National Allotments Week 4th-10th August 2014

GFP FC 21It’s National Allotments Week, so hurrah for allotments, allotmenteers and home-grown producers of all kinds! Allotments are the perfect way to add some variety, independence, health and interest to your family life; as well as an invaluable tool for educating kids about how and why to grow your own produce. When I had an allotment (before I promoted myself to 2.5 acres!), it was brilliant and really family friendly, and most weekends there were kids of all ages buzzing about – many of course enjoyed the picking & eating side of it (especially strawberries and raspberries!), but most also enjoyed helping out, frolicking around with the watering cans, digging away, finding wildlife, making friends with the other kids, sowing seeds, planting out transplants… We had an allotment group which was great for socialising and swapping strories of pigeon and slug woe, as well as sampling strange gin mixes. Many of us had a shed (I love seeing allotments with lots of different sizes and colours of sheds, shelters and random contraptions) which we could shelter in if spring lashed us with a hailstorm, and we could natter with other allotmenteers over a flask of tea and biscuit in the dry.

The long waiting lists for some council-run allotments has also meant that enterprising farmers and land-owners are getting involved too, offering up a field for division into community allotments – a swell idea. These kind of plots also usually offer the advantage of not have the restrictions that some council plots do when it comes to selling your surplus. While swapping gluts is a grand idea, sometimes people tend to grow the same kind of produce; so it’s well worth considering selling your extras to a local shop, pub or café. Plus if you really get the growing bug, then you could find that your surpluses turn into a nice little part-time business – plus you’re feeding your local community with fresh local veg too! Growing veg is a perfect part-time business that you can fit into childcare or other part-time work – the weeds don’t care when you take them out, so no matter if you’re running a bit late; plus the outdoor exercise means that you won’t need to visit the gym! If this does appeal, check out Gardening For Profit for some ideas on how to get your veg business started.

To All The Veg Growers

Hurrah for all the gardeners,
Who grow such lovely veg
Yes yes to the allotmenteers
With chard-based edible hedge.
We salute your early mornings,
Endless workings of the soil
To make mouthfuls more flavourful
Your hip-flasks rewarding toil.
Three cheers for muddy peasantry,
Who fill our plates with life
Whose hands make food from nothing,
And keep us all from strife.

May your marrows prosper and vines be full of vigour.



Beautiful Lazy Gardening

IMG_20140724_101600 copyIMG_20140724_121357 copyA post in praise of the lazy gardener (or should that read “time-strapped grower”?).

As well as the weeds-providing-shade-and-a-moist-microclimate trick (until the fine line tips and they compete for resources too much), being a little lax and prioritising other jobs is very important for biodiversity, and the soul. These endives went straight to seed months ago; but I haven’t the heart to strim them or pull them up because the flowers are gorgeous, the bumblebees love them, and they’re providing a bit of welcome shade to the beetroot and lettuces next door, as well as covering the soil and preventing it from drying out and capping. Likewise, the self-seeded borage is fought over by the honey bees, and I can use the flowers in salads (I keep meaning to try them in ice cubes too).

IMG_20140725_130725 copyThe pile of woodchip is still just sitting there from a few months ago, until I find the time to sort out a proper space for it; but it’s already been colonised by bandling worms (where do they come from?!) and fungi, both busy breaking it down into nice moist brown compost inside. I think some birds are also using the outside of the pile as an exfoliating chip bath. So deep breath: and hurrah for relaxed intentional gardening!

Bounty Hunter

IMG_20140724_104839 copy IMG_20140723_130402 copy IMG_20140723_130329 copyFlipping heck, the veg has gone nuts this week! Honestly, you take your eye off them for even a day at your peril this time of year. The 10+ varieties of tomatoes are now producing lovely multi-coloured fruits; along with the already prolific cucumbers, French beans, broad beans, beetroot, parsley, coriander, basil, rainbow chard, mixed lettuce and leaves for salad bags (salad burnet, amaranth, sorrel, summer purslane), nasturtiums, courgettes… Plus now the aubergines have started to perk up and join in, and the peppers are looking promising too. Picking is taking longer each day!

IMG_20140724_101933 copyI’ll say it again: I LOVE Crown Prince squash – there are some hefty fruits out in the field already, along with some good Uchiki Kuri and pumpkins. From what I can see of the leeks, parnsips and brassicas under their nets, they look pretty good too (although they are starting to get a bit thistley so will need sorting out over the next fortnight).

Despite all this busy-ness, I’ve also got to start thinking about autumn and early winter veg; so I planted out the first lot of celery in the Fivepenny polytunnel (sweat dripping onto the ground as I went); and I’ve just sown the first batch of chicory for autumn salad bags.

IMG_20140723_165602 copyStill, there’s plenty of time to enjoy the present time, and curent good weather – the forecasts suggest that it will last for another few weeks yet, huzzah!