Monday, 5 July 2010

Summer Seclusion

One of the most charming things about having an allotment next to a stream is that it provides a picturesque retreat – a secluded urban oasis that is perfect for escaping the trappings of modern life. This evening, my girlfriend and I walked up to the allotment for a quiet evening picnic; the functional purpose of plant-watering given added incentive by the thought of escaping noisy neighbours for an evening.

I may have been a little creative with these pictures, but the warm sepia reflects the feeling of a warm hazy evening, in my mind at least!

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Tomato Transplant!

Stick your head outside one of the windows at my flat and you'll inevitably be treated to a constant cacophony of screeching planes on their final approach to Heathrow airport. Invasive aviation aside, popping your head outside of the window is also likely to result in a brush with all manner of plants and pots, which I have been growing from seed over the past few weeks.

Along with courgette and cucumber plants, I have been growing two different varieties of tomatoes, 'Pomodoro' Italian beefsteak and 'Lycopersicon Esculentum Tigrella' (the latter are illustrated in the photo at the top of this post), to accompany the shop-bought tomato plants up at the allotment. Many of London's converted Victorian flats have huge windowsills, which is an excellent space to utilise for growing seeds – especially in this hot weather.

Anyway, I hiked the 2 miles up to the allotment this morning intending to get my home-grown baby tomato plants bedded in. I usually run to the allotment, but was laden down with bags of tomato, cucumber and courgette plants, so a slower pace was required!

I separated the plants and proceeded to bed these into the soil, which I had previously broken up with a fork. Now, these plants look very droopy, as they had only just gone in and not been watered when the photo was taken, but hopefully they will bed in fine.

For experimentation, I have also set up a couple of tomato plants in a grow bag:

I'm keen to see which set of plants grows more productively, as the soil in the allotment is rather clay-like and I had such success with grow bags on the balcony last year. I'm not sure if it will make a huge difference, but it makes for interesting experimentation nonetheless. Tomatoes also seem to be one of the few plants that the birds are leaving alone at the moment, so I'm investing a lot of faith in these plants – and the harvest that they'll hopefully bring!


In regards to vegetable growing, the great outdoors is a hard mistress to please. The transition from balcony to allotment has undeniably been a difficult one; however the number of pitfalls, perils and pests has surpassed even my own expectations.

There's no doubt that much of this year's gardening has been a learning curve of huge magnitude; an education which has been supported by many of my new neighbours down at the allotments. Despite knowing that I am learning all the time however, the lack of actually vegetative progress has been a disappointment that's been well documented on the London Vegetable Garden blog.

Well, what a difference a few weeks make. My ongoing battles with pests have led me to attack everything from slugs to ants, when after discussions with fellow plot holders, I have managed to ascertain that pigeons are some of the worst offenders. A fortnight ago, my lettuces from Rocket Gardens looked like this:

However, Maddy (the lady whose plot I'm working on) very kindly assisted me and helped me to put some netting down over the baby plants. I was sceptical, partly as I was so disheartened, but took heed of her advice – after all, she's been gardening for years. Anyway, the netting really has worked! Slugs are still getting a couple of bites, but look at the difference the netting has made:

One of the greatest things I've learnt in recent weeks is to talk to allotment gardeners around you. They are all growing plants and vegetables in the same ecosystem, so it follows that they will all share the same problems that you are experiencing – and subsequently, have some successful solutions to share.

Anyway, the netting has been a huge success and even up at the allotment today, I noticed a few pigeons lurking around. Unfortunately, what they can't get at on my allotment, they'll find on someone else's, but hopefully my plants will now be able to re-establish themselves and everything will not be as lost as I thought it was this time a few weeks ago!


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