Tag Archive | A woodland area

I’m Sorry Monty Don, I Think You Are Wrong…

I’ve had another busy week at the allotment, though it has been a bit murky at times due to the cloud of pollution over the UK.  I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have asthma, as I know I wouldn’t have been able to work outside if I had.  Many asthma sufferers have been struggling this week with high level of pollution in the air, which is apparently due to “a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara”.

By Thursday this week, I had begun to miss the sunshine and was hoping that things will get back to normal very soon.

The flowers at my allotment haven’t been bothered by it all though and they are giving a lovely Spring display:

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I am also really pleased with my woodland area this year too and I have already seen insects buzzing around the flowers:

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The last photo shows my ‘Forget-me-nots’ which I planted in the hope that they will self seed all over my woodland area, as I dedicated this area to my good friend who passed away last year.  I don’t want to forget her, which is why I planted the ‘Forget-me-nots’.

When I first took over this plot, the area was full of couch grass.  The previous plot holder (my dear friend Eric), told me that vegetables do not grow well around the tree, as the tree roots take all the moisture.  This is the reason why I decided to make it into a sort of Spring garden / woodland area.

I took this plot on in January 2012 (plot number four) and it looked like this:

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I quickly covered the area under the large old plum tree, with weed suppressant.  I left it like this until the Autumn:

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I then removed the weed suppressant, which had killed all the weeds and started planting Spring bulbs.  From then on I have been dividing and transplanting any plants I can find, to fill the area.  Last summer I also gave the plum tree it’s first big prune, though it will take a few years to get the tree back to how it should be.

This photograph below shows how the area looks now.  You can just see the Bluebells growing around the tree, which will hopefully flower soon:

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Before I start to talk about the jobs I have been doing at my allotment this week, I thought I would just show you something I noticed on my broadbeans:

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If you look at the edges of the leaves you will see little notches.  I have been asked on various occaisions what causes these notches.

This is the work of the ‘Pea and Bean weevil’.  The adults are beetles that are approximately 4-5mm long, but they are very hard to find as they drop to the ground when they are disturbed.  Their larvea eat the root nodules of the plant in the soil.

I have never yet lost any plants due to the Pea and bean weevil as most broad beans seem to tolerate the damage, but in theory a bad attack could kill your plants.  I make sure that my plants are healthy by feeding them in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser (I use blood, fish and bone) and if the weather is dry then I water them.  This way I ensure my plants can cope with an attack, as I garden organically and don’t use chemical sprays.

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At the allotment this week I have been spreading compost around my summer raspberries and my autumn raspberries and around my fairly young fruit trees.  By spreading compost, I am adding nutrients to the soil, conditioning my soil and it also helps to retain water when the weather is dry.

I think it also gives the area a ‘neater’ feel to it:

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Last Friday on Gardeners world, Monty Don talked about his compost heap and once again told us not to put perennial weeds in our compost bins, which is advice that is always given in books and on the TV.

  I think Monty Don is wonderful.  He is so gentle and his passion for gardening really shows through the program (and I adore his dog too).  However, on this occaision I have to disagree with you Monty, as I know for a fact that you can compost perennial weeds, as I do it all the time.

  It does take three or four years for perrenial weeds to turn into lovely compost, which is why I have a separate compost area for my perennial weeds, but it is worth the wait.  After filling my compost bin, I just cover the top with weed suppressant and wait.

If there are any weed seeds in my compost after I have used it, then I just hoe them off, once a week when I am routinely hoeing my plot.

This week I finally finished emptying one of my compost areas.  This compost area was nearly four years old and you can see in the photo below what lovely compost it made:

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If you want proof about using compost made with perrennial weeds, then take a look at any of the photos on my blog…it really doesn’t spread weeds, provided you hoe every week in the growing season.

Incidentally, the weeds have started to grow here in the Midlands and so my weekly hoeing sessions have begun:

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This week, I also spread the above compost in my polytunnel.  Sadly the mizuna and corn salad were both flowering and it was time to prepare my soil for new crops:

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You can see in the left hand photograph below, that the soil looked quite worn out with lots of old roots in it, so I gave it a really thick layer of compost:

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Another job I completed at the allotment this week, was to finally dig up my remaining Jeruselum artichokes.  I normally complete this job in February or March, but I am a little bit behind this year.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  In February or March, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.

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Every other year I dig manure or compost into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.

 You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

My Jerusalem bed

My Jerusalem Artichoke bed

My family love Jerusalem artichokes roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets….but be warned, they make you a bit ‘windy’ and I have never dared to make ‘Jerusalem artichoke soup’…I wonder if anyone reading this blog has made it?

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I also finished putting the plastic coated chicken wire over my swing at the allotment this week, so it is now ready for a plant to grow up it.  I simply tied the chicken wire on and used three canes to hold the chicken wire up at the top.  I can’t wait to see my plants growing over it in a couple of years.

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And finally this week I completed a job that Mr Thrift has helped me with over the last few weekends.

Remember recently I coppiced the Hazel to use, well it left the area kind of bare.  I decided to make this a smaller woodland area, so we collected a few bags of leaves that were going spare at our allotment site (the council bring them in the Autumn for people to use) and spread them deep around the trees.  This should help to stop the weeds.

I also used some old wood that I painted with wood stain, to make a barrier so the leaves don’t edge over onto our grass area (and this will make it easier for Mr Thrift to mow the grass in summer).

  I made a mental note to myself, to plant lots of Spring bulbs in the Autumn.  I do hope I remember.

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Well that’s enough for today (I’m sorry I do pack a lot into my blog, but I do love writing it).

Thank you for reading today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

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Tackling A Problem Area On Plot Four (Part One)

I took over my fourth plot at the beginning of 2012, as it became free.  This plot was next to my other three plots and I’ve got to say I really wasn’t sure I wanted another plot, but it had the advantage of a polytunnel (which was only four years old at the time) and some wonderful fruit trees at the back.

(Just in case you are wondering, all over the country there are waiting lists for allotments, but where I live, there are always some available to rent, so I don’t feel guilty for having four plots).

Below are some photos from when I first took the plot, in January 2012:

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As you can see there was a lot to be done.

I have worked really hard on this plot over the last two years and most areas are coming along nicely.  There isn’t lots of growing space on this plot due to the trees and I have found that, as it has developed over the past two years, it has become my ‘pleasure plot’.

  I now have an area under my large plum tree that I call my ‘woodland area’, where I planted lots of spring bulbs.  In fact, you may remember me planting lots of snow drops in this area to remember my dear friend that passed away in February last year. I also recently transplanted lots of for-get-me-nots in her honour too.

  During the last year I have transplanted lots of surplus plants from my garden at home and from around my other plots and I am gradually filling the area with beautiful perennials.

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In September last year I also moved my small pond to a well lit corner in this area and transplanted aubrietia all around it, so hopefully this will look beautiful in the Spring too.

So overall, this area is becoming a beautiful, peaceful place, where I now walk past and remember my old dear friend.

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At the front of my fourth plot is a small area which I have given to my dad to look after.

For those who are new to my blog, my dad had his own allotment for many years, but sadly age caught up with him and a full plot became far too much to manage.  Not long after taking on my fourth plot, he asked if he could possibly have a small part of it to look after and I thought this was a great idea, as I can make sure he doesn’t do too much.

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Last winter I laid two woodchip paths either side of my dads area and I brought our old garden chair from our back garden at home.  I put the chair in a small area next to my dads patch, so he can sit down when he is tired.  I also made a little table out of bricks and an old piece of crazy paving, so he now has somewhere to put his flask of coffee when he sits down.

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  I absolutely love spending time with my dad at my allotment.

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The area at the back of this plot is great.  I have two apple trees (an early and late variety), a golden gage tree (which make delicious jam) and a pear tree.  I have also inherited a row of worcester berries.

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This area just needs mowing each week and it’s a lovely shady place to sit in when the weather is too hot and it’s time for a rest.

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In 2012 when I first took the plot over, there were two sheds that stood in the middle.

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I already had a shed on my first plot, so I gave one of the sheds to my sister who also took on the plot next to mine and I gave the other one to one of my friends at my allotment site as he didn’t have a shed.

This area had terrible soil on so for the last two years I have used this area as my wildflower area, with fantastic results:

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I also have an area where I have inherited some summer raspberries.  This area had couch grass growing all through the raspberries and in between the rows, so it was a hard area to tame.

I started by covering as much of the area in between with weed suppressant and left this down for a season to kill the couch grass.  I have spent two years now pulling up the couch grass from underneath the raspberries, in the hope that it will eventually weaken and die.  I certainly have an awful lot less of it now, but I still have a long way to go with it.

I then prepared the area in between the raspberries and sowed grass seed in Autumn 2012 and by Spring 2013 I had a much better, uninvasive lawn in between the plants:

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And then I also have my wonderful polytunnel.  Inside the tunnel was great when I took it over and I just added compost to the beds before planting.

My polytunnel is really my pride and joy on this fourth plot and it’s the main reason for taking this plot on.  I have had so many crops from it in the last two years, but it is particularly brilliant for overwintering salad crops.

I wrote about my first year in my polytunnel here if you are interested.

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So, my fourth plot has been hard work so far, but it is beginning to come together, though it is far from complete.

I have one more area that I have been working on over the last few months (in between other jobs)….it is the area outside of my polytunnel.  This area has bugged me for the last two years as it was a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and some little round pebbles which I have slipped on various times and nearly injured myself.

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There is also a row of blackberries which I have recently cut back.

This area is also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is incidentally a fasinating weed… It has descendants (a group of ancient tree like plants) that thrived 300 million years ago. Fossil evidence has been found that shows some of it’s ancestors reached over thirty metres in height (you can read about it here).  But this explains why this weed is so difficult to eradicate, as it’s been around so long and also it’s roots go very deep into the soil, in fact several meters down. It likes moist clay soil and thrives in these conditions, which is exactly why this area outside of my polytunnel is perfect for it.

So I have spent two years weeding and weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and I decided enough is enough and it was time to do something about this area….

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As this has turned into a very long post I have decided to continue telling you about this area and what I have done with it, on Friday.

So have a good week and thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Friday.

Radio Leicester And A Blog ‘Pumpkin’ Competiton

Hi all, I hope you had a good weekend.

On Saturday morning I had a visit at my allotment from Radio Leicester, it was lovely to talk about my plot.  If you would like to listen to the interview, you can find it here (approx. 1 hour 26 minutes into the show).  It was a fun morning talking about my favourite subject (my allotment) and I especially enjoyed talking about my flowers which attract beneficial insects, e.g. bees, ladybirds, lacewings, ground beatles and hoverflies.

The photo’s below show my plot at the moment:

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Last week I gave my woodland area a good weed and I removed plum tree suckers that insist on growing from the roots of the large plum tree.  I made this area into a woodland area as it is too dry and shady to grow any vegetables underneath it.

I planted bluebell and daffodil bulbs last year around the tree and they gave a lovely display in the Spring.  Back in March I also planted snowdrops ‘in the green’, so I am hoping they will give a good display for many Springs to come.  I chose to plant snowdrops as a way for me to remember my dear friend, who lost her battle with cancer in February this year.  The week she died I noticed snowdrops were flowering everywhere and as we walked out of her funeral service, the snow fell so thickly from the sky it was just beautiful to watch.  So I decided to plant snowdrops, so that every February when they flower I can stop and remember my good friend and the wonderful moments that we shared.  I don’t want to ever forget what a big part of my life she has been.

'Forget-me-nots' that have self seeded

‘Forget-me-nots’ that have self seeded

I have also been replanting some self seeded ‘forget-me-not’ plants, which also seemed fitting for the area.

Below are my before and after photographs:

January 2012 when I took my fourth plot

January 2012 when I took on my fourth plot

My woodland area now

My woodland area now

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Last week I have put a couple more ‘bug homes’ around my plots.  You can buy bug boxes but I prefer to make mine for free.  I just cut up a few old canes using a saw and tie them to a piece of wood in the ground.

The bug homes recreate the natural nooks and crannies that insects like to hide in over the winter.

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I also gave my brassicas a good tidy last week.  I removed any yellowing leaves which can harbour pests and diseases and tied my brussels to the supports that I put into the ground when I first planted them.  This will stop them from rocking in the wind over the winter, as this can loosen their roots from the soil which can be another reason for ‘blown’ sprouts (sprouts that have developed loosely).

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I noticed my cabbages have a few slug holes in the outside leaves, but I’m sure this won’t be problem as so far the inside of the cabbages are fine:

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I thought I would remind you to be careful of frosts this week if your pumpkins and squashes are still outside like mine.  Bring them inside or cover them up if a frost is forecast.

Below is a photo of my pumpkin this year.  I put my wrist watch on it so you could see its size, as I am quite proud of it.  I am hoping I will beat my personal record of 76 lbs, which is nothing compared to last year’s new world record weight of 2009 lbs, grown by a gentleman called Ron Wallace.

My '2013' pumpkin

My ‘2013’ pumpkin

I thought it would be a bit of fun to have a ‘guess the weight of my pumpkin competition, just for fun (no prizes).

I don’t even know the weight of it yet, as it’s still sitting on my plot.  So even if you don’t normally comment on my blog, please have a go and leave your guess in the comments below and I’ll reveal the weight when I bring it home.

Last years pumpkin that was just under 54 lbs

Last years pumpkin that weighed just under 54 lbs

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

My Back Garden And My Allotment Too

I have finally taken some time this week to do some weeding in our back garden.  Unfortunately, I don’t spend as much time as I should in our back garden as i’m always at my allotment.  So the garden really has to look after itself.

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We are very lucky as our house isn’t overlooked and there is a lovely view from my daughters bedroom window:

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You can see from the photo above that the lilac tree is in full flower.  I love lilac trees, they remind me of the first house I owned, as it had one in the back garden too.

If you look closely at the photo below, you can see my ‘clematis montana’ climbing through the photinia ‘red robin’.  I planted the clematis about five years ago and I had forgotten all about it until I spotted it this week.

What a lovely surprise:

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This week at my allotment I have been earthing up my potatoes.  I have twelve rows to do altogether and as I find it such hard work I earth up one row a day:

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I planted some spring onions that I have grown in modules.  I always had a problem getting spring onion seed to germinate in my heavy clay soil, so now I grow them in modules filled with compost.  I put a small pinch of seed into each module and I don’t bother to thin the seedlings out, as the spring onions grow in a bunch.

When the spring onions are large enough, I transplant them:

Spring onions transplanted next to my garlic

Spring onions transplanted next to my garlic

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This week I have planted my runner beans.  I sowed the seed at the beginning of May and I have been hardening the plants off.  As it is still quite cold for this time of year, I have put old panes of glass around them to give a bit of protection.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember I dug trenches in the autumn and filled them with all my old peelings, etc until they were full and then I covered them over with soil again.  My runnerbeans were planted exactly where the trenches were, so this soil will now hold the moisture and runner beans like to grow in moist soil.

The runnerbeans I planted this week

The runner beans I planted this week

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My runner beans trench in autumn

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As my comfrey was coming into flower, I cut it all down and added it to my compost bins.

Comfrey is a fantastic compost activator and anything that speeds up compost making, is good to me.  What is even better is, it is free!  You can read about growing comfrey and making ‘comfrey tea’ here.  (Comfrey tea is a fabulous organic feed that is high in potash, which means it is good for fruits and flowers e.g. tomatoes)

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I also chopped some of my chives down this week.  My daughter used to love chives so I dedicated a whole bed to them….yes you have guessed it…she doesn’t like them now, a typical teenager!

I haven’t dug them up as we still use loads of them and the flowers are so pretty and the bees love them.

I have three rows altogether and I find if I chop them down after they have flowered, then they start to re-grow again.

As my three rows were about to flower, I decided to chop two rows down and leave the middle row for the bees.  I will chop this after the flowers have gone over, so I can stagger the crop.

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Just before I did this, I managed to take a photo of the female blackbird that has been following me around for the last couple of months at my allotment.  She must have a nest nearby.  She comes so close to me sometimes that she makes me jump.  She doesn’t seem scared of me at all, which is unusual for a blackbird.

My blackbird friend

My blackbird friend

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I repotted my mint a few weeks ago and I finally planted the pot back into the ground.  I find it is better to keep mint in a pot as it helps to stop the plant from taking over, as it does spread rather a lot.

I have two mints, a normal mint and an apple mint.  I also planted an oregano plant that my local garden centre was giving away free a few weeks ago:

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I have given my strawberry patch a good weed this week.  These strawberries are three years old now, so I I have planted some new ones in a different place.  Strawberries usually only last three to four years, as their yields become less after this time due to a build up of pests and diseases.

My daughter loves strawberry jam, so I grow loads.

They are flowering well now.  I will shortly buy a bale of straw and put it all around the fruit.  The straw acts as a mulch, so the fruit isn’t sitting on cold wet soil and it also helps to keep the weeds down.  I will then net the plants so the birds don’t eat all the lovely fruit.

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One of the last jobs I have done this week, is to refill a plum moth trap on my big old plum tree.  The picture below shows the sticky paper that trapped all the plum moths last year.  As you can see there is obviously a problem on this tree:

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To finish off I thought I would show you a few pictures of my woodland area.  This area was part of my fourth plot that I took over in January 2012 and it was covered in overgrown couch grass.  I covered the area in weed suppressant straight away to kill the couch grass and by autumn it had worked well.  From then on, I planted loads of bulbs and transplanted different flowers that I had.  Afterwards, I covered the whole area in leaves to suppress any weed seeds from growing.

This is how it looks today:

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The bulbs have nearly all finished flowering now, but there are still a few around.  I have noticed it’s now the turn of the aquilegia’s, together with my wallflowers and the English bluebells (that I bought in the autumn with my birthday money).  I’m very pleased with my woodland area so far, but it still has a long way to go:

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Thank you for reading blog today.

I will be back on Monday.