Tuesday 28 October 2014

home truths

Do you ever feel like the world has chewed you up and spat you out on the ground, covered in slimy saliva? Well that's exactly how I've been since we came home from our trip to Brittany. Though to be fair, I wasn't all fairy dust and unicorns whilst I was there either.

I'm not good with coping with winter and now the clocks have gone back I'm miserable. I hate these shorter, darker, cold and damp days. I catch everything out there and daren't go to the Lottie as I get so cold and end up with a sore throat etc. Which I have right now.

In a nutshell...winter is wick!

Andrew went to the plots for a little while at the weekend. He dug a bit and he planted our garlic. I love this collage he made to show me his work.

Isn't it fabulous to be growing your own garlic for free each year. These cloves came from some of our best, biggest bulbs lifted earlier in the year.

As for myself at present, I'm working on my Christmas decorations for my other life as 'Oh Cherry Blossom'. It really is keeping me sane and making me feel happier. Though naturally I can hardly believe it's so close to November already and I do sense a little itty bit of pressure to get my creation numbers built up. I am so lucky and so thankful that I have had 3 customers already.

Love to you my dearest reader. I hope to be back soon fired up by plants and all things growourown :)

Friday 24 October 2014

Baby it's cold outside

The weather! Oh my what a past couple of days; the tail end of an ex-hurricane is more than enough for this girl. It's really starting to feel like the dreaded winter now with the darker nights starting to draw in, the wind having a bite to it and the grey and rainy skies. I believe the clocks may even turn back this Sunday but I try not to listen to such terrible news.

So I wanted to talk about bringing the outdoors inside instead with the use of houseplants and I have a book here that illustrates that idea beautifully.

Those lovely people at Quarto Publishing sent this book for me to review 'Decorating with Plants' by Satoshi Kawamoto. I must say first off that it is a beautiful book to look through and I do believe in the author's ethos of enriching our lives by transforming the way we relate to flora and fauna in everyday life.

The blurb is thus - ' Using his own house as a studio, garden stylist Satoshi Kawamoto guides you around each room in the home, demonstrating how to incorporate a variety of plant life seamlessly indoors.' However, his house we are nosing around is, to me, is unrealistically arty, cluttered and claustrophobic (the step ladder on the front cover is in his dining room for instance). Just my opinion but with my double vision I would not be able to cope to his decorating ideas as presented...but one or two things out of each section - yes I love and would do.

To be extremely honest I just couldn't get into the book and thought the ideas worked the best in his high end shops in Tokyo and New York; here the spaces were urban oases and there seemed a feel of a beautiful jumble of gorgeousness - it would be a delight to find that special something to take home.


Personally (if I wasn't such a liability), I would love more plants indoors but I also encourage the use of fragranced candles, bouquets of flowers and daylight simulation bulbs - they are my go to tricks and they really work.

Hugs and love

Saturday 18 October 2014

A favourite Garden ~ La Roche Jagu

For no other reason but to annoy me, the weather here at home is dull and grey and there's been plenty of heavy rain. What a contrast from beautiful Brittany, where the weather was at least changeable but generally warmer, brighter for longer and with bluest sky. There were so many singing birds, butterflies, rabbits and birds of prey. The countryside is so rich and even in the rain it looks wild and mysterious.

Ugh, I got them post holiday blues alright! Plus my brain seems to be made of moosh since we came home, I'm really forgetful and slow...

I didn't really take many photos this visit but one place we both adore is La Roche Jagu - Ch√Ęteau and gardens.

Please allow me to share some photos with you of my most favourite areas...the vegetable and flower plots. I hope you too gather some inspiration as we have; this is the walk as it happened.

Clockwise from Top left:
* Pruned branches make this sturdy fence and chestnuts are left all over the ground for the squirrels.
* Tiny terracotta pots dangle from fences to act as hidey holes for snails and slugs
* Stones are drilled through and used as weights to hold down and let air through apple tree branches
* Insects have homes on the tops of arches by the climbers

Clockwise from Top left:
* Beautiful roses still in bloom
* The last of the apples in the orchard
* Stunning raised beds
* The air is so clear here high above the river Trieux.

Clockwise from Top left:
* Why not make your insect hotels into sculptures to enliven your space?
* Love the colours of these marigolds with the copper marker posts
* Box hedging used to create big beds full of flowers for the bees
* Leeks looking fabulous - love the slate for plant names

Clockwise from Top left:
* Still with the strawberries!!
* Small terracotta pots as plant markers and stored so sweetly for the winter; love the willow fence
* Love this idea for raised beds, using willow and right up to sitting height
* Beautiful quotes scattered throughout the garden "Each of my perfumes is a portrait of a woman!" Jean-Paul Guerlain 

Clockwise from Top left:
* Green manure of mustard fills one of the unused raised beds
* Visitors' bikes leaning against a beautiful tree
* Pumpkins written into as babies and now scarred with the cafe's name
* Would you look at that sky!!!

And after that, there's nothing better than some homemade cidre, just a little one ;)

The offical website - it does translate http://www.larochejagu.fr/

Love, hugs and a friendly 'hello again'

Tuesday 7 October 2014

Must do autumn work

My dear friends, I'm still thinking of you and my Lottie in the wee hours. Our holiday is going super well and the autumn colours are glorious, the fresh food is heavenly and I think everyone ought to spend a little time in Brittany. Hi

Must do jobs for the Autumn

1. Remember to cut your lawn
It's a great idea to get on top of the lawn before the really cold and damp weather sets in. If your grass does get too long as it will be nearly impossible to cut it over the winter. Early to Mid October is the last real window of opportunity to cut it so don't mis out!

2. Plant spring bulbs
If you like the sight of daffodils and tulips in the spring then don’t forget to plant them now. Once you have cleared your borders of perennials and given them a good dig over, this is the right time to get the bulbs in. Also remember to check which way round to put the bulbs as it can alter depending on the type of plant. 

3. Dispose of waste properly
Make space for a fabulous compost heap friends! 
Remember that all those dead plants and grass cuttings will equal free food for your new plants next year and stop you having to go to a nursery with everyone else - nightmare. If your council provides a garden waste collection service stagger what you clear as you could be left with more rubbish than your garden bin can take.

Plus: If you have a lot of trees : leaf mould isn't the greatest of nutrient rich compost but is does contain fungi and micronutrients which conditions the soil keeps moisture in and increases worm activity. It's a fabulous mulch come spring.
4. Protect your pots
Winter frost is the ultimate enemy for your pots, making them crack or cause layers to fall off ( a very common occurrence with terracotta pots). To protect those not in use, put them in the shed up off the ground and prepare cardboard or bubble wrap to wrap them up with . Those being used and left out all year round should be raised up or have wee feet to help fight against plants getting waterlogged.
 5. Protect tender plants
The first frost of the year can arrive without any warning and can kill your favourite foliage. If you have any plants you know are susceptible to cold weather, get them in the greenhouse soon or have fleece at hand.
6. Don't forget to lift certain veg
Early autumn marks the start of the winter-season and the end of the summer-season veg, so don’t forget to do your final summer harvest, and clear the plants away. 

This, oddly enough, is our favourite thing to do and our favorite time of year. There is something truly wonderful about getting the plot back in order and seeing clear soil again. Plus you really don't need any of those nasty grubs and bugs that would eat your now past their best plants to linger in the soil for spring!!
7. Remember to feed the birds and other wildlife
Just because you will be spending less time in the garden over the winter period, it doesn’t mean you're the only one not still craving a tasty nibble by the shed. Continue to feed your birds (any any other visitors you know of) as they will find it hard over the winter to find food, they will thank you for it.
The basis of this post was given to me by GardeningExpress.co.uk in a press realease. They conducted a survey of the top jobs gardeners forget to remember at this time of year.  I've added and subtracted information to make it more me and allotment based :)
Love and  hugs

Friday 3 October 2014

Weekend work on Plot 24a

By the magic and wonder of the internet I have scheduled this post to go live on Friday afternoon even though I am on my holidays. Ooohh spooky. Around the time you read this I shall either be in Ireland or on a boat or in France - hoorah!

The time had come to do a massive clear out on 24a. This, my friends, made us very happy. We love to rip things out of the ground and tear them up for the compost heap. I think in fact that making compost may be the best thing about owning an allotment sometimes, especially when so many things can and have gone wrong for us this year.

I started my time on Saturday with the removal of the purple cornflowers and the zinnias. They had passed their best and the zinnias were sort of gross and diseased now even though they still had flowers. It felt fabulous to have the area around the apple trees clear again and I'm sure they are enjoying the free root space too. Getting everything out, including the flowering weeds that we didn't want in the compost took quite a while and I was eaten by bugs (I have 4 big itchy lumps on my lower back, grrrr).
'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
flowers all gone now :)

I captured this rather lovely photo though so I think it was worth it :) Is it just me or are there a lot more spiders around this year?!

'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
pretty spider's web

One sad thing I noticed were the state of the gooseberry bushes in this long back of 24a bed. They have been well and truly decimated by sawfly. I hate sawfly! But at least this year I got over my 'eeow, yuck!' feelings and picked off every last one I could find, with my bare hands. *proud grin*

'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
the gooseberry enemy!
Elsewhere Andrew was super busy with the new asparagus bed on Saturday but on Sunday he worked with me on 24a. After the simple joys of digging and adding manure and digging...etc on 14b, his time on 24a was a little disheartening; the carrots and celeriac had failed due to carrot fly (which also affects the celery family) and all needed removed. This is the second year our carrots have been crappity and it's getting very annoying.

'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
the damage caused by carrot fly :(
However, from the very same bed we lifted this large hessian bag full of perfect beetroots - happy dance. They have been so delicious and I look forward to getting stuck into the rest of them.

'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
beautiful, bountiful beetroot

Now, apart from some parsnips this bed is empty and Andrew has already started to dig and add manure etc. Next year it shall house our sweetcorn and courgettes and you know that has to be good soil as I loves my corn.
'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
Clearing and digging in manure
So apart from all that I weeded the path area which was becoming a trip hazard and once the rains come, a slip hazard too. Did you know we here in NI had the driest September since 1910 when records began, I think there was an average of 6mm of rain fell in the whole month. Will the heavens now open? eek
'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
weeding that blasted path
So there you have it. Of course there is lots more to be done, under the strict supervision of Maggie, who sat on next doors overgrown plot for a better view the whole weekend. Boy does she work us hard :)
'growourown.blogspot.com' ~ an allotment blog
Maggie the wonder dog

Love and hugs

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Plot 14b - the Plan

What you've all been waiting for!

This first plan is of 14b as it was only a matter of weeks ago; a mess, a plot of shame, that plot which we shall not speak off. I could barely make myself take a photo of it and generally just pretended it was nothing to do with me.

This was how it was laid out but you know, you just know it never looked as neat and tidy as this. The cut flowers are just diagonally across from 24a, I guess we're looking at the plot from a different direction than usual here but this is the way Andrew roughly sketched it.

Well, let the World rejoice as Andrew has well and truly kicked bum and gone mental at clearing and digging and making this place somewhere super productive, low maintenance and quite frankly, awesome. He has removed so many ill performing plants, plants we never even harvested fruit from and finally uncovered the carpeted area, which looks in good shape, the weeds were merely sitting on top of it.

Yes dear friends we are going to try the old asparagus again, enough time has now passed for us to grieve the first bed we had that New Zealand flatworm destroyed. This new patch has mainly been our squash bed for the past few years and the soil is delightful. Keep your fingers crossed for us!

One thing you will notice about this plot of pure awesome is that we don't have to worry about rotation of crops and many things will just be living where they are planted. The cut flower bed for instance has some stunning roses and poppies in it, the blackberry has long been producing well in this position and the sloe berry hedge is quite new (start of this year?) but has settled in well and thriving.

The asparagus bed is dug, manured and ready to go.... The gooseberry bed gone and the carpet lifted. Also note the minty green mesh fence running the length of the left hand side - good fences make good neighbours eh?

This blog post has been brought to you by a slight headache and very sleepy eyes - without coffee all is darkness and chaos. I'm off for a coffee now and some chocolate (naughty). Then I shall come back and write about the heroic work we did on 24a at the weekend...

Love and hugs to you all