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.
Weeds are plants that are in the wrong place – I’m sure they think they’re just lovely. I have a continuous battle with them – but not everywhere on the plot. One part I was able to prepare for planting garlic just by hoeing, there were almost none there. Another one, like inside the fruit cage was a morning job, they were very stubborn and plentiful. I’m delighted to say that all is fine in that fruit cage.
When I first started working on my plot I had to do a lot of digging – it was overgrown and all the stuff I cleared I deposited at the very back. That was 12 years ago. Amazingly this bit of ground is in use now, I tried to clear it a couple of years ago and it certainly was well worth it. This year it was a home for some Borlotti beans and a few courgette plants, Zephyr.
The soil here is amazing, rich and crumbly and this time forking it over was very easy, hardly any weeds and certainly no bindweed roots. I think I’ve cracked it.
Next to do was the little area close to my oldest greenhouse. It is right at the beginning of that plot and was always rather mixed. It has a line of blackberries and loganberries there, a couple of pear trees, an apple and a damson. The apple tree is a miniature, Elstar, but it had so many apples that I had to prop the branches up. The damson was only a thin stick given away years ago when I went with my son and his wife to an open day in their local garden. It even had a few damsons on this year but I didn’t do anything with them. I’ll wait till the harvest is bigger.
The first piece of land that I cleared after the harvest was under a number of bags of the reclaimed potting compost from the cannabis growing house and a large number of big flower pots. Once I managed to put the soil in some stronger bags and moved them next to the nearest greenhouse and stacked the pots there as well, I was able to sow my broad beans here. They germinated very well and I’m glad I protected them with some sweetcorn stems, just so the birds or squirrels wouldn’t be tempted to pull them out. I think it worked.
Even though the spring was nothing to write home about, the harvest was fine. The vegetables coped well with the cold spring and not a very great summer and the harvest was good, apart from the carrots. Germination was poor and I made sure the ground was stone free. I tried three times, in the end I got two rows of reasonable carrots. I don’t think I was alone with this problem, other allotment holders experienced the same. Never mind, there is always next year.
Soft fruit was great, apples also. The figs were rather disappointing, certainly the cold spring affected them. There are countless immature figs on all my trees but I don’t have a chance to harvest them now, even though it is still quite mild. The days are getting shorter and they need the light.
I wasn’t quite sure about dedicating a fairly large part of the plot to the orchard but now I’m sure that it was the right decision. I have a couple of apple trees there, a pear, two plums and figs – one large bush and two small ones. All three are from cuttings. Some time ago I found this out by chance – I was pruning the original large fig tree in my back garden and I put a number of the branches in pots, just in case they might take. They surprised me and grew. I have given away a number of rooted fig cuttings to different people and right now have four more growing in pots in the back garden. The one big advantage is that these cuttings have the embryo figs on already so would be ready to develop them to full size fruit once they start growing. My cuttings fruited even as quite small bushes.
It was the turn of the orchard to be weeded. Not a lot to do there, I had bean structures in between the trees so there weren’t too many weeds.
If I do a section of the plots every time I go to work there I will soon finish it all. There are jobs I’m leaving to the very end, like refreshing the strawberry beds.
It is the time of year when fruit is abundant and I start thinking of making more jam. One of the favourites is a spiced blackberry and apple jam, it has a lovely taste reminding you of Christmas.
My next jam I wasn’t too sure about because the weather was so difficult in the spring. I have had the fig tree in the garden for more than 30 years and it never disappoints. I pruned it early in the spring as the instructions said, it was getting too tall and some of the fruit on the furthest branches was wasted, I couldn’t reach it even with the picker. I could see quite a lot of little figs and was hoping that a good few of the will ripen. For quite a while it didn’t look like it, I think the cold spring affected it a lot. But the other day I had a very pleasant surprise – I saw a large ripe fig and when I had another good look I saw even more of them. In the end I picked 1,5 kilo of them, enough ro make five jars of jam. This jam is a pure delight.
About two years after starting on the allotment I treated myself to a fruit cage. It wasn’t cheap but it is well worth every pound. I have rearranged the bushes there during late autumn and winter and it is much better now, enough space around each bush.
I have got a number of blueberries, gooseberries, black currant, and my favourite, red and white currants. Today I picked some of them, the white ones are delicious on our porridge in the morning.
Today’s forecast was correct-cold, windy and rain, heavy at times. I had to go to the allotment as I wanted to get some more rhubarb. I was looking for some other ways to use it and found a recipe for rhubarb and vanilla jam. I have got enough rhubarb and the only other ingredients were vanilla pods, sugar and lemon juice. Found all of them so the afternoon will be spent making this jam.
When I arrived on the allotment I was in for a big surprise – a swarm of bees! I’ve never seen one at close quarters so this was quite amazing to watch – like a living creature, constantly moving, shifting.
I guessed where they came from – over the hedge Mary and Wayne have hives, it took just a short phone call and Wayne came all dressed in his protective gear to collect them. Even though he didn’t manage to collect them all, he said that the others will find their way home. It was rather fortunate that they settled on a couple of raspberry canes, right beside one of my paths, he was able to cut the canes down and just shake the bees into his special box. Very interesting to watch.
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.
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.
The new look compost heap
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?
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.
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.
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.