tomatoes

I tidied the tomato plants and added more cane to support what now feels like a small jungle. I planted the remains of the plants from Uncle Arthur: leeks and cabbages. I also re-potted my pepper seedlings, struggling to separate the twin plants I planted two together for fear of killing them with clumsiness.

Container grown stuff

Cabbages planted into a container

Peppers and Bs sunflower

Re potted peppers and a sunflower plant

The last few things to do was give the plants a bit of plant food, peruse to see what else might need doing tomorrow, pull up some pesky vine weed, wash some now empty seedling trays ready for next time, add my left over seed potatoes to the compost, re-sprinkle grass seed and get a shot of the biggest pumpkin so far. It looks like each plant can produce up to ten pumpkins and currently I have six thriving plants, so I guess I better get some pumpkin recipes at the ready.

pumpkin growing

Growing at an alarming rate!

Finally I had my flask of tea and tried to meditate for three minutes only to be interrupted by a plot neighbour. When I heard what he had to say I didn’t mind the interruption. He came over and said he admired what I had done with my plot, an accolade I had not expected. I happily carried some green tomatoes and two dinky cucumbers home and had forgotten all about my morning spent henna-ing my hair. That was until my youngest shouted by way of greeting, ‘Mummy why is your hair still orange?’ as I walked into the kitchen.