Say hello to my little friend…!

So today my friend came to The Goose Roost to help out and get her little patch of land ready for her wedding flowers.

Meet Rachel!

We had to check the chicken run before doing anything else, as unfortunately two doors down lost 4 overnight to MrFox and had to dispatch another thanks to a bitten leg and foot. Luckily ours are safe, but i will pop back when MrT gets back tonight (11pm ish) and take the dogs up to wee everywhere…hopefully that’ll keep them at bay!

He has got babies living on the wasteland (the fox not MrT!) so i dont blame him for being hungry, but i do wish they would only take what they eat, not kill several!

But anyway…back to our wedding workout. The area was pretty clear. It wasn’t all that great to look at at first though!

Her little area!

Rach is having a beautiful cobalt blue and sunflower wedding, so we want to make sure that the flower heads are ready for the end of July!

What she doesn’t use of this plot will be grassed over to create a lovely seating area for the summer, and to also keep the weeds down for another year until we cultivate it.

Half way through

We arrived at about 3pm to gloom and grey clouds, but luckily the weather stayed dry for us.

We managed to get it all dug over in about 2.5 hours and ready to rake and sow grass seeds later in the week.

Done!

Shes a good grafter and we had a good natter while we did it! Even managed time to have a luke-warm cup of hot chocolate. I must remember to take mugs next time….

Sowing sunflowers

Next stop was to pull up the few weeds in the greenhouse and sow the seeds. While she did her sunflowers (several varieties and all gorgeous!) I sowed some marigold seeds. Its way too cold this year to sow them direct, plus it means that we will know what is a plant and what is a weed. Thats always a bonus.

Very technical

I heard that marigolds are good to distract nasty bugs from eating you veg, so hopefully they will be around every bed this season. I had awful problems with ‘friends’ last year.

Look at those strawberries though…

It was Rach’s first time planting anything really, so a good opportunity to sound like i know what I’m talking about. In actual fact i just pulled up weeds and filled up a watering can, but we wont tell her that will we?

All in!

How beautiful is this looking!

I can’t wait to see things staring to sprout. We saved some seeds to sow more in a week or two so hopefully at least something will have flowers on for The Big Day.

Ready to be raked

Productive afternoon to say the least!

Makes me want to paint over that red though…..

When it rains, it pours

Cold and wet day down the lottie today, but the hens were happy and the blossom is out!

Rosmary flowers

Apple blossom

Cherry blossom

Strawberry flowers

Pear blossom

Strawberrys

The hens were treated to another hay bale today to try and soak up some of the rain. The old stuff i dug out i put around my berry canes. Hopefully this will be a wonderful manure for them! I love raspberries and am hoping for my first home-grown crop this year.

Hopefully a bumper crop!

The rain them started belting down, but as i was already up there i wanted to finish up. I covered much of the top end of the bed in weed membrane as the same sun that has helped my plants grow has also helped the weeds, and i wont have time to get it all perfectly dug over like the spud bed.

Weed membrane, trying to battle nettles!

All home and clean now, but my boots have seen better days! Poor things have got so many holes in now, they definately arent waterproof any more!

Ready for a nap!

Back off up there tomorrow to get some sunflowers in for my friends wedding… lets hope its drier!

Why didn’t anyone laugh at the gardener’s jokes? Because they were too corney.

Morning All!
I hope you have all managed to get out and make use of the first proper sunshine of 2018?

Over the weekend, I had such plans for the allotment… I managed to get one thing done.

Oh well, slowly but surely eh?!

This is what it looked like on Friday evening, before my big Saturday Blowout;

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Photo quality is shocking, but this is how it looked

I had aimed to get that first (very large) bed dug over, all the roots removed, and my spuds and onions in. I also wanted to get that big bonfire burned, and string up my wires for my raspberry canes.

Unfortunately, my plot is covered in perennial nettles and bindweed, as well as a carpet of bramble roots which seem to sprout up new shoots if the roots are cut! Its a nightmare!

So when MrT headed off to work, out came my trusty fork and off I started. I found several garlic cloves which were sprouting up well. These must have been left over from last year, so I carefully uplifted them and stored them to replant when my clearing was done.

When weeding, the best way to make sure you are removing a weed and not a valuable plant is to pull on it.  If it comes out of the ground easily, it is a valuable plant.

It was 17 degrees on Saturday, which for an April weekend I didn’t think was too bad! What I didn’t realise was that my little blonde self was getting sunburned… again. Not a good look. You’d think i would have learned by now.

So I kept on trudging through.

Lunch Break

Stopped for lunch. maybe a third of the bed is dug here

It took me over 2 hours to do a third of the bed. This was going to be a long job. I stopped for lunch and a cuppa, only to find that my trusty camping stove had given up the ghost. The gas was still working but the spark that lit the stove was gone. So no brew for me.

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Every line of digging created a barrow full of roots!

At this point, I really wasn’t hopeful that i would be able to get my spuds in, let alone the bonfire built. Everything was taking much longer than I thought! The only saving grace was that doing it this way once over would save me the constant weeding that would’ve been caused by rotivating.

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Bonnie was loving the sunbathing time though

People kept taking a wander up to see how it was all going, and as lovely as the encouragement was I really did just want to get on! I was starting to get really tired and frustrated but I wasn’t going to let it beat me!

And I finally got there!

I’m not going to lie, I almost collapsed in a pile of shakey limbs and tears, but I was so proud of myself.

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You can’t see how big it is here!

The photos really don’t show the enormity of it, but it’s 25ft by 29.5ft. Also known as bloody huge!

I managed to get in my onions and garlic, but at this point I just really wanted a massive pile of cheese on toast so the spuds would have to wait until Sunday.

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Little did I know it would rain all day Sunday, so I stayed in instead.

I am certainly not a wet weather gardener!

In a world without walls and fences – who needs Windows and Gates?

My plot gates were naff. Lets be honest.

They didn’t open, and when they eventually did, bits of glass rained down of your from above. They hid me away from the world and they stopped nice flatcaps and ladies from saying hello to me.

I think they reckon I am as antisocial as MrT looks, and he isn’t exactly a bundle of joy and sparkles!

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Large, heavy, stuck, and collapsing gates – not to mention the broken glass panes

So went went on another internet mission, and came up with some replacements.

Off MrT went to fetch them for me. Poor suffering bloke. Since then he has made matters worse by asking me to get married, god knows why. He must be a sucker for punishment.

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God knows why he is so happy!

Here he is with his new acquisitions. Look at that smile…It’s almost as if he KNEW he was going to leave me to put these up by myself. Oh wait…He did.

Little did I know that this wasn’t a simple replacement job. Oh no, it was a whole digging, lifting, trapping fingers job.

Turns out my gate post was rotten. So off I went on another trip to the DIY shop. Its a good job i have a big car isn’t it?

I had the most embarrassing trip to the DIY shop. If you have ever been to the shop in leggings and a tank top, you will know that all of a sudden there are people there to assist you. Well I didn’t know this (being the sheltered little one I am) so I immediately went into Strong Independant Woman mode. As the shop assistants gathered, I tried to pick up a bag of postcrete. As soon as I stood upright, I keeled over backwards. Big explosion of dust and a crunch later and they are all keeling over too, expect for they were doing it in laughter. I could’ve had the world swallow me up right there. So i let them help me. Two new posts and a few back of postcrete later and I was back at my allotment to hide from the world.

A women may be misinformed, mislead, unclear, misguided, and even downright stupid..but she is never ever wrong.

By this point on a Saturday morning, all the flatcaps had finished their shed-fryups and had surfaced to see what That New Girl was up to today. So around they stood while I used all of my embarrassment adrenaline to rip out a fence post. I was like the hulk that day. Nothing could’ve stopped me.

Mr AcrossTheLane tootled over with a funny shaped spade and ‘let me borrow it’. I thanked him and waited until he left before googling it. Turns out it was a post hole spade, and it helped a bunch! I recommend them to anyone who has a big fencing project on, but I do have to say that I don’t think I would’ve used it since.

Suddenly my phone began buzzing, and Mother Dearest on the other side wanted to come and see my new chickens.
“Brilliant”, I thought, “just in time to hold my posts”.
So up rocks my mum and stepdad, oblivious of what lie ahead for them.

A hour later, my posts were in, and were plumb, and were nowhere near matching in height, but who cares. I can be flippant about these things, I was too tired to carry on digging as I had hit rubble.

So we sat and had a little relax and a brew, chilling out with my chickens.

chicken

Strutting her stuff

After Mum had made off with my eggs, I gave up resisting temptation and hung my gates. I did install a bar across the top of the two posts to make sure that the posts didn’t pull inwards while the concrete was still hardening up nicely. I could wait any longer though as I really didn’t want to leave my plot open and accessible all night as we often get kids hopping over to go ferreting through the shed and none of mine are locked yet!

I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else, because it could’ve gone horribly horribly wrong if the posts hadn’t set fully yet, but do what I say and not as I do.

These gates already had different hinges to the old gate, and I had never done these before. It was pretty easy though, I put the bottom hinge on the post, offered a gate up to it and marked where the second hinge sat, and then screwed it in! Simples!

Soon enough, both gates were hung! They weren’t level and they certainly weren’t perfect, but they were our and they were beautiful.

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They are up!

You can just about see Mr AcrossTheLane’s plot there. Look how infuriatingly perfect it is… grumble. One day, eventually, mine will be that pretty.

In the meantime I might settle with just cutting those hedges though…

If a Blue Man Lives In a Blue House…

Who remembers how the greenhouse started? If you haven’t seen it yet, take a look at my post detailing how it all began here. Take special note of how horrendous our greenhouse was.

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Inside the Greenhouse

 

Back in its heyday, this Victorian Greenhouse would have been stunning. It is HUGE and has several opening windows with vents in the far end.

It also has a large conservatory-like building attached to the front doors, which is double glazed and will be perfect for a tea room one day! This currently has a large hole in the roof from a removed log burner and several cracked panes of glass.

There seems to be some of the old metal remaining from the log burner so one day i will upload photos of these and see if anybody has any ideas of what we can do with it!

In the meantime, I cleared out as much of the bindweed, nettles and brambles which had forced their way though the many panes of shattered glass. It went well… at first!

I couldn’t believe my eyes when I uncovered a solid concrete path and edging stones! What I had thought would be a big job had suddenly become so much easier. My faith in the gardening gods had been restored!

That was until a large roof pane of glass which had been dislodged by the growing stems and subsequent ripping down of said stems fell from the sky.

If you are going to clear a greenhouse, make sure you wear gloves! – Hindsight!

This missed where my head had been just moments before, so that was one narrow escape but it did scupper my plans slightly since the resulting bloody hand and crying resulted in MrT not allowing me to finish off until he had checked all of the remaining glass panes were sound or removed.

Greenhouse pane collapse

Not too serious, I think I’ll live

So, all work stopped for a week until MrT could go and do man-stuff. When I finally got permission to go and do some more work in there, I was practically buzzing to get started.

I arrived early one Saturday morning planning to block up any gaps in my windows, only to meet a lovely allotment gent who owns a big fluffy dog called Molly. She is adorable and they had been looking for me. And he had bought me gifts…!

Molly’s Dad had seen all of the work I had put in to make the greenhouse plantable and knew that I had no time to sow seeds, so had bought me several different types of Tomatoes to plant up. He took me through to his own greenhouse and showed me how to plant them up and how to care for them, promising to come back in a few weeks and help me keep the trusses healthy. You see, I can use words like ‘truss’ now and roughly know what they mean. I am a proper Plot Holder and I am proud.

So I carefully carried my gorgeous new plants up to the greenhouse and set about planting them up. Here’s how I did it;

  • Dig a hole.
  • Upturn the pots and very carefully tease the roots out of the pots.
  • At this point, I should have put some sort of support in for my fully grown plants, but I didn’t because I didn’t realise they’d need it! Oops!
  • I then covered the roots in “Mycorrhizal Fungi”, a white powder which helps roots grow beautifully and resulting in a stronger plant.
  • Put the plant in the hole, right up to the first set of leaves. Toms produce roots from all of those fluffy bits on the stems, so you’ll get a much better root system this way.
  • Firm the soil carefully around the plant, making sure that you don’t leave a hollow around the stem where water can collect and cause rot.
  • I ran my fingers around the plant in a circle, leaving a shallow moat-like dip around the outside of where the root ball would be. This will help water drain here where the plant needs it most.
  • Remove any offshoots between the main stem and offshoots. The plants often like to make secondary trusses and these draw much needed goodness away from the main plant and truss, and can make your crops smaller. It also helps to reduce the changes of blight if air can circulate well around your plants. I’ll try and show you this a bit more when they have grown a little.
  • Water the plants in well, especially on a hot day, but not with freezing cold water. Only water around the base, not on leaves. This causes spots!

BonnieDog came to help me do some digging, but was far to precious to get herself muddy so just sat and watched.

So look at how gorgeous my greenhouse now looks! While I was in here planting up, Mr AcrossTheLane came over and bought me some beautiful chillies, so you can see these are also planted up in the bottom left corner. These are simple, just dig and plant, but make sure everything gets watered in well and fertilised when flowers appear.

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IT’S ALIVE!!

My next step was to shutter in the two long beds with some sort of barrier to stop the soil from spilling on to my path. For this I used some old kerb sets which I found during my mass nettle cull by the gates a few weeks prior. Keep everything, you never know what is useful!

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Weedguard going down, just in case

I then decided that the concrete path, although intact, was very chipped and broken and I would end up breaking a leg should I fall into one of the potholes in a rush to pick the fruits of my labour. Luckily for us, Mr AcrossTheLane is a tree surgeon as well as a great source of inspiration. He managed to dump us a load of wood chippings so that I could finish the path, and oh goodness did it smell gorgeous!

The typically summer-y smell of Tomatoes and pine chippings now fills the greenhouse on a summers day, and when you step through the doors and it is the perfect welcome after a tough day behind a computer screen.

As you can see, the left hand side is still very much blocked by the weeds and brambles which encased the greenhouse. This blocks out an awful lot of light, which didn’t matter so much in high summer but that will be a job now high on the list to sort…

Something might actually come of 2017 after all!

 

Off to Mow a Meadow

So having had all my dreams of The Good Life dashed for 2017, I began doing my best ‘Damsel’ impression. Soon enough, along came the flatcapped old gents and their respective lovely ladies to give me advice and help me being my journey.

This is one thing i have learned about allotmenteering – everyone has an opinion, some advice, a recommendation. It is worth more than gold as they have done it all before. But do always remember that this is your adventure and no matter how you choose to do it always do what YOU want. People don’t all have the same shopping lists from the veg aisle, so why should they want the same things out of their gardens?

The man across the lane from us is only 3 years older than me, but he has had his plot for 10+years. He has recently taken on the plot next door too, so pretty much has a farm. I see it every morning on my way up and I see it through my gates while I am working. Its immaculate and perfectly weeded and mulched. There are superbly level and straight paths, with fluffy beds and neat rows of plants. Greenhouses and polytunnels stretch out in lines and a wonderful (dry!) tea cabin and shed puff smoke out of the log burner chimney. To say I am a bit envious is an understatement.

Now Mr AcrossTheLane came to join the small group stood on my plot debating the best course of action, and said the one thing that I have remembered to this day;

“Don’t do it all at once, you’ll hate the place. Tackle jobs as they come and enjoy the mess” – Mr ATL

At the time, bitter little me stood there and thought “Hmm, yes, easy for you to say!” but looking back I can now see what he meant. It is very easy to loose all focus and go in all guns blazing, but in honesty there are many things I wish I would have taken my time on. As soon as it becomes a chore, it looses its meaning.

So the first thing I did was try and make it a little less daunting. Those knee high weeds and nettles did nothing for my motivation, but we had to start somewhere.

I began by getting out my trusty kitchen scissors and snipping off every single clock-head of dandelion. Many of these were already releasing the seeds, and I knew that I needed to limit the damage that these seeds would cause asap.

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My yellow bucket full of seed heads and junk!

This. Took. Hours. My back was killing me, but by the end of it the lovely crackle that these seeds made on the bonfire rather than growing on my plot made me feel better.So my next step was to get in touch with the Hubby’s dad, and hope that he would let us borrow his petrol lawn mower. This step wasn’t really necessary, but I couldn’t cope with the nettle stings anymore.

And boy did Paps deliver!! This machine was amazing! It was about as old as my MrT, but it was definitely a golden oldie and powered through everything from the nettles and bindweed right up to the bramble stems. And it collected the trimmings as it went along too! It didn’t get very far before it needed emptying, but it is used to doing a nice grassy lawn not a giant knee-high weedy meadow. It cost us a lot of petrol and a new pull cord starter, but this little powerhouse gave me back a bit of hope for the plot.

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How much better does this look?!

Off the back of my success, I then made a decision that will be a controversial one… I decided to spray the brambles and perennial weeds.

I KNOW! How could I? But in all honesty I work 8-5 weekdays and MrT does 12+ hours a day cheffing, so we needed this to be as low maintenance as it could be. So on the back of a recommendation by Mr AcrossTheLane, we invested in enough weedkiller to treat half of the plot only.  The second half would be split between chickens (if I could work out how to keep Foxy away) and plastic covering to kill the weeds naturally. This weedkiller would take anywhere from 1 week two 3 weeks to work, and would need multiple applications on hardy things like perennial nettles, ivy and brambles.

I began spraying immediately after mowing, in the hope that the weedkiller would then be drawn straight into the centre of the stems. I also painted the weedkiller directly on to the leaves of the bindweed and ivy which strangled my hedges.

All I could do then was wait!

In the meantime, I went on a bit of a rampage around the greenhouses and cleared all I could.

How different does this look now! Yes the windows were mostly broken, and the soil was dry, old and cakey but nothing I couldn’t fix! There was also a huge hole in the roof of the entrance, where a log burner used to be, and several birds making their home in the beams. But I loved it. It wasn’t perfect but it was ours.

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He is a diamond

The next day, I came home from work to find MrT missing! And where was my man? Only out here chopping down the bits I couldn’t reach! He managed to get the whole 40m hedge trimmed back and under control in a day, and I couldn’t have been happier!

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Nice straight hedge

That evening we sat back with a bonfire and admired how far we had come. I finally felt like I was getting somewhere.

Next up was deciding what we could do within the small amount of the season we had left..!