Tag Archives: GYO

Plant Pot tales: the seeds of an idea

From blogging to beyond.

plantpottales

Four years ago, around about tea time, I pressed publish. What I was publishing, self-publishing that is, what Playing with Plant Pots: Tales from the Allotment.

I was bringing to a close, work that I had been doing over the summer. At the start of that summer, I had decided to write a book. I had no idea, what to do or how. The plan, all very vague, was to build on what I had written for the blog.  What I wanted to do, was to share via another platform, everything that I put on the blog.

I felt, more keenly than anything, that was I was about to do, was useful. That what I had learned, experienced and recorded would be valuable to others. I also like books. I am and always will be, a bookworm. Books are magical, they serve an infinite number of purposes and have an infinite number of effects.

What I was also doing, was taking my first tentative steps toward being an author, being a writer. That’s something that I’m still trying to get my ahead around. I’ve yet to put that on my CV; I feel like an impostor. It has taken me ten years to feel like a fully fledged teacher, I have no qualms about saying that’s what I do. Declaring myself a writer, an author, is just as hard as saying I’m a newly qualified and registered Counsellor.

Plant Pot tales was published via Kindle. The whole world of Indie publishing is still very new to me,  it’s an ongoing process to learn and process things. Plant Pot tales was a my gateway in, a baptism of fire. Without this book, I wouldn’t have written and published another five. After Plant Pot tales, there was Sow, Grow and eat. I had learned a fair few significant lessons before taking the plunge with that one.  Plant pot tales stands for so much, I’ve never fully appreciated it til now.

One of the best moments, was being sat there whilst Mama F told me her recipes. Most of what has been grown on the allotment has passed through her kitchen. I had to convert her conversation into a set of standardised instructions that could be replicated. Instructions that were both reliable and valid across time, location and population. In a word, these were recipes that could accessible, uncomplicated and bring some form of enjoyment to those using them. This was not supposed to be an onerous, over-complicated book to bamboozle people. There is nothing so off-putting as being over-complicated.

What I will never forget, is standing in the kitchen whilst flicking through the pages. It was the pictures that got me. I’d taken them all, used them on here for a blogging. I was developing an archive of images to support what I was writing. I don’t for one minute think that it’s a run of the mill gardening book. It’s part reference, part cook-book and that’s deliberate. I didn’t want to write a book that was the same as all the others; the same as all the ‘proper’ ones.

Not writing anything ‘proper’ or within expected norms, is a theme that carries on with all the other books. A theme, that does make it difficult to spread the word, promote and share the books. That is however, another story.

Plant pot tales has also travelled. It travelled to the US, where it was sold in a book store. Yes, a proper book store with shelves, people and everything. My book, was on a shelf. In a book store.

You couldn’t make that up, not really.

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Chilli abundance

 

Us humans might not have enjoyed the recent heatwave, but the chillies certainly have.

This year has been a big year for me, when it comes to my chilli plants. For one, I actually have some! After such a long time away from meaningful growing. I did sow and grow some plants. There are less than a dozen, but these are tall, bushy and as you can see abundant!

It would appear that this is the most successful season for chillies; far exceeding the six that I managed to grow in the hot, heady days of 2009. That was the year I started experimenting with seeds and started my GYO journey. I’ve not had much success since then when it comes to good cropping chillies.

With the warm weather, I’ve been picking chillies twice a week. The most that I’ve picked has been about a dozen. If you think about it, that many would cost you about a quid in the supermarket. These are the most complex variety; this are rather straight forward cayennnes. It’s a big deal for me, to have an abundant crop and to be able to enjoy the fruits. My sister’s been given some, her mother-in-law too; Mama F’s using them as they come for bits and pieces in the kitchen.

Above all, this experience has been rather revitalising. I’ve really enjoyed fussing over my chilli plants and making sure that they are looked after. Especially as there are only tomatoes and soft fruit on the plot. I need to develop a better routine for the plot, to get more of the soft fruit harvested.

There is a joy in having vibrant, happy chilli plants. I do hope they keep going for a while. I’ve never over-wintered them, and the latest I get a crop is September. I will continue to nurture them; they’ve certainly nurtured me.

 

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…

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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.

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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.

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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.

Nurturing the return

For the last few weeks, I have been avoiding the allotment. I know why. It all feels rather overwhelming. There is still work to do, and the growing season should be off like a rocket. Today, I decided to take a walk; least of all because I needed to fish some pots and growing trays out of Mama F’s shed.

Going back to the allotment actually scares me. It’s a big space, all 200 square metres of it. Half of it is actually covered, and to all intents and purposes is on pause. That half really doesn’t worry me so much. The other half, has raised beds, fruit trees and is what I am trying to get back to what it was. Most of the raised beds are covered, there are three that need clearing before I can actually grow anything. There are three grapevines that need shoring up. They’ve started to lean because of the wind, and need to be propped up.

As it stands, a quarter has become a mass of raspberries. That’s not a problem. I like raspberries. These are however the autumn variety, with runners spreading around. I do have a pink variety; Polka, I think. I was going to look into getting some more pink ones, but I fear I am a little late to plant some. I hear that the Glen varieties are fairly good.

I’m glad that I went for the walk. I’m able to see that things are manageable. At the moment, I have a dozen or so tomato plants growing along at home. I would like to take these to the plot and plug them in. I would like to grow something this year, even if it is simply tomatoes. There are chillies; the cayennes and a couple of habaneros. These are likely to be cultivated at home. I might even rescue a few more chilli plants, I certainly plan to find additional tomatoes.

This might take time, and this year might not be overwhelming abundant. If the tomatoes come off, I would rather like to make some hot yellow sun chutney. Growing yellow tomatoes is rather interesting! There has been cherry blossom on the plot, these are starting to fruit. I also spotted some pears. Then there are the currants. These have strings and strings! Thing is, I always end up harvesting these during the height of the hay fever season. These are likely to be jammed or jellied, I think.

Strength of a Seedling

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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.

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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.

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

US: https://amzn.to/2U0DUSa

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

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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.