Monthly Archives: June 2012

Hey Good Lookin’

One of the perks of being a professional gardener is that I often come home with leftover plants, or “strays” as I like to call them. In the flat we have a Kentia Palm, a massive Peace Lily and a six foot Ficus tree (nicknamed Benji for Ficus benjamina), all rescued from a one way trip to the tip.

We often over buy plants for clients’ gardens, which keeps me with a steady supply of bedding plants, bulbs and perennials. Other than the few pots outside the front door and the kitchen window boxes, we don’t have any garden space at home. The space at the plot has become a fantastic home for many of my strays and other garden finds.

I’ve already mentioned my terracotta bust Matilda, but clearing old gardens has also yielded a couple of other ornaments which I’ve added to our bright blue shed.

Decorated shed

We don’t have a cut flower bed per se, but we do have ornamental beds at the top of the plot next to the access road. There used to be raspberries in one part, but they have since been moved into the fruit cage. I planted leftover daffodil and tulip bulbs there, but with those over, I’ve let it go a bit more wild.  I’ve sprinkled in some wildflower seeds I got from Landlife Wildflowers,  so we’ll see what comes of that.

The other half has lots of lavender in it, along with some fennel and a rather massive comfrey plant. At one point, I think our resident allotment fox decided to make it into a bed and squashed the whole thing flat. I gave it a good chop and added it to the compost of course. It’s had the bonus of keeping the comfrey compact and leaving some space for more leftovers. I planted some stunning blue Allium azureum and firework-like Allium schubertii. Also a few Stipa arundinacea (aka ‘Pheasant’s Tail Grass’)  under the bee house. It’s a bit of a mish-mash, quite unlike my professional plantings, but I like them so much individually that they work just fine as a group.

Having the best of both worlds, in this case things that are both edible and beautiful, I also have a bed of sweet peas under planted with nasturtiums. I love the smell of sweet peas more than I can express and also the wonderful peppery taste of the nasturtium flowers in salads.

First sweet pea flower of the summer.

We also planted lots of sunflower seeds, sadly only a few have grown so far. I love the red ones best, but would happy for any to do well, as I’d like to leave them for the birds to eat.

I also have a good wander around the site regularily and see what’s blooming in other plots. There’s an empty plot near the front gates that is full of poppy blooms right now. We have a few that have shown up in our plot, but I’m not sure what colour they are yet. I love the purple ones best and noticed some growing wild by an old industrial building across the road from our house. I’ll collect some seeds when they ripen and add them to our patch.  If the veg growing goes bust, I may just convert the whole plot into an ornamental garden.

Just kidding…but only just.

Wild Poppies

Running Between the Rain

Oh goodness, this weather has just been, well, depressing. Along with numerous setbacks recently, either seedlings dying on me, weeds getting the better of me, everything has been just poo. It has been the first time I’ve really had doubts about this allotment lark. Thank goodness for other blogs and Twitter, I’m relieved to read I’m far from alone. At least I know it’s not entirely due to me being utterly useless…

Sadly the cucumbers, chillies, most of the squash seedlings and virtually all the tomatoes are gone. Yes, the wet weather didn’t help, but I mostly blame myself for these losses. My vague attempt at hardening off by leaving the kitchen window open day/night was clearly not enough. Also, my lack of protection when the weather turned for the worse didn’t help. I clearly need to invest in making cloches and mini-polytunnels. I also found myself browsing cold frame kits on eBay, though I’m a bit unsure where we’d put it…

Dead cucumber.

Our War on Weeds has finally been making progress. Armed with shears, forks and a grim determination, things are looking much tidier. Paths, ornamental beds and fruit cage are looking much better. We’re slowly getting the mounded beds cleared out and sown with seeds. Carrots, kale, cabbage, sprouting broccoli and pak choi are finally in the ground. I also finally remembered to mark the seed rows with string so I can find them later when the weeds make their inevitable come back!

Clearing beds

Sowing seed

Another setback, mainly due to a lack of weeding, has been the demise of our herb seedlings. Germination has been pretty disappointing anyway and the disappearance of the few seedlings I had, I just decided to clear out the bed and start again. If the seeds fail again, I think I may just resort to ordering plant plugs and going that route instead.

Round 2 of the Herb Bed

I bought a few more seeds and have more ordered, but today while the sun was shining, we headed down to do yet more weeding. My cousin Robert is visiting from Toronto and expressed great enthusiasm to go and visit the allotment. I took him for a quick tour and I wanted to do a quick weed through while we were there. Before I knew it, he’d nabbed some gloves from the shed and was helping weed the potatoes! Being a gardener himself, he was compelled to help with the weeding. Too bad he lives 3500 miles away…

Robert helping out

Robert’s encouragement and enthusiasm has given me a great push forward, which I dearly needed. So while the weather is better for now, I’m hoping to get back on track. Even when it turns back to rain, Wednesday apparently, I’ll continue to run out there and weed between the rain drops.

Jumping Jubilee Weekend

Even if you’re not from the Commonwealth, I’m sure you are aware that this year is the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Thus everyone here in the UK has been blessed with a four day weekend. Over a million people headed into central London to watch the Thames pageant complete with Royal Barge and Royals. As for myself and Scott, we headed over to the allotment.

In March it was unseasonally warm, then cold and wet in April, then it was warm again, now it’s gone cold and wet again. It has left us with an abundant crop of weeds, seeds that have yet to go into the ground, directly planted seeds that have failed to show up and lots of seedlings that really, really need planting out.

Thar be seedlings in there…somewhere.

I’ve been holding off on planting my tomatoes, chillies and cucumbers due to the rather topsy-turvy weather. Truthfully, that’s what I keep telling myself, but really it’s because these are my babies I grew from seed and I’m finding it hard to set them free. It’s a cruel world out there don’t you know?

Baby tomato plants

Baby chilli plants.

I did manage to suck it up and planted them out yesterday, along with the cucumbers and sprouted corn. We weeded the beds, lovingly tied the plants to stakes and diligently mulched the new plants. I woke up last night and could hear the rain pounding down. When I checked on the plants today they were looking a bit worse for wear, but I’m hoping they’ll perk up soon.

Sad tomatoes.

Flattened corn.

Sad cucumbers

While we’ve managed to get a lot done in the last two days, there’s no rest for the wicked and the Weed-a-thon will have to continue tomorrow. Thank goodness for the extra day off. Cheers your Majesty.