Down at the plot: June

P1080731June seemed like another really busy month at the allotment, yet looking back I’m not sure what I did! There was still plenty of planting to do – we got in about 3 varieties of squash and some cauliflower. We also did quite a lot of weeding. There are a few strawberries, raspberries, and gooseberries coming in, but not much else in the way of harvesting. Our new allotment partner grows cut flowers, though, so we had loads of Sweet Williams!

P1080732P1080835P1080831At home my tomatoes started growing dramatically (and the first fruits appeared), but the rest of the garden is still looking terrible. I’ve got big hopes for next year, though…

P1080828I’m hoping July will be the month for harvest. Everything was looking close to being ready, but wasn’t quite there. I can’t wait for these plums to ripen! I’m also guessing it’ll be a slightly quieter month, apart from watering. P1080725

Allotment delights*

 

 

*Please forgive the introduction of yet another regular subject to this blog, but I am so excited about the allotment that I really want to write about it. Plus, I think gardening counts as a creative endeavour, don’t you? And I will definitely be using the veg for some of my cooking posts later in the year!

For the past few weeks, I have had busy weekends down at the allotment. The weather here has been gorgeous since Easter. Some of the plots around mine, which I’m sharing with a friend, are already quite leafy. But we just got our allotment in January and neither of us have experience growing produce (though both our parents are keen gardeners), so we’ve been trying to keep our expectations realistic (aka low!) and working on a little bit at a time. We have a bench left by the previous plotholder, so whenever we get tired, we can sit down and admire the Victoria plum tree. Isn’t it lovely?

We did our first bit of planting on Easter Monday. Potatoes were the obvious choice because they are allegedly very easy to grow, so that’s what we went for.

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Planting Rocket potatoes.

 

 

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The rows of potatoes, all planted and marked.

I was really pleased with how easy they were to plant, though our neighbor told me yesterday we’ve planted the rows too close together. Oh, dear! I am sure we will get some kind of crop anyway. We’ve planted 3 rows of Rocket (earlies) and 2 rows of Kestrels (main crop). When I was there yesterday, I checked on them and was surprised and thrilled to see that there seems to be progress already.

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It’s alive! Teeny tiny potato plant.

Yesterday I spent nearly 4 hours down at the plot. The vast majority of that time was spent digging up grass and weeds on one of the wilder parts of our allotment, so it doesn’t really look like I did anything, but it certainly feels like I did.

I did do one more visible thing, too, which is plant some seeds. One row of rainbow beets went in, and so did a row of Early Nantes carrots.

 

 

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Bamboo plant labels

 

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Two rows of seeds, watered in. I am a little worried I didn’t use enough water, though!

My friend has big plans to plant out some onions and a few other plants today. Next to go in will be some peas and beans, which are currently establishing in seed trays at her house. Apparently the yellow French beans I bought in a grocery store are doing really well, and the others are starting to sprout up, too. I am getting pretty excited now, having just watched Kew on a Plate where Raymond Blanc made an incredible pea risotto.

The other nice thing about having a plot is discovering the stuff that was left there by previous owners. Only about a third of our plot is now ready for planting; about a third we should be able to get ready and plant within this year; and the last third is pretty overgrown and will be a lot of hard work. However, that said, there are some nice things within that final third – mint (I think it’s spearmint, but I’m not sure), lots of raspberries, and lots of strawberries! This section will take lots of time and work in the long run, but I’m hopeful we’ll get a bit of fruit for very little work this year.

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Mystery mint.

 

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Rampant raspberry patch #1, plus some of our dandelions.

 

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Rampant strawberries, plus some shoots from our plum tree and a few more raspberries.

But our neighbors have stunning plots, which I find a useful source of inspiration. I think this one’s particularly nice.

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Neighbor’s plot. He even keeps bees!

 

Allotmenteering*

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Last year a friend declared her intent to get an allotment and asked if anyone wanted to help. I hadn’t really heard of allotments until I moved to the U.K., though I have since learned that they are common in other parts of Europe as well (apparently my mum had the equivalent in Hannover decades ago) and are starting to make an appearance in the U.S. in the form of community or urban gardens. In the U.K., a city council sets aside large plots of land, which are divided up into small, medium, and large plots that are then rented by members of the community for a small fee. In the town where I live, the council asks that 75% of the plot is used for edible plants, and the remaining quarter can be used for flowers or open places for hanging out. So of course I said I’d help! My apartment’s lovely, but tiny with no outside space.

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We chose our plot late last year. Isn’t it lovely? Part of it will just require a little bit of digging before it’s ready for planting. Other parts of the plot are pretty overgrown, but it’s something to work towards. There’s already a Victoria plum tree, raspberry canes and strawberry beds, hooray! Neither of us have gardening experience, though both of us have parents who are going to be great sources of advice. The plot is also quite central, so we are hoping for lots of random advice from other allotmenteers.

I’m so looking forward to getting growing this year. Hopefully I will be able to make some nice food with our produce. (Or maybe I’m getting overly ambitious…)

 

Extra allotment bonus: Super friendly allotment cat!

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*I recommend singing the title of this blog post to the tune of “Electioneering” for an instant moodlifter.