A year in review *spoiler* It was a bad’n

This year has been a massive wake up call. It turns out that this allotment malarkey is a lot tougher than you’d expect. Pensioners are the stereotypical allotmenteers for a reason…not because it’s easy to just potter around at the allotment whilst drinking tea, but because they have so much bloody free time!

My year seemed to start out quite well. I had my beds prepped, my over winters were going well. The onions and leeks were spectacular actually. And then I momentarily took my eye off the ball. In this short space of time, super slugs wreaked havoc on my plot. Sayanara seedlings, fare thee well floral fancies and au revoir to all but the sodding weeds. They were plentiful; ridiculously so.

Not even my lovely tulips survived the onslaught

A spring mixed with torrential rain and blistering sunshine meant that within a week of a days intensive weeding, all hard work was undone; I was met with Triffids that towered over me (admittedly I am only 5 ft 2).

The shame!

In my defense, we have moved house this year and have taken on many projects at home, some through choice (the brick tiled wall in the kitchen that has taken forever) and some not so voluntarily (a persistent and as yet unidentified leak from the bathroom).

https://ahousecallednoelblog.wordpress.com/

For more information about the house, check out our other blog, which is updated as infrequently as this one. My blogging is worse than my gardening!

My folks came over in the Summer and helped me sort my plot out. I really was in need of assistance. I was on a warning letter from the allotment association (I was not the only one!) and was a bit terrified of losing my land. So, Bern (Pops) came over and spent a day getting all hot and sweaty whilst I swanned off to tropical world with my mum and niece – they have plants there, it was a research trip!

Cosmos are my absolute favourite, and about the only flower I’ve managed to keep alive!

Bern did a stunning job and I’ve made sure to keep on top of things since. We’ve managed a couple of potato crops since then, leeks are in, the cabbages have mostly survived the local pests and the beans, whilst not providing any legumey lovelies, have grown up their canes well and started to flower…finally.

Spudulika (90’s TV reference – points if identified)

This has not been the year of the courgette, or pumpkin. Bit disappointing, but at least I will be more prepared for slugapalooza next year.

Our rhubarb has gone well, but we’re in a good area for it so it’s nothing to boast about. I’ll be making some rhubarb syrup in the next week or so, which is a great accompaniment to fizz!

This is some of last year’s rhubarb syrup.

I’ve got a lot of winter prep to do to make sure I avoid the pitfalls of this year, but I’m hoping to take a lot from this year’s harsh lessons. My plot neighbor Steve has managed to keep on top of his despite having a hip replacement, so I’ve no excuse really ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Thank you for your kind words/ patience/ pity/ mockery/ motivational speeches
(delete as applicable)

Bye for now

Pip

 

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Weeds. Everywhere

Full disclosure: I am not a neat and tidy person; order is not my forté. I do not strive to have the neatest plot nor the straightest rows of carrots. I try to keep on top of my weeds as much as possible, and having adopted a no chemical policy, this is sometimes harder than I would like. However, nothing prepared me for what I was to come back to after a week away at Center Parcs. The weather had alternated between rain and sunshine on a daily basis which I have been reliably informed is ideal for weed growth.

Yeah, tell me about it!

It was like the Triffids had moved in. Not a single patch of ground could be seen. I didn’t have time to take photos of the wilderness that greeted me as I was too embarrassed to see the plot in such a state. I immediately set to clearing some space whilst some of my neighbours tutted away at me (thanks for the support guys). It must be lovely for retired people who can spend as much time as they want down at the allotment, but I don’t think I do too badly to say that we’ve just moved house and are semi renovating it, have a full time job, help run a youth group on an evening and volunteer with my local ‘In Bloom’ group.

Anyway, I strimmed away and troweled about and eventually managed to clear a bit of space, as well as sorting out my onion bed.

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I also took great delight in seeing my tulips finally making an appearance. I’m not sure why it’s taken them so long but I’m glad they’ve finally made it through. They’re a gorgeous colour. I’ll definitely be making sure tulips are on next years plan.

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If you want to find out more about our house move, you can do so at https://ahousecallednoelblog.wordpress.com/

Bye for now

Pip

 

A Spring in my step

Today marked the first day of Spring, so I decided to carve some time out of my hectic house moving/packing boxes schedule (we move in 3 days), to pop to the plot.

I’ve been a few times over the winter but it has been so wet that many of the things I’d had planned, such as path making and strawberry pyramid building were just unfeasible. The thought of attempting any sort of construction in the cold and wet months just made me miserable. I’ve mostly tidied little bits and stood proudly in my new shed with a life saving flask of tea.

I’ve considered today as the start of my new allotment year so it seems as good a time as any to look back on last year – year 1.

I found my first ever scribbled plan for the allotment and despite changing my mind many times throughout the year, things are still on course for it to look something like the original plans.


Shed is in place, with a flower bed next to it and I’ve started (only just) to make the pathways around the bed in front of the shed. The beds in between are in a state of confusion and the end bit is wild but not quite the wild flower retreat that I had in mind. It is still set up for it however, so with a bit of work this spring i’m sure that can happen. I’m planning on putting an apple tree in at the bottom, and planting some pollinators and sewing some wildflowers around about it.

I had great success with my courgettes, potatoes and runner beans last year, a moderate success with my tomatoes (considering they were grown outside) but had no success whatsoever with cabbages which I will know to net straight away and sweet corn, which grew high but was probably put in too late as it never reached any decent size of crop. All experience though.


The first signs of runner bean life.


Proud potato mama.

 Sweetcorn: D-

Must try harder


A trio of toms.


So many courgettes. So. Many.

The highlight of my year (crop wise) has been having a home grown pumpkin to carve for Halloween. I had one early plant that had a good spurt before a smaller pumpkin arrived.

 They were growing so well, until one day when I tried to see how heavy they were, and I noticed I had a phantom nibbler. The baby pumpkin must have been tasty – it was gone in the space of two days!


I did all I could to protect the Alpha pumpkin and thankfully it paid off. It wasn’t huge but to me, it was perfect, and so, I had this beauty in time for Halloween.


I’ve had a few floral delights, mostly in my dedicated flower bed. The cosmos did so well, and I collected a lot of seed from it that I will hopefully be able to use this year. Cosmos will always have a place in my garden. It was the first flower I grew from seed, many years ago, in my sister’s garden whilst I was looking after it for her one summer, and it never fails to brighten my day.

I had pink and white cosmos.


A mixture from my flower bed.


The understated beauty of a flowering leek.

I’ve had a few mishaps of course; my least favourite being when I foolishly turned up to strim the grass in shorts. Shorts! Sometimes I amaze myself with my own ridiculousness. I’m a clumsy person so the inevitable happened, of course.


One of many cuts to my pale northern pins.

 Looked the business up top though.
I’ve had some greatly appreciated help from assorted parties – weeders, shed constructors, heavy lifters and general faffers.

And spent many evenings enjoying the warmth and glow of a nice big bonfire.

Bonfires are my fave!
So here’s to the new year, and may it bring gluts of strawberries, a new tree and all the right sort of weather.

 Bye for now
Pip

The Great Shed debacle

For me, one of  the main benefits of having an allotment is having a shed. How can you have an allotment without one? Tool protector, tea drinking shelter, homemade wine factory etc…

So I reached the point where laboring on the allotment without a shed was simply not reaching the levels of fulfillment that I had expected/required.

I researched what sort of shed I would need (only a small one, how to build said shed, what to put it on etc) and then set about scouring the internet for the wooden structure of my dreams.

I sourced this for inside it, which will be upcycled somehow.

 

Meanwhile, I had looked into what permissions would be needed to erect a shed on the plot. I was directed by my allotment assoication to th elocal council website where the necessary forms were. These were filled out and sent off, with the promise that I would have an answer within 10 days. 10 days passed, I hadn’t heard anything…Was it bad news? Was my form lost? I hastily emailed the council and asked about the status of my application. Within an hour I had my response…

Hi Philippa,

Thanks for your email.

I do not recognise your name and you are not down as being on one of our Council run sites? Are you on one of our self-managed sites?

 The allotment officer did inform that she received a shed application for Armley Ridge Road Allotments yesterday, however this should have gone to the Association, so she forwarded this on to them. Was this your form?

 Regards

GAH! It was back with my association. I figured the best thing was to let them have a week or so before they decided, which seemed only fair.

A month passed.

I was becoming a tad impatient by this point. So i sent an ever so gently worded email explaining that I had submitted my application as instructed and was eagerly awaiting their response.

I had another problem…I’d bought a shed. It was on offer, I couldn’t help myself.

A week after emailing my AA, I had received no response, so I resent my last email, and CC’d it to another member of the comittee.

Another week passed…

 

 If only I had a shed to hide in 🙂

I managed to find some free paving slabs on freecycle so with the help of a friend (I say help – he did all the work) we transported a stack of the ginormous beasts to the allotment and somehow managed to wheelbarrow them across to my plot. His face when he realised my plot was in the far corner was a picture. The man deserves a medal.

 

 First slab in place

At this point, with everything in place except a shed I took matters into my own hands, I hadn’t had a single response from the folk in charge so I sent one more email, letting them know that as I hadn’t had any objections I would be erecting my shed the following weekend. Within 20 minutes I received an email telling me under no circumstances should I do so, and I was to wait until they’d had a meeting that week. Well, at least I’d had a response.

Thankfully, that day came and went, and I finally had permission to put the shed up. About bloody time. I called in the troops and with neighbouring plot holders watching on, we set to work. There were a lot of comments about how it would take three women about a week to put the shed up, and how we weren’t going to get anywhere without the correct power tools. I’m happy to report we proved them wrong. It took us about 4 hours, and doesn’t completely seem like it will fall over.

 

 My lady helpers

Thank you to everybody involved, but most of all, thank you to the Allotment Association for your swift response in resolving this matter.

   

 

Bye for now

Pip

Guess who’s back?

I’m going to be quick and dispense with the formalities and apologies in as swift a fashion as a I can muster.

To all of the people who have asked how the allotment is going, and have told me how much they looked forward to reading the updates – I am so sorry; Life got in the way, as it so often does, and it took most of my energy to keep up with the work on the allotment, let alone blog about it.

I suppose this is one of the realities that I needed to understand. In writing a blog alongside the actual physical work on the allotment, I hoped to provide an insight into the goings on down on the plot, and whilst I hoped it would be sunshine and daffodils, and crops a-plenty (which I would write about in beautiful well thought out blog), I was sorely mistaken.

I did manage to cultivate this little beauty at home though. I love lilies more than I can describe.

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We’re currently in the process of moving house, which I hear is one of the most stressful things you can do in life (you want to try getting shed planning permission past a committee!), and so what with the time needed to sort all of the particulars out on that, plus getting a new business venture off the ground and what seemed like an eternity spent house and dog sitting for friends and family, I’m finally carving out some much needed time for myself and the Buttercup Allotment. Thank you to everyone who has urged me to continue.

Normal service will resume and I will endeavor to catch you all up with what’s happened up to now. In the meantime, let me leave you with a few quick pictures from Rudston House open gardens.

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This wonderful manor house has been a few hundred feet from my family home for my entire life, and yet this was the first time I’d made the effort to visit on it’s annual open day. Can’t believe I waited this long – it truly is a place of beauty. From the small woodland walk, to the amazing vegetable garden, this place was such a surprise to me…and I can’t wait to go back next year.

Righty-oh…onwards and upwards

Bye for now

Pip

Weeks 3,4 &5

Blimey, it’s been a very busy few weeks. What with a long weekend in Amsterdam and a fabulous couple of weekends with family at Dalby Forest and Burton Agnes Jazz festival, I’ve struggled to find time to do as much on the plot as I’d like. I suppose this is one of the realities of allotment life – as much as you want to be there all the hours of the day, life gets in the way quite a bit.

 Anywho, back to business. The plot has been full of critters: Cat’s and pigeons a-plenty (I’m guessing these guys are to blame for my cabbages being completely pulled out of the soil one weekend), slugs all over the place and all sorts of little creepy crawlies. I spotted one little insect on a weed I was pulling up which both terrified and intrigued me. I posted a picture of it on facebook and some friends were swift to point out it was a ladybird larvae – well I never!

 

As for the aforementioned slugs, well, I’m currently looking into organic ways to deter them. I don’t want to use any pesticides on my plot so I’m looking into the use of copper tape, or any natural alternatives. Any tips would be greatly appreciated. I am genuinely terrified of slugs.

 

I have managed to get out the rest of the vegetables and plants passed on to me by my mum and dad, including a few sweetcorn plants, some runner beans and a few floral treats. I’m going to add more supports to the beans but if I haven’t got it quite right then it’s not the end of the world. This is just my first year after all and I’m happy to say that I’m experimenting and learning along the way.

 

  

I bought myself the July copy of Grow your own and it’s come with a few packs of unusual seeds. Some are a bit far past their ideal sowing time but I’m definitely going to get the rest in. Love trying something a bit unusual. There is a pack of watercress, romanesco  caulifower, a miniature globe courgette,a curly scarlett kale and black radish. I can’t wait to see what happens with them.

 

I’ve really wanted to set down some plans and illustrations of the plot and the layout, but I’ve found that it is ever-changing. The more I explore the ground the more I have to adapt my design so at the moment I have a notebook full of scribbled pictures and plant names. One plant that keeps cropping up is Asparagus. As I walk past my neighbouring plots I always marvel at the Asparagus that people are growing. I love Asparagus – I could eat it everyday, so at some point in the future I absolutely have to grow my own. I’m going to properly research it because it’s the one thing I’m desperate to get right. I’ve also written in my notebook “TULIPS”. I’ve never been particularly bothered by tulips, but since visiting Amsterdam I am now certain that I will have some beautifully coloured tulips in pots next year. I’m also hoping that this time next year I’ll be drinking tea on the plot made with a Ghillie Kettle, but for now I’ll have to make do with my Hexi Burner stove and mess tins. I feel like a cadet again, boiling up my water for my drink. And there’s nothing better than a cup of allotment tea whilst I contemplate my next planting.

 

Bye for now

Pip

Week 2: Progress Report

It’s been a strange week. I feel like I’ve done so much but looking at the plot it doesn’t seem that way. It’s a little bit frustrating because you find yourself needing to see results in order to motivate you, however, I’m enjoying the journey, no matter how long it takes.  I’ve been popping down every night after work and I’ve discovered a strange little occurrence.  At the base of my gooseberry bush I found a shallow delve. It wasn’t part of a tunnel so I just covered it back in and put it down to either the wind hitting that area or a bird having a little mud shuffle. But every night I have been back the hole reappears.   I’ve also made a new friend. Whilst I’ve been digging, this little fellow has been coming to supervise. As soon as a worm surfaces, Mr Robin swoops in and gobbles it up. I was amazed at how close he came to me. He’s a bold little creature.    Towards the end of the week I found myself over on the East Coast visiting family. My Mum, Dad and Sister are all keen, talented gardeners, and so they were all full of useful tips and advice, and I somehow managed to come home with a car full of seedlings and plants ready to go straight in (as well as some handy literature and a big bowl full of eggs).    I returned with my spoils and made great headway with my flower bed where I now have some Cosmos (seeds and plants), Poppy seeds, a small false heather, a Rudbeckia plant and some chives.    Amongst the vegetables I received was this little beauty. I’ll post more about the other veggies when I’ve managed to get them planted but for now I’m just so happy to have a pumpkin plant growing. I can’t wait to harvest my first.    Bye for now

Pip