I had a change of scenery this weekend, we went to stay with Mike and Nicky in the Lakes. All my work on the allotment is up to date, so is the greenhouse in the back garden so I could indulge and work in someone else’s place. I knew Mike wanted to upgrade the path in his front garden using the same slate chippings that we used on the other half of the garden a few years ago. Of course I was ready for this work, I had my wellies, gloves and gardening trousers with me. Fortunately the weather was kind to us. It wasn’t very warm but the sun was shining and as we got down to work it soon warmed us up. The chippings were delivered on Saturday morning and as a first thing we had to remove the old gravel and lining from the path. I did the removing and Mike was loading it in his wheelbarrow and taking it to his back garden where he had a large builders’ sack. In the end we filled it to the brim – but the path was ready.
I gave Mike a roll of lining material that was just enough for this path, we manged to get it down just before lunch. Afternoon was spent pinning it to the wooden side that was making an edge. The following morning it was all hands to the pump again, this time shovelling the slate chipping and spreading it on the new path. I thought we had more than enough but in the end he’ll have to get a few small sacks to top the path so that it is just perfect.
We are delighted with the result, the slate is exactly the same colour as the other side of the garden.
At last I was able today to do some more work on Irene’s plot. Yesterday I just managed to dig over a small square of land with the idea of planting a little shrub there and some bulbs. I didn’t manage that because I wanted to do a spot of weeding in my orchard. The spot of weeding turned to be a massive action, even though I did this only some weeks ago. Amazing how well the weeds grow. Anyway, orchard is looking good now so I carried on with the first idea on Irene’s plot – planting a shrub. I decided on sweet box (Sarcococca confusa). I have bought this shrub years ago as I wanted one flowering during the winter months. It didn’t disappoint, the scent is wonderful and fills the whole garden. It produces lots of little black berries and the seeds germinate very quickly. I have collected many seedlings and made a little hedge out of them on the allotment, beside one of my net tunnels. The bushes are growing very well and in the winter the scent is a wonderful boost to the morale. So now there is another one of them in a different part of the allotment, with some bulbs around it. Later on I’d like to scatter some annual flower seeds there as well.
After this I cleared another small piece of land with a number of gooseberry bushes. It is rather good that Irene managed her plot this way, she had a number of small areas and now we find it quite easy to keep it tidy.
As I was working there I could hear our resident robin singing nearby. I always talk to him, my friend told me that they can recognise the sound of your voice. He is quite tame now and looks for the worms as I dig. I was hoping to take a photo as he was on the ground but suddenly he landed on top of my hoe and just looked at me.
The weather was very good today, just the right temperature for a bit of strenuous digging and potato planting. I didn’t want to plant too many so in the end we have six lines on one plot and two on another one. I think that should be just about enough, we’ve got some very early potatoes in pots in the back garden as well.
It was quite a lot to do and I decided to dig all the trenches first. All I had to do then was to sprinkle in some fertiliser – I’m using a mix of chicken manure pellets and fish, blood and bone. One trench takes 15 potatoes, that gives them enough space to give me some decent sized potatoes. We have a variety from first earlies to main season ones so if all else fails we should have spuds!
It was a tidy up morning on the allotment – carefully hoeing between the garlic plants and then getting some remaining leeks out of the ground to take home with more potatoes – the result is slowly cooking now. I like leek and potato soup. There are still a few leeks in the ground but I’m not in any hurry to get them out, they’re not in the way.
My friend Dave gave me some chitted potatoes from his own harvest and I had just enough space to create two rows beside one of my net cages. Hopefully we shall have some nice and tasty early potatoes.
The ground is quite rich there, I had a couple of sacks of the contents of my compost so that should help. It is an encouraging sight to have two lines of newly planted potatoes. I’m going to take it slowly, the soil is still rather cold, no need to hurry with sowing parsnips or carrots, I’d rather wait, they’ll soon catch up, otherwise they could rot in the cold and wet soil.
I have to make most of this mild weather – today felt like a spring day again. The days are getting longer in the evening so I can do a bit more every day.
I had to finish the clearance of the raspberry patch, it was quite bad so it took a few days of fairly hard work. Amazing how well the weeds survived the winter – shame the pigeons don’t peck them, they prefer my chard!
Unfortunately the last two lines of raspberries were the worst. Not only were they full of creeping buttercups but also some strawberry plants made a comeback. First of all I wasn’t going to do a thorough job on it but then I just couldn’t leave it untidy so I did the usual clearance. It was worth it.
Tomorrow I’m hoping to visit a garden centre not far from from town, Russels in Baginton. I was given some garden vouchers and they accept them. What is even better they stock my favourite peat free compost – Dalefoot – so I can indulge. They also have a very nice cafe so lunch in there will be just the perfect end to the morning.
Things are looking good, February is here, only 28 days and we’ll be closer to spring. In the meantime the work goes on. I’m glad I started renovating the raspberry patch, it was a great improvement when I finished the other day. Today was the turn of the path. I always lost my nerve when it came to this path and usually just trimmed it somehow but didn’t tackle it properly. Today was different, I thought a drastic action was needed. I decided to get rid of the grass altogether, it was mainly a collection of couch grass and creeping buttercups anyway.
At least this time I remembered to take the ‘before’ photo to remind myself how bad it was. All that’s left are the weeds in the rows of raspberries and I can take it easy, one or two lines each time I work there.
I am quite glad to see this year out. I’m hoping the next one is going to be an improvement on the last one but I’m not very sure. But I’m positive, as long my health is ok and I can walk to the allotment, do my daily Guardian crossword and have my best mate – Frank – by my side, I’m happy.
Today was another spring day, I don’t even think it is December, just enjoy the moment. Of course I went to the allotment, harvested some chard and cleared some ivy from the shed – amazing how quickly it grows! I took my eye off it and there it was, half way around the door. The winter honeysuckle that I transplanted from my Mum’s garden after she died is doing very well, it flowers and the scent is fantastic.
The back garden is finished as well, put down another bag of the compost so it looks much better and it’ll get the feed it needed. The pond needed a new fountain and a general clean and that is done as well. It looks like a brand new pond.
I have been calling my allotments my ‘farm’. Little did I know that other people thought that us allotment holders are doing a great job!
Even the Guardian has plenty to say about it. After reading that I was greatly encouraged when I started my work on my farm in the morning. The majority of jobs is done, I am concentrating now on some changes and improvements.
There is a small patch of ground there that was used to be a compost heap. Well, after a number of years I turned it over and found loads of lovely soil. Last year I grew squashes, this year some beans but the site is a bit difficult to work on. Change was needed and I think I have got the perfect solution. I have removed all the wood edges, levelled the soil and removed about 4 barrow loads. These I put beside the fruit trees in the nearby orchard. Now I have a very nice square of land, big enough to plant an apple tree that I have on order from one online nursery. I will even have space there for a couple of rooted fig cuttings.
One of the most satisfying activities on the allotment is exactly what I was doing today. Using something other people didn’t want and improving my plot at the same time. In this case it was a few long pieces of wood, about 10cm profile. I think it was a part of somebody’s decking in its previous life. I have used it for mending the edges on my path and creating a border edge on my raspberry patch, to contain the plants and make it easier for the future wood chip spreading.
I have nearly finished weeding the raspberry patch – first of all I had to cut down the fruited canes and then I was able to tackle the weeds. Amazing how well they were hidden under the lush greenery. This job is almost done.
My latest little greenhouse is quite secure now, all I had to do was to put a few slabs down inside and create a little path in the front. That is all done now, the surrounding soil is hoed and all is ready for next year. I have put nine grow rings inside, it’ll be ideal for tomatoes. I keep reminding myself how good it is to grow tomatoes every time I open one Kilner jar of my oven baked tomatoes. Gone are the days of tinned tomatoes.
There is no such thing as waste on our site. We all have a number of composter bins and I have a corner of one plot dedicated to a large compost heap. I don’t put any weeds there but everything else that I can’t fit into my bins – courgette, tomato, cucumber and other plants after they’ve finished. My friend Dave shares this heap with me, he doesn’t have one.
Today was the day to see what was under the cover. I have got two pieces of carpet to speed the composting process and after I took them off today I was delighted. A large mound of crumbly brown soil, hardly any large pieces. In all I had two full wheelbarrows and seven large plastic sacks of this brown gold. I have started to distribute it around my fruit trees in the orchard it’ll be perfect.
After all this I started putting in more old foliage and the process will carry on. It shows that Mother Nature knows best, we just have to help it on the way. I don’t use any artificial fertilisers, just the liquid from my wormery and perhaps some organic chicken poo pellets. I have lost my horse muck source so it will be just everything we can get from our bins.