When 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?
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.
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.
In 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).
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!
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.
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.
I’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.
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.
Isn’t it amazing how a dash of sunshine and a splash of rain can really kick-start the garden into ‘growing mode’? Taking advantage of the sliver of sunshine yesterday, I ventured into the garden to see how things were coming along.
The hyacinths are open, brightening up some pots with their gorgeous colours not to mention smelling divine. The weeds are romping away (much to my displeasure) but alas!
My fruit trees are doing well; I must admit that due to the late frosts and heavy rain I was worried that none of them would start developing fruit after the blossom was so savagely ravaged but hey, I’m in the Scottish Borders and Scottish weather is usually wet and unpredictable, to say the least.
My dwarf apple trees are developing the odd couple of fruits; the one planted into the ground is doing much better than the other in a pot and for the first year ever my cherry tree has cherries growing on it! Needless to say, my boys and I are looking forward to tasting them once ripe. Though, my laid-back approach to the birds might have to go, as they’ve already been eyeing up my potential harvest! I’m thinking of trying bird netting — does anyone have any tips on how to deter birds without actually frightening them from the garden?
My strawberry plant has suffered quite a bit and after the fruits ripen I think I’ll have to replace it, poor thing is only in its second year but it hasn’t done well with the erratic weather at all so any suggestions on strawberry varieties suited to Scottish weather would be greatly appreciated. I hope we all get some decent weather soon!
We at Primrose are very excited about the Olympic Games coming to London at the end of the month.
We are even more excited at the Olympic Torch Relay coming to Reading next week and having our very own Lorna McArdle as one of the torchbearers!
Lorna, one of the founders of Support U, has spent the past weeks preparing for it by thinking about her clothing options, such as whether her trainers are purple enough, as well as trying her hardest to not think about tripping over.
We wish her all the best and are looking forward to lining the streets of Reading next week!