Tag Archives: horticulture

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.

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

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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,

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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.

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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.

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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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.

The pages are turning

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

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

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

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

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

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

peacecovers

Best foot forward #gdnbloggers

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And so it begins.

Where did Mama F put my wellies? Where is my hand fork and transplanting trowel? Is it going to rain?

I had to go find my wellies, having not worn them in a while. Not to mention the gardening trousers and grey Petal hoodie. No idea where my purple gauntlets were either.

My plan had been to spend time doing coureswork today. Having been to supervision though, I didn’t fancy my chances with doing anything academic or cerebral. Nope, today, I wanted to restore my soul.

Today, I took a walk, to survey my kingdom. Today, I took the first steps to go reclaim it. I didn’t go by myself either. I had company, namely Mama who followed me with my edging spade and ladies fork-tools, that she has now claimed as her own and doesn’t really part with. I had two trowels and a pair of secateurs, not to mention a thermo mug of tea. Mama F does have her own plot, and that usually means we meet in the middle when it is time to go home. She came to mine to give me a hand, to make sure that the plot is neat and tidy. I have no idea what this means, but I do no that my plot has never been neat and tidy. Organised, but never primped, preened and perfectly manicured. Mama F can also dig for England, and that is what she wanted to do; that is all she ever wants to on my plot. I wasn’t going to stand in her way.

Luckily, I had a good twenty minutes before she arrived. Twenty minutes where I could stand there in my own space, in silence whilst thinking. And it felt good to stand there. Okay, it was cold, murky and seemed like a different universe, but I was there. Walking down to plot 2a, it did feel like the walk of the prodigal. I was going back to somewhere important, somewhere that I had left my soul.

Thank goodness for my Petal hoodie, it served it’s purpose.

My plot didn’t feel or look as bad as it seemed. It’s untidy, overgrown, but it still has it’s bones. Beneath the masses, is the body of my allotment; the skeleton and infrastructure that I had created hasn’t been eroded away.

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Walking around, I got the lay of the land to formulate the plan. The plot is a game of two halves. The top half, with it’s open ground, fruit trees and rose buses is Project Othello. At some point, this was sectioned off into seven beds. I have never had much success with open ground; this is why I have raised beds on the lower half. In the last few years, barely anything except the roses and a dozen cherries has grown up there. This new start presents me with a opportunity to re-create that canvas. Covering this area, and holding it won’t make this whole process so overwhelming. I can still look after the trees and roses, there is even the odd raspberry cane. This will mean that I can focus on getting the lower half ship-shape, with raised beds being added to the top half later on.

As for the lower half, the raised beds can be cleared and covered too. I do need to think about what to do with the bare earth, and how weeds can be discouraged. I did prune down the roses too. There are plenty of roses on the plot, with about two dozen on the last count. Some are posh, some less so. Raspberry canes, the autumnal ones, were also cut down. There was a lot of fighting with, and clambering around with wild brambles that have been dotted around. I could have done with an Excalibur, some where as thick as my fingers and didn’t like the secateurs.

Today actually felt nice, it felt the right thing to do. I might not have shovelled tonnes of earth, but it did feel connecting and grounding. I don’t plan to rush this, this is a slow return. I can only do so much, and that’s the key here. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed and at a loss. Allotmenteering shouldn’t be like that, it shouldn’t be about perfection and living up to unrealistic standards.

So, we have a beginning. Let’s see what happens.

Bottling that Blackberry wine

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

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

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

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

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

As for plot adventures.

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

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