Tag Archives: thrifty

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.

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

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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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).

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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.

Compost corner

31 Jan

I realise that I now feel the same way about running  as I felt about the allotment this time last year. I try to go running once a week. That is me being kind to myself, letting go of perfection and all that. I don’t want to run a marathon, just run 20 metres without gasping for oxygen. A small enough target you might think but it is certainly taking a while to achieve.

This week I put my run off until today and last night when I thought about running I was filled with a sense of dread. The wet, the cold, the imagined public humiliation. The field I run round has been water logged for weeks now so on Tuesday I treated myself to a trip to the allotment.

The very idea that a trip to a rainy cold allotment is a treat sums up my relationship with running. I am not sure I will ever enjoy it but I would still like to run 20 metres without gasping and so doggedly I persist!

My trip to the plot on Tuesday was a delight unlike today’s short, gasping run. It was cold and I vowed I wouldn’t stay long. I would just pick a few of the last sprouts, check the shed was still there and then go.

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I know I said no more pics of sprouts but I couldn’t resist!

But once there I kept finding more tasks. I netted up my now sprouting broccoli and also picked some for dinner. The kids have already vowed they will never eat it (purple broccoli – urrrgh!) but hey, all the more for me!

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Broccoli netted!

Once this was done I found myself searching for other small tasks as I simply didn’t want to leave my little oasis. The next job was a decidedly unpleasant one – spreading compost over the area known as the pond. It stank to high heaven, I can now understand why some gardeners don’t bother making their own compost as it’s an awful lot of faff with not a huge amount to show for it.

compost corner 1

The picture above for example is the area known as the pond covered in what must be four months worth of home made household compost and it didn’t go very far.

compost corner

We still haven’t got around to buying a whizzy, whirling plastic compost container. Our plot came with a pallet compost box at the back of the shed but for storage at home this system doesn’t really work during the winter months when you are only visiting once a month if that. So we have been using old recycling boxes that the council recently decommissioned.

compost corner 4

The finishing touch was to cover the stinking mass of rotting veg and fruit peelings (gosh we eat a lot of kiwis, bananas, avocados and potatoes in our house as that is what it all seemed to be) with cardboard. A huge box saved from when my daughter got her new bunk beds.

I realised later I had broken a compost golden rule: have nothing with seeds in your compost as there was a whole mouldy pumpkin in the mix but I am sure it will do the job, preparing the pond for better drainage and replacing it’s depleted nutrients – I grew two or three crops of beetroot there last year. This year I will grow only spinach which apparently thrives in damp shady spots. Perfect!