Defeating my laziness

I’ve been getting a bit lazy with allotmenteering lately, having chosen easily the worst time of year to do so. IN MY DEFENCE, I’ve been ill, on and off, and busy with work and a few other things. Plus, another dispiriting thing happened, worse even than the Great Rake Theft. I keep tools and other various bits and bobs in a padlocked plastic storage box, and discovered a couple of weeks ago that the lid had been smashed to allow access to said box. They hadn’t taken anything, which paradoxically only increased my rage. Anyway, as a counter-measure, I had a look at my stuff and determined what I really wouldn’t want to lose, and moved it to my flat. It’s such a pain, because I don’t really know what to do now. In some ways I could do with a shed, but that could easily be broken into by a determined thief. If I replace the lid of this box, I could simply be wasting my money if it’s broken again. My best idea so far is to put barbed wire all round the fence, as my neighbours have done. We shall see.

I had a bit of a word with myself, though, and decided I wasn’t going to let that ruin my allotmenteering experience. I was thinking what a pain it was to schlep tools from my flat to the allotment whenever I go there now, but then the other week, something good happened (and I’ve rattled on about this on all other forms of social media, so might as well say it here too): I passed my driving test! After a year and a half of learning to drive (probably felt like quite a bit longer to my long-suffering instructor). So if I ever actually get some kind of vehicle, I can simply drive to the allotment in style.

I also bought something to cheer myself up:


I decided I needed to get over the psychological block of the weeds that are taller than I am. I mean, the weeds are generally where they’re meant to be – I deliberately haven’t cultivated the whole allotment, because there’s only so much I can do, and I’ve been hoeing away on the raised beds. But it’s sometimes a bit daunting when unlocking the gate and seeing the various huge plants, even the ones that are supposed to be there:


So I’ve had a few hours of chopping today, which has been extremely therapeutic, even though I’ve kept in mind that it’s not really a long-term solution against the weeds. And despite the fact that my cauliflower, cabbage and sprouts have all been eaten by rabbits (main suspects), some things are growing as they should be:

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I’d bought the tayberry to celebrate the Scottish referendum (I didn’t have hugely strong feelings either way, but it seemed fitting) and hadn’t really expected actual berries to appear for a while. The borage is thriving – it’s been attracting so many bees that you can hear them humming from the other end of the allotment. It’s a bit nerve-wracking to pick the flowers, but I survived. The Lord Leicester peas have, as predicted, out-grown me (as have all my siblings and most adult humans), and the potatoes seem to be fine.


I picked a random assortment of things today – a few flowers to have in the flat, lots of borage flowers to eat, and the delicious garlic chives. It’s not like I’m dragging back massive sacks of vegetables, but I didn’t really expect to be at this stage. One thing that’s surprised me, after the failure of my carrots and parsnips and other, more conventional things I’ve tried to grow, is that the oka seems to be doing very well. It took a while to emerge, and I’m still not sure if it’s even worth eating – I don’t know what it will taste like, but it’s encouraging to see that some things are working out well.


Snow on Svetlana

Svetlana the allotment (for that is her name, and I don’t mind if people judge me for naming my allotment, because if I’m spending more time with her than I do with actual humans, she may as well have a name) experienced a bit of snow this morning, as did I, for I was digging on her. Very weird weather in Northumberland lately. The wind has not been very kind to my loganberry, which is now considerably more stumpy than it was before.

I spent a very pleasant Christmas and New Year down in the West Midlands, from whence I originate (sort of, but my precise genetic background isn’t the subject of this blog). It was the longest I’d spent away from the allotment and when I went round today, there was plenty to do, although I was only there for a couple of hours due to the snow and the winter cold I’m trying to shake off. My relatives got me some excellent gardening-related stuff. My grandma got me some new gardening gloves, which I’m going to try and keep fairly nice (unlike the rigger gloves I keep getting from Wilkos which I use for heavier-duty allotmenteering). My brother David got me A TUMMELBERRY:


Not much to look at now (the tummelberry, not my brother, I mean) but I have faith that it will be awesome. I’ve now got a tayberry, loganberry AND tummelberry, along with a couple of raspberry canes (with several more on order) and a thornless blackberry plant. I could read for hours about the various raspberry/blackberry hybrids. I considered getting a wineberry plant and even having a go at growing cloudberries, but I’ve had to learn to say no to myself, or at least ‘Not now’. The raspberries (and their various hybrids) will take up a lot of space, which is part of the reason I’ve chosen to grow them in the first place.

I also got an Amazon voucher from my workplace, and decided to buy the strawberry tree I’ve been obsessing about. I’m not strictly meant to plant large trees on the allotment, but this one is very pruneable and doesn’t even really look like a shrub at the moment, bless it.


It doesn’t grow strawberries, as I pointed out to various long-suffering colleagues as yet another large plant was delivered to our workplace. It grows a kind of red fruit that doesn’t appear to have a name and that isn’t very nice to eat straight off the tree, but which can be used for jams and also a kind of brandy. I know. I’ve always had a love of the obscure, and any sensible person would have just got an apple or pear tree, but I love my little strawberry tree. I think it’ll grow reasonably well, as it likes coastal regions and cool summers, so we’ll see. I might also get more conventional fruit trees, but not too many. I have to keep in mind that I might not be living in Northumberland forever, so there may come a sad day – not soon, but some day – when I have to part from this allotment. So that’s something to factor into my planning.

Here’s a view of the allotment today – nothing too much has changed.


I’m going to lift the carpeted section in a few weeks, as that’s going to be part of the raspberry patch. Because my allotment’s the size of a small county, you can’t see the herb section (to the left) or the soft fruit section (to the right). But look, I’ve been trying to form paths of some sort, which has helped a bit with keeping things manageable. I just have to remember to walk them so I don’t forget they’re paths.

Making progress

One of the many passers-by commented, as I toiled on the allotment today, that I was a ‘brave lass’. I said I thought I was either brave or stupid, at which point he conceded it was probably stupidity. There’s a lot to do, and it shows. That said, I only got the allotment two weeks ago, and already you can see some stuff happening:


OK, it’s not the best before and after shot because a) The ‘after’ part is not yet ready and b) The way I angled the last photo misses out the nice bit I spend a lot of the weekend creating, which is the fruit corner:


It also misses out the strawberry patch, so you’ll just have to take my word for it: it’s looking awesome. Or at least acceptable. The fruit patch looks quite nice and civilised, anyway. I planted the loganberry plant (third from left, towards the middle) today, and I hope it’ll be happier there than in a container on my balcony.

The upside of having so much to do is that it makes things a bit more interesting, in a way. I suppose if all I had to do was dig, I’d get bored of it after about an hour, but with so many tasks ahead of me, I can dig for an hour, then sort out a raised bed, rack over the strawberry patch, venture into the Forbidden Half of the allotment and speculate on what’s lying beneath all the weeds (I strongly suspect there’s an entire shed there), etc. Or, in this case, make friends with yet another allotment neighbour. This one was kind enough to give me potatoes and radishes, and says he may have leeks for me at some point. It’s so nice how friendly people are. Nobody thinks that I can’t do it, which is good. People acknowledge that it’s a lot of work ahead, but I seem to get a lot of points just for trying.

This allotment neighbour told me that many years ago, the entire allotment site used to be a pig farm, and that when they abandoned it, they set fire to it, meaning that while all the wood burned, the glass, of which there was a lot, simply smashed. This would explain why there’s so very much glass all over everybody’s allotment. I was thinking it seemed like far too much, even if the previous owner of my allotment had smashed up his entire greenhouse.


My meals are becoming a BIT more home-grown. I made a pie with some of the potatoes I unearthed on the allotment, added home-grown mustard and cress to the salad, and made a mojito with a cucumber from the balcony garden. OK, it’s not quite self-sufficiency, but as I reflected as I was digging today, that’s never really been my goal. Obviously I love eating stuff I’ve grown, but the main driving force behind these weekends getting covered in dirt, along with my complete insanity, is just the process of doing some hard work, then looking back on what you’ve done and feeling happy about it.

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I’ve been neglecting the balcony garden SLIGHTLY – it’s times like this when I do wonder if I’ve taken too much on, especially as I’ve been fortunate for the last couple of weekends in that I’ve had nothing to do but garden, but in the future, I might have to, y’know, do stuff other than garden. But I did a couple of hours in it today. A main task is deciding what should stay on the balcony, and what should be moved over. I’m thinking of moving the melon over, because it’s got no hope of growing on the balcony. I’m not sure there’s much point in moving the tomatoes or aubergines over at this stage.

One thing I’ve got to make a start on is composting. I’ve marked out an area on the Forbidden Half of the allotment that I think would be a decent place to put said heap (there’s nothing else there, it’s a fairly shaded area, it’s far from where I envisage the seating area will be, etc). I now just don’t know how to prepare said heap. Do compost heaps even need preparing? Do I just start dumping my coffee grounds and other assorted kitchen waste there? I feel that I should do something to the base of where the heap will be before adding to it – dig it over and put down wooden planks, maybe? I can find plenty of composting advice online, but nothing that actually matches up with what I want to know.

Another of my priorities is to sort out a shed, or at least some kind of storage system for the tools. I’m not sure whether to cave in and buy a large plastic storage chest, or hold out on the off-chance that an allotment neighbour has a shed going spare, which could happen. I did briefly consider buying and building a Nissen hut, but I think that was an idle fantasy. Either way, I think I’ll have to wait till next month before actually paying money to do anything. It’s easy to fall into the trap of buying ALL the allotment things at once when you’re starting out, but I don’t think my bank account would be happy about it. Mind you, if I run out of money entirely, I’ve got enough potatoes to last the rest of the month.