Planthunter’s Competition! #12daysofChristmas

The lovely  Michael Perry (Thompson and Morgan’s eponympus planthunter) is running a #12daysofchristmas competition and there are Petal goodies at stake!

You can find full details on how to enter this competition on Michael Perry’s FB here.

This competition is only for 24 hours and open to UK entrants only.

So go, go find his page, and enter!!!!

petalswagcompMP

 

 

2015; Bollywood Gardener and beyond

As a year of two halves, 2015 has been somewhat interesting but different. The first half of the year involved having the best of intentions. Seeds were sown, I had half a plan as to what I wanted to achieve. No different to what I might have done in previous years, I was going to use all my knowledge and experience to make  things better, bigger and more efficient. Then came July, 2015 became incredibly busy and in the tail end; I am only just recovering from a very hectic six months.

Let’s take the first six months, where by the growing season is starting. Plans are afoot, the world is full of promise. We are hoping to have a good year.

Tomatoes, chillies and aubergine were the focus of the first three months. Makings sure that the seeds were sown, that these germinated and the plants pampered. Pampered, as so many valuable lessons had been learned as to how they might be successful. It was touch and go for a while in the early stages. Half baked chillies and tomatoes can be a very scaring and intimidating experience, when you let them be in a hot room or poly tunnel. There were even aphids and bugs that needed to be dealt with.

In July, I hosted a workshop during the annual conference of the Association of teachers of Psychology. I spoke about horticulture and mental health, the benefits that teachers might gain for both themselves and their students. I had asked my Psychology colleagues to sow sunflowers in the Spring and also encouraged conference delegates to do the same in giving them seeds that were kindly donated by the information point. It was also at this point, that I finished the Level 3 Certificate in Counselling studies.

Then came the summer, with lots and lots of growing!

No one year will be the same as the preceding or following. Yet this year felt different. There was just something palpably different that made growing more of a challenge ad something beyond me being busy with work and studies. Last year, I remember being ankle deep in tomatoes, green ones; but there were lots of them. This year,I had a foliage, and not a lot of fruits. Positioned in the poly tunnel, the crop was meant to do well. Even the chillies appeared to have struggled this year. Whilst the poly tunnel seemed to have been filled with triffids, there was a muted level of success. Aubergines did themselves no favours once again. I must say every year that I will not sow them. I finally have proof that I might be better off without them. Lovely plants, the occasional flower; but diddly squat fruit even if the poly tunnel was a bit damp and sweaty.

And note the gadget! The apple one. Having acquired all of those apples from a plot neighbour (they were not scrumped, I had consent!) that was an investment and a half. Saved me hours. The home brew kit is still waiting in the wings. untested this year, maybe it will be used in the growing seasons to come. There were a number of pickles and preserves. The preserving pan was rather busy this year, even though the produce was a bit hit and miss.

With the plot ticking along, and the blog growing. Something else also happened. I had been lucky enough to write guest blog posts for WRG, via the fabulous Michael Perry. This was and still is one of the most valuable writing experiences that I have ever had. This actually triggered something more complex and more challenging than I first realised. Over the summer, the winner of the Big Allotment Challenge Rob Smith had written a short book.  One of my fellow counselling students, L.A.Cotton, had also burst onto the young adult contemporary genre (She’s epic, tell her I sent you) with phenomenal success.

These three things combined spurred me to be courageous and write something myself. June and July were turning points, and I remembered sending a message to both my sisters; saying that I wanted to write an ebook, and I would try and get it out by Christmas. That was it, I was going to do it.

Having written as mentioned previously, the guest blogs for WRG , one of them was about the Indian Inspiration on the plot. I think Michael Perry used the words ‘Bollywood Gardener’ or something similar, and I adopted the hashtag! This inadvertently became the start of the book. I wrote in a way I can only describe as feverish. I have the same frame of mind when writing the blogs, to be honest; and it’s part of the blog life. The book however was different in that this was thousands of words and trying to bring the assorted elements of the blog together. There was a lot of things that I wanted to include in my budget of 25, 000 words. I had a notebook-my blog book actually, the one that I take to the plot-and a pen. Scribbling ensued, and it’s hard to read my writing anyway. So when it’s all in very hurried, that doesn’t help with typing.

What I ended up with was ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’. Plus it was well before Christmas!

 

With a bright yellow front cover, you cannot miss it!

I am going to be naturally very biased, and say that I like my book. However, that is genuine. I like to share it, because I do honestly believe in my book. You might, for example, have writers out there, who will promote their books; but not necessarily believe in their own work. You know if you don’t blow your own trumpet, it’s difficult to get others to do the same.

Standing in the kitchen, leafing through my own book was rather surreal. My name was on a book, that I had crafted. Then there was the few hours that it was at number one. A fellow independent writer informed me of that happening, and that made my day, I tell you! I am determined to get back to the slot.

Then there was the swag. The merchandise. Again, this sounds likes trumpeting! Petal, the horticultural Obbit, has always been the online avatar of the blog. A registered trademark, she’s face (other than mine!) of the blog and social media presence.

 

As you will have read, this year may have been different to others; but it has not been quiet. So much has gone one, it’s no wonder that the tail end of the year is slower and more reflective. If it had all been plain sailing, there would have been very little learned, very little documented in the blog, and very little left to reflect upon.

For now, my only plan is try and sow chillies at some point, and plant my fruit trees when they arrive. I haven’t really thought about anyhing beyond that.

I thank you, for having accompanied me on the 2015 journey; and look forward to the one starting in the new year.

Happy new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Experimental Chillies: 2015

#tbt from this day last year; the chilli journey of 2015

horticultural 'obbit

Inspired by the lovely not just jam, I have decided to carry out a chilli growing experiment. Chillies require a long season to get productive. This year, despite my best attempts, poly tunnel and all, I failed to get the crop that I wanted. In terms of learning experience, I have never had success with early sowing of chillies. I have tried the post boxing day sowing, the heated propogator sowing, the delayed till late february sowing. But I really did want to start sowing seeds as the frost descends and Britain has the coldest night yet. Plus I had compost in Dad’s shed for that exact reason.

For me, it is really important to reflect on lessons that I have learned previously. Those ‘oh, right, yes’ moments, that make it all worthwhile. Sowing the seeds, I was harking back to when I first started sowing. I have experienced…

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Tail end of 2015

As 2015 draws to a close, I guess it’s time to take stock of how the year is ending. I will save the proper review of the year for another post; but having visited yesterday; it struck me just how different the plot looks now compared to the height of summer.

Above, we have a view of the plot from yesterday. Something of a dreary and really very drab landscape. I did a spot of pottering yesterday, as there were a few things that needed tidying. Sadly, I had to take up two threes. The rochester peach and the sylvia cherry trees have both died a death. In the case of the peach tree, it had not even formed a root system, and didn’t take much digging out. I have yet to consider my victoria plum tree. Looking in a rather sad state, this is a tree that has rather confused me. The tree flowered, having formed foliage in the spring. There was lovely blossom. However, as time went on; the foliage turned copper; much like it was all aflame and started to die off. The one or two fruit on the tree didn’t last very long either. My plan was to dig it up as it is most likely diseased; I just didn’t get that far yesterday. Glad tidings however, a belated santa claus session means that I will be replacing both the peach and cherry tree, and looking at another Victoria Plum.

Another cause for much sadness were the full season raspberries. These have had little or no success this year. The raspberries that I did manage to harvest were actually from slightly confused autumn canes. The full season canes are going to be replaced, thankfully the supplier was very understanding. This will happen next year now, as I have pulled up the cane that again were very twiggy and no bigger than they had been when they were first planted. I am not going to blame my clay soil as this doesn’t appear to bother the other things on the plot.

You can see between the two galleries the difference that a few months can make. Only yesterday did I finally take down the bean frames and tidy up the now very much ex-sunflowers. I say tidy up the sunflowers, as I haven’t taken them down. I have left them in situ, least of all because they will naturally bio-degrade. They are probably still helping support the wildlife, if not being eaten; the now very skeletal flowers are probably playing host and home to critters. Tidying up was necessary, as it was all looking a bit post-apocalyptic and very mad max and the thunderdome.

Having a space between Christmas and New Years is good opportunity to reflect and sort through your seed stash. In the past, just after Boxing day; I would sow my chillies. I haven’t got that far yet! I have however, sorted the seeds from one seed box to the work in progress seedbox. Can’t remember what I did with my Cayenne seeds- I bought a fresh packet!-but I do have something of  a vast and diverse range anyway. Have yet to get any compost though, I was going positively twitchy at not having any; so will remedy that in the coming week or so. In my experience, I have used an electric propagator and also used an unheated windowsill one. I think I am now leaning towards the latter, not just because of how mild it is. That method has produced healthier, more robust seedlings in the past and been effective for cultivation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

#12days of Christmas #petalspottedpreserve

With the 12 days of Christmas now underway, remember you can still can get lots of Petal’s Potted Preserve goodies. Whilst they may not be delivered by Santa Claus, the goodies are still available. 12 days of Christmas does go up to and including the 6th of January. The day that the three wise men got to deliver their own special gifts.

You can find full details on the page titled “petal’s merchandise’.

There is also a competition being carried out by the lovely Michael Perry; Petal will be participating. More details to follow!

 

For sometime during 2015

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Need to do some planning, but these are the two literary projects for the next year. One of them is allotment/GYO related, the other less so.

Writing has been an interesting process so far. I have learned a number of valuable lessons. Whilst “playing with plant pots: tales from the allotment” was all done very quickly and in such a fervour ; I am taking time with these. I feel as though I need to heal after #plantpottales , it all happened very quickly, and was very intense.

Allotment plotting will go on as normal. These however, involve plotting of a different kind.

Watch this space ^_^

 

 

 

 

December on the Plot

Have finally taken a wander down to the plot, having spent a little time away from the plot with real life.  There wasn’t a particular task in mind, but I did take my secateurs with me as I remembered that the roses probably needed pruning.  I also wanted to have a look at any possible damage that the recent storms may have done to the plot. I was worrying about the grapevines as they were already in something of a bad shape. Turns out there wasn’t too much damage, the plot is soggy more than anything.

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The Garlic Farm Garlic is coming on in leaps and bounds. Unlike previous years where I have had numerous varieties of garlic; this year has a much smaller range. The garlic farm garlic is in raised beds and is starting to come through. I have in the past, worried about the garlic not doing very much. I have learned that it is important to just be patient and let the garlic do what it has to. The seed garlic has been pretty much left to it’s own devices, and beyond planting, I have worried very little about it.

I had taken my gloves and sacaeuters for the roses and autumnal raspberries. I didn’t get as far as the raspberries, I will have to look at those after Christmas. What I did do, was wander around the roses and prune what I could. However, some of the roses are still blooming. As you can see, William Shakespeare 200o has a handful of blooms that will hopefully unfurl in the coming days. I am somewhat surprised really to see the roses blooming still.

There are three roses bushes on the plot, that are something out of Grimm’s fairy tales. Sprawling, prickly bushes, that I planted when they were nothing by twigs some years ago. They weren’t expensive, each one was exactly £1 from a poundshop, funnily enough. These are rose bushes that have grown like triffids compared to the rather delicate tea roses. They are also rather vicious, if you look at the stem of one of the roses.

I didn’t always have three. To start of with, I had two. I must have pruned one, and left a stem. It founded itself wedged into the clay, and rooted. So today, I had a thought. A scientific question, really. If I pruned off the two bushes, and kept some of the cuttings, might I end up with bonus bushes. This may or may not work. I had pruned the stems at an angle, and a lot of the material is actually budding. So I have wedged a few cuttings into the clay. Clay that was otherwise bare and where a rose bush might not be a bad idea. I have no idea what these roses are, other than being being, and from Holland. I do remember the labels being in dutch. (I might have to learn a little, just to understand the plant talk)

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The grapevines have been looking rather sorry for a long time. I have been battling to support them all the way through the summer, and anticipated that they might have keeled over entirely with the stormy weather that we recently experienced. However, they don’t look too bad. The windy weather has stripped them of their foliage, but this was probably causing them to bank over anyway. The next task for these will most likely to be create a more robust frame for them to clamber over next year. Though I am not too sure whether I am supposed to prune them again. I did prune them last year, and kept two main branches for each vine. That did appear to help the growth of leaves and the amount of fruit that cropped.

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Heritage seed garlic from Marshalls is starting to push through the clay. You’ll have to look very closely, but the shoots are just about visible. In comparison to the seed garlic in the raised bed, this is in open ground. I was worried that it might have been eaten up by the soil as we have had quite bit of rain. However it does appear to have been a little more resilient than I had thought. Rather looking forward to seeing how this goes.

Summer Sunday

This year hasn’t all been doom and gloom. It may not have been the most successful of growing seasons, but there have been successes nonetheless.

Potatoes were rather prolific this year. I think this was more down to the varieties used and the lessons learned from previous experiences rather than anything more. The raised beds were filled with a combination of well rotted farmyard manure and leaf mold, with the seeds then sunk into this organic material. Pink Fir apple had to be the most abundant of the crops, with the strangest of shapes being formed. It was very difficult not to harvest them, with chuckling. Over the harvest period, we harvested buckets and buckets of potatoes. Lady Balfour and International Kidney were the next most productive.  These three are definitely on the list for next year because of how successful they were.

The fact that my tomato crop was really very poor this year, rather bugs me. Last year I remember having so many green tomatoes, I was struggling to keep up with the chutney processes and ripening them. So imagine by disdain that this year, we didn’t have many at tall. The vines were slow cropping, with not many fruit. Whilst the weather was a bit of a downer, the variety of the tomatoes is probably also significant as well. There were heritage varieties, and I knew that some of these would be somewhat slower in their development; but I did expect something of a decent crop.

The chillies were interesting. Again, a range of hot chillies and super hot chillies. All sown a few days after Christmas, to have a productive summer crop. A little hit and miss, but we did get some chillies. The plums that you see were kindly donated by a plot neighbour and have made the basis of a few jams and jellies.

The blueberries are still sat in the freezer, waiting to be used. Their fate was to be gin, but I haven’t got that far. Did make blueberry gin last year, and very nice it was  too.  One of the better crops this year was garlic. There is nothing nicer than home grown garlic; it has a distinctly different taste and flavour compared to the the sort that you would buy from the supermarket.Last year, redcurrants and gooseberries were planted on the plot. This year, we had a crop-a small crop-from both of these. The currants ended up being jammed, as did the gooseberries.  Both with home grown chillies, too.

The autumn/winter slump

Summer feels really far away. both looking back on the growing season and the next growing season. So much so,  my current feeling is as though I have somewhat hit a slump. The weather has not helped, it has been wet, windy and wild; but this is not unusual as we arrive at the tail end of the year.  This has been compounded somewhat by real life being wonderfully busy. School work, Petal, and training on a Saturday for a helpline, have all meant that the allotment has been somewhat on the back burner. Attending a Christmas Fair last week with a whole host of Petal goodies (see the merchandise page) was also an interesting experience. Interesting in that there were a lot of learning points! Overall, the last twelve weeks have been incredibly busy, and now is the time to take a moment and slow down a little. It was harder this year, to write the NABLOPOMO posts as well. I have always enjoyed writing these, but this year this was a little more difficult than I had anticipated.

I guess what I really need to do, is to stop. Pause, and take stock of what is going on with my universe. Don’t worry, I am not about to abandon the plot and blog. No plans to that all. What I need is a rest, and to be honest, the plot is usually part of that process. I have in the past, taken a moment during school work Sunday or marking coursework; to take a walk down to the plot and potter.

The pottering would then involve doing  a few things here and there and refreshing that way. The frequency of doing that, has be somewhat reduced lately. And I can feel it, in being slight zoned out and tired. Though colouring has helped!  I have a number of gardening themed colouring books that I have been using and they have somewhat reduced the allotment withdrawal symptoms. You do find yourself looking at the pictures and thinking about what the drawings might look like if they were really on your allotment plot.

Here we are in the Advent period. The garlic is all in, the poly tunnel has been tidied in a fashion. The grapevines could probably benefit from some structural engineering, and be defoliate. The roses and raspberries will also need pruning. I have yet to window shop trees. My peach and cherry trees failed to do anything on the plot, and I would like to replace them so that they sit alongside the other trees on the plot. There are certainly jobs to do, there is a maze of strawberry runners to untangle!

Having miserable weather really does make going to the allotment harder. As I leave, I am told to not bring in any mud, for one. It will take small steps to get back into the swing of things. Christmas and the festive period is the optimum time to relax, take stock and try to refocus with the new year.

This also means that with the days after Christmas, I shall sow chillies. This is the pattern that I have had for a couple of years now. So I will select the seeds that I want, and make a decision about next years experiments. The new growing season will arrive very quickly.

Here’s to getting back to the plot, and making the most of the down time.