Visitors and Residents on the Allotment

The visitors list includes myself, the thieves who broke into my shed and stole my fork, spade and rake (to be no doubt sold for a pittance at a car boot sale), then there are the more welcome kind, birds like Robins, Blackbirds, Blue Tits, Goldfinch and the occasional Greenfinch all pop in. And the big fat Wood Pigeon who sits in the tree and as soon as my back is turned flies down to see what I’ve planted and what is on today’s menu.

Also on the visitor list are the bees that I watch buzzing about their business. Come summer I’ll hear crickets in the long grass and hover flies helpfully pollinating. There are signs of visiting Badgers (they have a penchant for sweetcorn) and Foxes, Mice and Rats no doubt hide away up here, the occasional surprised Frog, and a few local cats who like nothing better to prowl and pounce around in the long grass or to doze in the sun on a shed roof.

The residents side of the equation includes some special native species - Slow Worms and Newts. I’ve been looking for them this last few days knowing that as it is warming up they will emerge from their winter hiding places. On the day I discovered the theft I saw my first Slow Worms of the year, a welcome sight and resident – they are fond of snacking on slugs and snails, a true gardener’s friend!

They inhabit the long grass and love nothing better than to hide under rocks or, as in the case of my allotment, under the tarpaulin that covers my manure heap. Nice and warm and cozy. I disturbed a couple of them the other day, I’ve come across nests of them in previous years.

So plenty of reasons to be cheerful – I have a Britsih protected species living on my plot (I haven’t seen the newts yet this year), they help control the slug and snail population, and occasionally I get to see and snap one.

All I have to do now is find replacements for my tools – do you know how hard that is turning out to be? It seems I am fussy about my tools, particularly my fork, it has to be the right weight, size, and most of all feel right in my hands. The search is on, and when I do find a replacement I’ll be etching and writing my details clearly onto them, and then finding a sneaky hiding place for them. And no I’m not about to divulge that on my blog :)

If you want to read more about Slow Worms then the article in Wikipedia is a great starting point, they are fascinating creatures.

About these ads

What do you do with all those Bank Statements, Credit Card Bills and Utility Demands?

First off you either pay them or file them. Well, that’s what I do, maybe you do things differently.

Then when you’ve done that, and a few years have elapsed, and you FINALLY get round to having a bit of a sort out you shred or burn them. We have a fire but it’s May and I’m not lighting a fire just to burn a load of old paperwork, as lovely as the thought is of watching all that dry dull paper go up in smoke. So shredding it is.

I get a deep sense of satisfaction from shredding, putting the paper in the top, pressing the button and watching it get chomped. All those mechanical gnashers gnwaing away at the paper. Aaaahhhh, it has a kind of therapeutic pull, watching the tedium of paperwork ending up as paper streams. So what do you do with the shredded paper? Well our council won’t collect it – something about it being difficult to re-cycle. So it’s a case of re-use.

I re-use the piles of shredded paper we generate on the allotment. You knew that was coming didn’t you! I use it in the compost bins as my dry material – mixed in with the greens of food peelings, tea bags, coffee grounds and vegetable matter, it helps make lovely crumbly compost.

But I also use it as a mulch. It might not be the most attractive thing you can do in your kitchen garden but trust me, it works. It’s great for the plants and soil. When I first tried putting it on the ground I expected it to be picked up and flung around the place at the first mini gust of wind. To my surprise and pleasure it simply stays where you place it. See it’s well behaved as well as useful. Just don’t try laying it down on a windy day othersiwe you will be unintenionally decroating your garden with strips of white paper.

The biggest job that mulching does is to preserve water – it stops water evaporating, it helps to keep water in the soil around the roots of plants – where it’s needed most. And in a year that we gardeners have to garden in a “declared drought” we need to do everything we can to help keep the water where it’s meant to be – i.e. around the plants and not in the atmosphere.

It quickly breaks down – maybe 6 months maximum, so is soon gone as worms and nature dig into it. And if you want to you can always layer some grass clippings on top of the shredded paper, again it will keep the moisture in and will break down. Making even more lovely crumbly compost-soil without actually putting anything in the compost bin.

Magic !

So next time a bill or a statement drops on the mat, remember there is, at some stage, the pleasure that comes from shredding and then putting it to good use with composting and mulching.

I think it’s time to start having a wander around the plot and checking up on how the loo-roll peas are getting on and what else is going on at the allotment.

Plastic Fantastic ?

When I first got my allotment I was faced by what friends termed a field – a field of couch grass and brambles, and no shed. It was slow work, clearing and turning the ground over, bit by bit reclaiming the land. I was realistic I gave myself a couple of years, after all it’s a hobby, I’m not retired and I wasn’t about to break my back.

With no shed I used to carry my tools up to the plot, as the ground was covered in weeds and grass I grew seeds at home and would transport my precious efforts up to the plot and create planting holes, and generally I had successes. Yes there were outright failures, but mostly I would get something, a return for my love and labour.

The first couple of years, I got into a pattern, sow seeds at home transport them up. Whatever I did it had to be cheap and cheerful. No expensive tools and garden centre trappings for me. A focus on the practical.

Slowly but surely I got the tools together, I worked out what I needed to garden and grow. I’ve always gardened, but at home, pottering around, with a shed nearby, water on tap and at the ready, bags of compost delivered. Having an allotment made growing at home look like a picnic in the park.

The site is exposed to sea winds, potential thieves and vandals and local wildlife. I was aware of all of these and so gardened around these “threats”. And as I’ve continued to garden and grow I’ve become more aware, maybe a bit more knowledgeable about where I buy my seeds from, what types of seeds I like and prefer, the methods I now use (like mulching and no-dig), and recently my thoughts have turned to what I’m doing to the environment in general with my gardening. Yes, the reasoning behind the title of this post.

Over the years I’ve amassed a collection of pots, tools and garden ephemera, a lot of them plastic. I’ve avoided buying the cheapest of the cheap – I need sturdy. I’ve tried to buy things that are bio-degradable. I re-use wherever possible, like using toilet roll inners as replacement plant pots, making paper pots like Celia over at the Kitchens Garden or re-using yoghurt pots, egg cartons. You name it, I look at everything twice maybe three or more times before I throw it away. I always ask myself, can I re-use this or that item in any way?

Mushroom boxes

But as I gather my seeds and bags of compost around me I find myself questioning the plastic that has accumulated in and around my garden and allotment. How good is it for me or my world? Is it necessary?  I read a great post by a blogging friend Sharyn over at The Kale Chronicles, A Word About Plastic where she discussed the use of plastic in the kitchen and pointed us in the direction of another blogger My Plastic Free Life who is attempting to live life without plastic, like not buying food that has plastic to contain it etc. Think about a bit more, it’s a real challenge, and not one I’m sure I’d be able to achieve. But just that mere act of thinking is a step.

Is there a way I could reduce the plastic on my plot and in my garden without the mini plastic mountain I seem to be individually creating?

I don’t use chemicals on my crops, wouldn’t dream of it, besides there is no need just a bit of wising up and awareness needed. So why would I, a reasonably bright woman blindly keep on buying and using items that involve heavy chemical processes and resources, who hates the thought of trashing the planet, thinks about what she does and the impacts, buy plastic pots of all shapes and sizes? Yes a fair few of them come from garden centres – they have a bad habit of using pots once and throwing them away, an act of re-using on my part.

So it’s time to start changing. The changes will be slow, I’m not about to clear the decks and throw away all the plastic pots. But one step I can make, and at the same time realise a long-held ambition is to create a seed bed up on my plot. An area set aside for sowing and starting off plants that are then later transplanted into their final positions. In one stroke I can eliminate the need for plastic trays, the compost needed to fill them, the holding mini-plastic greenhouse in the garden used to harden them off. Simple but effective.

But life and gardening is complex, creating a seed bed won’t solve everything, I will still need to start some plants off early and indoors – tomatoes and chillies spring to mind, but maybe over time I will find a way to grow these delicates without the need of plastic. I will have to find a way to cover my seedlings to protect them from the harshness of frosts or hungry pigeons; at the moment I use plastic netting or fleece material. Then there is the plastic coated wire netting that the cucumbers love to trail up against. I have plastic based frames and sheeting. The more I look and consider the more I seem to find.

I need to take a pinch of that realism that I had when I took my allotment on and approach this bit by bit, in small bite sized chunks. Creating a seedbed is one way and one step.

One step at a time, one seed at a time.