If there can be any positive from the current worldwide situation it is the time that we now have at our disposal. We can catch up on household jobs, tidy and beautify the garden, and spend as much time at the allotment as is humanly possible – and that is exactly what we have done for the last three weeks. Using our daily exercise allowance we have packed a bag with a Thermos, sandwiches and treats for both us and the dogs, loaded the wheelbarrow with all the essential items we need, and set off for an entire day of fresh air on the plot while at all times keeping social distancing in mind. We have all thoroughly enjoyed it.
So, what have we achieved since my last chapter? Well, the main job that has been going on for some weeks is the sowing of various seeds and the planting of summer colour. The greenhouse is now bursting at the seams with young seedlings; pots of promise yet to pop up through the compost. It feels like we have sowed anything and everything and yet, almost every time we visit, we sow or plant something else in addition to what we already have – it’s very exciting.
In addition to vegetables, we have also dedicated a bed or two to flowers so that we can enjoy some cut blooms at home. Bees and other pollinators can also enjoy the pollen and nectar. They are already enjoying the kale flowers that we have allowed to bloom before we cut it all down and dig it up to make way for sunflowers. Dan bought a selection of lovely gladioli bulbs from Sarah Raven that have gone in – if you’d like to check them out, the varieties we have planted so far are ‘Blackjack’, ‘Bimbo’, ‘Flevo Laguna’, ‘Vulcano’ and ‘Shaka Zulu’.
We have sown annuals in between the gladioli for extra ‘oomph’, including Chrysanthemum carinatum ‘Cockade’, Zinnia ‘Super Yoga Dark Red’ and Zinnia ‘Queen Red Lime’. Zinnias are, to me, almost as wonderful as dahlias. They come in so many colours and sizes; a perfect addition to the summer garden. If the flower beds grow and develops as we hope, they will be a riot of summer colour. We have also woven colour in between the veg in the bed that previously had purple sprouting broccoli in it. We harvested all the edible spears, brought them home, blanched them and stuck them in the new ‘allotment freezer’ so that we can enjoy them into the coming months. In the broccoli bed we now have radish ‘French Breakfast’, beetroot (mixed colours), swiss chard ‘Peppermint’ (the colour of the stems of this chard is fabulous!), lettuce ‘Winter Density’, Nasturtium ‘Blue Pepe’ and Papaver somniferum (opium poppy) ‘Single Black’.
As you can see in the picture above, we have a long bed that borders the car park. In that bed, amongst other things, we have autumn-fruiting raspberries. The plants were originally planted in rows but over time they had become unruly, messy and were quickly turning into one big patch. Last weekend I decided to remedy this by digging up the unruly suckers and transplanting them in gaps in the original rows, thus returning the rows to their former glory and bringing back order.
We have a particularly large, long bed (Bed 8, see planner at the foot of this post) which is going to be the main tomato bed. We have sown four different varieties; ‘Black Opal’, ‘Tigerella’, ‘Golden Crown’ and ‘San Marzano Red Plum’. All of these have germinated in the propagator and are weeks away from being planted out. As the bed is so big, Dan came up with the very good idea of placing three substantial poles in the middle, at regular intervals, up which to grow cucumbers and lablabs (Dolichos lablab ‘Ruby Moon’, sometimes called hyacinth bean). There is an eye at the top of each pole where string will be attached, extending down to the bed via a ‘peg’ to secure. They will look very much like maypoles and will hopefully be covered by a profusion of cucumbers ‘Crystal Lemon’, ‘Burpless Tasty Green F1’ and purple-tinted beans.
Talking of beans, the runner bean frame is now up and ready for action. Our runner beans will be sharing the bed that contains our precious crimson-flowered broad beans (remember how much I love them?!), all of which are now hardened off and in the bed. I’m looking forward to sharing their beautiful blooms with you.
I think the final achievement to mention is the shed. It was a job I was dreading and didn’t really want to acknowledge, however, I knew it was coming ….. our little shed badly needed re-roofing and painting. I am a huge fan of the film director Derek Jarman’s house in Dungeness called ‘Prospect Cottage’: it is painted jet black with yellow window frames. The building is a joy to behold and one of my favourites. With this in mind I wanted to pay homage via our shed and give it the ‘Jarman look’.
Once the new roof felt arrived I knew that any dreams of creating my own Prospect Cottage were not to be realised. The felt is a grey-green colour and when you’re going for a black-yellow look, it’s not really compatible. However, in the summer of last year and early spring of this year, I painted the fence that surrounds the G&T garden and we had some pots of willow-green paint left over. As luck would have it the shed was originally that colour anyway so it just required me to give it a coat or two to bring it back to it’s former glory.
With the same green paint, we also did some upcycling. A resident of one of the houses next to the allotments was throwing away two box planters that originally housed bay trees. I saw these as an opportunity so I consulted His Lordship and we agreed that, with a Maypole inserted in the middle, they would make great planters for our climbing French beans ‘Cosse Violette’, a beautiful dark purple bean, and ‘Sunshine’. As the name suggests it is a buttery, bright yellow.
I think that is about all for now. I feel exhausted just thinking back to all the things we have achieved so far! I can reveal that I wasn’t convinced I wanted an allotment again (I had an allotment in London and a polytunnel in Cornwall), however, it is bringing me such joy that I can’t imagine life without it now. There’s nothing as satisfying as sowing a seed, watching it grow, nurturing it and then being able to enjoy the fruits of your labour, be they flower or food.
Happy Gardening One and All.
N.B. This post was exclusively published on The Frustrated Gardener. If you are reading this on any other blog, it has been illegally ‘scraped’ by some unscrupulous folk who don’t have the talent or knowledge to write their own material. Come on over to The Frustrated Gardener and leave the pale imitation to shrivel on its virtual vine.