Category Archives: Preparation

Smalls steps and chillies #gdnbloggers

I woke up today, feeling a listless. I didn’t have any plans for today, but didn’t feel like sitting around and watching box sets. (So far, I’ve watched most of ‘Friends’ backwards; it’s on right now, as a I write.) The plot was however, on  my mind. I’d found some more plastic, so this now had to be put down. Off I trundled, with Mama F in tow. She’s decided that I ‘need some support’ in getting things back on the road again. This is fine, Mama F is useful. However, ‘Here, let me do it, I’ll show you the idea’ as well as ‘you have to do this like that, so it is neat.’ She does have her own plot, yes; but her help is invaluable, even if it does mean I stand there and let things wash over me. Mama F means well.  At this point in the proceedings, I’m loathe to refuse help, or in this case, support,

plotalmost2019

Here we have it. Two thirds of the top half-the bit christened Project Othello-is now covered. Rome wasn’t built in a day, the plot won’t be conquered in that space of time, either.  This is important. My mojo is still waking up, and feeling overwhelmed is likely to kibosh it. Doing what I want, when I can and how I want to, is going to help things get off the ground. I still have a portion of the half-plot to cover in the next few weeks. Then I need to tackle the rest of the plot. This is where I have all the raised beds. At the moment, this are filled with dead grass and this will need pulling up and away. I’m not sure how ready I will be, or the plot for that matter, by April when I should be growing things.

chillistrt2019

I have  been thinking about sowing chilli seeds for weeks. I’ve found my propagator, some fresh chilli seeds and also some growing pellets. I haven’t sown seeds in a year, so this is a big deal for me. It feels right to sow seeds, to nurture them and have plants to look after. This was, I guess, the feeling of being in the zone; albeit treating it like a science experiment. A feeling, that started all of this gardening journey. I have sown cayenne and chocolate habaneros today. I started growing with cayennes; chocolate habaneros were also one of my early experiments.

I remember the researching that went into making sure that the seeds would germinate. Now, I am trying to use what I’ve learned to help these seeds germinate.

Cayennes are what most people think of when it comes to growing chillies. Long, elongated fruit that go from green to red. The smaller they are, the bigger the kick. They are part of a spectrum, the whole Capiscum family. There are hot one, sweet ones; some that are superhot, and should be handled with caution. In my experience, the hotter and more complex the chilli, the more heat is required to crack open the seedcase. The longer, it will take to germinate. I’m not the most patient when it comes to germinating seeds. I’ve seen cayennes come through relatively quick over 21 days. Others, such as habaneros and super-hot varieties have taken much longer.

I sow seeds in grow pellets that are housed in an electric propagator. This helps things be at a constant, stable, homeostatic temperature. In the past, I have used a plastic pot and a food bag. These acts like a mini-propagator, but the temperature regulation is very much hit and miss. Plus, the germination time is much longer.

As February starts, the temperature and light levels are still low. I don’t grow using grow-lights, but there any many chilli growers who swear by them. This does mean that any seedlings that I might end up with might become leggy and keel over. Once anything germinates, the seedlings will be fished out, kept somewhere warm that traps light but not enough to call the seedlings to shrivel up or fall over. It is a long time between now and july; that’s when chillies might crop. There are jalapenos that crop earlier. I shall be eagerly anticipating germination; it’s important to make sure that the pellets don’t dry out.

Back to the plot #gdnbloggers

Let’s get back to it, let’s get back to the plot. I finally put time aside and I took a walk to the allotment. I had black plastic, I had my secateurs. This didn’t mean I was about to lay waste to everything. No, I was and am taking baby steps back to the allotment plot.

plastic

This may not seem a lot and there may be those who say it’s barely anything. It is a lot to me and it is something. I had did my best to chop down bits and pieces that were sticking up and out. Unfurling plastic, I set it down onto the grass that had been left to weather away before Christmas. Weighing down, I’m slowly surely covering the top half of the allotment. I can then concentrate on clearing the lower half where there are raised beds to be tidied up. This is not going to happen overnight; I want to be able to organise my canvas and go from there. There will be no cultivation til I have some sense of order and some sense of things being organised. I actually ached from doing this; I’d forgotten what that pain felt like and why it feels different to other pain.

pellets

That said, I do want to sow some chillies. I have seeds and pellets now. In the next week or so, I will keep an eye on the weather and see to sowing cayenne and habaneros. I do have a heated prop, so that’s where things will be. Light levels are still low, and heat levels fluctuate daily.  If seedlings do germinate, I daresay they will be the most pampered plants in the house. It’s not easy to sow and grown chillies. I have observed that the hotter the chilli, the harder it is to get the seedcase to crack. Many growers have grow lights, and swear by them. I tend to grow things cold; there’s still something about using grow lights that feels really very intimidating, and not very me.

Beyond that, I will think about tomatoes. It is still too early. I have know tomato plants to keel over if we have a cold snap at Easter.

 

 

 

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

redwellingtons

 

And so it begins.

Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?

I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.

My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.

Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.

Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.

My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.

plot2018

Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.

As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.

Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.

So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.

Out thee horrid weeds #gdnbloggers

digging

Lately, I have spent a lot of time sat at the kitchen table writing. I spent all day Saturday there with my ink pen and notebook, so Sunday was going to be different. Today started with school work-School Work Sunday, as usual-and once that was done, I headed down to the plot.

It has been the mission for the last six weeks to actually remove the dead grass in the raised beds. With one thing and another, but mainly being busy with school work, I may have got a little way laid and lost some of my mojo. Well, the mojo has been low for a while, and I really want to revive it some what. With the grass getting yellower, it was a probably good idea to get rid of it.

 

The plan was to sort out one bed, but with Mum’s help four of the raised beds were cleared. I did the clearing, and Mum did the digging over. I am not really built to dig, but Mum sees no problem with it and followed me with the fork and spade to turn the soil over.  Thankfully, the grass came away fairly easily and now I have a canvas to plug tomatoes and squashes into.  There are three patches of open ground that were also treated, and these will dealt with next. These will be somewhat more challenging-there is digging required-but grass removal in the first instance. Open ground patches do pose their challenges and difficulties as the soil is heavy clay. I did have a thought about sowing spinach in some parts to raise the productivity level. This may involve a combination of seeds and plugged in plants. Whilst Mum tends to have enough spinach and greens to fuel a small planet, there’s never been much on mine. This, therefore, is on the list. Given how the seedlings at home are doing their best not to germinate and grow, there may be wholesale cheating going on with plants being drafted in.

As you can imagine, my hands got a little dirty; a little bloody too, as there was petulant and angry bramble that needed a bit of taming. And talking of a bramble, there were ladybirds having a spot of fun and it didn’t seem right to hack away and interrupt. I went off, to have a look at a couple of roses that had appeared. Roses on the plot, is something that I am looking forward to. They offer a fabulous colour burst and smell rather lovely. Having had a disappointing growing season last year, seeing the roses kick off does rather signal a change.

Over due intro to the plot #gdnbloggers

You can also view the video here.

Thought I should perhaps add a little context with where all of the fruit and veg that is grown comes from.

The allotment plot has been going through peaks ans troughs over the last six years, with some great successes and some rather wearing disasters. This is just brief overview of the plot. It is hoped that over the coming months, there will be some planning and preparation on the plot with it gradually being tidied up for the forth coming growing season. It is something of a mess at the moment, and turning it around will take some time and effort.

Aloos, Onions (and 32)

The day after a birthday is never good. 32, incidently. I didn’t mind 30 or 31. This one just feels different; as there is a checklist as to what I should have achieved by this point. If my life was to be measured by the Disney Scale of loveliness (and general bollywood standards of doing what you are supposed in relation to cultural normals and behaviours), I am failing on not having two kids and a significant other. So trying not be to be a grumpy sour puss old woman today, and reflecting-on balance-on what I have done so far.

It snowed this morning. I actually leapt out of bed having been informed of that fact by my sister, and pulled back the curtains. I swore. The plan was to sink the last of spuds and some experimental onion sets. This did not bode well, there had been little time for the allotment to dry out this week. Given how it is the middle of April, I should know better than to discount April Showers.

Thankfully, the snow subsided. There had been big fluffy flakes of snow falling onto the garden like feathers. Somewhat unexpected, though friends in the northern climbs had already been bracing for impact. Plus I had some how avoided watching the weather.

This meant that normal service could be resumed. Having filled raised beds earlier this week,  the final lot of potatoes could be sunk. The last remaining bag was of Pink Fir Apple. These have already been split with Mum, who has sunk some in the open ground of her newly acquired half plot. I guess we can do something of an experiment. We can observe the possible differences in raised beds and open ground. Whilst her plot has rather friable soil, mine is heavy, sticky clay. For this reason, I have learned to not plant my potatoes in open ground.

You can see the youtube version here.

The other thing to do was to sink onions. I haven’t done this for a long time, as I don’t tend to garner much success with the sets. I have previously sown sets in autumn and in spring, with the resultant crop being quite small. There was definite poor results with red onions, so I have always been a bit wary. However, as Mum was intent on sowing onions and asked for me to find some; I don’t mind another go.

You can see the youtube version here.

As for 32. I don’t really want to dwell on it; but it will take time to let go. The bullish amongst us will naturally just shrug their shoulders and say that it is just a number. That is true, the next one is 33 and doesn’t-at this stage-look or feel scary.  I think I looked at it yesterday morning as being half way to my pension (it’s not worth a lot, unfortunately). Then again, that age changes with the frequency of an elected government.

I could, sit here and tot up a list of done, outstanding yet to do, and might possibly like to do. I would be there a long time, I am likely to depress myself and get angry about it. The outstanding yet to do section is the sort of  column dictated by the old school Bollywood aunties and the edict would be:: ahem:: get married, have babies, do the Disney Princess thing. In part, I am exaggerating, in part, it really is  ‘what is wrong with you,(there must be something wrong with you at this point) you should be doing X, Y and Zed, you’re not getting any younger’… see, it’s infuriating, but stupidly true. (I’d quite like to walk 100m of the great wall of China, and see the vatican, but you know…)

Anyway, the spuds are planted. There are squashes to be sown.

We’ll get there.

 

 

Fresh dirt under the nails

To misquote Maroon5, that was what happened today.

Half of the plot has raised beds. It is far too low to use otherwise with frequent flooding that means very deep puddles. Raised  beds have worked very successfully over the last few years. However, their levels do tend to decrease over time. Each year, I collect leaves for leaf mold and then any organic material I put into the beds. Some of the beds have some of this and just needed topping off. Others were rather weary. So today, there was something of a mission.

You can see the youtube version here.

Thankfully, today was actually a dry and sunny day. I was able to lug around the compost bags during the course of the day; I had parental support getting them to the plot. I know ache a little having done so, but all being well today will be worth it. I aim to sink the rest of the seed potatoes in some of the beds. Further to this, I might root around in the seedbox and see if there is anything that can be broadcast sown into the beds. Might even make another attempt at sowing onion sets.

Spud sinking and plot pottering

It’s not raining! It’s Good Friday, and it’s not raining. Yet.

There is rain scheduled, it is after a bank holiday. Before it arrives, I have taken this opportunity to wander down the plot, sink potatoes and check on the fruit trees.

First with the potatoes though:

You can see the youtube version here.

Kestrel and Lady Balfour potatoes have been sunk into raised beds. I still have to sink pink fir apple, once I have filled the other beds with ‘orse poop. I put the seed potatoes into raised beds as there is better drainage, less resistance for the forming tubers and previous experience has meant a big, quite successful crop. I’m not sure yet if there will be any international kidney this year on the plot.

There was also the opportunity to look at the young fruit trees that are planted on the plot. With the site being windy, they could do with some bracing support so that they don’t keel over. I did quick count, and found that I had quite a few fruit trees, I guess I don’t need to buy any more! In the picture above, you see the morello cherry tree. This one, along with the sylvia, moor park apricot, darling peach, pear du comice, czar  and victoria plum were all tied to a stake sunk beside them.

With the exception of the Czar plum tree, all of the trees appear to be waking up and have buds forms on their boughs. I am not too sure about the Czar, as it has always been a little bit of a miserable looking tree.  The plot most certainly has it’s own little micro-cosm that doesn’t fit in with the rest of the site; i think the peach is the only that is sending out pink fuzzy buds. Have been watching it closely and willing the bud to burst.

Sowing Seeds on a Saturday

Today is the first day of my Easter Holidays, and that means starting to think about what is to do on the allotment. In particular, inside the polytunnel.

The youtube version can be found here.

Whilst I have tried plants and potatoes in the poly tunnel, this is the first for seeds. I have scattered an assortment of radishes, beetroot and different types of lettuces. There were all year round butter head lettuces, as red yugoslavian, lollo rosso, little gem and one called rouge D’Hiver. With radishes, we have a mixture. In terms of beetroot we have have the usual boltardy and Chioggia.

It was very cold in there! Less warmer than it was the other day when the shelving was built.

 

I hid in the poly tunnel, whilst Mum did some digging outside. Whilst it was cold, the plot has started to dry out a little bit more. I think the worse thing that might happen in terms of the weather might be a deluge of April showers. No news yet on the beans sown the other day, I suspect the poly tunnel needs to be a little warmer.