This is the most perfect and easiest strawberry shake to make when you’re in the midst of a heatwave… Which we’re in the midst of at the moment here in the UK. Did you know that you can grow strawberries in a window garden?
Holiday season is nearly upon us and lots of gardeners and allotment enthusiasts will be going away to recharge their batteries and take advantage of a well earned rest.
Last year we went on holiday to Venice and I thought it would be a good opportunity to seek out green spaces and sources of produce in other parts of the world.
So I haven’t blogged for a while and I was thinking of a way to post an update you on what’s been happening at the allotment over the last month or two in an interesting way.
With that in mind I decided to write an update with a Sergio Leone theme whereby I can highlight The Good, The Bad and The Ugly over the last month or so.
This year I planted Charlotte Potatoes first and Desiree potatoes and judging from the tops they’ve gone from strength to strength and have really flourished with the weather changes.
If you’re starting an allotment I would fully recommend growing potatoes, they can be very low maintenance and rewarding at the same time.
I also think the flowers you get on your crop can often be overlooked and are overrated.
I’ve started to harvest the garlic that I planted last year. I decided to grow lots of them because garlic is something that we use a lot of in the kitchen and so far I’ve been greeted with wonderful bulbs of white and purple cloves.
The patch is a bit overgrown with weeds and the dreaded horsetail so I’m getting rid of this as well.
My red winter onions have been a pleasure to dig up. They’re lovely and round and I’m going to enjoy cooking with them in the kitchen. They haven’t needed much maintenance over the last few weeks except for a weed and a hoe hear and there.
I was a bit stingy with how many I planted last year and so I will aim to plant more next year.
Wow! Simple wow. My courgettes have taken on a life of their own and are showing lovely wide, leaves, being a source of ground cover at the same time.
As is always the case with courgettes – I’ve left a few on there for too long and so I’ve ended up with few marrows. I’ll need to think of new and interesting ways to try and use them up.
Best start collecting those jars for some chutney…
The wild blackberries growing at the allotment are always a reliable delight. If ever things get a little bit slack here or there, I can always count on them to come up trumps.
That said they do have a tendency to grow bigger and take over quicker than you think. So pruning and chopping little and often can really help keep them in check.
Not only that, but regularly pruning encourages the plant to put it’s energy into the fruit.
I had these curved poles hanging around in the shed for a long period of time and I decided to something with them and I ended up creating this rather elegant structure for my peas to grow up against – and if I say so myself, it doesn’t look half bad.
I’ve been periodically watering the plants and now I’ve generated a respectful number of pods.
I love fresh peas so next year I’m going to try and grow more of them.
I think that’s the trick with peas, grow lots of them so that they feel worth while to grow.
We did have a good glut of strawberries which was a lovely surprise baring in mind that I haven’t tended them to at all over the last 12 months. I’m growing Elsenta strawberries and they’re the most common type of strawberry that you’ll find in the your local garden centre.
Next year I’m going to expand the strawberry patch and grow some more. I’m yet to make strawberry jam, so that’s my goal for next year 🙂
I was excited to grow lots of different types of tomato plants, because I haven’t properly focused my efforts into growing tomatoes for a good couple of years. I said at the beginning of the year that this has to change – which it did for a while.
We’ve had two mini heatwaves here in the UK and my seedlings were completely wiped out by the heat during the first one. I was so discouraged that anything that did come up I just left to the slugs.
Lesson learned. From now on, I’m starting tomato plants in my flat where I can keep a close eye on them. I did say to myself that I should resow, but in the end I never got round to it.
Same thing with the runner beans. They got wiped out by the heat and then decimated by the slugs.
What’s more – I built a pretty nifty structure for them as well, which is sadly going to waste.
Sadly, the calibrese were the third victim of the heat and slugs. Which is a shame because they came on so quickly and so were so healthy looking at one point. Again I thought about resowing them – but seriously ran of out of time, so I’m left with no calibrese.
Maybe next year I’ll have more luck.
I have learnt something from the above however, and that’s to sow the plants I want to see succeed at home, because by doing this I can keep an eye on the seedlings and watch them grow.
Now, I’m not sure if this would sit in the bad category or the the ugly category as technically – they did germinate, but they didn’t grow as well as I’d hoped – not like the red onions.
The reason being is because I sowed them next to a place where I had some mint, lemon balm and some chives, which I think was too much competition for the onion sets, hence why they didn’t swell as well as I’d hoped.
Another lesson learned for next time!
Something that has done incredibly well (annoyingly) is the bindweed. A truly prolific weed which seems to take over at an unprecedented rate. It’s long wiry leaders spread far and wide and seem to last longer than you would ever expect to last.
If you have bind weed – avoid putting it on your compost bin – you’ll regret it later on as it will, without doubt still survive and spring up wherever you spread your compost bin.
My advice with dealing with bindweed is to leave it out in a wheelbarrow to dry and then once it’s dry, burn it.
Seems quite apt to end a Sergio Leone – allotment-update-ish type of post with a horse related reference… Can you see what I did there? Anyway, Horsetail (often called Marestail) is another prolific weed that takes over and will outlive us all.
Horsetail is a prehistoric plant that really takes some hard graft to get rid of. I’ve written a post here on how to to deal horsetail.
So there we have it! That’s what’s happening!
Last week, National Gardening Week just passed us by.
What better excuse than to sit back and reflect on why I love gardening and why we should all be doing it in some sort of capacity, whether it’s tending to indoor plants, a window box or a garden.
Here’ are my 10 reasons why gardening is awesome!
Gardening is exercise
I’ve always said that my allotment is the best gym in the world. It’s actually cheaper than a gym too. So last year I was part of a gym and I can honestly say I seldom broke that much of sweat, compared to the sweat that I build up at the allotment. The health benefits are well documented from aerobic exercise to improving circulation and lowing blood pressure.
You get to be creative
Gardening is great way to use plants to brighten up spaces of all different shapes and sizes. You can mix different plants to achieve different colours, heights and shapes. Instagram is great place to aggregate different ideas for your space. There’s also a lot more videos online showing you how to make quirky planters and grow in the smallest of spaces. Get creative! 🙂
Help the bees
It’s no secret that our bees need a helping hand. The decline in bees over the years is thanks to climate change and industrial farming methods. I’ve always grown up believing that if there are no bees in the world then human kind will cease to exist (or something like that…). It’s only now that big business is starting to think along those lines, with the decline in bees putting global business at risk. I’m hoping to plant some more pollinators at my allotment to help.
Help the environment
The world needs more green spaces and every little helps. Plants release oxygen – everything needs oxygen to survive, therefore plants are good for the environment, it really is that simple. Whether you tend to plants indoors or outdoors, you increasing the quality of your space infinitely by growing plants. They’re also a bit of a focal point in that particular space.
Composting is easier than ever and you can you compost a lot more than you could. Hot composting and no dig gardens are all the rage and they both involve using biodegradable material straight from the source. Composting reduces the amount going to landfill and you improve the growing conditions of wherever you plan to grow your plants. Compost helps promote good soil nutrients and water retention.
Assists with stress relief
I’m a firm believer that gardening is a great friend if you’re stressed out or if you’ve had a tough time recently. Everything naturally moves at a slower pace which gives you time to think. In my opinion, plants have a very calming effect and that is a good thing. I recently read this fantastic article by the Bohemian Raspberry about how gardening has helped her through some trying times. Check it out here.
You learn about plants
OK, so gardening brings out my geeky side – I’m fascinated by the history of different varieties of plants and vegetables. When it comes to vegetables I’m eager to learn how different varieties work best for different dishes – for instance, Desiree potatoes are meant to make awesome chips and Maris Piper make fantastic roast potatoes.
You learn about the weather and the climate
I’m constantly watching the weather, purely because I’m a fair weather gardener at heart. To go as so far as to say I was fussy wouldn’t be too far from the the truth as well – I like it not too hot or not too cold. Watching of the weather often helps me to make decisions when it comes to planting things, cutting things and sowing things. The conditions have to be just right. For instance, this year I held off from sowing any seeds – and it’s paying off.
If you grow your own – you get food
Going from plot to plate… Is there anything more satisfying or delicious? I follow a simple mantra when it comes to food that’s been passed down to me – it’s not about quantity it’s about quality. Fresh food from your plot really is a treat and you really do taste the difference. You can also educate your pallet and soon find out what’s good and what’s bad. Check out my recipe page to see what I do in the kitchen with my produce.
It’s relatively inexpensive
Gardening really isn’t an expensive hobby. It all starts with one pot, one bag of compost, some seeds and away you go. I love looking at my plants and seeing how they grow – a bit like a hobbit. You can also recycle a lot of your household items which makes gardening even more satisfyingly cheap!
So there we have it! If you garden let me know the reasons why you love it so much in the comments below. If you’re thinking about taking up a new hobby – I hope I’ve convinced you to take the first steps 🙂
Gardening is awesome!