Plot 51: Project Hollyhock

So with just one small patch of the main growing beds to finish raking and preparing for planting, I decided to move onto a new project, the border. The border is mainly raspberries and as they fruit on new canes there’s little I can do until the harvest and they’ve been pruned back, so I’ll tackle another weed filled patch.

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There’s several compost bins along the side and one has been tipped over, so I’ll move this and clear the space nearby of weeds to make a nursery bed for my hollyhocks for next year.

The square of earth is host to burdock and bindweed and it’s no surprise to find buried lots of broken glass and plastic; there’s lots of dried putty leading me to think that a broken window has been buried here.

 

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The patch is cleared quite quickly and I find something that makes me very happy, but that’s another blog post. After adding some blood, fish and bone and removing some house bricks it’s ready to look after the hollyhocks for next year. I’ll also put some flowering plants into the space to add interest for this summer.

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Plot 51: Grown Up Jelly

I have discovered a liking for rhubarb. As a child I remember being given a stick and a paper bag with some sugar to dip it into and I hated the stuff, even school crumble failed to get me to like it. But now after inheriting two crowns on the allotment I’ve found it’s a taste I now love.

So I’ve been picking it, stewing it, freezing it and making pies and cruIMG_0333mbles from the green and red sticks.

One thing I also like is jelly, so I decided to have a bash one day at making it from the juice left over from the rhubarb, and ever since I’ve been making it every time that I’ve been preparing some for the freezer.

What I do to make this grown up jelly is once the sticks have been cooked down for the freezer I strain the pulp and save the liquid. I then add to it another half a stick and little more water and boil it for a few minutes and when it’s cool I strain and discard the boiled pulp saving the liquid.

Let the liquid stand in the fridge for a couple of days and the sediment will settle leaving a clear pink liquid above.

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Gently pour off the clear liquid and discard the sediment as you soak three leaves of gelatine in cold water (3 leaves to each pint of liquid).

Pop it all into a saucepan and warm through until the gelatine is completely dissolved.

DO NOT let it boil as it will taste bitter once set.

Pour it into the mould/bowl of your choice and pop it into the fridge to set.

Once set, enjoy it with cream or ice cream, it’s lush.

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Plot 51: The C Word

So much for the controversial heading, C is for calamity and chillies.

Earlier in the year I had a chilli calamity, I had sown and tended four of them with love and in a moment of madness I popped them outside on a sunny February day to enjoy the sunshine. The problem was, as we all know, life takes over and I forgot about them and the following morning when I remembered them, they were beyond salvation.

A friend very kindly gave me a tray of mixed chillies and they’re now all re-potted, labelled and languishing in my greenhouse under an old net curtain to protect their tender leaves from the scorching sun. I keep looking at them knowing they hold the promise of a spicy harvest later in the year. I’m already planning on making sweet chilli jam and Oilo Santo (Recipe here)

April (20)

Now we’re into April and the tomatoes are a good size so they’ve been potted into bottomless pots (ring growing) and planted out in the greenhouse.

There’s also a cucumber and two pepper plants and in the hope of flowers an old dahlia tuber I found while digging has been potted up and I’m, fingers crossed, looking forward to seeing it burst into life again.

C also stands for cabbage and yet again calamity.

I had a tray of around 40 cabbages I had sown that were ready for planting out, but just waiting for me to get the plot ready for them. In my wisdom I popped them onto the bottom shelf in my greenhouse, along with the basil, lettuce and sprouting broccoli. As I was so taken with my chillies and tomato plants I completely forgot to water them and 3 days later I remembered and found a tray full of shrivelled brassicas and the other plants hadn’t fared well either. The lettuce and basil were consigned to the compost and the broccoli and cabbages went into intensive care, or rather a sink full of water. Only time will tell if they rejuvenate or they too will be thrown into the compost bin.

Plot 51: Beans

13.05.20. The weather forecast has been a bit up and down the past week, with sunshine one day and the threat of frost the next. I checked my weather app this morning and saw that the predicted –2 for tonight was changed to a forecasted 3 degrees. (BTW at my house in Italy the daily temperatures are currently 26 degrees). It’s sunny on the plot today and the two peony plants are in flower, giving the impression that all is good with the weather.

May (14)

Other plot holders have got their beans in the ground already and so paying no heed to the old adage of, casting nowt and clouts until may is out I get out the trowel.

I’m feeling semi-brave,so erring on the side of caution, I only plant out 6 of my 14 runner bean plants. They’ve been doing really well in the greenhouse and have started to twine around each other, so I’m guessing it’s time they had something to grow up and should mother nature betray me I’ll still have others to put out at a later date.

May (16)

I’ve been given some French bean plants and I’ve already earmarked a spot for them, so it’s more raking and hoeing to get the area ready for them and using an old piece of metal rebar; the kind used in foundations, I make a trellis to assist them on their climbing journey.

May (17)

Another couple of jobs done and I cut some peonies to take home and hope that the forecast won’t change.

14.05.20 – Woke up to a frost on the front lawn, I hope my beans are okay, but I’ll wait until tomorrow when I go to water the pots in the greenhouse. Fingers crossed all will be well.

Plot 51: Treasure or Tat

As I’ve already documented, skip day was a success as I managed to rid my plot of all the rubbish that had accumulated over the years by the previous owner. But another upside of skip day was the sharing of what I classed as rubbish with fellow allotmenteers.

An old hose-pipe reel of mine was taken by someone, another asked me if they could have the old guttering and pipes and an old circular sink I had was snapped up too: No one was willing to come forward and ask for the old bath though.

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On my last trip to the skip I saw someone throwing away some old trays, the kind that manufacturers use to deliver bread and other produce to shops and supermarkets. As soon as I spotted these I begged them and smiling carried them back to my plot. knowing I shall find many uses for them.

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I’m not going to pontificate and say I’ve saved some more plastic from landfill by recycling as that wasn’t my intention, all I was thinking at the time was, I want those and of course, one man’s tat is another man’s treasure.

Plot 51: Skip and Strawberries

Monday: Word has got around the top plots of a pending committee announcement. Exchanges in hushed tones are telling of the possibility of another skip being delivered. We had one a week ago sited at the bottom of the site and it was filled so quickly that those at the top of the site were upset to have missed it. I’m looking at the bags of rubbish on my plot and the bath tub that is now filled with even more waste and make a conscious decision not to miss this skip. Apparently scheduled for Thursday.

Wednesday: My bare root strawberry plants via Amazon arrived yesterday and although they look dead and better consigned to the compost I know a few hours with the roots soaking in water they’ll be rejuvenated. So today I’m planting them in the raised beds. I’ve put down a layer of black plastic to help keep in moisture and also keep the fruit clean and so it’s time to pop them through the slits and set them off on their way to producing some tasty red berries.

May (6)

Thursday: The skip has arrived and the first job is getting rid of the infernal bath tub, so it’s promptly placed on a wheelbarrow and unsteadily it’s wheeled to the waiting skip. Oh that feeling of joy as it falls into the rubbish receptacle.

There’s a few people on site and a couple tell me to take advantage of the chance to get rid of all the clutter on my plot. So several trips back and forth and the allotment detritus is removed, it’s possible to now see behind the greenhouse and I can now think about re-siting the water container.

Looking over the plot it’s a good feeling knowing that there’s not years of old wood and plastic and electrical wire and broken guttering lying around anymore.

The simple pleasure of a skip and some strawberries.

Plot 51: Beans and Bamboo

With the exception of the border with the raspberry canes, the digging and weeding is over at last and I can concentrate on the assembly of the plot and what produce I shall be growing.

I know that despite a poor germination rate I shall have sweet peas as usual; the fragrance is always welcome and as cut flowers they never disappoint, I had ordered bamboo canes in readiness and earmarked a spot to plant them. Other canes shall be used for the growing of runner beans – something I’ve never grown before.

So with the French beans and sweet peas ready to plant out and the runner beans sown, it’s time to prepare the frameworks. The iPod is turned on and, The Hall Of Mirrors from the Kraftwerk album, Trans-Europe Express is the prelude to bamboo construction. (It would have been perfect if Sylvian/Sakamoto and Bamboo Music had played, but when you shuffle, you get what you’re given.)

April (13)

The ground has been turned but needs to have fertiliser added later to giver the runner beans enough fuel to produce a decent crop. I defy my OCD issues and decide to place the uprights by eye instead of measuring and although I’m not completely happy with the spacing in the end I resist the urge to take it down and start again. My logic being, that the beans won’t care a jot for equidistant spacing.

I decide the French beans can wait as I’m not sure where I’ll put them, so it’s time to start on the sweet pea wigwam. Once again it’s done by sight and I’m even less happier with the result.

I can’t be bothered to sort out the rogue pole as I’ll have to cut and tie new string: Besides I’ve had no breakfast and I’m ready for some lunch. This time the iPod plays, Tavares and the 1973 hit, Check It Out.

Looking at the wigwam I’m sure that my music player is taunting me.

April (15)

Plot 51: Bath Time and Bruising

March. The weather has been clement and this has meant digging, so was time to tackle what I call bed 2. The bed is divided into three parts, the first has a portable compost bin on it, so I decided to move this to the side and use the insides to spread over the ground and claim its now a no-dig bed for future potato sowing. The second part is home to a large peony and two rhubarb crowns that look old but still (hopefully) productive. The final part had some ropey old kale growing among the couch grass and so it’s this bed that I decide will be tackled today. The iPod is connected and today as the fork is wielded it’s George Michael that shuffles to the front to commence the digging with Hard Day from his 1987 album, Faith. I hope this isn’t an omen.

March  (27)

As the digging concludes it’s also time to clear away the wooden planks and bits of old plant supports. This results in expletives being uttered as the wet wood slides from my grip and makes contact with my shins. Once complete the bed starts to look much better.

April (1)

After a coffee break it’s time to tackle that bathtub and buried bins, in fact the more I look at the top of the plot, the more depressed it makes me feel. I’ll be much happier once it’s all cleaned up and in order – OCD?

March  (23)

First job was to dig out the strawberries that had seen better days and then remove the soil filling the bathtub – this proves to be difficult as the tub is lined with house bricks meaning every plunge of the spade is met with resistance and a painful vibration up the arm. So it’s down to scooping the soil out by hand until the bath is able to be pulled free from the earth. This also proves painful as it hits my shins several times as it’s moved and in its place is planted a white currant, kindly donated by a friend.

April (11)

Once it’s free and the dustbins dug out, the ground is forked over and raked. Now the space looks 100% better and ready for some fertiliser and planting up. I’m now off home to put some ointment on my bruised shins.

Plot 51

I enjoyed growing flowers in Italy however over the past two years I’d fallen behind on my veg growing. So in February as it became evident that hospital appointment forecasts meant that we’d be here for a longer time than first anticipated I decided to check out allotment availability in the area to kick start my gardening activities. First I viewed a few council run plots, most completely unsuitable; one so overgrown I’d need a JCB to get it in order, one that was little more than builders’ rubble and another that had what can only be described as an unsuitable neighbour. On the 10th of the month I viewed several available plots at, The Limes. They all looked suitable for my requirements and eventually I settled upon plot 51, (the double greenhouse swayed my decision making somewhat).

It’s a long plot with a shed at the top and the greenhouse at the bottom, it’s cluttered, apparently the previous plot owner didn’t throw anything away, this is evident by the many bags of rubbish, tucked into spaces between compost bins and behind the greenhouse.

Feb (3)

I took over the plot at the beginning of March and my first job was to decide on what will go and what will stay, the submerged bath filled with old strawberry plants will be going soon but the greenhouse will be emptied and cleaned first.

So with my iPod plugged in to its new portable speaker I set the dial to shuffle and as Stargard set the tone for the day with Which Way Is Up? The 1978 disco/funk theme from the movie of the same name I set to ripping out desiccated tomato plants and some nettles. The shelf unit at the end of the greenhouse was cleared of the endless supply of plastic pots and bits of electrical wire that had previously been used as plant ties. After copious amounts of disinfectant and glass cleaner the first job was completed and as I packed up for the day another disco classic shuffled, meaning the session ended with another, boogie-on-the-job track: cleaning is much more pleasant if you can swing your ass as you sweep,mop and polish.

March  (22)

Suddenly the world went mad and we had lockdown and the Coronavirus, I wondered if that meant I’d paid my yearly fees for nothing, not to mention the new gardening tools that had been purchased.

The government came through and said it was okay to still work on allotments as long as you practice social distancing and so I was back to my planning and it was time to organise the removal of the rubbish – or so I thought. All local recycling centres were closed and so the bags of old wood and plastic would have to wait, but that bathtub and submerged dustbins had to go.

March  (1)

Suffice to say, the first few trips to plot 51 were taken up with clearing out old plants, filling compost bins with ancient kale and making a small mountain beside the shed with enough plastic waste to shame the gardening industry.

March progressed into April and slowly my design for the plot was becoming fixed in my head. Garden suppliers; the ones still able to trade had received seed orders and between plot visits I was at home sowing and pricking out in readiness.

As the month kicked off with weather that was welcomed I was starting to feel that things were taking shape, the spot beside the shed was designated for a new sitting area and the biggest proportion of digging over had already been done.

May (5)