MAINTENANCE

Even bad weather is useful for an gardener. It is still very cold for this time of year but I had to go to the allotment to check on the seedlings I moved to the greenhouses there. All is fine, even the cucumber seedlings are doing well, they germinated only the other day.

I try to do one improvement each day I am there, today was the turn of the large compost heap at the end of one of my plots. Usually I put compostable things into the composter bins, this heap is for the end of season waste – after harvesting potatoes, tomatoes, cabbages etc. It was sitting there the whole winter under a cosy cover – a carpet offcut.

I wanted to mend the retaining framework so the carpet was taken down, the Brussel sprout stalks thrown out and the rest dug over and heaped better. I was amazed how crumbly and brown it looked.

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All I had to do now to water it thoroughly and cover again with the carpet. It will sit there until the autumn, I will then rake out all the good soil, either bag it or use it on the plot and start the whole process all over again. My plan is to improve the soil in the strawberry raised beds – that will be quite a lot of work but worth it. I will select the strongest runners and gradually replace the plants in the newly filled beds.

ANOTHER PIECE OF LAND

I was catching up with some more digging yesterday afternoon and today. It was the right kind of weather, especially today, it turned rather cold and grey, just as the forecast predicted.

This piece of land was used to be in my care a few years ago but I gave it up when somebody in charge of adults with health problems expressed interest. I thought it a great idea but it never took off. My friend on the site took it on but this year said that her own plot was enough work for her and didn’t want to carry on. So it came back to me.

As I enjoy digging it was not difficult. It is all done and this way I can grow many more pumpkins and squashes because all the other land is already earmarked for other things. It would have been the case to fit them in wherever there was a bit of room.

The soil is lovely, the larger part of it was covered with tarpaulin and we kept some woodchip on it. All that was gone now and it will be back in production. I can’t wait to see all my huge Maltese pumpkins growing there.

SPRING IS HERE

Finally it all came together. First of all I managed to harvest my very first spring rhubarb – I think it is the tastiest of all the pickings.20210318_111901

Last year in the autumn I have acquired another greenhouse, a very old one at that. It belonged to an elderly lady who lived in a house right next to our allotments. We were very friendly, she was used to come to see me quite often . She had a little gate in her fence as her husband was used to have a plot on our site quite a number of years ago. She died a few years ago and the people who bought her house didn’t want the greenhouse so I rescued it. The structure was sound but as we dismantled it quite a lot of the panes of glass broke – it was very old and brittle. Anyway, with help I moved it all to my plot and stored it very carefully. My friend Dave said he would help me to put it together. Soon after the New Year he surprised me by getting the structure up and in position. It formed a neat group of greenhouses. Next job was harder – sorting out the panes of glass. As so much of it broke I decided to do a bit of mix and match – I ordered eight polycarbonate sheets for the side panels and decided that the rest and the roof would be glass. Had to buy some more glass but it all started to take shape. I’m delighted to say that the only thing to do now is to fix new runner wheels on top of the door – on order – and all is done. Nevertheless I have constructed my raised beds inside, filled them with the contents of one composter bin and a number of sacks of Dalefoot compost. This way I can have one greenhouse for tomatoes, one for peppers and chillies and one for aubergines and the occasional cucumber will be placed where I will find space. I am very happy but all this was possible only with a huge lot of work by Dave. Thank you Dave. A friend in need is a friend indeed.

GETTING READY

Despite the difficult situation of life with COVID 19 things are looking up on the allotment front. The days are getting longer and that is always something to cheer me up.

I have finished washing my greenhouses, the next thing was to refresh the soil and sort out the supports. After last year’s harvest of tomatoes, aubergines and chillies I took down all the cane supports – it needed re-doing.

I have also decided that ‘less is more’ and will limit each greenhouse to one type of vegetable and will space them further apart.

As I was looking at my Asian pear tree and planning how much to trim it – it has gone rather tall and the top branches are very thin and straggly, I noticed a nest in the fork of two larger branches. It looks a bit scruffy and untidy but it certainly is a nest. Perhaps a pigeon’s nest?

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JOB IS DONE

My efforts were perfectly timed, the front garden is all but sorted out. There are some little patches that I will return to but all in all I’m happy with the result.

The easiest bit was the tidying up of the paving slabs and re-laying of bricks, just a bit of hard graft. Once this was done I started tackling the weeds. It is amazing how quickly they spread – as if they knew that I took my eye off them. Anyway, I have timed it just so – our garden waste wheelie bins are going to be collected this Friday and I have managed to fill three of them. I’m lucky my friend next door has two so I use those when I need to.

Most of the established plants are doing well, especially the conifer – I brought it here when we first moved in in 1973, it was a tiny seedling from my mother-in-law’s garden. Looking good I’m pleased to say.

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All it needs is from time to time to cut the very top and perhaps trim some of the branches.

The other side of the garden has my favourite tree – the loquat. This is one of a number I managed to grow from seeds. Years ago we went on holidays to Istanbul and had the loquat fruit for desert. It looked and tasted like a very nice crisp apple. The seeds germinated very well and I have another one in the back garden. I have no chance of any fruit on it though, it flowers towards the end of the year and the fruit appears in February. It is a very handsome tree all the same.

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I am using it as a climbing frame for my clematis montana.

There is a bit of colour in the garden, even on a dreary day like today. The hydrangea looks good and the cyclamen in my pot is just coming into flower. A bit of encouragement to continue.

LEAFMOULD

This is the best part of autumn gardening – recycling as much as possible. I had a lot of leaves on my path from the Asian pear. I waited till all of them were on the ground and then I was going to put them into the wire enclosure I made last year. The old leaves there have almost disappeared. This didn’t take very long so I continued with the second part of my plan.

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On my way from home to the allotment I walk through an alleyway beside the local primary school. It is always covered with a mix of different leaves. Each year I think that it would be a great addition to my leafmould pile but never do anything about it. Until this year. It took most of the morning and about six trips with a large sack full of leaves but I think it is well worth it.

I have got a lovely pile of leaves to compost and in a couple of years  I will have something to add to my raised beds in the greenhouses.

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TIDY UP

Again I had to do a bit of tidying up in the back garden – the large fig tree dropped all its leaves and the whole corner was looking a bit sad and unloved.

It just took one day – one morning and one afternoon session and all is much better. All the leaves are composted now, path is re-done, weeds pulled out as much as I could and this corner is ready for the overwintering.

MORE CLEARING OUT

There is a narrow strip of ground at the very end of one of my plots. When I took this plot on it was overgrown with nettles and basically used as a tip by the last gardener. I cleared it as much as I could and by doing that found quite a few interesting things – an old wooden ladder, still good to be used. The other bits of rubbish I threw away, broken pots and some netting. I planted a couple of my Maltese pumpkins there and they loved it so much they climbed all the way to the top of the hedge behind. However now I have harvested everything and decided to dig this area properly this time.

I didn’t realise the challenge waiting for me there. When I finally finished I had a large rubbish sack full of more broken plastic pots, some chicken wire netting and a big piece of some material buried really deep that didn’t show any signs of deterioration – no idea why it was there. One item is interesting though – a head of a cast iron rake minus the handle. I won’t try to re-assemble it, just keep it as a curio.

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After a hard morning’s dig the land looks great, ready for next year. All I have to do now is to spread a sack of horse muck and let it rest. There will be potatoes growing there next year.

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KEEPING FIT

I am sure that I have found the perfect way to keep fit – it works for me, anyway. It means that I have to walk a short distance to our allotment site, about five minutes away, lock the gate after myself and start working. As long as it doesn’t rain too much I can continue. If the soil should be too wet I would choose a different activity from digging.

Today was just ideal – a nice sunny and warm morning – I managed to do what I wanted to during the morning, the next job was left for the afternoon.

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This isn’t actually my plot, it belongs to a guy who isn’t very well so I dug it for him. I had an ulterior motive – I wanted to get rid of all the thistles before they finished flowering so we don’t get the seeds blown all over the site. Job done.

The afternoon session was work on my own plot, it was weeding one of my raspberry patches. I had to borrow a wheelie bin from one of my friends in the street as the ground was full of bindweed and that can’t go on the compost. I finished just in time, there were dark clouds gathering and when I got home it started raining.

AUTUMN

Here we go again – another autumn, another clear out operation. My plan is quite simple – I aim to complete one task each time I go to the allotment. Yesterday it was clearing out one net cage and weeding (again) a bed after garlic has been harvested some time ago.

Today was the turn of the orchard. Managed to weed, hoe and re-do the stepping stone path in front of the shed, I’m happy with the result.

Another job I finished today was weeding and digging inside one small net cage. I had some broad beans there, they did very well, no sign of any blackfly, then I put some tomatoes and celery in. The tomatoes have finished, just the celery remains.

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Yesterday was quite difficult. I have decided to put a scaffolding plank as an edge to a narrow strip of soil beside this net cage, to keep the soil in, and making it deeper. I knew the planks are heavy, but I didn’t think they were this heavy! Too late to change my mind when I was half way down the main path dragging it behind me. Never mind, it all ended well.