Friday, December 5, 2008

Windfall pears

There is a big, old pear tree on the allotments. It's seen many tenants come and go over the years and mostly, after a few skirmishes with harvesting them, trying to eat them and then adding them to the compost, the pears stay uneaten on the tree. They are an old fashioned culinary variety of pear, meaning that they just won't ripen however long you leave them. They have to be cooked.

I picked up a basket of windfall pears nearly two months ago and although they've been in the kitchen ever since, they are still pretty rigid. This year I've been using them to make chutney.

After my first ever go at making chutney, I quickly gave up using recipes. Apart from the science bit of needing to know the approximate quantities of sugar and vinegar to fruit, it seems a good way of using up whatever I had going spare at the time. I've made use of several gluts this way. This is my most recent effort:

Pear chutney with lemon and ginger

2 lb pears
1 lb onions
2 lemons, zest and juice
1/4 pint cider vinegar
1/2 lb soft dark brown sugar
A piece of ginger root - size depends on how much you like ginger
1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
sea salt
small amount olive oil

Chop the onions and soften in a teeny bit of olive oil, chop and add the pears and cook gently while measuring the sugar and vinegar, grating the rind of both lemons, and squeezing them for the juice. Also shred the ginger and lightly crush the coriander seeds.

Add all these ingredients to the mixture in the pan and give it a good stir, grinding in a little sea salt. Cook for as long as it takes to thicken, I used a potato masher to help the consistency along a bit. try it for taste - you may need to add some more sugar. Mine has too much ginger, but I did use a huge piece of ginger root. J won't like this particular chutney, he doesn't like ginger at all and the ginger is a dominant flavour.
Decant into warmed jars and cover immediately. Mop excess chutney off jars, self and work surface. Take photos of little row of jars and add to blog. Regret excess ginger.

Happy gardening (and cooking for winter storage)

Friday, November 21, 2008

Winter jasmine

It says it's 10 degrees C on my little temperature gizmo but today the fierce wind made it feel much colder. I spent some time pointlessly sheltering in the hut doorway, then just took a few photos, picked up two odd bits of rhubarb I've dug up for a friend, and left again. As I said, very quick.

Still, this winter jasmine hedge at the side of the hut was looking pretty. It's one of the two well established plants that came with the allotment and is largely responsible for holding up the hut.

Useful as well as good looking. On the other side is a honeysuckle that I've recently given such a ruthless pruning that it may not be so useful at hut propping anymore. A few more of these strong winds and I might find out!

Happy gardening

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Much clearing up today. The bean canes are down now and the resulting pile of dead bean plants just in front of the hut has started off a dumping ground for other woody stalks and thorny branches I've cut off and pulled out as I clear up ready for winter.

We have to dispose of our rubbish thoughtfully on the allotments. I compost all the softer, greener waste but there are always going to be tough, spikey or just plain huge items of organic waste that would take years to break down in the composters and disposing of this stuff is a problem.

We've got no vehicle access to the allotments; we've also got a no bonfires rule. The choice lies between bagging up our rubbish and taking it home to be put into those green waste recycling sacks that the council will take or lugging it up to the far end of the allotments and leaving it there. We have an area that my kids always used to call the "wild woods" and I've also heard somebody call it "fairyland" (!!) that isn't cultivated but is used as an amenity by the allotment holders. Young trees have been planted there, somebody keeps bees in there, the compost loo is neatly hidden behind the Japanese knotweed and most of us take our green rubbish and add it to the existing midden between the trees. Eventually it will break down and compost too but for now, the pile is growing rather high! Today I produced spikey brambles, honeysuckle prunings and some horrible bindweed roots on my clear-up heap and all this will have to be taken to the wild woods as I don't want any of it in my compost, thank you very much.

Happy gardening

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Thoughts of a weak and feeble woman

Boy, that earth is tough up on my allotment! I do this all the time but I'm also unable to bend it back again so I've had to bring it home for J to do. This sort of thing makes me feel a bit puny and useless (not a good feeling) so I've gone all pathetic now, with a list of "things I haven't been able to do without the assistance of a big, strong man" running uncomfortably through my brain. Some of them are understandable, I could never get the battery out of my old 2CV when it needed charging every weekend (too heavy): only last week I spent all of one afternoon with my arm down a drain painstakingly unblocking it, except for the last little bit (arm too short) and even when I was at school, donkeys years ago, I remember having to wake my parents up to get the lid off the Marmite so that I could have breakfast (general puniness) The list goes on.....

Happy gardening (if you're big and strong enough)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008


You may have to click on this image to make it big enough to see these little newtlets properly. It was difficult to get close enough to take the picture without the camera's shadow falling across the pond and scaring them away.

If you can't see, just let me say that they've still got those feathery external gills on their necks and they were both less than an inch long, head to tail. There were quite a few enjoying the afternoon sun on the water today.

Endearing little creatures, newts. I'm very fond of them.

Happy gardening
And...Happy 18th Roo!!! Hope you won't get pi****d as a newt later on tonight!!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Tidying up

No picking today, unless you count collecting some seed pods from the sweet peas. Just some tidying up. It was gorgeous and sunny again but noticeably colder. It's 14 degrees right now, so it was probably a bit higher than that, but not much.

At this time of year I feel more in control of the allotment. I don't know that I actually want to be in control of it but in the main growing season I often feel as though it's in control of me. Everything grows too fast for me to do the right thing at the right time, whether it's pinching out tomatoes or getting to the bindweed before it envelops the fruit cage. Now that everything's slowed down again, it's hit the speed I can work at to keep it all ticking over nicely.

I've started weeding the beds as I pull out the dead and dying summer crops. When that's done I shall put in some green manure, a rye grass that can be planted over the winter. There's a fair bit of clearing up to do before I can sow it though.

My fanciful ideas last time about romantic assignations on the bench were squashed by J who said that he'd probably moved it while he was strimming. How very prosaic.

Happy gardening

Thursday, October 9, 2008

On the bench

You can't tell this but I'm typing the blog today with bright pink hands. I've been peeling beetroot and although I washed several times, I can't get the stain to go away! I hope it's gone by the time I go to the cinema tonight. I like to think I look presentable, (if not stylish) when I go out but I suspect that tonight I'll have to settle for "interesting".

The beetroot had been sitting around for ages so I decided to cook it and use it in sandwiches. I think it goes very nicely with corned beef (except I haven't got any)

Today the allotment was bathed in glorious sunshine. I picked runner beans, artichokes, raspberries, one courgette and dug up more beetroot and some parsnips. Then I decided to cull the butternut squashes as they've gone as yellow as I think they're going to get. They may carry on ripening in a basket at home, I don't know.

I loaded all this bounty into a huge bag and set off down the path and almost immediately fell over a tussock and threw my little pot of raspberries up in the air. They went everywhere. Mostly they disintegrated and the long grass seemed to be scattered in tiny red beads. It was very difficult to pick them up again so I expect some lucky field mouse is in for a feast this evening.

So, while I recovered, I sat for a while on the bench by the pond and planned a big pond clear out. (You can't see the water) The bench has been moved a bit, I wonder who sits there when I'm not around? It seemed a bit steadier on its base so maybe I'll leave it where it is. The direction is now right into the sun so I shut my eyes and basked for a bit. Lovely. Whoever was there before me had dropped a pink rose by the bench and there was a plastic bottle top. My mind turned to a romantic tryst with wine and roses but it's probably just the top off a bottle of plant food or ant killer, blown there by the wind. The only people who have keys for the allotments are the plotholders, who are likely to have any romantic trysts on their own allotments, not mine!

Happy gardening (was it you?)

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


J has just been very patient with me and helped me to make this composite pic of tonight's dinner.

The hand is deliberately left in because the scale is important - these things are tiny! The recipe is basically the one for Mr Grumblebum I gave in October last year, but tonight we called it Grumblebaby because of the size. The squash variety is called Jack be Little and they weren't kidding.

Note that I'm only cooking for three now that Ed's started at uni. It's so strange without him - nice that he's growing up and able to go off and do all these things, but strange and quiet for me all the same.

Happy gardening (it helps with empty nest syndrome)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


I've finished grovelling among the leeks pulling up individual grass roots with tweezers (well, hands) Whew. Now for the rest of the allotment, which is now looking very tatty in comparison.

I've been able to spend an hour or two several times in the last few weeks and although I've been essentially face down in the leek bed most of the time, it really has been very pleasant. Lovely autumn sunshine.

Quiet though. Not many other people working there, which is probably why I was able to have this interesting experience a few days ago. As I arrived, while walking past Margaret's allotment, I heard a loud sneeze coming from the tangled ex flowerbed near the path. There was nobody there so I quickly deduced that an animal of some sort was hidden in the thick undergrowth, probably snoozing in the warm afternoon sunshine. (Good thinking, Watson) I spent ages poking my face into the shrubs calling out in an encouraging sort of way, but I completely failed to find the mystery sneezer. It definitely didn't escape while I was watching, but it was so well hidden that I've still no idea what on earth I was talking to. My best guess is a fox. They're pretty comfortable with people up there, so it wouldn't have been worried enough to make a run for it.
I can't think of anything else that could make such a human sound!

Happy gardening (and wildlife mystery solving)

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Leek weeding commences

No photo today, I'm afraid. Just a quick line to record that the leek weeding has started (painfully slowly) the plum tree was pruned and wound paint slapped onto the fresh wood where the branches were cut. I also picked a good pile of beans, runners and french, two artichokes, spinach, raspberries, salad leaves, rocket and another little orange pumpkin.

While I was there I met an allotment neighbour who tells me she is giving up after 48 years. 48 years! For the whole of her life in Bristol she's been climbing up the hill to her allotment, tending the ground, harvesting her crops and looking out over the city. How things must have changed since 1960. The city has grown immensely in that time, spreading out across the surrounding fields. But almost more of a threat is the way green places inside the city are disappearing so quickly under new buildings . Back garden development is rife. There's a new secondary school rearing up behind us instead of playing fields. Urban allotments, once seen as an important food producer for the country, became unpopular and were used as building land. With the current allotment revival we must take the opportunity to make sure that these oases aren't swallowed up in the inexorable expansion of the city. Thank goodness for people like Margaret, who just kept on growing her vegetables, keeping her allotment going for all those years.

Happy gardening (for as long as you can)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Spot the leeks!

This probably looks like a grassy field. It isn't supposed to be, it's my leek patch! The compost must have had lots of grass seed hiding in it and over the last couple of weeks it's all germinated and grown into a fine lawn.

Grass is terribly difficult to weed out with a hoe so I'm now facing the delightful muddy job of hand weeding this lot.

I'm not looking forward to it, but if it's dry enough at the weekend, I'd better have a go before the grass takes over completely. I could almost sell it as turf! Leeky lawn anyone?

Happy gardening

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Late summer harvest

I'm pleased with this lot. It includes the first cauliflower I've ever grown (thunderous applause) two of those little pumpkins, carrots, spring onions, courgettes, spinach, one thin parsnip, mounds of runners and french beans and a pot of those autumn raspberries I planted last October. The raspberries have been good so far, I'm getting a pot this size every two to three days - not overwhelming like the beans, but a lovely treat.

I've frozen lots of beans this year, blanching them for two minutes before open freezing them. It's more time consuming this way, but so much easier when you're cooking and you want to use a few frozen beans - you just shake out as many as you need, because they don't form a solid lump in the bag.

The earlier courgette glut has paid off too. I left some on my friend Yvonne's windowsill every few days during its height and now I'm starting to get some of her cooking apples in exchange. Isn't swapping great?

Happy gardening

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Summer leave

I'm still here and I'm still working away on the allotment. I've just been a bit busy and I suppose the real reason for the silence is that last time I wrote anything on here, I made the mistake of looking back through some of my old postings and got depressed at how much I tend to witter on about nothing in particular. I don't actually intend to be a boring old fart but somehow that's what happens. Sorry. regime. Less wittering - more photos. Today's choice is me on the bench. The angle is less extreme than it looks, I think J lurched when he took it. I'd just finished picking runners, french beans, blackberries, spinach, rhubarb and courgettes and it was hot and sultry. As I write this (witter) it's back to grey drizzle. Oh well.

Happy gardening

Monday, July 21, 2008


Just a quick posting because I want to use this photo of one of my allotment neighbours. He was leaving with a great barrow load of currants, red, white and black and it was just such a fantastic display of home grown produce that I asked him to turn his barrow round the other way so I could take his picture. The turning round was because I didn't think it would come out very well facing into the sun. Shame I didn't spot the lamppost growing out of his head!

I've always though of him as "fruit tree man"but he's really Martin. J and I often have odd little names for people and on the allotment it's easy to label people that we don't know very well with stunningly obvious things like "rotovator man" (Chris) or "pond woman" (Pat). I don't think I'd better tell you grumpy man's real name!! Martin and his wife have put in some new fruit trees over the past few years and J and I had a good look at how they'd been planted before we put in our own. I think we must have named them "fruit tree man and fruit tree woman" at about the same time.

Our currants (just red and black) are coming along nicely too, but it looks like we'll have more redcurrants than blackcurrants this year. No matter, they're all good.

Happy gardening
Hey, - I wonder what they all call us?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


A hotchpotch really, today. We've been a bit busy so although I've been to the allotment regularly and done things that I would normally have put into the blog, life has got in the way. J's got in the way as well really - he's been working away quite a bit recently and when he comes back he welds himself to the computer so I don't get a look in. I've had to wait for him to go away again!

During the silence I've planted out my cauliflowers and cabbages and completely filled the patch I had earmarked for brassicas. There's about twenty little purple sprouting broccoli plants that haven't got a home. I'm hoping I can just look after them at home until the runner beans come out because I really have run out of space. I may try re-potting them because they're in those teeny little plastic plugs that come in sixes. I've got hundreds of those so I re-use them for starting seeds off. They don't usually have to wait all year to go in the ground!

The redcurrants are ready. We've picked lots, unearthed the juicer from the back of the cupboard, made a pint of incredibly bitter juice that I plan to use to make a sort of cassis with a hastily purchased bottle of cheapo vodka, taken apart and cleaned the juicer, cleaned it again - tried to put it back together again, remembered why we never use the bloody thing in the first place and re-buried it even further back in the same cupboard.

The big question is, do we cook the juice first? I would have thought raw juice might make it go off even though the vodka acts as a preservative. I've done sloe gin before and of course that's raw but this is a bit different because I've only got the juice now. Does anyone know how we should go about it?

I've also cleaned up all those onions. They won't keep long because of the thick neck stalks that I have to cut out of each one before cooking, but for the moment they are on and under the piano. Where else? The piano is technically for sale because we don't use it now (except as a shelf for storing vegetables) but I keep forgetting to take the advert down to the shops when I go out. Mostly I forget we have a piano these days. Poor thing, I feel sorry for it.

Enough of these ramblings.
Happy gardening

Sunday, July 6, 2008

A visit to Daggs Allotments

An absolute treat today was to visit the fantastic Daggs Allotments in Thornbury, open today under the NGS open gardens scheme. We only just made it owing to a clash of engagements - you know how there's never anything happening for weeks and then there's three things all at once on the same day! We made it to two of them anyway.

These allotments were really impressive. The tenants were so proud of their history - allotment land since 1546! They had every right to be proud of their own work too. I don't think I've ever seen such well kept plots in the same place. J and I had a lovely time taking photos of odd things like the way netting had been rolled up and different fruit cage constructions because there were some really innovative ideas out there that we want to try for ourselves.

There's even a website so you can see their gallery of photos online. AND their soil is lovely rich, dark, crumbly stuff that you could just eat! They made it all look so easy. Sigh.

Back to the heavy clay of Bristol then. Hmm.

Happy gardening

Thursday, July 3, 2008

A teenage diet

Some people's teenagers only eat junk food. Some people's teenagers don't eat vegetables.
Here is the living proof that occasionally teenagers happily chomp their way through gigantic artichokes. Roo (on the left) prefers his plain and Ed (on the right) has opted for a splosh of balsamic vinegar. I had vinegar with mine too.

Note to self. For goodness' sake woman - clear the piles of papers off the table before you take photos another time.

At the moment, we are producing lots of these along with lots of courgettes and lettuces. Everything else is just pottering along in small quantities. Ah. there's also the six trays of stalky onions that we've already lifted. They now form an interesting feature all along the passage. I had to climb past them to get into the office just now. Pongy too.

Happy gardening

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Good food and bad news

Results of the little burst of cooking for the allotment social evening were: - courgette and basil quiche, redcurrant and apple tart (not our apples) and scones with last year's bramble jelly. In the end, I only took the quiche with me because by the time we left to go to the venue for the party, we'd already eaten and I felt like I'd overdone the catering!

It was a lovely event anyway, despite a downpour and there was a lovely big gazebo thingy to shelter under.


Now, since the allotment party, we've been away for a week (in the camper, on Dartmoor) and our boys have been watering the allotment for us along with looking after the house, cat and plants in the garden. Everything has survived by the looks of it but the weeds have grown and the grass needs cutting again....

The really rotten thing is that yesterday I went up in the morning I found that all the shed doors were swinging open because we'd had yet another allotment break-in. Nothing of mine seems to have gone this time as I only keep rubbishy old stuff in the shed, but one neighbour has lost a strimmer and another, a calor gas stove. I think by now this is probably my 4th shed burglary. Because of the state of the shed, I don't lock the door, it's just propped shut with a pole. I do worry that if anyone gave a big yank on the door, the whole shed would fall over, so after the last but one burglary we didn't bother to replace the padlock when it got prised off. My concern is for the shed's survival here, not the fate of a squashed burglar! Our site has high, metal fencing all round the perimeter, locked gates and razor wire (!!) on the gates. This was all put in when the new school was built a couple of years ago and I've always though it was unnecessary, the school children are hardly likely to break in at night looking for power tools and it seems that anyone determined enough can get in anyway.

Anyway, the moral of this story is :- Don't leave expensive power tools in your shed!

Happy gardening (with a hand fork and an elderly spade)

Thursday, June 19, 2008


Isn't it the way, there's always lots to pick just as you're about to go away on holiday!

Tonight's haul also included a big carrier bag of onions, the ones I planted to over winter - but they really weren't very photogenic, very muddy and lots of them have those strange, stalky necks that mean they won't keep very well. J suggested onion soup as a way of using the non-keepers so I might make some tomorrow.

I'm going to make something home-grown to take to the allotment social evening tomorrow evening. Luckily it's being held indoors, at the house of a plotholder on our neighbouring allotments at Redland Green. The forecast's horrible and wet for tomorrow, but we definitely need the rain. It's still very dry up there. So...rain is good. I'll have a night off from watering and the social eveing'll make a nice start to our holiday.

Happy gardening (and picking, of course)

Monday, June 16, 2008

I forgot my blog's birthday!!

It was on Saturday 14th and I was up there that day, watering and pottering about without noticing that I'd been blogging about it for a year! I should have taken some special birthday photos and rushed home to write a bloggiversary post. It's taken me till today to realise.

I still don't remember to take the camera with me half the time. There are so many wonderful photographic opportunities that I haven't taken. I know I'm not a particularly good photographer but having a recorded image, however poor, triggers the memory and the memory provides a multi-sensory experience that I might otherwise forget. It's so good to sit up here in my little office and look at images that take me back to boiling hot summer days perfumed with the smell of honeysuckle, sharp frost with the grass cracking under my feet or hiding in the shed with a thermos of tea while the rain beats down outside. honour of this belated occasion, I just want to say
Happy Birthday
to my blog.

The apparently aerial photo was taken from the new school on the hill and the little figure in the centre waving their arms about is me. I think J took it last year when there was an open day at the school and he was on the roof, looking down and he spotted me and yelled until I noticed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Strawberry update

Well, the strawberries are still worrying me. During the week I carefully scraped off all the straw, rolled back the black mulch and eased the plants through the holes to expose the earth to sunlight. I forked around the base of all the plants and added some peat free compost from a bag of bought stuff, watered well and then stood back and looked at them. The ants have largely been killed off thanks to the nasty powder so I think I've done all I can now, short of ritual sacrifice and naked dancing. I just hope they recover.

I've been searching the internet for strawberry maladies and another problem it could be is crown rot. The pictures of affected plants look horribly similar to the strawberries on my plot. However, it's a big coincidence that each limp plant had a big ants nest underneath it, isn't it? I don't think I can do much more at the moment except wait and see what happens next.

What happens next for me is to go and make a start on supper. Just me and the boys tonight, J's away in the camper van having fun at a balloon event so he won't need to know that we're going to sample the really scrummy strawberry ice-cream to make sure it's as good as it looks. No, he won't mind - he'll be enjoying junk food with a bunch of blokes. All the more for us.

So....what can I put in for today's photo. Not another wilting strawberry, I'm choosing something that's doing very well at the moment. This artichoke is so tall I can't actually reach to pick the top ones. We've had quite a few already, more are stacked up waiting in the fridge and I took some with me to a party last night and gave them away. Partychokes.

Happy gardening

Monday, June 9, 2008

Ants in my pants

The Strawberries were doing very well until a few days ago and I was looking forward to a good crop. My plants are all poking out of black breatheable mulch with straw under the berries to hold them away from the damp earth and some time in the spring I took all the mulch off, added lots of manure compost and growmore and I thought they'd be fine. However, the plants at the lower end of the strip seem to be dwindling away - I'd thought it was just because it's been so dry, but today I lifted the black membrane and underneath each of the affected plants is a seething red ants nest.

The photos show the sad strawberry at the top and the "I'm all right mate" strawberry lower down. One plant has even given up entirely - there were loads of ant eggs under that one.

I have always had a lot of red ants on the allotment, indeed, I have often said that my allotment is a red ants nest infested by a few vegetables - but I was joking for goodness sake and I didn't mean it to get as bad as this! Today I puffed ant killer (very non organic) under the membrane and I'm hoping the ants will give up and let me harvest some strawberries. I'm not even sure if we can eat them now I've used the ant killer stuff which would be a pain.

I would really love to eradicate the little red b*****rds because not only do they kill off the plants I'm trying to grow, I am incredibly allergic to their bites and have to carry all sorts of potions in my bag to counteract the toxins.

Still, I picked enough strawberries before I applied the powder so at least we've got some for tonight. Cheesecake or ice-cream? Hmm. It's got to be good in case we don't get any more strawberries.

Happy gardening (ant-free I hope)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Bug nookie and barbecue plans

I've just finished primping and tidying the allotment for my birthday barbecue and I spotted these two damselflies visiting the pond while I was taking a break. Pretty things. There were several pairs of red ones too. There were also seven large frogs sploshing about, all so intent on their own business that they didn't seem to mind at all as I crouched over them to take photos.

Plan A is to spend tomorrow afternoon ferrying camping chairs and tables, fairy lights and bunting etc up to the allotment and spend tomorrow evening having a jolly time eating and drinking as the sun goes down. However, plan A looks like it may have to be superceded by plan B, which involves obsessively looking at the weather forecast every ten minutes and ending up cooking a giant paella in the kitchen at home.

I wonder what plan C is?

Happy gardening (aha - that's plan C)

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


What do you grow on yours?
Me - I'm growing a small forest of beer bottles. As I've said before, I've had my allotment for many years now and although I very rarely drink any beer while I'm there, somebody has, because I never run out of bottles when I want to put one on top of a cane. I blame the mice in the shed. It can't be J, surely?

Bottles on top of canes are a good idea because I am exactly the sort of person who's going to get a cane in her eye whilst bending down to ground level.

I've noticed that the surrounding allotments have an interesting variety of cane tops. Some people have used tennis balls that have lost their bounce, one allotment is a sea of plastic milk bottles and the posh people with the greenhouse have even bought specially designed rubber things to stick on theirs. I prefer the "recycling" approach and try not to buy specially made bits and pieces if I can make them.

Still, better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick!

Happy (careful) gardening

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Sunbathing Ramshorn snails?

I don't know why all the ramshorn snails were sitting on top of the water lily leaves but they were, lots of them, looking as though they were basking in the sun. I wouldn't have thought it was something snails do. It wasn't just the ones in the photo - this was a close-up so you could see them clearly. The whole pond was covered in them. Very strange.

They are all the progeny of ten that I paid for in the garden centre years ago, when I bought the plants to stock the pond. Imagine a gardener paying for snails! They've done their job very well though. What with the rampant water lily (triffid) and a few oxygenating weeds, our pond doesn't suffer from that annoying filamental algae or blanket weed that spoils the appearance of so many ponds at this time of year.

We're having a busy week at the allotment. Last night I tucked a bed of straw all round the strawberries to help keep the ripening berries away from slugs and damp earth and then J and I started netting them, but the net has turned into a tangled muddle so we were only able to do a small strip. I need to sort out the netting soon though. We found a big bit and draped it across the jostaberries. I'll shut the fruit cage door soon too. I only close it when the fruit is ripening because the birds do quite a lot of good picking insects off the bushes, so I don't mind them in there most of the year.

There's always such a lot to do in May, planting out, watering, weeding, feeding the growing plants and continuing to sow as much as I can fit in so that we have a succession of harvests. I put in another six runner bean plants today, sown in pots seven weeks after the first batch. the theory is that we have runners over a longer period - however, I've done this before and what actually happens is that they all catch up! A second row of courgettes also went in today. I planted far too many seeds this year and I'm left with more plants than I can use. I'll hang onto them until I'm sure the ones I've planted out are established and then I'll give them away.
Courgettes anyone?

Happy gardening

Friday, May 9, 2008


Here is an entirely gratuitous picture of my wind chimes hanging in the apple tree. It was windy, so they were moving and have a bit of a blur to them, it's not your eyesight.

When I go to the allotment, one of the first things I do after I've offloaded my rucksack is to get out the three hanging things I keep in the shed. There's a long string of red suns and moons, a clear glass icicle and this pretty blue wind chime. I don't think I've got enough hanging decorations yet so I expect some more will find their way into my collection. I did have the idea of making some stained glass ones, but so far, they haven't made it up to the allotment, although there's one in the garden at home.

They give me pleasure just because they're pretty. I think it's very much a female thing though, I don't suppose J even notices them!

Happy girly gardening!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Strimmer man

A lot of hard work was done today. Mostly by J who strimmed the lower part of the allotment, all round the fruit cage and the pond, and then re-strimmed the bits he did last weekend, while I cut round the edges and put in some more potatoes.

I know I said I wasn't going to plant potatoes this year but most of them have gone into big pots at home.I've got three big pots of them outside the front door (I know most people prefer rambling roses or honeysuckle but we've got potatoes) I took a horrible ugly plastic tub up to the allotment today and put even more potatoes in it. There are just a few left over and they've got to go somewhere so there will be a few on the allotment, but not many. I can't spare the space.

I've been digging on and off all day too. I'm feeling completely shattered and now I've got to go and take a shower and get ready to go out to a party and what I really feel like doing is crawling off into bed. Why do I always do too much all at once? I know it's stupid! Duh! Right, I really must go and get cleaned up. Oh, I know, I'll just cut the lawn first......

Happy gardening (and grass cutting)

Friday, May 2, 2008

Mixed pleasure and pain

Some of the broad beans are looking healthy but most of them are still very small. I got right down next to this one, using the macro setting on the camera and the scent from the flowers was absolutely gorgeous. They should bring out a perfume of it. Eau de Bean.

I was only up there for an hour this evening, until it was too dark to do anything useful but if the weather's nice tomorrow I need to carry on weeding. It's a never ending job really, like painting the Forth Road Bridge (so I'm told)

While I was having a look around tonight I noticed footprints all across the raised bed where I've planted carrots and salad onions. Great big welly prints. They've even snapped the plant label saying "carrots". This is NOT ON! Stick to the paths! Grrr.

Happy (grumpy) gardening ...and keep your feet off my seedlings!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Cute newt

There were lots of newts, all very busy - but my camera has quite a delay so I kept missing them by about thirty seconds. This is the only photo that I managed to get with a newt in shot. The others were all of random pieces of plant and empty stretches of water.

I only went up to pick a bit of spinach really!

Happy gardening (and newt sighting)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Cutting the grass

I keep forgetting to take the camera. Today it was a real shame, the sun was out and half of the allotment looks pretty good. The other half is a work in progress! Talking of the other half, J should be arriving back from Amsterdam in about an hour but I don't suppose he'll make it home until eightish so I'm in a quandary about making him any supper. Or not. Hmm.

We did our first grass cutting of the year at the weekend. J on the strimmer and me with the shears. Teamwork. We've got a lot of grass on our allotment, a large patch around the old tree where nothing much grows, all round the edge of the pond and all the paths between the beds - and they all have to be strimmed. The ground is far too uneven to mow with the push mower that I keep at home for the pocket handkerchief sized lawn, so some years ago we bought a petrol strimmer. It's hard work using it but the results are great. Maybe we'll be able to have a barbecue round the tree for my birthday again this year. I love decorating the tree and putting up bunting for when all my friends come to enjoy the party. I do hope I remember the camera then.

The weather's certainly looking up. 21 C with a light warm breeze and I ended up in just a vest (well, not just a vest) as I put in two more rows of carrots and another of spring onions. I'm putting them next to each other to confuse the carrot fly. I also put in a tiddly little row of beetroot and made a bird scarer with canes, string and old CD's to put over the newly planted out broad beans. Useful things, old CD's, lovely and shiny, the light bounces off them and dances around over the patch you're protecting. I think the light moving around scares the birds better than the actual CD's.

When I leave to go home, it's always with the thought of the next thing I want to do. Next time I must find a space for the parsnip seeds. I nearly put some in the other day but it was so windy that when I poured my tea from my flask to my cup it missed because it flew out horizontally, so I didn't think it was a good day to sow parsnip seeds which weigh virtually nothing. They'd have gone everywhere! I've used up that space now, with the carrots and onions so I'll have to find another one.

Happy gardening (and grass cutting)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Invisible gardening

I planted another tray of beans today, in brilliant sunshine again. They’ve got ever so slightly too leggy waiting for me to get them into the ground so I hope they’ll be ok. It’s quite windy tonight (I can hear my garden wind chimes clanging away like anything) and I don’t want them to break.

I also applied the manure compost round the raspberries as I’d planned and even had time to take the black plastic off the strawberries, put lots of compost and Growmore around the roots and the put all the plastic back again. It’s one of those jobs that actually take quite a long time and when you’ve finished everything looks the same as before you started, so J wasn’t terribly impressed when he arrived and found me swigging tea having apparently not started yet!

I was tempted to stay longer than a few hours but I’m really busy this weekend and anyway, I didn’t want to miss Dr Who! How sad is that? Maybe I’ll have an hour tomorrow too. First, I’ve got to finish painting Roo’s ceiling and make sure his curtain pole goes up again. It’s taken a week to redecorate his room and we need to get it finished so he can get on and do some revision. He’s been having a very lazy time of it, sifting slowly through all his old stuff deciding what to take to the charity shop and what to keep, but the holiday’s nearly over now. Back to the AS level grindstone!

Happy gardening (and revising)

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Good news about the raspberries

Today was the first time for ages that I've been to the allotment. I'm always saying that, aren't I? No wonder I always feel there's so many things I need to get on with when I'm up there! No time for chillin'!

I took a tray of broad beans and some lettuce seedlings with me and popped those in. The ground was surprisingly dry. If we don't get rain over the next few days I shall have to start watering. Plenty of water in the pond though. Sometimes in the summer we have to add bucketloads to make sure our frogs and newts have got enough to keep cool. The pic shows the pond with marsh marigolds and new rosy leaves emerging from the water lily.

Today's triumph is that the sticks I planted in the autumn have turned into raspberries. Hurray! I weeded all round them and plan to give them some yummy manure compost round their roots next time I go. The main source of food for my plants is manure compost, home made compost and Growmore but I've used a liquid seaweed feed in the past that's very good too. I also grow comfrey which I either add to the compost or make into a different liquid feed by steeping it in a bucket of water for a month or so.

The sun was hot, factor 15 hot, but I didn't have any with me so I probably added to my general leatheryness today. I must remember to put a tube of sun cream in the bag. That'll definitely make it rain! Not that I'm supersticious, you understand!

The leeks are at their peak now so I pulled a few more to take home. I also picked spinach, purple sprouting broccoli and lots of rhubarb. I'm going down to Somerset tomorrow to see my parents and I always try to take some of our own produce with me. I look a bit bonkers on the train sitting clutching a basket of vegetables but what the heck....

Happy gardening

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Flu break

This week I've been mostly having a lurgy. I'm still ill and I'm fed up with it now. There have been plenty of bright intervals when I could have gone to the allotment with a tray of broad bean plants to plant out but I haven't been able to face the walk up the hill.

I've started some seeds off though, in between coughing fits. I've put in some aubergines, peppers, two different types of tomatoes, sweetcorn and courgettes in trays inside, and leeks outside on the back steps.

We also rented a movie, Grow your own, which I can thoroughly recommend. Set on a community allotment, it tells a story of the healing power found in nurturing a patch of soil as experienced by some emotionally scarred asylum seekers. I understand it was based on a real life project and it had a good mix of odd characters who, incidentally, weren't played by any actors that I recognised. The asylum seekers and the British allotment holders all had to deal with each other's presence, the petty bureaucracies of the allotment rules and the intrusion of a mobile phone mast and it was dealt with in a way that felt rewarding without being sentimental. I can well believe that having a patch of land to "grow your own" could be the best therapy of all for long term healing and recovery of a sense of purpose.

Now for some short term healing. Another lemsip maybe?

Happy gardening

Monday, March 17, 2008

Thoughts of spring

I've been busy. Really busy. The last few weeks have flown by and I've had no time to visit the allotment or appreciate the gorgeous daffs that I'd planted last year next to the hut.

J and I nipped up today for a quick look around and I was pleased to see that the bulbs had produced such a lovely show, and that I hadn't missed it all. The little tete a tete daffodils under the old apple tree aren't ready yet so it looks as though I'll see them come up too.

Today I "planted" a huge plastic cloche. I've got some lettuce seedlings in a tray at home and when they get a bit bigger they're going under the cloche. Also waiting to go into the ground are the broad beans that I've been protecting from marauding squirrels. They're in pots on a shelf behind some nasty spiky wire netting and so far, touch wood, they've been ok. It's mostly too wet to plant anything yet anyway.

Hopefully, this weekend I'll be able to start off lots of seeds in trays. I usually put them on newspaper all over the dining room floor for a month or so but until I'm able to get rid of a very large stained glass window that's already taking up all the spare floor space, I'm a bit stuck for somewhere to put them. I don't really want to deliver this window to its new owner yet because it's one of five and I want to make sure they all look right together but I can see a time coming when I'll hit a problem! They'd make lovely colourful cloches though! There's an idea....

Happy gardening

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


This is what we saw. There must have been millions of them swooping around. You could hear the wingbeats as they flew over our heads and as it became dark, they flocked closer to where we were watching and seemed to fall out of the sky into the reeds. The field was black with them and the sound was incredible. It was like static when you walk under an electricity pylon - excited chatterings rather than birdsong.

It was a really fantastic evening and there was the most beautiful sunset too. As we walked along the track back to the car the dying sun was reflected in the icy rhynes. Stunning.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Digging for victory

This weekend we've been digging. The earth was just the right consistency at last so we both had a go and between us we dug over the top patch, well, the half that isn't covered with black compost bags.

All the neighbours were there too. In fact, in the photo of J you can see Moira next door, clearing weeds from around her new pond. I'm looking forward to her pond being finished, I'll get the benefit of gazing at it when I'm idling in the sunshine in the doorway of my hut.

This weekend was really good actually, I spend most of Saturday helping allocate fruit trees to their new owners as part of Transition Bristol's Virtual Orchard scheme. Incredibly busy! We all made cakes as well and made as much of a celebratory event out of it as possible, bearing in mind it didn't really get much above freezing in the yard we'd hired. I bought a plum and an apple tree for our tiny back garden so yesterday J and I went to buy huge pots to put them in. They look great. The idea is that they'll be portable if and when we move house. The time is ever closer now that Roo's only got one more year of school. It's a scary thought because we've lived in our house for so long and we love it dearly, but it's always been in the wrong place. Our surroundings are so intensely urban. What I'd really love to do is to pick the house up and plonk it down again on the edge of town instead of right in the middle. Incidentally, I've a cousin in Australia who did just that. Her house was loaded onto a lorry and moved about a mile up the road! Amazing.

This evening J and I are planning to go down to the Somerset Levels to see the starlings roosting and hopefully doing those swooping and dancing patterns in the sky. It looks like being a lovely day for it so J is taking a day off so we can take a little trip. I'll try to get some photos if we end up in the right place.

Happy gardening (and birdwatching)

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Mainly fish and chips

It's been blissful weather this weekend. J and I managed to do all sorts of useful things at the allotment today, like emptying bags of bark mulch around the fruit bushes, cutting cabbage and leeks, tidying up and sitting around in the sunshine. I hugged my fruit trees too, to make up for not wassailing them earlier in the month. One of the mini daffodil bulbs has started to come up under the old apple tree and lots have emerged next to the hut. I can hardly wait.

It felt like spring is just around the corner yesterday too. I was too busy for gardening but I had a lovely walk up through the park to the library and then we had a bit of a panic over our fancy dress costumes for a party. We looked really good for the first half hour until the newspaper fell apart but it allowed us to make a good first impression! Guess what we had for dinner before the party?! Yup, fish and chips.

Happy gardening

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Winter vegetables

J and I spent a soggy half hour at the allotment yesterday, pulling some leeks and generally having a look around. The rain and sleet had been coming down in bucketfuls the day before. We had a flooded garden and rain coming into the house through the back wall. It was seriously wet, drenching rain so it was great to see that the allotment hadn't suffered at all. The pond was nice and full anyway!

I didn't see any wildlife up there but it won't be long before the frogs are barging each other out of the way to spawn in the pond. They usually produce a seething mass of it around the time of J's birthday towards the end of February. Birthday spawn.

I dug up the last of the parsnips as well. I'm obviously not the only one digging them up, there were bits of parsnip scattered around on the grassy path but I think I've had a good crop despite this. I'd be interested to find out what eats them actually; the main predators on our allotments are pigeons, badgers, foxes and unspecified rodents. I don't fancy spending a night shivering in the hut waiting to find out!

As I write this, the rain is back with us again and I'm planning to spend today hibernating in the warm with a good book, and later on I'm going to cook a nice big chicken dinner (yes - organic free range from our local butcher) and I'll be roasting those parsnips to go with it.
Happy gardening (and hibernating)