Taking root

I always seem to pick planting and harvest time as my two busiest times of year in terms of the world outside the allotment, but I THINK I’m getting on top of it. Even if I wasn’t, I’ve never been the type of gardener to worry about the odd weed, or even the odd field of weeds. Or even the odd bit of debris left by the neighbours.

IMG_20170312_132938

It’s quite good that they left a pram really, because it means instant wheelbarrow! There’s so much I don’t bother buying – a shed, a wheelbarrow, a proper greenhouse, etc., because I know it’d only get damaged or broken by people with nothing better to do, but I think it’s good they’re at least dumping useful stuff on the allotment. I’m worried one day it’ll be a lost-looking abandoned goat.

Yes, I’m getting there according to the allotment map.I’ve got all the potatoes in and planted the peas today. I’ve gone with Lord Leicester peas again – partly just because they grow really well in the allotment compared with other varieties I’ve tried, and partly just because I have hundreds of the things left over from last year. Lettuce, garlic and cauliflower are all in too.

IMG_20170312_132849

Built quite a strong bamboo structure for the peas because this variety grows REALLY tall and every single year, I’ve regretted not sorting it so that the weight of the peas doesn’t cause everything else to collapse. I also managed to get the carrots planted under the fleece. I spent yesterday trying to locate bags of sand to mix in with the soil in an effort to make it more suitable for carrots, but the best option would’ve been a builders merchant outside of town, and I’ve got no car and am extremely weak and besides it was raining heavily and I just needed to get stuff done, so the carrot seeds are in my highly unsuitable, damp, clay soil. I’ve put garlic chives and spring onions in between the rows so at least they might grow.

Overall I’ve been trying to avoid growing anything using the greenhouse this year, partly due to the fact that if you refer for the first picture, you’ll see the crumpled remains of my greenhouse. It didn’t survive the storms over Christmas. I think if I ever rebuilt it, I’d do it in the position it’s currently in, because it wouldn’t be on a hill and it gets more sunlight, but this year I’m concentrating on just managing what I can, so no greenhouse for the time being. Also I’m going to CUBA next month so can’t be worrying about watering seedlings while I’m there. I’ll hopefully be helping to grow crops over in Cuba – I’ve been asked to bring gardening gloves – so it’ll be interesting to see how it all works in an environment that’s completely different to what I’m used to. I’ve arranged for the asparagus, onions and artichokes to be delivered either before I leave or after I get back, to avoid that miserable experience of returning to your house to discover a parcel of dead plants (not an experience that’s new to me).

So it’s all go on the allotment at the moment, but it’s an exciting time – not least because it’s weedburner season. TIME TO BURN THOSE WEEDS AWAY.

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.

IMG_20140830_164130

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:

IMG_20140830_164001

(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.

10295711_10100921884328822_2615457634710363973_n

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.

IMG_20140830_145317

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.