Category Archives: Psychology Sunflower Challenge

Blooms in the gloom

It might be the bleak winter, but think of all the roses bushes currently having a good kip. There so many rose bushes on the plot, I have lost count. Each one is fairly well established now and produces a bounty of beautiful roses over the summer. This year, I was surprised see one or two still going in early November. Things have been all very confusing, given the heat wave and bizarre weather.

I used to have three different blooms on the plot. I have the rose bushes, would sink gladioli and then also sow Sunflowers. It’s been a while since the latter two were done, but who knows; next year might see a revival. Having massive great big sunflowers on the plot is a sight to behold. Are probably the one bloom that doesn’t feel like a cut flower and very rarely makes it home to a vase.

Roses are fairly robust, but do suffer in the heat. This year, I had far fewer blooms compared to previous years as we had so little rain. Roses need to absorb a great deal in order to manifest all of that foliage they come with. Planting dormant roses in the autumn and winter months allows them to bed down before kicking off in the summer. They do take time to establish, at least a couple of years. They build their crescendo slowly. When they do blossom, dead heading and having cut flowers ensures their longevity. I miss the scent that wafts from the kitchen sill when there is a fresh bouquet in the house.

When the roses are in full flow, I have easily collected a bouquet a week and then ran out of vases. In that case, they were distributed to loving homes. Some of roses are posh, they have names. The others are lost label roses and I have no idea what they are called. All of them, are beautiful and enjoyed. I do wonder sometimes, how much a bouquet might be priced at, even if the enjoyment of them is really quite priceless. The only thing to be mindful of, would the thorns. That and trying not to cut your fingers off when deadheading. As pretty as they are, roses can be vicious if not played with nicely.

The Glads are the other glamorous flower on the plot; some of which are bigger than me when fully grown. Depending on what is growing alongside, they often look like fireworks going off in random directions.  Glads are relatively easy to grow. I choose not to lift them; mainly as I can’t remember where I have put them, and really don’t like digging.

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This was rather special this year. A handful of allotment grown roses actually made into a very important bridal bouquet. The big red one in the middle is actually from Dad’s garden with all the fluffy bits from the shop. If I ever get that far, I’d like to think that I might have grown my own bouquet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plot produce kicks off

The plot is starting to kick off now. As you may have seen from another blog post, the poly is well and truly alive. The tomatoes are five foot tall triffids. Yes, these are the things that only week ago were only eighteen inches high. They are now starting to send out yellow flowers, and some of them have started to set. What you see at the marmande and cream sausage varieties. Not in the pictures, but in the poly tunnel we also have the tiniest of money maker tomatoes.

Beyond that, the scarlet emperor runner beans have started to display lovely red flowers. The blue lake and cobra french climbing beans are somewhat behind, and only just starting to climb and live up to their name.

#NABLOPOMO: Psychology Sunflowers planted out

The sunflowers that were sown, have rapidly taken on a life of their own. Growing gangly, and hardened off, they have been planted out today. I have taken a risk, what with a potential for there to be a frost tonight. This may result in them ceasing to exist, a few of them were sulking as they were planted. I do still have a few that I have kept back, these weren’t as big yet in being recent sowings.

They have been strategically planted  across the plot, mainly where they might be to signal in bumble bees required for pollination. We have a combination of giant sunflowers and sunburst. So even if the bumbles can fly seven feet in the air, they will fly straight into a sunflower.

Hopefully!

#NABLOPOMO: Psychology Sunflower Challenge @theatp

As you are aware, I have sown sunflowers to see if these impact on the mental health of teachers. At this stage, my sunflowers aren’t doing too badly. I did worry when we had the horrible frost the night before last. They are still there, I had to check today!

Getting taller, they are chomping at the bit. I don’t think it will be long before I have to transplant them onto the plot. I did sow some additional ones about a week ago, and as they are quick growers, three babies were already potted up. I am hoping that the one sat by the window, does revive. It was in danger of snapping and keeling over. Perhaps when it is a bit more sure footed, it will return to it’s class mates.

#NABLOPOMO: Strawbs and Sunflowers

Have spent the best part of today, pottering around, potting up chillies. Some of them even have flowers. Sunflowers were also potted up as some of them were starting to keel over. As were the last of the tomatoes.

I did take a wander down to the plot, Ma wanted to dig for England again so I had to keep her company whilst nursing a thermo mug of tea. Was really quite bright, and I thought I looked a bit cool with the sunglasses. I had just planned to supervise ma, but then I got a call from a plot neighbour who was actually working hard.

A lovely plot neighbour had an excess of strawberries, and I had already re-homed some their donations. I’ve taken in another half a dozen or so additional plants. Quite healthy looking too. These were then plugged in around autumnal raspberry canes. I have hoping that these will grow, send out runners and cover the ground. Also means I get two types of soft foot from one bed.

Update: Psychology Sunflower Challenge 2015

As you are aware I am trying to start a Psychology Sunflower Challenge.

baby sunlflowers
baby sunlflowers

About two dozen seeds were started off in damp jiffy pellets, and made quite rapid progress. In my experience, they do grow very quickly, and you do end up potting them up quite rapidly.

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The seedling babies were growing quite quickly on the window sill, so did need to be potted up. Otherwise they get leggy, bend, and keel over. Cue emergency pot up. As you can see above, they have placed into small pots and are on their first baby leaves with the true leaves just about to sprout. These are greedy, sun loving creatures. So they do need warmth, light, and for now, water. The compost is full of nutrients for the next six weeks. By which time, it will be necessary to harden them off, having possible put them into bigger pots. They will need to be protected if there is a sharp drop in temperature and a frost.

I have sown two varieties here. These are sunburst, which get to about five tall, and giant sunflowers, which are something even taller and with multiple flowers.

Hopefully these will all continue to thrive and survive. Will hopefully sow a few more and encourage more pollinators on the plot.

If you have sown some sunflowers, then please let me know. Would be lovely to see what is happening  ^_^

#PsychologySunflowerChallenge 2015 is a go!

Sowing sunflowers
Sowing sunflowers

And we are off. Today I have sown sunflowers to kick off the Psychology Sunflower challenge 2015. I have sown two varieties, sunburst and Giant Sunflowers.

You can see the previous post here where I put it all into context.

The top two rows of the tray above are sunflowers seeds. The other three rows contain assorted flowers that will sunk along side. All of which, will contribute to entertaining bumble bees and help pollinate crops.

The key for this challenge is Sunflowers.

I am challenging my fellow teachers and school support staff, regardless of subject area and age range, to grow sunflowers. Something of a natural experiment, if you like. The details above, are taken from the latest article of The ATP Magazine. Later this year, I am hoping to carry out a workshop at The ATP conference that looks at gardening and well being.

These do tend to grow quickly, and get big quickly at that. So these will need to be potted up as and when. They will also need to be hardened off and exposed to the elements before being placed into their final positions.