Thursday, 13 March 2014

Losing the plot - to the weeds

Alpine strawberries!
I come from a long line of keen gardeners - despite which my knowledge is still about as scant as my time. My great grandparents on my dad's side were market gardeners and my grandparents on both sides were keen amateur gardeners - my grandad even managed to grow strawberries reliably in the far highlands of Scotland.   

Mostly homegrown veg for tea
My mum and dad have had their allotment, conveniently located behind their house, since I was about ten, but the truth is, in my teenage years, I didn't pay enough attention to the wealth of information they were sharing with me.  I didn't want to go out to the garden and weed, and I didn't know how lucky I was to be able to eat strawberries fresh from the vine on a summer day, or taste loganberry jam, or pick sharp, ripe apples from the tree.  

When I got my own place, I started to miss the space to grow things fresh.  When we moved to Bridgend, I got myself on the waiting list at the local allotments, and popped down on a weekly basis to nag them - as advised by the committee.  The land of the allotments were a gift to the people Brynna from a local estate called Ewenny way back in the middle of the nineteenth century.  By the way, if you have an interest in the Bridgend area and its history, I thoroughly recommend you check out the wonderful Hello Historia blog. 

Scrummy pumpkins - great for garlic mash
The soil at the allotments has been enriched and improved by generations of wonderful gardeners - I even inherited some lovely alpine strawberries that were hiding in the grass.  People from the local area are still enjoying all that the allotments have to offer for everything from growing veg to keeping geese and pigeons.  Despite my lack of knowledge, the soil is so fantastic that almost everything I have planted down there has grown.  Last year, although I only used about a third of the space, we got a useful amount of fruit and veg, and as my fruit bushes mature I really hope I will be able to make at least one batch of jam just from my own yield with no top up this year.

Sadly, I have found it almost impossible over the last few months to get down to my plot at all.  The light in the evenings has been very limited, as I am sure you know, weather has been awful, and due to the level of rainfall, even when it has been a sunny day I have hardly dared touch anything for fear of ruining the soil. 

Helping hands are so welcome!
I had some help from a friend back at the end of December, who very kindly spent a whole day helping me to eliminate some of the more dangerous triffids. We cleared a whole bed to plant some onions, and cleared in and around the blueberry bed.  

Since then I have been down to top up the blueberry bed with some nice acid mulch in the form of the pine needles from our Christmas tree and some used hen bedding.  But the plot was overgrown when I got it, and my battle against the weeds is a slow, ongoing battle, which often feels like a full on retreat...

Some of last year's yummy crops
Sunday was the first day I have managed to get down to the allotment to do any actual weeding and planting since the New Year.  I was inspired by the lovely Carrie at Grow Our Own to go and get stuck in at last.  What a lovely feeling to be there in the early spring sunshine, with my hands in the soil, planting food that I hope we will enjoy in months to come.  

Redcurrant cordial
At this time of year - the lean months - I try to focus on the delicious fruit and veg that we can look forward to. I am already excited to see how big my blackcurrant will grow this year - I really think it was worth removing all the baby berries two years ago to help it to thrive.  It is looking really healthy, and I am hoping for a small but decent crop this year.  Mum and dad had a glut of redcurrants last year, and I tried my hand at making cordial for the first time - I made redcurrant and summer fruits. I would simply love to make more flavours this year, as my hubby drinks squash like there's no tomorrow.

Dreaming of strawberries and fresh rocket,



  1. I love the way you write, I know you like a sister and yet I still sit here reading, fascinated. I am looking forward to the fruits of your labours...especially blackcurrants ;) tell me where I can pick some and I will go.
    Feel free to also help me garden as I am the grim reaper of plants and that sucks!

    1. I am so glad you enjoy it! So nice to have the practice of writing. Hoping it will eventually inspire me to get one of my novels moving again! I love reading your blog too hun, it just astounds me how creative you are and how on earth you find time to make so many beautiful things! As for taming your garden - on the off chance the sun is shining when I am next down, we could plant some pots maybe? Xxx

  2. I'm so glad to have found your blog! Emma's too. Thank you for your nice comment on my post today. I don't have a very big garden spot at all and enjoy reading how things are done in other parts of the world. I would have loved to try some of your cordial. :-)

    1. Thanks do much Betsy! I am glad you found us too. I just love reading about what you are getting up to, and really moved by the kind use you put your little hats and blankets to. Thanks so much for reading and commenting :) xxx

  3. Another beautifully written post Hazel; I really enjoyed reading about your gardening exploits and the fruits of your labour ( I know, Emma has already used that expression but it just comes naturally) and look forward to hearing more. Isn't it wonderful that you get such great results from all your (and friend's) hard work. Keep at it m'dear! Joy xo

    1. Thanks so much for your encouragement Joy, you are such a lovely positive person! Indeed, it's so rewarding to eat - and share - things you have grown yourself, isn't it? I hope you are enjoying the start of spring! And don't worry about using the same phrase - I like a good idiom and that's a lovely one :) xxx

  4. *blush a rama* Thank you so much for the shout out Hazel xxx You're comments have encouraged me so very much xxx

    1. Not a problem. I only say it because it's true :) so glad I have made you smile on a grey day xxx

  5. A lovely post about looking forward to a new gardening year. The only cordial I've ever made is elderflower, I'd like to try more fruit flavours, too.
    I shall read up on Bridgend, too. Although I lived in Swansea for a while I never felt I got to know Bridgend that well.

    1. Thanks so much Wendy, both for stopping by and for taking the trouble to comment. I just love elderflower cordial - my darling mum in law makes it and it is to die for! Sadly I never seem to have time to make it when the blossoms come out. We really enjoyed the summer fruits, though we found it really needed the sharper fruit to have much flavour at all. xx