The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

Happy Christmas

Well what a year its been, how it has flown by and now its Christmas, I'm hoping for a much better one this year after one I want to forget last year. Mum and dad were both very ill and a few very hard months followed, my lovely dad passed away in May and its at times like this I really, really miss him. We are all feeling it especially my mum who has also had a hard year with her own health problems but she's getting stronger again now and I really admire her so much for resilience and determination. She's coming up to mine for Christmas dinner which will be lovely as she hasn't been well enough to come here for over a year.
So yes its been a challenging year but there have been some lovely times too, I had an amazing weekend down in Dorset for my River Cottage prize plus a sunny weekend away in Barcelona but also I've had the amazing opportunity for training in a beautiful garden in Leeds and I'm relishing every moment there. Hence why my blogging has dropped off a lot in the last few months as I'm still doing my other job 3 days a week, then gardening for 2 days and usually visiting my mum one day over the weekend so its busy all the time but I'm loving it.
I'm still managing to find some time to get to my allotment though not as often but I've squeezed in a visit today and have really blown the cobwebs away, its wild and windy here, though dry and sunny thank goodness and I know we've got off lightly compared to the South of England and I think Scotland is bearing the brunt of the bad weather now. 
You have to have a good memory when you visit your allotment at this time of year as it can look bleak but surprisingly as we have had such a mild autumn/winter so far I've still got some marigolds in flower which add some cheer to the plot. I've also got lots of self-sown Cerinthe which adds colour too. The silver new leaves of the globe artichokes look great too.

As you can see its not been put to bed for winter I've still got a lot to do but today I've been picking my veg for dinner tomorrow. I was determined this year to have some crops over winter and I think I've done quite well, I still have some beetroot left, some of the 'Golden Globe', some celeriac which still isn't very big at all, I've got leeks, parsnips and that Christmas dinner staple some sprouts, they are not the prettiest but I was determined to have some for Christmas day and so I have.
Not quite as good as the ones on Alan's plot next to mine, he of the enormous cabbages. His look fabulous will have to ask him what variety they are. Can you also spot the enormous turnips,I think they are, in front of them!!
I also found a late developing Romanesco cauliflower which is a bonus.
I'm looking forwarding to cooking Christmas dinner tomorrow with my crops.
So I'd better get ready for tomorrow, so just finally I'd like to wish all my fellow blog readers and bloggers a very Happy Christmas and best wishes for 2014.

Friday, 22 November 2013

A colourful autumn

What a skewed year we have had, a very delayed spring and an elongated autumn. The trees are really starting to lose their leaves here in Yorkshire but they have been very colourful, though a year of yellows and russets it seems. Lots of rain this month though and some frosts but also some lovely sunny days when its a joy to be in the garden. The colours are now both above our heads.....
 .....and below our feet.
Annie's little plot, both the blog and the allotment, are getting neglected I've only made it up to the allotment a couple of times this month or so, but its starting to quieten down now anyway. I have managed to plant my over-wintering onions and some garlic but most of the work there is clearing the old vegetable plants and getting it ready for winter.
My sprouts are coming and should be ready soon, and parsnips are huge and sweetening up with the frosts. I've still got leeks and some beetroot though I've not protected them so I'm not sure how long they will last.
I've had a bumper harvest of Borlotti beans that have all been dried and will be used throughout winter, I'm slowly making my way through the squash. The huge rugby ball sized one took a bit of tackling the other night. The 'Hubbards Blue' needed a large meat knife and a mallet to get in half and then I managed to get one in half  again. But I had to put each half in the oven separately they were so big and roast for ~45 mins. I've got a freezer full of soup now!
I'm very excited as I've recently aquired a greenhouse, one of Martin's friend, Bob's friend's mum's! Its a little 6 by 6 greenhouse which is in good condition.
Martin and Bob dismantled it last weekend and its in our garage waiting to be cleaned by me and then we wer going to lay some foundations in the back garden and hopefully get it back up and fingers crossed ready for action in the spring.
The plant of the moment at York Gate has been the gorgeous Nerine bowdenii, here glistening after a rain shower.

Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Allotment show 2013

I'm a bit late posting about this, the show was in September, but I wanted to let you know how our allotment show went, its our second one. Last year for our first one we could just bring a basket or collection of any vegetables, but this year the committee set a few rules. This year we had to exhibit a basket/tray of six different vegetables from the following list. I hope you can read it, its not copied very well.
But the important thing to remember was that there were 3 compulsory vegetables of potatoes, onions and beetroot. This caught a few people out who looked at the schedule a week or so before the show and then realised they'd not got any beetroot left!
So I had some potatoes ready, they were 'Charlotte' variety, a few beetroot, I entered some 'Chioggia' variety and some onions, they were 'Stuttgarter Giant' which I'd lifted and dried a few weeks before. I still can't believe I actually spent a whole evening puzzling over how to trim and tie onions, even googling to get some expert advice. As for the other 3 vegetables to show, when it came to the week before I didn't really know what to enter, I was a bit spoilt for choice, I had some quite nice long runner beans, some 'Longnor' shallots, some nice french beans, a cucumber, which I was very proud of (my first proper attempt and grown outdoors), a 'Crown Prince' squash and some nice round courgettes. In the end I chose the french beans, cucumber and squash.
I think from speaking to the judge and other competitors afterwards I made the wrong decision as its apparently very hard to get a good mark for cucumbers, they have to be immaculate and squash are 'easy' to grow so again don't get good marks.
These were my scores, my best was for the potatoes, 15/20, then onions, 13/20, beans and beetroot 11/20 and the cucumber and squash both got 6/20. But for me its all a bit of fun and just really about taking part and getting together with the other plot holders and having a bit of a natter. We also have a few awards for most improved plot and the plot holders next to me won that which is great as they have taken over a really grotty plot and have turned it round in a few months. Then we also have lots of tea and cake which is the best bit.
Here are a few of the other exhibitors.
You should be able to see which ones came first, second and third. I really wish I'd put the shallots and runner beans in now! Oh well maybe next year. The standard is quite high as many people from my allotment site grow for the Huddersfield show amongst others. Especially our chairman who won best in show for his leeks. They all get very competitive. I might suggest next year having some tasting competition perhaps with tomatoes. We'll see, anyone else got any ideas for us from their allotment shows?

I did win something though third prize in the sweet pea competition.
I won't let it go to my head though, there were only 3 entrants!!

Thursday, 10 October 2013

A mish-mash

Aargh I've been very negligent of my blog recently and I've so much I want to write about, my allotment show, I've been away on holiday, visits to gardens, as well as catching up on posts about my allotment and garden. So this blog post is going to be a bit of a mish-mash as I catch up with things, but I'm hoping normal service will be resumed once things settle into more of a routine.
I'm really getting into my training at York Gate but time is passing by so quickly it will be over in a blink of an eye but the training is going well and its very varied. One day I'll be up on a platform pruning a wall trained pyracantha which has been trained into an espalier, or the next I'll be weeding the canal pond or labelling all the plants in the white garden (as there are plans a foot to renovate the borders). A real mix of jobs though not all great jobs, spreading leaf mould on a wet drizzly day is very messy though still in some ways satisfying and definitely keeps you warm. What I love most is walking round the garden spotting which plants are at their best each week. But this autumn crocus, Colchicum autumnale 'Waterlily' has been the star this week.
Plus there are some lovely leaf colours starting to develop. The garden is closed for the winter now and there is so much to do, things that you can't really get on with when there might be visitors to the garden. So I know I'll be busy for the next few weeks. Whatever I'm doing in the garden though there is one creature that is never too far away, usually I first tell he is with me by a faint warbling song in the tree unless he's in the mood for showing off when he really belts out a song. I've been trying to capture him on camera and I've managed a couple of shots.
Think I'm going to have to get properly wrapped up now though its gone noticeably colder this week.
Down on my allotment things threatened to get a bit out of control at one point a few weeks ago after I came back off holiday, with the squash threatening to completely take over, but I've got the upper hand again now and I've been busy trying to clear things in the last few weeks. I've still got lots of flowers which have been enjoying the lovely autumn warmth and sunshine that we have been having recently so I've left things for as long as possible. My sweet peas have had another mad burst and are looking really healthy again now, they did have a bit of an aphid problem earlier but I assume the ladybirds and lacewings larvae have been feasting as they have all gone now and they are flowering well again.
My pumpkins, there are 3, are ripening now and look very colourful with a backdrop of Salvia viridis, the clary sage.
Talking of orange I want to say thanks to Flighty for the Marigold seeds that he sent earlier in the year, they have been flowering all summer and it is a nice mixture, some bright orange and some more subtle.
I've still got a few crops going at the allotment, in the roots bed I have lots of beetroot, some parsnips which look very fat, I'm going to have a go at digging some up this weekend, celeriac, which isn't looking very fat though hard to really tell how they are developing underground and a few carrots, I've grown these in a container as I never seem to have much success in the ground. In the Brassica bed I have some sprouts developing nicely, some Romanesco broccoli which hasn't started forming a head yet, they were very late last year, and some cabbages. The Legume bed has lots of Borlotti beans which I've picked for the beans inside and I'm drying some too, and still some runner beans though they are getting a bit stringy now. I'm due to plant some overwintering onions and some garlic in the onion bed. I do have some leeks too in the main plot, so I'm not doing too bad for some overwintering crops. The rest of the plot is mainly squash sprawling and flowers. I've taken out all my courgettes now, think I overdosed on them this year.
As I do each time I leave my allotment at the moment I pick a couple of bouquets of flowers and I had to make sure the bees had finished getting all the nectar from the cosmos before I could take them home. They were really clinging on.
 Lastly I've written a few posts about my local park and its looking gorgeous in the low autumn evening light.
But I'd thought I'd update on some recent developments, the council is obviously thinking that Huddersfield is becoming very continental and this is our new leisure facility at Greenhead Park.
Its a Petanque pitch or 'terrain'!
Ooh la la.....

Sunday, 1 September 2013


I've been saying the same thing each month this year and I'll say it again, I can't believe its September! This year is just flying by. Its a cool day today, a strong chilly wind, just to get you in the mood for autumn, but I hear that summer is back again next week! So a good day to catch up with my blog and read some others.
There are a few changes here, firstly non-garden related but we've sold my mums house and she's moved into a lovely flat, close to her old house. The downsizing from a 3 bedroomed house to a flat has meant a lot to sort out so its been a busy month. Mum has been kept busy and I'm slightly worried that now that everything is settling down this is when she will start to really miss dad. For me it come in waves, just little things that can suddenly remind me of him. He's never too far from my thoughts. 
But on a lighter note I've taken a step in a potential career move, its something that I've been thinking about for a few years, but this year things have fallen into place to bring it together. I've started as a trainee as part of the Women Returners To Amenity Gardening Scheme (WRAGS), a scheme that is coordinated by the Women's Farm and Garden Association (WFGA). I do 15 hours (2 days) a week and I get trained by the head gardener, I get a training allowance and have to fill in monthly reports detailing all my work in the garden. I've been looking into doing it for a while but there are a limited number of gardens that take on trainees, especially in the North of England. I was really excited when I heard that one of my favourite gardens, York Gate, on the outskirts of Leeds was going to start taking on a trainee. The interviews were in mid-July and I was lucky enough to get selected. So I've gone down to 3 days a week in my job at Manchester University and I work 2 days at York Gate. I'm just about to start my third week. It is a bit weird doing 2 jobs, both so very different and as with any new job its taken a few days to get used to the routine and how they work in the garden but I feel I'm settling in well and getting the hang of things. Plus experience is just what I need if I do decide to go into gardening full time. 
Those of you who don't know the garden it is quite small for a garden open to the public, at around 1 acre, but it a true delight to behold with immaculate design and a general feel of an arts and crafts garden. It is split into lots of 'garden rooms' with lots of intricate design details and lots of vistas within the garden. So I'm in heaven and I've already been kept busy pruning the many topiary features in the garden, along with daily tasks of deadheading, watering and maintenance. There is always that extra special feeling of being able to see a garden in the morning in that gorgeous soft light. So I've also been busy with my camera, which is becoming a useful tool for learning as I can take before and after photos. I'm also learning lots of new plant names. Here is a link to a visit I made to the garden in Spring 2011. At this time of year the main border is full of bright pinks and purples of Phlox.
The herb garden.
It was a bit misty when I arrived the other morning.
Anyway I'm really enjoying it so far and really looking forward to following the garden through the seasons.
My allotment has also kept me busy but what a year so far, almost every thing has been flourishing for me and I've had success with a few new crops.
The plot is looking a bit lush to say the least, with squash trailing all over the plot, sunflowers shining away and lettuce's sadly bolted.
Currently I've got masses of beans, courgettes and the last of the calabrese. But I'm very excited by my first cauliflowers, its the first time that I've grown them and I'm starting to get some nice heads, which I've now tried to cover.

I've got 3 Brussel sprouts plants that are growing well too and there are now small heads developing on the Broccoli 'Romanesco' which is always spectacular. My onions and garlic have done OK, the white onions 'Stuttgarter Giant' better than the red onions. Shallots have been better than last year, the best of the 3 varieties that I've grown were the banana shallots which look great.
One block of sweetcorn looks almost ready to harvest I'll be testing them this week and what a treat that always is.
As for my Squash, wowsers. This one is a monster and is still growing, its 'Blue Hubbard', I've also got 'Crown Prince' and a general pumpkin type variety, plus my summer squash, 'Patty Pan'.
Not so good this year have been my Florence Fennel of which half have bolted, I think I sowed that too early. I've grown a few different varieties of beetroot 'Boltardy', 'Chioggia' and 'Golden Globe' and as expected, the clue is in the name, the Boltardy has been the best, the Golden Globe was definitely prone to bolt in the dry spells that we have had. My lettuce started off really well but then a lot of that bolted too, though it does look very pretty.
The warmth and sunshine has been great for 2 crops which I usually struggle with, as I don't have a greenhouse, and that is cucumbers and tomatoes. I've had a really good crop from my 'Sungold' tomatoes and I even dared to try some plum tomatoes which are just turning red. I've had around 6 cucumbers and still more developing from the plants that I have grown outside in the allotment. Really tasty ones too.
Still to come are my celeriac which I'm hoping is growing well underground and also parsnips and leeks which are getting going now.
I'll be getting a few things together to show at our allotment show next week, we have to put a collection of 6 vegetables together, of which 3 have to be beetroot, onions and potatoes. I'm going to give it a go, I'm hoping my cauliflower will stay well, but not sure about what else to show. Will see how things look next weekend.
Flowers on the plot have flourished too. The bees have been loving the sunflowers and the flowers on the globe artichoke.
The Claret sunflowers come in a range of dark brown to orange colours and are multi-headed so I've even used them as cutflowers along with a smaller variety called 'Pacino' which has lovely small paler yellow flowers.
My sweet peas have been fantastic, considering I was a bit late sowing them. They are still flowering well now, I was Sweet pea-less last year and really didn't want that to happen again, so did a couple of sowings, the first ones didn't germinate in the cold or rotted off but the late ones were fine and grew away quick once we got the warmth. I've also had some lovely bright coloured Dahlias, Cosmos which has been great as a cut flower and Tithonia, to add some vibrant orange into the pink and purple mix. I've also grown Salvia viridis 'Blue Clary' which is all over my plot and looks set to flower well into autumn.
Hope you've had a good harvest, I'll be along to catch up with blogs later.