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

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Saturday, 26 January 2013

The thaw is on.

Lets hope so anyway. I'm ready for the snow to go now, we've had snow on the ground here for 12 days and whilst it looks pretty I want to see my garden properly again. I've been out this morning to top up the bird feeders, trying to entice the birds for the RSPB Garden Birdwatch which I'm going to do tomorrow, and you can just hear a constant drip, drip, drip.
The pots with my tulips in all still have their snow hats.
At least the sun is out. We had a top up of snow last night but I think its due to disappear soon and I think rain is forecast for later tonight. I feel for all the people at risk of yet more floods.
Bob will be happy when it has gone, but he's basking in the sun on the windowsill next to me while I write. He sits on there until even he gets too hot and then comes and sits on my knee which makes writing difficult!
The view from the window here can be a bit distracting, out onto the allotment at the back and on towards Castle Hill.
My seed order arrived from Sarah Raven this week, a package of promise for a colourful summer ahead. I didn't actually need too many vegetable seeds this year so I've just ordered a few new varieties to try but I want to try and grow more flowers for cutting this year so I've been seduced by all the gorgeous photos in Sarah's catalogue and order some flower seeds.
So I'm going to try a few that I've grown before like 'Black Ball' Cornflowers, sunflowers (I'm trying the wine-coloured 'Claret', some white Larkspur, Verbena bonariensis (which used to self-seed in the garden but the recent cold winters here have put paid to that) and a mix of Sweet Peas called 'Amethyst', more Jewel colours. Then a few that I've not tried before like Tithonia rotundifolia, which Monty Don always raves about and is a star of his Jewel Garden, Orlaya grandiflora, Salvia viridis (Blue Clary), Malope 'Vulcan', Dahlia 'Bishops Children', Echium 'Blue bedder' and a flower with the gorgeous name of the Blue Lace flower, Didicus, which has pale blue scented umbels. Bliss.
Finally, I thought I would post a picture of the Amaryllis which I got for christmas, I potted it up on the 9th January, It had been in a box and had obviously started growing in there which was a bit of a problem as it was growing sideways!
It has straightened up a bit but the stalk hasn't grown very high before it has started flowering. Oh well, the flower is beautiful though. The variety is 'Apple Blossom' and it is white with a delicate pink centre.

They are weird plants aren't they!?

Monday, 21 January 2013

A blanket of snow

So snow arrived in Huddersfield on Friday but in nowhere near the quantities that they had in the South-East. But a covering none the less and enough to get on my cat Bob's nerves. He's not a fan!

The Witch hazel, now stands out against the white snow.

My local park, which has been featured on the blog before, was busy with people making the most of the snow, sledging down the few little slopes. The recently created lake is frozen.

But in the midst of the park is a warm haven, the restored conservatory, with its tropical planting, was a delight, and all the better with a pot of tea.

However last night we caught the edge of the snow coming in from the east, it started at 10 o'clock and was still snowing till late this afternoon.Its the most snow I've seen I think since I moved to Huddersfield, this is my 7th winter, about 5 inches of standing snow but deeper in parts where the wind has blown it. As with all the lovely winter scenes that have been posted on my favourite gardening blogs the last few days, its amazing what a transformation it makes on the garden.

It has landed on any surface and built up a little, so there is a lovely soft haze to my garden chairs, the bench has a billowy cushion, the washing line is thicker than normal and there are lovely little round finials on my garden fence!

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Review of the year 2012

I did a review of my first year on my plot last year and it was good for me as I was writing it in the depth of winter, when the plot looked very bleak, it made me realise how soon it can change from a bare patch to a full and plentiful plot. Its encouraging to see how much the plot changes over the year and it gives me chance to think about what I want to grow in the coming year. Plans can also be made for any specific projects that I may have. This year I'm not sure I'm so keen on reviewing what all bloggers have kept saying was a terrible year but here goes....
We had some snow in early February but not as much as we'd had in previous winters but the plot looked very bleak.
March was quite a good month, I managed to get up to the plot quite a few times, though less time for blogging, but I got on top of the weeds and the preparation of the plot early. I extended into the part of the plot that I hadn't got going before, this is at the bottom end which was a mass of buttercups but I made progress this year in getting rid of many of them and it was here at the bottom end where I put my potatoes. In addition, I planted a small apple tree which I'm hoping I'll get my first harvest from this year. I was also very busy sowing, pricking out and potting on. We had a very warm spell at the end of the month and everything rushed into growth so it was a bit bizarre as I had some daffodils and tulips flowering at the same time. But this was followed by some unexpected snow in April.
Then through the rest of April it just didn't stop raining, with record rainfall levels for Yorkshire.
May was a slightly better month but still wet, with some sunshine, lots of showers and cool. But I was busy at home with growing things on ready for planting at the plot. I did start planting some things at the allotment but many of my first plantings were decimated my slugs, which really hadn't been a problem the year before. 2012 was the year of the slug, along with talk of alien slug invaders, it was enough to put you off gardening for life. But they won't beat me and apart from the Celeriac (which you need to sow so early) I managed to resow most things or I had spare extra plants as back-up. This cartoon in Private Eye sums it up nicely.
One of my best achievements on the plot which has really helped, especially in this wet winter, has been the paths that I made on the plot. I did these in May and I was very proud of myself. They are not finished at the bottom of the plot as I want to lay another path along to my shed, plus the bed in the middle of the picture is still quite wide so I may put another path in to divide that one up too and then I'll neaten them up. But they are great in dividing the plot into more manageable working areas and prevent me having to walk on the soil.
The onions which I overwintered did brilliantly I was very pleased with those, as were the Broad beans. It was in May that I harvested my first globe artichoke, delicious! Here's the plot in June.
I also harvested my first gooseberries and redcurrants. In July again you had to dodge the showers to get to the plot and I was busy weeding, the weeds seemed to enjoy the weather in 2012. I was very chuffed to hear in July that my plot had been chosen along with 4 others from our site to go into the "Best Plot" competition as part of the Huddersfield Allotment and Gardens federation. Just to get shortlisted was very pleasing and a chap on our site won the award which was brilliant. Its spurs me on to try better each year, though I'm a novice compared to many people on the site. The one thing I felt let me down was not the variety of things that I grow but the healthiness of the plants. I grow them often in modules and pot on and they are healthy plants when I plant them at the allotment but then they don't always grow on as well as they might. I think parts of my plot need a good feed, I did add compost last year but this year I've got a big delivery of well-rotted manure which I'm going to use on my plot (and for a few years to come!). I've also sown some green manure on one bed and will try and incorporate into my growing schedule some sowing of green manures when things finish and I have empty beds. Plus I've now got an established patch of comfrey which I'll be using to make plant food. So next year hopefully my plants with be more healthy, robust and prize-winning!
In August I spent some nice evenings on the plot which helped me get over the post Olympic blues. This is the main harvesting time and I was getting good crops off my courgettes, Broccoli, climbing French beans and most pleasingly my sweetcorn, which had been a disaster the previous year. This year I grew it on to quite a big size before planting it out at the plot and had two patches of it. My favourite vegetable and such a taste of summer even though we didn't have a great one.
Our allotment site had its first show this year and was a great success.
This was the basket that I exhibited, not prize-winning but I was very proud of it in such a difficult year. I was up against many plot holders who mainly just grow to show so I think I made a good first attempt. Our site entered a basket into the Huddersfield Show and won first prize too.
In September we had some nice sunny days and lots of colour on my plot, I love English marigolds and I always try and lots of plants dotted round the plot. These formed one of my favourite colour combinations growing alongside some bright blue Borage and some dusky green and purple Cerinthe. My garlic was harvested and I had another bumber crop, red onions not quite so good and the shallots not very good at all.

In October we had an early frost which put paid to any chances of my squash developing fruits in time, I did get a small crop from the summer squash 'Patty Pan' but the bigger squash which I did so well with last year just never got going in 2012. I will try them again this year.
In November and December I have been harvesting Kale and leeks and some last few broccoli heads. I planted some garlic but there is no sign of them coming up yet so may have to stick to my usual regime which is to plant in modules in early January before planting them once they have got a bit established.
So all in all a difficult year but not completely unsuccessful. Though I did have some failures, I think my successes just about outweigh them. Things that were poor were beetroot, celeriac, squash, parsnip, cucumbers, shallots. Successful were peas, mangetout. broad beans, french beans, garlic, onions, broccoli, kale, leeks, potatoes, sweetcorn, courgettes, fennel, globe artichokes. One of my biggest disappointments was the failure of my sweet peas both on my allotment and in my garden, I really missed them for filling my house with scent. They are a must to get right next year. I only had one remaining sunflower on my plot after the slugs had ravaged them, some slugs even climbing up a few feet of stem to get to them.
So to this year and my growing plans, I've been through my seeds and actually there is not much that I need to buy for my usual crops (I spent quite a lot on seeds last year), I'm going to try some different varieties of dwarf french beans ('Delinel' and 'Golddukat'), of Calabrese ('Marathon'), of leek ('Oarsman') and a couple of different Chilli varieties ('Diablo' and 'Joe's Long'). Plus I quite fancy trying to grow some red cabbage 'Ruby Perfection'. I also need to get some new sweetcorn seed but not sure which variety yet, I may go for the same as last year.
On the plot I want to finish off the path at the bottom of the plot to my shed and Martin's friend has offered to help me make a small greenhouse/cold frame with some bits of window that he rescued for me so we'll see how that goes. I need to sort my compost and manure area as its all a bit disorganised and get a better system.
I really want to have a go at growing more flowers from seed though, I'm devoting a bed in my garden, which had some raspberry canes and some old strawberry plants in, to a "cutting patch". How successful it will be I don't know but going to give it a try. I have been drooling over some of the lovely flowers in the Sarah Raven catalogue, I've already got some seeds at home but these are some of my favourites, Ammi majus, Cosmos, Cornflowers, Cerinthe, Calandula, Larkspur, Nigella, Nicotiana, Orlaya, Scabious, Verbena, Tithonia, Phacelia, Borage. Just writing them down is making me long for summer.

Thursday, 3 January 2013

And Breathe......

Phew thats Christmas done for another year. Its been a bit of a stressful one for me, but we've got through it and we are now into a New Year and I'm hoping for a better start to the year than the end to the last one. My dad is now out of hospital and is getting a bit better day by day though still quite frail, my mum is not well either but she is getting a little better now too so fingers crossed things are calming down for a while. Its been a tough time for us as a family though we are all close and pull together at these times. But it was a breath of fresh air to get up to the allotment for an hour yesterday afternoon. I don't know what I'd do without it, I know I've got my garden but I think the fact that the allotment is away from the house gives me that feeling of escape and getting away from it all. I was the only one there and I just pottered for a while, clearing away some old crops, digging up some leeks, taking down some wigwam supports but just being out and doing something with my hands and feeling the wind in my face was what I needed.
Its very wet as might be expected so no digging possible yet and I've still got some moving of muck to do but I'll try and get Martin to help me with that!
One surprise was with my Romanesco broccoli, this has been growing well all year but never produced a head until now! Three of the plants have now got small heads, two of which I've harvested, the other is still quite small so I'll leave that to keep growing. So just shows a bit of patience in this tough year (and the fact that it has been so mild) have enabled me to get a small harvest!
I had a number of garden related Christmas presents.
A little greenhouse which could be used as a cloche, some more gardening books (you can never have too many), an Amarylis bulb which I've never tried growing before. But my favourites were from my lovely crafting friend Amy, she made me a crochet mug warmer for keeping my cuppa warm at the plot.
But best of all were these gorgeous plant markers for my herbs.
She made these in a pottery class that we went to together before Christmas, I made some hanging decorations and she made these. She's so clever, though I have to say she found it a challenge on the potters wheel which we both had a go at. Great fun and I hope to do the class again this year.
She also makes personalised cards too and some other crochet goods which she sells on her website on Folksy ( She's only just getting started but have a look, she's got some lovely things.
I'm trying to fit in some new crafts this year and another present from a friend is encouraging me to have a go at some quilting, but might have to start small with a cushion maybe.
Need to introduce myself to my sewing machine again after I've dusted it down from the back of the cupboard!
But first, I'm off the rest of this week and my next job is to get together a bit of a plan for the up-coming growing season, sort my seeds and order any more that I might need (and many that I probably don't really need). I've not really had chance to reflect on last year's growing season, maybe thats wise, though some things did well.
I may be some time.....