Planning Ahead

Lounging in the sunshine, sipping homemade elderflower cordial and lazily watching the bees tirelessly going about their daily chores, it’s hard to believe autumn is just around the corner. The telltale signs are there; wasps have upped the ante with their continuous ‘kamikaze’ attacks on all things sweet, the allotment is producing more vegetables than we know what to do with, but the biggest giveaway is that the garden has shifted its colour palette from the coolness of the whites and pastels, into the heat of the oranges and yellows as varieties of Rudbeckia, Sunflowers and Gladioli take up the baton. 1 Collage

My email inbox is under constant bombardment from garden and nursery companies  telling me I should buy their autumn bulbs and plug plants for immediate planting. But what if I don’t? Will I be barred from all things horticultural? Will they send the heavies round late one night to ensure I shift a kilo of their top quality Cyclamen Coum? (At this point I have an image of Alan Titchmarsh and Monty Don arriving on my doorstep, in black shades and matching suits, looking menacingly at me.) Or will I be placed in stocks up on the allotment for all to see as a reminder that now’s the time to plant your winter leeks?

But they can email spam me all they want, I’m not afraid. As my horticulture knowledge grows from season to season so does my awareness of the seasonal clock. I’ve always wondered how those ‘old timers’ seem to know when to carry out certain tasks on the allotment, and finally, I’ve been allowed into the ‘circle of trust’. It’s no big secret, it simply comes down to experience.

I shan’t be bullied into panic-buying anything; I know what needs doing. In fact, I’d already got a headstart when I sowed my parsnip seeds and planted out  my leeks, swede and sprouts earlier in the spring. Being slow burners, we won’t start enjoying these until the leaves on the trees begin their rich autumnal displays, and a frost or two will help to improve their taste. 2 Collage

But there’s still hard work to be done and this weekend I’ve dug over my hardened, summer beds (my back is now paying for it), freeing them from weeds and replenishing them with organic matter. Finishing with a little consolidation and levelling, I then planted my stash of brassicas and watered them in thoroughly. Rudolph Broccoli, Clemen Cauliflower and Savoy and Marabel Cabbage. Already Agent Soph has broken into a cold sweat with this amount of veg to cook and store, but I assure her with the winter weather the crops will grow more slowly and can be kept in the ground and lifted when needed. Hmm, she’s still not convinced. Looks like people will be getting veg in their stockings this Christmas then.

At this time of year, I’m all too aware of the potential pests and diseases thriving in the summer heat. With the devastation of my onion loss earlier this year (even now it brings a tear to my eye), I have learnt netting and brassica collars are vital on this allotment. Recent banter on Instagram about growing Butternut Squash proves that no two allotment sites are the same. Where runner beans might thrive on a plot in Somerset, the same variety may come to nothing in a Yorkshire garden. So again, experience and understanding the soil, site and weather conditions are the right tools. 3 Collage

But for now, the blog is typed, the wasps have suspended their invasion and I’m left to daydream and doze the afternoon away. Best thing for an aching back wouldn’t you say? AdeSignature

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And We’re Off!

Working with the RHS at Regent’s Park last Thursday, it was clear that spring was now upon us. I was greeted with an oasis of yellow trumpets all heralding in the new season!B_6yN6AWMAA-gGZ

And when I arrived at the plot this weekend, there were two things I was immediately delighted to see: 1) The polytunnel was still standing, and 2) the daffodil bulbs I planted last autumn were now rewarding me with their beauty. Being the old romantic that I am (that’s right folks, inside this withered and battered old gardener beats a young, foolish heart), I saw the opportunity to cut several blooms and present them to Soph.  With the windowsill episode firmly behind us, this was a chance to earn myself some brownie points… and boy did they work! That very evening, the love of my life (not now, Monty) took me out to dinner.  But we’re getting a little off topic with talk of springtime ardour.bra 3

Flowers look wonderful in their natural state, growing happily in borders, woodland or on your allotment. However, with so many daffodils bursting through, I’m sure Mother Nature didn’t mind me cutting several to take home with the excuse of romance.

Flowers cut, I was all too aware that the jobs on the plot are growing week by week. After a freshly made coffee from the stove in my shed and another cheeky treat from the local baker, the daffodils gave me inspiration to do something rash: create a new flower bed. Not only for extra colour and to coax in the wildlife, but those bursting buds could cover up a makeshift windbreaker I erected several weeks ago out of corrugated iron, as although it’s doing it’s job, it’s not the prettiest of things.

Excited by this ‘Eureka’ moment, I made haste and sacrificed one of my bedding paths that runs adjacent to the windbreaker.  Removing the weeds, turning the soil and adding some well rotted organic matter, I got things going and planted thirty plus gladioli bulbs with a little top dressing to finish off. This should do wonders for the late summer season, but I need to think about what to plant for spring and early summer… hmmm, I’ll let you know on that.

Moving on, I turned to the main job: planting my early brassicas – broccoli, cabbage and cauliflower. They’re the first thing I’ve planted on the plot this year, and it was a long time coming. I removed the weeds, carried out secondary cultivation and consolidation, added some fertiliser and began planting.  A fresh bed is always pleasing to the eye, but seeing all my early brassicas out on parade wearing their brassica collars and standing to attention filled me with great pride!bra4However, the final lashings of winter aren’t quite done and I’m expecting a few more cold spells, and although brassicas are hardy, they’re always grateful for that extra protection.  As I sit and write my weekend instalment on Plot 23d, there’s a bed full of brassicas tucking down for the night under the cover of their fleecy cloches.

Agents of Field are off and running, let the 2015 growing adventure commence!! AdeSignature