A mixed year on the plot

If you've been following my "year in review" posts you'll know that they've been full of things I've enjoyed, and this one is no different, but it's also been a year of challenges. We knew when we took on our overgrown plot that it wouldn't be easy, but I don't think either of us realised quite how hard it would be either.

That said, it's still been rewarding, just a little bit more back breaking and soul destroying than we'd hoped for. And eating produce you've grown yourself makes your back ache just a little bit less, although in my case that wasn't helped by my "allotment tan" that gap between my shorts and my t-shirt, ouch!  (It's still brown now!)

But 2018 is a new year, and once again I'm already itching to thumb those seed catalogues and start planning where we'll plant things this year. And I'm determined that this year I'll make that cutting patch...

My allotment year in 2017 was a shorter year, in fact not a year at all as my posts only cover April to November, so there's another lesson for me and that's to get out there digging earlier this year.

If anything I think these two first two photos from my post in April checking in with the plot were to be indicative of our growing year - the celeriac above ground looked to be doing well, but below was just a mass of roots without the lovely celeriac bulb. We'll try again - hopefully with more success - I'm sure.

APRIL: IT LOOKS LIKE CELERIAC

APRIL: IT LOOKS LIKE CELERIAC

...NOT QUITE SO MUCH NOW THOUGH!

...NOT QUITE SO MUCH NOW THOUGH!

But I'm grateful for one thing for our first visit last year, and that's one of my favourite photos of the year - yes the one with the lichen, and yes I still liken my lichen a lot!

APRIL: I STILL LIKEN MY LICHEN

APRIL: I STILL LIKEN MY LICHEN

Later that month I had potatoes chitting everywhere. Almost every surface was covered with them and it felt like the potatoes had taken over the asylum, and that's still true today.  We're still eating potatoes we harvested in autumn last year - I told you there was a lot!  And that gives me a dilemma, as it's apparent we're not big potato eaters so I should grow less, but then they've done wonders for our soil, so we'll be growing them again.

...perhaps I should look for a different solution, it would most definitely be easier to start eating more potatoes!

APRIL: POTATOES CHITTING EVERYWHERE

APRIL: POTATOES CHITTING EVERYWHERE

By May my broad beans were planted out and our plot was looking semi-respectable again, and the battle of the onions lay ahead of us.  We took a new approach to the weeds too and rather than dig them up, decided to try blocking them out with soil in a raised bed.

MAY: BROAD BEANS AND A WEED FREE PATH  (IGNORE THE REST OF THE WEEDS!)

MAY: BROAD BEANS AND A WEED FREE PATH  (IGNORE THE REST OF THE WEEDS!)

The next month or so saw me wage that battle with the foxes over the onions. I'd like to call it a truce, but I think in reality they won and my onions never really recovered. It's the second year I've had no luck with onions so I'm going to give them a miss for a bit and hope that when we try again the foxes have forgotten, or moved on.

JULY: PROTECTING MY ONIONS TO NO AVAIL

JULY: PROTECTING MY ONIONS TO NO AVAIL

We did have a bumper crop of strawberries, and later raspberries and later still apples and it's these small wins that made having the plot so worthwhile.  Especially so with the strawberries as they were off plants I'd moved over from our garden - most of them free plants too from the runners, and you know how much I like free plants. And strawberries!

JULY: PLENTIFUL STRAWBERRIES

JULY: PLENTIFUL STRAWBERRIES

The plot next to ours continues to inspire me, but there's also an element of envy too. I know how much effort our small progress has taken, and at times I think ours will never be quite as together as this, but I also know that having it right next door gives us something to aim for. I suspect our neighbouring plot owner looks at ours hoping we'd hurry up and get it sorted, but I'm sure they also know just how much effort that will take.

JULY: NOT MY PLOT (OBVS)

JULY: NOT MY PLOT (OBVS)

In August we were back on the plot and making good progress, although there were notable losses - pumpkins, tomatoes and cucumbers, I'm looking at you, but once again we did have some beautiful sunflowers.

AUGUST: PLENTY OF BEAUTIFUL SUNFLOWERS STILL TO COME

AUGUST: PLENTY OF BEAUTIFUL SUNFLOWERS STILL TO COME

In September we were overrun with red and green bounty and feasted on borlotti beans and rhubarb - not together and all was good with the world. Our biggest harvest was later this year than the previous year, but it was much needed and our energy and enthusiasm was renewed. Phew.

SEPTEMBER'S RED AND GREEN BOUNTY

SEPTEMBER'S RED AND GREEN BOUNTY

But that wasn't the last of our harvests, we still had the potatoes to come.  In the end that took us two attempts, and I think we've still got some in the ground (mental note: need to check on these soon) and as I said earlier in the post, we're still working our way through the almost 10kg of potatoes. 

ALMOST 10KG OF POTATOES, WHICH IS A LOT OF POTATOES...

ALMOST 10KG OF POTATOES, WHICH IS A LOT OF POTATOES...

TINY SUNFLOWERS ON A VERY THICK STEM

TINY SUNFLOWERS ON A VERY THICK STEM

So thankfully there were highs in our allotment year, but there were also lows too, and lows that were lower than I'd expected to feel and I seriously questioned if we should keep our plot. There is still so much to do, but we have a plan to bring a new section of it into fruition this year, and I'm hopeful that won't be quite as bad as we hope. The section in question has been covered with tarpaulin since we took over the plot so at least there isn't the grass (above ground) to dig through.

Wish us luck - we're going to need it - and I'll keep you updated with how we get on.

A year in my garden

This year as well as sharing my year in photos I thought it'd be interesting to take a look back at a year in my garden. We've achieved quite a bit this year so that's one of the reasons for pulling everything together, but it's not just a "glory" post as I plan to do something similar next week for our year on the plot, and that will be far from that!  

But that's next week...

So starting in January I was waiting for my grass to grow, quite impatiently so I could make use of my new Stihl trimmer. But by the end of the month, there was little progress and in fact after a few days in Austria I returned home to a frosty garden, pretty but not much use otherwise.

JANUARY: WAITING FOR MY GRASS TO GROW

JANUARY: WAITING FOR MY GRASS TO GROW

In February I found some bulbs I'd forgotten to plant and the hellebores signalled that Spring really was on its way, definitely something to celebrate.

FEBRUARY: SPRING IS ON ITS WAY

FEBRUARY: SPRING IS ON ITS WAY

By March the dappled sunlight was tempting me out into the garden more and more, but more sunlight meant the start of the weeds, oh joy!

MARCH: DAPPLED SUN, LOTS OF WEEDS AND A PRODUCTIVE DAY

MARCH: DAPPLED SUN, LOTS OF WEEDS AND A PRODUCTIVE DAY

April saw me Spring Cleaning the greenhouse, and it looked much better for it too - from the reflections of me in the greenhouse show me in shorts, so it must have been warm!  It didn't take long to fill though, by the end of the month I was reporting it was already full.

APRIL: THE GREENHOUSE IS ALREADY FULL

APRIL: THE GREENHOUSE IS ALREADY FULL

In May's garden update we'd started work on adding the edging to the circles and with MOH a perfectionist, it was taking a while.  But it was worth it when we added the slate to our circles (and I'm sure you've seen at least one or two photos of these since then!)

MAY: ADDING EDGING TO OUR CIRCLES

MAY: ADDING EDGING TO OUR CIRCLES

May was a busy month for us in the garden, and our yucca wanted to get in on the act too and set about flowering, which we were very grateful for.  I also spoke to Katie Rushworth from ITV's Love Your Garden and got some advice and confidence to start tackling two of our garden's problem areas.

By the start of June I had a new favourite spot for a cuppa after a busy Bank Holiday weekend where I was sidelined temporarily by an insect bite and where we had lots of great help from my SIL and her husband, without them I'm not sure we'd have made the progress we did.

With my leg recovered it wasn't long before I was using my new secateurs to tame my patio trellis and I shared the start of our gabion basket journey, though in truth it had started earlier in May.

Our big party took place in June, and it was hot, hot, hot. So hot that we had to abandon plans to cook pizza, but were very grateful to have a new parasol to keep cool under.  There were gifts of plants, including the hibiscus and by the end of the month I was reacquainting myself with my greenhouse.

In July I was sharing how we filled our gabion baskets and of course it wasn't the conventional way.  And by the end of the month we were storing logs for the pizza oven in a further installation of gabion baskets, shortly followed by how I'd used some as planters.  I told you it wasn't conventional.

JULY: FILLING OUR GABION BASKETS

JULY: FILLING OUR GABION BASKETS

In August I noticed my succulents were flowering, as were the agapanthus and the giant fuchsias which I'd bought as tiny, tiny bedding plants what seemed a long time ago.  Our new sleeper bed had filled out too and was close to overflowing.

AUGUST: GIANT FUCHSIAS 

AUGUST: GIANT FUCHSIAS 

One thing's for sure and that's that my summer bedding plants had longevity this year. In September they were hanging on alongside the autumn colours, and that was to continue right up to the end of the year.

SEPTEMBER: AND THE SUMMER BEDDING CONTINUES

SEPTEMBER: AND THE SUMMER BEDDING CONTINUES

OCTOBER: YEAP - SUMMER BEDDING STILL

OCTOBER: YEAP - SUMMER BEDDING STILL

And much later than normal, it wasn't until November that we put our garden to bed.

NOVEMBER: PUTTING OUR GARDEN TO BED

NOVEMBER: PUTTING OUR GARDEN TO BED

The weather continued to be mild, but has since more than made up for it as demonstrated by my only December gardening post - what a difference a day makes. The Saturday saw us dash out into the garden to hastily cover up the pizza oven and logs with tarpaulin,  pick the last of the chillies (in December?!) before waking up to a dusting of snow. Not very much of course - this is London - but a dusting nonetheless. I've never been more proud of being a just-in-time-kinda-girl!

DECEMBER: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

DECEMBER: WHAT A DIFFERENCE A DAY MAKES

I hope you enjoyed this look at my garden throughout the year as much as I have reliving it creating this post. It's still not finished, and even when I think I can tick that box, I know there'll still be plenty more to do, that's the life of a gardener, hey?

I'm looking forward to seeing how it changes over the coming year, and how many of the things from October's to do list we achieve...

A year going left: Almshouses and the Power Station

Well this month, I have actually walked left as I've left the office. Not as much as I'd like, but one sunny but chilly lunchtime that's exactly what I did. It wasn't far because as I headed towards the Power Station I realised, that despite it being one of Greenwich's icon I'd not been close to it before. And it's quite big!

Greenwich power station and blue skies

And the skies were quite blue. Mostly.

But just before the power station was the pretty almshouses of Trinity Hospital, the wording around the sundial caught my eye. It's a long time since I learnt Latin at school, and so was none the wiser until I checked with Google later.  A time for everything, more apt that I"m sure it realises.

OMNIA TEMPUS HABENT, A TIME FOR EVERYTHING

OMNIA TEMPUS HABENT, A TIME FOR EVERYTHING

Walking towards the chimneys of the power station I spotted something else - I'm not even sure what to call this one, and stood even less chance with the Latin. This one translates to "and a time to every purpose under the heaven" so I'm guessing this is related to something more astronomical.

ET SUIS SPATIIS TRANSEUNT UNIVERSA SUB CAELO, AND A TIME TO EVERY PURPOSE UNDER THE HEAVEN

ET SUIS SPATIIS TRANSEUNT UNIVERSA SUB CAELO, AND A TIME TO EVERY PURPOSE UNDER THE HEAVEN

But look at those chimneys, I was fascinated by the black, presumably iron, outline, and by the brick repairs in the photo below. 

Look at the brickwork on the power station

It just goes to show that many buildings have stories to tell. I made another discovery too on that short walk, and that was a pub I've never seen before - I know, unreal - and I didn't even go in. It looks like a traditional local doesn't it, I am wondering though if it's got potential for a quiet(ish) after work drink when the pubs in the town centre start getting even busier as Christmas approaches. Maybe some research is needed...

And I discovered a pub I'd never seen before too

And one last picture - and yes, it's more brickwork - there was a row of terraced houses which had the glazed bricks below the rope feature and more usual bricks above, not every row of terraces have that, do they?

brickwork - how pretty is this

The weather right now is seriously testing my resolve to get out there at lunchtimes. I keep saying I prefer the bright and chilly winter days to the wet and damp ones, and I do, but deep down I'd much prefer it was a little warmer!

I'm interested to see what next month's update on my year going left will bring, as l've no firm plans, other than to go left of course!