Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Reconnecting in lock down.

Oh, hello! My goodness me, it’s been a 'little' while since I sat at the laptop to pour out some words about gardening and share some lovely thoughts with you all. So why now?

Well it is no secret that there is a big thing going on right now across the globe where many countries are implementing a lock down to slow and stop the spread of COVID-19. It is a very scary time for everyone and no doubt difficult. So many people are so used to busying around going about their daily routines, suddenly must stop and stay at home be that through having to self-isolate or because workplaces are closing down to keep everyone as safe as possible. Myself, I fall into the latter as well as caring for my two children. 
It has been a challenging few weeks to adjust to a new 'norm'. Keeping up with schoolwork, panicking over food shopping and getting used to not just popping out here and there and not visiting loved ones.

I have had moments of terrible anxiety, panicking about the what ifs? and hearing the awful rise in numbers just added to it. That is difficult to get away from as it's constantly in the news or across social media. I've taken to not having TV on at all during the day and only having the radio on.

Something positive that is coming out of this situation is the power of nature.
We as a family have always loved being out in nature be that walks in the woods or visits to the local seaside and even enjoying the gardens at home, but I have to be honest that has occurred a lot less long before the lock down came into force. Now though I have lots of time to look closer to home and appreciate the small but great things about it.

We have been super excited to watch lots of lovely birds visiting the lilac tree including the new goldfinches who have found the feeders!
Lots of lovely bugs and critters have been found creeping around thanks to some improvised school activities and it has been lovely to see so many plants springing back to life or popping up through the soil.

I’ve been using the greenhouse to escape to a little bit more recently and it’s been very medicinal to just potter. All these carry the same common theme. Have you worked it out? It is to completely slow down or stop and reconnect with nature. Going back to that point made earlier about us all milling around on our hamster wheels that it all becomes too easy to forget to stop and notice what is right in front of us and spend quality time together.

On the days its been warmer we have spent time in our garden to have fun and plan our new veg beds. We miss having the allotment and this time has given us the push to bite the bullet and begin the process of growing veg at home.
Just sitting with cups of tea, rifling through packets of seed and dipping our hands into compost has been very therapeutical not just for me but for the kids too. Not to mention that it's educating them at the same time! We are very fortunate to have a garden and can only imagine how harder it must be for those who don’t have access to green space but if there is a sunny windowsill having a small pot of flowers, herbs or even veg will absolutely lift spirits.

If there is one thing that I would encourage anybody to do it is this. 
To stop and be present and maybe give gardening a go. 

There is a wonderful quote I will leave you all with and in this current situation which I think it is very apt.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow ~ Audrey Hepburn

Until next time


Saturday, 1 June 2019

All it took was one question

One simple question asked on Twitter has snowballed into something wonderful!!

It was asked out of frustration and bewilderment. A sunny day called to spend some time in the front garden. Out came my handy tools and the weeding began. It was full of them, but it didn't take long for them to be turfed out. That's when the horrible, gut sinking feeling began. I tweeted the above question and the response I received was just EPIC!!

This is the main part of my front garden. I took this photo approximately 2 years ago. It is so bare in the borders, its quite pathetic really. It is crying out to be loved and filled and that's where all the wonderful advice I received will come into play.

So many of you took the time to make suggestions on types of plants, where to bag the bargains and some even suggested some layout changes, note: layout changes will happen eventually but I am building up my arsenal of plants first so I can use them to play. This is where it gets even more fabulous though............

Off the back of the suggestions I was kindly offered some seeds and plants to help kick start the borders becoming filled. Some came in the post thanks to @unfurlingnet & @jw4926. I was contacted on Instagram by a lady called Helen who lives a short distance away from me and kindly invited me to her gorgeous allotment where we had a cuppa & nattered like we had known each other for years. Two and a half hours later and after a tour of the site she filled my car boot with lots of goodies to add to the others. I then visited a gorgeous open garden day that belongs to the lovely Joan & Geoff. I knew this lovely couple through the Gardentags app originally. They had a plant sale as part of the open garden to help raise funds for a local school adventure to Nepal. They had plenty to offer at fabulously cheap prices, but it was more wonderful knowing I could have a little piece of their magnificent garden in mine.

Which brings me nicely on to what I want to reveal.

I'm naming the garden, Le Jardin du Chalet des Medias Sociaux.

Sounds posh I know! I thought I would bring a little French to this part of the North East :P. It translates to The Social Media Cottage Garden. To some it might seem strange or bonkers. Why name it though?, I hear you ask. Well, I am genuinely overwhelmed by the generosity from the gardening community. The most valuable part is the wealth of advice and knowledge that is shared for all to take something from and in turn that can help others out too. There is going to be a piece of everybody in this part of the garden because it's going to be built up on the responses to that original tweet.

Also I'm hoping in time as plants establish, I will be able to share out seeds and cuttings for others who are in a similar position or if I just happen to have a bit of what is needed.

This is where gardening really does come into its own. There is no other community like it. Inclusive, helpful, friendly and full of kind hearted folk. It's the nicest hobby one could take up and I for one will be eternally grateful for the appreciation it makes me have for the smallest things in life yet mean the most.

So here is to you, the gardening community.

Until Next Time

Friday, 26 April 2019

The Cleveland Alpine Garden Society Show 2019

My second attendance to an Alpine Garden society show and it didn't fail to dazzle me from the off.

Within minutes of arriving, friendly AGS members are on hand to greet me and tell me a little bit about what to expect and I was really taken aback when one of the ladies remembered me attending last years show.

With a programme in hand and my little green sticker stuck on I walked through the double doors to what I can only describe as a perfect 'sweet shop'. A fabulous selection of alpine plants/seeds to pore over and decide which ones to purchase with my 'pocket money'. Yes I had pocket money because I knew I would buy way more than I should and with so much choice it would have been so easy to!

Walking into the scent filled show hall just blew me away. Rows and rows of so many varieties to drool over. They all stand out like refined jewels and the colour invites you to inspect them more closely.

You can see more pictures over on my Facebook page HERE

It was lovely to see so many people enjoying the delights that were on display sharing approving looks and smiles. It wasn't long until the chit chat began. This is one of things that I love about visiting these shows. There is always someone to have such fascinating conversations with about origins of species, what conditions they prefer and also what to expect if you want to grow your own be that from seed or nurturing a baby sized plant.
There really isn't anything intimidating about alpines at all. They are a wonderful genus of plants to grow with something to suit everyone's taste be that Narcissus, Primula's, Dionysia or even Ferns or Pinus. They do require a little patience but that good old phrase 'Good things come to those who wait' becomes a mantra and going by some of the plants that were seen, they truly are worth waiting for.

I will share with you now my top 3 from the show. Trust me this was harder than I thought.

Ophyrs Ferrum-Equimum - A wonderfully unusual orchid which is native to grassy meadows in Albania, Greece and Western Turkey. Difficult to photograph in the display so I must say another thank you to the lovely Don Peace (an amazing alpine grower) for allowing me to take this one in his set up.

Arisaema Thunbergii ssp. Urashima - A really tropical looking plant that originates from Japan that likes moist, free draining soil in a cool, partially shaded spot.

Anemonella Thalictroides - This gorgeous plant is native to Eastern North America and likes moist, free draining soil. A super pretty plant that I really fell for!

It's very clear to see why alpine plants are easy to fall in love with. I had a wonderful, long chat with a lovely lady, Vivien Self (another amazing alpine grower) who agreed that there is something fascinating and intriguing about alpines and how the possibilities are pretty much endless in terms of trying to grow them. I do love growing my veg and flowers but there is something about these plants that have hooked me in and I know that the obsession/passion will only get stronger over the years, especially as I am now in the process of joining my local group!

So if you get chance to, do pop along to one of these amazing shows to see for yourself how amazing these plants are. You can find out when and where HERE

Until Next Time

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Stepping Out of Hibernation

Stepping out of hibernation.

Just like a little green seedling poking its head through some warm compost, us human folk are equally eager to feel the tepid warmth of the sun on our skin, to breathe in the crisp, fresh air tinged with the scent of new life and to see pops of colour scattered around the gardens from Daffodils, Tulips and alpine plants such as Pulsatilla, Saxifraga and Primroses.
Those dark winter days soon feel so long ago and the excitement begins to build at the prospect of longer, brighter days thanks to the spring jump of the clocks going forward.

I do love spring and it's nice to be able to get on with the planning and preparations for the garden/allotment. What flowers to sow and where I want to place them and what vegetables/fruits the family want to try this year and how the allotment is going to play host to them.

The greenhouse is quickly filling up with trays of seeds that I find myself popping out often to check on them. Not much appears to be happening between each inspection (which is usually at least 5/6 times on a work day, more on a day off haha!) but I do know that underneath that boring looking tray of compost, real magic is happening. The seeds begin to wake up and head on up to see what all the fuss is about.

I've got a good mix of flowers going on this year from my trusty Cosmos to Cornflowers, Hollyhock, Ipomea, Pansies to name few and interestingly all of a darker pallet. I'm not sure what the attraction is but I do get drawn to these more than some of the bolder colours. I have also got a lot more Dahlia's to play with this year too. My plan is to learn how to put flowers together nicely and have some to enjoy in the house and gift some away. I don't know many people who don't like flowers and it would be lovely to make people smile by sharing some with them. Sharing is caring right!

The vegetable/fruit plans are just about in place. The thing I love about the whole grow your own movement is there is just stacks of variety and always something to be picking at almost every point of the seasons that pass us by. There is plenty of time to be sowing things still too so please don't panic if you haven't begun any just yet. This will be my 1st official full year on the allotment. I have had enough time to work out the suns placement across it and had little experiments of what grows well for sure. So peas, beans, sweetcorn and plenty of salads will feature heavily for us along with a nice mix of squash to compliment the lovely fruit bushes and tree's that we inherited on the allotment. The greenhouse up there will be home to some tomato plants, cucumbers and cucamelons too.

This time of year allows me to spend more time in my lovely little greenhouse. That little glass palace where the plans are conjured up whilst keeping warm with a cup of tea. It's a little hideaway when I need to escape the everyday but where I can feel the most content. It inspires me and encourages me just like Spring to step out my comfort zone, push boundaries and whole heartedly be ME.

I am really excited to see what this year brings. Last year there was a lot of change in my personal life and I hope that as things settle on that side of things I can fully throw myself into the part that gives me so much enjoyment and pleasure and allows me to connect with so many like minded others.

Until Next Time


Wednesday, 2 January 2019

NOT a New Year's Resolution post!

Wait, it's the new year shouldn't it be all about resolutions? 
Keep reading and it will make sense ;)

It was such a lovely way to round up a busy 2018 of new jobs and a new baby (my niece Nancy) by taking a little wander around the garden with Max spotting signs of new life. A good spattering of bulbs poking their sleepy heads through the soil to greet the low winter sun which are then rudely interrupted by our human faces inspecting them with a little prodding to make sure they are definitely waking up (sorry about that plants!).

I then got super excited about my next discovery.........

A forgotten about Ranunculus corm has decided it will be noticed. I thought it was a weed at first but then I spotted this lovely big bloom it had, then noticed all of the other buds that are waiting for their turn to be noticed too! It definitely took me by surprise and I squealed like a small child finding treasure. 

Stepping into January was rather fun. Previous years I would have been just cleaning up after all the festivities and watching some films repeated for the 10th time but this year I had to go to the allotment. It needed the new year letting in and going there just made me smile from ear to ear.


An obligatory toast to the plot with a hot cup of coffee (Max's choice-juice&chocolate!) followed by a walk about to see the brassica's are still growing nicely, the onions are still sleeping along with the weeds. There was a real calm atmosphere with a backdrop of clear blue skies, a soft birdsong wrapped up in a blanket of warmth from the sun, yes that sounds more like a spring day and it was rather surreal but blooming lovely at the same time. 

It was the perfect condition to highlight a spectacular discovery 

A clump of beautiful White Borage! Now a few of you will have already seen this picture plastered all over my social media platforms but its just GORGEOUS!! This picture was taken on the 1st of January 2019, it looks more like the middle of summer. You can see its still got lots of buds to open on it too! I will absolutely be saving some seeds from it and will hopefully offer some out for others to grow and enjoy it too! I have only ever known this plant to be blue so this was another of those squeal moments.

After so much excitement it was time to get down to business and work out what to do this year.

Now I haven't set no new year resolutions as I never stick to any and feel like they are just never achievable. 

Set achievable ones then, I hear you say!!

Well what I am going to do is just go with the flow. I might make the odd plan or set a little project up but I am not going to give it a time scale or pressure myself into getting it completed. I found last year that the less I done that the more success I had with things and if things didn't work out I didn't stress out I just learned and moved on from it. It was quite a liberating year for me and I just want more of that to continue this year. 

I am compiling a list of things I want to grow and can't wait for things to be a bit warmer to start the sowing process. January is always a long month and itchy finger syndrome starts kicking in ha ha. I also want to step outside my comfort zones a little and try new things be that food related or experiences. I started that on the first day and rang in to a live podcast being hosted by The Skinny Jean Gardener (he is very good!) which might sound daft to some but that was me putting myself out there a bit more than I am used to!

The blog and my Youtube channel will just continue to be updated as and when I can. I don't want to force any content for the sake of it, that's just not me and I like to keep it as natural and as real as possible :)

So for now I will let you roll into 2019 being happy and content and look forward to seeing how the year unfolds

Until Next Time

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The First Wobble!!

Its only been just over 4 weeks since I got the keys to Plot No.5 but I have experienced my first allotment wobble!

I wanted to write this post to share as much realism as I can when taking on an allotment plot for the very first time, I'm singing Madonna's "Like a virgin" out loud to that sentence haha. 

Anyway as I was saying, there's the first steps of putting your name down on the waiting list, then there is the-what feels like FOREVER-wait to actually getting a chance to acquiring a plot and then finally that day arrives. You sign the dotted line skipping past all the small print (everyone does that right?), grab the keys with eager hands to get in and then you walk up and down the new plot fifty million times whilst chatting to yourself with lots of oooo'ing and aaaahh'ing over what could go where and how pretty its all going to look, BUT after a week or 2 of clearing out any of the rubbish and doing a nice bit of painting, there is something that just hits you. The reality of the graft becomes apparent.

I had 1 week away from the plot with my little boys birthday celebrations and a short illness but I was determined to get back to that plot to begin the work that was needed on it. What greeted me through that gate was the start of the wobble.

Now this isn't the greatest picture to really capture what my eyes saw but behind that ginormous fabulous rhubarb patch is just a huge mass of dandelions and grass. Like up to my hips grass (please bear in mind my 4"10 height!) My heart literally sank. I couldn't avert my eyes away from it because there was just another patch of grass whichever way I looked and it just made me want to cry! I just couldn't see how it is going to be managed and how it's ever going to become a productive plot. I questioned my capability of being able to take on this huge task, even though I wanted a challenge. Now if you follow me over on Instagram and saw my stories you will have seen my sad, overwhelmed mush seeking some reassurance. 

I was bowled over at how many people messaged and said you will be fine it just needs time and gave some great tips of doing it bit by bit. A lady at the site kindly reminded me that I have only had it a matter of weeks so it's going to be far from being perfectly maintained. Over the course of the day, after I came home from the plot the reassurance was helping kick the feelings of anxiety. It helped me regain some focus actually coming away as being there in that moment was becoming too much. 

The next day  I promised to go back up with a renewed positive outlook. After a little texting Mr.W at work telling him I really needed to trace some good materials to smother some of the plot he sent me the best reply he could. He happened to be stood by some huge boxes of super thick cardboard boxes and was going to run them up to the plot. I whipped the kids into a frenzy and headed straight up there to be start that process.

 Even though it was the same thing that waved at me when I walked through the gate I stared it down. Think of those intense cowboy scenes where they stare at each other for ages until one makes the first move and the other is taken down. Yes I am taking this plot down. It wont defeat me. Not for now at least. I am realistic enough to know there will always be weeds but when you are faced with them on a big scale it can make you feel like you are going to drown. I know its perfectly normal to feel this way too. At least for now the cardboard will suppress any more growth and allow me to work on a section at a time to get up and running and in my head its less shouty and panicky.

Something that I also found useful and again credit to those positive folk over on the social media platforms (Sara, Annabelle & Kimmy I am talking about you three!) was to look for the good stuff on the plot already. I have to admit I have been very fortunate with some of the established edible goodies that have been left on this plot. Rhubarb, Strawberries, Cherries, Figs and even Gooseberry bushes. That's before the other fruit trees reveal what they are too. Even if you think there is nothing I promise if you look close enough I am sure there will be something that will put a grin on your face.

That first wobble will teach you a lot no matter how soon it happens. At first you will panic then you might feel like throwing in the towel BUT It will make you a little more resilient and that bit more determined. It makes you stand up and grab the opportunity by the horns. Giving up won't reward you in the long run but holding on and working hard will. You get to put your stamp on a piece of land that will probably make you use a few choice words but make you feel amazing and you will be able to sit and admire it for all your hard work put into it especially with a nice hot cuppa (or a 'proper' beverage).

So there you have it my first encounter of an allotment wobble. Do not be put off in any way to taking on an allotment. There are so many benefits to having one and it wouldn't be fun if it didn't test you.

Until Next Time

You can see my first plot tour HERE on my Youtube channel

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Hello Plot No.5

Do you remember that feeling when you were a child and you were told you would be doing something exciting like attending a party, waiting for your birthday or even counting down to Christmas? (Oh my the C word in May!!), well that pretty much is how I have been feeling since I put my name down on 5 different allotment sites 2 years ago. I've watched my number moving slowly up the ranks from in the 30's wondering if it would ever happen UNTIL a chance chat with the chair lady at one of the local sites.

If you could have seen my face during this conversation you would have been equally excited. Even being told it needed a lot of work putting into it didn't deter my excitement. I then went up to see if I could vet the potential plot out and again I felt like a child peering through the tiniest of gaps in the gate. I could see a dream unfolding. I sent a little message to the lovely lady who invited me to go along and have a 'proper' look around (Sunday 22nd April). Well it felt like Christmas eve waiting to go the next day with butterflies building up. 
It arrived and the gate was opened and I was met with this..........................................

THREE sheds, a greenhouse, water butts, compost bins, a wheelbarrow, benches/chairs and stacks of reusable materials. The best part is the very long piece of land that I now get to call my own! Hello Plot No.5 (My lucky number what a coincindence!). What a beauty it is too. 

There is so much potential with this plot. It already has a few established fruit tree's on it along with a lovely little strawberry patch that needs freeing from the weeds and it also has the most amazing patches of rhubarb. I've been getting jealous lately over everyone's posts of their rhubarb crops dreaming of the day I get to share my own. Now I can, albeit with no effort required this year. Sorry to those whose crops are making them resort to Jedi mind tricks!! 

I don't have solid plans just yet for how I am going to turn this plot around into being a productive one but what I do know for definite is that it will be a good mix between crops and flowers more than likely in raised beds and hopefully in good time it will be home to some chickens. The family will also be contributing to creating a haven for us all to enjoy. The main priority now is to get in and give it a good tidy up, clear out as much of the weeds possible and get the sheds and greenhouse functioning well. The main one being the 'Tea Station' seems as though that's the one that is going to keep me and the family fuelled. Priorities right?!

I must say a really HUGE THANKYOU to all those who have spoken to me about it over on social media and have offered their advice already and I know I am in good hands if I get stuck. The allotment/gardening community is by far one of the friendliest, be that those you speak to in person or on these platforms.

If you would like to see the FIRST OFFICIAL TOUR you can head over to my YouTube Channel .

So there you have it, patience really is a virtue. Good things do come to those who wait, even if it is 2 years.

Until Next Time

Official Allotmenteer