Gardening Adventure – Gardening Beginner!
My beginner’s garden is still very much that. I still don’t seem to know what I am doing but I think it’s coming together. Though I do know that I am not dedicating enough time to it. Still, I spent a sunny day back in April (that seems a loooong time ago) planting up my onion sets and getting some broad bean plug plants in. I think I must have a reputation for ‘playing’ at gardening still, so the onions were leftovers from my mum and grandparents – all 63 of them. My garden is far too small for that – however, I planted them all in anything I could find that would be deep enough! I’ve got Golden Gourmet shallots, Stuttgarter Riesen and a heritage seed from my granddad (all I know is that they are from his personal seed stock, Cornish in origin and taste fantastic!)
A week ago this rogue potato plant decided to poke its head above the soil. That just goes to show how badly I turned the soil then.
Luckily for me I did a DIY soil test and found that my soil is neither too full of clay nor sand. So I didn’t need to worry about preparing the soil further. I did have the wherewithal to weed and turn my soil a week or so before I planted my onions and broad beans out. I also added a layer of Granddad’s compost (my own compost heap is very much on the to do list!) and some pungent chicken manure! It wasn’t long before the onions started shooting towards the sky! My broad beans are already flowering and the plants smell incredible. I am such a seasonal eater and always get cravings for broad beans in August – this year the plan is to eat some I’ve actually grown myself. Hurrah!
I will eat my own broad beans this year!
The list of jobs I have to do is endless – from mowing the overgrown lawn (or, wildflower meadow as I like to call it) to getting more flowers in the garden to encourage the bees and butterflies. But it’s a start.
Whiffery in the borders
My children get sick of me rushing off into the undergrowth with a cry of “What’s that smell?” as I try to track down the source of beautiful perfumes drifting from nearby plantings.
In my current incarnation as a cutting garden gardener, I’m always on the look out for flowers that not only please the eye, but also entrance the nostrils. I love nothing more than opening the door when buckets of flowers and foliage are resting in the dark, cool garage, waiting to be arranged the following morning, and being bowled over by a bouquet of scents which would grace any upmarket parfumier.
Sometimes flowers take me completely by surprise – like when I was transporting a batch of heartsease violas to a plant sale and the whole car was filled with the essence of parma violets! I hadn’t really taken too much notice of these diminutive flowers, apart from thinking they looked pretty in small terracotta pots, but have planted them religiously since discovering their amazing perfume.
I’m busy at present plotting to get scent throughout the seasons and here are some of my spring and summer favourites.
Pheasant’s eye narcissus (narcissus poeticus) doesn’t have the most overwhelming of flowers but has the most delicious perfume and makes a wonderful, simple, unfussy bunch to bring indoors.
Pheasant’s eye daffodills – delightful
But the queen of the spring smellies has got to be Daphne. She may be a temperamental diva who shivers and turns pale in our recent and prolonged wet weather, but when she flowers, you can forgive her anything. The tiny flowers borne on the evergreen branches are enough to stop you in your tracks from about 5 metres. Having carried a flowering plant around the garden centre last year, I decided that Dahpne should be made available on the National Health Service as the gloriousness of the perfume cannot fail to lift the spirits. A tiny sprig in a cut flower arrangement is enough to elevate it from the merely pretty to a whole new level of delight.
Daphne – because she’s worth it!
Summer has a huge array of scents to choose from. For permanent plantings, the obvious choice is fragrant roses. Try the knockout Turkish delight of ‘Alec’s Red’ which definitively busts the myth that hybrid teas don’t have any scent. Or visit a local rose garden with a notebook and bury your nose in everything to find the nuances of apple, myrrh or musk that you like best. I used to think roses were a bit granniated until a friend urged me so smell a white one planted in her garden and its delicious scent converted me instantly to the perfumed varieties of this traditional English flower. Personal favourites include the pink ‘Constance Spry’ and ‘Gertrude Jekyll’, and the rich red-purple of the dramatic ‘Falstaff’.
Proust talked about memory and smell being bound up together and for me, frangipani blossom is redolent of my years spent in Indonesia. Sadly, our climate will not allow me to grow a massive flowering tropical tree, but I was delighted when I came across a shrubby herbaceous (not climbing) clematis called ‘Wyvale’ whose unusual lilac-blue tubular flowers are the nearest olefactory experience to frangipani that I’ve found for the English garden. It also has the bonus of being completely hardy in our weather – no mean feat at present!
For a blast of perfume that is all the sweeter for its impermanence, there are, of course, always sweet peas. Scrambling over wigwams or tripods, these prolific lovelies are an endless source of blooms for the vase and for me they are one of the smells of summer. As a cutting flower, another huge bonus is that that the more you cut them, the more they flower. Easy to grow, lovely to look at and with a divine scent what more could you ask from a simple packet of seeds?
Sweet peas – the smell of summer
You can read my blog here: Tuckshop Gardener
Advice for the new allotment holder
This short post is all about string. The string-thing is aimed at new allotment plot holders. As they, like me, may be daunted by the large slab of ground they have just taken on annual rent from the local council.
Where to begin with plotting, sowing, portioning out the land for the various crops? How to stop hoofing all over prepared ground with clod heavy gardening boots?
The guru for vegetable gardening is still Joy Larkcom and her book : “Grow your Own Vegetables” is short on glossy pictures but long on sensible advice. Her recommendation is to keep beds to a width of 1.20 metres. Why? In order that you can work the ground from either side by reaching in, without (apart from actually sowing seeds) ever having to tread on it.
Divide your allotment into 1.2m wide beds for easy access
And so, if you are a little uncertain about how to begin tackling your plot, I recommend dividing it up into widths 1.20 with 30 cm paths between each bed. Mark out the beds with small canes and stretch twine between them. This makes allotment growing far less daunting and will keep the soil in good order.
You can read Catharine’s own blog here
What can we do to ensure that our allotments are getting the love that they deserve? Locally to me in Hertfordshire, there are some sites which have been threatened with closure, due to planned developments – the people who grow on the sites are understandably battling hard to try to keep their beloved allotments, and it made me think about what it is that we love about our allotments, and why some sites are now struggling to fill plots, or why councils are trying to close them down for development.
Me and my old allotment plot
I had an allotment a few years ago – I was like many allotmenteers – very excited to have the plot – full of enthusiasm when the days were long and sunny, and when I had time to get out and clear the plot – which was completely overgrown when I got it, and after I had carefully planned what I wanted to grow, and bought myself a brand new allotment diary, I thought that I was all set. The one thing I hadn’t planned for, was the amount of time that I would want to spend at the allotment, and when I would fit that into my already busy life. For many people – they can share their allotment with their spouse or partner, or they can take the kids along to help them out, and make a bit of a day out every weekend – but for me, there were my long suffering parents, who couldn’t bear to see the plot go untended in the weeks when I didn’t get a chance to get down there. Soon the plot had become their job, rather than mine, and without getting time to spend on it myself, I soon lost interest. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to have the plot, and it wasn’t that I didn’t absolutely love the gardening – any kind of gardening is pretty close to heaven in my eyes, but I found that I started to get annoyed with myself, because I couldn’t give it the time that it deserved, at least not as well as tending my own garden at home, which was also suffering neglect with me trying to split my free time between the two.
Things have changed now, and I find that I want to spend even more time, rather than less in my garden, and I’m wishing that I still had space to grow my own food. Having spoken to various people locally, I know that there are some sites that are struggling to fill all of the plots that they have – maybe people, like me, have found that they don’t have the time to keep them up, or that after last year’s bad weather, they don’t want to bother with their plot again this year. I was really surprised to hear that there were some places with free spaces though, as I have always thought that there were full waiting lists everywhere. Luckily, my parents have got space in their garden to let me have a little veg patch, so last night I put in my potatoes and onions, and I’m going to grow some cutting flowers – probably sweet peas, which I adore! I wonder what can be done though, to fill up the empty spaces in the council run allotments? I wonder if there is any way that the plots can go onto a centralised website for each council – I know that this is already done in some areas, and it makes it much easier for people to look on a map and see if there are any available plots.
The old plot – a productive year
For anyone who has ever grown their own fruit and vegetables, they won’t need telling how great a feeling it is; to eat food that you have grown from seed, is incredibly satisfying – add to that the sense of community that grows between people on allotment sites – all sharing their left over seed, or coming over to lean on an old fork and chat about what they’ve put in, and whether it’s early, or late, and whether there might be a frost. The health benefits are untold – spending time outside, digging, not to mention eating food that you know exactly where it has come from.
If you ask me – it’s a no-brainer – if there are any local allotment sites with plots available – bite their hand off!
You can read more on my blog: theenglishrose.blog.com
I am a 24 year old attempting to live more eco-friendly. I first lived in Suffolk but now live in a small flat in a village in Switzerland. I have been living in the Berner Oberland canton since April 2012 (so just over a year!) since getting a job here. My boyfriend Michael and I have been trying to live as sustainably as we can by growing herbs and salad, recycling, composting and sourcing other food locally. He is a local grounds man and also has skills in carpentry so comes in handy for woodwork projects too!
My boyfriend Michael raking the allotment
We have loved living here but have felt a little frustrated at times that we cannot live off the land more productively. However, In February we had good news – this dear reader is what I will be divulging! We have been told that we can use a small area of land near our house for some chickens and to use as a small allotment! Yay!
The chickens and me
Since then we have been busy it seems! We have been checking locally for chickens to get in the Spring and have been planning how to upcycle old wood to make a coop for a few hens. Additionally, we have been learning about the differences between UK and Swiss sowing seasons. For example, we have had to put off planting anything outside as everything is still covered in snow! However, we have been busy inside preparing seedlings and airing some every so often on the balcony on a sunny day.
We have a great selection of seeds to try from courgettes to Lime flavoured tomatoes! This last weekend we have potted a few different types of seeds – Baby Leeks, Thyme, Rocket and edible flowers called Electric Daisies. What’s more we have some Romaine Lettuce and more Rocket already sprouting up in other containers on the bedroom windowsill. Additionally, we have just harvested a load of small red and white onions from the allotment outside – these are now drying inside on trays – to use later in soups and general cooking!
Our small onion harvest
We hope to try growing potatoes for the first time this year – I have started to chit a batch ready for the late spring time-fingers crossed! We hope to be able to then use these veggies over the coming months to have a fresh supply of food-last summer using the fresh basil from the windowsill was great for home-made pesto and pasta sauces.
If you would like to take a look at my blog here’s the link: http://thegoodlifeinpractice.wordpress.com/about/
Also you can find me on Facebook: The Good Life In Practice and Twitter under the same name. Hope you have enjoyed reading,