planting season’s started

We went with Mick to Homebase and picked up four more paving stones and stud lumber for building the walls of the eventual shed.  (Infinite thanks to Mick for all his help!  The parking arrangements were down to the last few minutes and we made his heart race – which will be recorded on his heart monitor.  Yikes.)

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Spot the train!  (March 2019) Photo by G.

At Homebase we also picked up a narrow garden fork to replace the one whose handle snapped in half — the new one has a metal handle — and some plants for the flat balcony window boxes (white aubrieta and red dianthus), as well as a summer squash, two small fruiting cucumber, a tray of peas, two cherry tomato plants, and two trays of brassica – a purple sprouting broccoli and a purple kale – for the allotment.

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Saturday 23 March 2019.  Showing the two brave leaves of the summer squash in the round planter  (planted today) – with new strawberry patch to the side and pots of tulip & cyclamen above.

It was laborious (again) getting it all back to the allotment, and super-G cut his leg on some metal pole sticking out in the path.  I had to apply a band-aid  to a bleeding leg…

We joked about tetanus shots, but…. Ho-hum. Fingers crossed.

(Must remember to bring some gauze & medical tape — and also look into a more water-proof container for the first aid kit.)

While the wounded super-G painted the wood in preparation of installation, I planted the peas up behind the onion bed — near the top of the bed that marks the upper shed level.  Put up some bamboo poles and pea netting.   This is the top end of the bed that super-G calls Alberta. The peas, if they grow, will help finish our ‘privacy barrier’.

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St Patrick’s Day – painted green!

The big dude got up this morning went to the allotment plot to slap another quick coat of preserver onto the wood shed platform.  It’s all coming together.

Allotment-footings-framed3This is the side view, taken from the top terrace level.  

All the lattice was free, and found on the side of the street.  We had to buy the support posts (£10 each) and also the paving slabs that comprise the steps to the set of stairs up to the upper level.  (This was a second set of stairs, as there are paving slab stairs at the far end of the bed).

I’m hoping to level-out underneath the shed  on the side (facing down the paving slab stairs) and put a few more paving stones to have some tidy hidden-away storage: we can add some lattice on hinges to the side to provide cover and easy access.. Entry to the shed will be from the front side as shown facing, above.

Allotment-fullviewnorth-1This next picture is taken from the bottom corner of our plot, looking upwards.  All levels are shown – the bottom raised bed level, edged at the side with the black metal rose arbour.

In front of the rose is a small patch of garlic chives – they get the prettiest white flowers!   You can also see the oriental greens growing in front of the rose arbour on the bottom level.  Then there’s a path and then the brick-edged raspberry patch.  There are a few kale plants that overwintered in that bed (which turned into sprouting broccoli plants by late March!  No wonder they were kind of feeble kale plants, but even so we had a few meals of the leaves….  Go figure! )  

Then there’s another path edged by sloped beds and stairs to the upper level, edged with terra cotta pots.  Our two white folding chairs are just visible behind the veil of blackberry canes that will create a privacy shield for the top level. 

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Mid-March: Cold, Grey, Windy & Wet

It’s relatively awful outside these days – high winds, chilly, with leaden grey skies and the constant threat of rain.  Despite it all we set out en bicyclette and paid the rose cuttings a visit.  They’re doing fine so far as we can tell.

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Shed sub-frame and platform painted Saturday 16 March 2019

Despite the yucky weather and almost-rain with beads of water in the air, we decided to stay on.  The Mr painted the green wood stain preserver onto the under-frame and then the boards of the eventual shed.  The wood is already showing signs of wet.  We’ll just keep slapping it on and try to get a roof up as soon as we can.  We’ve decided on a wood frame of 2×4 beams.  We think that’s easiest to fill in and finally frame and cover.

And he tied back the woven barrier that we’d strung at the back to keep the back neighbour’s dogs calm, which had come loose on one corner as a result of the heavy winds lately.  (As for the barrier, it seems to have worked more or less, and even when the dogs do bark I somehow feel safer – illusory though that may be.)

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Marching on…

Work on the shack continues apace.  On Saturday afternoon (9 March 2019) Mick helped us by driving to B&Q to buy the plywood.  We had it cut in the store, which is a fantastic service, but otherwise the shop was a big disappointment.  No paving slabs, not a great selection of plants, pretty poor selection of tools….  We need a new narrow-tined garden fork, but the ones at B&Q were huge, heavy and just too big in all respects.   But I did find some square cut garden timber posts with pointed ends – so we picked up 6 of those.

Allotment-footings-framed1Super-G built the sub-frame (supported below by the re-claimed scaffold piping & fittings).  And now we have the plywood to cover it and create the floor of our shack.  It was hell bringing the board to the actual plot as the allotment path is too narrow for the trolley to bring them up.  All carried in by hand – laboriously!  Moral of the story?  No more plywood!  Planks only – easier to handle.  It was getting dark by the time we headed home, so decided to indulge in buying Chinese food for dinner.  We were exhausted and it was definitely a great idea! 

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February update

So much has changed in our little plot of paradise.  It is now spring and almost all of our growing spaces have been tamed and reclaimed.  Behind me (in the photograph below) is the long raspberry bed (now dormant) and black wire arbour which last summer was absolutely dripping in small red roses.

Clearing and preparation for the shack continue – slow and steady wins the race!  The overhanging branches of the hazel tree at the back of the plot were trimmed, and on Saturday 2 March super-G cleared and levelled more ground from the scaffold pole base which will form the floating frame for our eventual ‘raft’ of a deck and found-object shed.  I kept busy preparing the far growing bed by removing the black fabric, turning over the manure we had spread in the autumn, and mixing in some bone meal and another bag of manure.  This will sit for a week before I plant the whole bed with early direct sown broad beans.

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Allotment with early spring colour – 2 March 2019.

Pots were filled in autumn with a selection of spring flowering bulbs.  Crocus are up, as too are some very early tulip!   Amazing for very early March.

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Late Autumn 2018

Here is what the upper level of the allotment looked like in the late autumn.  All the matching trellis frames were found, so all we had to do was buy the wooden posts to support and presto! We have an elegant boundary to the next allotment.  The trellis is very useful and provides vertical storage – butcher hooks are handy for hanging hand garden tools, as well as bigger ones like the garden fork and spade.

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This was before the strawberry patch was planted.  We also planted onion into the ‘Alberta’ bed.

Allotment-Manitoba-bed-1This view shows it face-on.   The middle section of this area remains ‘wild.’  We think it’s self-seeded and full of wildflowers – especially ‘love in a mist’ which has pretty blue flowers.  I’ll let them flower before I start to reclaim this last growing area.  A plastic pot sunk into the soil grew a zucchini, which did well at the start but eventually succumbed to powdery mildew.   I will enrich with fresh compost and grow something there again this coming summer.

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Harvests… late September 2018

We continued to harvest salad greens and beans into late September.  Lovely!

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Parsley, purple basil, oriental greens, yellow sweet pepper and radish (in the red enamel colander).  Green runner beans.  All super delicious and harvested late September 2018.

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Chilling, late September 2018.

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Blazing July – Hot and Dry

July 2018 has been hot – no rain to speak of and temperatures in high 20s and early 30s every single day.  Scorching.  Blazing hot.  Wow.

We’ve had some good evenings at the allotment – just spot checking on the watering in these very hot dry days.  One evening I saw a young male fox, who was sauntering through the allotment plot just below ours.

Development continues apace. The bramble and prickly pile is slowly shrinking (we’re removing a bag or so each time we visit).

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Green zucchini – planted end of first week of July 2018.

The collective trolley was fixed by the ever-intrepid Mr G (who was half-jokingly invited to be on the allotment committee!) 

The peppers and tomatoes are setting fruit and getting along nicely. As we emptied out bags of soil (used to plant the dianthus and herbs) I cut the bags open and laid them out, black plastic outward, on the pepper & tomato patch.  That should help keep the weeds down, keep the soil warm, and retain moisture.  Here’s hoping for good crops!

We planted a handsome zucchini (green fruiting) into a large pot full of fresh soil and lots of manure.  It’s dug into a deep hole in the slanting bed that leads up to the top terrace level.

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A Day for Dianthus

Saturday 7 July.  Scorching.  Over 30 degrees in London.  High 20s in the shade.   Whewf! There’s a few puffy white clouds in the sky, story-book styled, but for the most it’s relentless, pounding, pure shining sun.  So up to the allotment plot to provide some water for flagging plants and check on our set of little pepper plants.   Go peppers go!

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Needless to say, these are far from ideal conditions for planting by any means, but we had the little dianthus pots to get in, as well as the small pot of purple basil to plant.

Yesterday I’d lined the wooden frame of the tomato/pepper bed with brick edging – so’s to maybe delay the inevitable rot of the raised wood frames.  So into that front flower bed the dianthus were planted.  I forked-up the hard clay soil (after a month of high 20s temperatures and no rain, the soil is like brittle concrete), picked-out the big stones (conveniently added to the side walkway which is quickly becoming a pebble path), dusted the soil with a healthy dose of bone meal, added new soft compost, forked over again after watering, then popped them in and watered again thoroughly to settle the plants in.

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Front perennial flower bed, with virginicum & dianthus.  Lobelia adds a splash of annual colour.

Three pink Dianthus ‘Kahori’ now line that front flower bed that leads into the allotment space from under the rose arbour.  Lovely!

With luck the dianthus will settle happily and flower again next year – like the virginicum, dianthus are perennial, so that’s the little flower bed for the butterflies and bees all sorted for years to come (fingers & toes crossed).

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June Round-Up

June 2018 – where did it go?  We were so busy in June that I write this retrospectively, from the vantage of the end of the first week of July.  Much was accomplished…

  • The large compost bin on the top tier was moved down to ground level on entry (to the side of R’s plot).
  • Brambles were cut out to expose the ground of the top tier, and slowly uncovering from bramble and ivy, the trunk of the back boundary lime tree.
  • The side boundary with damask rose and fragrant jasmine was weeded of bind weed, and watered.  The rose responded by coming into a magnificent second bloom.  The scent of a damask rose – the original form of the essence used in perfume manufacture – is intoxicating, heady, almost unbelievable…. Well-deserving of the extra attention, water and resources.

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