Gilly's Allotment

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#1
Finally! I've been meaning to do this for weeks but kept forgetting and then when I did remember it would be getting on for VERY late at night and I'd find I could barely keep my eyes open and felt way too tired to type. But here I am at last...I know it's almost 11pm but I've been on holiday this week so had a lovely lazy time and am not tired at all...for once!

I originally filled in a form for an allotment in July 2014 but heard nothing until February this year! There were five plots available and I was first on the waiting list so when Mr B from the council rang me up at 11.10am on Friday 20th February this year I didn't give him a chance to put it off and arranged to meet him at the site just twenty minutes later at 11.30am!!! Neil came with me and we both loved it and by 12 noon the keys were in my hot little mitts and the allotment was ours :D

Over the following weeks I pottered about buying bulbs, seeds and a few other perennials to brighten the plot up. The previous tenant had grown exhibition leeks and potatoes so the plot was in a fabulous condition with THE most gorgeous soil - it just crumbled in your hands ;) He had also left a shed, greenhouse and polytunnel - all rather old and ramshackle but fully functional for, Neil reckoned, another year or two. I've loved gardening since I was a wee bairn and knee-high to my Dad and I had my own little patch in the back garden where I grew hardy annuals like Candytuft, Nasturtiums, Nigella, Calendula etc and wherever I have lived I've HAD to have a few pots etc planted up with flowers. I always hankered after an allotment though - somewhere where I could grow as many different plants as I wanted. Vegetables never really featured in my plans, other than tomatoes, but I found that once I got going on the plot I was hooked :eek: Unfortunately we had a really cold Spring this year and it seemed like forever before I could plant my precious seedlings outside. Even by the first week of June my tomatoes were spindly and pale and I debated whether to pull them up and start anew. But no, I left them in the polytunnel and just three weeks later they had put on a growth spurt and were looking great! IN fact by the end of July you could barely get moved with them as they were like an impenetrable jungle!!!! Next year I'll allow a bit more space between them. That has been my main beginner mistake - planting stuff too close together! I'd also planted a few sweet pea seedlings on a wicker wigwam next to the tomatoes and underplanted them with calendula and French Marigolds (Tagetes 'starfire') as I wanted to have that delicious sweet pea fragrance hit me whenever I opened the polytunnel door and the two marigold varieties would attract beneficial pollinators like bees and hoverflies in. Somehow a Nasturtium seedling got left in too and this was fine until around late June when it suddenly began to grow like Jack's Beanstalk!!!! It soon began to trail all over and once the flowers opened the tunnel was positively alive with the hum of happy feeding insects. I would often just sit on my little stool, enjoying the warmth and watch the insects busily going about their feeding - it was EXACTLY the way I had visualised my tunnel...just like a jungle full of colour and scent and life.

Outside I had dug over and divided up the main beds for vegetables and by the first week of June everything looked great. Then we lost Neil's mum Stella and for the next three weeks I was busy helping sort out the funeral, solicitor and keeping Neil from sinking into a gloom as best I could and apart from a nightly dash up to water stuff in the polytunnel the rest of the plot got rather neglected. After the funeral and once life had got back to normal I went up to the allotment and was SHOCKED at how much the weeds had grown on the paths which, just 21 short days earlier, had been completely clear!!!!! The weather had been the perfect combination of hot sun with a few wet spells in between so the weeds had just taken advantage of open bare soil (the paths between the beds) to sink in their roots and begin to grow at a rate of knots!!! I'm embarrassed to admit that it really knocked me for six and I felt completely overwhelmed by trying to keep them under control and it was a further fortnight before I told myself to stop being such a wuss and just start at one end and plod on until the weeds were all gone! Simple in theory but those weeds weren't going to give up so easily and fought back hard and despite all my efforts my beautiful plot never quite regained the pristine tidy look it had in early June. So far I'm keeping on top of them and the main thing is NOT letting them set seed as I'll definitely lose the battle then!!! One of the customers who comes into our shop has an allotment too but he has no qualms about putting down slug pellets, weed killer etc and I'm sure he thinks I'm a sentimental softie for not going down this route but I'm determined to be 100% organic and get the balance right and work with Nature instead of against her. It should be easier next year as I'll now what to look out for and will pull those weeds as soon as they show their faces but also, over the winter, Neil and I are going to move a few things around on the plot and sort out proper paths (current ones are just moss with a bit of couch grass in places) - probably weed suppressing membrane pegged down with woodchip or bark on top which will do for a couple of years until we can put down proper paving slabs & bricks (we love the way Monty Don has some of his paths on Gardener's World).

For now though I am just tidying up the plot for winter, making sure the beds are weed free (again!), draught-proofing the polytunnel so my winter veg of beetroot and turnip will be ok in there and making sure the greenhouse has no loose glass etc. The flower bed is going over now (note to self: need more autumn colour next year!) and I've been collecting seed from a few hardy annuals. In the greenhouse I have 36 wallflower plugs happily growing away as well as around 70 ground cover plugs (Aubrieta, Alyssum, Sedum etc) and ten Hollyhock which are just starting to germinate. In the next week I'm going to plant up the containers and pots I brought up from the courtyard outside our flat with bulbs (daffs, tulip, grape hyacinth, crocus etc) as I do love a bit of spring colour and one thing my plot certainly did NOT have in 2015 was flowers like daffodils (well, apart from one puny specimen in a bucket!) and tulips. I think tomorrow we are going to measure the plot properly so I can draw up a scale outline and I can then work out where vegetable beds are going to be as well as a seating area, a small wildlife pond (I have two toads on site) and flower beds and containers with alpine flowers in them (my new addiction haha). I've checked my allotment contract and there's nothing in the rules saying it MUST be 100% vegetables only! To be honest, most of the 70-odd plots are used by racing pigeon men, a few have ducks and chickens and barely a handful actually have plants on them!!! 2015 HAS been a steep learning curve which, at times, has left me feeling that it's just too much work (usually when I've been feeling low about the weed situation!) but now I'm feeling VERY optimistic and looking forward to getting a few jobs done over the winter and then starting with a clean slate once more come the Spring. I once read that a high percentage of people gave up their allotments after the first year once the reality of how much work they actually are hits home....and I'll freely admit I've felt like that at times....but if you can get through the first two years you tend to have your plot for life! I fully intend that to be me :D

Anyway.....on with some pics from this first fabulous year!
 
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Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#3
My first homegrown tomatoes - 6 x Gardener's Delight


After a busy week off work in May I was all ready to get going - beds laid out, dug over...not a weed in sight!




The slug-free side of the tunnel with beetroot, radish, lettuce & tomatoes
 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#4
The flower bed in early June ~ seedlings starting to show.



5th July ~ Californian Poppies with Limnanthes & Nasturtium just starting to bloom



Sunflower, Nasturtiums & Lupins



8th July ~ polytunnel getting busy!

 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#6
The good side - growing REAL food!!!
Iceberg & Little Gem lettuce in bags and two types of beetroot 'perfect 3' and 'chioggia'



Peas & Raspberries


Carrots & Potatoes


Tomatoes - stripped and ripening
 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#8
Had a nice couple of hours on the plot today - bit of weeding...moving plug plants from greenhouse into polytunnel as they seemed to be wilting a touch in the hothouse :confused: and I finally got around to potting up a few strawberry runners for next summer. I had six 'adult' plants in the tunnel this year and the strawberries I got from them tasted amazing ~ much better than shop stuff ~ but I also had a problem with slugs and a vole nicking them before me too. So I've decided to plant my strawberry plants in hanging baskets in 2016 so the only one getting the fruit is ME!!! ;) I'd heard about strawberries sending out runners which produce vigorous new stock but crikey....I didn't realise just how many!!! I did one third of my bed in the tunnel and have already got 53 baby strawberry plantlets! All potted up in the greenhouse and I'll finish the rest tomorrow or Monday after work (only doing 6am - 9am). I think I'll winter these in the tunnel and give some to my friend in Amble,Linda, in the spring to sell for the cat charity she runs :)

Tomatoes are ripening lovely and are delicious straight off the plant

 
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Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#9
Beetroot growing well


Not sure Neil's pumpkin will end up as big as it's name *Atlantic Giant* will suggest!


It's amazing just how many runners have grown out in all directions from just six plants!


Fourteen of the 53 potted up runners!!!
 
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Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#11
It's only classed as a half plot as well!!! There's a water tap on site and it's a bargain at only £35 per year to rent!!! In some of the pics you can see a small plastic-covered greenhouse on the other side of the fence and that is a very small corner plot rented by a lovely guy called Tony. Apparently it used to be part of my plot but the previous tenant agreed to let Tony use it. He's rarely there to be honest as he spends over 6 months a year in Spain with his wife. We saw him in March when he was putting potatoes in then he disappeared until early July when he reappeared to dig them up. He was saying in March that he's going to give the plot up at the end of this year as it's getting too much since he moved to a village 12 miles away and as he's also out of the country a lot. So ~ fingers crossed ~ Neil and I would love to reclaim it as part of ours :eek: I think when we go to pay our 2016 rent in November or December we'll let Mr B., the council guy in charge of allotments, know that we are very much interested. It really IS a small corner so I'm hoping that will put anyone else off wanting it and I can then put in some more fruit trees to go with the two apple that are already there. There's also two small polytunnels and a greenhouse on the site so they would come in very handy for me to use and would mean Neil and I could take our time getting my big tunnel pulled down and rebuilt. If someone else DOES take it though it's not the end of the world as there's a lot I can do on the plot we have :D

I'm already looking forward to next year as I'll be a lot more organised and know what to expect and will definitely NOT let the weeds get away from me as they have this year :( It's my only regret and Neil keeps telling me off for dwelling on it but I think it's just me being too much of a perfectionist and also being annoyed at myself for letting it get in such a state! We'll have proper paths by the spring so keeping the weeds under control WILL be a lot easier :)
 

Linda

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Oct 8, 2012
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#12
Gilly that is just fabulous!!!!!!!!!!!!!
what a large allotment it is..and how hard you have worked! So many plants and flowers ...just love beetroot and they look fab...these are great photos thank you so much for sharing them with us! Not only will you enjoy the product of you labours but save pounds into bargain!
You must also be very fit or if not so at the start feeling much fitter now! :)
 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#13
Awww thanks Linda - I'm just madly in love with my allotment :eek: I live in a first-floor flat so had to make do with house plants and a few flowers in pots and containers in the shared courtyard downstairs which was nice but didn't satisfy the urge to get my hands into the soil and grow stuff properly. And I'd thought there would be a waiting list a mile long for an allotment so it was great to get one after only six months :D I'm also extremely lucky to have inherited one that was well looked after as I'd been expecting a bare field full of couch grass and buttercups!!! My only 'iffy' weed is a tiny patch of ground elder in the top corner which I am going to deal with in the next few days by digging it up and then going through the spot where it is with a fine toothcomb to make sure I've got every little bit of root out!

Neil wanted to put a shed for himself at the top section but now thinks it'll probably be a year or two before he can afford to do it so I'm going to turf that top bed and make it a seating area with a small table & chairs and a flower bed at one end. The two middle sections will remain as veggie beds and the flower bed next to the gate is going to be where I put a small pond. That's my plan so far anyway ;) It may change over the winter months as I draw up the outline of the plot and work out where everything is going. I just know there'll be a few vegetables and a LOT of flowers and alpine plants as I absolutely adore these. It's certainly NOT just for growing vegetables, fun though that is, but is more a haven for me where I can relax and potter about in a peaceful location. Today was absolute bliss as all I could hear was the neighbours chickens clucking away to themselves, the other neighbour's racing pigeons cooing and, from Hulne Park, the wild birds such as Nuthatch, Long-tailed Tits and Goldcrest.

The main benefit from having the plot has been Neil actually being keen to try various fruits and vegetables!!! Before I got the plot he would eat potatoes, peas and carrots and that was it but now he LOVES beetroot and is even asking for salad on his sandwiches!!! The only thing he's not keen on is green beans (which I love) but I suppose I cannot get him to eat everything. He's got diabetes (on pills, not insulin injections) so having him keen on more veg can only be a good thing...and the nurse was very pleased with him at his last check-up because of this.
 

Linda

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#14
so its heaven sent in many ways!
I love the idea of having a seating area as that gives you the chance to truly enjoy it with a palce to simply sit and contemplate and look around you ..one of the teachings of Buddha is that yo meditate by simply being in the place and hearing those sounds of birds or nothing is a perfect place for the soul!
Ground elder is a buggar to get rid of...and you do right to sift through the area..it crops up all over..and as much as you think you got rid of it... but it will keep you out of mischief! I thought I had got rid of it and it cropped up about 20 feet away the following year! :) Have fun! :)
What about some bird feeders or would that be asking for trouble for your veg and from neighbours! :) was thinking how nice to attract even more small birds.. :)
 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#15
I don't think putting a few feeders up would be a problem as our plot is right on the end and is next to the wall surrounding Hulne Park so wouldn't be disturbing anyone :) The neighbour backing on to us hasn't actually grown ANYTHING on his plot this year which is bizarre...and I haven't seen him since March or April :confused: The guy behind him has racing pigeons and the other neighbour, on the opposite side of the footpath, has chickens and a couple of ducks. If I do put some feeders up I'll have to choose their site quite carefully as our plot is on a Sparrowhawk's territory. I've seen the pair of them a few times this year and, on one thrilling evening, I saw the male catch a pigeon and pluck and eat it....all from just 20ft or so away! :eek:

I finished digging the end bed over on Saturday and have taken down the bean & sweet pea wigwams as they were going over. I think over the next fortnight I'll gradually get it all tidied up, bed by bed, to settle things down for the winter months. Probably the last thing will be the flower bed as there's still loads of Verbena bonariensis and Nasturtiums in bloom for the bees and butterflies. I had a Speckled Wood butterfly on the plot on Friday :D I potted up five Dog's Tooth Violets in a terracotta pot yesterday, Sunday 4th, and will do the remainder of my bulbs tomorrow on my day off work. Even if it's pouring with rain I can still get jobs done under the cover of the polytunnel.
 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#16
Yesterday, Friday 9th, was a nice day after the torrential rain at the beginning of the week. I made a start on the second bed and got half dug and weeded. I then made a start on potting up a few bulbs in pots with what compost I had left. The plants in the polytunnel got a good watering - plug plants are growing well and my tomatoes continue to ripen. I still have a couple of punnets in my fridge at home so, seeing my neighbour Tony busy digging the beds in one of his greenhouses, I gave him a few ripe tomatoes and had a chat for a while. Next year he's going to keep the plot on as he won't be going abroad as much so I'm pleased about that - he's a lovely guy :) We had a lovely chat about growing stuff, what had worked this year and what hadn't and both cursed the weeds :p I told him our plans to sort out the paths with weed suppressant membrane and woodchip on top (which we may replace with gravel in a couple of years' time as funds permit) and rebuild the polytunnel. He said the tunnel had been up around 10 years so it's lasted very well. Neil is now thinking that perhaps it may be best to wait until next year before doing the tunnel - get the materials ready first rather than just pull it down and then have a bare space for lord knows how long :rolleyes:

I'm off all day Sunday & Tuesday and only doing the newspaper shift (6am - 9am) on Monday so plan to spend the next three days pottering on the plot. Forecast isn't too bad so fingers crossed I can get a lot more digging done. I picked up another two big bags of compost yesterday afternoon so that should see my bulb planting finished off.
 

Cheryl

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Oct 14, 2012
952
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Kent
#17
I'm not a bit green fingered Gilly but I do envy you having a plot of land and being able to grow things,that's very cheap rent and it seems huge for only half a plot
 

Gilly

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Feb 3, 2013
199
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Alnwick, Northumberland
#18
I actually thought it WAS a full sized plot when we first got it but Mr B from the council said ''Oh no, it's just a half plot'' It's the bargain of the century at just £35 per year as well!!! ;) A full size one is only £45. I'm surprised there's not a longer waiting list as there often is in other parts of the UK. Perhaps it's because as one old guy said to me, why spend money and hard work growing stuff you can buy for just pennies in the supermarkets :confused: I don't think a lot of folk realise just HOW satisfying it is to have your hands in the soil and grow stuff...whether it be flowers, fruit or vegetables! I've always loved gardening from being a toddler and following my dad around but it seems to be just a chore to so many people now which IS a shame as it's so relaxing and therapeutic. Ok, it's also frustrating when the weather, slugs and weeds conspire against you and there's no getting away from the fact that an allotment IS hard work but the pleasure I get far outweighs the aching muscles and relatively few disappointments. And there's always next year to try again, isn't there? :) I'm already planning what to grow in 2016 and where to put it and already feeling VERY excited about the new changes. I've been planting up bulbs in containers this past couple of weeks and it's so much fun to put what look like dried up brown husks into a pot and, in just a few short months, have them (hopefully!) emerge like colourful butterflies to brighten everything up :D
 

Bolton Wanderer

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Oct 21, 2012
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Horwich
#19
Blimey Gill its brilliant, I want one when I finish work for good,it would be heaven to spend a few hours every day ,keep enjoying it.Thank you for the amazing pics too
 

GillB

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Oct 18, 2012
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Norwich
#20
Must be wonderful to grow and eat your own grown vegetables and fruits. I've tried in the garden but most of my produce gets attacked by slugs so I gave up. But I do admire your allotment Gilly and what joy it must give you this time of the year especially.