Thursday, 19 November 2020

In The Last Month...

 I have been in to my obsession for buying plants.  Thankfully Neil doesn't mind and I guess it's a whole lot cheaper than designer handbags, clothes and jewellery, isn't?  In fact, Neil actually encourages me!!! He says if it makes you happy then it's beyond price.  

We usually stock up on a few bulbs for our spring display in the autumn and this year has been no different. As soon as they began to appear in the stores I'd pop a couple into our basket on each visit and it's amazing how they soon mount up!  I knew we wouldn't have the allotment cleared and beds marked out in time to plant them so they're going into the pots in our courtyard and once they've finished flowering I shall transfer them up to the allotment where they can be planted into their permanent spots to bulk up and flower for many more years to come.

I don't normally go for double varieties as they're not as good for the pollinators as single flowered types but now and then I will treat myself to something that looks exotic. Last year I got some miniature daffodils called Rip van Winkle and had them in a pot on the allotment but sadly I didn't get to enjoy them properly (apart from a single flower!) as something nibbled the vast majority to tattered stalks!  This year I have treated myself to three packs of 10! 

 One each of these daffodil varieties

Three packs of these Pheasant's Eye narcissus

These were just too pretty to ignore! Two packs fell into the basket...

And these intrigued me - I've never grown double tulips before and this colour looks utterly sublime...

These 24 Allium bulbs were a special offer in a gardening magazine ~ just pay postage! 

And these gorgeous miniature tulips (species type?) were also too lovely to ignore. They've already been potted up (on 8th October) with some pansies on top. 

I'll be planting these all in pots in the courtyard over the next few days as I'm currently moving more tender plants up to the greenhouse. 

Indoors has not been forgotten either!  As well as houseplants like my 4ft tall Fiddle-leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata) which I couldn't resist from Aldi a few weeks ago, other bargains include a Swiss Cheese Plant (Monstera deliciosa) from Sainsbury's for just £7 which turned out to be two plants which when split up and potted on in their own pots are growing like crazy and sending out new leaves almost every other week!  And, for the same price as the Monstera, the ultimate bargain was a Chinese Money Plant (Pilea peperomioides) which I split up and gained eight new plants from!  

Our kitchen window used to be home to a couple of orchids a few years ago (before all the cat fostering!) and I'd like to have a few more at some point now that we only have staid, sensible Bailey...I just haven't seen any that have caught my eye yet!  But until then, to bring some colour indoors, I have picked up three Hippeastrum (often wrongly called Amaryllis!) ~ Red Lion, Aphrodite and Dancing Queen ~ this week and these shall be started off very soon. I first grew one of these plants way back in 2009 and couldn't believe just how fast they grow!  Once they've finished flowering I'll let them die back, keep them in the greenhouse over the summer so they have a dormant phase and then bring them back into growth to, hopefully, flower indoors once more next winter.  I've never tried this before but I'm sure there's enough info & videos online to help me out! 

There's a number of other projects in the pipeline as regards my Indoor Jungle but these will be put on hold until the New Year as I'm going to be busy indoors over the next few weeks - decorating, decluttering and catching up on writing letters to my friends around the globe.


Wednesday, 18 November 2020

The Ugly Truth

 As Dr Malcolm said in Jurassic Park....Life finds a way.  

And it certainly has on Plot 34!  This *see below* is what three years of neglect looks like. The plus point is that the insect and other invertebrate life has been amazing with the allotment absolutely buzzing with life in every corner. The downside being it's going to be a lot of work to get it back to how I want it but still retain as much invertebrate life as possible. I'm refusing to let it overwhelm me though and plan to do it in small bite-size stages of an hour or two at every available opportunity between now and March and I've got a vague plan of how to do this in manageable portions.  It'll mostly first involve cutting back and removing weeds so I have clearer access paths and then it can be cleared and dug over in sections at a time.

The completely rotten polytunnel raised beds need to be thoroughly cleared of weeds and flowers as the soil all needs to be removed so we can then dismantle it. Same with the shed which is, according to my plot neighbour, over 35 years old!  The roof was damaged by Storm Hector in June 2018 and since then it's been a losing battle to keep it weather proof with tarpaulin as the wood itself is completely rotten and beyond saving. Eventually I think the whole plot will be quite bare with just the greenhouse left standing and a few isolated pockets of perennials. Then I can begin to create the garden of my dreams with clear beds, an area for a new shed, space for more greenhouses (or one big one!) and a chicken run. I was beginning to panic about how this could all be done before the spring but now I've realised that 2021 will be the year that I spend creating and getting the foundations all into place bit by bit. You never know...I may get a lot more done than expected and can start filling more beds than I expect with lots of lovely edibles!  

Anyway, here's a few photos of just how much of a jungle it becomes in the summer - these are from summers 2019 and 2020!  I'm showing them as THESE are the worst it will be and from now on it can only improve!

Rather overgrown path alongside the raised beds - a nightmare of nettles, spiky thistles and brambles that would grab you by the ankles and trip you up! 

After a few hours work it was looking much better...and easier to traverse!

Next job was the shed which spent most of the summer buried under head-height nettles! 


Holy cow Batman - there IS a shed under there!!!                             

I'm really looking forward to turning this wonderful suntrap of a plot into my own kitchen garden.  

Friday, 13 November 2020

First Post

 Hello and thank you for reading my blog.  Or, more accurately, it's a case of Hello and Welcome Back!  I had this blog in a previous form but felt it wasn't quite going in the direction I wanted and this, combined with a bit of a dark spell in my life, made me decide to delete it and start afresh one day when life was better. So here I am! 

I'm starting this blog predominantly as a record of my allotment here in Alnwick and the transformation from weedy jungle of three years to ~ I hope ~ a fully productive kitchen garden full of organic fruit, vegetables and flowers....and, a few chickens too.  I've had Plot 34 since February 2015 and the first few years were so much fun and a huge learning curve as I ventured into growing fruit and vegetables...after 45+ years of being a flowers-only kind of gardener. 

Sadly, the past three years saw a return of the dreaded Black Dog of depression and this completely sapped me of any motivation and the allotment became horrendously overgrown. And the worse it became the less I visited and the more guilty I became - it was a very vicious circle! 

But now that life has picked up I'm feeling so much more inspired and determined to turn Plot 34 back into the attractive kitchen garden I just know it can be. 

I've started this blog as a record of this and plan to show our progress as well as days out exploring other gardens, attractions and the countryside of this awesome county of Northumberland which I call home. There are so many places I have yet to explore and I'm looking forward to sharing this all with you - hopefully it won't be too boring! 

It was a nice plot before the weeds took over!