Tag Archives: allotment

Garlic and Chillies

As we approach December, seed garlic has been in the ground for a while. Depending on what variety it is, is only starting to send up green shoots. There have some rather harsh frosts already, and these are no doubt having some form of effect on the cloves planted. There isn’t an awful lot else on the plot-well, Mama F’s- so garlic is certainly something to keep an eye on.

It has been a long time since I cultivated garlic, and Mama F was rather eager to make sure she had some growing. When I have planted garlic, I have always planted it in the October-November window. This would then lead to a crop in June, July and August. We have both soft and hard neck varieties, with Elephant garlic in there as well.

Sowing and growing your own garlic is relatively straight forward. Break up the bulb, to then separate out the cloves. The ground should be well drained, free-draining ideally. Heavy clay tends to be quite sticky and gloopy. Make a hole, using your finger or a dibber. Slot a clove in to cover up to the tip. Don’t leave the clove exposed, as you may have to then fight with the birds who eat it before you do. That is mostly it, you might want to feed the garlic in the Spring. Between now and then, green shoots should rise up and the bulb start to form. If you are a particularly windy site, you might find that green leaves start to burn but this is nothing major to worry about. Keep your garlic weed free, leave enough space to clear any wayward weeds.

Garlic varies in it’s flavour and it’s strength. Mama F requested strong flavoured garlic, it is a staple of the many dishes that we have in our kitchen. I do find that home grown garlic has one hell of kick compared to it’s supermarket equivalent and this does varies across the varieties. The size of cloves will also be different. I’m not sure how that impacts on flavour and vigour.  To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend planting your left over supermarket garlic. I’m not sure that would be useful.

Be aware though, there is a nasty critter called Allieum Leaf miner that rather likes all things garlicky,  onion and leeky.

With Garlic being mostly quite straight forward, Chillies are a different kettle of fish. There is both an art and a science to growing chillies. It is early, very early to start to sowing and growing chillies. Now, is the time to think about what you want to grow and how.

There is a whole armada of capsicum out there. From the superhot, to the super sweet bell peppers. Take your pick, choose your pepper. Your choice will determine how things kick off. In the past, I have sown chillies a day after Boxing day, in a heated Propogator. Chillies, depending on their variety, germinate at different times. Sow too early, you have leggy critters. Sow too late, and you might one or two chillies. Looking after them, you have to strike a balance. You could have beautifully leafy, luscious beauties and no chillies. Or you gave not so leafy, but fruitfully abundant plants that have you ready to  make chilli jam. I don’t think that I have ever grown one plant that is the same as the next. There is also the weather and making sure that plants are robust. Watering too often, plants might be okay with it, and so amble along. Arid and dry, plant has a panic and sets fruit to survive. Growing chillies is not boring, and all bets are off.

From seed to six years #gdnbloggers

floraltrugjune2017
floral trug with fruit and roses

 

Six years. WordPress tells me that I’ve been writing this blog for six years. If this blog was a human, it has probably started school already and hopefully made some friends.

The whole idea of sharing started well before that, in a slightly different place with a slightly different aim. Slightly different in the way it was organised, and how I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. However, here I am; here is the blog.

A lot has been covered in that six years. There have been highs, lows, lots of things in  between that have made blogging and the writing process wonderfully human.

This blog  was quite literally founded on the seeds of an idea; a gist of which you can find on the About page. I do feel it is important to reflect upon where this blog started, what has been experienced and subsequently where it might go in the future. I do feel that it is evolving and over time things may change.

Highs, there have been a few. Gluts, for one. After three, four, five courgettes, what’s a girl to do? There have been pickles, preserves, the Petal Plonk experiments that will be really very interesting to comeback to. All in all, I’ve cultivated a piece of land that was unloved for a very long time. It was nearly five foot high with weeds when I first took it on. In it’s present state, the allotment does look rather sorry but it has already gone through a great deal. There have been glorious summers, where there has been lots fruit, vegetables, lots of glads, sunflowers and roses. There has been a lot of abundance. There have been both physical and mental benefits too. All in all, the impact of the allotment is very much holistic.

The lows experienced have always been hard to process, to understand but there has always been potential for learning and forward movement. I don’t think I will ever forger the broken cold frame and destroyed polytunnel. Those two things, were like being punched in the gut-my heart tore straight down the middle. Then there is the heavy clay that has meant raised beds. Raised beds that I built myself, much to my Dad’s amusement. I pinched his cross-head screwdriver and got blisters. He then picked up his drill to make sure everything was secure.  There are of course Human factors such as work, family, time and energy.  This year, I have felt those a great deal. At times, I have put so much on my plate, the allotment has felt very far away. Wheeling Mama F down there in a wheel chair during her post spinal surgery recovery was one of the most surreal things ever. She missed going to my allotment. She has since got her own and loves it.

The gardening, blogging and lots of other communities have been instrumental in helping. You’ll notice the Garden bloggers hashtag in the title; this is more than a homage. It is an acknowledgement of their support, their forum as well as the vibrancy and diversity.  I am always surprised by how far the gardening and blogging community stretches and therefore where the blog gets read. I am touched somewhat, that 200 square metres in the middle of England can reach so far a field. There is a pun in there somewhere. At the outset, I relied a great deal on online forums, and this is something that I will not forget.

My own journey behind the blog has been woven in at times. Teaching and counselling training have impacted a great deal on how this blog, how the allotment has developed. There has been writing too. I must admit, that at times there has been a sway towards the writing projects on the blog. That has felt as though it was a big move away, but I stand by that this blog is what triggered that. If it wasn’t for this blog, there’d be no green or yellow books. Therefore, the writing is an extension of this blog; that goes for both the fiction and non-fiction. This blog, the ideas and learning are the umbrella for what I have produced. So my profuse apologies, if you do feel that I have betrayed my green-fingered roots. I have genuinely struggled with whether or not things are so divergent. I like to think of this as configurations, different aspects of me, the blog and everything in between.

It is then only natural to think of the diversification and The Petal’s Potted Preserve Umbrella. There is a lot that goes on here.  The essence of the the blog, a shop front amongst other things, an umbrella of gardening, writing, adventuring, mental health and Psychology.

As for future growth, I have no idea. I give up on making plans!! I am thinking about forward movement, of getting things going. That does in part mean looking back to see who far things have come. I have missed writing about my allotment. Sat here, I have set aside a meaty big bit of Counselling diploma work to write this. I will do it, albeit when my mind feels like it. I do have writing projects, and I am learning how to marry those into things. These are bubbling away on the other hob and will no doubt filter into the blog writing.

So, I have a list of things to write  on here. I’d quite like to share things that I have experienced over the last year, there’s some gardening stuff that I’d like revisit. I have very much a forward looking view, and that makes me hopeful.

Stand by, I guess.

Petal’s books: Sow, Grow and Eat

sowgroweat

April 2016 saw the publication of Sow, Grow and Eat AKA the green book. This was a book that was actually quite quick on the heels of Plant Pot tales-the yellow book.  As such, there was a similar format. The first third is about the allotment, the different lessons learned and a continuation of what was recorded in the yellow book. The rest of the book concentrated on recipes and what could be done with allotment produce.

The green book was borne out of my experimentation with a preserving pan. I had made jams, jellies, chutneys and pickles. These were shared with friends, family as well as colleagues. It was interesting to think about what could go into a preserve to make extra-ordinary, to make something that stood out from what you find in a supermarket.

There are a few recipes that are actually dedicated, are in honour of colleagues and friends. A couple, come from the physics department and an attempt to be as creative as possible.

As with the yellow book, I tried to make the recipes as simple as I could. I don’t believe in making things complicated, preventing people from accessing and then not enjoying anything. The recipes are all experiments though; all of them are open to interpretation, improvement and extension.  From time to time, I do look through the book and remind myself of the different things that I have made. It does rather encourage me to try and extend the variety, to do more experiments once I have the plot up and running again.

I do believe that I will write another cook-book type of book. It is sat on my desk, waiting for me to flesh it out.

 

Taking stock

 

For the first time in what feels like forever, I went to the allotment. I decided to delay today’s writing session and take a walk to the plot.

There were lots of currants to be harvested. I didn’t want to let them rot, feed the birds or just go to waste.

Truth be told, I needed to go get grounded. Life has been very busy, and there is no let up yet. The rest of 2018 is scheduled to be busy still until at least September-ish.

The allotment has been on pause for a long time, and going there today hammered home how badly it has all fallen down. I could have got lost in the weeds, everything is very over grown, brambles are very much in charge.

It does sadden me, that I can no longer see the raised beds and that the whole thing is over grown. Especially, as it’s take years to get it how it was wanted. What I didn’t bank on was life getting in the way. There’s been a training course and strange working hours; not to mention writing as well. It’s nine years since I first started sowing seeds, and I do feel that I’ve come a long way.

It’s painful really, knowing that the plot has been neglected.  Painful, as to how overwhelming it feels to get it back into shape. I’m not sure where to start or how for that matter. I know it won’t be immediate, so plan to take a good, long look at things at the end of summer.

Being told but allotment secretary that you are probably going to get a letter is not fun! I definitely don’t want that. It’s a horrible sword of Damocles hanging over your head, and I really don’t want that letter. I’ve just seen him, and it’s rather changed my mood. It’s a horrible feeling being told that your plot is the worst that is has been, that it’s in need of being tidied up. It is a judgement, after all and maintenance of standards; that I understand. I do have a responsibility to look after my plot and ensure that it is productive. I have felt this for a long time actually, and it’s almost as though I am beating myself up about it. Gardening has never been about that for me, but that doesn’t stop me from feeling as though I am letting people and myself down. I will probably sulk for a bit anyway. It does hurt, and it’s never nice to get negative feedback. In it’s current state, the plot is not something to be shared, enjoyed or celebrated.

As life settles down, I will need to take stock and start hacking away at the overgrown allotment. That’s probably the only way that I am going to win against the brambles. I just can’t do it yet. This probably feels huge as I try to juggle bits and pieces.  I need to get the headspace and life events sorted before I can return to the plot.

All in all, I’m trying to keep things in perspective. I want to return to the plot when I can, when I have the time and energy. It is not something that I want to abandon. That would be awful, and I can’t bring myself to do that.

 

 

The pages are turning

Apologies for not being around. There has been a lot going on, not bad, I assure you! This has made gardening and writing a bit more challenging. The next few months are shaping up to be both interesting and busy, but I am still around, not disappearing or dropping off the proverbial radar.

Not sure quite what gardening or when it will occur. In the mean time, the ink pens are in action and writing projects are happening.

Just wanted to remind you, of the books and there are quite a few now! If you wanted a bit of advice and guidance beyond the blog, there is the ‘yellow one’ and the ‘little green book’ that will help make things a little less confusing.

And if you fancied something completely different and not in the least bit gardening related, there is Fragments and also Retreating to Peace. Links to your right.

All of the books are available in both paperback and ebook.

Retreating to Peace is a Peace series novella and has a selection of rather lovely stable mates. Be sure to check ’em out!

peacecovers

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

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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.

Waltons Allotment Recipe Competition

You’ll have seen lots of recipes being experimented with on the blog, and the subsequent book. So playing with allotment produce is nothing new!

The fabulous folks at Waltons are looking for the most creative, most edible recipes of allotment recipes. Having harvested lots of courgettes, beans, raspberries and currants, Petal and I are glad to be of help.

Nothing quite like a competition to get those alloment produce juices flowing. Closing at 5pm on the 28th, why not enter, make a contribution? The prize is a garden storage unit worth £149, just like the one here: https://www.waltons.co.uk/4×3-overlap-osb-roof-floor and there are some great runners up prizes, too.

Plus, Waltons plan to publish an ebook of recipes, with all authors being credited. Sounds fab to me, have a go!

Click on the link below to enter.

http://woobox.com/wqpxnd?source=horticulturalhobbit

Make a bookworm’s Christmas!

allthreebooks

And buy them a book; maybe one, two, or even three!

As well as being available on kindle, all of the books that you have seen develop here on the blog are also available in paperback. As the big day draws near, there may be one of them that you fancy getting for yourself or for the book worms in your life.

All being well, if you were to click on the covers below, the universe should send the books out just as the festivities kick off. If the books don’t make it to you before the 25th, then there are twelve additional days of Christmas where celebrations continue.

The first two books are most definitely an extension of the blog. Covering allotment adventures and what you can cook with everything that you might grow, ‘Playing with plant pots’ and ‘Sow, Grow and Eat’ make GYO less complicated and accessible for all.

plantpottales

Chillies and tomatoes, you can grow your own and look at the food you eat in an entirely different way. Be it on your kitchen window sill or in your garden. Growing your own fruit and vegetables need not be scary or complicated. This book contains learning experiences of a novice allotmenteer, Ideas as to what worked, what didn’t and what to do with too many courgettes. From first having an allotment, and not knowing what to do, to growing chillies that are some of the hottest in the world. Anecdotal evidence of success, failure and ideas to help make growing your own fruit and vegetables a little simpler. All of the details are real, that means influenced by rain, shine, slugs and snails. The details are honest, and aim to inform readers of how allotments are worth the hard work put in and will yield fruit that makes it all worthwhile.

 

sowgroweat

If you ever wondered how to sow and grow chillies, or what might be useful to know when growing tomatoes and what happens when radishes go wrong, then you will need to have a look inside! Building on the experiences of ‘Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the allotment’ there is more to be learned from the fruit and vegetable plot. With a few allotment plot staples revisited and others that you might not ordinarily think about, this second book also contains further recipes to be tried using plot fruit and vegetables. Growing your own fruit and vegetables is still uncomplicated and still an opportunity to create edible experiments. Within these pages there are jams, jellies, chutneys and infusions all just waiting for you to read about them and to create them in the comfort of your own kitchen.

fragments

Life starts and life ends. In between we form relationships and friendships. We have husbands, wives, sons, daughters and we mustn’t forget pets. Memories form that shape who we are and what we do. Only for death to cast it all askew. What we know becomes nothing by fragments, torn up and thrown to the winds. The Anands lose a wife and mother, Matthew is lost without his grandmother, Daniel loses the man he loved, Michael wonders about having children and Maya is a mother bereaved. Within are six inter-related stories explore what happens when the universe as we know it implodes and entirely. Grief is a journey to be travelled by them with emotions to be experienced as their lives are changed. Whilst they feel alone they are all connected and these are their stories. Family, friends and even our pets cannot escape when it comes to the footprint that is left by death.

‘Fragments’ is definitely not about gardening, but it’s genesis has most certainly be documented on the blog. Grief and bereavement are the sort of things that we might not discuss everyday, but are certainly part of the lives that we lead. I do hope that those who read it, will get as much out of it as much as I did in writing it.

Bottling that Blackberry wine

It does feel a very long time sine I posted anything that was plot and allotment related. Well, I am today.  Kind of, at least, as the blackberry wine that was made last year was finally put into bottles. For just over a year, two demi-johns have sat on the side in something of a silent slumber; a very cold, silent slumber.

blackberrybottled

This was the largest batch of wine that I had cooked up, so having two demi-johns I had to make sure that I had enough bottles to put it all into. I even had parental supervision doing it; it does help that I am well over the age of being able to drink the stuff-well over! And it didn’t taste so bad, even if I do say so myself.

It is potent; that, for some daft reason, is the reputation that Blackberry wine has. A wine that is heady, potent, flavoursome; it has welly, oomph and all whole range of orchestral movement within it. There as also a second batch; this batch was from this summer and alongside Plum wine, was ready to be racked off into the next phase of demi-johns.

This second batch of blackberry wine, is in it’s current phase, rather sweet and fruity. The plum wine-a new one on me-is not bad either, and does rather carry the sweet and tart, fleshy flavour that the fruits had on harvest. I know that the blackberry wine can be stowed for a while, that it develops over tome. The plum wine might be returned to the stage a lot sooner, it doesn’t come across as a wine that has to be matured for aeons. It does rather taste like the raspberry sauce you might find in a sundae.

strawberryapple

I have actually ran out of small bottles, and there are two further experiments yet to be bottled. There is the summer wine made from strawberries and rhubarb as well as the very experimental Apple wine that are currently loitering with intent. It will most likely be Spring before I consider doing anything with these and wiping the slate clean for any future experiments.

As for plot adventures.

We are now in festive season, Advent has reached its halfway point. The plan is, that at some point during The Twelve Days of Christmas I will sow chilli seeds. I have pellets, will rummage and root in the shed for the heated propogator before trying to decide what seeds to sow. I still haven’t fixed the poly tunnel, so the will need to probably house any plants in Mum’s poly during the summer. It does all feel a rather long, long, way down the line, but we shall.

For the moment, enjoy the rest of your weekend and Slainte!

A time for reflection and renewal

The eagle-eyed amongst you will have realised that there has not been much by way of gardening go on. A bit ironic, I guess, when that is a primary function of the blog, the brand and all things Petal.

The last year has been different, compared to previous years. I have mentioned in previous posts that I have found it challenging to shoe horn lots and lots of things in to real life. There have been peaks and there have been troughs; sometimes, that is what you need. There have been many times where there has simply not been enough of me to go around,

I miss the allotment.

At this moment in time, I dread to think what state it is in, A major overhaul is needed, and this is something that I feel very keenly and it is very much part of my process. I have paid the rent of the coming year, and a potato order has been placed. What I need to do, is to go there and see what I can make a re-start on.

This does feel overwhelming; the plot is 200 square metres and over run with weeds and all sorts. There is disrepair, the poly tunnel is still in pieces.  I am loathe to see the tuts and shakes of the heads that might happen from other plot holders. I’ve never aimed for gold standard, I’ve always aimed for what makes me happy, and that is what I need to remember. Also, Rome wasn’t built in a day; the allotment wasn’t developed in a day. It’s going to take more than a day to strip things back, and have a relatively blank canvas to work upon.

Over the last few weeks, I have had chillies on  my mind. More specifically, having compost to germinate seeds in during the Christmas holidays. Christmas isn’t that far away, and sowing chillies in the depths of winter is not as odd as it sounds.

There are no plans to give up the allotment. No plans to walk away. There are plans to reclaim it; to take walk down there with a cup of tea and just take a look. Assess, where I can go from here and how I can return to the passed glories if you like, of the allotment.

2018 promises to be an interesting year on all fronts. This means that I will need the allotment as my space even more. I have certainly missed it over the last year and have felt the impact of not being there.

There has been a physical and mental impact and I wouldn’t wish this on anyone. There truly is something about having fresh dirt beneath your fingernails. An important aspect of being a trainee counsellor and indeed part of the BACP ethical framework is self care. For years, my self care was the allotment. This has somewhat lapsed, so I am doubly minded to get things going again.

 

There is the allotment, knitting, colouring, preserving and pottering; all of the things that I once used and have lapsed with I would like to resume. There is also writing too. At the moment, I am looking at Petal’s cookbook. Looking at Petal’s cookbook is really important, as it’s all plot orientated and will help get things going again. Nurturing the book and nurturing the plot do feel as though they go hand in hand.  Talking of hands, I get to see which nail varnish is allotment proof.

I do need to re-vamp my seed collection; a major cull and over haul is needed. Some of my seeds have been knocking around since I first started and are no longer viable. Raised beds need looking at, and I want to look at putting raised beds across the whole plot. I know for a fact, that cultivating things there in open ground really doesn’t.

At this stage, this does all seem overwhelming. The arrival of autumn, the dark depths of winter will do that you, will do that to anyone. I will be taking a walk soon, and reclaiming the plot.