One allotment, two children and a caravan

Hello. I’m Urvashi and I have an allotment in Enfield. I waited a while for it and had almost given up hope when the phone rang and the ever so lovely membership chap said I had three plots to choose from.

I went for the one with the tree and the caravan. I knew my girls would love both.

Allotment

 

It’s a pretty big plot. Here’s the other end when we first got it. There were some raspberry canes left growing but pretty much everything else was covered in grass and weeds.

Allotment

 

That first day, we sat and took it all in. Granddad came over with his soil kit and helped us test the soil and clay. Well it didn’t really need the soil kit to tell us that as the allotments are called Clay Hill Allotments! But he gave us a little advice on what to plant to break up the soil and how to sort the raspberry canes out.

Of course we just wanted to clear and dig and after pretty much the whole day doing just, that this is where we left it.

Allotment

A little tidier for sure. We sat back and set ourselves a couple of principles to work by:

–          We would try to do it all by hand – no machines – where would they plug in anyway?

–          We would not use any chemicals or pesticides or artificial growing aids – all natural on our plot.

And then the decisions of what to plant! That’s when we discovered the Thompson & Morgan site among other blogs and reference sources to try and be as informed as possible. We settled on beetroot, potatoes, broad beans, dahlias, strawberries from Granddad and courgettes (for the flowers). We added to this list of the “ordinary” some unusual , some would say quirky items – tomatillos, quinoa (!) and gojiberries.

We left that day so inspired and elated but worried about the birds, deer and all manner of little creatures that would invade our plot while we were away. It was agreed that some guardians would need to be put in place and Mr and Mrs S Crow came to the rescue.

Allotment

Since that first day, we’ve been visiting as regularly as we’ve been able to. In the summer months I got rather obsessed with watering every evening and then got sucked in to the peace and clam of the allotment doing a little bit of pottering until the sun went down.

I’ve photographed the journey and been blogging about my planting, the produce and the things I’ve cooked with our wonderful allotment bounty.

I look forward to sharing them here too.

 

About Urvashi Roe

Urvashi and her family are on a journey of discovery with their allotment in Clay Hill in Enfield. Urvashi put her name down on the waiting list hoping to give the keys as an unusual present for her husband’s 40th birthday. He got his present a few years later and the family are now obsessed with growing the traditional and the unusual. Urvashi blogs at www.thebotanicalbaker.wordpress.com and tweets at @BotanicalBaker

Photo competition winners 2014

This is our favourite time of year, when we get to judge all the stunning entries to our competitions. However, this year we decided to do things a little differently and we asked you to help us pick the winning photos.

Michael Perry short listed each category down to his six favourites of which we then posted onto facebook. You then chose your favourite photo by hitting the like button, the one with most likes won. Simples!

Thank you to everyone who entered and big congratulations to all of our winners.

So here are you winning entries for our 2014 categories;

Indredibloom® competition  (selected by Thompson & Morgan)

Lindsey Cooper – Harrogate

Lindsey used basil seeds from the same pack, same bag of compost, same size pots. However, used the Incredibloom® fertiliser in one pot. This is a wonderful reflection of our ground breaking plant feed.

Incredibloom

Plant a portrait

Barbara Thomas – Blackpool

competition

 

Wildlife competition

Kate Duckmanton – Buckingham

photo competition

 

Begonia competition

Robert Leeke  – Crewe

photo competition

Basket Challenge

John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick

photo competition

 

Beds and borders competition

John Alan Sinclair – Alnwick

photo competition

Unusual fruit and veg competition

Jenny Clancy – Chelmsford

photo competition

Fruit and Veg competition

Helen Crewdson – Surbiton

photo competition

Patio Garden competition

Kathleen Bethell – Nottingham

photo competition

Thank you to everyone who voted for their favourite photo. Don’t forget to keep your eyes peeled for next years photo competition for a chance to win great prizes. You dont always have to wait for our competitions, we love to see your photos everyday so please feel free to post them on our facebook and twitter pages. :)

Buddleja – the new patio plant?

Purple Leaf Blackthorn shares her Suffolk garden, on a rural windswept site, with chatty cats, free-range chickens and ducks as well as a rich local fauna of birds, rabbits, rats, moorhens and deer.  With a focus on diversity, scent and colour – foliage or flower, whilst competing with the strong prevailing winds … it’s a survival of the fittest approach to gardening.

buddleja

Buddlejas are rather tough hardy strong plants, so when this tiny twig arrived, Buddleja davidii  ‘Colour Fountain Blue’, I didn’t hold out much hope for its survival.  So the plug was planted into a 7cm pot and overwintered in our cold greenhouse.

buddleja

Come spring 2014, I did not know what to do with this ‘twig’, which certainly didn’t look tough enough to make it into our garden let alone a blackbird’s nest!  So I planted it in a patio pot along with some Lobelia ‘Ultra Cascade’ … another delicate plant.  Needless to say the lobelia took off, as they say with a little help from their friends (fertiliser Incredibloom ®) and the buddleja grew at a steady pace, though initially overshadowed by its’ half-hardy but butterfly-friendly neighbour, the lobelia .  Thanks to this year’s fantastic early summer weather ‘Colour Fountain Blue’ burst into flower … well certainly before any related garden-planted Buddleja davidii cultivars.  Not only that, the beautifully disproportionally-sized racemes accentuated a naturally weeping habit.  The name ‘Fountain’ could not be more appropriate.  Who would have thought a butterfly bush could be used as a patio plant extraordinaire!

 

If you don’t have this one growing in a patio pot … you’re butterflies are missing out!  Current research still places Chinese Buddleja davidii cultivars at the top of the butterfly a-la-carte buffet on account of their high sucrose content.  And Butterfly Conservation says butterflies are in decline.  We can help!

buddleja

Buddleja ‘Colour Fountain Blue’ – petite and posh, could this be the new patio hanging basket plant?  Perhaps!  Now I wait in anticipation for any new colours to join the ‘Fountain’ range.

 

Purple Leaf Blackthorn

Edible Flowers – useful in any garden

Edible flowers can make a useful and delightful addition to any garden – whether big, small and practical or pretty – they can help boost any garden in question. Edible flowers can be used in a variety of ways and grow easily and quickly for a fast harvest.

edible flowers

I decided to use an old tin bath to create my edible flower garden as part of my smallholding in Suffolk. I enjoyed growing mine, as whilst they were growing and before they were picked ready for eating, they add colour and fragrance to my vegetable garden! I believe they make a welcomed addition to any allotment or garden – they attract the helpful bees too.

I received a bunch of edible flower seeds from Thompson and Morgan. The seeds were:
Chives
Viola tricolor – Wild Pansy
Calendula ‘Sherbet Fizz’
Cornflower ‘Blue Diadem’
Oenothera – ‘Lemon Sunset’

The chives have been so useful. I have been using them to add to salads, soups and to replace onion in other recipes – adding to home produced free range scrambled eggs is a favourite in our house!

My pansies were a beautiful purple and yellow colouring and were very delicate.  Pansies have a lettuce and salad like flavour so are perfect to add in small quantities to home-made salads. Additionally, they can be sugared or crystallised to add to a number of sweet dishes such as cakes, desserts or even confectionery.

edible flowers

Calendula ‘Sherbet Fizz’ (Marigold) are the yellow and orange flowers and have a slightly peppery taste to them. I like using them in soups and salads. Additionally, baking with this edible flower can produce tasty breads and biscuits. Note – use in small quantities as can be a diuretic.

edible flowers
Cornflowers have a lovely striking deep blue colour to them and make a delightful addition to an edible flowerbed. They have a clove-like flavour and thus can be used to decorate salads, pasta dishes and eaten with other edible flowers.

Oenothera ‘Lemon Sunset’. Otherwise known as evening primrose; this edible flower has a lettuce; salad flavour to it so is obviously great to add to salads.

When adding to any cooking ensure to wash and rinse them properly, check which parts are okay to eat (i.e. stem, leaves, and petals) and also use in small quantities the first few times you cook with it. I really enjoyed this project making a mini edible garden plot in my smallholding and hope this post has been useful to future edible flower growers!

Katy, The Good Life In Practice

Plants on trial – a sneaky peak

I have always been a fan of over the top, in your face bedding displays and every year I plant out hundreds of plants in beds, pots and baskets. Over the last few years, due to work commitments, I have been finding the up keep a bit difficult.

Alstromeria

Alstroemeria ‘Planet Mix’

Last year I planted Alstroemeria ‘Planet Mix’ in one of the beds. They gave a great show last year and have been in flower since May this year. Each week I can easily cut 20 stems of flowers without harming the display. Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’ has also come back bigger and better this year. I just love the combination of red and yellow in the flowers.

Gaillardia

Gaillardia ‘Arizona Sun’

Early this year I converted another two beds to display perennial plants. Considering it’s only the first summer after planting I am really surprised at how mature it all looks. I have used cottage garden plants along with Penstemon ‘Wedding Bells’ and Foxglove which were both sent as trial plants last year. The spotty markings in the foxglove are just fab!

Foxglove

Foxglove

Begonias have to be my favourite plant. I am so glad that Thompson & Morgan are reviving these plants as they truly are amazing. Glowing Embers, Peardrop and Giant Picotee have all started to flower. A few years ago I trialled a trailing fragrant variety of begonia. I still have some of these tubers left and this year I have planted them in a window box under the kitchen window. The sweet scent is lovely in the warm muggy evenings we have been having.

Begonias

Another favourite are petunias. I just love how T&M find new amazing colour combos in the flowers each year.  I have  planted Black Cherry in my Begonia Apricot Shades baskets. I am hoping the black of the flower will contrast well with the citrus colours of the begonias. The scent of petunias is just intoxicating too. The dark varieties seem to have the strongest. I wish someone could capture this and put it into a candle.

Petunias

I do not plant as many containers for the winter season, so once all the plants had finished I would empty the compost into the large tonne bags you can get from the builders. This year as I have drastically reduced the amount of summer containers I have planted I still have a full tonne bag of compost left. Not knowing what to do with it I decided to plant veg in it. I think I have gone a bit over the top by planting tomatoes, chillies, aubergines, sweet corn, marrow and cucumbers in it. I have also planted climbing beans around the edge. The idea being they will trail and cover the sides.

Veg-planter

So far everything is growing superbly. I have already harvested tomatoes, cucumber and chillies. The sweetcorn is almost 5 foot tall! In separate planters I have peas almost ready to pick and the tomato also has fruit setting.

Well, I must get back to the watering. I hope to update you all on the garden very soon!

Lessons learnt from a beginner gardener – 18 months on

In December 2012 I wrote my first blog for Thompson & Morgan, all about my first year as a grower of vegetables. Time has passed by rapidly and I have learnt so much in the past 18 months as a beginner gardener. I thought it was time to tell you more about what I have been up too.

Season two began slowly, the spring of 2013 was really cold and stuff just wouldn’t grow. After learning a few things the previous season, I didn’t plant carrots or parsnips. I just couldn’t handle the worry of carrot fly and forking. I wanted to enjoy the garden as well as eat my produce.

Another change in 2013, I gave up one of my beds for flowers. I love flowers and for many years bought huge numbers from supermarkets or anywhere else I saw them. They were always lovely, but I was aware that they were not “just cut”, they had probably been heavily treated with chemicals. I wanted fresh, scented, cut that morning flowers, so I decided to try and grow some for myself.

Garden

Season two progressed nicely but it was not without its problems. One glaring mistake caused much merriment for lots of people all over the summer. Early in the year I sat with my T&M catalogue and picked the things I wanted to grow. I love courgettes, but they tend to take over, wherever you planted them. I spotted some that you could train and decided they were the perfect variety for me “Black Forest”. I built, what later became dubbed “The Leaning Tower of Barton” out of bamboo canes and collected my plants from the greenhouse.

Now in my defence I will say that most squash plants look the same until they produce something.  I happily planted my three courgette plants around the tower and began to train them upwards. They grew rapidly and soon flowers were appearing and then I could see the courgettes themselves beginning to grow. One of the plants though, seemed to be producing supersize veg.

It took me a few weeks but suddenly I realised that I had mixed up my plants. The super size veg were not courgettes. I had somehow managed to train a pumpkin up a trellis. Now the pumpkins were getting large, action was required to prevent them dropping off. So I made pumpkin slings out of net.

pumpkin

Those pumpkins were probably the best I have ever grown. As they were suspended 4 feet off the ground, they ripened beautifully in the sunshine and were not attacked by anything. When the pumpkins begin to appear this year, I will suspend them above the soil in slings.

pumpkin

This year the “Leaning Tower” definitely has only Courgettes growing up it!

Most of the other veg I grew was very successful, one minor error, I made an amazing bamboo frame for my peas and was very disappointed when they didn’t grow very high.  Subsequent examination of the packet revealed I had bought Dwarf Peas. This year, I was very careful selecting the correct variety, they are currently about 7 feet high and still growing.

dwarf peas

I became aware through social media, that there were a growing number of people, who were planting their own flowers and cutting them for sale or just for personal pleasure. So last summer with no experience of large scale flower growing, or in fact no idea of what I was going to end up with, I planted a whole bed with flower seeds. The result was a summer of flowers in my house, nothing purchased at a supermarket or florists.

cut flowers

But I knew I could do better, so I spent the winter, researching plants, going on courses and generally planning my flower year. I found resources which showed you could pretty much grow flowers all year round here in the UK and never have to buy them again. So this is now my mission. The one bed from last year has become two this year, and numerous pots as well. I have also used the borders and fences in the other part of the garden for sweet peas and anything else I can squeeze in.

I was also able to help out someone else on a special day. A few weeks ago I took a few jam jar posies into the charity shop I volunteer at. A customer saw them and asked where they came from. She was put in touch with me by the manager and she told me her story. Her sister was getting married the following Saturday and she wanted home grown flowers. Her dad had planted a load in the Spring, but for various reasons, not enough had grown. She asked if I could help out.

So it was, that last week, in the late evening when it was safe to cut, lots and lots of my flowers went on their way to be used at the wedding. The very happy bride, made a lovely donation to the Hospice I volunteer for. I cant describe the pleasure it gave me to be able to help.

In 2012 I was a novice, now in 2014, I could almost say I am a proper gardener. I love my plot and really enjoy sharing  all my stories from it. If you want to know more about my garden, and especially more about growing your own flower and food, come on over to my blog for a read.

Pin It on Pinterest