Monday, 29 September 2008

Allotment Tips for the Time Poor (that's everyone, right) # 1

Really, I feel a bit presumptuous giving others tips. I mean, have you seen my allotment lately? Well, no you haven't, because it's too awful to photograph, and neither have I, for which there is no excuse.

It is rather a case of feast or famine where the allotment is concerned; I'm either up there all the time or not at all. So it was with some trepidation that I dragged the whole family up there yesterday. Yes, there were a few howls of protest but as far as I can see unless 12-year-old boys are eating, on the Playstation or riding their bikes there are always howls, so I ignored them.

While pulling at the weeds and ordering others about I did think "oh, I must remember this for next year" but as my memory is appalling I'm writing it here.

  • Tip 1: Plant nasturtiums between rows to suppress weeds. These plants are so easy to grow, look pretty and (best of all) seem to thrive on neglect, which is just as well.

  • Tip 2: Butternut squash (and I'm assuming pumpkins) are also easy to grow, are tasty and make a lovely alternative to courgettes, which are also great and prolific but sometimes a bit too prolific.

  • Tip 3: Paving slabs are wonderful laid onto bare earth between beds as they don't rot and suppress the weeds wonderfully. I've tried all sorts of paths - bark chippings (messy and expensive) and carpet (great hidey holes for slugs, rots and doesn't suppress weeds) and slabs have been the best. I recycled mine which were no longer needed from our garden but if you had to buy I guess this would be the most expensive option.

  • Tip 4: Raised beds are ideal for allotments, allowing you to work your plot in bite sized chunks, reduce digging, and easily improve the soil but (yes, there is a but) they also make superb homes for slugs and snails. The wood also eventually rots and then you have to start again which can make it a bit expensive. I loved my beds but have removed the rotting wood and just kept them as beds, edged with my paving paths. This, I think, is the perfect solution. Well, I hope.
Now I have a bit more free time and I've broken my allotment visiting drought, I plan to spend more time at the plot. At least I'll be getting fresh air and not spending money so it's all good. I just have to dig out the flask as I can't be too far away from coffee (even if it is decaf, sigh).

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Oh Okay, Now I Get It

Oh my. I think next week I shall watch "Gardeners' World" with a notebook. At least it'll save me having to rewatch it on iPlayer later.

As a newbie gardener I've steered clear of discussions about the presenters, who should take over and what needs to be changed. I didn't watch it when Geoff Hamilton hosted it, nor Alan Titchmarsh and just started tuning in when Monty Don became ill.

I read the reams of opinions found on others' blogs but it was with a bemused air. What does it matter, I thought, the programme's ok, all the presenters are ok, whoever takes over will be ok.

Oh how wrong I was. Obviously I was missing something - and that was how good the programme can be. I watched the first one with the new presenter Toby Buckland, who I didn't really know (should I admit that?), and I enjoyed it immensly but I did wonder what experienced gardeners would make of it. Would they find all those tips patronising? Wouldn't he be offering people anything new?

But watching last night, within minutes, I knew that I suddenly loved this programme, and I loved Toby (only don't tell Hubby). He managed to share his enthusiasm, impart lots handy tips and inspire me to ditch my plans for an expensive potting shed and track down a secondhand greenhouse, complete with a home-made bench made out of breeze blocks and scaffold planks.

And really, anyone who can make me feel I can garden and do it cheaply wins my vote every time.

Friday, 26 September 2008

No, I'm Alright Thanks. Really.

September is drawing to a close and the gardening club still hasn't started up. It was supposed to this week but thanks to an administrative error by the school it has been postponed until next week.

I am eager to get going. I purposefully haven't done anything to the beds because I want the children to get stuck in. They need to own it, tend to it, remove the dying plants, earth up the leeks, weed, think about what they want to grow, feed the soil, prepare for winter.

Of course, I've got plans so will guide them, gently, towards the garlic bulbs and sweet pea seeds and will cut open the bags of manure (I've heard scarey things about well-rotted stuff from farms so am Playing Safe).

But while it is theirs' it is also mine. Which I think may cause me some problems.

I mean, I'm not a gardener, really. I'm rubbish at it. I don't much like gardening when it's cold or raining so that poses a few problems living here, in the UK. I cannot claim to know the correct name of any plant and when I read those names on others' blogs I switch off. Composting scares me. Will I need two bins for the school? Will I have to turn it and if so how do you do that with those plastic ones that look like wheely bins? Will I single handedly introduce a rat population to the school? See - I know, well, not much.

My enthusiasm did wane toward the end of last term and I'm not sure why. The forgetting to water was dispiriting and sometimes it was hard coming up with things to do. But I am recapturing the old tingle of enthusiasm and I'm looking forward to the new year with new children, hopefully as keen as the last lot.

This project has become more important to me than I perhaps realised. It is doing something special, at least that's how I feel, that is not connected to my everyday life and which is purely (I hope) done for the love of it, which I'm eager to share with the children. And while motherhood is rewarding, it is a bit like baking a cake; you never know the result of your efforts until it's done. Not so with the club. The results of my efforts, via the children's work, can be seen swaying in the breeze or being chomped by slugs.

The sense of achievement is wonderful. I've put a lot of work into the club (not to mention money); I designed the layout and Hubby built it, I redesigned the layout and he moved it; I ran a competition and bought the prizes, gave any child with a birthday a small box of chocolates, produced two newsletters, took numerous photos, set up a display for the open day and updated the club's scrapbook.

And so, really, I don't want to share. I really don't. And now, after writing this, I don't care if I sound like some weird, possessive person with not much going on in her life (I mean how important is any of this, it's only a school gardening club after all). I shall practice my assertiveness instead of stuttering and blustering that I don't need any assistance when told a new mother is going to help (did her friend tell me she is "going" to? Did I imagine that?). I shall smile calmly when told she is - gasp!- a gardener.

I'm not sure how I can convey this to people, without looking strange. Perhaps instead I shall just say a polite no thanks, smile and slip them a piece of paper with this blog address scribbled on it.

Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Why My Blog is Like a Spiderplant

That's how I'm currently thinking about "Carrots" at the moment.

Is it because it's common? Ordinary? A bit naff? Often neglected?

Well, I guess I could say yes to all of the above but it's not the original reason I thought of (those others came to me while writing this post). No, the reason is because this blog has spawned a baby one.

Yup, as if  there isn't enough to do, I've decided to have another blog. Called The Ecstasy of Being Ordinary, it can be found HERE.

Now let's see what else I can add to my plate. Chairperson of the Parents Teacher Association perhaps? Playgroup committee member maybe?

Monday, 15 September 2008

The Flower No Garden Should Be Without

Oh sunflower! How I love you! Let me count the ways -
you are easy to grow, you are bright and cheerful
and you are fun!
What more could anyone ask of a flower? (Except, perhaps, next year
a whole lot more of you....).

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Why I Love My Blog #1

Not sure I'm allowed to say or admit that. I mean, it's a bit big headed isn't it?

But stop!

This isn't a Carrots and Kids Blow Your Own Trumpet Day. Good heavens, no.

One of the reasons I love my blog is because it's made me take photos, tons more photos than I ever would have done without it.

Pictures of flowers, weeds, birds, my allotment, my children, watering cans, packets of seeds. Obviously I would've taken photographs of my children but perhaps more posed, less of the ordinary mucking around at the allotment and back garden kind of stuff. The every day things that usually go unrecorded.

And my blog has enabled me, pushed me to do that. It's given room in a very crowded life for a love of photography. And for that I'm grateful. Thank you 'Carrots'.

Friday, 5 September 2008

So Life Returns to Normal

That was it. Summer. I think I may have blinked. Lots of times because I certainly feel like I missed it.

But let's forget about that and MOVE ON to Autumn. Ah, how I love you Autumn. The mellowness. The golden leaves, crunchy underfoot (in hopefully new shoes. Autumn always calls for new shoes. Sadly not on my feet these days. How can they charge so much for children's shoes?).

Well it would feel mellow and everything would seem golden and leaves would be crunchy if only this rain would stop.

Yep. Children are back at school. And it's raining. Life is back to normal.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

I Think I May Have Bought The Ugliest Bunch of Flowers. Ever.

Is that even possible?

I mean, that's a bit like saying "that bar of chocolate is inedible". I don't have much experience of either of these two things. Until today. 

They don't smell, my disappointed three-year-old informed me, they feel papery and well, I don't really like them. They don't even have a name. "Mixed filler" is on the label.

In my defence all I can say is that we were rushing (what a surprise) and I'm on a budget (ditto) but wanted a bunch of flowers to make my yoghurt encrusted, dart pock-marked forty-year-old inherited wooden table pretty. Bit of a tough order, seemingly.

What I did the manage to do was choose the ugliest bunch of flowers in the supermarket (serves me right, hey, for shopping there). Still, it was a close call. My daughter wanted some bright yellow chrysanthemums. Thinking about it maybe I chose the second ugliest bunch of flowers. At least mine are purple.

Do you think I'm being unnecessarily harsh? Is there such a thing as an ugly flower?