Gardening…Why Bother?

I'll swap heels for muddy boots any-day!
I’ll swap heels for muddy boots any day!

I’ve been back in work two days and I have to confess that I’m missing ‘popping’ up to the allotment or ‘pootling’ around in the garden.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy my job and I consider myself lucky, however my professional life dictates that I conform…wear the suit, say the correct thing and tick all the right boxes. Gardening allows me, to be me.  It allows me freedom …wear what I like, speak if I want and tick any box that takes my fancy!  It seems silly but I miss being outdoors (in any weather) in the fresh air!!  So why do I adore gardening?  I know, putting it simple, that it’s good for me!

Flower GranGardening helps me to keep healthy.  I’ve been reliably informed by a well-known slimming franchise that 30 minutes of gardening burns 230 calories.  Every time I dig, mulch, plant, weed, water and prune, I get slimmer…I wish!!!  Speaking of being healthy, nothing is healthier than growing your own veg.  You are, they say, what you eat and I’m 100% sure that home-grown, organic vegetables taste much nicer than any I’ve bought from the local supermarket…so must be better for me!  I’m also doing my little bit for the environment, in my garden and on the allotment…creating ‘safe zones’ for wildlife and insects whilst contributing to improving air quality.Veg peppers

Gardening enriches my life. It allows me to express my creative side, I’m always learning, and I enjoy the surprises that it throws me.  Plot 5A and my garden are good for my soul.  In the winter, when I’m digging, weeding (or uncovering pathways) I work off all my frustrations, shaking off the ‘weekly issues’, accumulated on my shoulders and during the growing season, watering the garden allows me a few moments of tranquillity…time to relax!

Gardening is a labour of love that strengthens me…roll on the weekend!


Split Weekend

This weekend had to be split between two of my favourite pastimes, gardening and boating.  We are lucky to own a small canal boat, which we moor in Wiltshire.  Our mooring is in a little marina on the Kennet and Avon canal, around half way through the 15 mile lock free pound.  Saturday was beautifully sunny, although the wind had a sharp bite, so we decided to make the most of the day and set off early morning.  We drove our boat along the canal to the local town, took a walk around the shops, enjoyed a home cooked dinner on the boat and then drove back up the canal.

The canal is wonderful for seeing wildlife.  We often see variety of birds such as Grey Herons, Kingfishers, Sandmartins, Swans, Birds of Prey and many different species of waterfowl. The area is a Water Vole and Otter friendly habitat. This Saturday the canal banks were littered with the shells of Swan Mussels (eaten perhaps by one of the two furry mammals).

During the warmer months you can also see many different species of butterflies, dragonflies and damselflies.

If you want to see otters, water voles, red kites, kestrels , crayfish and slow worms, — then the Kennet & Avon Canal is the place to go according to this year’s British Waterways Wildlife.  

Canal Boating

Sunday the weather had taken a turn for  the worst.  The wind still had teeth but was accompanied by heavy rain and sleet. However, I was determined to make a start on the allotment’s ‘internal’ paths, so despite the weather, I made the trip and started to tackle the pathway in front of the shed, on which a few members of the family have slipped.  Upon first inspection the path looked like it was made of heavy duty plastic bags and compost! Obviously this had to go – it was clearly treacherous to walk on when wet!  The pathway proved to be a bit of an onion…made up of many layers!  The first few layers were predictable.  The top layer was compost, second layer old plastic bags, third layer black polyethylene, then came a few surprises…fifth…glass sheets…sixth….concrete paving stones!!  What the heck??  Why would anyone do this?  I wasn’t expecting layers five and six!  After clearing about two thirds I went home wet to the skin but happy.  My ‘Time Team’ type excavation work had revealed a brilliant pathway!

Allotment Pathway

In my haste to pass on my discovery, I forgot to buy my potatoes from the allotment shop.  Mr D kindly volunteered to pop up for me – while I warmed up by the log fire.

I now have 4lbs of Rocket (Earlies), 4lbs of Desiree (Early Main)  and 4lbs of Cara (main) potatoes chitting on the bedroom window seats plus a trug of shallots sets.

Potatoes

Oninons

Well, I’m back to work tomorrow so I’m restricted to working on the allotment at weekends!  Fingers crossed for some good weather this weekend and ‘roll on the light evenings’…

Flat Battery!

I have had a whole week to to recharge my batteries and chill out. One whole week of catching up on life, and for me – enjoying a little time allotmenting.  I’ve battled through the ‘holiday cold’, determined to make the most of the time!

Holiday bugs seem to be a hazard of doing a stressful job. I am often (and so are many of my colleagues) tripped up by a ‘bug’ or migraine, as soon as I stop and try to relax! It’s as if my body is shouting “Woohoo, it’s time to repair and recover”. Something switches off the need to override the aches and pains, stops the adrenaline flowing and starts the germs multiplying!!  Of course, I would NEVER give in and admit defeat. Being time poor is one of the negatives of being working woman/man.

However, today I woke to find my ‘life battery’ was totally flat!  No energy for my lovely allotment. No excuse – just tired.  To be honest, I think I should have taken, at least one day, ‘to be busy doing nothing!’ So I decided to potter and pootle around the house and garden.

I did manage a couple of allotment ‘potters and pootles’ – I couldn’t resist…

P&P 1 – Finished my allotment bed markers.

Markers

P&P 2 – Managed to source and order some Mexican Tree Spinach seeds.

Tree Spinach

Hen Wragedd a Ffyn! (Old Women and Sticks!)

Rain, rain go away, come again….well when the plants need watering!  It was raining ‘Hen wragedd a ffyn! today (English translation – raining old women and sticks! The English idiom would be raining cats and dogs!) which meant that all allotment work was most definitely off.

Mr D took a rare break from work for a few hours, so a few household errands could be completed, with stop off at the local garden centre for a cuppa and a browse through the seed racks.  I confess to being tempted by a few…

Flower seeds

Mid afternoon – still raining but, the old ladies were most definitely fatter and the sticks had turned to logs!  Time to finish yesterday’s job 5, the bug-box.  I admit this took longer than expected.  You remember I wanted sheep’s wool for the pot? Well, despite persuading Mr D to help me look around the top of a local mountain for the cast off ‘treasure’, I was out of luck. Nothing. No sheep. No wool. In Wales?!!! I had to settle for straw!

Bug box - finished

And finally relax – no – too boring!  Onto the next project…allotment ‘bed’ markers. To be completed.

Bed Markers

Jobs List

Another sunny day here in Wales and I wanted to make the most of every moment!  Jobs list in hand and equipped with Mr D’s rechargeable drill, I arrived at the allotment at 9:30 …

Job 1:  Put up Plot 5A’s sign  – Tick.

Job 2: Put up bird-box – Tick.

Job 3: Dig – Tick.

Birdhouse

Arrived home at 2:30 to complete a few more jobs on the list…

Job 4: Check vegetable trough – Tick.  Broad beans (regular and dwarf), shallots, spring onions and garlic all growing nicely under the fleece.

Veg trough

Job 5:  Make a ‘Bug Box’ – Tick (a little more to do but shaping up nicely!) Need some sheep’s wool and…??? Any ideas?

Bug box

Job 6: Buy another water butt (brand new, unwanted gift) from ebay for £15 which my very kind daughter collected for me – Tick.

Job 7: Order a selection of some more exotic seeds and plants online (Cocktail kiwis, Goji berries, Inca berries, Popcorn fiesta, Asparagus peas and Electric daisies) – Tick.  Still looking for Mexican Tree Spinach plants or seeds and Babington Leeks!

Job 8: Create a draft plan for planting (Ops! Spelling mistakes noticed too!) – Tick.

Allotment Plan 1

My gardening ‘battery’ has been recharged nicely today!  No plans for tomorrow, rain has been forecast, perhaps I’ll allow my injured elbow a little time to recover…

One (mini) Victory!

What a beautiful day!  The glorious weather made it impossible for me not to visit plot 5A (and avoid a mountain of household chores!) I was on a mission and nothing was going to stop me reaching my goal…

The goal was nothing spectacular to most, but for me it was a sign that, ‘Yes, I AM getting there’. You see, I’m locked into a series of mini battles, with couch grass, bindweed and the elements but today I notched up (a little) victory. A whole section of the allotment – right up to the pathway – has been dug!

Sad, I know but I’m pleased as punch…

Dig 1

Dig 2

The Need for Water

Ok,onto the next job…setting up a water saving system.  I 100% do not want to use a bright blue industrial tub – you’ve all seen them?! Go past any allotment and your eyes are assaulted by these ugly (but admittedly, perfectly serviceable tubs). Apologies to fellow allotmenteers, but I want all water saving receptacles on plot 5A to blend quietly into the background.

Water ButtEasy? Well it should be, however trying to find a reasonably priced water butt is actually ridiculous!  I was advised to look on the local council’s website which led me to ‘getcomposting.com’.  A 190L water butt and stand could be purchased for £39.98 (a subsidised price!) What the??? It’s only a big plastic tub with a tap why on earth are they charging so much?

I started to do a little digging (excuse the pun!) and to my astonishment water butts are serious business. Who knew that it was possible to buy a plastic water container in so many effects – wood, clay, barrel, brick, stone, wicker… Prices ranged from £19.99 to £749.95 for a column (effect) water butt!  If you are looking for an extra special water butt then this website is most definitely worth a look http://www.waterbuttsdirect.co.uk/

I settled for a bog standard Argos 210L reduced from £49.99 to £34.99 which included the stand and fittings.  Mr D wasn’t best pleased ‘silly money for a big plastic bucket!’ True. Now to price up the lightweight shed guttering…ssshhhh I’ll tell him later….

New Fencing and Seeds

Weather wasn’t great again today, so we decided to make the most of the small ‘sunshine break’ and put up a fence to screen off the allotment behind.  We hammered 3 metpost spikes into the ground, to avoid the fuss of concreting in. They worked a treat and the job was done in about an hour!

A great screen from the allotment behind

When I arrived home, my mum presented me with a little gift…a packet of cucamelon seeds.  A lovely thought but my worst nightmare for taste – cucumbers and melons!!! Still, something different to grow.  I’m sure the rest of the family will be more than happy to try them!

Seeds

The Allotment – First 3 Weeks

I was lucky to acquire allotment 5A after lusting after the idea for a  month or two – that was three weeks ago!  Since then every weekend, no matter the weather, has been on plot 5A.  It was clear on our first visit that the ground was looking in a bit of a sorry state, without doubt, but the whole family were happy to roll up their sleeves and help!

Plot 5A is beginning to look more like home after demolishing a rather smelly, rat ridden construction and replacing it with a brand new shed, complete with a rather funky cat coat hook!

The shed was built, with a lot of help from the family, last Saturday.  It was absolutely freezing and I was very grateful to them for braving the cold! The shed is stereotypically a ‘man’s sanctuary’!! Not this one…it’s most definitely my pride and joy.

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Progress has been really good but we still have loads to do before planting can begin.  Fingers crossed for fair weather this Sunday!