27 November 2006

You must be mad!

My hired help for the day (aka my parents) were a little taken aback by the state of the allotment and the rest of the site in general. I did point out just how much better the allotment is now compared to when we took it on!

Once they got over the shock, I set them to work - Dad on the hedge and Mum and clearing some rubbish and digging. Having considerably more knowledge than me about gardening (not difficult!), they told me I'd dug up a load of asparagus (b*gger!), I have some blackcurrants (fortunately I'd not cut all of them down, so may be able to salvage something there) and that the tree on the border of the plot is a plane tree.

Another huge chunk of hedge was removed, and apart from the cuttings of this covering a considerable area of the allotment it's still difficult to tell. More digging took place, the bath was moved to the side of the plot and the remains of the bonfire were removed.

Despite it being a nice day (Sunday) here, there was only one other person on site as far as I could see, but whilst conditions still allow I'm continuing to make as much progress as possible. So after a couple of hours of amazement at being charged for the first year, having no help in clearing the plot or the hedge and having no help in disposing of any of the rubbish (including some asbestos I found) - i.e. from the council - I took the parents back home and cooked them roast beef in payment for their services whilst they entertained their grandchildren.

19 November 2006

Today, I will mostly be...

... digging. Well Saturday and Sunday to be honest, but only for a couple of hours at a time. Saturday was cold and sunny, as was Sunday as well, with frost still visible when I went down - early start! Soil still easily diggable (is that a word?!), so just steadily ploughing through with it.

What no beds?
After starting on the digging it quickly became apparent, it wasn't going to work just digging the beds I wanted, I was going to have to dig all of it to get the roots out. So, I've been steadily cursing my way up the plot digging out huge great long roots and dumping them by the wheelbarrow load further up the plot. It has to be said, this isn't the most fun job in the world, but it's better than watching England play rugby at the moment!

Still collecting up some of the bigger leaves into an old bark chippings bag and roughly marked out a couple of paths. The main central(ish) path look a bit too wide to be honest, but it's not a major issue at the moment. However, having got this far with the digging it's time to start making my mind up on what to plant where...

16 November 2006


Supposed to be on my way to Coventry now, but the car failed it's MOT meaning I'm getting a very early train in the morning...

On the plus side, the first seeds have arrived! Ordered from The Real Seed Catalogue the other day, they are now sitting on the desk, whilst I wonder where to put them where they will be safe from little hands. Mrs D being big on tomatoes requested five different varieties, as well as cucumbers for pickling. We also ordered butternut squash, peas and French beans. The full list being:

  • Paris Pickling (cucumber)
  • Waltham Butternut (squash)
  • Aurora (tomato)
  • Costoluto Fiorentino (tomato)
  • Dragsennost (tomato)
  • Gardeners Delight (tomato)
  • Gigante Liscio (tomato)
  • Cherokee Trail of Tears (French bean, worth buying for the name alone!)
  • Hatif d'Annonay (pea)
  • Telephone (pea)

which came to a grand total of £16.75.

We've always wanted to grown fruit and veg where the flavour is the most important factor and after they were recommended by WelshGirlsAllotment (thanks for that!) the philosophy of Real Seeds seems to match our aim. The seeds also come with instructions on how to save your own seed for subsequent years which could prove to be very useful also. Other seeds will be ordered after Christmas, in the hope of receiving some vouchers as presents and to allow me to pay for the car to pass its MOT ;>(

12 November 2006

I'll just dig that bit...

Strange how the idea of digging a small bed can lead you off to digging up the area you thought would be the path, half way across the allotment, etc. My nice idea of digging the first of our beds for next years' planting (lots of planning in the evenings, aided and abetted by daughters additional scribbings) was somewhat scuppered by the roots of the weeds of the plot stretching for several feet in many different directions. The result was quite a bit of digging, a sore back (nothing serious, it's just not used to exercise!) and a fairly undefined area of dug soil. Still it's a start.

Also, with digging all the weeds out the level of the allotment in that area has fallen by about 6 inches. Guess I should get some manure in to boost it back up again. Most upsetting to see so many blackberry roots that need to be dug out, and even worse where they've been cut down they're sprouting again!

There are quite a few leaves across the allotment now, so I dutifully gathered up many of them and put them into an old plastic sack (not having a suitable area for starting leaf mulch yet. Plenty of chicken wire around though, so eventually will make a nice basket for them to rot down in.

More plots taken
Encouragingly more and more plots seem to be being taken on. At least two more plots were being worked on today, there is hope for the site yet! There are also a whole lot more mad people than I realised taking on plots with so many trees growing in the middle of them!

A new tap!!!
To celebrate the water being turned off for the winter, the council (I'm assuming it's them) have kindly provided a nice new tap for our 'lane', to replace the... leaking standpipe. I think they have had several complaints about it (and not just from me!), so they're probably wishing the site wasn't undergoing a revival after all. Let's just hope it survives until the water is turned back on in the spring...

Well I was hoping to order some seeds from Real Seeds after finishing this, but after adding a couple of items to my 'shopping basket' the site seems to have gone down completely. More on that later - hopefully.

What no photos?
There has been a complaint! Apparently there are not enough photos to show what a wonderful setting the allotment is in (even if the allotment itself is not looking that wonderful yet!). It's true, there are not enough photos because I keep forgetting to take the camera down - which I managed to do once again. Next time I will be concentrating on taking lots of artistic photos of the new wheelbarrow and surrounding scenery ;>)

The site is just a few minutes drive from home (Crookes - a fairly heavily built up area of mainly terraced houses in Sheffield), but like many parts of Sheffield it feels like being out in the countryside at the allotment. We can only see a few houses above the trees over in Stannington, otherwise we can just see trees of the historic Rivelin Valley. And even better than that is the cafe in the nearby Rivelin Park - it is only about a 15 minute walk from the allotment through the valley and they do some seriously good cakes! Not to mention the breakfasts. OK so we've checked the place out a few times already, but I can see it getting a lot more use!

7 November 2006

More planting!

Sounds like we've been lucky with the weather up here as the allotment is still very easy to dig and not that muddy at all. So taking advantage of the situation another couple of bags of bark chippings were added to the play area to give it a greater depth (bringing it to 8 bags in all), and the wheelbarrow was introduced to its new home!

Certainly made it a lot easier to move things around (i.e. the rubbish from one end to another), resulting in it being reasonably clear now. Well apart from the leaves, but I'm trying to gather up as many of them as possible in the spare bags from the bark chippings. Eventually hoping to get some nice leaf mulch.

So the digging... Manage to finally get round to planting the tulips and daffodils (maybe a little late?), in the hope that come spring there will be something growing and showing encouragement - and also saving on some florist bills! I also divided the rhubarb crowns (as shown on Gardener's World last Friday) and temporarily put them in as well, before deciding on a permanent home for it.

So the next task is to plan out some beds and paths. Fortunately there are a lot of bricks on the allotment so I will use these to mark out the boundaries, and weigh down the weed fabric on any areas that get dug.

Still no manure. Still need to have a big bonfire. And still need to get rid of all the rotten wood. Oh and apparently clearing the path to the allotment is the plot holders responsibility as well, heaven forbid the council do anything useful like making them accessible. The water has been turned off for the winter until March now, with the promise of a tap being fitted then. The site we are on theoretically has just under 200 plots available, but I defy anyone to find more than half of them. Given the huge demand there seems to be at the moment (loads of people looking around for plots), you'd think the council/allotment office would try and make them look more attractive to take on - i.e. make the paths usable, cut down a few trees, moan, moan... Off to find contact details for local councillor.