Tag Archive | Growing wildflowers

A Wild flower Patch And A ‘Thyme’ Capsule

As I said previously, I am having a break from my blog during March, but as promised I will share one of my favourite blog posts each Friday instead.

The blog post below was written in August 2012  and again these are memories that I am so glad I wrote about:

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My Wildflower Patch:

When I took on allotment plot number four, I inherited two sheds.  I already had a shed so I offered the larger shed to my sister, who had taken on the plot next to me and the smaller shed to one of my other allotment friends.

I was left which a patch of really poor quality, rock hard soil, that needed an awful lot of organic matter digging into it before any fruit or vegetables could possibly be grown there.

While I was deciding what to grow there, I saw a program by Sarah Raven called ‘Bees, butterflies and Blooms’. She explained how 98% of Britain’s wildflower meadows and grass lands have been lost and how the world’s bees and other pollinating insects are in crisis and without these pollinators our future food security is under threat.   Her mission was to encourage farmers and village communities to help recreate a network of habitats for struggling bees, butterflies and pollinating insects.

I was blown away by the beauty of the wildflowers that she showed on her program and I wasn’t the only one to feel this way either.  In fact, the designers of the 10 football fields-worth of wildflowers, at this years olympics, were influenced by Sarah Ravens TV program.  Also, wildflowers sales have apparently tripled this year.

All I did to prepare for the seeds, was forked the ground, weeded and then raked, where my sheds once stood. I didn’t add any organic matter.  Then at the end of May, my daughter and I sowed a few different packets of wildflower seeds, using dry sand to distribute them evenly.

I have found that Wild flowers are not only beautiful, but they are really easy to maintain, as they don’t require watering or deadheading.  They attract all kinds of beneficial insects and I have found it incredibly relaxing watching all the insects come and go, in fact I think, it’s absolutely amazing.  Everytime I look, I see bees, hoverflies, ladybirds etc. there is so much insect activity going on all the time.

I am so proud of my wildflower patch.  I have Corncockle, corn chamomile, cornflowers, corn marigolds, corn poppies, white campion, phacelia, borage and essex broad red clover, to name a few.   I will definitely be sowing more seed next year.

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Our ‘Thyme’ Capsule:

In June this year, we made a family time capsule and I thought it would be good to share this with you.

We purchased an airtight & watertight plastic box and filled it with all sorts of things to show how we live.

My daughters wrote about their favourite things e.g. their friends, favourite pop groups and all about their school.  They put pictures of their mobile phones, our television and some of their games.  They put pictures of their bedrooms and toys and wrote about their hobbies.

My husband and I wrote about our lives and the allotment.  We put pictures of our allotment neighbours and wrote about how we love it there.  We also wrote all about the food that we harvest and eat from our allotment.

We all took it in turns to dig a very deep hole at the back of our plot, in a grassed area under our apple tree.

My daughter dropped the box in the hole and we covered it up again.

We wondered how we would remember exactly where it is and came up with the idea of putting a plant over it.  After a few milli-seconds of thinking, it was decided that the only plant that could possibly be planted there, would be ‘Thyme’.

So here it is, waiting to be discovered in years to come, when we are long forgotten.

I wonder what will be in this spot in another hundred years time?

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I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog today.

Growing Cauliflowers And Making Comfrey Tea

On Tuesday this week I dug up my cauliflowers, which were a heritage variety called ‘English Winter’, which I sowed in May last year. They stood all winter long and I was a bit concerned that I would just have leaves without the lovely white cauliflowers….but finally in April the cauliflower heads began to form and the result was beautiful large white caulis.

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The ground where they had stood for a year was as solid as a rock and it took me ages to fork the soil over. I then raked a dusting of Blood, fish and bone over the area and then planted the red onions that I sowed back in January this year.

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This week I planted some more cauliflowers that I sowed on the 14th February. They are a variety called ‘All year round’. As usual I walked, danced and jumped all over the area, as cauliflowers especially like firm soil and this helps to stop them from ‘blowing’.   It also helps to add organic matter in the autumn, so it has time to settle.

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After planting the cauliflowers I tread around the plants with my foot and then I cover the cauliflowers with environmesh to stop any little flies getting into the curds when they form.

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I noticed my curly kale is now flowering beautifully. If I don’t need the area straight away, I leave the kale to flower as the bees love it:

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This week I picked our last purple sprouting broccoli, which is quite sad as my youngest daughter loves it….but I also picked our first asparagus of the year which is great.

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When I walked around my plots I noticed my first globe artichoke is forming which is also great….my in-laws love these so I make sure they have the first ones of the season:

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One of the jobs I completed this week was to cut down my comfrey before it flowers, so it doesn’t self-seed everywhere.

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I put some of the comfrey into my compost bins as it is a great compost activator and I used some of it to make an enormous pot of comfrey tea.

Comfrey tea is high in potash as the deep roots of the Comfrey plants absorb the potassium from the subsoil. Therefore it is great for using on most fruits and flowers which is why I have a whole bed dedicated to comfrey plants, which I cut down three or four times during the growing season.  If you are buying comfrey to grow, the experts tell you to use a variety called ‘bocking 14’ which doesn’t self-seed, however I just took a root cutting from my neighbours allotment to get me started and I didn’t have a clue which variety it was.  Self-seeding has never been a problem for me as I always cut it down before it flowers.

To make comfrey tea all you have to do is fill a bucket with the comfrey leaves and stems and weigh it down with a brick and pour over cold water.  I cover it (to stop flies getting in) and leave for approx. two weeks. Be warned, by this time the smell is revolting!  Strain the comfrey tea liquid into another container and put the remaining comfrey in your compost bin. I then put 2 cups of comfrey tea into a watering can and then fill with water.  I use this feed once a week after the first tomatoes begin to form. 

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As I use a lot of comfrey tea, I made mine in a water butt. I put the comfrey into an old curtain and then weighed it down with a brick and I will leave it for a couple of weeks with water covering it.  I always make sure I cover the liquid with an old piece of wood or a lid, as once I didn’t and I ended up with maggots in it!

After two weeks I will remove the comfrey and put it into my compost bin.  The result will be lots of smelly comfrey tea liquid, which is free to make and the plants love it.

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This week I also sowed my wildflower seeds. I had previously raked the area to remove any large clods of earth.

I mixed the seed with dry horticultural sand and then scattered the sand & seed mixture over the area and raked them in.

I then covered them with bird netting until they germinate.

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If they are half as good as the last two years wildflowers, then I will be pleased.

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I also noticed that one or two strawberries have started to form, so I surrounded the strawberries with straw.

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The straw stops the mud splashing on the strawberries but it also acts as mulch, keeping the moisture in and stops annual weeds from germinating. I made sure it had rained before I spread the straw to ensure that the ground was moist.

The bale of straw only cost me £3.40 from my local plant nursery, so it was really worth it. I also had some left over to use elsewhere if I need it too.

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When I looked closely I noticed that a few of my strawberry flowers had turned black….these are the ones that the frost caught last Friday and sadly they won’t turn into strawberries now:

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But not to worry, there are plenty that beat the frost:

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Inside my polytunnel I removed the perpetual spinach that had turned into a triffid …it had gone to seed and was now huge!

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I dug it up and replaced it with a couple of barrows of compost from my homemade allotment compost, ready for my next crops.

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I noticed next to this area, the two rows of carrots had started to germinate with the radish in between that I sowed on the 11th April.

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The lettuces in my polytunnel will also soon be ready.

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The only thing I am disappointed with so far is my tomato plants. I had four greenhouse tomato plants spare, so I put them into my polytunnel. Unfortunately, even in the polytunnel last week’s frost managed to damage some of the leaves which is a shame, but I can already see new growth in the centre so hopefully they will be ok.

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Finally, I planted some lavatera that I have grown from seed. These are the hardy annual type that do not become thugs and they will live and die in one season. They grow to about 60cm high and will hopefully look beautiful and again attract beneficial insects to my plot.

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back at my usual time on Monday.  I hope you have a good weekend.

The Harvest Begins And I’m Still Planting

We have had some beautiful weather this week (up until today) and it’s been a pleasure to work at my allotment.

I am still harvesting my strawberries and they taste delicious:

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I have also harvested the last broadbeans in my polytunnel:

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My outdoor broadbeans are just about ready to pick now too.

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My daughter came with me this week to pick the strawberries (and eat them).  I also caught her picking and eating my mangetout when she thought I wasn’t looking, which made me laugh.  It’s a good job she did though, as I hadn’t realised they were ready:

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I finally finished planting my last set of peas and mangetout this week.  I have tried really hard to successionally grow my peas and mangetout, so they aren’t all ready to eat at the same time.  So far it seems to be working.

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A little bit later I found my daughter under one of my D-I-Y fruit cages (made out of canes and bottles).  She really makes me laugh as she thought I wouldn’t notice that she was pinching my gooseberrys.  I used to love eating raw gooseberrys when I was her age, but now I can only eat them when they are cooked and sweetened.

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I have been planting some more lettuces this week, in the hope that we don’t run out.  I try and sow seeds every three or four weeks and plant them out when they are ready.

I am struggling with space now at my allotment, so I planted some next to the peas I planted this week and some in between my courgettes and patty pans.  Hopefully I will harvest them before they run out of room.  The ‘posh’ word for this is ‘intercropping‘.

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I have also planted some more cauliflowers under environmesh.  After planting I did my usual ‘cauliflower stomp’ to firm the soil around them, to stop them from ‘blowing’:

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I had some small kohl rabi’s to plant, but as I was short of space, I have planted them in between my cucmbers in my polytunnel:

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As usual I have hoed all around my plot.  I find if I hoe everywhere once a week on a dry day, it keeps the weeds down a treat.

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This week I checked out the flowers in my wildflower area and they are starting to attract lots of bees and insects.  Already there is the sound of ‘buzzing’ when you stop and listen.  It isn’t yet in full flower and there are still lots of smaller plants still to put on growth:

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The flowers all around my plot are starting to open now that we have had a bit of sun:

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It makes me feel glad to be alive!

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Monday at approximately 4pm.

My Wildflower Patch – Four Months Of Flowers

My wildflower patch has finally given up flowering.  For four months solid, it flowered beautifully, for the price of a few packets of seed.  I am so very proud of it, especially as it’s my first attempt at growing wildflowers.

As it’s cold and miserable outside, I thought it would be nice to show you a slide show of the four months of my wild flowers, so we can dream of summer again.  They flowered from the middle of June until the middle of October, which is four months!  I certainly got my money’s worth out of those seeds.  I find this incredible and the whole time they were full of beneficial insects.

I planted my wildflower patch after I was inspired by Sarah Raven’s television program called  ‘Bees, butterflies and Blooms’.

Sarah Raven explained how 98% of Britain’s wildflower meadows and grass lands have been lost and how the world’s bees and other pollinating insects are in crisis and without these pollinators our future food security is under threat.   Her mission was to encourage farmers and village communities to help recreate a network of habitats for struggling bees, butterflies and pollinating insects.

I was blown away by the beauty of the wildflowers that she showed on her program and I wasn’t the only one to feel this way either.  In fact, the designers of the 10 football fields-worth of wildflowers, at this years Olympics, were influenced by Sarah Raven’s TV program.  Also, wildflowers sales have apparently tripled this year.

You can read how I grew them from seed here and here.

After seeing my wildflower patch and learning how easy it is to maintain the flowers (I virtually did nothing to them after I had sowed the seeds), I can’t understand why councils don’t use wildflowers more.  Councils tend to plant row after row of expensive carpet bedding, in the middle of roundabouts and parks, but if they sowed wildflowers instead, surely this would reduce maintenence costs for them and they would still look stunning, if not better.  There is also the advantage of the wildlife they attract due to the flowers.  I can’t remember a day that my small patch wasn’t full of bees, butterflies and insects of all kinds….this just doesn’t happen with row after row of carpet bedding plants, that have been bred to have double flowers for beauty, but no pollen for insects.

Next year, if you see an area of carpet bedding, please stop and watch to see if there is any insect activity and I’m sure you will be surprised, as I was when it was first pointed out to me.

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I hope you enjoy the slideshow.

Click once on the top left picture and it will start a slide show for you.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.