Happy bank holiday weekend/Beltane/International Workers’ Day

Three very good reasons to garden and then drink too much.

This weekend I have managed to squeeze in some allotmenting between all the parenting and dog…. ownership.

My fruit cage looked like a dumping ground, basically because I was using it as a dumping ground for all the various allotment crap like extra netting and supports.

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But, I need it now for the billions of strawberry plants that were in my garden. It’s not that I need the space in the garden, it’s more that I need somewhere to grow strawberries where DiggerDog won’t eat them all. Although this is a dog that spent the morning eating sheep shit but turned her nose up at the roast potato she was offered at lunch time. There’s no telling what she will or won’t eat.

Anyway.

The fruit cage got tidied, got some new weed suppressant fabric around the edges and got a new raised-ish bed for my strawberry plants.

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Much better!

The bad news is that I had so many strawberry plants that my spare cock-up bed at the allotment is now completely filled with strawberries.

The good news is we will have shitloads of strawberries.

Also, this has happened in my front garden this weekend:

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Enjoy the long weekend!

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National Gardening Week Challenges: Day Six

No, I did not forget my challenge, I just didn’t scan it in time.

I’ve decided to make a proper plan of what I’m going to put in the allotment this year, so that later on I can completely ignore it, do something different, panic and then cry.

If you’re expecting something cutesy and artistic then jog on- I’d rather be digging than drawing.

Here it is! Nothing is to scale because I haven’t even measured up there, but basically it’s about right.

allotmentplan

This will be the first year that all of plot 12 is productive (unless you eat couch grass). It’s tempting to grow one of everything but I’ve decided to stick to things we actually like. Next year I will probably just do one lot of potatoes but this year I wanted to break up the ground a little bit on the new part of the plot.

Yes, we like tomatoes. A LOT.

Prelude

Before the fruit comes the flowers. Everything in my garden is springing into action so fingers crossed for a good harvest.
Today in my garden:

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Ribes nigrum ‘Ben Connan’

My blackcurrant bush is in flower. Unlike a flowering currant, the flowers on this are pretty inconspicuous. But you should see the fruit. Oh em gee. They are massive. Check them out.

 

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Malus domestica ‘McIntosh’

This is my apple tree, which was sort of a present for my husband. When I first bought it, he did think it was like that time that Homer bought Marge a bowling ball, but once I told him what variety it was he was really pleased. The variety is McIntosh (yes, the computers are named after them), which Canadians will immediately recognise; they are one of the most popular varieties in Canada, but they are pretty much unheard of in shops in the UK. I knew my husband really missed them so I bought a tree so he could have a few each year. If you’re a Canadian stranded in the UK, get your own McIntosh tree from Keepers.

 

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Fragaria × ananassa ‘Cambridge Favourite’

A local variety for local people. This grows so well in my garden it is reaching pest proportions. I even had one grow in the middle of my pond one year. My children are watching these like a hawk ready to get all the fruit before the birds and slugs do. Still a few weeks to go, girls!

 

Look at my bulging trophy cabinet

liebster

That sounded more wrong than I hoped. But anyway. The wonderfully named Batman Has An Allotment has nominated me for the Liebster award, which has swelled my ego considerably.

“Liebster” (meaning favourite in German) is a blogging tool for amateur bloggers with under 200 subscribers, to share related blogs with each other. As part of the nomination, Batman has challenged me to answer ten questions.

Do you have a favourite gardening book?

I might have too many to choose from. My RHS Encyclodpaedias are used a lot and I also like Bob Flowerdew’s Organic Gardening Bible and James Wong’s Homegrown Revolution. That’s more than one book, sorry.

Do you use crop rotation on your plot?

It’s only my first year with an allotment, but I’m planning to.

What’s the worst pest on your plot?

SLUGS. The farmers hate them too. There are millions around here because of the mild winters and heavy clay soil that never dries out.

What’s your favourite thing you’ve grown?

Peppers. If you’ve never grown them then do it, they taste a million times more amazing than any you could buy.

What colour is your shed?

Green. Mr The Digger built it himself out of scrap wood and it looks awesome.

What exotic plant would you love to be able to grow?

So many to choose from but I’d probably say a cashew tree because we eat quite a lot of them. Or bananas, that would be handy as well.

What’s your favourite tool and why?

My bypass secateurs. They are constantly in my back pocket. I may have accidentally gone out with them still there, but at least my shrubbery is tidy (OK, I’ll stop now).

What is the one vegetable you just can’t grow?

Radishes and lettuce. The seedlings just disappear overnight. Bloody slugs.

What was the last bird you saw on your plot?

A fat wood pigeon sitting on the new fruit cage frame, thus proving that it is quite sturdy.

Do you use green manures?

I am planning to this year, I’ve just got my phacelia seeds through the post.

 

Now it’s my turn to nominate five of my favourite blogs. Soooo, I’m going to choose:

Smallholding Dreams, whose recipes always make me hungry.

The Biking Gardener, who understands the therapeutic benefits of both gardening and the open road.

Reclaiming Paradise, who has a very similar philosophy to me and is on an important mission to avenge some trees.

Been There, Dug That, whose allotment adventures I have been following.

The Blooming Garden, for her beautiful, inspiring photos which have increased my ‘plants I want to grow’ list by about 500%.

 

1) Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2)  Display the award on your blog (could be in your sidebar or as part of a post).

3) Answer 10 questions about your blog.

My questions for you:

What are you growing for the first time this year?

How do you encourage wildlife into your garden?

What’s your favourite native plant?

What’s your best organic gardening tip?

Which garden has inspired you most?

You have a glut of courgettes- what do you make with them?

What plants would you put in a shady border?

What’s been your proudest gardening moment?

Which plant do you just not get, despite everyone else loving it?

How would you describe your garden to someone that had never seen it?

4) Nominate 5 of your favourite blogs that have a less than 200 followers.

6) Create a new list of questions for the bloggers to answer.

7) Inform the people/blogs that you nominate and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!).

 

Batman missed out number five. That’s just how she rolls. Thank you again, Batman, for the nomination.

 

Mother’s Day

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The sky is 50 Shades of Grey anyway.

Despite media stereotypes of mums, for Mother’s Day I really didn’t want that CD of Westlife’s greatest hits played on the panpipes, or a day at a spa (unless it is this spa), or anything to do with 50 Shades of Grey (total wrongness that anyone should buy this for their mother). When asked what I really wanted for Mother’s Day, I replied that more than anything I wanted to get the fruit cage at the allotment started. So despite the crappy weather, off we went.

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Mr The Digger strong like bull.

While Mr The Digger cracked on with the fruit cage and insisted he didn’t need any help, I decided to try digging over one of the not-very-raised beds. Having experienced the hell that is heavy clay soil in our back garden, I was not really looking forward to the digging part. I expected it would take an hour to dig over but I managed to do the whole bed in about 15 minutes. Yay!

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I had been dreading this moment a bit. (Children shown for scale. They are pretty small)

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Weed-infested waste ground begone!

I put in the onion sets that I had bought, forgetting that I’d already got some onion seeds. Mind you, the onions I grew from seed last year were crap so maybe I’ll have better luck with these.

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Actual stuff planted at my actual allotment.

Meanwhile, Mr The Digger had made good progress with the fruit cage. Our design spec was ‘must keep birds off the fruit and hopefully stay up for about 4 years’. Apart from that we weren’t really bothered. It might not be Pinterest-worthy but it’ll do the job.

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There’s nothing like family teamwork. And this is nothing like family teamwork. They weren’t even shouting encouragement.

Digger Jr did a picture of a fox to scare away birds but we are planning to get the mesh up very soon.

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Birds are terrified of this.

 

 

 


  

 

 

What I did on my holidays

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I can’t wait to have to clear up all these leaves

OK, I haven’t technically been on holiday (unless you count the one night that we stayed at my dad and step-mum’s house in Reading), but I have been away. Our new floor was being put in so my computer was all packed away. Since my last attempt at updating from my phone went so completely tits up, I decided to just take a break.

So, here’s a general update of what I’ve been doing. Not an awful lot of gardening really, since I’ve had to be out of the house a lot of the time while the floor was being done. I will spare you the millions of photos of all the educational field trips I took the girls on, but needless to say I felt pretty smug about my parenting by the end of the week (ignoring all the takeaway pizza we’d consumed due to temporary lack of kitchen).

The old carpet was taken up and happily for me it was hessian backed, so it now has a new home up at plot 12b. I know it’ll be a pain in the arse to haul down to the tip in the spring, but it is in pieces and the cardboard is not containing the massive docks/triffids that are bursting through.

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I’m finding it difficult to envisage this not looking like a rubbish tip

 

I’ve also been doing Autumnal things like seed collecting:

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If this works, I am going to have ALL the French beans next year

And planting Spring bulbs. I’ve gone for containers because bulbs hate my soggy clay soil. In these I’ve got Ballerina tulips and Chionodoxa forbesii. If these look good, I’ll put them on the front doorstep. If they look rubbish then I’ll hide them down the side of the shed and pretend they never existed.

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I had to evict my tomato plants from these troughs

 

I’ve also had a few unexpected non-Autumnal things. This cowslip has been flowering since August. I’m beginning to suspect that it’s not even real. Maybe it’s got a hidden camera in there.

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Possible alien spy

And just when I thought it was safe to stop obsessively checking for butterfly eggs on my sprouts, these feckers appeared. It is nearly November! Will you just DIE.

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I spent ages picking these buggers off and now I smell like I’m on the cabbage soup diet

I have to admire its optimism, but I don’t think it’s going to ripen.

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10/10 for effort

Also I found this massive lump of worms in my compost bin. Is it a mating ball? Do worms do mating balls? It would explain why I have such wormy compost. I think there’s more actual worms than compost in there.

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Possible worm porn

It’s great to be back!