Tag Archives: UK

Growing Medicine for the Mind

“Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the mind.‚ÄĚ

I love growing flowers on my allotment plot. To me, they look stunning, they attract pollinators and very importantly are they can be used as an environmentally friendly bug barrier!

I’m currently growing perennial flowers such as daffodils, verbena, hydrangeas, lavender and rudbeckia but I also grow a number of annual flowers such nasturtiums, sunflowers, sweet peas and marigolds.

This year I’ve decided to dedicate Plot 5A to flowers. So far, I’ve planted 2 beds of bulbs and they’re already up!

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In 2016 I have to admit that I was very disappointed with the results of ‘direct sown’ seeds – they either didn’t germinate or produced 3 inch high plants ūüė¶ so this year I’ll be starting ALL my flowers off in the greenhouse.  I’ve already started stockpiling a few beauties (these will go straight into the ground)…Any tips on growing dahlias will be gratefully received ūüôā Look at these gorgeous ‘dinner plate’ varieties!

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I’ve managed to gather a few basic planting tips:

  • Don‚Äôt rush to plant – dahlias hate cold soil. Wait until all chance of frost is past.
  • Plant in full sun. They need 6 to 8 hours of sunlight to thrive.
  • Protect from the wind.
  • Soil should be rich and well-drained.
  • You can start tubers indoors.
  • Be cautious with watering – tubers rot easily.
  • You can expect flowers within around 8 weeks of planting, starting in mid-July.

Do you have any tips or advice on growing Dahlias?

On my wanders around gardens in the UK, it’s clear that most kitchen gardens combine flowers and veggies.

These two pictures show the Agatha Christie’s kitchen gardens at Greenway House…

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Love the combined planting!

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I’m aiming to create a mini version of this sweet pea and bean (the beans have been cleared) arch (at the National Botanical Gardens of Wales) over the central pathway on Plot 5A…

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Do you grow flowers on your allotment?  How do you ‘mix them up’? What are you most looking forward to growing in 2017?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‚ôę ‚ô™Speckled Frog Eating Delicious Slugs ‚ô™‚ôę…Fingers Crossed!

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Finished frog pond complete with Percy (a gift from my parents) the plastic frog.

Apparently one third of our natural ponds have disappeared in the last fifty years which has had an enormous impact on wildlife, particularly, frogs, toads and newts. ¬† Luckily, amphibians¬†aren’t fussy…they’ll occupy anything from a water-filled bucket, to a fancy-pants wildlife pond! So creating a wildlife pond, no matter how small, is a great way to do your bit for the neighbourhood‚Äôs wildlife.

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We bought a cheap moulded plastic pond from our local aquatic centre.

Providing an area to home frogs on the allotment¬†could also help reduce the effects of the predicted invasion of slugs this summer. I need all the help I can get as I’m not using slug pellets…¬†I’m passionate about keeping my plots organic!

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My wonderfully kind and helpful family dug over the frog bed and sunk the pond.

Also the Tiddlers A, E and C are fascinated by bugs, worms and mini beasts. In fact Tiddler E and C are totally in love with everything ‘frogs’ (especially poison dart frogs!) so with this in mind I set about creating a frog pond on the plots.

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Nearly done…after collecting rocks and stones from around the allotment.

I’m told that it is best to allow animals to arrive at your pond naturally, although I was tempted to deposit some ‘study’ tadpoles to the pond (I’ve resisted). ¬†I’ve been assured that frogs will travel over a kilometre to find a new pond, usually within the pond’s first year. In the meantime, I’ll be happy if a dragonfly (or two) or ¬†even a few water boatmen drop by.

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Tiddler A inspecting our handiwork after adding a few more edging stones donated by my parents.
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Oxygenating plants (lily pad was insisted upon by the Tiddlers!),¬†¬†Hosta and a few more edging stones added…Thank you dear parents (once again!)¬†

 

 

Worm Village (under construction)

 

20160501_100906Two more towers have been added to ‘Worm Village’…one more to go. Tiddler A is designing and constructing the final tower.

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I’ve struggled to find coloured ink free waste paper to make the base for the compost towers so I’m considering ‘investing’ in a few rolls of cheap kitchen roll. If I wait a few more days I can gather some shredded paper from work but I really dislike waiting. I HAVE to get the job done this weekend!

 

Mud Dwellers to the Rescue!

Plots 4a and 5a are in the process of having a few new ‘installations’ this week…. ¬†I’ve decided to test an alternative form of composting – vermicomposting, which is basically composting with worms.

I have two compost bins currently. ¬†The typical Dalek type and my homemade pallet composter. Both are filling up nicely, however I’m going to be waiting a while before I (and the plots) will be able to reap the rewards. Hence the test… worm towers.

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‘Castle Tower’ has been placed near the shallots, in the hope that I’ll actually have a crop this year!

My worm towers are made of a length of pipe with holes drilled in the bottom half which is then buried halfway into the ground. I’ve painted my 1st worm tower – Tiddler A wanted the worms to have a castle to live in ūüôā¬†Scraps of food will be put in the tower, this will then be ‘processed’ by the worms. It’s a win win! ¬†The worms will enjoy an all you can eat ‘buffet’ and my allotment will get an instant boost of nutrients, ¬†eliminating several stages of the composting process.

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Excuse the dodgy artwork…painted with children’s brushes!¬†

I’m making four towers and I’m intending to strategically place three around the plots. ¬†The fourth one, I’ll test out in one of the raised beds. I’m hoping the ‘towers’ will feed and nurture my plants for me.

Reading up on the ideal ‘mixture’ to tempt the worms it’s clear that there are some definite dos and don’ts…

  1. Do give the worms a little bedding to wriggle into e.g. wet (not dripping but moist) shredded newspaper.  Apparently worms enjoy an environment of 75% water.
  2. Don’t add manure to the bedding. This could result in cooked worms!
  3. Do add something gritty like soil or ground egg shells. This will help the worms grind up the contents of the tower.
  4. Do place the worms in the middle of the ‘tower mixture’ then leave them for a few days.
  5. Do (after about a week) start adding the food scraps.  Soft fruit and veg is best.
  6. Don’t add paper with coloured ink – it’s poisonous to worms!
  7. Do ‘feed’ the worms a little at a time. ¬†Once a week is perfect.

I’m not sure what my allotment neighbours will make of my experiment but I’m hoping my plots will love me!