KEEPING AN ALLOTMENT

I have been working on my plot about nine years – how does the time fly!!. I’m sure that I have mentioned my granddad many times here and I will do so again. As I was growing up I always went to his garden – we didn’t call it anything else because that’s exactly what it was. It was a large area on the outskirts of our town and he certainly was a dedicated gardener because he was working full-time and to get there he had to catch two buses.

When I started gardening on my plot I was still working and I clearly remember the struggle at times when I came home and had to get out again to do some gardening. For people who have a job I totally sympathise when they let the whole thing slip…..

Now I’m a lady of leisure I can spend all my free time on my ‘farm’ – and I do! It is not an easy task, the weeds grow ever so well and as soon as I think I’ve finished the weeding I can start all over again.

There are many theories regarding digging – no-dig gardening seems gaining popularity. I’m not sure about that – the piece of land I was working on today is so overgrown that it has to be done the hard way.

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It is very satisfactory to see a nice patch of freshly dug ground.

This is also the time to patch things and maintain existing ones. We have decided to dismantle our office and change it back into a spare bedroom. I enjoyed reducing the desk and filing cabinet into pieces of wood. I knew it’ll be used on the allotment…

The smaller pieces were used to build a holding wall on the side of a path, that enabled me to repair that path and make it easier to walk.

The large pieces are holding in a fast growing compost heap – result of the digging of the neglected plot.

TOPSOIL

I knew all the lovely topsoil I managed to get from my two ‘forgotten’ composter bins would come handy. It was a bit too wet today to continue with digging so I had to concentrate on maintenance.

First was one path, rather the grass on it, that had to be cut. As it was so high it had to be done with the shears. Ideal job for a chilly morning. There was so much grass it almost filled one composter bin.

Talking of bins – some weeks ago I emptied a couple of them and bagged the contents – beautiful topsoil to be used to top up the raised beds in my lovely greenhouse.

I was late in the season getting the greenhouse but it is all going to be ready for an early start next spring. I know it is wishing my life away but I can’t wait. All my tomato, cucumber and pepper seeds are sorted out and I’m ready……………

 

NATURE IS CONFUSED

I know I have autumn fruiting raspberries but this late? I don’t mind but….

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Not only the fruit but flowers too. My clematis flowered during the summer and I thought that it had finished for this year – not so.

I’m delighted as it gives me a splash of colour.

MUSHROOMS

It is the time of year again when I think where to put what type of fertiliser or compost. I decided to get some more mushroom compost from my favourite place – Livesey Brothers. It was an enjoyable visit; it is not too far, an easy drive and not only did I get 6 large sacks of mushroom compost but also some tasty mushroom. I can already taste the risotto I’ll make in the next few days…..

The compost is earmarked for the net cages where I will grow brassicas next year and also for my fruit cage, I shall fees all my soft fruit bushes – but not blueberries, that’s the wrong stuff for them.

FRESH PRODUCE

I like spinach but instead of that I grow chard. I found that spinach bolted very quickly and when I cooked it, it just collapsed and was down to nothing.

Chard is much more robust and comes in a variety of colours. Some of the stems are brilliant red and can be used like celery. I have found a recipe using spinach so as usual I substituted that with chard and the result is scrumptious – spinach and bechamel bake.

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BIT BY BIT 2.

During this time of year there will be many more installments in this category. Today was the turn of my newest raspberry patch. It was on this existing plot (no.3 in my collection) when I took it over but in a poor state. I must have dug it over and over at least six times and I’m still battling with the weeds. But not just the weeds.

Raspberries are well-known for spreading their roots and mine are no exception. I have to remind myself to be ruthless and thin them out.

Alas, the weather is still so mild I might have to weed this patch again before long.

There are benefits too. I kept the tomato plants going in the greenhouse, they had some green tomatoes on and the result is

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this tasty tomato – Costoluto Fiorentino. There might be a few more. The greenhouse is not totally draft-proof but obviously keeps the plants warm enough.

BIT BY BIT

I think I could apply this motto not only to my activities on the farm but also to acquiring land.

When I first started all those years ago – can’t believe it is 9 years ! – I had half of one plot. I thought that would be quite enough. How wrong was I. The other half of the same plot was soon mine and very shortly I had all this land I have now. The secret is to do little and often – or in my case a lot and often!

Today was a case in point. Because it was raining during the night I didn’t want to do any digging. Instead I decided to sort out the original line of blackberries that is half way down my original plot. It was there already and I didn’t do it properly in the past.

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And it all looks much better. Tomorrow is another day and another bit of work will be done.

AUTUMN TASKS

I live this time of year. Even though the days are getting shorter and nothing much grows now – except the dreaded weeds!!! – I find all the work very satisfactory. My favourite description of my state of being is self actualisation. This is one of the theories that stuck in my brain from the nursing training days – Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

I started with a patch of raspberries and rhubarb at the end of one of my plots. To say that it looked neglected is an understatement. It is one of the places I meant to tackle but something else always got in the way. Today was the day.

It looks lovely in the first photo but the other two show how well the weeds grew. Never mind a plant encyclopaedia, I should get one on weeds! Anyway, this job is done and tomorrow, weather permitting, will be another busy day.

I also harvested another yacon plant. The foliage is beginning to show signs of frost but it doesn’t matter, the tubers are fine in the ground.

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I like to eat them raw, just scrubbed clean and peeled. They taste sweet but in reality they are quite special. They contain inulin.

DIVIDING AND TRANSPLANTING

Some years ago I planted a small sage plant on the allotment – it was a rooted branch on my plant in the back garden. I think it liked it on the farm because when I dug it out it did exactly the same again but even more – I managed to split it into a number of smaller plants, all of them with a good root ball. They are now at the side of one of my net cages.

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It was still too wet for digging so the next job had to be moving one of my thornless blackberries and a loganberry to their new home.