The Allotment Wife


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The Beginning of Autumn

There’s a definite nip in the air these days, and I’m getting the feeling that the allotment is slowing down after the summer. I did manage to harvest quite a lot of flowers during the week, but it was noticeable today that they hadn’t rebloomed quite as much as they’ve been doing. I even managed to put all the flowers – coreopsis, dahlias, cosmos and leuchanthemums into one bunch rather than several.

Harvest

However, the autumn raspberries are doing well and I shall put those into tomorrow’s crumble. K and I have sampled one or two, and they definitely have more taste to them than they did last week so that’s good. We also harvested two pea pods (!) and a beetroot.

I don’t think we’re going to bother with potatoes again on the allotment – blight has been a nightmare; the only ones that work are the blight-free tasteless ones, and they’re no fun to eat. We might try potatoes at home again next year though. On the other hand, we’ll have a go at carrots again if we can battle off the dreaded carrot fly, and will do more peas, and also the beetroot.

Oh, and great fun at home with the raspberries, as whilst washing them I got rid of two beetles, three earwigs and released two ladybirds back into the wild. There’s a whole ecosystem in there!

Anne Brooke Books


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GOT DIRT? Easy Breezy Composting

Gardeners Touch

Composting is free, easy to make and good for the environment – I’ve been doing it for years. Up until a week ago, I’ve taken grass clippings, coffee grinds, egg shells, and scraps from fruits and vegetables and dumped it into a pile behind my garden. Now that we have a few chickens, I also included the coop poop. Every couple of weeks I toss it with the pitch fork and wait for nature to do it’s magic and create a nutrient-rich humus for my garden.

I found some pallets that were in great condition and gave them to my husband to work his magic for me. Voila! Here, he created three bins so that there’s always one active pile, one that’s processing, and one to hold our black gold. The bins aren’t completely done yet – there’s still slats to be added to the fronts to hold everything in.

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Life’s Little Pleasures

Gardeners Touch

Just came in from being in the garden, trying to get some fall clean up started, when the unexpected buzz of a hummingbird whirled around my head. The gate to my garden is draped in a trumpet vine where two of these little beauties decided to chase one another then rest, then drink in the nectar from the vine. It amazed me that they weren’t bothered by me being there, so I just stopped in my tracks to marvel at this beautiful little creature as it rested on one of the branches. For more than 20 minutes it just fluttered around me as it bounced from flower to fence to its branch again. It even allowed me to capture these pictures with my phone. Thankful for one of life’s little pleasures this morning.

humming bird, gardening

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Raspberry surprise

These last couple of weeks, we’ve been patiently waiting for our autumn raspberries to turn red so we can pick them before the birds do. However, it now appears they’re actually Autumn Gold raspberries so they don’t turn red at all – Allotmenteer Fail! So yesterday, we picked as many as we could and I have added them to the apple and blackberry crumble I’m making for Sunday lunch today (blackberries courtesy of the hedges hereabouts, and apples courtesy of our neighbour and our own apple tree at home!).

Autumn Gold raspberries

Sad to say, the autumn raspberries are a bit bland (lack of sun possibly?) so a crumble is the best place for them. We’re thinking of having red autumn raspberries next year to give us a clue as to when they’re ready to harvest – though I fear the birds will be keener on those.

However, as you can see, there are plenty more yellow raspberries to come:

Soft fruit

Whilst there, K took out the cornflowers which are all but over, and planted sweet williams ready for next year.

Sweet Williams

Earlier in the week, I took out all the sweet peas as they were definitely over, sadly. However, the asters and cosmos are  doing well so I have picked those for home – the asters last absolutely ages in a vase, I must say.

Asters and cosmos 1 Asters and cosmos 2

In veggie news, the beetroot and leeks are doing well:

Beetroot Leeks

So we’ve managed to gain a pretty good harvest, all in all:

Harvest

Have a great Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books


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A Year in the Allotment: A Beginner’s Guide to Losing the Plot

Year in the Allotment - Twitter

I’m happy to say that I have a new non-fiction book out: A Year in the Allotment (A Beginner’s Guide to Losing the Plot).

What about having an allotment? So my husband asked me one day when I was innocently opening the wine and planning our weekend. The shock of the question made me blink and of course I laughed away the very idea: too much effort; not enough time; and besides we don’t know anything about allotments. All well and good then, and I thought that was that, but strangely enough the idea kept niggling away and resurfacing on various occasions.

Then a mere couple of months later, my objections were somehow swept aside by his enthusiasm and we found ourselves the proud and very nervous owners of an allotment. With not a clue what to do with it.

This is the story of our first year as allotment beginners and how we survived it. And even came to love it.

Find out more or buy the book today!

Anne Brooke Books


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Tidying Up

A good tidy up round the allotment today. Plus K cut down the sunflowers that are now over and I staked the chrysanthemums as they’re starting to fall across each other.

Chrysanthemums 1 Chrysanthemums 2 Sunflower head

Funny how last year I would never have had the confidence to even consider staking anything up and would have had to get K to do it or at the very least ask for help. Now I go ahead without even worrying about it, gosh! Anyway we have taken some of the sunflower seeds for growing on next year, and left the rest for the birds. That seems fair. Monty Don would surely be proud of us1

I’ve also planted a leucanthemum for more autumnal cut flowers which I picked up at the Wisley Flower Show yesterday. I really love the fluffiness of them, and the soft yellow colour is great.

Leucanthemum

Here’s our harvest of peas, a courgette, two beetroot, sweet peas, a geum, asters, cosmos, dahlias, cornflowers and coreopsis:

Harvest

And here are the flowers in their vases at home:

Vases

Happy Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books


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A Second Spring?

Post the Allotment Show, we’ve done a good tidy round and weeding on the allotment today. The sunflowers are still looking happy and – amazingly! – we have a foxglove in bloom. Hmm, must be really confused then!

Foxglove in bloom Sunflower

Whilst there, I planted some more foxgloves in the space where the scabious used to be as it wasn’t doing very much. I’m hoping these foxgloves will be ready for spring, but who knows!

Foxgloves

K also moves some perpetual spinach from the brassica bed and gave it its own kingdom where the potatoes were:

Perpetual spinach

Meanwhile, the autumn raspberries are doing wonderfully and they now have orange berries, gosh! How many of those we’ll lose to the birds has yet to be seen though …

Autumn raspberries 1 Autumn raspberries 2

Today, K dug the rest of the onions up, and we harvested runner beans, one small courgette, dahlias, sweet peas (though they’re almost over now), cosmos, cornflowers, coreopsis, geums, and that one foxglove:

Harvest Onion harvest

Here are the flowers at home:

Vases

Happy Sunday!

Anne Brooke Books


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The Annual Allotment Show!

Big excitement this week as we all started preparing for the Allotment Show which took place on Friday. K and I went up to the allotment Thursday evening to prepare, and decided to put our golden beetroot, potatoes (for the heaviest potato competition), runner beans (for the novelty veg and longest runner bean competitions) and onions into the show, together with a variety of flowers, including coreopsis, marigolds, dahlias, cosmos and cornflowers.

Here are our potatoes, beetroots and onions:

Potatoes, beetroot and onions 3 Sept

And here is our flower harvest:

Show produce 3 Sept

This time, for the flowers, I took kitchen towel and plastic bags – so I could wet the kitchen towel and keep the flowers as fresh as possible. I must say that paid off really well, and none of the dahlias lost their petals on the journey home (shock! Horror!) so I have starting using damp kitchen towel as standard now for getting the flowers home.

Whilst there, we also looked at our lovely sunflowers, and thought: why not? We could get them home somehow and work out how to put them into the show – surely it’s not beyond the wit of allotmenteers! Here they are:

Sunflowers 1 3 Sept Sunflowers in recycling bin 1 3 Sept Sunflowers in recycling bin 2 3 Sept

And yes, once we’d struggled to get them home that night, the only place we could store them was in the recycling bin, which we half filled with water!

Astonishingly the sunflowers survived the night, though sadly our heaviest potato fell out of the bag on the way home and split in half – oooh nooo! Must remember to use stronger bags next year …

That night, K prepared the onions, potato and beetroot, and I spent a fun half hour cleaning and measuring the runner beans. I put the horseshoe shaped one to one side for the novelty veg category. The following day, I found a strong box, filled it with bubble wrap and put all our flower entries (bar the sunflowers) in vases in it for carrying purposes. Makes mental note to get more suitable vases for next year’s show, though I did buy a last minute pair of lovely recycled vases at Tesco which were very cheap and look great, so maybe more of those. I only had one accident with the flower-box preparation and didn’t break the vase, so go me, indeed.

Working out what to do with the sunflowers was fun too – in the end we filled a Brabantia bin with damp kitchen towel and bubble wrap, put more damp kitchen towel round the stems and tied them together in the bin. Getting them into the car was fun, but not as much fun as it was for our fellow allotmenteers when we arrived at the hall, ha! If there was a category for tallest exhibit, I’m sure we would have won it, mind you.

And the show was full of lots of lovely produce, including beetroot, carrots, courgettes, dahlias, flowers, potatoes, marrows, a huge pumpkin, lettuce, runner beans, novelty veg(!), onions, parsnips, soft fruit, squashes, sweetcorn, top fruit (i.e. apples etc) and of course miscellaneous, plus some lovely fluffy sunflowers I was really envious of.

Beetroot, with our Golden Beetroot on the left 4 Sept Carrots 4 Sept Courgettes 4 Sept Dahlias 4 Sept Flowers with ours at the left front 4 Sept Heaviest potato with ours on the right 4 Sept Largest marrow 4 Sept Largest pumpkin 4 Sept Lettuce 4 Sept Longest runner bean with our short one on the left 4 Sept Novelty Veg 4 Sept incl our horseshoe runnerbean Onions with ours at centre back 4 Sept Parsnips 4 Sept Potatoes 4 Sept Runner beans 4 Sept Soft fruit 4 Sept Squashes 4 Sept Sweetcorn and leeks 4 Sept Top fruit and Miscellaneous 4 SeptSunflowers 4 Sept

Here are our entries of dahlias, coreopsis, cosmos, cornflowers, golden beetroot, longest runner bean, marigolds, novelty horseshoe runner bean, onions (on the white plate) and those sunflowers in the bin:

Our coreopsis 4 Sept Our cosmos and cornflowers 4 Sept Our dahlias and coreopsis 4 Sept Our golden beetroot 4 Sept Our long runner bean 4 Sept Our marigolds 4 Sept Our novelty horseshoe runner bean 4 Sept Our onions 4 Sept Our sunflowers 1 4 Sept

And the judging began! We were traumatised so went home for a pizza as we couldn’t take the angst, LOL. When we returned, all of our entries had been totally outclassed by the amazing produce of our fellow allotmenteers (though we have made lovely soup out of the veggies!), but astonishingly, our sunflowers won 2nd PRIZE in the flower category! Honestly, we’ve never been so thrilled in our lives!

2nd prize for sunflowers in flowers comp 4 Sept 2 2nd prize for sunflowers in flowers comp 4 Sept 3 2nd prize for sunflowers in flowers comp 4 Sept 2015 1

And the Best in Show category was deservedly won by R & S for their excellent beetroot:

Best in show beetroot 4 Sept

Definitely a cause for BIG celebrations all round, and the post show party was wonderful too!

Getting the sunflowers home was equally entertaining as getting them there, and they are now in pride of place at the front door:

Sunflowers at front door 1 Sunflowers at front door 2

Happy allotmenteering, everyone!

Anne Brooke Books