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My parents and grandparents had allotments which as a child I loved spending time on. Planting, growing, picking, eating, and watching the allotment bursting with wildlife. I was hooked.  I was given my own patch, on which I grew many different flowers and veg.  As an adult, I can now see how much this encouraged me to eat fresh fruit and veg. As many parents will know it can be a struggle to get your children to eat veg and fruit.  I couldn’t wait to eat the cabbage or the runner beans I had proudly grown. Not only had I developed a love of veg,  I knew where it came from and how to grow it.  Many children today do not know the origin of their food. They go to the supermarkets and find their food in the isles, in jars or cans, or in the freezer section.  A few generations ago, children gardened with parents or grandparents out of necessity to put food on the table. Unfortunately, this family activity rarely takes place today because the necessity may not exist. Many parents have little experience or knowledge about gardening or the family is too busy. Children have become disconnected from the land. Children need to learn and experience that soil is essential to all life. We also know that children instilled with a love of gardening at an early age grow into adults with a passion for plants and respect for the environment. On top of that, allotments provide opportunities for kids to sample fresh fruits and vegetables and learn about food origins.

Now 20 something years later I have my own allotment with my children aged 12 and 9 years. They both know where veg comes from, how good it is for them, how to grow it and how good it tastes. I was in a supermarket with my 9 yr old in the veg section. It was strange but nice to see him looking at veg for sale in disgust. “Mum look at these beans they are all manky and gone off, they cant sell these can they?” They were of course well within their sell by date, he is so used to seeing the veg we grow at the allotment, which obviously cant be compared with shop bought produce. The two just don’t compare! 

Both the boys come with me to the allotment, only sometimes needing a little gentle persusaion. There is plenty to keep them occupied. They have both enjoyed helping out right from the start when all we had was a bare plot of clay and brambles. The eldest son was excellent at manure moving and shed building, the youngest really enjoyed smashing the huge boulders of clay we encountered. They have enjoyed planting seeds, watching them sprout and grow, then cooking them at home together. Watering, weeding, picking and black fly zapping keeps them busy on most visits. There are of course times when none of this interests them, so out comes a back up plan…… A packet of water bombs, these keep them entertained for hours. Or a disposable BBQ and a quick visit to the shop for burgers and rolls.  They are well happy to sit and experiment with roasted veg from the plot.  Another favorite of theirs (not of mine) is to play chase, running around the winding pathways through our plot.  They are unfortunately the only children on our allotments, which is a shame as they have such a nice time.

It was those memories I have on my parents and grandads allotment that first made me want to have my own allotment. Im sure in the future both my boys will have an allotment, providing fresh home grown food for their own family.

Beaner

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Naked Gardeners

Gardening is attractive to all sectors of modern Britain, as confirmed by the quality comic the ‘Daily Mail’ in the article ‘Naked Gardeners open up for the public’.

Naturists in Malmesbury are sharing their garden with other nude enthusiasts. The specialist open days at Abbey House Gardens are proving to be very popular, with 350 visitors in one day, and 300 of those got their kit off.

One is left wondering as to the health and safety implications of naked gardening, as this cartoon from the article implies.

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If you’re interested – Malmesbury is in our neck of the woods, fairly near to Bristol. Its safe to say you won’t be meeting us down there, but it sure looks like those guys have a lot of fun- so fair play to them!

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We have a mate called Sue.

Yesterday she experienced a life changing vegetable moment up our plot…

Hang on, let me explain….

Sue is always enthusiastic about pretty flowers and was happy to hear that actually her lawn wildflower meadow is very much in vogue.

Sue is a great friend – she always heartily enthuses with us when we retell our gardening adventures.

Sue is also very annoying! She is one of those green-fingered types! The plants in her garden alway thrive with little effort and her hanging baskets are to die for! She is a natural, intuitive gardener – she sticks things in the durt and they grow!

However we are talking about a lady who a few years back was given strawberry and tomato plants, but didn’t eat the fruit. The reason being that she didn’t realise that they were real strawberries and tomatoes. Upon realising her error she rectified the situation immediately, she couldn’t believe the lovely tastiness of her produce.

Sue is more of a low-maintenance kinda gardener so her veg growing career was short…

So fast forward to yesterday – Sue goes up to our allotment for the first time. She was chastising herself later that day for leaving it so long. We could see the look in her eyes – that of an allotment junkie in the making…

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She ambled along the wood chip paths, with Beener enthusiastically giving her the ‘grand tour’. Sue stood there, hands on hips, and in true Bristolian style said ‘never! that ain’t never your allotment’ .

We are also very lucky to have breath taking views of Bristol and the plots are near to woodland- a splodge of country-side in the city..

Sue could instantly see why we spend so much time at our beloved allotment.

Then crunch time, Beener approached the mange tout, plucked one off the plant and eagerly tried it. Sue looked slightly horrified, as if Beener was eating raw sewerage. Sue knew it was inevitable and her heart starting thumping, Beener thrust a mange tout toward her.

Now Sue was in a dilemma. Her body and mind screaming “I aint beeping eating that”. But like I said Sue is a great friend and put aside her misgivings for the sake of her grinning friend.

The rest of the story, like a crap film, is obvious – she beeping loved it. Sue declared that they had a lovely nutty taste –  she is partial to a bag of assorted nuts (always with raisins). She then progressed to runner beans and pledged that she will come back -often. She snapped away with her phone camera, wanting to show the plot to her family and friends.

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She felt good and in turn so did we – a crescendo of giggling, smiles and excited chatter floating away from our plot – allotments/gardening/veg growing tends to have that affect on people don’t you think?

So here’s to Sue – she never fails to make us laugh or amaze us… and we really hope that she spends more time up the allotment with us – from the look on her face I think she will. And we will keep plying her with succulent fresh veg, until like us, she can no longer live without it.

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Wilko’s has an excellent sale on seeds, 75% off!

We went yesterday, it must be a popular place with allotment folk.  We saw 3 other plot holders hanging about in wilkos whilst we were there.

They also have 75% off of seed trays.  One of the other plot holders said soon they knock all the gardening stuff down to 75% off.

We bought :  Sweet Pea Blue Velvet  44p was 1.79

                        Sweetcorn miracle  37p was 1.49

                        Exhibition onions  81p was 3.25

                        Echinecea 54p was 2.19

                        Calendula   39p was 1.59

                        Courgette   62p was 2.49

We are off up  there again today as we didnt know until we got to the till that there was 75% off.       

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I just read keeners post Magic beans…..

Thats correct they are magical beans, they must be to have survived the sudden invasion of dreaded blackfly we have encountered.  Although im now pleased to say ladybirds are out in force on our plot feeding away doing there job. The thing is it seems, as the ladybirds are munching the blackfly the ants are just bringing back more and loading the plants back up with them quicker than those little ladies can eat them.

Mother nature is a wonderful thing. I find it amazing sat watching the broad and runner beans alive with various insects all feasting on each other, using or helping each other out in some way.

Anyways im drifting a bit…..Back to keeners post.

Is our allotment rubbish? No it blinking isnt!

Its easy to get caught up in the competative crap that I have learned that can go on in allotmenteering.  I wont go on about this in detail, as I really do like all of my fellow plot holders.  But It can be a little off putting when you got someone constantly compairing your plot with theres. Who has the nicest soil, who has the longest beens, oh god I could go on but as I said I like the other plot holders at our allotment, dont want to go pointing fingers and offending people.  Sometimes you just wanna get up the allotment and chill out, have a little walk around, look at your insect city on your beans maybe do a bit of weeding and just relax.  Its hard to relax sometimes though when you feel like your being watched and judged by  fellow plot holders.

What I try to remember when I look our allotment is we have only had it 6 months, in that time we have transformed a massive 110ft of brambles and solid compacted clay into a workable plot, roughly 3/4 full now.  We still have so much to do but its slowly taking shape. It is a big plot we have, having it 3/4 full with lovely veg 6 months after getting it keener is pretty damn good going if you ask me.

Yes we have delicious broads beans, but your forgetting the lovely ripe white currants we both eagerly scoffed, the blackcurrants, the strawberries from the greenhouse, the spinach and not forgetting all the lovely herbs ready for the picking including sage, purple sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, chives, lemon balm, spearamint, peppermint, orange mint and the wonderful (but small) chamomile lawn.

As for the veg we have growing, we have brocoli, cabbage, runners, broads, peas, mange tout, swiss chard, rocket, lettuce, courgette, pumpkin, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsnip, potatoes, asparagus, carrotts, melons, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, cranberries, and an apple.

Now that to me does not sound like a rubbish allotment keener!

Besides all the veg we have 2 lovely mixed borders contaning herbacious plants, bulbs, and bedding. We are also trying companion planting using marigolds, nastursiams garlic dotted amongst the veg. 

So keener for 2 people in 6 months I reckon its safe to say NO our allotment is not  rubbish.

Im going to stick some photo’s on here tuesday for you all to see, so hopefully you too can reassure keener our allotment is not rubbish.

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What can we say – its been a while…

The break from allotmenteering blogging is not due to a lack of allotment activity – quite the opposite. We have been very busy – sowing and planting, procuring useful items, digging couch grass out and dig, dig, digging.

Obviously we are well into Spring and the growing season, we have had lovely sunny and warm-ish days in Bristol for the majority of the last couple of weeks. So we have spent plenty of hours up the plot – its starting to feel like a second home – I’d love to live there but you’re not allowed to …

Our plot is still bare, but a few things are springing up here and there, motivating us to get on with some of the more boring but necessary jobs that need to be done before we become full-time plant carers and harvesters..

  • sorting out the greenhouse – cleaning the glass, treating the wooden benches with preservative and most importantly getting all the blooming wood chippings out and those pesky wood-lice that have been living in it and chomping it. Hence munched seedlings in the beds. Lesson learnt!
  • Couch grass extermination and management project – edging the plot with boards (old skirting boards donated by a friend)- hopefully deep enough to prevent the couch grass roots ‘jumping’ over into our plot. Also digging out all the roots of couch left.
  • The bramble initiative – Although all the brambles in our plot have been annihilated we are still digging out roots of brambles in the communal paths beside our plot. They are a threat as long as they are in the neutral zone. Others we are kicking and stamping on and snipping and wrenching with our secateurs. We will continue to weaken our adversaries. Any sign of new growth will be attacked. A similar assault is being waged upon the docks in the path – which have massive tap roots and you can even pretend to people its a carrot – it kinda looks like one and is kinda orange!

The onions are up and looking good, as are the broadbeans and potatoes.

For a while Beener and I have been reassuring each other that the potatoes are fine and that we know that they take a fair while to come up and it doesn’t matter that Beener’s little un (who is a trainee allotment junkie) picked some of the sprouts off them before we got them in. However on Monday we could take the pressure no more and agreed that we would dig up and take a sneaky look. Very naughty of us, but we got the proof that we craved. I managed to chop one in half in the process, but never mind – it will still grow. If only we had had more self-control a couple of days later quite a few have broken the soil surface!!

In the green-house although all of our seedlings in the bed have been eaten by wood lice, we have many things started in pots and trays and toilet roll tubes. Watering needs to be done at least every other day – and we are thinking about ways of highering the humidity in the summer. Therefore we’re on the look out and sniffing about for some sand to line the floor and to put in trays to put our pots and trays in.

I have asked Beener’s youngest to devise and perform a rain-dance for the allotment – but only a few showers have come our way so far. So he clearly needs to try harder for goodness sake!! We need rain to help break up our heavy soil and to fill our newly positioned water butt. Another freebie donated by a mate.

So we continue to dig and chop and add well-rotted manure to the soil, nursing and encouraging it to be a crumbly loam .. Obviously this is a long, long way off, but its good to dream and we’ve come along way since December…..

Keener

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It has been gorgeous today in Bristol – blue skies and you could feel the warmth of the sun on your back. There was a bit of coat on, coat off action going on.

When we got to the plot today, two magpies were nosing about on out plot. I got excited and reminded myself of the old rhyme ‘one for sorrow, two for joy’. I grinned excitedly and felt for sure that our allotment was destined to be the best thing ever.

I looked at Beener and she said ‘yeah but what are they pecking at’. They were near our broad beans (which have not materialised yet). Not really knowing what they eat we decided that it was worms they were after. We decided to plant some more broad beans in the green-house just in case.

The internet is marvellous. It has taught me that magpies seem to eat anything thats going – which therefore encompasses broad beans, however they are primarily scavengers and omnivores. They are partial to slug and snail too – eggscelent news.
Magpies are intelligent and social birds.

Therefore the only worrying thing seems to be the prospect of a swoop attack from the magpies. However Newcastle City Council (Australia) have provided the following information which I will certainly bear in mind:

Handy hints
There are some things you can do to reduce the chance of being swooped by a magpie:

* Avoid the area where you know magpies are swooping
* Try to watch the magpie while moving away quickly from the area. Magpies are less likely to swoop if you look at them
* You can draw or sew a pair of eyes on the back of a hat and wear it when walking
* Wear a bicycle helmet or you can make your own hat out of an ice cream container or card board to help protect your head
* Carry an open umbrella over your head
* Carry a stick or small branch above your head, but do not swing it at the magpie as you will provoke further attacks
* If you are riding a bicycle when the magpie swoops, get off the bicycle and wheel it quickly through the area. Your bicycle helmet will protect your head and you can attach a tall red safety flag to your bicycle or hold a stick or branch as a deterrent
* Wear your sunglasses on top of your head
* Walk in pairs or with a group of people

I shouldn’t laugh because it seems that magpie attack is not uncommon in Australia and is a real public safety issue- yikes – thankfully it is a different species over there….

Where was I? Oh yeah so we scurried into the Green-house to do some major seed-sowing.

We sowed some broad beans and artichokes, and started off some annuals. I am particularly excited about the nicotina and night scented stock – I can’t wait to sit up the allotment on a summer’s evening inhaling the sweet scent. All those butterflies and bees too – lovely. Companion planting yes – but also because we are gardeners (as opposed to farmers) at heart.
Anyways this is what we got at the moment:

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and here is an experiment:

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It is a coffee jar, with a toilet roll filled with soil, with 2 melon seeds in it. It is too cold to start the melons yet- but we simply can’t wait! So Beener fashioned this mini green-house within a green-house. Our attitude is that  it is worth a go – ‘get ’em in’ – if they don’t germinate then we have plenty of seeds left to sow them at the ‘proper’ time (april/may – allegedly).

We are happy to report that our Green-house has survived the recent harsh winds and Beener’s mum has some perspex from her green-house that we can have to replace the broken panes. (hooray for one for sorrow, two for joy lol)

We are at a stage now where one of us have to go up the allotment at least once a day to carry out watering. We have both been really surprised at how quickly the beds and pots dry out in the greenhouse – they were bone dry and I’d only watered yesterday. I also wet the wood chipping path inside the green-house and hopefully that will significantly increase the humidity. When we both realised the situation, we looked at each other with big grins on our faces, saying ‘how terrible we gotta go down the allotment every day …..’

keener

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