Despite the iffy weather I decided to take a gamble and spend some time up the allotment this morning and early afternoon as it transpired. About four hours in all, after which I could just about drive home.
Funny how you get a plan in your brain on what you will do and then it all goes out of the window when you get there.
Firstly there were no dead/shot rabbits on my plot, so either T didn't pop any or else he took them away.
The first thing I noticed was the bad winds had played mischief with the plots and there were bits of cardboard, plastic, and other odds and ends littered about up the track.
Since we were up there yesterday, my plastic cloches had been almost blown out of the ground - a couple had actually taken flight and others were bent and buckled and just clinging on.
So my first job ended up being forced to taking off all the cloches at the beginning of my plot which were covering the chrysamthemums in a vain attempt to keep the rabbits from eating them again. These chrysanths I had to move - well some of them, as I did not end up with enough time to move more than 30.
I had to fill a wheel barrow with well rotted pig muck, gather all my tools, dig up the chrysanthemums and put them in a trug, and take them all down the end - well the bottom third where I have my flower beds.
The next job was to pick some sites to put them. I took up the membrane where the lavender cuttings, now bushes, had been, and dug in the barrow full of muck. As the first lot of chrysanths grow six feet tall I could only put eight in, as I needed to leave plenty of space between them. The next spot I chose was in front of the 8 feet tall rudbeckia against a fence, so once again I pulled up the membrane, went and got another barrow full of muck and dug that in. This time I planted Yellow Cricket, which should look nice in front of the rudbeckia. Mind you, I won't be a bit surprised if they are not yellow as I might have got some of them muddled up in the trug.
At this point I needed to create another flower bed for the remainder in the trug. I had a big long flower bed about 20 feet, with room, where the Sweet Williams had been last year, and some annuals, but I want to rotorvate that bit as it is a bit too much for me to dig. Actually I had done too much already, but I had to get the rest of them in.
So another 600 foot return walk to the pig muck and back. Then I intended to dig out a long bed by the fence to Mike's plot. But I got sidetracked. I realised that the fence that side at the end where the little meadow is, could be jumped by the rabbits, so did another long walk up to the top end to get a roll of chicken wire, then spent an hour or so attaching that to the top of the existing fence. This was not easy and took ages and involved a lot of bale string, sticks and improvisation. But I got there in the end. I broke every nail on my fingers except on the little fingers, and pick up a few scratches! I had planted willow cuttings with the intention to make a willow hedge but forgot that the fence was low as the willow was tied in in loops along it. I won't if any has taken until a bit longer, but if it has it will turn into a lovely living fence.
Anyhow, once that was done, I was ready to go home, but just had to finish what I started. So I dug in another barrow of muck, put down the membrane that I took up from the other beds and planted the chyrsanthemums. I do so hope that the fence keeps the rabbits out - I do not want the shoots eaten again.
A number of plants and cabbages had gone missing around the meadow, but I noticed that some roses, buddelia, and other cuttings are budding and/or coming into leaf.
I love it when little bits of stick that I have salvaged take root and grow. I still fing it amazing that you can cut off a bit of something, in this case the wasted bottom bits of stems from roses that I used in a flower arrangement, stick them in the ground in Autumn, and some of them take root, and grow leaves the next year, and the following year flower! Isn't nature magical?
It took me quite a while to clear up and pack up all my things after stopping work that bottom end of the plot. I stopped to take a few photos - which are not very interesting, but will give you an idea of the 'before' look in the spring and the 'after' look in the summer - if you hang around that long to see the summer ones that is!
Across each section is a piece of corrougated iron that I slide across to use as a gate. They are pretty awkward and heavy but the only guaranteed method that I know of to keep the rabbits out. Or if they get to one section they can't get to the next easily. Beneath the 'gates' I dug out a trench and sunk a piece of thick wood - 4x4 inches so that when they start to burrow they give up. I have four of these gates and it must be a bit like prison officers when I got through each one, slide it across, and wedge it with a piece of heavy wood, or metal to stop the wind from blowing down. The thought that it would be nice to have steel doors and just keys to keep them in place often occurs to me as I drag the things across!
The middle section had four big flower beds that will be a riot of colour and texture later in the year. The nibbles flag irises are recovering, but some of the early new leaves on a dainty yellow flower - which I do not know the name of - with spikey leaves like the iris, but they are soft and fleshy, have been burnt brown by the freezing conditions we have had.
There are lots of things poking through though.
More cloches here had taken flight and some bent over backwards - the power of the wind is fearsome in the open fields without any cover. I had to battle the wind for ownership of those cloches too, and it was a real struggle to keep hold of them and get them up to the pig shed at the top out of the wind.
There are leaves of rhubarb now poking through the ground and one that I was forcing is getting a little taller but does not really like the tall metal bucket over its head, but it is an experiment for an early crop for that Christmas present I want to make.
The gooseberry bushes are looking really fine decked out now in their bright green little crinkly leaves. The hours I spent mulching this area with horse manure looks like it is paying off.
The strawberries look at bit sad - even though they did have cloches on some of them. I think that I might have lost a few over winter, but some are making leaf. I have one or two spares here and there to fill some of the gaps.
The saga of the poor poor broad beans continues. They have been pecked to shreds by pheasants, nibbled by rabbits, burnt by frosts, but some of them have put on new growth. I will have to put in another row or fill in the gaps with more if I can get them.
I slid the gate on that section, and stopped to check out the summer raspberries and which are just showing bud. In front of them are my wonderful Jostaberries that I am so hopeful of getting my first crop of fruit. These were three inch cuttings taken three years ago, the same way that I did the ones earlier, and now I have three or four fine bushes and have given two away as presents. The early deep red buds have now burst revealing white buds, which will be the leaves. I am so excited about these fruit bushes, as I grew them when they were not available in the UK or if they were you could not find them. Now they are just being advertised in some places - but it is much more exciting growing my own. You feel a great sense of achievement and I can't wait to eat the first fruit.
I have autumn fruiting raspberries in this section too - taken from root cuttings from a friend. They fruited for the first time last year, so I am expecting big things of them this year. I have also got blackcurrant bushes, again from my own cuttings. I bought two currant bushes and planted the prunings, and now have quite a number. Enough I hope to get fruit for blackcurrant jams for presents.
Next there is a vacant area where I grew peas last year, I dug in lots of manure last season and this year it will have potatoes I think. The brassica cage is next, rather battered but holding on just - and still not sprouting bits of purple broccoli, I will be pretty fed up if they do not sprout after all my hours of saving them from pigeons, rabbits, cabbage white butterflies, and almost daily trips to pick off caterpillars - in heatwave temperatures and on my hands and knees.
Another large area covered with black plastic, awaiting the pig muck is next - The onion and carrot beds were here. I spotted a few feathery leaves which I recognised as carrots. Some wind blown seeds last year had set in the grass so I dug up quite a few lovely ones. What a nice surprise when you are so worn out - an unexpected gift from the ground to lift your spirits.
I dug up some more parsnips which have to come up anyway as it all will be rotorvated, and I pulled up three more January King cabbages too, as they are in the way. If I get time I will take soem photos of the root veggies as there are some funny shapes due to the high percentage of flints in the soil.
Adrian had been and topped up the bins, with fresh horse manure gently steaming in the cool air. Just one more gate to slide across and pushing a heavy wheel barrow laden with all my tools, cloches being tugged at by the wind, and now overflowing trug of root vegetables, weighting them down, and other bits and bobs.
I was so pleased to get to the top where my pig shed and car was. I had another pile of cloches to flatten that I had tucked under to car to save them from the wind, and lots of things to pack away pack away, before I could load up and drive wearily home!