Tag Archives: pound shop

Things I have accidentally killed, part 1

18 Oct

As an ex-veggie the title of this post gives me no pleasure. Even though I am earning a reputation as a beast terminator amongst my nearest and dearest this title doe not sit well.

The weather is turning against the gardener. There is a sense of the last chance saloon on the plot. Both times I’ve managed to go this week there were more people around than I would usually see on a summer’s day. Everyone seems to be frantically digging knowing soon it will all be frozen solid, unmovable and fingers will be too chilled to work efficiently.

I’d bought a couple more fruit bushes this week and decided I would plant them and then focus on my next raised bed and get my garlic and onions started before the big freeze. I planted my redcurrant bush and raspberry cane after soaking the roots for the recommended hour. I mixed in bonemeal, I watered them in and then fenced them off with pound shop white fencing.

accidentally killed edible border

My edible border with grass path

Next it was time to pick the next pumpkin – a rather stunted greenish thing but the plant, like previous ones, was now undeniably dead so picking it and digging over it’s plot was the next task.

accidentally killed this wks pumpkin

A dinky pumpkin

All of this was being done in my holey wellies, on which an update is required. I went to the welly shop, the only place in my small town I could think might sell wellies, I had walked past the shelves filled with all manner of boots on so many occasions but when I rocked up clutching a tenner at the weekend the lady said they had run out. So I am still gardening wearing plastic bags on my feet under fast degrading plastic until I can think of somewhere else to buy some cheap wellies.

The next task was sort out the slug traps. I had not looked at them for weeks. I had sort of ignored them in a passive aggressive slug killing kind of way. They were overflowing and stank. It was almost gip inducing sloshing out the watery beer and fishing out the dead bodies. The whole thing has actually killed my love of real ale, every time I smell beer I now think: dead slugs rather than: good times ahead.

accidentally killed dead frog

Poor dead frog

I gasped as I pulled out the tiny little dead frog that had died amongst the molluscs.  This blog title then formed in my head as I recalled the other victims of my gardening – the mouse and her nest, the slow worm I accidentally stabbed whilst digging. She turned up a week later, stiff and undeniably not alive. I could no longer pretend that maybe slow worms’ tails grow back. Take it from me – they don’t.

accidentally killed slow worm deceased

Poor dead slow worm

This is how we get our food though, by digging, or getting someone else to dig on our behalf. By defending crops against pests. I read in The Observer that there is a new scary slug on the block – the Spanish slug that may soon be on the rampage. It breeds faster and can munch happily on excrement. A scary prospect is if it mates with native slugs and can then survive frosts, then there would be some hybrid robo-slug munching through my brassicas. I guess a bit of wildlife collateral damage and having to drink wine from now on is a small price to pay if it helps the fight against the Spanish slug. At least that is what I plan to tell myself as the guilt kicks in.




3 Oct

September absolutely flew by. I was back at work, I was trying to get a mindfulness class started and the kids were settling into their new lives at school. The plot doesn’t know or care about this and of course those weeds keep growing. I set myself some ridiculous goals for September – dig strip 3, plant fruit bushes, make some grass seed paths. True to my dyslexic always-over-stretching-myself self, I knew some of this simply wouldn’t get done. This blog got dropped for a week or two but that didn’t mean I wasn’t still there digging, be it sporadically!

So let’s do the bad news first. My tomato plants succumbed to blight just as they were going red! We did manage to get about two week’s worth of tomatoes before they were blighted but still, it wasn’t a happy moment up rooting these plants I had nurtured since March and chucking them in the plot dump to be burned.

progress toms


A second thing to die was my youngest’s pumpkin plant. I was there at the weekend, it looked fine. I returned on Tuesday to see that the plant had withered so much it was almost invisible and all that remained were two dinky pumpkins, not yet orange being circled by hungry slugs. I gathered up the withered plant, salvaged the pumpkins and they now reside on my window sill. I am not sure if they will turn orange in the same way tomatoes turn red.

progress pumpkins

Diddy pumpkins!

But aside from these two setbacks things are good on the plot. My oldest’s pumpkins are thriving, huge and turning orange. This of course has provoked a bit of sibling rivalry. My attempt to appease all (you have a dinky one of his and we’ll give him a big orange one of yours) was flatly refused by the eldest who can spot a bad deal when she sees one!


Proper pumpkins!

My courgette plant – the one constant all summer – really is the gift that keeps giving. I have picked another 3 courgettes this week and there’s more on the way if slugs or frost don’t get them first.

progress courgettes

Courgettes still growing.

I can’t say I have had an awful lot of luck with my brassicas but I was amazed to see that after months of growing I can now see some distinct looking brussels on the way – maybe in time for Christmas?

progress sprouts

Sprouts! At last a brassica I’ve planted has grown!

And that digging, the bane of any reluctant gardener’s life, that was really making my hands hurt a few weeks ago and so I slowed down the pace, has come on in leaps and bounds. I still have a small corner yet to dig but I have finished my first grass path and started my second one.

progress path 1

My first grass path!

progress paths

Strip 3 – flatter and the starting to take shape

OK so my one concern is the grass seed has all come from a pound shop in Harlesden. Even as I was buying it there was a sensible voice inside me (being ignored as my sensible voice often is) screaming go to Wilko. So we shall see, I might get another blog entry out of lamenting my foolish stinginess!

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?

Summer fun

26 Jul

OK so my mission this week was to get some stuff done on the plot and entertain the kids at the same time. As it was a beautiful day I packed a picnic, lathered everyone up with sun cream and set off round about when the midday sun gets fiercest. On arrival I unveiled my latest pound shop purchase to keep them entertained – a pair of plastic squirty bottles and once filled they happily pottered around squirting all the plants and each other. I showed my eldest her now out of control pumpkin plant which is making a bid for fruit corner.

pumpkin out of control

No one told me pumpkins took up this much space!

I also showed them my one and only cauliflower to make it from a seed. After keeping a very close eye on the brassicas to find out exactly how a cauliflower grows I was surprised to stumble upon a fully formed one in my raised bed. Both kids instantly said yes mummy, but we don’t have to eat it do we?


My one cauliflower!

After a leisurely picnic we finally got around to making a much promised scarecrow which was followed by several choruses of the dingle dangle scarecrow song for good measure.

b D and scarecrow

The world’s smallest scarecrow?

I hadn’t realised it would be quite so small but they seemed delighted with it, asking if it would come alive after dark. My youngest stood amongst the ailing potato plants for ten minutes pretending to be a fellow scarecrow. So far so entertained.

herb garden going to seed

Herb garden going to seed.

I can’t say I got an awful lot done other than water, plant some more beetroot and make the dinky scarecrow but it was a nice summer holiday activity. A change from the garden or the park, coming up close to nature – they spotted bugs and birds and as the picnic was hungrily consumed I remembered this was a little slice of my imagined plot rather than the harsh reality of weeding in the midday sun. We could just be at the plot without needing to do anything much. The potato plants looked even worse and so the one time I did pick up a digging fork was to see what was going on underneath the ground. They probably weren’t the most bountiful potato plants to ever be harvested but from three plants I got half a bag’s worth of spuds. I set the kids up with one final task – washing them – as I tried to level the ground off and pulled up what weeds I could.

spuds and beetroot

Plot grown spuds and a beetroot.

On arrival home I thought about an article I read recently (http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2013/jul/13/no-freedom-play-outside-children) that said some kids spend as little as 4% of their time outside compared to our grannies’ generation who were free to roam a fifty mile radius. I guess the plot is my way of giving them a bit more of the outdoors, to feel connected to the food they eat even though until the tomatoes and cucumbers come to fruition, there is very little chance of getting them to actually eat any of it besides the spuds.  

The Arthur effect

23 Jul

I was going to use the title ‘The Arthur effect’ for my last post but then realised I needed to use my month long absence as a starting point because when you blog about allotment gardening anything that deviates from the relentless battle against weeds needs to be utilised for all its worth. Last time I was at the plot it hit me that most of the plants that are currently thriving are thanks to my uncle Arthur. He gave me the courgettes and tomatoes. Even the potato plants from his seed potatoes look healthier than the ones grown from my batch of seed potatoes I bought from a well known gardening shop. The brassicas are my own work – grown from pound shop seeds. Ditto the pepper seedlings – I had six originally but now they are down to two.


My pepper seedlings – slugs ate 4 of them

The flower border which I can now see for the first time in months is also courtesy of my uncle, it lines my now depleted and weary looking potato patch.

potato patch with flowers

I can see my flower border once more.

There have been other self grown triumphs – I planted beetroot in the bit once known as the pond. The drainage job we did of chucking loads of sand in there has really worked, I had to water them from day one. The only problem was deciding how to use the beetroot as I have never been a huge fan and the only dish I use them in is a soup which right now it’s too hot to even contemplate. I picked some the other day and made a roasted beetroot and chickpea salad along with tomato couscous all flavoured with herbs from herb garden. I am now a convert to beetroot and wish I had planted more than seven.

beetroot with couscous and herbs

It was yum!

And there has also been some lawn growing activity. Ken did a grand job of tidying up the grassy edges of the plot on Sunday. The grass hadn’t been cut for well over a month but in a couple of hours it looked respectable if not 100% tidy.


The whole freshly-trimmed plot.

Our plot doesn’t look quite as pristine as maybe we had hoped it would by now, everything has taken so much longer and life always gets in the way but we are seeing slow progress, it’s taking shape. Things are growing, a lot of which I’ve been given but some have also grown from my pound shop seeds. The only trouble is life once more gets in the way – the kids are off till September and the only way I can persuade them to accompany me to the plot is with promises of making a scarecrow or building a sand pit. Great summer holiday activities but as we play and get creative I expect to see the weeds take hold once more.

Fruit corner – a brief update

14 Jun

As always when I write a post during the afternoon I don’t have time to do this justice but with a busy weekend of meeting university friends in London and father’s day on Sunday I am unlikely to write anything for another week if I leave it. So here is a brief pictorial update.

I have been digging fruit corner as much as I can. We had visitors last weekend, my sister and her family. My brother-in-law is an expert in many things and this week he was on a quest for slow worms. Slow worms as I soon found out are actually a bit of a misnomer, as they are actually legless lizards. I don’t mean befuddled drunken lizards but literally lizards with no legs.

I had no idea what a slow worm looked like or how you might go about finding them but my brother-in-law managed to track down on a whole family after only being at the allotment thirty minutes. Every time I pass the pallet under which they were nesting my youngest now demands to ‘see the snakes’!

slow worm

A magnificent beastie!

Since then the only other highlight has been rearranging the shed. Now that it has a shelf unit I can actually walk into the shed and pretty much grab whatever it is I need rather than having to take on a forty minute expedition which involved balancing everything precariously on a sack of bark chip.

shed rearranged

I do like a bit of order out of the chaos!

Since that heady half hour of putting things on shelves I have been hard at it, clearing more weeds from fruit corner, levelling, sprinkling manure until voila, today I had a section ready to be grass seeded, only to find my grass seed supplies are running low. It doesn’t matter, I’m getting there and this weekend I am giving my poor little hands a much needed rest.

fruit corner with blue pot  fruit corner ready for grass seeds

Even if you can’t notice the difference, just pretend that you can!

Ever changing landscape

2 Jun

It really is obvious how much of a novice gardener I am: I am perpetually surprised by how much things can change, even in a couple of days. I haven’t been to the plot for three days but there are quite a few new things to comment on:

1) We have a junior oak tree growing amongst our garlic and shallots. I don’t have the heart to remove it yet.

oak tree

A young oak tree!

2) My lettuce has been totally obliterated (by slugs, birds, who knows?). I have become very unsentimental. I pulled up the shrivelled remainders and planted new lettuce seeds this afternoon to make myself feel better, like one of those people who instantly buy themselves a new dog as soon as their elderly one dies.

lettuce obliterated

Bye bye lettuce!

3) But for the moment at least the spuds and the rocket is flourishing – I don’t want the slugs to know this of course.


Hurrah for container grown rocket!

4) As a result of my obliterated lettuce I felt duty bound to protect my oldest child’s strawberry plant against the army of rampaging slugs with my pound shop slug guard, even though I am not convinced of its efficacy.

strawberry slug proofed

My oldest’s strawberry plant, hopefully slug proofed.

5) Even though we thought all the blossom on our apple tree had gone with the wind, literally, it seems we may get an apple this year after all.


Fingers crossed that might be an apple!

6) One of my lovely plot neighbours has given up on the gnarly old bottom end of the site and is in the process of moving her green house and shed up to a better, less weedy plot. I will miss her and her weeding – without her tending her plot next door we two on wifi allotment will be fighting the weeds pretty much single-handedly down our end of the plot – the arse end some might call it, where the newbies get put. I shudder to think it could possibly get harder.

7) Every time I leave my dear plot I glance around not quite sure what it will look like three days later.