I’ve not blogged about the allotment for a while. Its not that I haven’t been up there, its just that I’ve mostly been weeding and watering. Last week I headed up full of good intentions. I was going to sow lots of stuff, and weeds lots of beds. Instead, I got chatting. First to the friend who inherited a bed 100% devoted to fruit, most of it raspberries, which she hates. Having wandered around my plot discussing annual weeds and how every plot needs flowers, we went to hers, which has been transformed. It turns out that her FIL is a farmer, and when he came up for a few days he announced that rather than sticking his feet up he would much rather work down at the allotment, please. He worked miracles, starting at 0630 each morning he dug. My friend then picked out all the weeds he exposed, and actually got to plant some veg. She celebrated by planting a lovely little border of lavendar outside the door to the shed.

Wandering back to my plot to get stuck in, I got chatting to someone who I thought was the owner of half the plot next door, but turned out to be his brother. Who didn’t fancy going off walking, or just lazing around, and had instead asked if he could do some digging and weeding at the allotment while his brother went to work. Spot the theme? What I had spotted was this:

Too Good To Miss

The previous plot owners had covered the beds with black plastic held down with chunks of broken paving. Chatting to the brother – later confirmed by the owner of the other half of the plot – it turns out that they have no interest in using the broken paving, and had just piled it up to get rid of later. I am not the only one to have had my eye on this, but suddenly weeding and sowing became less interesting. Instead I found myself remembering how bad I am in the spatial awareness department as I attempted to cover the path that I had no membrane left for with what can only be described as Crazy Paving:

First Crazy Path

I should have stopped at that point, it was hot, I was tired, but there was all this stone, and actually trying to piece together a moderately stable path was rather fun. So I left an hour later, with hands that could double as sandpaper, no weeding or sowing done, but with two more paths covered in stone. And therefore more pegs recovered for holding down netting etc..

Two Crazy Paths

Other things got in the way for a couple of days, and all I managed was the watering and a little guilt-ridden hacking at the dandelions. But I do plant stuff too, honest, and having worked out that there was an interesting gap at the end of one of the raspberry beds, I carted a load of Broad Bean ‘Aquadulce Claudia’ plants up to the plot along with two comfrey plants and some lettuce (‘Can Can’ – not entirely chosen for the name, but…).

Some Planting Happens Too

The comfrey went in alongside the log pile. I won’t be able to cut much – if at all – this year, but the plan is to use the leaves to mulch the raspberries and/or make plant feed. The lettuce got planted in the brassica tunnel, with a sprinkling of organic slug pellets around them. I don’t usually use slug pellets, organic or otherwise, but they are a pest up at the site, and I reasoned that using them under the mesh of the tunnel would prevent them from causing any trouble to birds or hedgehogs. They are approved by the organic veg growers association, whatever that is, so we’ll see…

Successful Day

It felt good to leave the plot having actually planted something, and I sowed some Sugar Snap Peas (‘Sugar Ann’) for good measure. I am hoping that the ‘Claudia’ broad beans do as well as the ‘Express’ plants are, because we all love broad beans, particularly when small and sweet. I’m not sure how soon to nip the tops off – any tips gratefully received! Do I wait until the first pods set? No sign of the dreaded aphids yet though.

Broad Beans

Today I got up there again, and having been promised some rain tonight, decided to plant out more lettuce (Lollo Rosso and Sucrine) and some Swiss Chard (‘Bright Lights’) and sow some onions (‘Guardsman’). There was also lots of the inevitable weeding to do, so I was thoroughly cheered to see TNG turn up and set to building another path. I still only have a small handful of parsnip seedlings showing, and have only harvested radishes and Mibuna so far, but things are growing. There are distinctly carrot-like plumes of foliage, the cabbages are bulking up beautifully, and the potatoes appearing to be doing what potoatoes do. So I shall ignore the fact that the weeds are doing better than the sweet peas, which are being munched, and celebrate leaving the plot looking better than I found it.

TNG's Path

Oh, and I ate the first ripe strawberry this morning when I was opening up the greenhouse. I think I owe the next one to TNG…

56 thoughts on “Sometimes planting happens too

  1. Re Broad Beans, Janet: I normally pinch mine out when one of two things happens – either blackfly appears, or the beans reach the top of the support system (in my case string and stakes). Allegedly, the pinched-out tops can be used as a green vegetable, but I haven’t done this and I presume they cannot possibly be as nice as the beans themselves!

    1. Thanks Mark, sounds as if I have some time yet before I get to munch on bean tips – which are delicious, by the way! Assuming they are not covered in blackfly…

  2. Good to see the allotment again Janet and it’s coming on well! The borken slabs has come in handy indeed for the pathway in the allotment, not a bad job too in piecing them together :)

    1. Thanks guys! It certainly makes for a more comfortable weeding experience, something that has become invaluable ;-)

  3. Janet it is doing nicely…lots of veggies under cover and I like the paths…very ingenious…I never quite get to what I plan many times but it all works out in the end…great to see how wonderful the allotment is coming

    1. Hi Donna, I like planning because it helps me think things through, but things rarely turn out like that in practice! I am also very prone to last minute changes of plan.

  4. good pathways on a plot make such a difference and all the better when you can recycle materials. We have lots of invading weeds from a neighbours plot which are so virilent carpet paths just don’t cut it.
    strawberry season around the corner – hooray :o)

    1. I’d love to get rid of all the grass paths, they are chocker with dandelions and docks, but don’t have the energy – or enough recycled paving. Mind you, FIL is back and raring to go, so perhaps between us we could get rid of some of it… And so hard to beat a freshly picked home grown strawberry – that perfect burst of fruity heaven on the tongue. Looking forward to more!

  5. Love the paths. Seriously, they look great and it’s great that you used existing materials. The alottment looks fabulous. Enjoy the strawberries!

    1. Thanks! It does feel good to put stuff destined for the council rubbish tip to good use.

  6. The paths look good, not so crazy. I planted lettuce the other day and all I could think about was an army of slugs attacking. I thought with all the rain we have had, the lettuce would be nothing but stumps. I will look into the organic pellets if they have them here. I do not use anything but manual removal, so that would be a good improvement.

    1. Hi Donna, I’ve done another of my crazy experiments, and NOT put slug pellets around the lollo rosso. Hope I don’t live to regret it… I’d be surprised if you couldn’t get hold of organic slug pellets, I believe the trick is to get ones that work really fast, to avoid dying slugs crawling off and then being eaten by birds or hedgehogs. Although they are meant to be harmless, this is rather hotly debated, which is why I only want to use them under netting.

  7. I haven’t heard the term crazy paving in some time! I think you did a lovely job with the path, and got the pieces to fit together very well. I can empathize on the sandpaper hands, suffering a bit from those myself this week. I’m envious that you can still plant peas, it’s gotten a bit too warm here for peas now, but you also beat us to a ripe strawberry. We have lots of fruit…it’s just not quite ready yet, but I can’t wait!

    1. Not a lot of room for vanity if you are a fanatical gardener, is there! It is hot and muggy here today, and no sign of the promised rain – again. I just wish I could believe there is now no danger of a late cold snap, I have tomatoes, courgettes and squash plants desperate to be allowed out! Hope you are soon enjoying your fruity harvest.

  8. Moving all that broken cement is hard and heavy work! I think it looks very nice. You will be happy that it is in place over the growing season. So, after all your hard work you came home with some radishes in your basket and a strawberry in your belly. Sounds great.

    1. Thanks Janet, its nice to be able to work from solid paths. The radishes were really tasty, but not a patch on that strawberry…

  9. Great work Janet and the paving all fits in really well. My Broad Beans are infested with Blackfly, even the stems. I sprayed with soft soap solution last night so fingers crossed. Have a great weekend.

    1. Oh no! Bad luck Trevor, hope the spray does the trick. I used a garlic spray on the greenfly infesting our roses and it seems to have worked really well, so if you don’t have any luck with the soapy version, check out the recipe on fer’s blog.

  10. I love that everyone has so much support and help on their allotments from friends and family. What a difference that makes. Your paths look great.
    As for broad beans, I think the advice is to pinch the tops out when the first “few” trusses have set. Or indeed as Mark says, when the blackfly arrive! Ours are much smaller than yours, not flowering yet.
    The allotment is looking very good … the first radishes of the year are lovely aren’t they?
    Sara x

    1. Hi Sara, it does rather highlight how many people love working outdoors when they have the chance, and it is great to see friends and families helping one another out. It can be a lonely slog otherwise. The radishes are great, and remind me of childhood too. I am now officially on truss watch – which sounds as if it should be illegal… Have a great weekend! xx

    1. I often wonder the same thing myself… That’s about me, not you! Classic displacement activity in my case…

  11. I love it when things come together and that’s very neat that your neighbour was chucking out paving slabs just when you needed them! Serendipity in action! I find skip diving a good source of bricks for paths and have recently carted off a couple of good solid floorboards which had been thrown out into the street which will be used to border a bed. I also find that a lot of my time is taken up with paving, weeding, moving beds and just trying to get things how I imagine they should be but it does feel good to go home having made any kind of progress in the veg patch! Caro xx P.S. have also read recently of the garlic spray against aphids. Trying it on the greenfly infestation on my red orache.

    1. Living in a small village, there doesn’t seem to be much of an opportunity for skip diving, and the best ones, which appear outside the “posh” houses on the High Street, get stripped by the people living on the High Street… I do think it is great to be able to liberate things destined for the dump and use them though. Good luck with the garlic spray, and glad I am not alone in spending so much time on weeding and landscaping…

  12. Those paths look great, well pieced together, I bet you’re a dab hand at jigsaws. How lovely to have ripe strawberries already, I’m hoping for a good strawberry harvest again this year.

    1. Hi Jo, thank you, the ripe strawberries are thanks to the greenhouse. Not done a good jigsaw in years, though at least they wouldn’t reduce my hands to sandpaper! Good luck for the strawberry harvest, one day I am going to plant huge numbers and scoff them by the bowl full all summer…

  13. Such a lot of work Janet, that will keep you out of mischief but what rewards you will reap. My garden is tiny and my raised bed (my personal allotment) is only a metre square, but all of that after a full day at work is enough. I get great pleasure being kept up to date with your progress – thanks

    1. Glad you enjoyed the update Ronnie. I’m happy to have FIL back and raring to get involved again, we should have a much neater plot soon, as he is able to work the strimmer.

  14. We don’t nip the tips from our broad beans at all.

    You’ll find that the bees love comfrey flowers meaning that we don’t cut it down as much as we should as I can’t bear to deprive the bees.

    1. Yes, one of the reasons I wanted to grow it was because there was loads where we lived on Anglesey, and the bees went in to raptures over it. Do you never get blackfly on your beans?

  15. I really like your paths (not surprising; I have old garage panels as paths and footing in my greenhouse) – they look fine, will do exactly what you want and, after all, ‘reduce, reuse, recycle- – wins on all three.

    Your broad beans look good – mine are about to be pinched out, and not a sign of a pest (yet). Even me just typing that means that all the blackfly in north wales are now converging on my plants…

    1. Hi Kate, I’ve just been enjoying your bluebells! Hopefully the blackfly will get distracted and stop off in Mid Wales instead… Garage panels for paths sounds perfect, and yes, I am all for the three R’s, or even better, the four Rs, “Refuse” – not to be confused with rubbish ;-)

  16. Love the paths!!! Impressive! I could not even begin to imagine what it would look like if I were challenged with the same task. How exciting- the first strawberry!!!! Great blog! Glad I found it!
    K

    1. Hi Kacky, thanks for stopping by and commenting. We each had another two strawberries this evening, meagre portions perhaps, but so tasty, little explosions of fruity goodness. Roll on the main harvest!

  17. Your paths are wonderful. I’m learning the perils of grass paths and that recycled stone looks pretty darn good to me.

    1. Grass paths – work + weeds! FIL collected the remaining stone yesterday, so we will be gradually removing more grass and playing giant jigsaws.

  18. A good bit of recycling for the paths. I’ll be checking the beans later (when it stops raining – thank goodness for some rain). If the beans are starting to set I’ll pinch the tops out, that’s normally when I do it, or if blackfly appear as others have said. Good to hear you’re enjoying the allotment!

    1. Hi Damo, loving allotment life – despite the weeds. Went so sleep with the sound of rain and woke up to the same, wonderful! Will be on blackfly alert.

    1. That’s interesting, as I have two lots, different varieties, one planted a month earlier than the other. Wonder what the differences will be…

  19. Janet, I had been thinking we had not heard about your plot for a while. Clever gardener if you get results with your lollo rosso, minus slug pellets. Crazy paving good idea, grouting between the cracks will stop those annoying weeds from spoiling it.

    1. Hi Alistair, I think grouting is a bit too serious for our allotment plot! We reckon on moving in the next 18months, so investment has to be in things we can take with us. Mind you, whoever took over might thank us. On the other hand, they might prefer a totally different layout. I am resigned to my allotment life being full of annoying weeds!

  20. Those paths look great! Definitely time well spent I’d say. Just think of all the weeding you won’t have to do because they’re there. Best thing I ever did was put in paths!

    My parsnips sound at about the same point as yours – just a few starting to poke up. Still waiting on that first strawberry – not quite there, must be perfect for first taste – it’ll be baby daughter’s first taste of strawberry fresh from the plant, so a momentous occasion with full fanfare is expected.

    1. Hi Nancy, think you are missing a trick with your baby daughter – she needs a few experiences of bland supermarket out of season strawberries before experiencing the “proper” strawberry taste ;-) We’ve now collected the rest of the flatish pieces of paving, so are on a mission to rid ourselves of yet more grass paths…

      1. Well yeah, that’s the good bit – she’s tried the supermarket ones and thinks they’re great, so I can’t wait now to see her face when she tries the proper ones from the garden – soooo much nicer! Might have to get baby nets set up around the beds to stop her eating them all!

        And wonderful, very impressed at how much path laying you’re getting done! Such a lovely work saver in the long run. I really really must get around to taking out my last two paths. The others are all so neat and these two can only really be described as wilderness at the moment they look so awful!

        1. Love the idea of baby netting! I can see how a small child could be almost as much of a pest as an army of slugs, once he or she has developed a taste for home grown produce. There are worst vices! TNG just had a go at strimming the weedy grass paths we still have. Yuck. One day, I will have no grass paths in my veg patch at all, and will be able to concentrate on the veg beds instead!

          1. Oh yeah, me too, I share your dream! One day hey! Ours are annoyingly sized so the only tool for keeping them down is the shears. And they do a rubbish job. Not ideal. And all this dry weather means digging the weeds out will be hideous as it’ll be so compacted and hard. I’d wanted to get all the weeds out then lay down a very thick layer of wood chips – inspired by ‘one straw’ Rob’s veggie patches in the US (http://onestrawrob.com/2010/11/pit-and-mound-gardening/) – is supposed to be great for moisture retention and for giving fungal mycelium a place to bed in to help bring nutrients to your veggies. So I’m loving all this rain and am hoping it’s softening up that soil for the *big dig* when I get those last paths up!

  21. You’ll be glad that you spent all that time making the paths when it rains and gets all muddy.
    I think meeting other gardeners, swapping ideas, plants and gossip adds a lot to the best of hobbies. Sometimes it’s a very solitary occupation.

    1. Hi Janet, I agree on both counts! We’re hoping to gradually get rid of even more grass… Chatting to other people up at the plot is how I know how tall Purple Sprouting Broccoli grows and when people tend to start risking putting in their beans. I’d be much more lost if it wasn’t for the help I get from other people just sharing their experiences. I love it.

  22. Oh, you ration the first tastes of your harvest for yourself and family, too! I think I was counting the asparagus spears I sucked down in the garden and feeling guilty that they exceeded the number I harvested for my fiancee. The stone path looks great!

    1. Tricky, isn’t it! Though I think the chief gardener deserves the occasional little extra picked whilst e.g. weeding, a reward for the toil… When we move to a more permanent home we want to set up an asparagus bed. Do you think it would be fair to share it all out between four of us knowing that TNG doesn’t actually like it so would then give his to me?!

  23. It’s funny how there is some sort of inbuilt compunction to plant on every lottie visit but chatting can be quite a diversion in more ways than one. Your crazy paving looks great Janet and well worth all that hard graft.

    1. Thank you, yes, exactly, a planting compunction! But the chatting bit is great, and I learn a lot from it. Not to mention getting free rhubarb, strawberries, raspberries, and paving… Glad you approve of the paths! Laying them is fun. But hard on the hands.

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