Tag Archives: gardening

Roses; First Flush

 

It’s definitely summer; the rain has been coming down in sheets and for days. On the allotment, the tomatoes that I planted out are having something of a sulk. However, the gladioli that were sunk, are starting to shoot through. I still have fifty or so to sink, so that’s an action point.

And the other plot blooms are starting to kick off as well. For me, summer on the allotment is framed by the bloom and blossom of roses. There are well over a dozen bushes on the plot, and these have been developing over the course of years. Roses do not grow on quickly, they take time to establish. As such, I’ve had mine for some time, and summer always feel incomplete when they aren’t abundant. Abundant they will be if there is enough rain, heat and light to keep them going. Over the last week, there’s certainly been a lot of rain, which was prefaced by really quite glorious warmth and sunshine.

As you can see, I have harvested the first bouquet of the year. Compared to this time last year, this is really quite something. There was a distinct lack of roses last year, so I am somewhat buoyed to have bouquet of this size and quality. I don’t actually know what any of these are called; these are all lost label roses. There are those who have a small, neat bush-rose quality, as well as those that are sprawling, scrambler type roses. I know one of them is called Golden Showers, as these features in the middle of the plot by William Shakespeare 2000.

I’m not a stickler for perfection. All of these roses are unique, and I tend to cut them once they’ve been on the bush for a few days. Some rose bushes do tend to be more abundant than others, and I guess regular cutting is a bit like dead-heading.  Beyond that, I don’t fuss over my roses. It really has been a case of plug in play. Don’t be fooled though. As pretty as these things are, they have the most vicious thorns known to man, with some main stems as thick as your thumb. There were a couple of bushes that had been storm-damaged with main-stems snapped off. These were tidied up and staked with canes.

From time to time, I do think how much these rose bouquets might be worth in terms of pounds and pence. In terms of universal force and beauty, they are of course priceless; there is no value to how much they colour soul or demonstrate the power of the universe. These are home-grown, in the middle of the England; they’ve not been flown in or coddled to an inch of their lives. These don’t have air miles, so are unlikely cost half a kidney, I guess.

One of the biggest day-dreams that I have, is that if I ever get married, I’d like to take my allotment roses as bouquet. That does depend on A) getting married, and B) the event being in summer, well up to October. I guess a girl can dream!

I might have got a bit wet whilst going to harvest the roses…

merain.jpg

I’ve dried off now; I really did get a bit soggy. There’s a book waiting to be read, and the tail-end of Poldark Season 4 to watch. Writing still feels a little distant right now, but the pens are tingling. So you never know!

Planting out and potting up

There has been a change in the universal energies! I’ve been getting my hands dirty on the plot as the month of May gives way to June. It’s all change on a few fronts, so I’ve made some attempt to return to my happy place. It really is a happy place, I feel different, so I’m trying to go with it. There are now nineteen tomato plants in situ on the allotment. Most of these are home sown and grown. Fourteen of them, are mine with a fair few shop bought. I’ve bought another six today, to fill things out a little more. If there is one thing that gets grown this year, its most likely going to be tomatoes.

From what I remember, I’ve sown red, yellow and black tomatoes. I didn’t label them, so it’s  all very tomato roulette when plugging them in. There are two shop varieties which are yellow, with no idea what the ones I’ve bought today are. All of the plants have been sunk into raised beds, each with its varying soil level. It has, after all, been nearly two years since I did any ‘meaningful’ growing on the allotment.  Over the course of two days, tomatoes have been transplanted, watered and fed. This week, the temperatures have increased and growing has accelerated. The crucial thing to maintain now is to make sure that these are watered regularly.

Tomatoes will grow quickly, given the right conditions. When nourished, they will crop abundantly. I’d quite like a few tomatoes, if I’m honest. Such a number, might actually yield some! Watering should keep me going to the allotment; should keep me focused and attentive in making the plot productive. The fact that I want to go there, do things and enjoy doing so, is incredibly important.

The allotment is gaining momentum, but there are still plants at home.  At home, there is a small but select group of chillies. All of these are now in their final pots, with the last few potted up. There are ten pots altogether, with Cayennes and habaneros to be looked after. I’m trying to decide, if like with the tomatoes, I want to find some more partially mature chilli plants. The are a little spindly and wiry looking; however, once they’ve been fed and watered properly. they will hopefully start to fill out a little and gain some height as well.

Cayenne chillies will hit a stride as they get comfortable. I’ve experienced Habaneros as being slower growing; nothing unusual given the heat difference between these and cayennes. There have been chocolate habaneros before, but not many. There may only be a three or four plants, so we shall  what these amount to.

Summer: the season to read

 

Love, life, laughter

and all that is in between.

 

The days have become longer, the sun is shining-mostly!- and there is a chance for some downtime. Downtime makes for a cracking opportunity to catch up on reading. From the graphics above, you can see that there is something of a diverse range on offer. There are the two gardening books, one romance novella, a two novels and series of short stories.

With June and July, the growing season becomes apace. If you have more courgettes than you know what to do with, or really want to know about Aloo gobi-that’s spuds and cauliflower, then those are for you.

four

Retreating to Peace and Postcards from Peace are my contributions to the Peace Novella Series. A stable of different authors awaits if you fancy having a look at the rest of the series. With RTP, Devan Coultrie arrives in Montana with something of a broken heart. There is follow up in Postcards as we get another look into his life.

Fragments is a great big of six inter-related stories as it considers what happens when we lose the people- and animals-that shape our worlds. Kangana sees Gorbind-he appears in Fragments-have a no straight forward romance. There are also snatches of Birmingham, with Lucifer from the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery making an appearance.

punambookgif

All of the books are available on Kindle and in paperback.

You can clink on the sidebar,

or go to the Books page to get your copies!

 

And don’t just take my word for it.

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.

Bliss at the Brum Botanical Gardens

I spent this morning, having something of  botanical, therapeutic adventure. It’s book release day; I didn’t want to stay inside and sit on my hands. A few days ago, whilst walking through the greenery around Sarehole Mill, I decided to plan a trip to Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Despite the fact that I’m a born and bred Brummie, I’ve never actually spent any time there, enjoying it. I remember going to a wedding reception, by the Arid Glasshouse and making a mental note to come back.  It’s taken me  few years, but I made it!

There wasn’t a concrete plan, not really. I had a thermos of tea, some lunch and a pair of walking boots.  A class of kids-Year 2 from a local school-were also wandering around, so I made sure I was well off their radar. Their teachers, have my empathy. Not my school kids, not my trip. I carried on.

As I sit here and type, I’m actually creaking. Who knew, that such a gentle, aimless and ambling walk could have an impact?

Anyway. Using the map from the entrance desk, I did amble and quite aimlessly. Everything is labelled clearly, the information is presented concisely for everything. Better, in my mind, than most museums.  I could spot Camellias-Dad has two in the garden-so I didn’t feel completely clueless. There were daffodils in dots and splodges, all very timely as we kick off with spring.

 

Whilst not a huge site, Birmingham Botanical Garden is best savoured slowly. It didn’t take long for me to take a walk around. So I made the conscious decision to sit, stare and take tea a couple of times. Least of all when three pea hens and a peacock were in the vicinity. Taking that one picture, the peacock more or less posed and looked me in the eye as though I was crazy. Even the pea hens shuffled around as though indifferent. I had hoped that the peacock might shake a tail feather to give everyone a display, but alas no joy. To sit, stare and sip tea was part of the deal for today’s adventure. To be completely immersed in greenery, to take stock and just absorb everything has been crucial this week.

A special mention, goes to Alison Levey, who made me smile today. A couple of days ago, she posted an image of a Magnolia. I happened to read the name as Lionel Messi. Yes, the footballer. I forget now, the proper name of this plant. It struck a cord today, whilst I was adventuring. In walking through the memory garden, I saw a sign in the boughs of a pink Magnolia. I read it as Lionel Messi. In the image above, the white magnolia does cover the pink footballing one in the fore-ground; it genuinely made me giggle and out aloud.

I nearly missed this, but on the way out, I found the Japanese Garden. I’m glad I did too. This is a pocket of serenity, that I might have otherwise missed had the universe not nudged me to head out of one of the glasshouses. This garden is tucked away, and there is just something about it; even the air is different.

Carefully observing, I was wandered in, and there were three red camellias sat in water feature. Whether they were put there, or landed there through serendipity I don’t know. There is a sign, that details how in Buddhism and Shinto, fallen blossoms are a sign of the transience of life. That really did strike me; life is too short, to sit back and not smell the Magnolia. I edged in and I found this one.  A Saucer Magnolia. Something was ringing, and for three seconds I had no idea where the sound was coming from. Then I realised it was the chime sat in the middle, caught by the breeze.

saucemagnoliajapanesegarden

There was just something about that moment that felt almost ephemeral. I don’t have any other words to describe it.

I’m glad that I went, even if the gardens are half asleep. I want to go back and see the rose garden in full bloom. I do think, that when the whole thing wakes up, it will be even better.

 

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.

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.

plotone

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.