…Tugging at My Sleeve!

Boysenberry Fruit

Today started with a delivery of ‘Live Plants’ – to be precise my Boysenberry plant.

‘Large, tasty berries!’ (Yum, looking forward to a few homemade Boysenberry pies this Autumn).


The Boysenberry was developed during the Great Depression by Rudolf Boysen, a Swedish immigrant and horticulturist who lived in the Napa Valley region of California. His first plant to bear fruit was in 1923.

‘A cross between loganberries, raspberries and dewberries, boysenberries are incredibly hardy and even more resistant to disease and drought than blackberries. They’re vigorous-growing and will produce a heavy crop of fruit which boast all the flavour of a wild blackberry, but are several times the size!’ (Sutton Seeds)

Plot 5A was tugging at my sleeve after a weekend without a visit.  I had quite a few jobs that really needed to be done asap. Planting was the first job on my list.  Plant the Blackcurrant bush, Lemon Balm, Shallots, Garlic and Blueberry (late season) – I should a crop of blueberries throughout the summer!  Protecting the Cocktail Kiwi with a pop up ‘greenhouse’ was the second. Followed by securing a willow obelisk ready for the Sweet Peas (The wind on Plot 5A can be vicious so it needed quite a few stakes to stop it from being blown over!) The final job was to tie up some gorgeous plastic bunting I found in the local garden centre.  A mere ‘frill’, I know but it does look pretty!

Plot 5A is beginning to look like an allotment!
 Plot 5A is beginning to look like an allotment!

(The blue netting you can see in the background belongs to the neighbouring allotment keeper.  It houses a number of bee hives.  I shouldn’t have any problems with pollination this year!) 

The Whisper of Surprise


For me there is always a whisper of surprise when growing from seed…you never really know what will happen!  There is also the simple fact that growing from seed is the cheapest way to grow your own and it is absolutely the most rewarding method of raising your own plants.  There isn’t anything more satisfying than harvesting fruit and vegetables, that you have grown yourself!

This weekend the weather here in Wales has been appalling so I’ve been confined to the house, greenhouse and garden for my gardening fix.  Yesterday, I decided to dig through the seed box looking for ‘sow in March’ on the packets and after finding a small collection, I drew up a basic ‘Seed-Starting Plan’ in my allotment note book.

There is one slight problem…because this is my first year on Plot 5A, I have no idea when my ‘Frost-Free’ date will be!!  (Note to self: Ask fellow allotmenteers – when the weather breaks!) I’m hoping that writing a ‘plan’ will be a useful trick his year, especially with the experimental seeds.


The Spring Frost-Free Date in My Garden is_______________
Seed Sow Inside Date Sprout
from sowing
Safe to plant  (Relative to frost-free date) Plant out Date

Sowing Plan

Plan completed – I then had to choose the best method for sowing.  I basically have three options. The greenhouse, window sill or directly into the ground.  Clearly sowing seeds where they will be left to grow is the easiest method but Plot 5A is on the side of a mountain and rather exposed, so ‘sow and grow’ is out of the equation for at least another month! I have a greenhouse but no heating, which is better than nothing but a little limiting. I also have a few large window sills perfect for holding a couple of seed trays!

Time to place my bets…I know some plants germinate better than others at home. Sure fire seeds include chives, lettuce, peppers, tomatoes, cosmos, marigolds to name but a few.  This weekend I’m jumping into the unknown and growing ‘untested’ (by me) crops – starting with Tomatillos, Electric Daisies, Goji Berries and Mexican Spinach along with (tested) Peas and Dwarf Broad Beans.

The Peas and Broad Beans are simple – they are being started in the greenhouse and keep will the Sunflowers company – the rest are being sown indoors, snuggling up on the window sills, in the warm! Now in my opinion, growing seeds indoors isn’t really that hard but keeping them alive can be a big challenge. I admit to scoring a few home goals in the ‘sowing game’ such as…

  • sowing too soon
  • sowing too deep
  • not enough available light
  • too much or too little water
  • storing in the cold
  • losing labels (growing advice)

That said you can’t beat the glory of showing off anything that you have nurtured from day one, despite a few mistakes. The whisper of surprise is way too exciting!

Learning by My Mistakes

Lots of visitors and advice at Plot 5A, this weekend.
Lots of visitors and advice at Plot 5A, this weekend.

Another very busy weekend on Plot 5A.  This weekend we’ve had a constant flow of visitors, onlookers and ‘chatters’.  Each one has been full of praise for the work done so far and has had plenty of ‘advice’ on just about everything!

Decking started, fruit bed dug, beds raked and some planting done.
Decking started, fruit bed dug, beds raked and some planting done.

“Ooooo, I wouldn’t have put the greenhouse there – should have put it next to the shed!” “Yes, it’s looking good. Herbs? Why there?  Where are you going to put the bulk order of manure, when you need it?” “Blackberry…that should go over an arch!” “Why do you have space between the strawberry plants?  You’ve got loads of little ‘uns left over. I’d of planted ’em all!” “Definitely should rake the mud straight after digging, even if it’s wet!” “You’re using bark chippings! You might have mushrooms growing there in the autumn”. “The greenhouse door MUST go on the end…it’s all wrong…when it rains it will sink and ALL the glass will fall out!”

The Sunflowers have sprouted causing great excitement amongst the 'Tiddlers'
The Sunflowers have sprouted causing great excitement amongst the ‘Tiddlers’

Arrrrrrrrrrgggghhhhh!!! I know each and everyone is an attempt to offer some advice but this little collection is amongst many, many more ‘babbles’ I have heard this weekend!  All contradicting the usual opening comment of “Looking good” or “You’re doing a good job”. I believe, if you say you’ve never had few failures in the beginning, then you are fibbing. I know they can be highly frustrating at the time, but you most definitely learn from them. My collection of cheap and cheerful spades and forks fall into this ‘learning category’.  I think, at the last count, I own at least eight spades!  I now understand that I need to take the weight of the digging implement into account…if I want to be able to dig for more than five minutes and stainless steel is a must!

On Plot 5A, I have decided on my targets and nothing / no-one is going to knock me off track.  I am prepared to put in a silly amount of labour in order to enjoy the fruits, quite literally so the “I think it’s about time you stopped today” comments fall on deaf ears! No chance. Not unless it’s in my plan for the day!
I’m not 100% knowledgeable on a few topics…’bulk manuring’ haha and the best way to grow potatoes (earthing up method, black polythene method or in containers).  Advice will be gratefully accepted, then I’ll choose the one I like best. The great thing about allotmenteering, is that most mistakes can be rectified. Developing strategies to sort out the ‘wobbles’ can be fascinating and a good excuse to try something new!

What’s Normal?!

Two months ago I was really excited to pick up the keys to plot 5A. There’s nothing better than knowing you have all that lovely space to grow whatever your heart desires!

After getting over the initial shock of the first viewing – it was in a pretty bad state! I began my perfect plot wishlist. If money wasn’t an object what would I have? A tool shed. Potting shed. A greenhouse. Little sun house with decking and a bistro table and chairs set….STOP! Reality check. That clearly wasn’t going to happen, so I began to whittle my fantasy plot list into a reality plot list! A shed, a fence, a compost bin, a few water butts and a usable walkway to the shed.

It was at this point the list started to turn into a plan. A stealth plan! Nothing on paper, that was an essential part of the plan. If Mr D knew what was in my head…well plot 5A would be a raised bed in my Victorian house garden! Too much money and work!

All that was left, was the toughest stage…putting in the essentials and clearing the site (still in the process of doing the latter!) My allotment is now a handy conversation starter for some of my colleagues, over a cuppa, in the staffroom.  I know it’s a bit ‘geeky’ but I’m ok with preferring gardening to partying!

The first question is always…

“What are you growing then – carrots, cabbages and potatoes?!”

My reply of “Perhaps, in amongst the goji berries, cucamelons, cocktail kiwis and tree spinach” is generally followed by…

“That’s not normal!”

Allotmenteering is enjoying a bit of a bit of a revival at the moment.  Suddenly, it’s ok to admit you enjoy growing organic food for yourself, family and friends.  I’ve had loads of offers of help…when the weather warms up!  I think I’m going to need that bistro table and chair set after all!

Planting has begun

Much Excitement!

Eeeeeek!! It’s a workday and I’ve been up to visit plot 5A. The reason? Well, the weather was beautiful and…I wanted to see my baby greenhouse! Much excitement!  Did I mention that I was excited?

Baby Greenhouse

Ok, I admit, ‘Baby’ does look in a bit of a state at the moment but with help from Mr D and the family , I’m hoping ‘Baby’ will be reborn this weekend! In theory,  the rebuild shouldn’t take long – it’s only 6×4 but we don’t have a set of instructions so I’m bracing myself for a few grrrrrr moments!

Sul Y Mamau (Mother’s Day)

Almost doneIt’s Mother’s Day and today it was ‘all about me’…well, what I wanted  to do for the day, to be exact!  I don’t think many of you will be surprised to read, that I wanted to spend as much time as possible, gardening.  At 9:30 this morning, I was at Plot 5A, trying to finish digging another section of the allotment but despite my best effort, I didn’t quite make it…I still have a metre and a half square  to dig in order to finish the exotics bed.

Row of Herbs

On the plus side, I have planted the herb and bulb bed.  I chose to plant over the buried water pipe at the front of the allotment to try a prevent accidental ‘punctures’!

At around 11 o’clock the whole family popped up with gifts, cards and hugs.  It was lovely! The ‘Tiddlers’ loved it, however they quickly became really cold (the wind was bitter), so were whisked off to a warm house but not before leaving a few ‘decorations’ for the plot… Two spinning daisies and a set of solar-powered fairy lights!  (plus a packet of mixed seeds which included purple basil). During the early afternoon my youngest, ‘Little Ears’ accompanied me to one of my favourite garden centres for a browse around the plants and garden accessories.

Mothers' Day

Talking of accessories, I’ve been thinking about my allotment plan more and more as I grow closer to finishing the digging.  Not just what I can grow but how to make Plot 5A a place full of colour and love. Obviously Plot 5A needs to be a functional allotment but, like my garden, I want to reflect a little of my personality, as well as being productive.  It must have colour and, dare I say it, look pretty!  I’ve started by making my own giant bed markers, sign post and bug-box.  I’ve also added a bird-box to the top of one of the fence posts, much to the amusement of a few of the ‘elder’ allotmenteers!

This begs the question: Are allotment additions a lovely way to personalise your plot or something to be avoided (an unnecessary frill)? I quite like a few ‘frills’ but goodness knows, what the ‘elders’ would say about a little ‘bunting’ in the summer or a brightly coloured, bistro table and chair set! I’ll let you know…haha

56 Days


Fifty six days of allotment addiction…Yup…I’m most definitely hooked.  If there is a cure, don’t tell me, because I’m enjoying every minute!

If you are reading this you could well be a fellow addict to gardening or allotmenteering. Do you have any symptoms?

  1. You are excited because Gardener’s World is back on tv!
  2. Your bookshelf is laden with everything from Alan Titchmarsh’s ‘The Allotment Gardener’s Handbook’ (1982) to James Wong’s ‘Grow for Flavour’ (2015).
  3. You are genuinely thrilled when you receive a gardening related gift.
  4. You have a list of all your garden plants and a note where they are planted.
  5. You can be tempted out to the most boring place on the planet – if there’s a garden centre near.
  6. When you take the dog for a walk, you check out all the gardens en route.
  7. You love the arrival of spring. You watch for the smallest signs of leaves developing and the flowers budding.
  8. The neighbours are now used to seeing you in your pyjamas, pottering in the garden, early weekend mornings.
  9. A freshly mowed lawn fills you with satisfaction.
  10. The car always has mud on the back seat and in the boot.
  11. There is a collection of plants at the front or back door (sometimes both) waiting to be planted. If only you didn’t have to earn money! I need more time!!!
  12. Garden ‘stalkers’ (in a good way) pop up while you’re weeding and want to discuss everyone of your changes / additions.
  13. Pain…in arms, legs and back don’t stop you going back for more!
  14. You have a chiminea or fire pit of some sort to extend the time you can spend in your garden.
  15. And finally, you want to share your garden addiction with family, friends and even the poor dog!

Just keep taking the medicine and everything will be ok.  1 plant or packet of seeds per week, 1 glazed terracotta pot per sale and at least 1 trip to a garden centre each weekend (more of each may be required depending on the severity of the withdrawal symptoms during poor weather!)

Allotmenteering in the Spring Sunshine

Spring has ‘sprung’, hasn’t it?  Well…The 1st of March, according to the meteorological seasons, is the start of spring and this weekend we had a welcome dose of sunshine here in Wales. I know technically that the astronomical calendar determines the seasons and officially spring 2015 doesn’t begin until March 20th but my tidy mind likes the year split into 4 with 3 months in each!

However, I also like to know all the facts, so here, for all fellow ‘fact geeks’ are the exact dates for spring this year…

  • Meteorological spring begins on 01 March 2015 and runs until 31 May 2015.
  • Astronomical spring begins on 20 March 2015 and runs until 21 June 2015.

Anyway, back to Plot 5A and my achievements to date.  Yes, you read correctly, ‘achievements’ – I’m finally starting to feel like I’m making some progress!  The permanent paths are cleared and are safe for use.  (The photo below shows the centre path covered in weed suppressant, just before the bark chippings were added.)  Two thirds of the growing beds have now been dug and painstakingly weeded by hand! Mr D has erected the shed guttering so the two water butts are catching raindrops, my home-made ‘pallet’ compost bin is ready for action and the bug box is now open for business!


Cocktail Kiwi2015-03-08 16.58.01I’ve only been the proud owner of Plot 5A since January 18th but I’m determined to have everything up and running for the gardening season so February has been super busy!  I’ve been gathering seeds, bulbs and plants – in line with my allotment plan.  My Cocktail Kiwi plant arrived last week and it’s already in leaf!

I’ve also been reading ‘Grow For Flavour’ by James Wong, gathering some fabulous tips and ticks to supercharge the flavour of my homegrown harvests!  The book explains the science behind the phrase ‘homegrown tastes better than shop bought’.  It’s a real eye opener!  I would never have thought about the benefits of colour therapy on my crops! Apparently,light reflected off a coloured mulch will trick plants like tomatoes and strawberries into creating, bigger, tastier fruit! I highly recommend this book to all adventurous allotmenteers!

James Wong Book