Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

I can't believe just how much water has fallen out of the sky since Monday. It's far too wet to visit the allotment and I'm trying not to think of the seedlings getting bigger in the plastic-house while weed-free ground at the plopment doesn't. And while I'm typing this, one of my cats has just been sick on the carpet. Today gets better and better.

So I'm miserable and there's no pictures to show you either. Instead, have a poem, reputedly from about the time of Shakespeare:

The rain it raineth all day long
Upon the just and unjust fella
But mostly on the just because
The unjust hath the just's umbrella

Monday, 28 April 2008

Triffids, anyone?

It's been a little while since I've updated the blog because, well, to be honest, I haven't been doing all that much there, just more weeding and I don't really think that photos of bare brown earth are really all that exciting. I've also had a forty-mumble birthday in between and, frankly, the weather's been a load of old poo so I've not really been there much.

However, things have been going menkle in the plastic- house - check out the pictures! Towards the right of the frame are the Red Cabbage seedlings, and in the middle are the late Brussel Sprouts. At the back of the tray (and you can't really see them) are a few Savoy Cabbage and Kale plants which have only just germinated. I only hope the brassicas in front don't get too leggy before I can get them in the ground. And germination of these guys has been damn near 100%, which was a bit unexpected - I really don't think I can eat 17 or so Red Cabbages over the winter period (always assuming they all survive)!

Now, when I first got the plopment, I more or less decided that I wasn't really going to bother much with soft fruit (we don't eat a lot of fruit in our house - it's nothing but concentrated sugar after all) but some very good friends gave me four Raspberry canes and 6 Strawberry plants for my birthday, so into the ground they must go although I've not made plans for their position on the plopment so I'm going to have to do some pondering. I'm assuming that Raspberries like to be in a permanent place so I'm going to have to stick them somewhere where they won't get in the way, like down the sides or summink. Anyway, here's a couple of pictures of what they currently look like (i.e., still in their wrappers waiting for a home).

The final bit of news for the moment is that I've bought a shed to go on the plopment, using my birthday money (did I mention already I've had a birthday?) I know it's more the 'done thing' these days to try and get one secondhand off eBay or build one yourself but that's a huge amount of bother when all's said and done, so I just did a spot of research on the web and decided a 6' x 4' shiplap wooden fence from Wickes Builders' Merchants would do me fine. I considered a metal or polypropolene shed on the basis that they don't need painting, won't rot, etc., but they seem kinda soul-less to me - dammit, I LIKE a wooden shed! I've managed for as long as I think I can without one and despite the offer to borrow tools from the lovely people next door with the raised beds, I'd rather not if I can avoid it as it can cause problems, and I'm finding now that I need buckets and rakes and hoes and all the other crud, so the time has come. It's getting delivered to my house next Friday and then we try and work out how to get it to the allotment site - the little roadway is too narrow I think for a big car or even a small flatbed truck so it might just be Shank's pony, which should be a laugh! Anyhoo, I'll update with pics when it all happens...

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

Trampolining and allotmenteering don't mix...

I know it's been a few days since I updated this blog but, well, truth be told, I had a bit of a trampolining accident. I KNOW, and at my age too! I managed to bugger up my hip by landing on it awkwardly which set off sympathetic strains and cramping in my back, shoulder and neck so following an eyewateringly intense chiropractic and acupuncture session I was told to take it easy which, to me, meant no scrabbling around on the ground weeding or digging. There was also a weekend spent in (surprisingly) sunny South Wales in between so, all in all, the plopment has had a few days to itself. Which means that it's been growing its own couch grass again and allowing something to have a go at a couple of my baby Broad Bean plants! I've no idea if it's been attacked by slug (no trail) or possibly frost (black edges to possibly bitten leaves) but today I've covered the two worst affected plantlets with a cloche each made from tonic water bottles with the bottoms cut off - let's see what happens.

I decided there wasn't really anything worth putting up picture-wise regarding what's growing on the site but I did finally manage to get some fairly good pictures of the view from the top of the site. The whole site is on a bit of a slope - my plopment's at the bottom - but this is the view from the top. We're high enough to see across to quite a few of the Surrey Hills which you can see in the distance.

I specifically wanted to try and get a picture of St. Martha-
on-the-Hill in sunshine, as this is a pretty interesting place (she says, donning her 'archaeologist' hat). It's the highest point on the horizon in the picture above, and this is a zoomed in closeup which may be a little bit out of focus.

The hill itself is 570ft above sea-level and is visible from miles around. For the archaeologist, this in itself is usually a good reason to investigate as you can often find interesting stuff on the top of very visible hills (i.e., Iron Age hillforts, Bronze Age Barrows, etc.). Something in the prehistoric psyche compelled people to build culturally relevant stuff on top of the most visible hill in the area - I think it's all to do with seeing and being seen, and marking your place in society (amongst other things). In this case, there is evidence of prehistoric use as there are Neolithic (late Stone Age) earth circles, and flint artefacts have also been found.

The name St Martha's is possibly derived from Martyrs and there is a legend that martyrs were burned on the hill but I'm not sure when this was supposed to have happened - possibly during the religious upheavals following the death of Henry VIII, but whether they were Catholic or Protestant martyrs I've no idea.

The present day church was built upon the site of a Saxon church which is possibly one of three referred to in Domesday Book as belonging to Bishop Odo of Bayeux within the Bramley parish.

If you're ever around in this area, it's a cracking walk to do - the hill rises reasonably steeply and, on a good day, the view from the top is terrific! If you happen to be there at dawn on 1st May (which of course I am, every year....[cough]...), then one of the local Morris Men troupes comes along to prance about, waving their hankies and knocking their sticks together to welcome May Day.

Right, that's today's local history lesson over for now but, before I go, I must do some shameless plugging of my own. As I mentioned earlier, I make my own jewellery which I sell at craft fairs and online - I've added a link to my website over on the right - Feel free to mosey on over and check it out!!

Friday, 11 April 2008


As promised, here are some piccies of my plastic-house and the contents therein! Yes, I'm fully aware that it's at somewhat of an angle but that's because the ground goes like that just there and I couldn't be bothered to try and level it. I've also had to tie it with string to two fenceposts so it doesn't blow over but I think, all in all, it works pretty well. As you can see, there are 4 shelves (although there's nothing on the bottom one yet) and you can roll up the zipped plastic front door-thing so it doesn't get too steamy in there. The idea, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, is to use this space hopefully to produce seedlings which can then be transplanted to my allotment when I've cleared enough space.

Things are going pretty well, all things considered. For example, here are my Carrot seedlings (on the left) and my Broccoli seedlings (on the right). I'm using those compost pots because, theoretically, one can put them straight into the ground but, of course, I didn't consider thinning them out and so, as you can see, there are quite a few little capsules that have 3 possibly viable broccoli seedlings in which I'll have to separate out and pot up individually later on.

These were all planted on 13 March 2008 so they've been going now for almost a month.

These are my Red Cabbage (back) and (early) Brussels Sprouts (front) seedlings. Again, there's 4 or 5 seedlings sprouting in each pot which means I'll have to separate them. As before, these were all sown on 13 March 2008.

The compost pots are a good idea, I think, but they do dry out very quickly.

Finally, these are my Parsnips (front) and yet more Brussels Sprouts (back). I'm surprised how easily the Sprouts have germinated - if they all continue I'm probably going to end up with about 35 Sprout plants! Too many for my plot so some will have to go to good homes. Similarly, I'm surprised how long it's taking the Parsnips to get a move on. They're only just now coming up and, like all the others, they were sown on 13 March 2008. You can see how dry the compost pots get.

I have other pots in the plastic-house but there's nothing showing yet. Does anyone know though if it takes Leeks an extraordinarily long time to germinate? I sowed about 30 seeds into 15 or so pots at the same time as everything else and so far absolutely nada, zilch, bupkiss. Are they just temperamental? Or have I cobblered it up somehow? Any suggestions would be most welcome....

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

It's coming up, it's coming up....

Hooray - things are starting to appear! Yesterday I counted 14 Broad Bean seedlings emerging (out of 18 - I'm only growing for two of us so we don't need many) and at least 55 onion sets have poked their noses up through the ground!

So, to recap, at the allotment at the moment, actually in the ground there are:
  • Broad Beans - Jubilee Hysor
  • Onion Sets - Turbo
  • Wild Rocket
  • Carrots - Amsterdam Forcing
  • Potatoes - First Earlies, Pentland Javelin

While I'm clearing the soil, I've started a whole load of pots off in my plastic-house in the garden (I don't have enough room for a greenhouse so I've one of those small four-storey mini shelving unit-type things with a zip-up plastic cover - I'll picture them for tomorrow's blog) in which I've currently got:
  • Leeks - Musselburgh
  • Lettuce - Salad Bowl
  • Kale - Dwarf Green Curled
  • Climbing French Bean - Cobra
  • Savoy Cabbage - Ormskirk(1)-Rearguard
  • Onion - White Lisbon
  • Broccoli - Sprouting Summer Purple
  • Brussels Sprouts - F1 Brigitte
  • Brussels Sprouts - Bedford-Winter Harvest
  • Parsnip - Tender and True
  • Cabbage - Red Drumhead

Later on there will be other stuff but no point in listing that now. The plastic-house is actually really very useful - I've got it in full sun so have to remember to open it up in the morning otherwise it gets like a sauna in there and causes white mouldy mildew stuff to form on the compost pots (the ones you can just plant straight into the ground) because of a lack of ventilation. I also reckon this helps to harden off the seedlings as well. Of course I zip it up at night-time. All-in-all a good investment.

Monday, 7 April 2008

Foxes and Medieval Boundaries

In my previous existence, I was an archaeologist (until the local University closed down the degree course I was teaching on - cheers, Surrey!!!) and so now I make contemporary jewellery (another story, I'll tell you of it later) and spend time at the allotment instead. But, obviously, archaeology and history still piques my interest. The site where I dig has been allotments since the First World War (it was established for returning soldiers) and I frequently find bits of old clay pipes and Victorian/Edwardian sherds of pot etc., but this is quite common really and not all that exciting. What I did find interesting however was what the owner of the immaculate plot next door told me. Down the length of one side of the site there runs a really substantial earthen bank with some extremely impressive trees growing out of it. He told me that this bank is actually the old medieval parish boundary between Farncombe and Binscombe and, as such, is several hundred years old! I love this kind of stuff, it makes you aware of just how long things have been happening in your area. I also suspect that some of the trees have been there since the boundaries were constructed, especially the amazing oak tree in the picture - if you can see clearly, just check out the width of the trunk! It's like something from Tolkien....

To some of the allotmenteers on the site, the boundary has the disadvantage of being extremely desirable to our local foxes. Plus the ground is so soft, they have no problems at all in digging down several feet to make a den - check out this picture of a foxhole dug right in the middle of a plot (not mine, fortunately!). Apparently, a couple of years ago there was a fox living at the far end of the site that had become so used to being around people at the allotments that you could feed it sandwiches!

Sunday, 6 April 2008

Who needs a Delorean?

Okay, so, Thursday of this week the temperature was up to 18 degrees Centigrade (that's mid-60s in old money) - it was fantastic, blue sky, warm enough for a t-shirt, you really got the feeling summer (never mind spring!) was actually here - hooray for global warming. Then on Sunday, all across the south east of England, we woke up to this (the picture's my back garden rather than the allotment). In about an hour we had a good 2-3 inches of snow - it was like we'd gone back in time to January and shifted location to, oh, I dunno, Norway or something. Whole platoons of snowmen were being created on every open space like an army of warriors made from ice rather than terracotta. Bizarrely, within 6 hours the whole lot had vanished as it if had never been! I suppose at this time of year the sun is somewhat hotter than it is in January so the snow never stood a chance. Shame, as it was really very beautiful....

Saturday, 5 April 2008

Allotment Envy

My scrubby little plot is next to this one. I think the title of today's blog says it all really...

Friday, 4 April 2008

First things first

Although I'd originally hoped for a full size plot (10 rods in length - I think it translates to 90 feet by about 30 or something like that), I was number 6 on a waiting list of 8 and so had to make do with what was available which was a half-size plot. I was told that the whole plot had been rotovated in January 2007 but it had been left to its own devices since then. I had been allocated the bottom half of plot 19B and the top half was going to be tended by S. We decided, more or less, where the halfway point was, demarcating this with sticks, and got going!

I have to admit to feeling a little daunted as the ground was lumpy and covered in grass but, having had a full-size plot several years ago in Guildford, I figured I could probably manage a half-size plot of about 27 feet wide and 24 feet long. In other words, I went into it with my eyes wide open knowing that the preparation would be backbreaking, time consuming and extremely lengthy.

Time for some pictures, I feel. The one up there to your right was taken after I'd been working the plot for about 2 weeks and finally remembered to take my camera! It shows the width of the plot and at this point I'd put in a row of Broad Beans and a couple of rows of Onion sets. You can see the colour of the soil - it's really very nice light, crumbly, and well draining which I've been told can lead to good Carrots! We'll see is all I'm saying!

But the couch dear, the whole site is RIDDLED with it. For example, this is the place where I've decided to plant Rocket seeds but it needed a second hand weeding - you can see the size of the bed from the green kneeler just above it, it doesn't need to be very large - and just look at the amount of couch grass rootage that came out of it! Ferocious!

But, having said that, because the ground is so friable, you can grab the end of one of the roots and just pull and out it comes...and comes...and comes. It sort of reminded me of taking out my own surgical stitches (long story, won't go into it here - maybe later...) in that you just see this small thread-like end and pull it, and inches of the stuff comes out. I then got all philosophical (as you do when you're on your knees, elbow-deep in soil) and started thinking about the couch grass roots being the threads and stitches that hold the ground together....nah, doesn't really work though, does it?

So, onto more recent stuff - on 2 April I managed to dig a trench and stuck in my First Early Potatoes. I've decided to have a go at Pentland Javelin and see what they're like. Here they are, nestling into their beds, before I cover them over.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Life of a new Allotmenteer

Hello world!

Welcome to my brand new blog, detailing my experiences in the world of allotments. A few details first - I'm a middle-aged female, living near Guildford, Surrey. Married with one husband, two cats and a very tiny back garden in which I've tried growing a few vegetables but which proved to be just too frustrating. So in September 2007 I put my name on the waiting list for an allotment at a site which is walking distance from my house! In February 2008 I got the call that a half-size plot was available if I would like it, and so I took it on.

This blog will, hopefully, cover all the aspects of ownership of an allotment, so keep your eyes on this site for future revelations!!