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!

CHRISTMAS

These cacti are quite old now but they never fail, within a day or two they always flower around this time. I have read somewhere a long time ago that it is best not to move them so they have been sitting in the porch all this time. It seems to work.

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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.

NOVEMBER

Even though we are in November already there is still enough colour in the garden. I love these pale pinks blossoms. There is also one rose flowering, it certainly cheers everything up

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Later today I went to the allotment, just wanted to get some carrots and parsnips. I took some photos there as well, I still have a rose flowering there. The Asian pear is dropping the leaves now and the colour is lovely.

TRANSFORMATION

This time I was working in the back garden, in a corner that I neglected for some time. There were two fig trees in this place, only because I had two cuttings and nowhere else to put them. I remember doing the planting correctly, the holes were lined with a thick membrane, that actually helped when I was digging them up. It contained the roots but all the same, it was a lot of hard work. It all happened in stages, first they were cut down, then cut down even more and yesterday the stumps were dug out. I’m glad to have an old pickaxe (it was in the garden when we moved here, all 47 years ago). After a whole morning of hard labour the two stumps were out and another small one of a conifer that was half dead anyway.

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From this dark corner the next stage was a bit brighter20201005_141942

The roots tried to resist but didn’t manage…..20201016_114945

….so it is no surprise that I’m happy with the result

I had a lot of different pots round the garden and a lot of bulbs – tulips and daffodils. All are planted, pots are in place, even the fence panel behind them is painted. The great thing about this way of doing it that I can re-arrange the pots, replant them, the possibilities are endless.