Slow painting

Thursday 28 May 2009

Tea break visitor

As we sat having a tea break on Saturday afternoon we saw the fox trotting along the road at the front of our plot. My husband was fishing in a plastic bag for some biscuits, and as he did so the fox paused, sniffed the air, and then came trotting purposefully up the far side of the plot and round behind the shed. I got up to get the camera, thinking I would take a shot of it as it went past. When I came out of the shed, it was right where you see it in this shot, staring intently at my husband as he bit into a biscuit. Then, incredibly, it sat down and begged.

A piece of yoghurt-coated raspberry biscuit bar went winging its way, and was gobbled up. In this next shot it looks exactly like a dog, mouth watering, grudging its owner every bite:

After throwing it a chocolate chip cookie, my husband told it that was all it was getting, and to go away. So it did.

Later, when we were shutting up the shed to come home and the plastic bag rustled again, the fox reappeared. I don't quite know what I feel. Rather sad to see it so tame, but pleased that it's obviously having a good experience of humans at the allotment site.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

One pea and a weed

That's the pea, and this is the weed:

Or...all that I got from my first sowing of green peas (Ambassador). I've now re-sown, and have the grand total of 9 plants through from 14 peas. Almost time to sow again for a successional crop, and I'll be watching anxiously to see what comes through next time.

Meantime I've been thinking I should try broad beans next year, if anything for their black and white flowers which the bees love so much. Rafael at 'Un jardin potager en Languedoc' (a vegetable garden in Languedoc', has generously posted some broad bean recipes with French flair, in response to my plea for ideas beyond the British 'plain boiled or in white sauce' standard way with beans. The recipes are in English - do have a look. In fact although the rest of the blog is in French you can click on a 'translate' button for an English approximation. Apart from Rafael's own plot there's an interesting account of creating a hillside plot in the Tarn region, with great photos.

Monday 18 May 2009

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - 15th May

I started out at the front of the house, thinking that the few things that were blooming were there. These are trays of trailing Petunia surfina which my daughter is growing on from plug plants. On their own initiative she and a friend have taken on the 'greening' of the music school courtyard at their school. These petunias will be planted out in old, tall African drums as a centrepiece in the courtyard. They'll go in next week, once the risk of frost is past. For the moment I'm looking after them, as my daughter is away for two weeks of hillwalking.

They're very sweetly scented, but I've noticed that bees aren't attracted to them at all. I've recently resolved to plant many more flowering plants that bees and butterflies like - more about this in another post.

The bees do however like this Geranium 'Ingwersen's Variety'. I love to sit on the bench beside it and watch and listen to the bees at work.

In the back garden I really had to hunt for flowers. We have plenty of green - a whole range of greens, from acid to mid to dark.

A Pulmonaria peeking through the foliage of spent dwarf narcissi.

A cheerful saxifrage.

A strawberry blossom, complete with ant.

The Brunnera is going over now.

Periwinkle 'Vina major', which is getting too big for its own boots, and which I'll have to tame a bit.

And finally, peeking out shyly among all the green, the first flower of the Geranium 'Bressingham Blue'.

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day for May is here at May Dreams Gardens.

Wednesday 13 May 2009

Blight, already?

Nothing sweeter than a May evening at the plot? Yesterday evening's quick jaunt to the plot, which I expected to be balm after a fraught working day, turned out to be nothing of the sort. "Never construct", wrote one of the French dudes I wrote my thesis on. Gustave, you were right.

For a start, it was bitterly cold, that bone-chilling cold peculiar to the East coast of Scotland in May (and June and...). We were muffled up to the ears in anoraks and wished we'd worn gloves. We found the grass verges and 'lawn areas' of the plot romping away - well, we'd expected that after two weekends away, but all the same it looked unkempt. We met another plotholder whom my husband knows from church, and her news was all about her husband's stay in hospital and his declining strength. We looked around the plot and knew we had no time to do anything much, but could see so much that needed doing. I hoed between the shallots and onions. I walked to the gate and back with a distraught plotholder who had lost his keys to the site and couldn't otherwise get out. The bitter wind blew.

We stared glumly at the raspberries, and decided to cut our losses with the row that hasn't come through this year. And then we saw a potato plant that hadn't been there two weeks ago, with what looked suspiciously like blighted leaves. And then I noticed that our new season's crop, just peeking through, was also looking rather nasty about the leaves.

We dug out the rogue plant, but left the others for the time being. After checking in my Encyclopedia of Organic Gardening, I now wish we'd dug them up too, or at least taken off the affected leaves. It seems that rogue potatoes from a previous year's crop (or 'volunteers' as they're known) are a prime source of blight. I'll have to see if I can steal time to get along to the plot tomorrow evening to whip out the three plants that are affected.

Good news? Well, I got a special offer on pot-grown raspberries from Ken Muir, and ordered a replacement six canes. They're a variety called 'Tulameen', named after a community in British Columbia. This pleases me a lot! Apparently they come through late each year, so are less susceptible to frost, and are pretty winter hardy, having been bred in BC.

But just now, it's slow going indeed.

Sunday 10 May 2009

Plot thug

Thumping great Comfrey 'Bocking 14', the thug of our plot. In a misguided moment when we first took over the plot I planted a few roots of this, looking to make comfrey 'tea' fertiliser and use the leaves as a compost activator. Mistake!!! It grew, and spread, and spread again. The bees loved it, but it was taking over. I took it out. It grew again. And so it goes on. Each year I think I've got it beat at last, and each year its perky leaves pop up again. Here it's about to encroach on the shallot bed.

We haven't been able to get to the plot this weekend because of preparations for our daughter going away for 2 weeks of serious hill walking with school. I have a feeling that Bocking 14 will have taken advantage of the lull. Perhaps for the first time this season, with no school for one child and the other on exam leave, we can abandon duties at home and get along to the plot a few times. There's nothing sweeter than a May evening in the garden with the blackbirds singing, even if it will be spent digging out the thug.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Thriving...and not

One row of raspberries is thriving. The other is very definitely not.

It could be that the soil is just heavier and colder here, and that these canes are just behind - our plot does have bands of clay in various places, and this may be one of them. But looking at such leaves as have started to emerge from the buds, I see that they're stunted and wilting, as if afflicted by something. Could it be a virus??? Several of the stools have new growth coming from the base, but a couple of stools have nothing fresh coming through. I'll adopt a wait and see policy, but if nothing much shows in another few weeks I'll take the dead canes right out and leave the ground fallow until the autumn. Then, as I've found from a BBC Gardeners' Question Time transcript, since I can't relocate the raspberry site completely I'll dig out the soil to about 18 inches and infill with new soil before putting in new canes.

This is disappointing in what we'd hoped was our first full year of a raspberry crop. I guess we'll savour what we do get all the more.

Monday 4 May 2009

All mine

...because no-one else in the family will touch it. I can't understand this. As a child the spring rhubarb was a very welcome fresh taste after a winter of tinned fruit and increasingly wizened apples. No imported raspberries from Guatemala in the north east of Scotland back in the 60s and 70s. But my children won't eat it, and my husband shudders at the sight, reminded of boarding school puddings. How can they resist? Look at those gorgeous pink stems. Compare them with the green tree trunks on sale in Tesco just now for £2.00 for not a very big amount.

However, I do have a weak point when it comes to stewing rhubarb. I put it on the gas on a very low heat, and I go away and read some blogs. Then, as was the case 10 minutes ago, it begins to dawn on me that there's a pleasant, if rather burnt smell coming from the kitchen. Almost in the same moment I remember that I have rhubarb cooking on the stove. Result - a boiled-over pan, a lake of pink juice in the well of the gas burner, and a sticky mess to wipe up. But it was worth it for the blog-reading episode I managed to fit in before starting some ironing.

Sunday 3 May 2009

Hard work

This is from a week ago now, when we put in a strenuous afternoon of the sort you're not meant to do. The once a week blitz that's so frowned upon by some sectors of the allotment fraternity, and was the impetus for starting this blog. Last weekend an afternoon was all we had, and we worked flat out. The children (strong, healthy teenagers) pleaded exam revision, but there's going to be no escape for them once the exams are over. So it was the aging parents' work party.

Achievements: two rows of British Queen potatoes planted, giving us five rows of tatties so far. I still have Desiree potatoes chitting, but I may not have room to fit them in. Digging over a weedy patch where the leeks had been. Removing the net from the broccoli and kale to let the bees in to the flowers. Weeding around broccoli and kale. Watering raspberries with ericaceous feed. Watering salad sowings. Pushing in onion sets that had been pulled out by birds. Clearing weeds from around the blackcurrant bushes. Picking rhubarb. And strenuous digging by DH to start to reclaim more ground.

This is the result of that digging:

It doesn't look much, but it was hard work, and it will give us another row of something.

The salads were just beginning to come through, although the corn salad wasn't showing yet. I have my doubts about it - again. Am I sowing too late when it's too warm? It certainly doesn't feel overly warm.

The ground was very dry, hence my watering. It must have worked as a rain dance, for during the week we've had a good deal of rain. A day of heavy drenching at first, and then days of showers and sun. People in my office thought I was mad to be delighted at the sight of rain.

The soil round about the blackcurrants is such a joy. It gets the brunt of the leaf fall from the sycamore trees every autumn, and all that leaf mould year after year makes for rich, crumbly soil.