Seed inventory

I had a stroke of luck after the Great Rake Theft of 2014. During a trip to Wilkos, I discovered the selfsame kinds of rake reduced down to 50p each, from the already reasonable price of £5! So I’ve replaced what I lost and have managed to store it in the plastic box (with much of the handle sticking out of a hole, but at least it’s secure). I was quite happy with my progress yesterday:IMG_20141102_142830

You can see on the left where the fava beans have started to appear (and winter tares to the right).

My feet and some fava beans

My feet and some fava beans

Strangely – and it feels most odd saying this – I’ve nearly run out of places to dig. There are strips to the far left and right of the allotment that I’m planning on leaving more or less undug (I’m thinking if I get a shed, it’d make no sense to dig over that area, really), and many of the dug bits need going over again, but aside from that – well, people used to walk past the allotment and humorously offer me the use of their diggers. I grew sick of the phrase ‘You’ve got your work cut out’ because I heard it so many times. But today, someone went past and noted ‘Aye, you’re getting there!’ It’s not the neatest-looking allotment, but at least I can call it an allotment rather than ‘troublesome piece of land I’ve foolishly become responsible for’.

Today I’m being plagued by my wisdom tooth, and although I put in a couple of hours, I became increasingly aware of my need to take painkillers and other medication:

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It works wonders

I used the extra time to put together a seed inventory. It took longer than I expected because of my habit of just buying discounted seeds and working out exactly what I’ll do with them later:

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I concluded that I have a LOT of flower seeds. Which isn’t a bad state of affairs really. I’m quite fond of the idea of having multiple wildflower patches on the allotment. I’ve got a smallish patch at the moment with borage, burnet and snapdragons, but because wildflowers are awesome, I could have them going up all along the path, even. I’m going to have marigolds along the raised beds, I think. Maybe the occasional sunflower.

Herb-wise I’ve not got as much as I’d thought, and I have the more obscure varieties, like wormwood and rue, that would perhaps present me as someone looking to rival a certain local Poison Garden. I’d quite like some more normal varieties to plant in my herb wheel. The chives are still fine but the hyssop, after thriving on my balcony for a couple of months, is beginning to look unhappy. I got some garlic chives from the nice lady on Freecycle who gave me the strawberry plants, and I’ve really enjoyed putting them in salads, so I’d like a few more of them. I think I’m picking them faster than they’ll grow, at the moment.

And in terms of vegetables, I’ve got a bit less than I thought, but in a confusing, ‘I don’t know if I should buy more’ kind of way. I’ve got carrots and parsnips, and a lot of radishes, but no cauliflowers or onions or lettuce. I’ve changed my original allotment plans an infinite number of times but might change them again. If we refer to my first picture – I plan to use the ‘fava bean area’, aka the left-hand strip of the picture, for maincrop potatoes (ideally heritage varieties, possibly Pink Fir, maybe Shetland Black although I’ve heard the taste isn’t great). Then there’s the right-hand strip between the path and the raised beds, and I was thinking I could leave a space near the fire area, but beyond that, grow squashes or cauliflowers – things that need a bit more space than the raised beds – and then rotate that with the potato area, although I know you’re meant to allow potato patches to lie fallow for more than a year. Although I understand there’s debate on that matter. And then beyond the potato patch – roughly level with the high-security storage system aka plastic box – I was thinking I’ve got enough space for a decent raspberry patch.

All plans subject to change, of course. I suppose ‘ending up with more space than you’d planned for’ is an example of a GOOD allotment problem to have.

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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:

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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:

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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.

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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.