Back yard beauty

  

I love my allotment. Its a little haven just for me.
It’s split into two sections, the first part is like a little garden, with a grassy area surrounded by roses and (at the moment) daffodils. The second part is where the vegetable beds are. I’ve not had a garden at home since I lived with my parents so I’m thrilled to now live in a flat which has a back yard. For months now I’ve been imagining the yard filled with flowers and pots and hanging baskets. (Perhaps the odd pot of salad leaves too) I’ve also been holding onto a wooden pallet with a view to transforming it into a beautifully rustic wall planter. (In reality I’ll probably butcher it and then throw it in a skip)

  
About 2 weeks ago my sister and I made a start on the back yard transformation. It’s quite a small space, with white painted brickwork, and the floor area is totally decked. We gave the decking a clean a week or so before, so we were good to get planting! 

  
We chose a mixture of plants both in size and colour. With the walls being white we wanted to add some additional colour and interest to the space by using a mixture of plant pots too. We’ve also repurposed an ikea waste paper basket I picked up free! 

  
Pansies, violas and little begonias went into the hanging baskets, I love how bright the colours are together. In a few weeks time they should be really be blooming. 

  
We made a lavender trough, and went wild with a planter mixture of tall red spikes and more pansies and violas. 

   
 We were a bit spoiled for choice with the climbers so we went for everything; Clematis, climbing jasmine, Passion flower and a honeysuckle! I know there’s a lot going on but if they actually climb and flower, I think it’ll look (and smell) amazing. We found some low growing flowers so we planted them in a long tub hoping they’ll fill out a bit and cascade over the sides. 

 
I’ve also planted some summer flowering bulbs, gladioli and freesia. I know they’re a bit old fashioned but I think they look lovely as cut flowers. I’ve never grown these before so we’ll see how they go. 

  
I’ve managed to get a herb bucket going with all the kitchen cooking essentials included, thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano, and this week I’ve sown some wild rocket and spinach to be planted up into outside pots when the weather settles a bit. I can’t wait to just nip outside to pick fresh leaves and herbs to cook with.

Ps. I’ve not attempted to up cycle the wooden pallet yet, I’m still working up the courage to hack it to pieces but I’m sure there’ll be an update about that soon! 

 

Hello mojo

 

 
  

I’ve been feeling nervous. I’ve only had a couple of visits to the allotment over the winter season and for the last couple of weeks I’ve been preparing myself for the worst. Winter alone can wreak havoc with the allotment so I was quite anxious to actually see the allotment especially with all the storms we’ve had here recently.I couldnt put it off any longer.

Today I took my first serious trip up to the allotment, and to my surprise, the allotment had faired pretty well over the winter. The shed was still standing, all the glass was accounted for in the greenhouse and the hanging baskets were still…well…hanging! 

  
I had a quick look over the vegetable beds and although they will need a good digging over, I was delighted to see that they hadn’t become totally over run with weeds. 

  
My leeks were still standing even though most of them bolted last year, I spotted some of my purple sprouting broccoli was still sprouting and I even still had a solitary kale plant still going. 

  
In last years onion bed I spotted what I thought was a very straight line of weeds. On closer inspection I realised these were actually the spring onions I planted last year…better late than never I suppose!  

  

  
While the sun was shining I took the opportunity to clear out the shed. I hate cleaning out the shed. Spiders live there. But no one else is going to do it for me so I grabbed my wellies, gloves and a large broom and got to work. 

It’s amazing what a difference a clear out can make. Just spending an hour or so sorting out plant pots, getting rid of all the old junk that had piled up last year, picturing the greenhouse full of seedlings rather than full of rubbish really boosted my enthusiasm for this years growing season. 

The reassuring signs of Spring have started to appear at the plot. Crocuses have started popping up, the rhubarb has burst through the mulch and the Rosemary cuttings I took last year are really coming on. 

   
   

  

Hello gardening mojo, I’ve missed you

Sowing frenzy

I can’t believe its April already. It doesn’t seem 5 minutes ago since I was waiting for spring to arrive so I could get growing. This week, I’ve been unleashing my inner seed sower and I’ve been planting like mad! Spurred on by planting my peas on Monday, I thought it best to keep up the momentum and plant my next batch of seeds.

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Adding drainage holes to the recycled plant pots

Adding drainage holes to the recycled plant pots

Thursday was the seed frenzy day. First up were the pumpkins.

When I was choosing which pumpkins to grow I was governed by 2 things, size and taste. Firstly I wanted to grow a massive pumpkin, you know, the kind of pumpkin you only hear about:

“its so big they needed a crane to lift it”

“I heard its bigger than a whale”

That’s the kind of pumpkin I want to grow! So I chose the Atlantic Giant. According to the description, it holds the world record for size, so it’s got to be worth a go. On the opposite end of scale I’m also growing miniature squash. I chose the Buffy Ball winter squash which will grow to tennis ball size and also tastes quite sweet too. I’m planning to grow them off the ground, up and over a teepee made from bamboo canes to provide an interesting focal point to the allotment (plus it’ll be a great place for me to hide out). The last of my squashes are a Japanese variety I got free with a magazine called Uchiki Kuri also known as Onion squash. The flavour is smooth and nutty which will be great roasted, perfect for the autumn and winter months.

Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds

Atlantic giant pumpkin seeds

The next lot of seeds to be sown were some of the brassicas consisting of Purple Sprouting Broccoli, regular green broccoli, another round of summer cabbage, red brussel sprouts and last but not least, kale. I’d had to take my onions and my flower seedlings to the allotment earlier in the week to make room for all the new trays of seeds. Hopefully in a few weeks, I’ll be able to move all the seedlings to the allotment and my parents can get their windowsills back!

Next batch of seeds planted

Next batch of seeds planted

Today saw the first actual intentional harvest of the year. I’ve been forcing a section of my rhubarb plant and I promised myself I’d not look until it had been covered for about a month. Well, 3 weeks is pretty close, so I took a little peek.

Unforced and forced rhubarb plant

Unforced and forced rhubarb plant

Lovely long sticks of rhubarb

Lovely long sticks of rhubarb

We have rhubarb! I couldn’t resist taking a stick.

Ta-da

Ta-da

It’s much taller than I thought it would be considering the bucket covering the section is orange and the black plastic bag that I’ve wrapped the bucket in is quite thin, but who cares? It’s fantastic!

The other part of the rhubarb is growing nicely with the stems looking big and chunky, perfect for making crumble. Hopefully it’ll not be long before I can get some more sticks picked off.

Unforced section of the rhubarb growing sturdy stems

Unforced section of the rhubarb growing sturdy stems

The rest of the plants at the allotment are doing well. The barriers I put around the broad beans to stop creatures nibbling the leaves seem to have done the trick with no more chunks being taken. The ground where I planted the peas seems un-disturbed, fingers crossed I’ve fooled the birds and mice.

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Nature corner has really stared to come into bloom over the last week. The little blue grape hyacinths are growing well and the tulips and more daffodils are starting to come through. Birds have started to take some of the fillings from the bug hut to use to make their nests, their favourite seems to be the wool fleece. I’m imagining them all snuggled up cozy somewhere.

Nature corner

Nature corner

I’m over the moon with my little harvest today. I also picked some herbs (sage, thyme and oregano) and a bunch of daffodils to take home. I gave the flowers to my mam as she loves spring flowers.

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Spring in a jug

Spring in a jug

Finally, I know you’re wondering about the the fate of the single stick of rhubarb. There’s only one thing you can do with a single stick of rhubarb.

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Dipped in sugar

Dipped in sugar

Going in for the kill

Going in for the kill

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Perfection

Perfection

Potting up and planting out

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Over the last week or so, I’ve been hardening off the broad beans and as its my last day off work today, I thought I’d get them along to the allotment and plant them out. I’ve grown them in cardboard tubes to make this job a bit easier for me and less traumatic to the plants and their roots.

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Rather than planting a long single row, I’ve planted a short double row. The theory is that the plants will grow to support each other and to help them along, I’ve put a twine support grid in between them.

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I’m feeling quite nervous about leaving the beans at the allotment, what if the birds eat them? What if the snails and slugs eat them? I’ve been saving egg shells at home to crush and sprinkle around the base of the plants to deter the slugs and snails, but in typical “me” fashion, I left them at home. So, if the beans make it through the night, I’ll pop along tomorrow afternoon and sprinkle some crushed shells around them then.

The last 2 jobs on my list today were to plant up the herbs and to start off the micro salad now I have my greenhouse back in working order. The original plan for the herbs was to create a scented border at the bottom of the allotment beside the nature corner. The herbs I’ve chosen are Lavender, Thyme, Oregano and Sage. When I actually placed the herbs where I wanted them, I found that the border would run right under the apple tree, where all the roots for the apple tree are. After a quick re-think, I decided to put the herbs into plant pots. For the moment I’ve put them beside the shed, which works just fine. The gate into the plot is there too so you get a lovely waft of thyme and oregano as you enter the allotment.

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Last but not least…the micro salad. A few years ago, my sister and I were watching River Cottage on TV and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall used a length of guttering to grow the most delicious micro salad leaves. Well, if growing salad in guttering is good enough for The River Cottage, it’s good enough for me! Right now I’m growing Rocket, Purple Basil and Spinach. Once these have grown and been harvested, I’ll plant another lot of leaves and will continue this process for as long as I can with as many different varieties of leaves as I can find! The micro salad leaves should be ready to harvest in as little as 3-4 weeks, and the flavour from the baby leaves will be delicious. I for one can’t wait to begin the harvest.

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Man Down

This week I’ve had a bit of a disaster. I’ve been getting rather excited about the prospect of planting out my seedlings so I’ve started to harden off my broad beans and my cauliflowers. The broad beans have loved being outside and thrived in the great out doors, soaking up the sunshine and breathing in the fresh air. The cauliflower seedlings on the other hand have not fared so well.

Poor Cauliflowers

Poor Cauliflowers

I’m not sure whats happened to them. The first day of hardening off, the weather was slightly breezy and quite mild so they were only out for an hour or so. The second day they looked fine, so they went out for slightly longer. I wasn’t too concerned about this as it was probably the most lovely sunny day we’ve had so far this year. The following day however, the seedlings looked extremely poor. Quickly, they were watered and they have improved slightly, but they are still in need of a serious rescue plan. Needless to say they’ve not been outside since. I’m hoping that they have just been dehydrated and that over the next few days their next set of leaves will continue to grow. Worst case scenario…its cold shock, and I fear they’ve had it.

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I’m going to plant up a few (lots of) extra seeds over the weekend to try and make up for any that don’t pull through. Failing that I can plant them directly into the ground and we’ll do battle with the slugs and snails.

Other than that, its been quite a successful time this week. I’ve almost finished digging the whole of the allotment and there are just 2 small sections left to do. After what seems like hours upon hours of digging and weeding the end is in sight.

I spent Thursday and Friday at the allotment and was delighted on Thursday to be joined by a squirrel. The allotment backs onto a park and I love how the animals pop over the fence to say “Hi”. I’m sure I’ll change my tune though, when the squirrels are tucking into a 3 course meal at the expense of my vegetables, but for now I’m enjoying seeing the wildlife in action.

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I’m really pleased that I’ve managed to keep on track with the digging and weeding over the winter months. After spending most of last year clearing the plot, it’s a really great feeling to look at the allotment now its ready for planting, and vision the vegetables growing.

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The potatoes I started chitting last week are getting some lovely purple sprouts on them. With a bit of luck they’ll be ready to plant out in about 4 weeks time. The tomato seedlings are also up and running and are smelling absolutely marvellous. There’s something about the smell of their leaves that is just summer in a sniff! The Nasturtium flowers I’m growing for companion planting have germinated and now look like mini lily pads. I’ve grown enough to plant along side most of the crops, but I’m hoping they’ll be most effective in the brassica beds as well as with the pumpkins and squash.

Sprouting potatoes

Sprouting potatoes

Tomato seedlings

Tomato seedlings

Nasturtiums

Nasturtiums

After watching Gardeners World last week, I’ve gone a bit Monty Don and started to force a section of my rhubarb. I didn’t have a black bin to use, but located an old bucket and covered that with a black plastic bag. I know it’s not pretty but it’ll do for now.

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Now you see it…

 

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Now you don’t

Next week is going to be full steam ahead down at the plot. I’ve taken the week off work to get all the little jobs at the allotment done including getting the broad beans supported and planted out. Now, when I say little jobs, I mean the jobs I’ve been putting off, like cleaning out the shed, burning all brambles I dug out last year (the plot was over run with them), making the path section between the beds wider using the bits of bricks I have dug up, finding a glass door to fit and replace the one that was smashed by vandals on my home-made green house a year ago and to plant out the herbs and lavender. Hopefully by the end of the week, I’ll have a beautifully clean and tidy plot with some actual vegetables growing in it. Wish me luck!

Lieutenant….status report

A quiet time on the allotment this week. I have the feeling though that this “quiet time” is going to be short-lived. The spring flowers are steadily making their way through the woodland floor in Nature Corner and starting to add a splash of colour to the plot. The garlic is making steady progress and is growing well. The Lautrec Wight is really sprouting up, with one of the cloves being really keen to get growing, producing two shoots!

Lautrec Wight

Lautrec Wight

Two shoot garlic explosion

Two shoot garlic explosion

The elephant garlic seems much slower to grow, although I’m sure it is to be expected as it is going to be the size of a small mammal (seriously, it’s going to be about the size of a hamster).

Elephant Garlic

Elephant Garlic

This week has been fantastic as far as my seedlings go. The cauliflower seeds I planted about a fortnight ago are doing well and are now just starting to grow their true leaves. I’ve been really impressed with their germination rate, with all but 2 of the seeds planted growing. The leeks seeds I planted at the same time as the cauliflowers started growing this week, along with the onion seeds and more French marigolds sown last week too. It’s all hands on deck now captain!

Lovely leeks

Lovely leeks

Newly emerging onion seedlings

Newly emerging onion seedlings

The rosemary cuttings are still looking good, I’m too scared to see if they’ve started growing roots yet so I’m going with that as long as the leaves aren’t shedding like an old Christmas tree, they must still be ok!

Week old rosemary cuttings

Week old rosemary cuttings

I’m sure I mentioned in a previous post that I’d put my son Jacob in charge of growing the flowers for the allotment. I’m also sure I mentioned that he planted all of my verbena seeds in with most of my snap dragon flower seeds at the same time he planted 2 of his French marigold seeds. The mixture of seeds he planted he decided to call “mixie pixie” This week I found out exactly how many verbena seeds he planted.  Hopefully we’ll be able to prick them out at some point, otherwise I’ll be transplanting the whole lot into a planter the size of a tractor wheel! I’m sure the bees it’s intended to bring into the allotment will be overjoyed with the verbena bounty on offer!

Mixie pixie flowers

Mixie pixie flowers

Nothing to report on the Lavender seeds yet but they do have a long germination period. I really am looking forward to growing my own lavender. I love the idea of using them as a natural border, and I’m hoping to use them to mark the end of the vegetable plot just before our nature corner starts. With the right wind direction, we can sit on the tree stumps in among the flowers and smell the lavender wafting in. What a lovely thing that would be.