1. JANUARY 2023

I started the New year the right way – went to the allotment to empty my kitchen scraps and also to check that everything is in order. It was great to be back, the morning was lovely, blue skies and sunshine. It felt almost spring-like but I’m being realistic, the frost will return and I’m not looking forward to it.

All the same, I managed to do a bit of work, gathered the leaves on my path and put them in one of the composter bins and pulled out some parsnips, carrots and leeks, we’ll have lovely chunky vegetable soup. The ground is beginning to dry out so if we don’t have any rain in the next few days I’ll be able to continue weeding the fruit cage. Bad weather before Christmas stopped play.

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This honeysuckle plant was in my Mum’s garden and after she died I moved it to the farm. It seems to like the new position, it is starting to climb around the post on the shed veranda.

Everything else seems fine so from now on it’ll be a bit of work every day. I’m sure I’ll get there.

It’ll be the turn of the raspberries, they need thinning and also cutting out the old fruited canes.

19. NOVEMBER

As I was walking to the allotment in the morning I thought – I hope this weather continues for a while yet. If I didn’t look at the fallen yellow leaves on the ground I  might have thought that it was springtime. It felt quite warm, the breeze was light and it was just perfect for gardening. Today I cleared the last greenhouse out, pulled out all the peppers and chillies but left one plant there – another physalis. I’ve got no idea how this one managed  to grow among all the peppers but on closer inspection I have found out that this is really a Cape gooseberry. I tasted one of the fruits, it was lovely and sweet. I’m sure I have got a packet of seeds of this plant so I’ll try it next year.

All this took quite a while so after this I just managed to dismantle the bean supports and go home. But the day was so nice I decided to continue in the afternoon.

Frank came with me and between the two of us we hammered in some sturdy pieces of wood to support the uprights in one of my old net cages. I have constructed this one myself and it is lasting quite well. But after the heavy rains the ground has softened and it became a bit loose. All is well now and I’m sure it will last a few more years.

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The rest of my afternoon I was weeding yet again – inside the rescued net cage and on another part of one of my plots. This has a line of blackberries and loganberries and a couple of pear trees, also a damson, a gooseberry and a number of herbs. I have flowers in between, they attract the bees and it cheers the place up.

I’m not quite sure what the forecast is for tomorrow but I hope it will at least keep dry. I have got one large fruit cage and a smaller net cage to clear out. I don’t need sunshine,  just a dry day.

18. NOVEMBER

What a difference a day makes – it was sunny and quite mild in the morning and I felt much happier straight away. I’m a fair weather person, if I could choose I would ban snow and dark evenings. Never mind, I just have to put up with it, wait for the shortest day and after that all will gradually improve.

I went to the allotment with the idea to finish weeding a reasonable piece of land – that was the orchard. It is right at the end of one of my plots, in front of the shed. I’ve got a good selection of fruit trees – a few figs, a couple of apples, pear and two plums.

We had a very good harvest this year and as I started working there I remembered what my Granddad always said – keep an area the size of the crown of the tree clear of weeds around the trunk. I did that and also decided what I will put in between the trees. I will scatter some summer-flowering plants and beside the net tunnel I will put some wigwams with sweet peas.

The rain was very good for me, the soil was soft but not water-logged, we have very good drainage on the whole site. It also helps to be on a  slight slope.

As I was weeding I also mended the net cage, this is the very first one but it keeps going. It just needed to pull the weeds from the end  of it and fix the pegs again. I’m sure it will last another few years.

I had another surprise plant growing there – the physalis with the blue flowers. I have tried to search for it, all I found was the plants with yellow flowers but not this one. The search continues.

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14. NOVEMBER

It was back to my usual activity on the allotment. The back garden is all sorted out, I have even found out that my favourite pond refurbishment people stock the spare part for the UV filter – we’ll have a day out on Wednesday and combine getting the new part with a lunch in the garden centre’s restaurant.I prefer to go there and get it from them, they’ll explain it for me. 

The weather is still good, I was able to have a good work-out on the allotment and finished one more piece of land, It was quite overgrown but I’m happy with the result.I have even remembered take the before photo

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The soil was very crumbly after all the rain and it was quite an easy job. Because the weather is so mild everything is still growing and flowering. I had some marigolds around the apple trees and they are in full flower. They are staying.

In another place I have got a clump of red campion – that is in flower too, I didn’t know it can flower so late in the year.

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One way I can tell if we’ve had frost is by my nasturtium flowers – they would wilt even after the slightest frost but there is no damage yet.

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There is a mysterious plant growing in one of the net cages. I have no idea what it might be but the fruit is very similar to that of a tomatillo. The fruit is green and very hard and packed with seeds. I had it a few years ago so I presume the seeds survived in the soil somehow.

Usually tomatillo plants have yellow flowers but mine are blue, lovely large flowers. One day I might find out exactly what they are. Needless to say, I didn’t eat the fruit.

15. OCTOBER

I was watching Monty Don on television last night in his usual gardening programme and one of the contributors was talking about harvesting produce from her allotment. She grew some lovely chillies and showed how she stores them. Not only does it look good but they will  dry at the same time. As it happens I grew some chillies too so I followed her example.

She was going to hang them in her kitchen but my kitchen is so small I can’t imagine hanging  them anywhere. Instead they are in the living room and look very decorative.

Monty also reminded us to sow sweat peas in readiness  for next year. When we went to visit Mike and Nicky a few weeks ago I collected quite a few seeds, they always grow beautiful sweet peas. I had everything I needed for this so so I’m ready for next year’s display.

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12. OCTOBER

My plan seems to be working. I only went to the allotment today to empty my kitchen scraps bucket, that’s what I thought. The  morning was really lovely and I just had to do some clearing. 

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This is the first piece of land on my ‘farm’ and it didn’t give a very good impression. It didn’t take long and another job was done. An extra benefit of that is that during this work I can plan what I will grow there. The best thing will be sunflowers and it’ll help the bees, it’ll help me as they will then visit my blackberries and loganberries.

3. OCTOBER

I had a lovely surprise in the garden today. Two completely different things, both quite remarkable. The first one is rather small but very welcome. Some years ago I used to buy a gardening magazine and in those days they offered a plant, for free with me just paying the cost of postage. One of these was a tree peony, white flowering. I planted it next to the little fence in the front garden, it flowered for a number of years. Eventually it got smothered by the hydrangea growing nearby. In the spring I decided to dig it out and hoped that it would survive. It got very leggy so I gave it a severe haircut, there wasn’t much left of it but I planted it in a large pot nevertheless. I kept looking at it, it looked rather dead so today was the day to act. I wanted to pull it out of the pot and compost it. However as I looked I saw a few little buds and I was delighted. It is worth waiting a bit longer, there must’ve been enough life in the roots.

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I gave it some new soil on the top of the pot and now will just wait.

The next surprise is even better. It is a long time ago that we went to Istanbul for a long weekend and of course we went for a number of tasty meals. On one occasion we had fresh fruit as a dessert and of course I collected the dark brown seeds from the apple-like fruit. At home I planted them in a pot and two of them germinated. I found out the name of the plant – Eriobotrya japonica or loquat. It grew to a lovely large tree and is very happy in the front garden. I knew when it should flower and bear fruit but I didn’t think I would see any flowers on my tree. Until today that is.

I’m not sure if I will have any fruit but even just to see it flowering is great.

29. AUGUST

It has been so amazingly dry these last few weeks that I’m quite surprised anything is growing on the allotment. Fortunately I have my greenhouses and that keeps the tomatoes and peppers happy. I haven’t had so many tomatoes and peppers in all the years I’ve been working there.Thinking of the current situation it is quite lucky that I’ve had such a super harvest, I was able to bottle a lot of the produce – oven roasted mixed vegetables or just tomatoes, cooked blackberry and apples for future crumbles and the list goes on. I’m especially pleased with the oven roasted mixed vegetables, I just add a glug of olive oil, no water so the flavours are really concentrated.

The cucumber in the greenhouses did very well. I have planted two plants and they have climbed up and along a wire the entire length of the greenhouse, producing a lot of fruit. I had so much that I was able to make cucumber relish for the very first time and it was very tasty.

My friend Mary and her son Wayne have got a few beehives on their plot and today was the day to harvest their honey. I’ve never seen it done and was amazed how very laborious it is. 

I’m sure it is thanks to the bees that our fruit harvest is so good. It is not only the fruit that benefited from the bees, my sunflowers did very well too. My tallest one was 915cm and today I brought home two of the biggest heads to save them for Chris for next year’s competition.

Both are 25cm in diameter so we should have enough seeds for everybody.

30.MAY

I have decided to visit my allotment with my grandson Jay who is staying with us with his Dad for a few days. He was going to be my official photographer there to make sure we show the plots in the best light possible. I don’t very often include flowers and he took a good number of pictures of all the different flowers I have there.

The day started very well, we went to Kenilworth castle and had an enjoyable morning there. The weather was just right and we were able to explore everywhere.

It is an atmospheric place and I could just imagine how it was in the bygone days. Their gardens are beautifully restored using plants that were growing then.

 

5. MAY

Everything on the allotment is doing well and as the weather is nice ( the forecast is good for the next number of days) I decided to plant out my sunflower plants. These are the Johnson competition sunflowers, they were in flowerpots on the veranda so they were ready to go out. I gained a strip of ground between two of my greenhouses, they will be sheltered there and it should be a bit warmer too.

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I also dug some rich compost in before planting three sunflowers, supported with a cane.

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I had more plants, they were not so big and I just placed them randomly here and there, it’ll brighten the plot, all 12 of them.

The strawberries are flowering very well, I even saw some fruit on the plants and I’m sure the birds have spotted it as well. That meant my next job was to cover all the raised beds. I have got the nets for the job, the biggest problem is to remember which net goes where. The beds are not all the same size but I think I have managed.

I will have a little break now as the next vegetables will be all kinds of climbing beans and courgettes and squashes. These are now in seed trays and are already sprouting. There is also sweetcorn – first of all I thought I’d wait for the weather to warm up even more and sow them in the ground directly but there was the possibility of mice eating the seed. Better be safe, there was room in the big greenhouse in the back garden.