Herb wheel begins

Rain spoiled my allotmenteering yesterday, so I briefly migrated south to Morpeth in the hope of finding better weather, where I chanced upon a stall run by Northern Ark Nursery. This was exciting, because they sell the exact herbs that I was hoping to use on the allotment. I know I bought a load of herb seeds just recently, but I can’t do anything with most of them yet, so I seized the chance and bought some rue, lovage and burnet. The burnet’s hanging out on the wildflower patch with the borage, while the rue’s protecting the raspberries from harm. Wasn’t sure exactly where to plant the lovage, so it’s by the Leek Bed.

These were all outside the herb wheel, but chives and hyssop are established now:


I’ve still got a few to plant, but it’s nice to have made a start. I did lots of miscellaneous digging so I could get the green manure (winter tares, to be exact) planted. There was a bit of a rush because I really should have planted it last month, whereas with the other kinds of green manure I’ve got (field beans, forage peas), I think I can wait a while and they’ll overwinter quite nicely. Here, here’s a view of the whole allotment as of today:


The path along the centre is slowly making its way forwards, and the green manure’s been mostly planted where I’ve dug, at the far end. I’m thinking in the new year, the area by the path to the right hand side would be a good place to have a potato patch. No point in using the raised beds for potatoes, as I want way more potatoes than that. The space to the right of the potential potato patch is reserved for the Secret Project. I think I’m going to plant heritage potatoes – there’s a place fairly near me that grows them and I have to say I’m tempted to grow stuff you can’t get at the supermarket – Shetland Blacks and Pink Fir Apples, etc.

I also planted peas. IN OCTOBER, LIKE A MADWOMAN.


But I’m not mad, or at least, this alone won’t prove I am. It’s the Douce Provence variety, which, if I protect them under cloches or suchlike, should cope with being planted in October. I also planted some in troughs in the balcony garden. I didn’t really have plans for the raised beds this year – I thought if I could get them dug over so you could actually see them, that’d be a start. But once I’d started digging, it went a lot quicker than I’d thought as the soil quality, beneath all the weeds, is very good. So I thought I may as well plant stuff this year, and if it doesn’t work, no harm done. So I have garlic, peas (in a double bed), leeks and spinach, with the creation of a new and final raised bed still underway.

All in all, it’s got underway a bit faster than I was expecting. I guess it’s about a month since I started work. Come to think of it, a month to the day almost. It has been a lot of work, and I’ve been neglecting more of the balcony garden than I should (the sea kale has almost all died, which makes me very sad. I’ll have to try again, maybe from seed next time). I’ve also been neglecting stuff like ‘getting regular meals after work’ and ‘seeing friends’ and ‘tidying my house’, but that’s all by the by. But I’ve accomplished a bit more that I’d predicted – which all comes of having your expectations set nice and low.

Your humble blogger, in a wheelbarrow, with Bernard the bear and a parent of some description.

Your humble blogger, in a wheelbarrow, with Bernard the bear and a parent of some description.


Back to the garden

While I was in Switzerland, I got an email from the council, asking me to take over the allotment the next day. The worst possible time to email me in the last couple of months! Obviously I couldn’t take it over then, due to being in a different country. We’re hoping to arrange a date next week. Getting an allotment is becoming a bit of an ongoing saga.

But nevermind, I also put my balcony garden back together. I was a bit vague about what programme was being filmed, but since it’s finished now, I can reveal that it was ITV’s Vera. They wanted working class 1940s grime, and naturally, my house was the first place they looked. The production team didn’t move ALL the plants – there were a few still on the balcony, so it’s possible that my butterbush squash will taste fame. Ideally, this will encourage it to produce something edible.

IMG_20140830_174714I haven’t bought any new plants in well over a week, which I think shows either a) admirable restraint or b) the fact that at this particular point in the growing season, there’s simply not much available to buy. I have bought seeds, though.


They were from vegetableseeds.net, and I’d originally only planned on getting peas (on which, more later), but they were so reasonably priced that I thought I’d also get some snapdragons, sweet peas and poppies that look a bit like the Danish flag. The instructions on the packets are in Lithuanian, Latvian, Russian and Estonian, but I think I can work out when to plan everything (plus, as a ‘linguist’, I only see this as a bonus).

The peas were bought for the purposes of fulfilling my Great Pea Scheme, which basically involves growing some peas as soon as I can. I’ve picked a variety (Douce Provence) that can be planted in October, for harvest by May. My reasoning is that if sweet peas grew really well in the troughs, then so should these peas:


(also pictured: my jumper plant, purchased from one Sarah Lund of Copenhagen, I believe)

I’m thinking of supporting the pea plants, once they’re grown, on my washing line. This will mean I won’t have a functional washing line, but who needs dry clothes anyway?

IMG_20140830_145910 IMG_20140826_202642

My raspberry, blackberry and loganberry plants all seem to be doing well, which is what I’d hope for at this time of year. My tomatoes, however, are worrying me. They look very tall and impressive (and in the case of the upside down planter pictured on the right, they serve as evidence that a slightly obsessive woman lives within), but the tomatoes, with a couple of exceptions, remain very much green. I’ve done some research and I don’t think there’s any way of forcing them to ripen. I’ll just have to wait and see.

My strawberries in the hanging planters are all still thriving, but the ones I have in a kind of tower block are doing quite the opposite, and several of the plants have died. I’ve tried planting mustard in the uppermost block, because I’ve read that this will draw aphids away from the strawberry plants, if indeed aphids are the problem here. I’m planning to plant some strawberry seeds in October anyway, to replace the ones I lost.

I’ve also been having fun with zombie spring onions.


I’d read online that they just grow back if you put them in water, and was very sceptical of this, but no, it’s true – these have been growing extremely rapidly, and I’m having far more success with them that I ever did growing spring onions outside. I’m not sure what they’ll taste like, though.


My friend Gustav the bee

People keep saying really nice things about my garden, which I’m always flattered by. I sometimes hear people discussing it as they walk past, and they’re often saying admiring things. I don’t really design it to look beautiful at all – it’s more that I collect plants that I like (and sometimes plants that I’m ambivalent towards but are very cheap) and try and find space for them on the balcony. I’ve even had people (usually approx 50 years older than me) call across the street to me to say nice things about my hard work. I could never have really anticipated the ‘social’ aspect of gardening. My gran’s promised to show me her greenhouse, which runs on a hydroponic system, next time I visit. I made arakas for dinner today – pea stew with carrots, potatoes, tomatoes, onion and dill – and the dream is one day, to have entirely home-grown arakas. It’s good to aim high.