Monday, December 6, 2010

Freezing fog

Sunday morning. Freezing fog hung over the city and wrapped the allotment in a cold, wet blanket. Sounds were either muffled or strangely amplified. I went for a walk and spent some time listening to snorty gruntings from some bushes near the compost loo but didn't see what was making them. Whatever was making them was probably complaining about the cold!

The parsley was completely frozen so I harvested it and put it straight into the freezer when I got home. Herbs freeze well and seem to taste exactly the same as fresh. I've never found dried herbs to be as effective.

I also took home a nice big stalk of sprouts but gave up on taking any leeks. I would have dug up a few if they hadn't been frozen solidly into their beds.

I have yet to put in my garlic. It's getting quite late in the year for planting it but so far, it's been too wet, too dry or too frozen every time I've been free. Or too dark, most of the time when I'm not too busy, it's dark! Next weekend maybe.

Keep warm!
Happy gardening

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Pumpkin and tomato chutney

Today I've been mostly making pumpkin chutney!

It's looking dark and sticky now and almost ready to ladle into the jars. The kitchen windows are obscured by steam, but hey, it's starting to get dark outside anyway. It's been a foul, cold, wet day. Making jams and chutneys is a very good way of keeping the kitchen warm on a day like this!

Happy gardening and preserving

Monday, October 11, 2010


I couldn't resist this gorgeous marigold. There's a big patch of them now, all growing where they weren't supposed to be growing, but so wonderfully bright and cheerful that I'm letting them stay there.

I've been away for a few days so didn't make it to the allotment this weekend. Now that the days are shorter, I don't get there during the week unless I'm really lucky. If I miss a weekend it can be ages between visits.

There's not very much to pick at the moment, just a bit of black kale, some over-sized runners and the autumn raspberries. I could have picked some spinach as well but ran out of time.

Some of the marigolds came home with me though and look very lovely next to the laptop as I write this!

Happy gardening (when you get the chance)

Friday, September 24, 2010

Trolley dolly

This is a bit of an experiment. The photo, not the trolley/food waste bin combo. I'm trying to upload a pic directly from Picasa, which I haven't done before and it seems to want me to write my post in Picasa as well. All very well but I can see that it's using Blogger's old format so it probably won't look the way I want it. The trolley/food waste bin pic is because this weekend is probably the last trip I shall make with this particular encumbrance before next spring! (Hurray) In the winter all the compostable waste goes into the compost bin in the garden while the stuff in the allotment bins rots down ready to dig into the ground in the springtime.

In the meantime, I haven't added any new waste to the bin at home for months so the contents should be ready to use soon. That's the theory anyway. In practice, I think there's a rat or two holed up inside the bin so it may be difficult to poke around inside to see if it's useable. My cat, Quincy, has been spending a lot of his time sitting staring at the base of the bin, looking hopeful. He's not very brave though so I think any rats are pretty safe.

Anyway, I shan't miss lugging the trolley up the hill, particularly the last bit where the bumpy path tries to tip the trolley over. I certainly shan't miss emptying the stinky mess into the daleks, and having to sloosh out the brown bin to clean all the stuck on peelings and bits of eggshell off before I take it home again.

Happy gardening (hope you've bin composting too)
Oh and I just want to say that compost is always better if there's lots of shredded loo roll insides and egg box along with the veggie peelings.
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Monday, September 13, 2010

Goodbye to the plum tree

RIP Marjorie's Seedling 
Planted spring 2006 died summer 2010

I don't know why it happened. It's been failing for months and we've tried to save it but now it really is too late. I've had several diagnoses from people who are very clued up about arboriculture but whichever of them is right still won't be able to bring life back into my dead tree. I don't think I've maltreated it, in fact I've tended it with more care than many other plants on my allotment. The only thing I can think of is that one time I sprayed it with non-organic bug spray but surely that can't be enough to kill a tree? I mean, don't people use non-organic stuff all the time anyway? There's enough of it in the garden shop that we use. They wouldn't sell it if people didn't buy it.

Apart from the starkness of the plum's shrivelled leaves, the allotment is looking good, J's strimmed and I've weeded and tidied, and the last of the summer vegetables are still quietly producing. But when I stop working and look around I get a melancholy feeling that isn't just due to the change of season.

Not quite so happy gardening this time folks.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


By the time you read this, I'll have abandoned redcurrants in favour of blackberries. The bramble jelly-making has begun!

Two things. Firstly, thank you so much to all of you who actually read this blog. I only ever expected it to be read by my Mum (who now doesn't have a computer) and my two best friends from way, way back who don't live near me anymore. It's lovely to find comments from real people out there in internetland who share similar interests. I look at your blogs too and I'm always chastened by pictures of your wonderful allotments and gardens, and all the lovely produce you show. I'm particularly gutted by all the fantastic recipes and photographs of food that appear. It just doesn't happen like that in my kitchen, I have a strong tendency to eat my dinner as soon as I've cooked it - it doesn't hang around long enough to have its picture taken!

The other (earth shattering) thing of note in this posting is that I just have to tell you about the sheer pleasure of finding the right sheet of wrapping paper to cut into circles for jam-pot covers. Just look at this lot! Very Kath Kidson! It wasn't actually, just some nice paper from a local shop, but it's very like her brand. The lovely sweet peas aren't mine, they were given to me by Caroline who says she's been picking a bunch like this every day for a couple of weeks! Wow! Impressive.

If there's time today I shall pick four more lbs of blackberries to drip for the next batch of jelly. Lovely stuff, but the down side is that the kitchen is taken over by an upturned chair with a dripping jellybag attached to it by a Heath Robinson contraption of wires (made by the ever-inventive J) and it's such a slow process and each time, produces such a tiny amount of jelly! Is it worth it? Well, probably. I can't seem to stop doing it, anyway!
Happy gardening and jelly-making

Monday, August 2, 2010

Redcurrant frenzy

Susan looks happy (outrageously so, calm down Susan!) to have picked a nice bucketful of redcurrants.

I can't cope with the amount we get - there's still another bushful even after Susan and I have picked as many as we need. I think there are still some in the bottom of the freezer labelled 2009. And 2008. Oops.

This morning I made what I hope is my penultimate batch of 2010 redcurrant jelly, as later on today I intend to start picking blackberries for the bramble jelly. I love Mondays. (Day off) Mind you, pretty soon there's going to be a jam jar crisis. My jam jar box is kept in the loft when I'm not involved in jelly or marmalade making, but there's never as many as I remembered when I get the box down again. Where do they go?

While you're pondering that - happy gardening and jelly-making

Monday, July 26, 2010

Helen's beans

Helen was impressed to see that the beans she planted in the first week of May have now grown taller than she is and are starting to produce their first long pods for picking. We always get a good result from Scarlet Emperor, so I've stuck to the same variety for the last few years. Boring, I know, but it means we get results.

This year I was tempted to try something different when I came across an interesting sounding packet of courgette seeds, Tristar. I couldn't work out whether I'd get three different types of courgette on each plant or whether there'd be seeds for three different types of plant. It was the second option but I'm not sure it was terribly succesful, the little yellow ones are not very slugproof and we've hardly sampled them, the big dark green ones look like the ones we usually get and the pale green ones are very watery tasting. I think the verdict is that it's ok to stick to tried and tested varieties.

At the moment, the most pressing jobs are planting out the tiny threadlike leeks (now completed) and finding somewhere to put the purple broccoli and swedes that have been sitting in their little plug pots for far too long. Until the onions are lifted and the maincrop potatoes come out, there isn't any room.

Happy gardening (unless you're stuck in a plug pot waiting to be planted)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Various creatures

When J and I arrived to do our nightly watering on Sunday evening there was a pigeon sitting on the top of the fruit cage. It seemed entirely unfazed by our arrival, indeed it put its head on one side and watched us from about two feet away. J said he thought he looked "friendly". I thought it looked like he was after our jostas. Sure enough, when we were distracted by tramping up and down the paths with watering cans, he invited about five of his mates and they all had a go at getting under the netting. I hastily picked a punnetful (crumble again) but I see that the pigeons have taken most of the ripe ones. Grr.

J topped up the pond water too (loud cries of appreciation from the frogs and newts) Then he called me over in a sort of stage whisper to see a fox that was resting on a grassy spot. It wasn't very bothered by me taking photos but sauntered away slowly. 

It had a poor sort of tail though. I hope the mange won't come back as badly as it did a few years ago.  At that time all the foxes on the allotments were affected and suffered dreadfully. The thin tail is one of the first signs.

After the fox, we had a visit from Mirkin, our remaining allotment ocicat. The other two moved to the country so Mirkin is now definitely top cat.

He's a beautiful animal but J and I are slightly nervous of him because he once launched himelf at J's legs in an entirely unprovoked attack. I used to pick him up and stroke him but nowadays we admire but don't touch.

Still, he seems to be doing a good job as an extra badger guard on the sweetcorn patch.

Happy gardening (enjoy the wildlife)

Monday, July 5, 2010


Since I last wrote, I've demolished another seat! The sun lounger in the garden gave way under me last weekend. I really don't know why they should be so easily dismantled by someone of my build! Honest!

On another note entirely, Bristol, and probably most of England, has been a rain-free zone for weeks, so a considerable chunk of my evenings has been taken up with watering. To do the whole allotment takes anything up to two hours and when everybody's up there using the same water troughs, the level gets very low and the refill rate is slow. I also have to water my little garden every day too, nearly all the plants are in pots so they dry out by the end of the day and can't be left. And as for the peppers and aubergines on the kitchen, there's been no time for blogging because I'm too busy watering.

The strange thing is, the plants I'm carefully tending and watering don't look anywhere near as robust and healthy as these great banks of daisies. I've got them all over the place but particularly bordering the bed with the fruit trees. They started with a small plant, begged from a neighbour and they are now completely rampant. And I don't water them, ever!

Happy gardening. Enjoy the hard work, it's good for you!.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Are you sitting comfortably?

We're back. Wow, it's beautiful in the|Hebrides. I don't think I've ever seen such astonishingly lovely beaches - pristine white sands with a backdrop of mountains and islands and we had them all to ourselves. We even had very good weather. Amazing. I'd go back tomorrow, but it's just so terribly far away.

We've been catching up a bit since we've been home - you know, loads of washing, re-stocking the food cupboards after the boys had eaten everything while we were away, re-establishing cordial relations with the cat....the poor old allotment had to wait its turn.

Now that J's strimmed and I've weeded, it looks ok again and I'm pleased to see that everything's still there and still growing! The sweetcorn had been very puny when we went away, but it looks healthier now. Nobody ate the pak choi and it's bolted so we're eating it all at once for a week or two. The strawberries are producing nicely - in fact, it looks like it's a "strawberry year".

However, my first effort at tidying up was ruined by sitting down on the bench with a cup of (thankfully cooling) green tea. I went straight through and threw the tea all over myself, demolishing the bench as I went!

J has done a brilliant cover up job, but I shall have to be careful in future. (And so will everybody else - I don't actually weigh that much!)

Happy gardening (and be careful when you sit down)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Holiday plans

I'm spending a fair bit of time tidying up and planting out the beds, ready for them to be abandoned again while J and I go on holiday. Silly really. By the time we come back all the tidying will start again, no doubt. It's so HARD leaving an allotment, even for a short time but as we're planning to take the van to the Scottish Islands we need two whole weeks or we won't have enough time to explore. I'm trying to persuade Roo and girlfriend Helen to spend some time with a watering can in our absence. It's hard work persuading Roo, but Helen came up with me the other day and she rather enjoyed planting runner beans. I'm sure they'll be good and help out, they may even like it, it's all looking so damn good up there!
The flowers are blooming beautifully in the top patch next to the hut. These are nominally here to attract bees and other pollinating insects to my fruit trees and vegetables, but mostly they're here because they're lovely.
 Under this netting, the strawberries are flowering like mad - maybe we'll get some fruit when we come back!
.....and these little pak choi are ready now (except something's munched the end two, but that always happens) Strir fry next week before we go, then!

Happy gardening (by proxy)

Monday, April 26, 2010

Tiny wasp nest

J found this beautiful wasp's starter home in one of the compost bins a few days ago. You can see from the edge of his thumb how tiny and perfectly formed the little honeycombed section is inside the shell.

It was so fragile that when I accidentally put an envelope onto it on the kitchen table, the shell cracked. It's only paper thin itself.

I'm glad the wasps abandoned their nest though. A compost bin full of wasps would be a scary proposition later in the year. 

Happy gardening (and watch out for wasps)

Saturday, April 17, 2010

No comparison



Nuff said

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Objects of desire

It was my turn in the Trading Hut this morning, selling compost and seeds and taking people's subscriptions to the allotment society covering the four linked sites around Redland Green. It's all wonderfully organised - all you have to do is turn up, unlock the well greased padlocks, hang the "open" sign up on the main gate and you're in business. I only do it a couple of times a year so when it's my turn I've always forgotten what to do but the customers are very forgiving. It's a good excuse to have a look around other people's plots too. This site has grown several polytunnels since I last had a proper look. Aah - now there's an object of desire. J and I would love a polytunnel but there's no room on ours for one. I have to be fairly careful putting up a large cloche without overlapping the grass path.

So - no polytunnels for us then. Back on my own plot this afternoon, I planted a module of red onions (Red Baron) admired the spring flowers and did a bit of preparation for planting the spuds. Hopefully tomorrow as it's a Bank Holiday.

This photo (primroses under the plum tree) shows that remarkable phenomenon of not noticing things that are right in front of you when taking a picture. I really, honestly didn't see the triangle of broken pot until just now! I think it's hereditary, my mum always used to take photos of my dad with something stupid like a signpost growing out of his head. No signpost here, but I would've moved the pot.

Happy gardening (and I bet you take better pictures than me)

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Still plenty of leeks

My my. He said he was taking a picture of me holding some leeks. Instead, as a change from vegetable pictures we can all gaze on his handsome face! 
 You may just be able to make out the leeks in my hand. They are destined for mini leek and bacon tartlets to take to a lunch do tomorrow. That's probably why I've put mini photos in this posting.

Happy gardening

Sunday, March 21, 2010

...and here's one I made earlier...

In a "Blue Peter" moment during the winter I made this bird feeder specifically for peanuts as they are too big for the birds to get them out through the wire grids of either of my shop bought ones. You can tell it's home-made, can't you?

However, the allotment birds don't seem to like peanuts. I wonder why not? The mixed seed and fat balls seem to last about five minutes but the peanuts often don't need re-filling. Picky chaps, allotment birds.

Happy gardening (and bird watching)

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Froggy business

Yay! Spawn!

Usually the frogs are active before now but it has been really, really cold so I'm not surprised. I'm very glad we've got some though - I always suffer from spawn envy if other ponds have some and we don't. That makes me sound weird, doesn't it?

I'm on holiday this week. I was on holiday last week too but J and I were away in the van, camping (brr) in Devon. Anyway, it means today I've had a bit of time to dig out the decent compost from one of the bins and spread it on the beds where I'm going to put the potatoes. I've got Charlottes and Maris Pipers, same as last year for the obvious reason that these are the varieties thar we prefer to eat. The onions can go in any day now too. Whew, it really feels like the long, hard winter is nearly over.

Happy gardening (and welcome spring)

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Mmn, lovely. The golden crocuses have appeared. Some at the foot of the minilith and some around the edge of the pond. Before you know it, it'll be spring.

Today, I dug up all the remaining parsnips as the foliage died back a while ago, and it's been sheer guesswork trying to find them. Their bed is now ready for me to add compost and start all over again with something different.

I'm at the planning stage at the moment. My charlotte potatoes have already sprouted enough to plant, but I think the ground's still too cold. I think the old parsnip bed may become home to early potatoes in a week or so.

Also today - I swept the hut and chucked out a pile of broken canes, dug up some more leeks, re-filled the bird feeder, tidied away some hoops and netting and sat with my face turned up to the sun, with a flask of green tea. All very nice on a February Sunday.

Happy gardening.
Note: Minilith, from monolith - a single block or piece of stone, usually of considerable size and mini - small, miniature, of reduced size. It works for me!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Pigeons at work?

I had a brief respite from "knackered knee syndrome" yesterday and managed to get to the allotment for a look around. I spent most of the time putting the new bird feeder back together again after I found it on the grass under the tree, minus any birdseed and unfortunately, also minus the hook that fastens it to the tree. I suspect pigeons at work, hefty great things. The seed I've used is for wild birds, robins, finches and the like, not enormous great pigeons that pull the entire feeder off the tree! Lets hope my new hook is strong enough.

I also popped some tulips into a pot. My neighbour passed them on to me as she left to go to New Zealand for a couple of months and they should have been planted in autumn. I wonder if they'll do anything? They were all sprouting madly, so maybe they will. Hope so.

 Sorry about the horrible red text in the last posting. I don't really know how that happened - I've recently upgraded my blogger account because I understand that I'll have more control over the layout etc, I am particularly keen to be able to move the photos to wherever I want them, but I didn't notice that the text was going to change colour like that! I'll be very careful this time! I forgot to take the camera to the allotment so I can't try out photo re-positioning either! Duh!

Happy gardening (in green or red?)

Monday, February 1, 2010

Candle in the branches

It was a good day to prune the old apple tree. The first of February is Imbolc, the day when we see the first signs of spring and celebrate the returning daylight with a fire festival.

It felt very cold today and spring is obviously some way off but to honour the day, and the goddess, if that's your way, I hung a candle lantern in the branches after re-shaping the tree, and left it burning when I walked back home down the hill. I like to think of it flickering amongst the branches as night drew in.

Having also cut down my autumn fruiting raspberries to ground level and done a bit of digging, not to mention painting a bedroom ceiling and doing an hour and a half's yoga class, I am now completely exhausted and fit for nothing more physical than sitting on a sofa with a laptop on my knees. Oh, and I may just possibly be able to lift a glass of red wine to my lips! 

Happy gardening (it's all worth it - honest)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

After the snow

A lovely afternoon, and the first time I've dared to try the steep path into the allotments since all the recent snow and ice. It was worth it for the breath of  springlike air as I spoke encouragingly to my fruit trees (it's Wassailing day) worth it for the little haul of winter vegetables I collected (I'll put the sprouts on in a minute to go with the roast chicken) and worth it to see all the neighbours enjoying the first diggable day of the year.

No sign at all of any broad beans though. They should be showing by now so I suspect some hungry creature dug them up soon after I planted them. I've already bought some more seeds so it's not a big deal. Vegetable gardening is never straightforward but for me the rewards far outweigh the pitfalls. I guess I wouldn't do it it it was the other way round.

I came home full of enthusiasm for spring so tonight I'll be sorting through my seed box and planning when and where to start this year's planting. Or vegging out after the chicken!

Happy gardening

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

In the snow

If you can see the lower photo clearly enough, you'll probably understand why we stood and pondered over these marks in the snow today. We'd seen many fox footprints and birds' footprints, but these looked like big claw marks and it took ages to decide that they had been made by a bird's wing brushing against the soft snow as it took off or landed.

The other picture is of our beekeeper's hives, dormant and completely silent, in the wooded area at the top of the hill.

As before when we've had snow, the only human visitors were ourselves. I find it really surprising that no-one else feels moved to take photos, watch the animals or even just check up on their growing vegetables when everything looks so stunningly beautiful covered in a white blanket. Well, we enjoyed it.

Happy gardening (and snow gazing)