Tag Archives: digging

Hoping for Magic from the Muck…

Last Saturday, the sun was out (for a change) and it was a perfect day for beating the winter blues on my plots! Winter is a tough time of year for us gardeners. We want to get out and enjoy all the benefits that gardening brings but the winter weather only permits the odd day of preparation for the growing season.

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Asparagus raised bed and plot 5a.

Preparation is the name of the game on the plots at the moment…ripping up persistent perennial weeds, covering with plastic and mulching. I haven’t dug any of the plots yet. I’m planning not to dig at all to be honest. A foot injury last year prompted me to look into labour saving gardening methods and two of my blog readers pointed me in the direction of Charles Dowding’s books. Now I’m hooked, for two reasons:-

1) Clearly ‘No Dig’ saves time and effort.

2) ‘No Dig’ is better for the plots allowing the soil to develop a good base ideal for planting.

I’m beginning my second year of trialling this method, mimicking nature by building fertility from the top, without damaging the beneficial fungi and soil life underneath (I’m applying the same method to my six 4″x4″ and four mini metal raised beds). Don’t get me wrong, I’m not against digging! If a patch needs a good dig over then I’ll do it but I’d rather not ūüėÄ Mulches include, cardboard, wood chips, compost and manure. Usually I buy the odd bag of aged manure for the plots however for the first time, I’m applying a thick mulch of manure.

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Plot 4a…beginning to mulch!

I’ve had a plot on my allotment site since January 2015 but I kept missing the ‘Who wants manure?’ question asked of key ‘plotters’. This year I was asked. A landmark event for sure…now I’m considered a ‘real’ allotmenteer!

I have my very own heap of poop!

It’s back breaking work – the only way to shift a ton of ‘poop’ is by wheelbarrow and I’ve found that I can manage to fill and unload eight barrows around the plot before I begin to ache. I’m slow but steady. I’ll finish…eventually!

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Herb bed and worm tube.

On the mend: One step at a time

At the end of June, I suffered what I thought was a minor garden injury: I¬†fell over the allotment ‘wonky’ path, hurting the¬†side of my foot.¬†It hurt like crazy but I comforted myself with the knowledge that no one had seen me fall!¬† I limped home, wincing with¬†each step, a¬†100% sure that it was nothing major.

The next morning my foot was swollen and heavily bruised.¬†I could barely¬†walk. My family tried to persuade me to go to A&E but… ‘no way was I going to waste NHS resources with a bruised foot’ so I plodded on, literally!

Fast forward to the end of September, I was still in a ridiculous amount of pain, my foot had changed shape and I had lost all movement in my toes!¬† I visited the doctor.¬† Long story cut short…I had torn the ligaments, chipped bone and fractured my foot!

My foot was placed in a surgical boot (actually 2 boots because I wore one out!)¬†¬†for 9 weeks.¬† I’m left with possible nerve damage, post-traumatic arthritis and a programme of physiotherapy¬†ūüė¶

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Apparently…’ Around 300,000 individuals in the UK attended Accident and Emergency departments after having an accident in the garden in 2004. Some 87,000 people were actually injured while gardening.’

Gardening injuries are terribly common, I know.¬†I’ve had plenty of¬†bruises, cuts and aches but this has stopped me in my tracks. No digging. No clearing. No weeding. Nothing.¬† Luckily, my injury has fitted nicely into the ‘quieter season’ of gardening.¬† The weather hasn’t been brilliant either, so the whole allotment site has been generally deserted.

I’m itching to get back to my ‘sanctuary’ plots but this gardening season I’m going to have to plan carefully in order to make things easier for myself.¬† So far, I have a basic 5 point plan…

  1. Have a kneeler or seat nearby for regular rests.
  2. Get all the tools ready before starting a job.
  3. Look out for adapted equipment…more raised beds, tools with longer handles or lighter weight etc
  4. Invest in a cart or barrow.
  5. Consider a tool belt or work apron to carry ‘bits n bobs’ like secateurs or a knife.

Do you have a tips for a injured allotmenteer?  What about you?  Have you ever come a cropper in the garden?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s beauty in a good day’s work…

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The harvest continues on the plot -carrots, kale, banana shallots, 1 mooli radish (simply for a taste test!) and two parsnips.  I even picked a mini tub of blueberries but they didn’t make it home ūüôā

The radish was delicious…hot, hot, hot…so if you prefer a mild tasting radish then avoid moolis! We ate most of today’s harvest for Sunday lunch.  Simply delicious! This is my first year growing and eating kale – not only will I grow again next year but I highly recommend this disease resistant, yummy crop to anyone that hasn’t tried it.  I’ll leave the rest of the parsnips until after the frost.  I’m told that the cold will turn the starches into sugars which will sweeten the parsnips further.

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Kale…simply delicious!

 

I will have to clear the vulnerable crops such as celeriac and carrots soon and put them into store before the air turns too cold!  The cabbage is looking really good though so they can stay put for a little longer.

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Cabbage…a few nibbles but otherwise perfect.

 

The clock is ticking but I still have daylight at the end of the working day (if I’m lucky an hour) to tidy up the plots of any old crops in preparation for next year.

Today was a crisp, sunny day (well mostly) so I had to go for it.   I was lucky to have a little help from the family today too…offers of help are always greatly accepted!

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A bit of fun while tying onions…

 

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Bunches of onions safely stored in the shed

 

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Weed suppressant membrane and bark  has been placed at the foot of the apple trees

 

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The old strawberry bed has finally been removed…just a matter of digging and removing the bindweed roots now.

 

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A few bags of manure have been added to the cleared potato bed.

 

The flowers continue to put on a splendid show on the plots which is always welcome sight!

Great day’s work on the plots with the family.  I hope you are having a great harvest and that your next growing season is a beauty!

Nature begins Autumn’s Canvas

When you feel that first crisp breeze, you know that Summer is gone and Autumn is in the air.  To me, one of the best things about living in Britain is the changing seasons.  Every season has its positives, however, autumn is especially beautiful.  I revel in the colours nature paints the landscape… red, gold, and orange.. enchanting!

The summer-flower has run to seed,
And yellow is the woodland bough;
And every leaf of bush and weed
Is tipt with autumn’s pencil now.

And I do love the varied hue,
And I do love the browning plain;
And I do love each scene to view,
That’s mark’d with beauties of her reign. (Autumn by John Claire)

Autumn is well under way on the plots and there’s plenty of winter digging, mulching and covering yet to be completed, however, time is ticking…the clocks go back an hour at the end of this month so I’m grabbing every second of daylight.  I’ve been nipping to the allotment for an hour after work and working as long as my body allows at weekends in an attempt to ‘get things done’.  As a gardener, I’m conscious that the dark days of winter are around the corner and I need to be ready for the next growing season.

I’m working through the three plots one by one. PLOT 5A is still full of sweetcorn, cabbages, cauliflowers and kale so I’m focussing on PLOT 4A and PLOT 5B first.

PLOT 5B has been a battle against nature. The weeds were cut, burned, chopped, dug, burned again and finally the beds were covered!!

 

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PLOT 5B…Digging and covering well under way

I still have a few sections to tackle but I’m just about winning!!!  I plan to use PLOT 5B as a cut flower plot.  I figure that I have plenty of space, so why not?!

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PLOT 5B…Two bulb beds planted for spring.

On PLOT 4A, I’m removing the large bindweed infested strawberry bed after months of growing new ‘runner’ plants in pots.  The plants will then be placed in a raised bed in the hope that I can protect my precious strawberries from slugs and birds.

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Strawberry bed, almost gone!

I’ve also been busy trying to clear the calf high couch grass that was growing beneath the apple trees. It will be back within the blink of an eye so I’m planning to lay weed-suppressing fabric and cover with bark chippings as soon as possible.  The result is bags and bags of weeds waiting to be taken to our local tip!

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Couch grass keeps taking cover under the fruit trees.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dog Days of Summer!

We have had two weeks of glorious sunshine here in Wales…it’s as if the dog star Sirius has positioned himself, in the heavens above my little patch of the world a little earlier than expected.

The risk of frost has well and truly passed, and with longer days there comes more sunshine and time to be pottering around on my allotments. Well I say ‘pottering’… that’s not anywhere near the truth! ¬†I was rather late planting this year, after taking on plot 4A. ¬†I spent months digging. It’s done. Finally. ¬†Everything is more or less planted too!

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4A – View from the front
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4A – View from the back
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5A – View from the front
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New flower bed

All I need to do now is a little ‘fine tune weeding’ to completely finish plots 4A and 5A…simple? Mmmmm, no not really! ¬†Plot 5B suddenly came up for grabs and I grabbed it! I’m now the proud occupier of plot 5 (whole plot) and plot 4A. ¬†I know, I know, I’m a glutton for punishment but I really wanted a ‘Tea Shed’!

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Overgrown mess!

Docks, rosebay willow herb, grasses, seeded onions, brassicas and bindweed… a right royal mess!

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In the background, you can just see my little blue ‘Tea Shed’.
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Shoulder height grass and weeds
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One sunny afternoon later…

I want to avoid weedkiller so we’re planning to use a paraffin burner to literally ‘cook’ the weeds to death!

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I can see my ‘other half’!

I’m not sure what to do about my lollipop fence now…keep? or remove? or even put in a little gateway?

Oh…and we have our first froglet in our little pond ūüôā ¬†Happy Dog¬†Days!

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Froglet

1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10.

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So much to do…but I must remember to have fun along the way!

There’s no better feeling than ticking something off my allotment to-do list. Done. Finished. Completed.

In day to day life, I’m constantly writing lists. ¬†I worry that I’ll forget to do or get something, so I write it down. ¬†If I don’t, my brain gets locked into a ‘list loop’…repeating over and over. ¬†Writing things down stops the jobs from ‘pecking my head’ and helps me keep track of things that could easily disappear when life becomes especially hectic.

Although writing, generally, is a powerful tool which helps me to organise and simplify my thoughts…even when it comes to gardening.

Reminder to myself: I garden because it is enjoyable and relaxing.

However, I often have to remind myself to stop running around like a blue-ar***d fly and flapping about the amount of work the needs to be completed! ¬†I know that, ultimately,¬†doing a little as often as possible, is the best way to work but that’s easier said than done. ¬†I’m trying to focus on the important jobs first, ensuring all the jobs are achievable within my time-frame.

However time is ticking.  The signs of Spring are evident.  Daffodils, primroses and crocuses are flowering.  The growing season has begun and April is always busy month. My window sills and greenhouses are full of seedlings that need to be hardened off and planted out but I still have so many jobs to do on my allotment!

In no particular order, here are my top ten jobs on my ‘To Do List’…Errrrrm, there’s a lot of digging involved!!!

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1. De-clutter the allotment greenhouse ready for tomatoes and put the second cold-frame in place.
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2. Dig the front of plot 4a.
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3. De-weed the top pathway.
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4. Replant the strawberry patch.
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5. Line new planter and plant up with the best of the strawberry plants.
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6. Dig and de-weed the ex-gooseberry bed.

(There was an old gooseberry bush here but it was being strangled by bindweed and suffocated by couch grass.  I dug it up and washed the roots for replanting.)  

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7. Remove grass from currant bushes and replant gooseberry bush next to them.
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8. Dig over flower beds.
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9. Finish digging plot 5a.
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10. Dig over cardoon and comfrey bed.

 

 

Taming the Dragon

This weekend I was determined to make a little more progress with digging over plots 4a and 5a.

So Saturday morning, even though it was rather nippy, I excitedly walked up to my allotments and began digging (again). However, after digging only one row, my fingers began to burn with the cold! Even the dog was shivering pleading to go home. ¬†I admit it – I’m a wimp! ¬†I gave up and shuffled back home, to the welcome of a toasty warm house.

Not to be totally defeated, I gave digging another go on Sunday and I actually¬†managed to dig another 3 widths of plot 5a (approx 2 more metres depth) then I gave up! Again. Not because of the cold, although it was bracing. No. I ‘wimped out’ this time because of the noise! ¬†My peace and ‘headspace’ was ruined by the noise of rotavators….grrrrrrrrr. ¬†What is wrong with a good ol’ fashioned fork or spade? ¬†I hate rotavators!

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5a – Another few metres dug!

It seems like I’m the only allotmenteer still digging. ¬†Every spare minute I dig. Slowly but surely I’m preparing my plots for the growing season but all the plots around me are almost finished, thanks to the wonder of the rotavator! ¬†It does feel like the story of the tortoise and the hare…but the hare wins! Disheartening ūüė¶

However, just as I was about to put the last of the tools away…silence. The drone of the rotavators stopped. ¬†“Ah, quiet at last!” ¬†Then came a dilemma.

“You need to get a rotavator on that” said Mr R from allotment 7.

I looked at my two plots – “loads to do” – and, I’m ashamed to say, ¬†in the blink of an eye I said “Oooooo, can you show me how to use it?”

Within minutes ‘The rotavator snob’ – me – was grappling with the beast and ripping through plot 4a and I liked it!

To my surprise it was blinkin’ hard work, something I can only describe as trying to tame a mud eating dragon with brute force! Turning the ‘dragon’ at the end of each row was torture but I managed to roughly rotavate the whole of 4a once. ¬†My shoulder muscles and elbow joints could take no more!

Silence.

It was done!

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4a – The Dragon’s work!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Enthusiastic Allotmenteer

The allotment system, as we know it, was introduced to provide a source of good quality, healthy food for the working class in industrial areas. ¬†They proved to be an alternative ‘hobby’ to drinking at the local pub after a long day in work! ¬†Today, the allotment appeal has crossed the class divide, but they offer the same benefits – an alternative to the TV, phone or laptop. I would most certainly prefer to be growing potatoes than become a couch potato! However the dark, dank winter months are have tested me to my limits and I have to admit to a certain amount of enforced hibernation.

Now, at this point you might be asking, ‚ÄúWhy is she wittering ¬†on about the history of allotments?‚ÄĚ I would have to say that you‚Äôre right ‚Äď I am on a bit of ¬†Tangent – however my¬†point is, that my¬†allotment is more than a hobby! ¬†I know that I’m not growing my own veggies out of necessity but, there are plenty of reasons why my allotment is really important to me and I’m looking forward to the growing season.

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Purple sprouting broccoli ready for picking!
  1. Organic Food

I’ve become accustomed to eating organic veggies. Quite simply they taste good. I am one of the¬†increasing number of people who focus on growing,¬†organically or naturally produced food. I like knowing exactly what I’m eating and everything I grow is 100% chemical free! However, my organic supplies are now at an all time low…I only have a few beetroot, cabbages (red and savoy), some lambs lettuce and newly sprouting purple broccoli left on the plots.

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Rhubarb is growing nicely! 

2. Money

Growing my own fruits and veggies has not only put more green in my fridge and diet, ¬†but it should ¬†(now I’ve bought the basic gardening kit) also put more green in my purse!

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Cardoon…I adore this stunning plant!

3. Mind Space

My allotment, as I have said before, is my perfect place  to clear out all of the competing thoughts that life brings.  Digging trenches, constructing vegetable beds and destroying weeds is a great way to work out day to day frustrations!

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Angelica…looking beautiful!

4. Exercise

Talking of digging….I’m not a runner and the gym feels like torture, so working the allotment is a great way for me to get in some exercise. ¬† Digging, walking, planting, harvesting and watering (no hose pipes allowed on my allotment site!) all help me to¬†burn off a few pounds while growing some beautiful flowers, tasty fruit and delicious veg.

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Lots of work to be done…

Just over a year ago, I was dreaming of an allotment buzzing with life and filled to the brim with fresh tasty produce. ¬†I’m on the brink of another year as an allotmenteer and I’m just as enthusiastic. ¬†I’ve loads of work ahead of me once again but nothing beats a bit of hard work and determination…ding, ding let round two begin!!

‘Gardening’ Improves your Life Satisfaction!

Finally some success with carrots!
Finally some success with carrots!

I am lucky to have a reasonable size garden so I’ve practised ‘growing my own’ for a few years. ¬†I’ve enjoyed growing small patches of beans, peas, strawberries etc and I’ve even grown the odd cabbage in the flower beds! ¬†Last year, I decided to invest in some ‘vegtrugs’, which were brilliant, however they left me wanting to learn more! My allotments allow me to grow food on a much bigger scale (and learn) – freeing up most of my garden for flowers and shrubs.¬†For me learning to grow my own fruit and vegetables is helping my to develop a real understanding of the nature of organic growing and the most important aspects of day to day tasks required to produce good quality, tasty crops.

My first home-grown cauliflower :-)
My first home-grown cauliflower ūüôā

It was allotment week a few weeks ago (8th – 14th August). I must admit I’ve never heard or noticed allotment week being celebrated in the media before so I’m assuming that owning an allotment is a little ‘cooler’ than it used to be!

It’s also reported in recent polls that gardeners score higher than the average person on ‘life satisfaction’ so, for those unsure whether to take the plunge into¬†‘allotmenting’, here, are a few reasons why you should ‘go for it!’

Becoming an ‘allotmenteer’ has many benefits. I’ve found an allotment has provided me with the opportunity to meet people who live in my community. ¬†During the seven months I have been an allotment dweller I can honestly say that I have developed a ‘comradeship’ with the other allotment dwellers. ¬†Most are more than happy to chat, but of course, if you wish to be ‘self-contained’, I’m sure that would be respected too! ¬†My allotment site has its own committee, run by a group of ‘elders’, which are happy to supply anything from compost to advice. ¬†I’ve had many conversations, stood at the water tap, about successes and failures of this years’ crops!

My organic cabbages have had a few 'nibbles' but they huge hearts!
My organic cabbages have had a few ‘nibbles’ but they huge hearts!

Although the allotment is enjoyed by all members of my family, it is primarily mine. It’s a place to be on my own (for much-needed head clearing and peace). I love ‘the escape’ for a few hours a week but the family love it too!(see my previous blogs).¬†If I’m with the family at the plot on a weekend ,I really don’t expect to get a huge amount of work done but even the ‘Tiddlers’ are happy to ‘pitch in’ with the weeding or the odd spot of digging (or strawberry munching!)… I refuse to think of my allotment as hard work ¬†so I make time for catching up on the family gossip, to enjoy few giggles, stopping often and drinking plenty of tea!

Our neighbouring honey bees are doing a great job!
Our neighbouring honey bees are doing a great job!

For me, the allotment has allowed me to get a little exercise. I hate the gym!!!! ¬†I can’t imagine spending hours on a running machine in some soul-less building! I work indoors so, personally, I love the opportunity to enjoy a few hours of exercise in the fresh air. I walk miles up and down the paths collecting water, tools from the shed or weeding and, of course, digging over the ground racked up quite a few extra fitness points on my exercise tracker!

Fattening nicely!
Fattening nicely!

I’ve also found another, unexpected bonus to growing my own…my husband eats (and enjoys) the fruit and veg offered. (Mr D is generally a reluctant fruit and veg eater!)¬†Of course, the food grown has been tailor-made for my family…I’m growing the food we most like to eat, and I’ve designed my plots accordingly.

So pleased with the sweet peas...perfume and colours are wonderful :-)
So pleased with the sweet peas…perfume and colours are wonderful ūüôā

Not convinced? Worried about taking on too much, perhaps?! Well you don’t have to take on a full plot! ¬†In fact plot sizes vary considerably…start small and enjoy growing your favourite fruit or veg…I promise you that there’s nothing like the taste of the ‘fruits of your labour’!