Monday 7th June
After much umming and ahhing and consulting with some No-Dig experts via the interweb, we made the hard decision that if we wanted to grow anything other than weeds in bed 3 we were going to have to do a bit of digging. so monday we set about with rakes and trowels, rescuing the not quite dead Kale and pulling out grass roots by the bucket full (it was very satisfying)
Wednesday 9th June the wonder women came to plot 33 and we had a lovely relaxed day sowing seeds, pricking out seedlings and potting on plants as well as scoffing some delicious lemon balm oat cookies made by Anne, with our own lemon balm. Todays difficult decision was to have one cookie or two and what type of salad to pick!
friday 11th June i made a list of jobs i thought we should at least attempt and we did pretty well with it thanks to some help from Annes sister who came for a visit. we planted the courgettes, and 2 pumpkins in bed 3, weeded beds 2 (rhubarb) and 4 (onions and carrots) and a bit of work on the compost bins. The plot looks a lot tidier and you can see the carrots hopefully the companion planting of parsley, marigolds and onions will work and hide the sent from the dreaded carrot fly!
Along to Plot 33 in the midday sun... glorious. The Greenhouse was so hot ...the tomatoes are doing really well and enjoyed a good soaking and a bit more 'pinching out' (hark at me with my gardening terms!). The smaller plants were beginning to suffer with the heat so we moved outside and watered thoroughly, in hope they will all survive.
We started to tackle making a fence panel from part of the demolished shed, to denote our boundary with the community orchard. Lots of weilding a saw, a sledge hammer and a drill and eventually we have the first panel.... not perfect by a long shot...but it's standing quite sturdily. We also installed a trellis for the pumpkin to grow up. After all that effort in the heat of the day we need to sit and enjoy our plot and thoroughly water ourselves followed by everything growing ..... the water buts are now empty!
Wednesday, Wonder Women Day. Another hot day .. bit of a contrast to last Wednesday when we were all wrapping our hands around cups of tea to keep warm. We set ourselves up on the grass so we didn't have to move too much and slow painted the bench, another wheelbarrow to plant up, the pumpkin trellis and the base boards for our Greening Festival Stoke and Plot 33 signs. Now we need to install them. There was some slow hoeing between rows of potatoes, carrots, onions etc and slow watering before retreating to find shade. Rachel made up gorgeous bags of salad leaves, small but perfect carrots, spring onions and herbs to take home. Lovely day together "we'll remember this as one of those special days....."
Friday. We have been out and about doing other things today so only short time on the allotment planting peas with wigwam's to grow up followed by watering, watering and more watering.
the weather was a bit wild on Monday so instead of going down to Plot 33 i played hooky while Anne was off visiting relatives. So what does a plant mad girl do on an illicit day off go and help her uncle on his plot of course :). Yes that's right i went to another allotment site this one the Ashfield allotments in Liverpool.
Wednesday was a bit chilly but the Wonder Women braved the weather and worked away on the plot making signs so everyone can tell what plants are in the ground. Katy and Anne worked at clearing rubbish and weeds from behind the greenhouse while i had a look at the no-dig bed.
The no-dig bed experiment is not working too well at the moment and is the site of our first big fail (fails happen in gardening you just have to accept it) the kale we planted out and covered over to protect from pigeons and butterflies had gone munched away by slugs hiding under the cardboard mulch and as the weather warms up we are getting more and more grass and bind weed popping up. We decided to give no-dig a year to see if its works but at time i'm finding it hard not to get the big fork out .
Friday was a housekeeping type of day, weeding beds and paths, watering, and generally tidying up in the morning. After lunch we snuck back to the allotment (we had planned to be looking at another project) as the weather was so nice and had a look at the composting. We positioned the new bin and started to empty one of the daleks into it. We've been getting waste fruit and veg from bread in common and it looks like we've not got the green (nitrogen) brown (carbon) mix quite right. (for more info on composting go to https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=444 ) resulting in the compost being a little to wet and a little wiffy. fingers crossed that mixing in some of the shaving based manure and turning the heap will have sorted the problem and note to self add more brown materials (paper, card, woody stems etc.) We ended the day on a fun note potting on the squashes and harvesting our first carrots, they were so tasty!!
When we first started working on Plot 33 we had a vision that was about groups from different communities being able to come up to the allotment - muck in, bring their ideas, shape what we are doing, the sun would be shining, there would be activity, chat, cups of tea, and more plans would be made.
On Wednesday that happened. 6 Wonder Women drifted onto the site, for some it was an effort to get there and they felt unsure of what to expect. So we mucked in and between us all, amongst many conversations, we painted a filing cabinet, a wheelbarrow of lettuces, a slatted bench and some big bean can planters. We also weeded pathways and the flower bed then randomly planted sweet peas, cornflowers, spinach and beetroot in the flower bed. We had interactions with other allotment holders.
We paused for cups of tea and coffee and sat around the picnic benches soaking up the sun, while we dreamt of what we want for Plot 33 and we planned our next session. Just brilliant. We all felt better than when we had arrived. We used to have soup at our pre covid indoor sessions ....we're looking at reintroducing it gradually hopefully beginning to use produce from our plot and maybe we can cook it on site????
We were busy doing an application for funding (fingers crossed) on Friday, and the weather was pretty horrendous so Friday was a wash out. We had arranged to meet a couple of visitors on Saturday but they couldn't make it so we got on with outdoor activity between showers and started sorting the Greenhouse which is becoming a bit of a dumping ground. We are going to hold a regular open session every 3rd Saturday of the month 11am - 2pm ... anyone who would like to come along just email Anne on: firstname.lastname@example.org Next one Saturday 19th June.
We started to build a double compost bin from the remains of the old shed and we hammered in a fence post in order to support and straighten our existing fence (with a little help from our neighbour, Mick). in the greenhouse we sorted, weeded, sorted, repurposed, sorted and repotted and pinched out tomatoes ...see Rachel pinching out below! It involves gently pinching off any suckers that are growing in the bend between a branch and the main stem.
Don't you just love it when something you thought would be difficult turns out really easy. well that's the feeling today when Anne and I move the filing cabinet part of the original Greening Stoke installation up to plot 33. Anne continued with some weeding tasks while i started to fix the planting pockets and cladding that hold the draws in place.
Wednesday 12th things feel like they are changing/developing at plot 33 the cabinet adds a splash of colour even though it needs a lick of paint and with the help of Lisa from the wonder women group we got some crops in the ground too Spinach donated by an allotment neighbour.
Friday 14th Finished fixing up and planting up the cabinet and a wheelbarrow a relaxed day at plot 33. we found some bread in the food waste we get from Bread in commons compost delivery this week which we cant use so we decide to leave it out for the birds, not long after we had a visit from one of the foxes (we think the vixen) who came and took the whole loaf away piece by piece to her family.
Monday was a bit of a miserable day, and we both hoped the other would cancel... but we ended up being there. Stalled by hiding in the green house with a nice cup of tea, then did half an hour of weeding round the spuds ready for earthing them up in the drizzly coldness. We then gave up. At least we'd done something ...
Wednesday we had a lovely visit from a small group of Wonder Women bearing the letters they have created towards our allotment sign. Watch this space for our beautiful sign that will be attached to our fence.... oh yes, we need to make the fence. There is a task.
Sitting in the Allotments orchard we had a great discussion about all the creative art possibilities of Plot 33. Including building a quirky, arty bespoke shed, building compost bins with chalk boards on them, building a wind turbine, creating 3 vertical 'walls' along the back of the allotment on which we will conduct temporary experimental growing projects?? All very exciting.
On Friday we welcomed our friends Hilary Hughes and Alan Barret to have a nosey! Lovely to see them both. I had to pop off for a bit. Rachel got on with all sorts of tasks including earthing up the potatoes, keeping on top of the weeding, planting out the kale and covering with fleece to keep it warm in the May coldness ( what is that about?) etc. When I returned we continued to dig, weed, water and sort and suddenly it was 5pm. Thanks to the Artisan Tap in Hartshill we have beer dregs to pour into yoghurt pots to act as slug traps . Our final visitor of the day was the resident vixen .... beautiful. Our lovely neighbour Heather gave us some spinach and beetroot plants and not forgetting pak choi to take home...delicious.
Friday 30th April day 5 #Nationalgardeningweek
Gardens are immensely creative places choices are made not just about what plants to grow but hard landscaping too including art installations. Classical statues, contemporary sculptures and pots all say something about the garden spaces we make and how we use them even the colour of the fence says something.
At plot 33 we don't have much art yet but that's something we plan to change soon and today we made a start on it with the lovely Wonder Women group who came down to the plot to deliver letters we'd asked them to create to make a sign welcoming visitors. More letters will be delivered next week as we have to keep the groups small (covid) but it was lovely to sit, chat and sow some seeds (after the brief snow shower) before they left with some cans to paint and turn into planters
Thursday 29th April Day 4 #nationalgardeningweek
While I don't specifically garden for wildlife I love to watch it enjoying my garden at home and on plot 33 (In fact im sitting bird watching with my cats at home as i write this post ). Gardens and allotments are home to a host of animals. On our plot we have seen a wide variety of birds, small mammals, insects and frogs all living happily using the habitats we create. We've also been told their are foxes on the site named Bingo and Banjo and the robin we invariably see each visit has already nested and fledged a brood
We need wildlife especially insects they are integral to producing the food we eat not only pollenating plant but by eating pests too. I find it endlessly fascinating to watch the way nature balances itself .
if you do want to encourage wildlife the best bet is to add a water feature anything will do at home i have a deep tray (ok its a cat litter tray). I use it to give plants a good soak in before planting and one day i left it out after id finished the next morning I saw a blackbird having a lovely time splashing about and so its stayed ive added a couple of old roof tiles one in and out to make it more accessible and safer for all the animals that use it on a daily bases.
Wednesday 28th April day 3 #Nationalgardeningweek
one of the things i like best about gardening is growing plants from seeds and cuttings. everything from choosing seeds or taking cutting material to potting up or planting out a carefully nurtured plant fills me with a certain sense of satisfaction ( or smugness). I find the whole process of sowing seeds, waiting for the first signs of growth, watching the true leaves unfurl, pricking out individual seedlings into pots, and potting on till they reach their final resting place extremely satisfying
March and April are the main months to sow seeds but you can always find something to so each month in the next few weeks we will be sowing our beans and cubits (cucumbers & squashes) these are fast growing tender plants that will ready to out in mid /late May when the nights have warmed up and risk of frost has passed.
sowing and potting on tomatoes and our other seedling
Tuesday 27th April day 2 of #Nalionalgardeningweek
its a well known fact that gardening is good for your health not only physically but mentally too. Experts have researched and written papers on it, doctors can prescribe it on the NHS and i know it from first hand experience.
I am at best a socially awkward person i can do people in 1's and 2's but social groups i find hard unless i have a job to do then i'm fine. I over think things and replay conversations in my head wondering if i've said the right thing and what i could have said or done better . Gardening helps me combat this for me its my safe space a go to when i need to de-stress weeding, watering, planting even just looking at a garden help ground, me leaving me calmer and more able to cope with life's ups and downs. I use gardening as a way of connecting to people giving plants as gifts to let them know i was thinking about them even if we havnt spoken much lately.
so if your feeling a bit anxious or out of sorts try giving gardening a go. From a pot or hanging basket by the back door to an allotment like plot 33 it will lift your sprites and possibly make you smile
Greening Stoke is a project run in partnership between Festival Stoke and Letting in the Light. We are based in Stoke-on-Trent.
We are starting this adventure in January 2021 in the middle of a national Lockdown. Until things change and begin to open up we are abiding by all the Covid-19 Government guidance and for the foreseeable future only Rachel and Anne will be working, in a socially distanced way, to prepare and maintain Plot 33 for when we can invite the community to work with us.
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