Thursday, 10 July 2014

Midsummer Reflections



When the year get to Midsummer I find myself in a reflective  mood, the Summer Solstice brings the  the longest day and this  marks the begin of the slow lengthening of the night and shortening of the day until the Winter Solstice,when the cycle of year begins again and the light slowly returns.


I love the light evening and often Pops and I go for late walks just wandering quietly, unless a fox or a cat crosses our path when Pops will lunge forward ready for a chase in which case I hang onto her lead and we fly along until the quarry has disappeared.  then she goes into sniffer dog mode. As we walked  last night we saw the moon rise in the East, It is nearly full, as I look at it I imagine the  Moon Goddess Cerridwen sending down silver rays of love and blessings from  sky above. In the West  the clouds were straggling across the blue sky colored pink by the setting sun.

As we walk in the evening the air is full of the perfume of summer jasmine, honey suckle, plants that attract moths to pollinate them, and we can see ethereal shapes flitting across our paths as moths are drawn fragrance of the plants.  In my own garden the fragrance from night scented stocks evening primrose, honeysuckle  buddleia and myrtle on warm night make it a delightful place to sit in the dark and watch the moths  and reflect on 2014 and  write my journal.

In the  early morning  the air in my garden full of fragrance  from the shrubs and plants which draw into the garden bees butterflies, moths, hover flies and numerous insects to feed on the nectar or collect pollen   The myrtle plant has just started flowering and will soon be filled with the buzzing of bees, some of which get quite dizzy on its heady nectar..The white Buddleia Davidii  has tall arching branches and clusters of white flowers with yellow eyes. Its fragrance attracts ladybirds, lacewings and on a warm day and evening is full of interest and scent, it towers nearly twelve foot high and through it can be seen the summer jasmine full of flowers and the insects flit from one shrub  to the next and onto the honeysuckle where bumble bees dive into the center of the flower and their "pollen  buzz" vibrates the pollen loose and showers them with gold which they brush into their pollen sacks, sometimes they bite into the base of the flowers to drink the nectar and then zig zag off to another plant.

On my plot  the red clover is now finished flowering so are the poppies, borage, logan berry cransbils, but the cosmos flowers are nearly ready to open as are many others, the blackberry hedge is full of flowers, as is the dog rose hedge and the wild flower among the fruit bushes, but the rich easy food sources of late, spring and early summer have finished for the moment and insects have to fly further to find pollen and nectar.  But   soon there will be a flush of bee and  insect friendly flowers opening.

The herbs are  beginning to flower, the buddliea-mint,the thyme in the fragrant lawn are full of  flower buds, white, blue red magenta, the marjoram are sending up spikes of flowers, the hyssop, nasturtiums are flowering, and the tansy is sending up flower spikes which are loved by hover flies, lady birds but not the bees.

Somewhere  on my desk must be the my to do lists for my plot but they do not seems to be so important now, the last vegetables of the summer season are ready to be planted and carrot seeds, beetroot seeds have been sown, The cold frame is filled wallflower, foxgloves, sweet williams, poppies, cornflowers all growing to be ready for planting in spring, in September more herbs and flowers will be sown  to be planted out in 2015

For now, mowing the grass, watering and weeding are the main tasks of summer and of course harvesting the crops as they become ready. It is a time for friends to visit and share a picnic and while away a sunny evening. talking, reflecting and feeling gratitude for the all the living things that make our gardens and plots so fascinatingly interesting, bountiful  and beautiful


With Reiki golden light  and gratitude For Mother Earth
and

May the long time sun
Shine upon you
All love surround you
And the pure light
within you
Guide your way home.

Rumi

MerryB






















Friday, 23 May 2014

No Rhubarb Crumble!

rhubarb flower by incredible edilble
Sadly I have report the demise of my rhubarbs at the beginning of May. They threw up lots of  flowering spikes which I cut off and gave the plants  a mulch of well rotted compost and manure but to no avail they were dying. When I started to dig them up the roots had gone to mush and there was no hope of  their recovery.The crowns have served us well over several year.  The original two plants  were divided into four and had flourished for three or four years This year  there will be no rhubarb crumble made from our own plant on the plot.  This is sad because one of the joys of  May, for me, is to pick  and cook fresh rhubarb.

However the good weather over the past few weeks, has helped me to get on with my "to do  list" for my plot. There is a new urgency now to prepare beds as the french beans, sweetcorn and squashes have all germinated in my greenhouse and will need planting at the beginning of June. I have plants ready to go into my cut flower bed and I need to sow leeks for transplanting in their final position in August and still  the "to do list" goes on and on and on.....

I  made a start by digging a bed which had been flooded for several weeks in late winter.  It has a lot of weeds growing in it, a wonderful crop of plantain, grasses and other weeds.  I say digging but actually I have been using a garden fork which is gentler on the ecology of the soil and all the creatures living in it, which enhance the quality of the earth and benefit the plants.

I am going to empty the large wooden compost bin which has been cooking grass and tough plant stems for three years.  Hopefully there will be some good compost to layer onto bed 2 where I am going to plant the squashes and courgettes.  I will sieve the compost before I put in on the bed and add some well rotted manure into the mix then add more compost for the young plants to be planted in.  I am toying with the idea of getting a straw bale and putting that down first to make a real hot bed.   But as for now I am digging the to remove the weeds.  Luckily it was dug over at the end of December last year so the grass and weeds are not  rooted in too deep.


Slow worm
The only problem about emptying the large bin is disturbing all the creatures that have made it their home.  For many years I have had bumble bee nests on the plot, sometimes in the one of the  compost bins, I think my plot being flooded this year meant the queens steered clear of my plot. I have lizards and slow worms on my plot if they are there in the bin. I will leave the compost until September and go to plan B whatever that is! Slow worms are so vulnerable to us humans at the allotment strimmers cause harm to them, lizards and hedgehogs..  I  found a slow worm on one of the allotment paths it looked as if a car had run over it but it was still alive.  I picked it up with a handkerchief and moved out of the way.  It shed its tail which fortunately was were it was injured.  Many people do not realize that if you pick up a slow worm with bare hands the warmth of our hands can burn them as they are a cold blooded creature.


mmm maybe I will build
 a chamomile bench next.

photo  Morehaven nursery
My fragrant lawn is developing I have another tray of chamomile Treneague growing which I will take to the plot this weekend if it eventually stops raining.  I have put in some chamomile lawn plants in already and they are growing well. By July the plants, I hope, will have merged together to make a fragrant space out side my shed.  In the middle of which Pops dog has decided that the red clover plants will make a wonder bed for her under the shade of the apple tree.  Oh sigh, I have another half tray of penny royal mint plants to add to.the lawn they will grow under the apple tree as the prefer a shady position   Maybe Pops will like them as an alternative bed! 

It has been awful few days as far as the weather goes here in Hampshire, gloomy grey skies, blustery, chilly winds and heavy rain but hey the sun is breaking through now.   I going to take Pops dog for a long  walk through the park and maybe down to the beach. So I will wish everyone sunny days and good gardening.

  
With Reiki blessing to you

MerryB

Sunday, 11 May 2014

It cannot be May already!

I go to my plot regularly and yet when I look round there seems to be so much to be done. Sometimes I feel I will never get all my beds ready for planting.I have to remind myself how much I have achieved since the beds became workable at the end of March.  So this is a reminder to me not to get down about how much is still to be done.



When I am down I make myself  stand and look at all the plants that are growing now.  So here is a snapshot of my plot as it was when I left it yesterday afternoon.  My beds are numbered by me one to nine plus two Herb beds.  The herb beds are flourishing, the lovage, angelic, tansy and my logan berry are in the bed alongside the shed and they are growing exuberantly  and just about accommodate each others growth. I call this my thugs bed there is a cransbill on the edge of it., a lemon balm,  and a bears birches not quite submerged under the competition. The bed by the gate is also growing well, filled with white and blue borage, cotton lavender, thymus, pineapple mint and Sage which is just ready to flower. That bed is full of colour and looks beautiful.  I have  been given a banana tree which I will plant along side I will put a bentwood trellis behind it to act as wind break.


All my trees are growing and full of fruit buds, as are the fruit bushes and all the cutting I took from them  last year are growing and will be fruit themselves in a couple of years.  However the grass is growing back despite being cleared twice from the beds.  The garlic beds are doing well,  even after being under water in February and March.  My golden hop cut down at the end of September  is growing well, with the blobs of blue which dripped on it. when I was painting my shed last week.

The shed being painted is another tick off my  very large list of jobs to do. I cleared behind the shed, gave the inside a spring clean as well and cleaned and sharpened my tools last week.  So more ticks for jobs done..  In front of the shed I am growing, I hope, a fragrant lawn.  Yesterday I planted Chamomile nobile, a compact marjoram, Thyme Minimus, creeping Penny Royal, Acorn Marjoram. I also planted a Lavender Munstead  which is  an old fashioned lavender very hardy and does well in  coastal areas.  It  has lovely violet blue flowers in summer.  Eventually it will grow to 60 cm. 

Poppy dog has already tried out the plants for toughness  when walked on sat on or laid on. She was a upset as she got hit by  my broom which was propped against the shed and was blown across to where she was sitting by a huge gust of wind.  She came to tell me enough was enough and she wanted to go home.  The final straw was it began to rain and she plonked herself on the new plants and laid down/  I did not like to move her as she looked so fed up, but eventually she got up to collect a treat and the plants were fine. Phew.

I have planted two lots of sweet peas Snopea a low growing self sporting plant, and Fragrant Mix,  a bed of potatoes Duke of York and Anna, one bed of of chard and spinach, a new bed broad beans. The pigeons ate the ones I planted in November!  I have put in new strawberries,  the older plants are still in another bed because it too wet to grub them out and I decided to move them after they have fruited..  They are flowering valiantly despite.the grass that invaded the bed while it was flooded. 

I put tall willow hoops in front of the  dog rose hedge to give the roses some support and all but one survived the gales, replacing that hoop is another job on my to do list. I have made an arch at the entrance to the plot which is looking wonderful.  My plan is make a willow arch between beds 6 & 7 to grow the beans up.  I made one last year which worked quite well but by August  needed to be supported by bamboo canes.  I am hoping that with the aid of Jim Longs book  about using bentwood in the garden the new arch will be tough enough to bear the weight of the beans without aid from Bamboo.  

When I survey what I have done since March it quite a lot but two beds are full of grass and I need to hoe and weed the beds that are already planted..  Brambles from my neighbors plot and bind weed  are creeping through into bed 8 & 9  and  I know I need to deal with them soon.  I am determined to try to eradicate it from these beds by the end of May as I have globe artichokes growing in the greenhouse. they will need to go in the ground in June.  Oh sigh it makes me feel despondent to think about it.


Another area of concern is that the brambles I was trying to grow neatly along the edge of my plot decide urban order was not for them and they are thicken up ready to grow into a bramble hedge once again.  I have decided it will be good to have a willow patch so far down the edge and then a lovely thick hedge of brambles along the rest.  I will put in stakes and use rope to mark where I need to stop them growing beyond as it is on the edge of a disabled path. Hopefully it will not fall foul of yet another Health and Safety  worry from a concerned busybody.  the hedge which had grown for there for twenty years or more was grubbed out by the council because someone had reported a Health and Safety issue .it was well kept and was always cut back from the path, but Hey Ho  a superb hedge and wild life habitat had to go!.  
One of the well established allotments
At Farm Terrace Watford
 Save Farm Terrace

Oh I am moaning again I must think positively and believe soon all the beds my plot will be be growing vegetables, fruit, flowers and herbs and the to do list will be complete, that is  until I start another one .My plot is very peaceful and  I feel privileged and grateful to have it.  When I read about Farm Terrace's battle with Watford Council to keep their Allotments I realize how lucky we are in Portsmouth.  But the developers have become Kings under the new planning laws the Government have introduced and all our allotments could be up for land grabs.







With Reiki blessings
and happy gardening 

MerryB


The first  flower on the Masquerade rose  2014,
 The rose bush is 20 years old or more






  .

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Time To Start Digging My 'No Dig Beds'

It’s time to Get Digging.  Normally I take a ’no dig' approach to the beds on my plot.  I  put a dressing   of manure and compost  on the top soil in the Autumn and then sit back and let the worms and frost do the work.  But this year, here in Hampshire, we have had almost no frost  - at least not yet!  My soil after all the rain became water logged  and is hard  and compacted and frost and ice crystals have not broken up the soil texture. Then the worms have not been at their usual task of  drag down the compost and manure which usually disappears over winter.  So it is time to get out the fork, spade and plank to stand on and start digging.

lovely photo  ofLangstone Harbour
Emsworth Wildlife Society
I do not have to dig to deeply and I will be adding some seaweed to the soil.  There are banks  ofseaweed on the mud flats around Langstone Harbour but it is  designated a site of special scientific interest or a special area of conservation and therefore  should not be collect for the allotment.   I use liquid seaweed extract and calcified Sea weed, from a sustainable source. Calcified  Seaweed is a good soil improver, especially after such a wet winter.  It can also be used instead of lime, it provides a useful source of potassium, magnesium and trace elements which may by missing from some popular fertilizers.e. These trace elements are important for healthy growth .During the growing period I use liquid seaweed extract as a foliar feed on vegetable plants and flowers.. It give a real boast to the cosmos plants after they have been flowering for a while and they flourish afterwards and flower profusely until the Autumn.

RHS Acantheae

While I have been waiting for the soil to dry out enough to work on, I have made an arch to one of the entrances to my plot and moved  my Tansy and a hyssop to new growing sites.  One advantage of wet soil is that these deep rooted herbs came out of the ground easily.  I have created a willow cage over the the Lovage as it  is near a path and it is easy to step on the growing crown.  I made one also for the Bears Breaches plant (Acantheae) which I have grown from seed.  Again it is near the edge of a path and after three years waiting for it to flower I would hate it to be crushed  through a carelessly placed boot. Here is a picture of what it should look like this summer.  If it does flower I will have a great sense of satisfaction of having grown it from seed but perhaps getting a root division would have been quicker and easier.  

The past weekend was lovely and I enjoyed being at my plot pottering around the edges of the bed doing  the jobs I could do.  Maybe this week I will be even be able to cut the grass and dig some - a bed ready to plant my early Potatoes,
!



With Reiki blessings

MerryB 

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Working on A Paddy Field

My plot is more like a paddy field than an allotment.  There is about four inches of water on most beds.  The fruit trees on my plot all survived the gales, the crab apple even had some tiny bunches of apples still on it.  I had left these on for the birds but I think the wind and rain made it difficult for the birds to eat them.  Usually they are eaten by February.  My shed is still standing but it needs painting as the wind and rain has worn away the protective coating on the wood.


I saw a couple of Queen Bumble bees out on Sunday I was pleased to see them but they were having to work hard to find food.  I am not going to empty the compost bins to raise the level of my beds yet as there will be creatures and insects sheltering in them.  The wild life must have been devastated and I was wonder how my lovely big worm will have survived.  However,worms obtain their oxygen through their moist skin and  do this through the air, but as water is H2O they can get oxygen just as well from water.  So they should be OK in the flooded beds

Kevin Butt from Lancaster University explain in a interview on the Naked Scientist Website:

Some people think that if a worm is buried and gets flooded, then they would seek to escape.  But they don't need to because they can get the oxygen they need from the water.  However, quite often we see earthworms on the soil surface or on pavements seemingly trying to escape from inundation of water.  Perhaps, it's not that, maybe it's something slightly different - that the animals are actually trying to make use of the moist conditions in order to move away from their burrows, if you like, to pastures new so that they can mate with individuals that are not closely related to themselves. 
So I can relax and stop worrying about the earthworms on my plot now it is flooded. They will survive! I will also let them wander to pastures new if the urge takes them.

This week I intend to work on projects that I can complete round the edges of my plot, building and arch over one of the entrances to my plot.   Putting in 5 foot stakes and supporting wires for my loganberry which is growing and growing.  I planted it February last year and it is looking healthy and ready to crop well this year.  I am also finishing my willow hoop fence which will support and frame my dog rose hedge.

My potatoes are now chitting in egg boxes in the dinning room ready to plant next month  when the soil has warmed up and dried out.  What I may do is sandwich them between compost and then put a further mulch of well rotted manure  5/10 cm - 2 to four inches on top.  This a method Charles Dowding recommended in his book Organic Gardening:
This gives a higher yield and results in fewer slugs and keeps the tubers white.
I received a packet of annual flowers as gift last year and I sowed them in late September, I have 50 or more  plants now and do not know quite what to do with them, they have grown really well, but I now need the space for sowing vegetables, herbs and flowers.  They are now out ot the greenhouse, with fleece ready to cover them in case of frost.  I  have heartease, and white campions plants  ready to go out but even in my garden the soil is too wet and very cold.  So they will have to be nursed along for a while yet.

There is plenty to do at my plot and in my garden but grey days do not inspire me to go out for too long. However, Spring is here my daffodils, violets, crocus and snowdrops tell me, and sunny warm days will return.


With Reiki's golden light and blessings

Merry B



Friday, 7 February 2014

Weaving Willow on my plot

I hated fences and barriers around my plot, but, last April faced with two industrial sized poly tunnels alongside my plot I have been thinking of ways to screen their hulking ugliness from my view.  Last March I planted a hedge of dog roses along 4 meters on one side, and created a new seating,& potting area on the side of my shed, where I could glimpse part of the expanse of the allotments,  I was given a roll of blue netting and so fenced off my top bed ..  I hated it but, hey ho, if I was ever to get anything  growing that season  I had to put up with it.

I  made a lovely willow arch at  the entrance to my plot, but unfortunately when I cut my willows  it was just before we had snow in Hampshire which lasted several weeks and the willows lost their flexibility,  This year, having learnt a lesson, I am cutting the willows as I need them for a structure.  I have started a willow hooped fence in the edge of one side of the plot to support the dog roses. The hoops are six feet high and they will frame the dog roses as well as support them.  When the rain abates I will weave a wattle band across the top and bottom of the hoops  to strengthen them and may be create a design for the center of each hoops also from willow. 

My Christmas "book stocking" contained Jim Long's book about making trellises gates and fences from bentwood,  A great book with easy directions on how to make different structures.  It is a books that has inspired me to be more adventurous about how I use my willows and other wood.  I will be raiding my dead hedge for gate posts and bracing struts for my new Arch  When the rain and gales eventually fade away in Southern England  I will be making a gate, trellises, and an arbor for growing sweet peas and climbing beans.  I made one last year which worked well but as the willow was brittle it had to be supported  in places by bamboo as it sagged under the weight of the beans.  This year I will use side braces and cross struts then it should last for three or more years. Oh that  sounded almost professional!    I hope to start work on the arbor in the next few weeks once the soil is a lot less soggy than it is at the moment and I wont sink ankle deep into mud. In the meantime I I will work on the the fences and the gate.  

Other jobs I will get on with over the next few weeks is putting in new post and wire for my loganberry and post and wires for the grape vine. I grew this  from a cutting and it is now big enough  to be set in its position by my shed, yet.another screen for my plot, this time around my sitting area. 

I am becoming a recluse?  Err yes it seems so.  Being shut off from other plots by the community plots'  second ugly Poly tunnel was awful . However it is also means that I can quietly grow my herbs trees,  flowers and vegetables in my own style, and nurture the birds bees, butterflies, insects and amphibian in peace.  I am creating a lovely haven but also social spaces to share, with friends,  and drink Rooibos tea blended with fresh picked herbs.  Sunny days  for Pops dog and I to look forward to in my retreat by the sea  - soon I hope!


With Reiki Blessings
MerryB

Sunday, 1 December 2013

Marjorom - or is It Organeo?

New blog has been published on:
A ramble through attributes of the herb Marjoram, how to grow and use in the kitchen and in healing.  Two lovely Potato recipes are included.

With Best Wishes

MerryB