8. FEBRUARY

The weather isn’t quite sure what to do. First thing in the morning we had frost but the sun was shining. When I went to the allotment this afternoon it felt nice and warm, it was a bit slippery underfoot as all the frozen ground thawed but ideal for work. I went there yesterday for a while, just to dig two holes for  my new fruit trees, so when I got there today I just had to get two stakes and hammer them in the ground and I was ready to continue.

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These two trees are a bit special, they are heritage variety from Botanica plant nursery. Both are cooking apples, one is Norfolk Dumpling and the other is Norfolk Beauty. I thought they deserve the best so I applied some Mycorrhizal (rootgrow granules), I hope they’ll grow well. 

This has completed my little orchard, I will plant  pumpkins and squashes between the trees and on the small piece of land at the front of the plot I shall grow sweetcorn.

27. NOVEMBER

When I first started on the allotment all those years ago this little area was a compost heap. I think even calling it a compost heap was kind, it was an area quite overgrown with nettles and brambles. I thought it was a waste so I started clearing it and to my surprise it was quite easy and the soil was very rich. Over the years I grew different vegetables there, from beans over squashes to potatoes and this is going to be the last, it has my new apple tree there – Lord Lambourne.

I had a couple of courgette plants there as well, they did very well but the weeds got going again during the last few weeks. It helps to have the soils quite wet, it wasn’t at all difficult to clear.

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I mended the sides and spread some rich compost around the young tree. With a bit of luck I could get some fruit next year.

The rest of the morning was finishing clearing the orchard, I had a couple of patches to do but they proved quite challenging. All is done now so I can start on another part of the plot. If it doesn’t rain too much in the next few days I’ll tackle the fruit cage.

24. NOVEMBER

I planted my first Christmas present today. I was thinking a few days ago that I should do what some gardening correspondent suggested – plant some fruit trees. If we have enough space it is much better to grow something that is either too difficult to buy or too expensive. Vegetables like potatoes or onions are quite cheap to buy but soft fruit or fruit in general is more expensive.

I had a look at my plots on the allotment and decided I had enough space for two more fruit trees. As a coincidence one of the seed companies I use advertised bare root trees and they had a special offer too. Exactly what I wanted. I have been looking to  buy a greengage and here it was. And one more that I didn’t ever hope to get, a mirabelle.

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The roots had to be soaked before planting. I had to cut the supports so the trees had enough time in the water.

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Fortunately I cleared this strip of land only a few days ago so it was all ready. I remembered to dig a square hole – in a round hole the roots tend to follow the shape and don’t spread out where as in a square hole they tend  to reach out into the corners.

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The two trees were delivered today, my very first Christmas present from Frank. Never mind the weather, they had to  be planted. It was very overcast when I went to the allotment and the rain started as I was half-way through but I finished – it is only water after all. Now they can settle in and start growing.

By now it was raining quite hard so I sat in the greenhouse with a cup of tea and noticed that the little chilli plant still  had some fruit on. This one is called Biquinho, it is not really hot, very nice to eat fresh from the plant.

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20. NOVEMBER

I have had my wish – the day started nice and sunny again so straight after breakfast I went down to my allotment. I had a plan but that by itself doesn’t always mean that I will follow it. I usually start one job and from the corner of my eye I see something so I see to that and don’t finish the first task. Not today though.

The large Asian pear didn’t have much fruit this year  but it gave me loads of golden leaves.

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I have made a chicken wire enclosure for making leaf mould so I have swept all the leaves and put them there. It is quite full now but come the spring it will shrink down .

Next on my list of things to do today was to weed the little net cage I made a  number of years ago. My friends were getting rid of their trampoline and offered me the stand. Excellent to make a frame for a net cage. Use the two halves, put some sturdy canes or tubes in the  make it higher, attach some horizontal wood, cover with a green scaffolding netting and a cage is done. Make do and mend – the best way to add structures.

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Some time later it all looks much better. I have just got blackcurrants there, the birds can’t get at them.

 

This was on the list of things to do but I had some time left so I managed to clear the narrow strip of land beside this cage, it will be ready for the sunflowers next year. They can have extra support sitting just beside the cage.

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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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30. OCTOBER

I had another helper on the allotment yesterday – my grandson Louis came in the afternoon. We took the kitchen scraps for the composter bins, harvested some parsnips and I tried my luck with the sweet potato. I’m quite pleased, from under two plants I got one sweet potato, reasonably sized. I think it’ll be fine as a jacket potato for myself and Frank, with some salad to give us a bit more for lunch.

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The forecast for today was quite good, at least for the morning, so I went to the farm to finish planting the garlic. I planted the first lot a few weeks ago and that is already sprouting, it didn’t take too long.

The latest garlic only came the other day and I ordered it purely because of its name.

I still had some time left so  I started some more weeding, this time in my little herb area. I have got a couple of pear trees, one apple and a damson bush there, also a gooseberry, a few chilean guavas and a bay tree. This will be just  those trees, the herbs – thyme, rosemary, lavender and in the spring a scattering of annual flowers.

After this I just had time to pull out a few of the dead sunflowers, cut some more chard and head home. To be continued tomorrow, or whenever the weather lets me.

25.OCTOBER

I am still amazed that my loquat tree is flowering. It took a good number of years to get here but he’s making up for lost time. And to think I grew him out of a seed!

There is a cluster like these on almost all branches. I don’t think I’ll have any fruit because when it comes to fruiting it happens in February and that is a bit too cold here. Never mind, I’ve got the flowers and the beautiful honey-like scent.

22. OCTOBER

Today was an ideal day for digging. I started on the allotment around 10.30 and as I didn’t have to  cook I took a flask of coffee with me and worked. It was highly enjoyable and it felt almost like a late spring day. I decided to tackle a bigger area and the place to work on today was my large net cage. I had a mix of vegetables there – peas, chard that survived from  last year and a group of yellow pear tomatoes. The tomatoes and peas have finished a while ago but the chard was growing well.

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I harvested it with the idea to make our favourite lasagne.

It took quite a while to clear all the old plants and weeds but it was well worth it. The soil is crumbly and rich , I didn’t pull out the chard, it will grow again for another harvest. That’s the beauty of chard, it grows well, doesn’t bolt and after cooking it it doesn’t shrink as much as spinach. The cage is ready for next year, I will have some wigwams for growing peas, amaranth and perhaps some tomato plants.

All this work was made easy thanks to my favourite tool – the azada.

As I was working inside the cage I could hear and see my resident robin getting very agitated because he couldn’t get to the worms. So after I finished inside the cage I cleared the new raspberry patch next to the cage. It is only small but the robin was waiting on top of the fruit cage next to it and when I left he started looking for his worms.

All this work took a good few hours,  I came home after three pm but there was no time to rest, the chard had to be cooked, white sauce made and lasagne assembled. We shall have our favourite for lunch tomorrow.

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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.