Allotment, Craig, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Creative Watering on the Allotment

As I mentioned before, we share our allotment with some good friends who also happen to be our neighbours. Our plot is no more than 150 yards from where we all live and this allows us to visit daily without any great inconvenience. We find that we are able to each do our bit and there are no cross words as to who does the most. If nothing else we work as a team and are all looking forward to seeing a good crop this year having started most things from seed way back in the depths of a cold March.

Those puny looking threads of green we saw poking their heads tentatively out of the dark earth are now starting to stand tall. We are inundated with tomato plants, many varieties from Cherry to Beefsteak and I am looking forward to a good summer harvest. We should be taking our first ones off within the next four weeks — exciting times ahead.

One of the many challenges we, like many gardeners face, is getting the balance right when watering our crops. During the recent hot spell, we had to water the greenhouse plants twice daily; they were crying out for as much refreshment as we could give them – not unlike ourselves, having spent any time under the hot glass panes! However, where our thirst could be quenched with one or two well earned cold beers – our little friends need more than that.
Craig's Water Butts
So, as they say – desperate times call for ingenious solutions. Or something like that. As I often say, the keen allotment keeper is akin to a scrap man – always on the lookout for items that would be of some use. Our greenhouse is home to a selection of water butts and piping that has been gathered over the last few months. During the months of rain they filled nicely and we are now seeing the advantage of harvesting rainwater – we are able to freely fill our watering cans and keep of plants replenished.
Recycled pipe trellis to grow beans
One of the best uses we found for some old hollow pipework was to create triangular frames for our selection of broad, dwarf and runner beans. It is an age-old trick to create frames for climbing plants, so I am not professing any new revolutionary gardening technique. However, and here comes the clever part, we did find that the hollow pipe served a secondary purpose. We found that they held a good amount of water and by filling them up to the top they would slowly seep the water under the ground and directly into the bundles of roots that are beginning to take hold under the soil.

This in itself gave us another solution to the problem of how to avoid damage to plants when watering in full sun. Directly watering into the roots prevents any sun damage or burns occurring on the leaves and stems.
Watering through a pipe trellis
The next step could well be a remotely controlled or timed watering system and there are many of these available. We have certainly got the space to warrant that investment and we have the water storage solution so maybe…
Until we have decided, however, we will keep on using our initiative and turning one man’s rubbish into another man’s watering solution.

Craig

Charlotte, Gardening, Guest Posts

Stormy Weather

After weeks of glorious sunshine, my garden was blooming and the vegetables I had started from seed were all progressing better than anticipated. So much so that I had bravely put many of them outside to harden off before being transplanted. What a mistake! One night last week the weather took a turn for the worse and my once beautiful garden has suffered dearly.

Charlotte Working on the TrellisHeavy rain and gusting winds rattled the windows as I tried to sleep. ‘Tried’ being the operative word since little sleep was achieved as I imagined the havoc being created outside. I awoke early and ventured outdoors to assess the damage. Roses had been ripped from their trellises, colourful borders flattened and the stunning hollyhocks which had formerly towered over me, now stood limply at right angles.

Charlotte's husband helping with the branches I hastily got to work tidying up and repairing what I could. I carefully teased the roses back onto their trellis; trying not to damage the plentiful flowers and buds. Supports were provided for the hollyhocks and stakes added to the young fruit trees which looked at risk of snapping. I enlisted the help of my husband for this task. Being almost a foot taller than me he comes in rather useful for such vertically challenging chores.

Most upsetting was the destruction endured by my precious vegetable seedlings. Those placed in the open air to harden off, had been tossed around the garden by the unforgiving winds. Even those which I thought were protected inside a growing frame were not spared. The entire frame had been blown over, leaving young tomatoes, peppers and sweet peas upturned.

I re-potted what I could; scooping up the spilled compost and carefully replacing the young plants. It was then I noticed the sweetcorn. It’s the first time I’ve grown this and the quick and steady growth had impressed me. However they now stood sadly, many with broken leaves and stems. It felt as though the months of hard work and love I had poured into the garden had been destroyed overnight.
Charlotte's Plants
Having fixed what I could I retreated indoors for a cuppa whilst surveying my seed collection. Thankfully, I had reserved a few of each seed type when initially planting. Undeterred I spent the afternoon planting second batches as a backup for those which may have been lost. It’s rather late in the season to be starting many of them off. However, living in the south-east, I’m hoping the warmer and longer summer we (usually!) encounter will allow me to see a harvest from most crops. That is, if the rain and wind ever make way for more sun.

I haven’t given up on the sweetcorn though. The injured specimens have been brought indoors for some TLC. Perhaps they will find the strength to recover and produce new shoots. Any advice on how I can aid this would be gratefully received. I was so looking forward to serving my family delicious home grown corn on the cob, dripping with butter. I can almost taste it now… fingers crossed they pull through and make it to the table.

– Charlotte

Allotment, Craig, Fire Pits, Gardening, Guest Posts

Allotment Parties

Craig's Allotment gardenWhen we took over the adjacent allotment to our own, not only did we inherit some wonderfully rustic home made out-buildings and greenhouses, but also a modest decking and fire pit area. Now the previous tenants clearly had some grand designs, but due to relocating have left these largely unfulfilled. One of the things that struck us was that we could have plenty of space for planting, growing and keeping poultry but also a perfect (almost) ready-made entertaining area.

With some elbow grease to clean down the tired looking wood and some more ingenious construction (that probably wouldn’t pass building regulations!) we steadied the deck and dug out the cooking area. So what makes an allotment perfect for those long late nights that summer holds?
Craig's plants
Your allotment can be the perfect space for a few friends to share some food, drinks and chill out under the stars. Certainly for us with only a modest sized garden, it is a perfect place when we want to invite a few more than usual as our allotment affords us the extra space. It also gives us food, cooking facilities and the chance to show off our second home – in a busy season it certainly feels that way.Craig's plants
Firstly, be sure to check the terms and conditions of your tenancy. I would not advocate doing anything that is likely to cause you trouble. I think that most local councils would be reasonably relaxed about it, depending on the proximity to neighbouring houses and the potential for noise pollution or damage.

Some useful pointers to ensure that you make the most of your allotment party –

· Check you are allowed to have a social gathering in your agreement
· Ensure your guests respect yours and others property
· Don’t annoy the neighbours – music, noise, and littering, wilful or accidental damage
· Keep the guest list select – don’t invite hundreds
· Be careful with any fires lit
· Keep the party area well lit, don’t want clumsy feet walking on those plants!
· Clearly fence off areas that are no-go’s
· Make sure all fires, candles and naked flames are extinguished before leaving

On a cold but clear April night we stoked up a fire and got a feel for what those long awaited summer nights would hold for us. It was blazing success. A perfectly clear night allowed us for some unrivalled sky views of the stars and planets, the fire pit roared to life and somehow the food tasted all that better. We are eagerly awaiting the opportunity to partake in our next one now that the temperatures have risen and the nights are just that bit longer. Whilst allotments may not be chic, and some may be a little shabby – they hold great promise for not only the raising of seeds but of glasses too.

Craig

Flowers, Gardening, Guest Posts, Lisa

Poppies from the Malvern Spring Show

Student's Garden at Malvern Spring ShowIn May I went to the Malvern Spring Show along with my lovely husband and his parents. There was so much to see at the show, I’m not sure I managed to get round to everything. The show gardens were lovely and they gave you a real sense of what can be created with a great deal of knowledge and in some cases thousands of pounds worth of olive trees! I have to say though that of all the gardens, my favourites were the ones created by schools. Local schools had got pupils together to have a go at making their own creations and they were stunning. The main show gardens were clever and classic but the children’s ones outshone them with their sheer inventiveness. They used popular children’s books to help them plan what should go in the garden. They were really beautiful and a real credit to the pupils and the teachers involved (in case you’re wondering, no, my children don’t go to any of the schools).
Painted Tyres in Malvern Student Garden

A lot of the stalls at the show had similar plants to each other – there must be some flower fashion show somewhere that sets the trends for the season! I bought a few things while I was there, some very pretty alpines including a few beautiful blue gentians. I’m going to plant them all together so I can make sure the drainage is right for all of them. I also bought some blackcurrants and a redcurrant, so I’ve popped them in the front garden, always hoping for more fruit. I’m just not sure you can have too much! I also bought a few grasses to help soften an area at the bottom of the garden that I’m intending to sort out soon.

I found a lovely ladybird poppy whose flower is bright red with black spots. I love poppies; I find their tenacity really encouraging, it makes me feel like no matter how many plants I manage to kill there’s always hope for me with poppies. I just bought one of the ladybird poppies thinking that I could harvest the seed myself. It had 2 plump heads on it, getting ready to open out. At home I planted it in the front garden right where the children would see it every morning on their way out but the next morning I came out to find the birds had eaten both heads straight off!
Lisa's Poppy Plant
I was gutted. The birds are having a go at everything at the moment – some fennel plants that were just poking through the earth have been taken completely out! I think I’m turning into Father Jack (from Father Ted) muttering about the birds and being forever persecuted by them.
Poor ravaged poppy.
Lisa's Ladybird Poppies
I’m quite pleased the birds made a snack of it as the plant responded by producing lots more flowers and they’re all opening out beautifully. The children love this plant and keep counting the spots on each flower to see how old they are!

All in all though it was a lovely show at Malvern particularly as it didn’t rain a drop and we actually saw sunshine. For some of the day I was just in a T-shirt! It’s spurred me on and I’m looking forward to putting a few plans I have for the garden into practice, such as planting a bathful of strawberries, getting a greenhouse to replace my very small very ‘make do’ plastic zip-up one.

Blue PoppiesI’ve also planted out a blue poppy this year. I’ve had it in a pot for the past 2 years and it stayed alive but wouldn’t flower at all. So I decided to take a risk and planted it in the front garden. It’s now producing lots of lovely blue poppies and I’m over the moon.
Beautiful blue poppy heads
In January I was out for a walk with a friend and found a load of poppy seed heads so I took one to sprinkle around the place and they’re all starting to come out now. I’m looking forward to finding out what they look like. With all these different poppies I’m going to have to be organised about harvesting the seeds but then again, maybe I’ll just throw them all over the place and be happily surprised when they come up next year.

Lisa

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