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Spring Light

01/05/2020

At last we have had rainfall at the end of one of the driest Aprils on record. The ground is still saturated further below the surface from the heavy rain and floods in February, but the young seedlings in my raised beds will need to get their roots further down to benefit.
One day, I arrived at the allotment early in the morning. I enjoyed the soft sunlight at that time and the ground was still wet with heavy dew from the night before. I did some weeding, leaving alone the poppies that are springing up all around the plot and I observed one of the Californian poppies opening wide as the daylight grew. Last year’s flowers were orange, but this one had delicate pink, magenta and yellow hues.
In the same bed, asparagus spears are appearing in greater numbers, a little later than on other plots since mine was particularly waterlogged this winter. Other annual plants are also coming to life. Already there is a globe artichoke developing atop one of the tall stems and the vine is fast sprouting fresh, green leaves. Every autumn, after the leaves have died off, I cut the branches right back. Another plot-holder, who is of French origin, recommends cutting to two leaf notches. He told the story of a farmer whose sheep were left to roam in the vineyard. They nibbled the plants back and that way it was discovered the benefits of hard pruning to help deliver a better crop of fruit.
The apple blossom on my Charles Ross tree is one of my favourite flowers. I keep looking at it and taking pictures of it, only sorry that the flowers are there for such a short length of time each spring.

Gardening for Exercise

31/03/2020

Ten days ago, I cycled through Kensington Palace Gardens on my way home from work. It was an oasis of calm and beauty amid the chaos as people rushed to gather supplies in light of the fast emerging pandemic crisis. I was struck by the well-manicured front gardens, displaying blossom-laden trees, camellias in full bloom and one with a multitude of tulips set in a broad, curvaceous bed.
I now have plenty of opportunity to enjoy my own spring flowers on the windowsill. Inspired by a feature on Gardener’s World in the autumn, I layered bulbs in pots to produce a succession of blooms of pretty blue iris, daffodils, narcissi and tulips.
The best news recently has been that we can continue to visit our allotments during the lockdown, since it is considered a form of exercise. This is certainly the case, but the plot is also my main source of produce for most of the year and I have been harvesting purple sprouting broccoli for the past few weeks. Nettle tops, cleaver shoots (also known as goosegrass) and sorrel are in ready supply and I add them to soups.
The young leaves of broad beans planted a few weeks ago are beginning to show and I have sown a few rows of peas, radishes, celeriac and cabbage. My main job, however, has been to add the base layers from my compost heap to the beds in preparation for planting.
On a recent visit to the plot, I discovered a little burrow in the heap where I had emptied my compost bucket the previous week. Inside I could see a ball of fur and a tail. Last summer, I frequently caught sight of a small rat, contentedly making its way between both my neighbours’ overgrown plots and it seems to have now emerged again after the winter. Never having been partial to these rodents, I have to confess that, later in the day, it did look quite adorable when I spotted its furry face and whiskers alongside a trio of blue hyacinths.

Romanesco & Fibonacci

17/02/2020

In the past two weeks, I have undertaken the task of digging a ditch along the neighbour’s side of a waterlogged path between our plots. Not surprisingly, this was a muddy business, made all the more arduous by the fact that all kinds of rubble had been used to fill the old ditch.
As for the plot itself, there are heartening signs of new growth appearing now that the days are becoming longer. Already, I am beginning to harvest a few purple sprouting broccoli from about half a dozen bushy plants, which I have carefully netted against birds and securely staked to withstand storms Ciara and Dennis. I was also delighted to discover a Romanesco broccoli nestled in the leaves as I peered down into the centre of the plant. Yesterday, I saw a larger specimen in the food hall of Fortnum & Mason priced at £4! Romanesco, as the name suggests, originate from Italy in the sixteenth century. On showing it to a fellow plot-holder, he began to talk about the Fibonacci sequence. This was apropos the striking spiral formation, which was named after an Italian mathematician who lived during the thirteenth century, although he did not discover the sequence. It can be seen in many other formations in nature, such as in the pattern of a fir cone, or the curled, young leaves on a bracken plant. The number of petals on a flower will also match the numbers of the sequence made by adding the two preceding number to make the next, so 3, 5, 8 etc.
As I was busy digging the other week I heard the sound of what I thought was a goose overhead, only to discover when I looked up that it was a swan, its long neck outstretched as it flew across a clear sky. I imagine that is was a whooper swan, since it had a loud flight-call and these birds over-winter here from Iceland before making the non-stop journey back again in the spring.

Myrtle

20/01/2020

Last Sunday I managed to get a surprising amount of work done at the allotment for a mid-winter visit. The weather was mild enough to finish off pulling up weeds and then add muck as mulch onto the beds. I also unravelled several trailing stems of honeysuckle from two plants grown from cuttings given to me by another plot-holder last year; one is beside the plum tree and the other next to the vine arch in the centre of my plot. They are now wound around the branches of the tree and vine respectively and I am hopeful for an adornment of beautiful, scented flowers in the summer.
Next to the honeysuckle, at the base of the plum tree, is a large dandelion, which I have left in situ, partly because it would be awkward to dig out with a raised bed on one side and a prickly gooseberry bush on the other. There is also the fact that it is edible and I harvested the leaves throughout the summer and autumn months. The other day I went to a restaurant where I ordered confit of duck served on a bed of dandelion leaves. With the current trend for foraging I am making the most of all that the allotment has to offer, extending a handy supply of weeds to edible crops with the help of a book, given to me by a friend, called Root to Stem, A Seasonal Guide to Natural Recipes and Remedies for Everyday Life, by Alex Laird.
Against the sparse winter backdrop, a myrtle bush is flourishing beside my small pond with a mixture of vibrantly variegated and dark green leaves. It has done wondrously this winter, producing a steady supply of berries that change in colour from reddish pink to blue-black. The berries have many uses – I dry them along with the leaves and add them to casseroles – and the plant is said to have a number of medicinal benefits, with Australian myrtle honey apparently having the most powerful antibacterial properties of any honey in the world.

Winter Wilding & Overwintering Dahlia

02/12/2019

With the shortening winter days, my visits to the plot are briefer than usual. I continue to clear the ground of any dead material and remaining weeds while it is still soft and am mindful of the advice on BBC’s Gardener’s World not to be too tidy, so as to leave undisturbed space for wildlife. I then listened to Isabella Tree on Desert Island Discs last weekend as she spoke about how she and her husband let their farmland in Sussex re-wild, resulting in a wide variety of flora and fauna being able to thrive over time and balance to be restored to the ecosystem.
One of my allotment neighbours has been absent for the past year. She grew many plants in pots so the height increase in the growing season, from ground level and above, was dramatic since permanent crops and weeds alike were left to advance at their own will. I have recently harvested a steady supply of large juicy raspberries, growing on straggling stems, late into the autumn. A communal pathway running between two halves of the plot became very overgrown in the summer, forming a sort of tunnel. After a while, it was necessary to cut back the plants but until then I was struck by the number of moths and other insects, too small to be identified, that fluttered out of the foliage as I walked along the path. It felt magical and one could almost hear the rustle of their movement.
A few weeks ago I dug up my dahlia ‘Café au Lait’, which flowered late but was well worth waiting for. It is a precious new addition to my plot so I have taken care to overwinter it in the shed, first turning it upside-down to dry off the roots and now it is sitting in a pot filled with newspaper and compost until I can plant it out again once the frosts have finished in the spring.

Autumn Colours

03/11/2019

Last week, well into autumn, I felled a self-seeded sunflower that had grown like a tree to at least twice my height. It was sturdy enough for parakeets to perch and feed on seeds in the flower heads that sprouted one after another from multiple side branches. It looked somewhat incongruous with the shifting landscape into autumnal colours, the most striking element being an old oak tree on the far side of the lane leading to the allotments. Next to it is a smaller oak and then another just inside the fence. Frequently I find saplings dotted about the plot, most likely from acorns buried in the ground by squirrels. I am now loath to dig them up with there being an ongoing campaign for more trees across the UK and national efforts by the Woodland Trust – I have become a member this year – to help us become carbon neutral by 2050.
On the plot I continue to harvest carrots, chard, salad greens, kale and a plentiful crop of beetroot, including a batch from a second sowing in August. Elsewhere I am busy clearing and digging over the beds, which means disturbing a surprising number of frogs that hide among the debris of leaves and I hear them plop into the water filled ditches around the raised beds.
A couple of weeks ago a large dragonfly flew about my head and I could sense the power in its wings with which they can fly up to a speed of 30mph and in any direction. By its colouring, it looked like a Golden-ringed Dragonfly, the longest species of dragonfly here in the UK and apparently a voracious predator, with the ability to devour other species of its own kind.

Best of the Summer

28/09/2019

Summer has passed and we are now well into apple season. The Charles Ross apple tree, as ever, has flourished with a plentiful supply of attractive fruit, the drawback being that they do not keep for any length of time. Discovering holes in the apples is a tell tale sign that the birds are onto them – I suspect the local parakeets – and that they are fully ripe. Wasps then crawl into the holes left by the birds, which can make picking somewhat treacherous; I was stung twice in one day last year.
Success of summer crops has been varied, mainly due to a slow start in the spring and disruption to the freshly dug and seeded beds by a reprehensible fox. Two wood pigeons were seen by another plot-holder eating almost my entire crop of gooseberries in an area I had carefully netted, cleverly managing to find their way inside. I am making better gains with the autumn harvest, which includes three bagsful of potatoes and the most successful carrots I have ever grown.
On a floral theme, a colourful array of self-seeded poppies stole the show earlier in the season. Now, at last, the dahlia ‘Café au Lait’ has come into flower and I am stunned by the size of the blooms. During recent inclement weather, a large bumble bee found shelter by firmly retreating inside one of the curled petals until it was reluctantly evicted after I picked the flower to take home. Cutting the flower stems should encourage further blooms until the temperatures drop, halting new growth until next year.

What a difference a week makes

17/06/2019

What a difference a week makes in the great outdoors at this time of year. The sudden prolific growth of perennial plants at the allotment is, as always, something wondrous, not least the Russian Comfrey. Already I am cutting back any tall stems that are spilling out over the grass paths, but not before the bees have collected their bounty of nectar. The small purple, bell-shaped blooms are a winning lure for these insects, creating a zone of activity at one end of the plot.
At last we have had a substantial amount of rain to wet the dry surface layers of the soil, where the seedlings have been struggling to get off to a good start and take root. Unusually my sowings on the windowsill at home have not come to much fruition either. Many of the seeds failed to sprout and even second sowings at the recommended time of planting by the moon are making slow progress, no doubt partly due to the cool weather conditions this last week. There has also been another notorious and persistently disruptive obstacle to my gardening, and that is the fox. Undeterred by chicken-wire and hard wire mesh, this animal makes great holes in the soft, freshly dug earth after I have sown seeds in it. Another plot-holder recounted that he sometimes finds whole eggs buried by a fox in the ground. Who knows where it might be stealing them from?
Like the comfrey, the artichokes have grown immensely tall in a short space of time and several of the globes are now almost ready to eat. The broad beans and potatoes too are looking promising for a plentiful harvest and crops of strawberries and radishes are providing early pickings for the summer menu.

Final Chapter of Spring

09/05/2019

At a glance the plot continues to look a brownish colour over much of the space, save for the herb and fruit areas, which are now bursting to life and there is clear evidence that things are on the brink of rapid change. In the past few weeks it has been the turn of the beautiful apple blossom to unveil a final chapter of spring. For some, however, summer does not begin until the solstice around June 21st, although traditionally May 1st was the start of summer, hence the Maypole celebrations. This is a time when the soil has warmed up and sowing and planting can begin again.
My own preparations for the growing season have been made somewhat easier this year by the fact that we have not had a lot of rain. In previous years it has been necessary to minimise the amount of work to avoid creating a mud bath, as the site can become extremely waterlogged during the winter months.
The relative dryness of the soil is most likely the reason why a number of Oriental poppy seedlings have appeared once again around the plot. These have sprung from seeds lying dormant in the ground and I leave the plants in situ, since from past experience I know that they do not like to be moved. There are also several California poppies, with their brilliant orange flowers and fine, feathery foliage, which is apparently edible. The flowers close when the sun goes down, as do daisy and dandelion flowers, the latter being one of our most persistent weeds, but also another edible plant with a variety of medicinal properties that I can now harvest again to add to salads.

Preparations for the Growing Season

06/04/2019

As the days become longer and variably warmer the allotment is beginning to look prettier and more verdant again. Hyacinths, violets and primroses are in full bloom and I have been harvesting a good crop of purple sprouting broccoli over the last few weeks.
Preparations for the growing season have been more arduous than usual this winter, as I set myself the task of digging out the fruit patch, prickly gooseberry bushes and all. This is an area that had never been properly cleared since I acquired the plot in 2001. Couch grass roots had woven their way through layers of woodchip and old plastic compost bags laid down as mulch to help suppress the weeds. The grass, known to be cursed by gardeners and blessed by herbalists, has been used for thousands of years due to its antibiotic health benefits and high mucilage content. I clean the roots, cut them into smaller pieces before boiling them in water to make into a tea. The plant’s medicinal properties also explain why dogs often eat couch grass when they are feeling unwell.
The gooseberry bushes appear to be none the worse for having been uprooted and re-planted and the remainder of the bed has been given to three new raspberries of the variety ‘Erika’. These fruit twice, once in early summer and a second time in the autumn. The berries apparently grow large and juicy but hold their firmness. They will, however, need to be netted, along with the gooseberries and redcurrants, to avoid the fruit being robbed by birds, which may otherwise only be deterred by a passing cat or fox when we humans are not around.

Winter Chores

29/01/2017

One of a few suggestions for winter gardening chores in a newspaper article I read at the beginning of January was to get the mower mended. I have a petrol mower that I use to cut the grass on the paths surrounding my plot and whilst being a very efficient machine once it gets going, it often has trouble starting. Having arranged for the mower to be collected one morning I arrived early enough to see the place covered in a sparkling frost. By mid morning this had almost all melted away under a clear blue sky, with gulls and pigeons flying up high overhead and a pair of robins singing from tree branches close by.
With little to do when the ground is frozen other than pile up more muck as mulch on the beds and pick kale leaves and cabbage, I headed off again after a couple of hours.
The mower repair man gave me advice to leave the mower running at the start of winter to use up the remaining petrol, as this apparently does not keep well and so the water/condensation sinks to the bottom causing problems with the engine starting.
As with most green spaces at this time of year, the allotment is at its least attractive but a garden that has caught my attention on one of my cycle journeys to work is Meanwhile Gardens in North Kensington, close to Trellick Tower. An area facing the road opened last summer in celebration of the garden’s fortieth anniversary and still looks striking during winter with evergreen plants and flowers in borders outlined with brick paths and areas of grass. The gardens were created out of four acres of wasteland to be used as a community garden by a sculptor called James McCullough in 1976, with temporary permission from Westminster Council, hence the name Meanwhile. In the summer I may explore the gardens further along meandering paths away from the road. On the far side is the canal on which I regularly see a family of swans and even a large heron was there one morning.

Back to Work

16/10/2016

It is now time to get on with more rigorous work again on the allotment but, until the first heavy frosts arrive, I try to temper my eagerness to clear much of the beds whilst there are still plants growing.
A couple of rows of mange tout peas are doing very nicely, grown from seed planted in late August, having failed to sprout at all from a sowing in the spring. The pattypan squash too has several new fruit which I hope will have time to mature before the rest of the plant dies off.
This year I shall protect the rainbow chard from hungry birds before their food supplies begin to run short and the brightly coloured stalks can add a bit of warmth whilst all around is looking dull and bare.
Next to the chard are several parsley plants, which I would say have been my best and favourite new crop this year, mainly for the taste but also for the health benefits as parsley is rich in minerals, including calcium and iron. I have found it to be especially tasty cooked in a white sauce and served with home-cooked ham in cider.
If I had a wish for the allotment for next summer it would be to see the small, friendly bugs and flies that I have marvelled at in the past including shield bugs (these were around in great numbers one year), damselflies and dragonflies, comma and red-admiral butterflies as well as rarities like a hawk moth caterpillar and bombylius major. Even the frogs have deserted my small pond but the robins are certainly living up to their reputation of being the friendliest of birds with one chatty, young redbreast following me particularly closely as I begin to dig up the beds before winter arrives.

Summer Days

14/08/2016

At last it is possible to spend some time enjoying the allotment after months of hard labour. The place is quiet following all the bustle of spring and even the bees appear to move about the place in a lazy fashion.
There was, however, some excitement last week to interrupt the tranquillity. An upturned ceramic pot on another part of the site was discovered to have become a hive containing two cones of honey inside, so a nearby bee expert was summoned to assess the situation and he placed a wooden box on the ground into which he put the honey. Apparently, if the queen bee moves to a new location, the worker bees will follow and with this successfully done, the beekeeper returned later in the evening to remove the whole thing, bees and all, wrapped up in an old sheet.
This year I have raised the sides of the some of the existing beds a little higher and added compost and manure to help improve the soil, which seems to have paid off as most of the crops have done well so far this summer and the plot reached third place in the allotment competition out of the whole Borough. I wasn’t expecting such a high score from the judge and another surprise win was a silver cup and certificate for ‘best newcomer’ after I joined Chelsea Gardens Guild and entered my window boxes for the summer competition. The prize-giving was held at the much feted Chelsea Physic Garden at the beginning of August. Of course, it poured with rain throughout the whole evening, which meant that people merrily gathered around tables beneath an awning with a small band playing in one corner and the Mayor and Deputy Mayor of Kensington and Chelsea were there to hand over the prizes.

Went to Mow

14/01/2016

Just before Christmas a headline in the newspaper caught my eye that read, ‘Tis the season...to mow the lawn.’ I would not have imagined doing such a thing just before the winter solstice, nor picking a lettuce, but with such mild weather in December, which has not apparently broken any records here in the UK, the grass paths were looking untidy and overgrown and I had one lettuce left from a batch planted out in late September. I am glad that I took the chance to mow when I did, as now the place is water-logged and it would not be possible to run a heavy petrol mower around the plot without sinking in mud.
My efforts during last spring to provide a well-nourished bed for the brassicas has paid off and I shall be harvesting kale and sprouts throughout the rest of the winter followed by purple sprouting broccoli, which is already beginning to appear at the very tops of the plants.
Naturally the allotment site is not so attractive when laid bare in the coldest months but it remains a peaceful as well as intriguing place since I wonder about how the non-hibernating creatures go about their business when we humans are not around. The fox has been elusive for some time but there is evidence of its presence through holes I find dug in the beds every now and again.
Two robins are never far away and one appears so swiftly after my arrival at the allotment that I barely have time to leave the shed before it is chirruping in front of me. I imagine it is communicating something about worms, since it feeds well on them as I shovel manure onto the beds and compost heap.

Dusk

12/10/2015

The other evening I managed to reach the allotment after work with little more than half an hour left before dusk fell. There is a special quality about the place at that time of day. All was quiet and what I noticed most was a lovely fresh smell from the plants on the cooling air as I went about gathering vegetables.
I lit a candle lamp which hangs from the roof of my shed and the warm light from this, plus the green gingham curtains on one of the windows made the place look quite cosy, especially after a recent tidy and clean.
It is the end of the season and I am now harvesting the last of my beetroot and potatoes, although I planted a late crop of pink fir apple potatoes that still have healthy and bushy plants, so I shall leave these a little longer before digging them up. The lettuces have done well this year and have somehow managed to survive damage from slugs. A new row planted out about three weeks ago is growing very nicely and it is good to be picking a salad crop for eating at this stage in the autumn to which I then add nasturtium flowers that grow in abundance in my compost every year, until their sudden demise with the first hard frost.
The cucumbers, however, have not done so well and having only harvested one fruit this summer from two plants, I shall take advice from my plot neighbour who built a hotbed using about a metre of manure and a layer of compost on top in which to grow tomatoes and cucumbers.

Sunny September

29/09/2015

September has been a magnificent month and on sunny days I have noticed a variety of small creatures going about their business that I would have expected to see in greater numbers throughout the summer season. It is when the weather is settled and warm enough for the place to come to life that I am most happy on the plot, accompanied by two robins waiting to pick up worms as well as bees and butterflies dipping in and out of flowers collecting pollen.
Brown shield bugs have been the most prolific insect this year and I have rescued one or two from my car and kitchen having carried them home among the vegetables. It is the frogs living in my very small pond (a purple flexi bucket filled with water) that I find most entertaining, as they disappear beneath the surface and then re-appear again, their heads barely visible under the weed. I had thought that there were two in there but at the weekend I counted four!
The Victoria plum tree produced another bountiful crop again this summer and so I made several jars of jam and also a caramel cake from a recipe in One Year at Books for Cooks No.1 (1995, Prior Publications) that I would recommend. It can be made with different types of fruit, which are layered at the bottom of the tin, so it looks very pretty once it has been turned out.
My work on building extra beds and raising the sides of existing ones has given me more growing space and I took particular care in preparing the bed for the brassicas, adding garden lime and manure. These vegetables have done especially well and I should be able to carry on cropping kale and borecole throughout the winter.

Secret Garden

14/06/2015

On a few occasions, as I cycle to one of my places of work, I catch a very small glimpse of what must be London’s largest and most secret garden when a back entrance gate to Buckingham Palace is open and I can only imagine what kind of landscape lies beyond. This weekend there are many other hidden gems to explore as it is Open Garden Squares Weekend, organised by the National Trust. I visited a few gardens a couple of years ago and the roof garden at the Ismaili Centre was one of my favourites, a beautiful place of serenity in the midst of our bustling urban life.

My own garden at the allotment is somewhat hidden this summer as it sits between two untended plots that are now overgrown with tall grasses, buttercups and other wild flowers intermingled with brassicas that have gone to seed. It is an effort at this time of year to keep my own plot in good order and on each visit I am astonished at how much taller many of the plants have grown. Generally the weeds have not been too bad since I turned over the soil in the raised beds in the winter, adding manure and extending two, the largest and deepest of which is now filled with potatoes.

Elsewhere, most of the vegetables are coming along nicely and I have managed to grow lettuces to their full size, free of damage by slugs for the first time. My favourite additions to the plot this year are about half a dozen foxgloves, which are growing tall and gracefully among the herbs and I should hope may be admired by the fox itself, which remains elusive but for leaving holes in freshly dug earth, most likely in search of worms and grubs.

New Year

04/01/2015

This young fox (pictured) was one of a litter of cubs born in the summer of 2009. The cubs used to play in a ‘no man’s land’ area between the allotment site and the wholesale plant producer next door, which is full of brambles and all kinds of rubbish. The vixen was the least timid fox I have ever met and I suspected it was her that took away one of a pair of leather shoes I had changed out of whilst I was gardening, never to be seen again. One winter’s day, a longstanding plot-holder had fallen asleep in his shed and was awoken by the fox pulling at his sleeve, which I thought may likely have had something to do with a familiar jar of biscuits. The fox that is there nowadays is much more elusive, as well as destructive, since it frequently digs large holes in the soft soil, often just after seeds have been sown.
I have made good progress so far this winter on the plot and shall aim to finish building the new areas of raised beds before spring arrives. Today was a murky day but I shifted a large heap of old weeds and tangled stems to the compost pile and then added a layer of muck on top, watched by a robin at either end. I am looking forward to seeing the snowdrops when they appear next month and I spotted the tip of one hyacinth beneath the protective leaves of a strawberry plant.

Mid-winter

16/12/2014

As we approach the winter solstice and the temperatures are now dipping below freezing, I look forward to seeing a covering of frost at the allotment to bring some sparkle to the otherwise almost barren and messy looking landscape, when all manner of non-organic artefacts lie exposed on the site.
Although the frost remained on the ground in the shady patches last weekend, the day was bright and the air fairly warm so it was very pleasant for getting on with my work. The plot is undergoing something of a transformation as I dig up three of the small side paths to create extra growing space between the already established raised beds. I also transplanted a few sections of a globe artichoke plant, which appears to have thrived since the start of the autumn having only produced a single artichoke over the summer. There is one more celeriac left to harvest from the best crop of this vegetable I have ever managed to grow and then I shall move on to the swede, which have not done so well as in previous years.
By mid-afternoon I can’t help but notice the loud chatter of birds as they prepare to settle down for the night in the trees that cover the boundary areas of the allotments and sports pitches beyond. One idea is that the birds become more vocal in winter as they call fellow birds to roost, which they do together to keep warm in these cold months. Last month I took a detour via the pond as I visited another plot and spotted a grey wagtail coming up from the water before it settled in the branches of a small chestnut tree nearby and did what its name suggests. Their tails are apparently longer than those of their relatives, the pied and yellow wagtails, and its distinctive, brilliant yellow breast turns a duller, more buffish colour in winter.

Autumn'14

17/10/2014

Overall it has been a very fruitful year on the plot and I was happy to have a good harvest of plums for the first time from a Victoria plum tree I bought a few years ago at a well-known supermarket here in London. Beside it is my Charles Ross apple tree which came from a grower up in Scotland and it produces such large, rosy apples that they receive many compliments each season. I spend much of September turning the apples into jelly and tarts as they don’t keep well and the birds (most likely parakeets, I think) devour any ripe ones left on the branches.
Already the ditches around the plot are filled with water and keeping the ground above flood level has been much of my focus since last winter’s downpours. I decided to dig a ditch all the way around and have shored up the sides of the beds with planks of wood so that I can pile more compost on top. There is still work to be done but my efforts have mainly paid off and I managed to gain second place in the best plot competition in July.
Typically for this time of year I am keen to begin clearing the beds but the nasturtiums are at their best now, having become rampant across any spaces on the plot until they undergo a dramatic demise when the first frosts arrive. The nasturtium flowers are a great attraction for bees and I marvel at the varieties of bees that come to collect pollen, each often being a different size and colour.