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.

19. APRIL

The leeks are done so today I finished a job that I started on Sunday morning. My tomatoes are amazing this year, every seed I put in the pots must have germinated, I have got dozens of plants. Very carefully labelled varieties including Yellow pear. That one is prolific and produces lots of small sweet tomatoes, very late into the autumn.

I have managed to fill two of my greenhouses on the allotment – I need four more plants to finish altogether. I have even put some tomatoes in the big pots I have rescued from the canabis farm and still I had a lot left. I mentioned it to my neighbour’s daughter and she took 12 of them. Now it looks quite normal, I’ll put the rest in some more big pots and perhaps inside one of my net cages when the weather warms up.

Both greenhouses were thoroughly watered and I moved on to the next task. When my third greenhouse was erected it left a narrow strip of land between the old and the new one. I put a water butt at each end, collecting rainwater from the gutters. Unfortunately it closed the access to the piece of land so weeds grew quite well there. I was always going to sort it out, never had enough time until today. Of course I had to empty one of the butts so I chose the one with the tap as it stood on a structure made of bricks and would be easier to move. It wasn’t very full, I used the water on the sprouting peas in the net cage and the raspberries, then heaved it on the path and started clearing the weeds.

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I’m pleased with the result, I’ll have just enough space to plant my competition sunflowers there, they will be sheltered from both sides.

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The water butt is perfect in the new position, it is even easier to draw the water.

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24. MARCH

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.

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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.

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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.

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7. MARCH

Last spring our small allotment community suffered a loss – our friend Irene died. Her two plots were like a little farmstead, she has got a number of apple trees, rhubarb, delicious strawberries and raspberries. Apart from that her clematis montana is always like a huge white curtain and later during the year she has a few globe artichokes which she has mainly for the benefit of the bees.

Irene has been poorly during the autumn and winter of the previous year but she didn’t loose the enthusiasm, she would have loved to get there and start growing. Alas it wasn’t to be.

Her husband Tom continues to act as our treasurer and wants to keep her plots going. Stevie and in a small part myself are doing our best to keep it tidy. I have done the rhubarb patch a few weeks ago and as it was a nice morning I decided to tackle another patch. I’m not quite sure what was there before but the weeds and couch grass were abundant.

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It was quite a challenge but after a couple of hours I was happy with the result.

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I think we could plant some potatoes there. But that wasn’t the end of my activities, there was another square of land, again in a similar state. As I was clearing it out I was planning what to put here. An easy decision – either a couple of courgette plants or one of my squashes, that would fill it up well.

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3. FEBRUARY

Everybody is talking about global warming and I agree – it is here and we are ‘fiddling when Rome burns’. I know it sounds very pessimistic but that’s the brutal truth. I walked round my back garden first thing in the morning before I went to the allotment and couldn’t believe my eyes how many flowers I found.

I am not surprised that the snowdrops are almost fully open but the camelia? A bit too soon, I just hope we don’t have too many frosty days and nights.

It was a serious work day on the allotment, it was a fence repair day. I managed to find somebody who was able to mend our fence at the back of the allotment. Samir Troka was amazing, he managed to cut away all the brambles and ivy, put a couple of new posts and secure the panels to them – as good as new – even better I think! We managed to finance this fence with the help of a Heart of England grant quite a few years ago and it would’ve been a pity to leave it un – cared for. All’s well that ends well, I’m happy with the work and I’m sure it’ll last many years.

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This was the state of it before work started.

And this is the finished job! Wonderful.

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The outside is even better, it is beside a busy path where children go to and from school and people walk there on the way to the fields. It is looking really good, as I said, I’m happy. It was a perfect birthday present from me to me and to the allotment.

14. JANUARY

My Christmas cacti hardly ever disappoint me and this year is no exception. Both of them are sitting on the window ledge in the porch, I water them when I remember yet they flower beautifully.

A splash of colour on this cold morning; it gives me hope that spring will come, the days are getting longer every day, my seed order has arrived so I just have to be patient.

SUNFLOWERS

The Johnson sunflower competition is well established and my plants did quite well. I didn’t have the tallest one this year but I’m sure I had one with the biggest face.

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It is larger than a dinner plate and I decided to bring it home because I was afraid that our resident squirrel on the allotment would decide to sample some of the seeds. It lives on the table in our studio so nothing else fits on that table.

SOME MORE RECYCLING

Quite a few years ago I started making flower pots out of newspapers – using a jam jar as a mould they were just the right size for transplanting my seedlings. The advantage was that they rotted in the soil when I transferred the plants out into the open soil.

This is a step further. I have started growing my sunflowers for our annual Johnson sunflower competition. They started well, I put them into little pots and they did even better there. Now I needed to put them into something even bigger – but what?

I have been saving the brown paper than some mailing companies fill their boxes with – just because I hate throwing things away, it might come handy.

Today was the day. I used a tall vase as a mould because I needed something bigger than a jar and with straight sides. It is just perfect, I have used most of the paper and the plants look fine. I’ll keep them in the greenhouse for quite a while and when all danger of frost is gone they’ll go out. Last year I managed 11ft and 11inches, my hope is for that one inch more!