The ridiculous but practical hat

In my last post I said I’d never expected to use the Factor 50 again this year, and I was surprised once again today by the need to bring out what I’d call my ‘ridiculous but practical Cuba hat’:


Humble author may look foolish but is protected from the sun

It’s been an absolutely roasting weekend, so I made a deal with myself whereby I’d get as much done as possible before late afternoon, to justify an evening in my pyjamas, eating sorbet. Life goals.

Headed along to the Roots and Shoots garden in the morning to buy extra onions (space having been created on the allotment by the fact that something ate half my cauliflowers) and saw some nice flowers on the way:


An idea for Allotment 2018 maybe. On to the current allotment, and as always it’s a bit of a mixed bag, or not so much bag as ‘weedy field’. Artichokes and strawberry patch are both doing really well:

It’ll be the last year of the strawberry patch being there, as it’s about time I moved it to improve the yield. On the advice of Wise Allotment Friend Chris, I’ve started growing strawberries from the runners in a container, ready for the next patch (I haven’t worked out where it’ll be because allotment planning is an activity for the winter when there’s nothing else to do).

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I’m not really sure what’s going on with the asparagus – I mean, it seems to still be alive, which is a good start, but I’m still not optimistic because it’s the wrong soil type, see ‘the constant failure of my carrots’ for more details). Meanwhile the rocket patch has really taken off (hahahaha I might have mild heatstroke), and is home to the odd bit of stray borage that I’m leaving because borage is basically my favourite thing to grow and I forgot to plant any extra this year.


Also on the advice of Wise Allotment Friend Chris, I pruned the fruit trees recently and am HOPING that I’ve done it properly because I’d somehow feel more guilty for being responsible for the death of a tree than I would for accidentally pulling up a pea seedling. So far so good though – might have the first cherries this year.

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I’m also fairly optimistic about the tummelberries, which might also produce fruit for the first time this year. Not sure if I’ve actually eaten a tummelberry before but I have an extremely geekish fascination with hybrid berries, what do you mean, all my interests are extremely niche. I’ve also happy enough with the sprouts and cauliflowers that HAVEN’T been eaten (their survival being down to polytunnels) and of course, the peas haven’t let me down once over the three years of this allotment being mine.


Not pictured: the author, in a small and muddy heap

So as always it’s been busy, with the feeling that I’m kind of keeping on top of it but ‘only just’. I’m planning a couple of other slightly mad but not totally mad allotment projects, on which more later.

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And finally, I know I’d said before I was trying to cut down on the amount of plants on the terrace because, y’know, I need to have hobbies other than growing plants in order to be a well-rounded and adjusted individual, but I’ve got a few things on the terrace I’m happy with at the moment (and it gets so warm that it’d almost be a pity to not use it). I’ve got tomatoes, some happy grow-bag strawberries, various types of mint (I thought the ginger mint had had it, but it’s come back to life. Obviously I’m keeping the different types quite far apart so I don’t end up with mint that doesn’t just taste of mint). And the rescue aubergine, I couldn’t just leave it in Wilkos. I guess if I’m going to have psychological quirks, they might as well centre around having a need to rescue sad-looking plants.


Ticking over


Today’s the PERFECT day for going on the allotment. The kale’s flowered which isn’t ideal but not the end of the world as it’s proving popular with the bees.


I’ve had a LOT going on generally so I’m trying to take any opportunity I can to sort the allotment out and grow at least the basics, even if the weeds are taking over as always. Today was especially important in terms of getting stuff sorted because, excitingly, my trade union is sending me to CUBA soon. It’s been a dream of mine to go since I was about 13, and even though there’s a lot to prepare and I’m a BIT apprehensive, I’m really looking forward to it. On a more relevant note for this blog, I’ll be helping out with agricultural work, which I’m also really looking forward to because I’ll get to see crops that I’ve never even seen before, let alone tried to grow. I hope to update next month with plenty of photos.

Here we have the tummelberry on the left – I’m hoping it’ll produce fruit this year, it’s been hanging around, sponging off me, for two years now. I have a vague plan that it’ll help to form a hedge at the open end of the allotment. To the right, we have our old friends the Lord Leicester peas from the Real Seed catalogue. Or to put it more accurately, from peas I stored and dried last year. Normally I quite like changing varieties of whatever I grow (approx. 20 different types of potatoes over the last three years and I regret NOTHING), but I’m sticking with these peas. They suit the soil, they’ve never let me down yet, and the only thing I have to worry about is making sure I build adequate support for them.


The fruit trees are also looking quite lovely at this time of year, although possibly need pruning (if anyone is an expert pruner, would they mind advising me? There’s a branch I’m thinking of chopping but I’d rather know what I’m doing isn’t going to harm the tree. More pictures can of course be provided next month).


So that’s it from the allotment for April – here’s to a productive May!

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.