Getting fruity

Bo and Derek (above) are the newest additions to the Hop Garden flock - they're a pair of bantam light sussex and are real little characters. Their small size has got some advantages: not only can they rush in and grab some bread/porridge/raspberries before the other hens have spotted them, they can also get on top of the rabbit hutch where they currently sleep and dine in their romantic "rooftop restaurant", safe in the knowledge that they can't get bullied or have their dinner pinched.

I think we've finally made an inroad on getting the allotment back under control a bit more, thanks to many hours of hard work and a little help from our friends. It's fortunate I have some decidedly autistic characteristics or else I would have gone round the bend weaving the willow dome and 'fedge' back into shape for hours on end (mind you, when I started to play the Wedding March over and over in my head I figured it was probably time to stop for some lunch in order to preserve what sanity I had left).

Duncan turned up with his mum Ellen this week to help weed the Greenfingers Club (I'd appealed for volunteers to keep it in check over the summer while the children are on holiday) and they have already made a real difference to their bit of the plot. I think Ellen did most of the work, unfortunately, but Duncan did justify his lack of weeding with the fact that he was busy making a top quality perfume for his mum out of various sweet smelling items he found around the garden. I'm a great believer in getting up close and personal with plants, so I probably didn't help keep him on the straight and narrow as far as wedding was concerned.

The squashes and pumpkins in the mini polytunnel (above) are doing really well.

It's that time of year when I feel that I just can't pick fruit quick enough, and despite giving pounds of the delicious stuff away, there's only so much you can eat before it succumbs to the rain and begins its rapid road to ruin. So, I've been making jam by the bucket-load (strawberry and gooseberry and plain gooseberry so far) and have the scars to prove that I did several rounds with the gooseberry bush to gather the raw materials.

It finally dawned on me why you never see pick your own gooseberries - they'd have to provide a set of gauntlets with each punnet. Apparently some bushes are more deadly than others, and I seem to have picked a particularly prickly specimen, and must have been highly entertaining for anyone passing by with my regular interjections of "ow!' every other second.

I've given up worrying about the weeds on the paths as there are just too many; I'd never sleep at night. Instead, I'm pulling out the really nasty perennials such as docks and leaving the grasses for a natural effect (see above, looking up the main path).

We've had our first taste test from the pea trial and they were all really tasty, which was a relief as Alan was reluctant to taste any trial vegetables again after last year's awful lettuces which even the chickens refused to eat. It's been a challenge trying to support tall peas though, especially as the heavy rain and wind (well it is summer!) flattened them several times so if I do grow them again, I'm going to have to be a bit more inventive with the structures next time.

A taste of summer

I came back from holiday wondering if I'd missed the boat with the strawberries as they weren't quite ready when I left but had the potential to be all over by the time I returned. However, as the photo above proves, I did manage to get my red fruit hit and I was pleased that other people had been taking some too. It would have been far worse to come back to lots of rotten fruit than none at all.

However, I wish at least one of the enthusiastic eaters had managed to pull the odd weed or two out while munching as the garden looks like a jungle thanks to a winning combination of lots of rain and a bit of sunshine - it will take a while to get on top of it all again.

But rather than focus on the weeds, I'll take the time to show you the plants I wanted to thrive while I was away - the sweet peas (above) smell gorgeous and the bright crimson, purple and soft mauve are just perfect together (I even planned the colour scheme based on the heritage varieties my Grandad sent me in the post, which is far more organised than I usually manage).

These poppies were a pleasant surprise and I'm keeping an eye on the seed heads to save some for next year.

The red crimson green manure on the pea/bean bed has been doing really well and is lovely to look at as well as a haven for bees.
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