Last week I had a couple of RHS professionals up at the allotment- can't get better than that eh! Ian le Gro and Tracy Leveritt helped me plant out some sweet potatoes that they had grown on from slips at RHS Hyde Hall in Essex. I'm growing a selection of varieties as a sort of experiment up some hazel wigwams, but it's the tubers underground that you dig up and eat in late summer. My one concern is that they like plenty of water so I have mulched after planting to keep as much moisture in but in reality can only get up there once or twice a week to water. If we have a wet summer like last year there'll certainly be no worries in that department!
We were all up there yesterday (Sunday) all afternoon till early evening and had a lovely sunny time. There were plenty of others up there too. Cathy bought me a little gas camping stove for my birthday so we could have a cup of tea or even start cooking some produce straight away, so it feels more like home every time we go. We dug up Manuel's garlic as it had a bad case of rust (he's given it to half the site!), but managed to salvage plenty of the garlic cloves, which are fine. In its place we sowed some Pak Choi as we love a good stir fry. Stan and Connie sieved a few shovels of compost and soil to create a fine tilth to give them a good start. They got a good little system going, and produced enough fine soil before they got tired and a little hot (boy they slept well last night though!). We also sowed some more herbs to keep a good succession going. At the end of the day we dug up and brought back some fab potatoes and cut some salad for the week and Ken gave Cathy a lovely bunch of sweet peas as well as a huge onion. I didn't think it would taste of much as it was so big, but Cath was crying her eyes out when she cut into it last night to start off a pasta sauce. This allotment lark must be finally getting to her!
Well Gardeners' World Live took up all of last week as we filmed the programme and then I stayed on until Saturday night talking on the 'Grow It' stage and on the celebrity theatre. The highlight for me was to have my replica allotment painted by Chris Cyprus, a man who is a cross between T S Lowry and Noel Gallagher and specialises is painting allotments in acrylics! The replica allotment itself was really well done (although smaller and far prettier than the real thing), and became a real talking point at the show. One woman actually asked me if I came up to the NEC every weekend with my family to look after it as she thought it was the real thing. Some people eh!
Chris usually spends a month or so on each painting, but he had only three days to do this one. I loved his final creation, but although I wanted to buy it, we auctioned it off in the Saturday and raised £1,100 for Children in Need so many thanks to Chris, fantastic. It was an exhausting week for all of us, but it's also great to meet so many viewers of the programme. Loads of young families came up to me and told me they loved the allotment so much they had taken on one themselves. It has certainly captured many children's imaginations and got them growing, which can only be a good thing. When I actually got to mine yesterday I was pleasantly surprised. The weeds were controllable and the mixture of sun and rain meant everything had grown well. I lifted my first new potatoes, 'Swifts' of course and boiled some up right there on the spot. Boy did they taste good. We had some last night at home and now all that initial hard work seems worth while. Till next time, Joe.
Last week I was at Berryfields working in the jungle garden. It was voted the viewers' favourite part of the whole garden, and it's really has matured beautifully over the last three years. There's a simple structure of bamboos, tree ferns, trachycarpus and fatsia to set the scene, but each year we add something different. This time I planted an understory using houseplants! It may sound a bit of a gimmick, but actually houseplants are simply plants that can't cope with any cold weather, but will benefit hugely from being taken outdoors for the summer for some fresh air to rejuvenate them and get rid of any pests that may be hanging around. I put in spider plants, mother-in-law's tongue, peace lilies and trailing tradescantias in their pots, but dug them into the ground so they'll be easy to lift and, even though I do say it myself, they look absolutely fantastic. Exotic bedding is the way to go!
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Well.....I went up to the allotment for the first time in two weeks and everything has certainly grown plenty, including the weeds! The weather has been so good for leaf growth, with regular rain and warm days so the pieces of mare's tail that I missed out during my weeding have started to grow. Fortunately it looked worse than it was and when you start tugging they come out easily enough, but in a strange way I'm already looking forward to the winter when I can clear areas and thoroughly go through them all again. I simply will not be beaten!
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First up I would like to wish Monty a speedy recovery. As well as a great work colleague, he has become a good friend over the last few years and I'll really miss seeing him every week at Berryfields, and of course on the TV on Friday nights as we all will. He's planning on spending plenty of time in his own garden, which I'm sure is just what the doctor ordered and the best place to relax for as long as it takes to get better.
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