Homemade wreath

Feeling festive

A festive aside from allotmentry today…

In the last few weeks I’ve been plundering the local countryside for Christmas decorations. On the mantlepiece I’ve stuck a vase of stems with seedheads found in a field margin. I peppered on some gold spray and added a pheasant feather (of which there are a lot around here!) for a rustic centrepiece.

Foraged christmas mantlepiece decoration

Sprayed stems and pheasant feather

And I’m super-chuffed with the wreath I made for the front door. I used off-cut branches from our Christmas tree, variegated holly branches found in our community compost heap (!) and some spare small red baubles.

But my best find were scattered on the ground in a recently-harvested conifer wood: Twigs dotted with rows of lovely pine cones, each about the size of a hen’s egg.

Like the seedheads, I gave the pine cones some gold highlights, and used thin green wire to stitch everything together.

I didn’t use a template or support, so it was difficult to make it sturdy and nicely round – but careful choice of which section to hang it from seems to have evened it out! Perhaps after a couple of weeks it’ll be a bit saggy, but hey ho, right now it looks ace.

Homemade wreath

Homemade wreath


A fruity December day

The allotment came with a fruity inheritance consisting of:

– 3 wonderfully productive blackcurrant bushes
– a lacklustre row of summer-fruiting raspberries
– a huge rhubarb crown
– an invasive thorny bramble with huge berries
– a small strawberry plot barely visible amongst the couch grass.

The strawberries were sorted out last year, and I’ve extended the patch with this year’s runners.

I gave the raspberries another chance this summer but they were crap; weedy plants, yellowing leaves and barely any fruit.

The poor things – and the whole fruity area – were completely choked by couch grass and bindweed. So this summer I ripped out the rasps and spent back-breaking hours digging and carefully removing as much of the weeds and their pernicious roots as possible. I covered the area with weedproof membrane after to stop it coming straight back (there, at least!).

If Father Christmas doesn’t bring me autumn-fruiting raspberries, I’ll have to shell out on some myself.

And so to blackberries. This house loves them. My toddler has a bottomless capacity for them, but I wouldn’t let her pick her own this year because our plant was vicious.

The fruit was awesome though – definitely a cultivated variety – so Mr MBaF suggested we propagate it and plant it in a convenient hedgerow so we still get to enjoy the fruit on dog-walks!

I successfully rooted a shoot; by laying a young growing stem on the soil surface in a plant pot and securing with a tent peg for a couple of weeks.

Then I ruthlessly attacked the plant with the loppers and some stump-killer.

Its friendlier replacement is a tiddly offcut from a delicious and thornless cultivated variety my parents grow. Today Mr MBaF whacked in some fence posts between which we’ll span wires to train it along.

Two fenceposts between which our blackberry will be trained

Two fenceposts between which our blackberry will be trained

Another job jobbed today was to lift and split the rhubarb. That was an interesting experience! The modest hump of scaly matter hid a huge orange crown of rhubarby root. Once it was loosened from the surrounding soil I could make satisfying spade slices through the crunchy bulk.

I read somewhere to remove the centre, keeping and replanting sections from the outside. I ended up with a wheelbarrow full of (heavy!) waste, some sections to replant and two small crowns to offer up on our village Facebook page!

Splitting a rhubarb crown - the aftermath

The heavy barrowload of old rhubarb root

I used a 50L sack of farmyard manure to enrich the planting hole for the refreshed crown. Rhubarb needs moisture-retaining soil and lots of goodness I believe.

chocolate tin seed storage

Spring into action

Just as a shiny new pencil case and stationery would give me a thrill before the forthcoming school year, tonight I’ve enjoyed sorting out my seed-storage before the next growing season.

Nothing fancy, but a £3 transparent plastic box with 12 homemade month dividers (tip from Gardeners’ World Mag) have replaced the jumble of packets in an old Quality Street tin.

Thing is, 90% of my packets have sowing times in March or April…I’m already having a mild panic about how I’m going to manage it. I’m thinking, no trips away, no work, and set up camp at the ‘lotty for 8 weeks!

Seed packet filing

March and April looking very busy in my new seed packet file

How does everyone organise their seeds ‘n’ stuff? Do other UK readers covet Monty Don’s gawjus seed cabinet as seen on BBC Gardener’s World….or is that just me?!