Tag Archives: GYO

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.

Feeling the spark….#gdnbloggers

IMG_4320

 

…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.

IMG_3518.JPG

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Growing your own greenery

 

Thinking of this title, my immediate thoughts were about Cabbage and sprouts. I’ve yet to grown sprouts, and Mama F is rather intrigued to do so. The one time we had them at home, the stalks got attacked by cabbage fly and it wasn’t pleasant. Cabbage on the other hand, has been an interesting learning experience. I didn’t much success with growing from seed, so using plug plants has been far more useful. You’d think that you could plug cabbages in, and that would be it.

Not quite. Leaving them uncovered and exposed invites all sorts to munch away. You’re cabbage patch is soon decimated, you declare war on slugs and it all ends badly. Mama F builds cages covered with netting to held reduce the impact of flies and bugs. It’s a bit like an assault course trying to get in and harvest things, but the crop remains in one piece for the most part. There is certainly a lot of green, leafy things which end up on saag or pakoras. In my experience, the greener, more bitter a cabbage or green might be, the less likely it is to be attacked by anything. Not had much success growing red cabbages. Mum has possible had a couple grow, but there does seem to be more challenge with these.

There is always Spinach and Kale in some form on the plot. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve trundled along to pinch Mum’s crop for Spanakopita. You need armfuls for dinner, but it is something very straight forward to grow. I’ve always  broadcast sown the seeds and never bothered with plug plants. Plug plants would certainly help with spacing and reduce the need for thinning out. Every year, Mum sends me on a hunt to find the biggest leafed mustard green that I can find. We always end up with more perpetual spinach that we need, but it does get sown and grown. Kale is probably the more hardy of the two, and can be found to be growing along quietly in the middle of bleak winters.  And if it’s Rainbow or Vulcan chard, it’s rather pretty.

When it comes to greenery, this also covers herbs. There is masses of mint on the plot and Fenugreek is ever present. The latter is also a green manure, but wonderfully edible. It’s fire-y and bitter, but can be used in a similar way to spinach. Dried, it’s a burst of flavour when added to dishes that need a kick. FenMint should be contained; as I have found, it is unruly and get’s every where. It is however versatile, with a little going a long way.  Just think of all those mojitos….

An unlikely candidate for greenery, would be bolted radishes. Mama F starts of trying to grow Mooli. Only the weather plays havoc with fickle radishes and they bolt. When they bolt, they produce crisp, pepper flavoured pods. These you can snack on, or add to sauteed onions and garlic to make a curry.

 

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