CHARTERHOUSE ALLOTMENTS…

…are improving. Amazing what a sunny day and a few willing gardeners can achieve.

Today was that day. Reg, who is not at all well but just keeps going somehow, had a helper – his grandson Carl. Hat off to Carl, he worked really hard and then Simon very kindly rotavated the plot and I can’t believe my eyes.

I was helping Simon with planting his onion sets and he rotavated a part of my plot. It was dug over but became very hard and lumpy. It is not any more!

The atmosphere on our site is very good, people talk, exchange ideas and seeds etc – by the way, thanks Simon for the onion sets, we shall never suffer shortage of onions! Or potatoes. Or anything else.

Happy gardening and may the sun shine on us.

TOOLS…..

…are very important for my work on the allotment. I have got a variety of them, starting with a very old pickaxe. It was in our back garden when we moved to our house way back in 1973!! It is so heavy that I’m not surprised the previous owner didn’t want to take it. It is very useful though when a bit of brute force is needed.

001

I was using it to gig out an old rusty barrel that was left on my latest plot by the previous occupant. It was buried about a foot down, full of rubbish (7 bricks !) and a layer of mud. After I cleared all that out I managed to ease the soil round it with the aforementioned pickaxe and it worked. By doing that I gained a nice square of soil and the bricks made a very sturdy base for my water but. It is a bit higher so I can put my watering can under the tap. These things are important – you don’t want to fall in when trying to scoop out the last of the water!

In order to get the soil ready for sowing and planting I use a claw. I have a number of attachments to my Wolf handle – that was the best thing I ever bought in the line of tools. First I dig the patch and the a few days later, depending on the weather, I work on it and break up the large clods of soil and get it reasonably smooth and ready.

002

All I need now is more sunshine, less rain and higher temperature.

Not asking much….

THE LATEST

I have been busy on the allotment but not the ‘proper’ kind of busy. I think all gardeners will agree that in April everything will start and it will gather pace.

That is why I decided to take photos of my latest five blankets before I stop (or perhaps just slow down) during the busiest times.

A DAY OUT

It has been a custom in the last four years or so that every spring I go with Chris (Frank’s youngest brother) somewhere where the two of us can dream about the garden we’d like to have.

It was used to be the Edible Garden Show but this year the organisers didn’t feel ready to stage it again (or didn’t get sponsors etc)

Never mind – after some research I found just the place. Clumber Park in Nottinghamshire has got everything a gardener would like – especially if you like rhubarb! It is supposed to be the second biggest rhubarb collection in the world (and yes, we’re trying to find out where the biggest collection in the world is)

I noted down some names of the rhubarb I liked and in the end I bought 3 plants. I have to keep reminding myself that these crowns will spread in time and that I’ll be able to split them too.

Planting time tomorrow!

They also had a huge collection of old garden tools – quite a lot of the modern ones are very similar, just lighter I think – the gardeners had to be tough just to lift the old rake or a spade….

I’m forcing my rhubarb by using large buckets but the Victorian gardeners had very smart terracotta bell jars to do that.

Ah well, I can dream….

THE FINAL ARTICLE

I had to do a few improvements to my latest cage but after today’s work I’m happy.

Because it stands very close to the path I decided to put a couple of boards between the net and the edge of the path – as I will trim the grass on the path I won’t be able to damage the net. I know it doesn’t look very pretty but it does the job.

The next was a little path leading to the door of the cage – just three slabs and it looks ok. In case I have to get inside on a wet day….

003

And the last thing was sprinkling of a mix of annual flowers on both sides of the path. There isn’t enough room to grow any veg but it’ll be nice to have a mix of flowers to attract the bees.

ONE PERSON’S RUBBISH

…is another woman’s treasure.

The guy who left recently not only dismantled his little shed and left it in a pile to be burned but also discarded two large halves of an old trampoline base – he was used to have it on the ground covered with netting to grow cabbages under. To harvest them or to do any weeding he had to crawl on his hands and knees.

Well, I got these two halves and attached metal uprights – from my store of old bits of another trampoline. As these are smaller they fitted well together and the result is..

004

…another net tunnel. You can’t have enough of these!

There will be space to grow cauliflowers and all kinds of cabbages and kohlrabi.

Place your orders now!

IT GOES ON…

…the digging I mean. I’ve finished digging the part of the plot right up to the greenhouse (not mine) and started clearing the other end of the plot, close to the main path. There is an ideal place to put a little chair, to sit, have lunch and admire the plot.

There was a water-butt in the corner, only full of rubbish. Very nice crown of rhubarb beside it – the result is that the rubbish is gone and the water-butt is upside down covering the rhubarb. You can’t have enough young tasty rhubarb.

The guy who left this plot didn’t leave in a friendly fashion – he cut his fruit trees down, the same with the large lavender bush – he just didn’t behave the way a true gardener would. His loss!

Digging will continue on Saturday. I already managed to replace the dead lavender bush – I had one at home in a pot and it was rather pot-bound. It’ll do well there.

Another water-butt was on this plot. I moved it and while I was doing that I found that it had a tap, it was working so now it stands elevated a little and I’ve got an easy supply of water at this end of the plot.

DELIGHT IN A JAR

I don’t usually force my rhubarb – the truth is I forget and when I remember it is too late. This year is better – I have covered six crowns with an assortment of buckets and tubs just before I went to Malta.

It worked! When I went to check it, I picked a large bag of tender pink sticks of rhubarb.

001

It must be quite early, I didn’t see any in the supermarket. It’ll be there, I’m sure but at a price. Because I was going to bottle it, I had to weigh it – 950 g!

I’ve got my favourite recipe, used it last year and realised that should have made many more jars. It is quite delicious. I made just a few changes – I don’t just squeeze the oranges, I peel them and cut the segments. I feel that gives much more to the overall taste. I have three Kilner jars out of this little harvest, with many more to come.

001

Delicious with creme fraiche, on its own, ice cream….possibilities are endless.

MY DREAM PLOT

I’ve just returned from a wonderful break in Malta. Overcame my fear of flying – you can’t get to Malta otherwise – and thanks to Anita and her parents I had a ball!

I visited the usual wonderful places and one of the last was a plot where Anita’s relative grows a multitude of veg. To say I was green with envy is an understatement. I can quite easily imagine myself there.

My aim also was to get some lemons so I could preserve them in salt. This little lemon tree had some fruit but it was not ready yet. But there was a better tree round the corner – I got my lemons!

002

…and this is the result! I made them once before and it worked so I’m using the very same recipe again.

AN UNLOVED PLOT

It was a neglected plot, right next to mine. I hated the idea of all that lovely soil not producing anything so a decision was made. I took on a half – there is a greenhouse on the first half and somebody else has got that. I didn’t want a greenhouse on the allotment – too much hassle with watering, ventilation etc.

First I moved a mountain of piled up wood and don’t know what  else, sorted out good pieces that could be used again and then started digging.

Cold or no cold – digging is a perfect remedy. It only took a few days and the job is done. I even managed to construct a little enclosure for a compost heap (for weeds and such like), moved the water-butt and a composter bin and now all is just lovely and ready to be planted.

Because I know the previous occupant grew potatoes I shall put some pumpkins, squashes and bush courgettes there this year.

You can’t have enough ground, there are always plants to grow…..