I’m here, I’m alive and doing a happy dance in the sunshine. Even the odd downpour hasn’t, ahem, dampened my excitement. Here’s hoping it lasts!
Work has been incredibly busy for me these last couple of weeks. My client’s gardens are finally taking off and I’ve been doing lots of big planting projects. Truthfully, it’s left me quite exhausted, resulting in short visits to the allotment and minimal blogging. It really feels like we’ve hardly done anything yet, but a few things are already going. The potatoes and onions are in, as are lots of summer bulbs have been planting. Seeds for direct sowing are all sorted and ready to go, but other than that, it’s been quiet.
Last weekend, with the warmer weather, we made a proper jump forward though. We have a small bed set aside for herbs, but last year our herb crops were a bust. Other than a small sage shrub and a few terragon plants, that was pretty much it. Anything started from seed never managed to get started. My theory is that, unlike our mounded veg beds, this bed was ground-level and got too water logged to allow herbs to flourish. I saved a fair amount of scrap lumber from work projects and we constructed a raised herb bed.
Making a start
We did look into making all our beds into raised beds, but we worked out that even with the cheapest lumber, it was going to set us back at least £400. We decided that we’d rather spend that kind of money on a second shed. Mounding the beds was a compromise, but has worked just as well. I’ll admit, having neat, tidy, perfectly sized and spaced beds appeals deeply to my sense of aesthetics, but such is life. I’ll just have to derive satisfaction from the tidiness of our herb garden instead.
This weekend is not so nearly ambitious, but I’m hoping to finish weeding out the last few beds and to get the plot looking it’s best. I might even give our recently donated BBQ a clean. If the weather continues as it does, we’ll be needing that soon.
Well, Happy Allotment Anniversary to us!
If truth be told, this is a bit late as we actually broke ground one year and one month ago. However, I tend to think that we didn’t really get cracking until late November. It’s been an amazing transformation over the last year, I often found myself stepping back and admiring the view. Hard to believe what we started with a rather humble patch of land.
Freshly cleared plot
I won’t lie, it was a lot of work. That’s also knowing that the plot had been decently worked over the previous few years, so it could have been much harder. I know most people would be daunted by this, but I know from my gardening job, you have to start somewhere. For me, I just try and tackle it in single chunks. This make the over all job far less daunting. The most important thing is to start somewhere. As the (slightly mistranslated) quote by Lao-tzu says;
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
By no means is this journey done, there’s so much more that we want to achieve. There’s even talk of a second shed and cold frame to go in. First, the rest of the winter tidy up needs doing, especially cleaning up the first shed. Still, it’s a nice feeling that the plot is more or less ready to go for next spring already.
In it’s summer glory
I really do hope a few people see this post and feel inspired to tackle clearing out their own allotment. You will curse it, hate it, even think of giving up at times. Do persist, tackle one bit at a time. Con friends to help you, bribe them with wine if you have to. Just do it, the rewards will be all worth it. Then you can sit back and enjoy.
Despite the lousy wet weather of April, our fruit bushes have been doing nicely. Okay fine, it’s really weedy, but I don’t want to think about that too much. However, no pesky nibblers or mould or anything nasty really.
We had always intended to build a fruit cage as there are an awful lot of wood pigeons and magpies around our site. I had worried about them snitching our lovely ripe fruit, but I was warned that they will also go after the fruit flowers. Makes sense, with so little food about, flower nectar must be irresistible to them. So we decided we should get a cage built and up as soon as possible. Simon got inspired and did up a drawing in Google Sketch Up.
The Ultra Super Fruit Cage
Simon got the frame work up and I ordered some netting from eBay. I stopped by the plot just before the weekend and sure enough I caught two wood pigeons happily snacking away in the strawberry patch. After running about, yelping and waving my arms about like demented thing, I realised we had reached a Code Red situation with the fruit patch.
So on Sunday we unravelled several square meters of netting, armed ourselves with a B&Q Value wood stapler, we started to get the netting up. Even though the process resulted in me using the kind of language that would make a sailor blush, we did manage to get the netting on. At one point I managed to get myself tangled in one section. As I struggled to free myself, Scott declared, “look it works, it’s catching birds already!”
However, I did manage to misjudge how much netting we needed, so the back and far side of the cage aren’t really covered. I’ve ordered more netting and I think it should be fine in the meantime, I just hope we don’t get an attack from a group of savant pigeons that are able to figure out how to get in.
One benefit of working for a gardening company is that I have a steady supply of knackered tools. Bent forks, mangled spades and semi-toothless rakes are always available. Instead of throwing them out, I collect them knowing they can be put to good use on the allotment. Even that broom that’s shed all its bristles, I’ll save it for when we build our fire pit. I have a bit of a premonition this hoarding tendency may be my undoing…
Of course we needed to put up a shed to store all these “treasures.” I ordered a 3’x 6′ shed from Sheds World, which arrived in Ikea-like flat pack form, with a shockingly large bag of hardware. Scott, Simon and myself gathered together on a foggy Saturday morning in November to commence the Great Shed Build. There was some initial trouble, as we kept breaking drill bits trying to make pilot holes for the screws. Eventually brute force won out and we stopped bothering with pilot holes altogether. I know it’s a carpentry no-no if you want to avoid splitting the wood, but we were snapping bits at an alarming rate. We eventually managed to put it together without killing each other or smashing the shed into kindling.
The next morning, Scott and I started painting it. We splurged on the paint, going for The Cuprinol Garden Shades range. We could have gone for the ultra cheap house brand shed paint, but we wanted more colour choice than light brown, dark brown and green. In typical style, I went for the brightest colour they had, bright blue (Barleywood)…with a little pot of Country Cream for the trim.
I have to say, the final result is rather natty, it certainly makes the plot easy to find. In a sea of brown and green sheds, the bright blue clearly stands out. We got several nice compliments from neighbouring plot holders, although I did sense a bit of bemusement behind some of them. Maybe that was just me. I showed a photo of the shed to a co-worker and she declared it made the plot look “like it’s on Santorini or something.”
Maybe in the summer I’ll paint a design on it or something, or would that be too much?
Video made by my wonderfully talented partner, Scott.