Tag Archives: allotment

Strength of a Seedling

tomatobaby

Over the last few days, I’ve been checking the heated prop for seedlings. There’s a mixture of cayenne, cucumbers and tomatoes in there, so quite a variation in potential germination. This does mean that I end up fishing things out every now and again as I see green leaves. I don’t have many tomatoes just yet. I think I have a handful of wiry, somewhat leggy seedlings. The one above, looks reasonably happy and healthy for the time being. It has been named Tom by the baby sister.

Sowing seeds in pellets is useful; I don’t make a mess with compost and run the risk of Mama F’s wrath over muddy floors. However, they do have a tendency to dry out in the heated prop. I’m not sure if that’s down to the pellets themselves or the ageing heated prop. It’s certainly been cranky this year.

I am also feeling  very protective of seedlings, with there being a regular window-sill shuffle. As the weather changes, tomatoes and chillies do have a tendency to curl up and keel over.

In other news, it’s happy belated birthday to Sow, Grow and Eat: From Plot to Kitchen. I’d quite forgotten, but this book-the green one-is now three years old. This was the second of the gardening books. Well, it is part GYO and part cook-book. A third, is a work in progress. It sits on my desk, waiting for my to have the mind-space to finish it. It has been on  my mind lately, and I daresay there will be an attempt at some point to get it together. Sat here typing, I am eyeballing the cook book folder, wondering what energy and focus I need to commit my thoughts to paper. The pens, sit near by, poised to pounce. I wait for the tipping point, the mojo to dive straight once more.

sowgroweat

As mentioned above, the book is part GYO, part cook-book. There are recipes inside for jams, jellies and preserves made using plot produce as well as the home-brew that has been made. It does rather go well alongside the yellow one.

Tis the season! Growing your own Ebooks

 

The first week of Spring, and there is soil beneath my finger nails. Well, there was; I’ve cleaned up and sit here writing. I’ve enjoyed pottering around the plot today,  I remembered how much colour the plot brings to my life. I also remembered, just how much I’ve learned in the decade of growing my own.

Growing your own is not a new thing. It’s been happening since the middle ages, but the rise of allotments has really put it into a sharp focus. As has the spotlight on eating healthy, getting exercising and knowing where your food comes from. Three things that when you have an allotment really are part of the whole process of growing and eating.

You don’t even have to have an allotment. I started my gardening journey with plant pots in Dad’s garden. Container gardening was a really good foothold in learning and experimenting.

This blog has documented every inch of learning and experimenting. Much has been supplemented by talking to allotment neighbours, not to mention gardeners and allotmenteers across the universe. Documenting on the blog was certainly one aim. I also wanted to share my learning and experimenting. I’ve made a few mistakes, and I guess communicating these to others has some benefits.

As such, two ebooks have borne out of this blog and offer another avenue for encouragement and support. They are also available in paperback.

Plant pot tales.

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Canada: https://amzn.to/2Y9z982

Sow grow eat

UK: http://amzn.to/2bdLro6

US: https://amzn.to/2unaLSt

Canada: https://amzn.to/2Wg2tIj

Tomatoes on my mind

 

It’s that time of the year again. I’m thinking about what tomatoes to grow. At the moment, I have a handful of chillies, growing very slowly and pretty much left to their own devices. They are relatively happy, so it’s logical to think of the next phase of sowing.

There are tonnes and tonnes of tomato varieties out there, and I’ve certainly collected a few varieties to have them in my seedbox. These have all been road tested in different forms over the years, so choosing the annual crop is actually quite challenging.

I’ve gravitated away from the dwarf, bushy varieties that produce cherry type tomatoes. This was, in the first instance, about sowing something different. Cherry tomatoes are certainly a good starting point; they are easy growing, abundant and offer a tasty harvest. As a salad tomato, they do serve a purpose and are quite effective plate fillers. I grew a variety called Minibel for a long time, and I suspect I will try another cherry tomato in the future at some point.

Seeds have been located, and wait to be sorted in my seed box. There are standard seeds such as Gardener’s delight and money maker; varieties that have been part of the GYO armada for many, many years. There are also heritage varieties; tomatoes that for one reason another, we don’t find in supermarkets, that are older in origin. I find these varieties really interesting, particularly when it comes to the Beefsteak types. In my experience, these are slow-growing and the crop is quite small. The plant puts so much power into a handful of whopper fruits, you need quite plants to have a substantial harvest.

Heritage tomatoes also open your world up to different shapes, sizes and colours of tomato. My favourite non-red tomato, has to be yellow stuffer. This, when combined with sweet yellow peppers, makes a fantastic chutney. You won’t find yellow tomatoes very often in the supermarket or fruit and veg markets, so growing your own is rather magical. I need to get some more yellow stuffer seeds, I rather fancy making that chutney again! We shall see if yellow brandy wine, yellow pear and cream sausage are in anyway comparable.

There are two varieties that I know I will definitely have on my list. These would be Marmande and Roma. I have found that Marmande is a brilliant cropper; it is wonderfully abundant. Roma is  a plum tomato, really very resilient and also a good cropper. In sorting out seeds, I did stumble across tomatillo seeds as well. I’ve been meaning to  sow these, as an experiment to see if they would actually work. I’m rather intrigued as to how this small piece of Mexico might take off in the middle of England.

You might ask, how many different plants does any one allotment need. All of the tomatoes that are grown will get used. Be it in chutney, salads or used in the base of Indian dishes.  Growing different varieties, having lots of plants does make for an interesting experiment, and any extras do got to good home.

At some point this week, I will take the plunge and sow tomato seeds. As with all the seedlings, I will be keeping an eye on them in case we have a cold snap. In comparison to the chillies, tomatoes do tend to be more resilient and less susceptible to keeling over-she says, crossing her fingers- but do need monitoring anyway. They do grow quickly and will need potting up as they develop. It will be late May before anything is planted outside to they will need to be hardened off in time.

I do tend to grow tomatoes outdoors, with no cover. I did try to cultivate them in a polytunnel, but found that they became leafy and didn’t crop that well. With being outdoors, plants are exposed to pollinators and the winds. There is a lower level of maintenance too. You do get cordon/indeterminate tomato varieties, those that need shoots removing. I have defoliate plants when there has been a lot of foliage to help ventilation. Having too much foliage can also be a product of what you feed and water the plans with as well. So make sure to see what is in the make up of any fertiliser if you are using it.

Blossom in the Breeze

moorparkapricot

Blighty has been battered by bruising winds; Storm Freya has been swirling around to cause all sorts of mayhem. The Indian Spring has started to fizzle down, with temperatures returning to a seasonal norm.

I took a walk down to the plot today, to simply clear my head. For days now, stories to write have been jostling around in my head. I needed fresh air, half an hour perhaps to potter around and refocus a little.  There were however rain clouds over head and what was a smattering, spitting shower became a cold, momentary downpour that saw me beating a retreat.

In that brief window, I did manage to re-centre, think about how I might move a raised bed as it is now full of raspberry runners. They are everywhere, places where I didn’t think they would travel. These are fall gold, yellow autumn fruiting variety that aren’t actually half bad. I have had more luck, through sheer fluke, with yellow raspberries than pink ones. Raspberries, being raspberries, do rather like water and lots of it. By moving a raised bed, it can be located somewhere far more useful.

The mission continues to cover and contain. That had been my plan for this afternoon, to cover a couple of raised beds. The precipitation and chilly wind weren’t particularly motivating. I surveyed instead, to literally get a lay of the land. Reclaiming the plot is starting to feel a little less overwhelming as it all becomes a little more organised.

With the pottering, came the realisation that the Moorpark Apricot was effectively in full blossom. There has never been so much, with only one or two blooms. I do wonder though, if this could be false hope. The weather has been unseasonably warm, the winds are swirling and temperatures are falling away.  I do feel that the blossom is something of a lesson in resilience. Each and every bloom is looks very fragile, as though it might float off in the breeze. However, the blossom is hanging on in defiance of a sort.

 

Rebuilding the dream #gdnbloggers

cayennes

The sun’s been out today; everything feels very much hopeful, and full of potential. I’ve seen potential, having fished out half a dozen baby chilli’s from the heated propagator. I was wondering when these would come through, it had been some time since the seeds had been sown. I wasn’t feeling particularly hopeful as the pellets had repeatedly dried out and there was some sense of frustration. I had sown chocolate habaneros on one side of the prop with cayennes on the other. It would appear that only half of the prop is working. The hababeros have not germinated, the pellets have dried out. Some part of me suspects that the blessed box may be on it’s last legs. I hope that it hangs on a little while, I have tomatoes to sow in a month or so. I will be keeping an eye on the habaneros, perhaps sow another batch.

The job now is to nurture the seedlings, see if they start to become more robust. The mild weather is meant to stick around for the next week or so. If there is a cold snap, these are still quite  vulnerable to a chill.

And with all that potential at hand.

I went to the plot today.

There was much to be gained, after a fortnight of turbulence in the real life. I planned to get some grounding, lose the tinge of drama and stress that I’ve accumulated and experienced and also lose myself within the pleasure of being on the plot. With a playlist and headphones at hand, I popped on my wellies, grabbed my hoody. I was walked down by my Mum, who wanted to tackle her own plot.

(Note to self; find wireless headphones. You’ll end up chopping the wire with your secateurs).

My plan, at first, was to pull up grass. At first,  I did; much of what I put my hand to, did come up and away. Then it was a case of covering things up.

The first half of the plot has a dozen raised beds. I have built each one by hand-I remember the blisters-and most of them are in some form of shape. They are however low on dirt; they sink every year and will need to be filled back up again. For now, I am covering them, to contain and protect. The top of the plot, is nearly seventy per cent covered, the poly tunnel is there too in a sorry state of disrepair. This will either be recovered and form a brassisca cage, or recovered to once again be a hot house. If you ask my mum, it will probably be a cabbage cage. I quite fancy a chilli factory, to be honest.

Five raised beds were tidied and covered, there are still many more to look at. There is grass everywhere, most of it dead, so easy to get out of the way. It felt good to be back on the plot, to have impetus and to also be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If the raised beds are tidied, I can then think about the spaces in between. These can be turned into paths or even patches of flowers if I think about sinking bulbs, corns and gladioli. It would be nice to  have flowers back on the plot, the roses could do some TLC but are starting to form leaf buds.Still a bit early, to even contemplate sunflowers, so all in good time.

A rather unexpected but not surprising side effect of going to the plot, is the spark to write. I have an idea, for Devan III, it needs some beefing up though. I plan to go to the plot tomorrow, there is more work to be done; maybe the other plot will come together too.

And yes, I creak all over. In a good way…..

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.

 

 

 

The journey of a thousand miles #gdnbloggers

…starts with a single step.

A step to the allotment, and then to potter around. To survey, to soak it all; to remember what was.

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plottwo

I went willingly. I went, with intention and a sense of purpose. I wanted to go, see what the literal lay of the land was. For a long time, seeing that space has felt really very overwhelming. I need to take the plot in parts, in sections to be worked on one at a time. I might also have to inveigle some help with that; I will have to find willing side-kicks.

This was a big deal. I felt that urge, where by the many different facets of me weren’t in conflict.  I went to the allotment to seek joy. Joy that has long since been absent, and has left something of hole behind.

I had spent most of the day baking. I have a bundt tin, a recipe book and the need to make something. Two cakes later-raspberry and milk chocolate, the one stuck the pan, lost its top-I resolved to go take a walk to the plot. I baked today as I feel as though I’m in a time/space vortex. My baking mojo exists as my writing mojo is fading and my gardening mojo is a spark. This in itself is slightly disorienting.

As I got to the plot, I felt resolute. I’d gone to have a look, I want to cover the top half, see what needs clearing, what is in my way. I wandered around, I took the above pictures.

Then it hit me. Sadness and guilt.

Sadness that this is what I am faced with; but know why. Guilt, as more often than not, I experience looks and tuts of disapproval at having let things lapse. There is a big part of me, that blows raspberries at that. I blow raspberries, as I have grown and developed the plot quite successfully in the past. The plot has been a mini Eden. I’m hanging onto that; I would like to return to that. This won’t happen quickly, there is no immediate gratification here. There never has been.  I can confess that I do not react well to disapproval from plot neighbours. I do try to ignore it for the most part, but that doesn’t stop bits of seeping through. Judgement and disapproval are horribly damaging, your autonomy takes a hit and you start doings that you’d rather not. That’s the bit I’m hanging onto.

This is my tenth year as an allotment gardener. A lot has happened in that decade, a lot has happened on the allotment plot. I have until April to make a dent in things, get back to a level playing field and to cultivate something.  It might only be January, but already I see folks on blogs, on social media; they are getting stuck in, they have grand plans.  I myself, feel very much at sea. The thought of going to look in my seed tin, doesn’t feel right at the moment.

That said, the chilli seeds are very much on my mind and will be sown in the next few weeks. Sowing the chillies, having a look at the plot feels like an intuitive step in the right direction.

Feeling the spark….#gdnbloggers

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…the gardening force awakens.

Over the last week or so, I have been thinking about Chilli seeds. The thought, the impetus appeared in my mind like a starburst. It came out of nowhere, I wasn’t expecting it.

I had just finished the second draft of Book 6.

The universe was sending me a signal. A signal, that I have not felt for nigh on a year. A signal, that jolted me awake as I pressed save. I switched off my computer. I had completed one form of creativity, it was time to return to another.

I want to sow chilli seeds. I want to plant seeds, I want to go back to my allotment, feel the dirt beneath my fingernails.

Just where exactly did I put my red wellingtons, though?

Hold up, a second. It’s only the second week of January. Anything I sow now, will be long, leggy and likely to keel over.

Let’s just revel in the spark, just for one moment. There is a spark, a desire to plant potential and it really does feel as though the universe has sent it.

There is more to this, however, than meets the eye.

2019 stretches before me. When I look at my diary, it is blank.  Unlike 2018, I have no plans. There is no fast, furious, chaotic sense of being that life has felt like for a long time. There is peace, serenity and the opportunity to surrender to all that makes me happy.

This time last year, I had sown seeds. Chilli seeds, at that. They failed; there was something in the air, that told me they were meant to. I was saddened, I really was. I went with it; 2018 was a big year beyond the allotment.

Christmas 2018 came. I found myself looking at the aftermath of a figurative tornado. I found myself looking at the potential to move on. I wrote a few blog posts, it all felt really bitty.  A lot like trying to start an engine, only for it to cough and splutter. The timing, the feeling, the passion wasn’t quite there. I was trying to start something that really wasn’t ready to return.

I joined in with the Garden Bloggers twitter chats, and this started to form a quiet groundswell within.  The encouragement, support and camaraderie is something that I cannot describe; there was a sense of being a part of something really beautiful. I’ve hung onto how I felt during that chat; I’ve felt buoyed about returning back to gardening.

So, how do I cultivate that spark.

Slowly.

Remember, I have a very wild allotment. The plan, that is all very tentative, is to cover half of it. Make less overwhelming; assume control of bits and pieces. To ignore, the naysayers who do not expect me to turn my allotment around. The odds, would have me turning my back and walking away.  I have not spent nearly a decade playing in the dirt, to give it all away. A big part of me want to remember what it feels like to be on that plot of land, walk around, tending to things. I feel as though I need to go back to something and rekindle things.

Bits are broken, in disarray. Yet I have felt the spark, I am feeling the force. A force that is asking me to put down my inks pen and nurture something within. The writing is certainly one outlet for the universal force. It is however, time to return another aspect.

I will shortly have chilli seeds. I think I have pellets somewhere. I might also think about tomatoes eventually.

Let’s see what happens, eh?

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.