Category Archives: Allotment diary

Three days away from NGS garden opening!

Thu 5 June

What occurs to me close to my National Garden Scheme open day is how does the kind of frantic gardening I am doing differ from housework? Not a lot! I am doing everything I can to make every bit of the garden look as pretty as possible and to make sure there is a maximum of colour and not a single leaf out of place. I am out with the dustpan and brush sweeping up the mess and picking off every leaf that is looking dead or discoloured. In particular I’m deadheading the roses – tickling them to see whether they are about to drop petals all over the place.

What to do next? Complete the planting of those plants that should be in the borders or should be repotted into good pots. That is my first priority. I have been so busy that my lunch has been delayed to 3pm. I am sorting out the plants that are going to be for sale and those I am going to keep or plant in the borders.

I had to sort out a wild hop that was threatening my garden from the neighbour’s garden. To do it I had to stand on top of the garden wall and carefully extract it from my little mountain ash and clematis. My neighbours need a decent gardener. I would charge only £25 an hour!

The hop – for which BM is really to blame, having imported one from the Cambridgeshire hedgerows – has provided a lot of raw material for making compost, and I am trying to keep as much of such material as possible rather than give it to the council in the brown bin. I realise now that I need as much compost as I can muster. My soil needs improvement and I intend to use compost made on the allotment in the garden next year.

The miniature border

Fri 6 June

Two days to go until garden opening. A very fine day, but with the prospect of heavy showers on Saturday. Quite a lot of to-ing and fro-ing with V, who had no house keys and I only got round to doing something in the garden in mid-afternoon: attending to a border. People talk about lovely deep herbaceous borders maybe 10 or 15 feet deep. Well I have a miniature version. Two inches, which runs alongside the six-foot stone flag path between the front gate and the door steps.

Why bother? – you might reasonably ask. Well, it happens to be the sunniest place in the entire garden. South-west facing with an open outlook, protected only from the street by the open railings of the gate.

What plants can go in such a tiny border? Well plenty. At present a miniature copper-leaved weedy Oxalis with yellow flowers, varied little sempervivums of red and green with varying hairiness. And earlier in the year we have had Iris reticulata, Tulipa bakeri, Crocus tommasinianus purpureus and to come in the autumn Crocus autumnale. Of course all the usual things to do – clearing out dead material, removing surplus stones and soil, and weeding out some plants that can’t possibly continue there. Besides the usual, this also turns out to be a great seed bed for a 12ft Echium pininiana once nearby.

Then down at the allotment, I am there to collect some plants in pots which I’m planning to sell. This includes blackcurrant bushes, Schizostylis coccineus, dahlias etc. Then I am picking strawberries (Is the straw helpful?). Redcurrants also to be picked. I have three bushes of the same variety Jonkeer van Tets. But one seems to ripen well before the other two and has a paler leaf, so maybe a labelling error.

Many pressing maintenance issues for which there is little time at present – raised beds falling apart, carpeting paths and cement work needed on the shed foundation. But instead some watering for the seedlings. I’m hoping that the forecast showers will materialise for the potatoes and broad beads which always welcome more water.

Putting the straw back into strawberries

Thu 29 May

There’s glorious weather down on the allotment and the strawberries are beginning to ripen. They also need some weeding and I have a bale of straw that came from a pet shop whichI have kept for trying out on the strawberries in the traditional way.

I’ve been round my strawberry patch, weeding out the rogue plants such as raspberries shooting up from the next bed, speedwell, annual dog’s mercury, dandelions and little euphorbias. Then carefully with my left hand I lift up the swelling green fruit off the ground, then with my right I grab a bunch of straw from the bag and lay it as a collar around the plant roots. The developing fruit can then be just laid back onto the straw. The fruit then sit protected from the sometimes wet soil and hopefully are a bit more difficult for slugs and snails to munch on.

Let’s see whether it works! I also pick my first crop of strawberries and realise I must clean out the freezer by making jam with the strawberrries left from last year.

Making the most of organic matter

Tue 10 June

I went down to the allotment on my bike today taking with me a bag full of kitchen and garden waste for my big compost heap. The one in the garden is small and pretty full most of the time, and I want to avoid giving the council too much of my compostable waste.

On the way I was also able to collect a large bag of wood chippings from the woodland surrounding Hackney marshes. There are piles of chipped wood where they have been thinning the shelter belts. They often use the chips to make path surfaces or quite often just leave them to rot. I was particularly looking for some older stuff which was moist and part rotted to act as a mulch. I put this on my dahlias, iris cuttings and courgette plants because the soil is looking pretty dry on these warm summer days. I also use it to make paths on my allotment, underlain by old carpet, but the newer stuff is best for this.

I had not much time for watering today but picked some broad beans and strawberries. I need to do some feeding and watering in the near future, as well as make repairs to the raised beds.