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…..

MrT The Pyromaniac!

I leave him alone for ONE DAY and he sets fire to the plot!

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Fire Bug

He went down to fix my shed roof, but unfortunately we didn’t have enough roofing felt left… things look a lot smaller when they are higher up!

So he saw a big pile of scrap wood and decided to ‘get rid of it’ for me. What a diamond.

I decided that i would pop down in my lunch hour to see how it was going and treated my little worker to a chippy lunch. So civilised.

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Rest Break

He is a good egg though, and by the time I finished work for the afternoon he had done so much hard work!

I know it doesn’t look like much, but he has managed to clear our so much rubbish and has even discovered a concrete path and plinth which appears to have once had a shed on it.

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Proud little man

Sadly all of those nettles and weeds behind him are part of the abandoned “wildlife plot” next door. This is great for hedgehogs, but is awful for us to try and keep the weeds away and the foxes out of the chicken coop. His next job will be to build a nice pallet fence to keep out all of the big brambles and make it look a bit neater.

That big brick structure is connected to our old rotten potting shed (which we will one day repair!) and it blocks off a nice big space behind it.

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So much wasted space!!

This will be all knocked down as soon as MrT gets himself a sledgehammer and will hopefully be the site of a new brewing shed for those cold winter days when a bacon cob is required.

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No more stings!

He has managed to clear the path around the back really well, and has dug up tonnes of broken glass which seems to have been dumped inside the old (now demolished) air raid shelter.

Now its just a waiting game for his next few days off to get smashing and crashing his way through that old building!

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!

Hard work doesn’t harm anyone, but I do not want to take any chances.

Every evening i have been up here weeding my beds with care, and locking up my chickies for the night. They have finally learned to take themselves to bed so now i just shut the door before i leave. It does mean i have to stay till dark though so I have started walking RicoDog down here to keep me company. He has made friends with them now. Isn’t he cute? If you ignore the drool…

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The sun is out, the plants are growing, and my Flatcap Friends have left me more goodies!

One day I will grow my own, but this year I will leave it to the pro’s.

Look at all of these that have been left over my nice new “sociable” gates;

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Green Beans i think?!

These all got planted up immediately. Mr Flatcap came to show me how to build a tipi for them. A tipi makes the beans hang down and means they are easier to pick than those hidden in the foliage.

You get a piece of string and two little sticks. Then you tie a string to one of the sticks, and decide how big you want your tipi. Hold the string in the middle of your tipi space and use the stick to draw a perfect circle around it.

Then tie the other stick 1 foot away from the other stick, basically a bendy ruler! Use your stick/string contraption to mark the distance between each pole, and then stick your bamboo poles in. You can make it as big or as small as you want. but these would be great for kids to hide from the sun when they’ve fully grown!

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Tin roofing sheets to give my chickies so shade

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Lettuce leafage for chickies!

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Bedding for chickes!

I think there is a theme to these presents… I am not sure if its me they like or my birds?!

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Some sort of squash? Needs a good feed apparently. Just like me.

So many goodies!

Some courgettes we bought from the garden centre on sale are starting to flower too! I had to cover them with netting as some creature of the night had chewed all the leaves when they were little… it’s not on. One day i will find out who did it and ‘av ‘um.

But the best thing about this visit?! LOOK!!

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Babies!

I have been feeding my tommy plants as instructed by Molly’s Dad on a regular basis and now they have made beautiful little baby tommys! Are they not adorable?

I’m so excited to try them.. not long now

What kind of apple isn’t an apple? A pineapple.

As you all know by now, my favourite type of gardening is maintenance free gardening.

This means as little weeding as possible, and as many ‘long lasting’ investments as I can find.

This weeks (ok more like fortnight!) project was clearing out the side of my greenhouse, and i had found the perfect thing to put there. An ‘orchard’.

We eat so much fruit, especially in the autumn, and it is one of the things I spend the most money on. So when I saw some fruit trees on sale, I had to grab them.

Looking back, i see now why they were so cheap. You are supposed to plant trees between November and February when they are dormant. You are NOT supposed to plant trees in the height of summer like I did. I really hope they live…

So this is the area i wanted to put them. Its a little raised bed area around the back of my greenhouse. This does mean that it gets pretty hot, but it also gets a lovely breeze blown through from the school field next door, so fingers crossed.

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Between the two greenhouses

Messy right? Well underneath those nettles is a shin height brick wall running right around to the front of that greenhouse.

So I began the long arduous job of clearing all of those nettles and brambles. You see those whiteish flowers right in the middle of the back? That’s rhubarb! Now I’m not a fan of shop bought rhubarb, but I’ll give home grown a go. I dug it up, keeping as much of it together as I could and hoped it would survive when I decided where to put it.

(Spolier alert – It did. And it spread. And now it is everywhere.)

It took me a fortnight of evening digging after work, but I finally managed to get the area clear. Just on a side note, if you get stung by nettles enough times, it doesn’t hurt any more. It just tingles. Not recommended, but I would love to know why this is!

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Getting there…

If you have noticed the sudden appearance of the pallets, they were a ‘present’ from work which will eventually become fencing. I currently have nowhere to put them so there they sit.

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Completely clear!

Finally I was ready for planting, just in time for my cheap trees to arrive. Also managed to pick up some super cheap strawberry plants while I was at it so they will go around the base of my trees this year and get moved next year to where I want them. When i have decided where i want them that is.

I began digging my holes, and i sprinkled a little of the same fungi i used on my tomatoes around the base of the hole to try and encourage the roots. I also drove a stake in for the larger trees at this stage, but ran out so fingers crossed the others live! Plonked the trees in, and covered the holes back over with soil. Firmed this in gently, but I didnt ‘stamp’ them in for fear of breaking what little roots these trees had. I then made my little moat around the root area and gave them a right good soaking when the sun went down.

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Trees!

I have always been told not to water when the sun is high as it can cause burns and shock to your plants. I don’t know how true this is, but it makes me feel like i know what I’m doing so I’ve stuck with that rule.

Next in went the strawberries. While I was doing all of this, Mr AcrossTheLane arrived and scared the life out of me lurking around the greenhouse. Turns out he did shout me several times, but I’m deaf when I’m in my own world. He bought some gorgeous homegrown strawbs with him, some huge! He had a glut and I had a rumbly tummy so it all worked out well. They were very tasty, but it did bring home just how late I was having to plant everything.

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All in!!

If I were a clever woman I would have probably done all of the clearing and long jobs this year and not planted anything at all. But I have always been impatient. Oh well, hindsight and all that!

My biggest recommendation though?
Suncream.

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Ouchy!!!


Time Travel!

I am now writing this is April 2018, having only just discovered the joys of WordPress.

My trees seem to have survived and have little buds on, and my strawberry plants got moved to the greenhouse for storage over winter while I reorganised their home.

I have now covered my trees bed in weedguard to try and kill off the last of the Rhubarb (not working by the way!) and have covered it in chippings.

Look how beautiful it is! Unfortunately they do keep getting attacked by the windows falling out of my greenhouse, but that is a project for another day.

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Low maintenance, and beautiful. I cant wait to site there with a brew under the leaves when they get a bit bigger. And when i have moved those pesky pallets…

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..!

Our Journey Begins

If you are reading this, thanks for joining me!
I have never done this before… blogging, gardening, poultry husbandry, any of it!

This is simply an easy way for me to keep track of my progress and to keep me motivated when those rainy days come. If it entertains or helps anyone else in my situation then that’s an added bonus!

Keep your eyes peeled as I will update this site soon with all of my last 10 months hard work.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

Large Greenhouse

Hardly any glass left and full of bindweed… just the disheartening start we needed

The Key to a Good Garden?

So, in May 2017, we got given the keys to our first ever allotment plot!

502Sqm of gorgeous open space, including one large greenhouse, one medium nursery greenhouse, and an Anderson Shelter.

I have been told we were crazy taking on this amount of space for the first ever crack at gardening, but go big or go home right!

Walking up the lane, we saw all of the old gentlemen with flask in hand and flatcap on head tending beautifully clear beds. The lovely ladies in their gardening clogs were sweeping perfectly straight slabbed paths. Birds were tweeting and I felt like the weight of the world had lifted.

Then we saw the work that lay ahead of us and it all came crashing back down.

In short – those people who said it was too much could now say “we told you so”.

The weeds were taking over completely, and to make matters worse they had all gone to seed. This meant that I already knew that whatever I did to clear it would not be enough and they would come back again net spring.

The nettles were tall and tough enough to sting through jeans, and the gates were heavy and collapsing under their own weight. Brambles roped around your ankles and bindweed had woven itself into a carpet covering the whole site!

The only saving grace was what appeared to be a mature grape vine which wound through the beams of the nursery greenhouse. Until we found that this had been cut off at the base and dug up!

Our plot also sits next door to an abandoned plot which has not been tended for as long as anyone on our site can remember. It is overgrown, full of rubbish and is the source of all of our weedy misery. It is also home to the resident fox population, which soon sent my ideas of keeping free ranging chickens reeling…

I didn’t know where to start.