Face Planting

Right, I know it’s been quite a while since I last wrote a blog post, I would apologise but to be honest, I’ve actually been busy becoming a superstar so it was a worthwhile sacrifice. Lifestyles of the rich and famous yo (I’ve also seemingly been initiated into a low-level street gang yo).

I’ve had a crazy few weeks. In fact, I even had a full scale film crew at the allotment at one stage but I’ll fill you in a bit more on that once it goes live. Let’s just say I spent a number of hours looking lovingly at bunches of kale. Pretty sure I’m now married to my kale to be honest, I’ve never know anyone or anything so intimately. It’s a bit of a thorny issue now as I think my rhubarb got a bit jealous (that only got a mild stroking and a cheeky wink), especially as I had a make up artist on set/plot with me and I looked absolutely GORGEOUS!

In addition to my oscar worthy performance, I’ve also had a few deadlines, food growing workshops, interviews and to be completely honest, quite a few pressing social commitments to attend. It’s difficult to garden when you’re busy dancing in six-inch stilettos every Friday night and even more difficult when you’re absolutely dying of a hangover the following morning. It’s near impossible to string a few words together, never mind write anything beyond texts to your mates along the lines of “call the mother-bleeping reaper guys, I am feeling grim”.

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The hangover sanctuary

The allotment does provide some modicum of sanctuary from the real world when you have a cracking headache and you keep getting those aftertaste waves of last night’s tequila but I tend to spend those hungover days sitting in my pink chair, drinking coffee and regretting my life choices and get very little in the way of actual gardening or writing completed. Some advocate for healthy living I am! As such, it’s been quite a few weeks since my last blog post but here I am, back with a bang. Literally, this post is all about banging (get your mind out of the gutter, I’m a different kind of purveyor of filth….), I mean the bangs, bumps, burns and bashes that often take place in a garden.

There’s a scene in Jaws where Richard Dreyfuss, Roy Scheider and Robert Shaw are sitting around in a boat after another testing day of throwing barrels at a shark. They’re having a few drinks and comparing war wounds, each trying to out-man each other with their scars. It’s one of my all time favourite movie scenes, possibly because my Mam used to sing the song they sing to me as a lullaby when I was younger. Yep, my mother sang me a sea shanty about getting drunk to put me to sleep, absolute legend that she is. Probably explains quite a lot about the adult I turned into to be honest…

Now, if you’re wondering why the hell I’m writing about Jaws, picture this: that scene is akin to our allotment community room at times, except we have tea instead of booze and slugs instead of sharks. An average chat with my gardening pals can often go as follows:

“I got stung by a bee the other day, look at the bloody lump on my leg”
“You think that’s bad? I stood on my rake and it hit me in the face”
“Sure I pruned off my own finger with my secateurs”
“Pfffft, that’s nothing lads, I impaled my foot with a garden fork and now have selective        stigmata”.
“Show me the way to home! I’m tired and I wanna go to (raised) bed(s)……”

Gardens have a reputation for being very zen places to spend an afternoon, and yes, they can be…..when you’re not the bloody gardener. Cue the Kenny Loggins guys, the garden path can often be a highway to the danger zone.

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Don’t let it fool you, this is the entrance to hell

Being an allotment holder is not about prancing around in pretty dresses and sandals, with daisy chain braided hair, listening to the birdsong while you thread your fingers through long grass, eating fresh strawberries and sipping elderflower cordial. It’s more ripped jeans, twig tangled hair, sweating up a storm while dragging your hands through the goddamn mud, shovelling raw peas into your gob and taking a swig of beer. There’s no picking flowers while listening to Mozart in my garden, in my garden, I get out in the rain and dig along to Deftones.

Allotment gardeners are absolute hard asses. We toil and lug and lift and dig. I’m constantly covered in scars, bruises, cuts and stings, I have calloused hands and a killer tan and some serious biceps from all the digging.

Having spent the past two weekends working hard at the plot, my body now resembles a map of mishaps. I have a rather large cut on my wrist, two deep scratches on my forearm, a rash on my chest from a rogue nettle, seven bruises on my shins. Yes, I counted, there are seven. I broke five fingernails and somehow a toenail and have a large splinter in the tip of my thumb which I have decided to leave in a sick and twisted experiment to see how long it takes to work its own way out. Rakes to the face, shovels to the foot, bamboo stabbings, wasp stings, slipping in the mud and face planting into your potato patch, this is the stuff that makes you hard as nails.

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Standard

Fiona Gores Fools

Now, not only is the allotment a dangerous place for the gardener, but the allotment gardener can turn into quite the dangerous individual. Or at least I can. Last week, I tweeted that the only reason that I have an allotment is to bury the bodies of all the men who have messed me around in it. I was joking of course (cough), but it got me to thinking, I could legitimately dispose of a man’s person’s body in my garden…plus bullsh*t does make excellent fertiliser.

Now, I’m not advocating murder of course – I can’t even bring myself to kill a slug – and I’m pretty skeptical about the effect necrotic human flesh would have on my organic veggies (probably still not as detrimental as weedkiller to be fair), but an allotment would be the ideal place in which to commit the perfect crime.

I don’t want to get a reputation as a hoe or anything but for all you know, there could be a man in every one of my beds. The Litchfield Correctional Facility vegetable garden ain’t got nothing on mine.

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Armed and dangerous

I mean, think about it, I have a shed full of potentially deadly weapons and 100 square metres of muck in which to bury the evidence. I have pick axes, shears, secateurs, knives and saws. I’m a dab hand at digging and I reckon I could have a shallow grave ready to fill in approximately twenty minutes. Not that I’ve tried it of course.

I also have a garden full of poisonous plants that could make me a potential dark horse of organic food growing.

Azaleas for the assholes. Digitalis for the d*ckheads. Rhododendrons for the rogues. Mistletoe for the misogynists. Hydrangeas for the husbands. Seriously. Hydrangeas contain levels of…wait for it….cyanide. I’m a little concerned that they happen to be one of my favourite plants and the connotations that may have for my reputation after writing this. In fairness, you would need a hell of a lot of them to kill a man human, but still.

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Gorgeous but deadly. Hydrangea are my spirit flowers.

However, if you’re looking for a more considered and subtle approach, rhubarb leaves are the perfect choice for all the non-commitals, you won’t kill them but you’ll leave them with quite an epic tummy ache. So a fair warning to all my exes, future exes, critics, naysayers, enemies and in particular to my arch nemesis (you know who you are), I might be an environmental hippy type who grows her own food, but I also “accidentally” grow quite a few toxins.

In fact, I’m thinking of a complete rebrand of my blog:

Copy of Copy of Plan-Cary

What do you reckon?

Pretty sure I’ll be writing my next blog post from prison guys. Don’t worry, I’ll start a food garden there too….Green is the New Black after all.

This blog post may or may not be inspired by a moment of panic in the garden last week when I was pulling up old foxgloves sans gloves and then casually ate a jam donut straight away. Cue immediate melodramatic visions of myself dying a horrible and painful death. Death by digitalis.

Here lies Fiona Kelly: donut devotee, foxglove fanatic, alliteration addict.

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The Water/Gate Equations

One of my favourite things to do is take a walk around the allotments and see what the other gardeners on site have going on. You see, gardens are very personal spaces and I love seeing the individuality and creativity on display. You can tell a lot about a person by their garden. You can tell if they’re industrious or lazy, you can tell if they’re arty or logical, spud lovers or flower fanatics, DIYers or GIYers. Yes, you can learn a lot about a person by spending time in their garden.

There are close to three hundred plots on site in Malahide Allotments and with some inevitably lying idle or unworked every year, there are about 250 plots for me to explore when I go for one of my strolls and not one allotment is the same as the next. Some are simple rows of potatoes, some are taken up by huge polytunnels, some are manicured and some are meadows. There are sheds of all colours, pathways, raised beds, sunken beds and no beds, but each plot has one thing in common, it is inhabited by a gardener with a unique view in what it is to have an allotment.

For me, not only is my allotment a place in which to grow dinner but it is my haven. I have no garden where I live so my allotment has become a garden to enjoy as well as a place to grow crops. I have spent a lot of time on the layout and the structure of the allotment. I have a shed, six large raised beds and three small raised beds. I have a herb garden and a fruit section, flower borders, a polytunnel and a decking area. My allotment is very much a pick ‘N’ mix plot.

I’ve worked hard to have a pretty plot and spent quite a lot of time in recent weeks touching the place up and adding some new fun elements to the garden. A couple of years ago, I painted my raised beds bright blue, much to the amusement of many fellow plot holders. However, blue wasn’t just some colour I plucked out of the sky (see what I did there?) I chose blue because I adore blue flowers. My blue beds have kind of become a defining element in my garden, not only do they give the plot some personality but they are the focus around which I have expanded the allotment.

Last week, I took a well earned week off work to spend some time relaxing in the garden. Now, if you currently have images of me in a floaty summer dress, gracefully moving through the garden, collecting flowers in a wicker basket while singing arias, you definitely don’t know me very well. My “lovely relaxing week in the garden” consisted of me in grubby shorts, legs covered in muck and paint and nettle stings, digging up a storm, only taking breaks to spend some valuable time in bed with my new boyfriend, Nate Flicks.

OK that’s a lie, his name is Netflix, it’s getting rather serious though.

Fiona❤️Nate 4eva

One of the most important structures on most allotments, and perhaps the one thing that most allotment gardeners use to declare “this is my garden, this is who I am” is their shed. I’ve had a shed in my plot since year one and I usually just treat it with wood stain and use it as a dumping ground, so last week I decided it was time to spruce it up a bit.

Yes, it is pink and yes, it does look a bit like a wendy house but I love it and that’s what matters.

For a long time, I have yearned for a proper gate on my plot. I’ve always just had a gap where a gate should be and for years I’ve put it on the long finger as I’m petty terrified of shortening my own fingers with a saw. I am the most accident prone person on the planet so I’ve broken this down into a new universal law of mathematics to better explain my lack of gate:

Where F=Fiona, S=Saw and Di=Digit(finger):

F + S = -(Di x 2)

I mentioned this to a fellow plot holder, Paddy last week and lo and behold, when I arrived at my allotment the next day, there was a new gate hanging where there was no gate before. Paddy had made me a gate and hung it for me in an act of kindness, once again proving that gardeners are the most generous people in the world. My gate is now painted pink to match my shed and is hereby dedicated to The Gatefather himself, Paddy.

So now, I have a pink gate, pink shed, pink chair and blue beds! (Wait until you see what colour I have planned for my decking!). My plot is significantly girly and pretty for someone who is a self confessed tomboy.

In the final major development on the plot this week, I am currently working on adding a wildlife pond to the garden.

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Wildlife ponds are a valuable addition to any vegetable garden as they attract frogs which are the ultimate slug control! It took me a couple of hours and about 10 barrows of muck to dig the pond. I have one side of the pond deep enough for frogs to live in during winter months and created shelving for plants too. The pond is still waiting to be filled and planted so I will keep you updated and write a post on how to create your very own allotment pond.
On that note, my second new universal law of mathematics is as follows

Where F=Fiona, I=inevitability and X=making complete show of self by falling in to pond:

F + I = X

Therefore, whenever I fall into my pond, you’ll hear me claim it was a fix!

Spring Clean

This morning, I went out to the plot with the intentions to plant and dig and weed and do those things which we as gardeners are meant to do, but I took one look at the plot and decided before I could reasonably do any of that, I needed to clean up my act. Amongst all my weeds and muck, raised beds and shed, there’s an awful lot of dirt, and I don’t mean muck (we all know there’s plenty of muck) I mean rubbish. Flyaway netting, torn remnants of weed control fabric, shards of bamboo, even old cloches, just rubbish. The allotment was never going to start looking nice if I didn’t deal with all that rubbish first, so I got into cleaning mode and began to tackle the messy parts of the garden.

Underneath it's nice exterior, plot p26 had a dirty underbelly, like the gotham city of allotments.

Underneath it’s nice exterior, plot p26 had a dirty, seedy underbelly, it was like the Gotham City of allotments. Only the work of a superhero like Batman could weed out the grime and corruption.

You may remember I made a new years resolution to clean my shed. Well, I did it! Three months later but I finally did it, and boy was there a lot of mess in there. I threw out empty compost bags, plenty of torn netting, old bits of fleece, broken pots, empty water bottles, I found a pair of socks in there (seriously, no idea where they came from). My shed has been returned to it’s former glory, though it is in dire need of some prettying up. New mission: pretty up the shed.

I also decided to tackle the terribly wasted area outside the shed. Last year, most of my effort went in to my raised beds, installing fencing, getting the shed and of course getting to grips with growing my own food. Quite a lot of space on the plot went unused, particularly the area outside the shed, which is fairly big and has a lot of potential. I’d guess it’s about ten square metres of my plot which was just grass, rubble and weeds. So, I got out my shovel, and started to dig. It took me the best part of two hours but I turned over all the soil and raked it out to make it even, there had been a slope down toward the shed which was driving me mad. I sectioned off half of this area and began to work the soil and marked a layout for a small herb garden. The rest I covered with weed control fabric, I’m hoping to get either gravel or some paving stones to make a patio but I can’t decide which.

My future herb garden

My future herb garden, a work in progress.

I decided I needed a break from manual labour and so, I sat on the edge of one of the beds and planted my parsnip seeds. I had manured the soil pretty well last year and covered it for winter and what a difference it made. The soil in the bed was soft and fine, a far cry from what it had been last year. I planted three short rows of “Gladiator” parsnips, a variety I had to grow after tasting some last year and falling in love.

The weather took a bad turn after a few hours so I decided to call it a day, not before I had a little look around the plot. There’s life beginning to creep in again, the cold days are getting very slightly warmer and there’s more light in the sky during the daytime hours. My artichokes are growing back after the winter as are my raspberry canes, which last August, I thought had died. There are buds on my blueberry and gooseberry canes, the garlic seems to have finally started growing and my onions are beginning to sprout.

Garlic

Garlic

Right now, the king of the plot is my rhubarb. I finally picked some today. It was defenitely the highlight of my gardening year so far.

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

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This should make a nice crumble

Shelter

Dave’s reading chair

I was chuffed the other day when I visited the plot and discovered the shed had been put up. It’s a 6ft by 4ft shed which is small but it’s big enough for our needs and I didn’t want the shed to take up too much space on the plot. Finally I have somewhere to store the tools, the car was destroyed with all the muck etc, it also means I can cycle out to the plot now as I don’t have to carry all the tools with me.

I planted another crop of peas the other day. Succession sowing means I should (hopefully) have peas throughout the summer. I tidied up the plot the other day, there’s a lot of weeds to deal with and I’m trying to keep them in check.

I put some collars on my cabbages to protect them from the dreaded cabbage root fly. I wrote a blog post about how to make them yourself, you can find it here if you want to try it yourself, it’s very easy. I also put netting around the bed to protect the cabbages from the birds. I hammered a small length of wood to each corner of the bed and just draped the netting over using twine to hold it up. You’ll notice I also have some CD’s in the bed, this is to try scare the birds away, I’ve heard it helps so fingers crossed.

Other than that I haven’t done much on the plot this week, again the weather hasn’t been great. You can tell by my photos it’s been very grey and dull. Things are looking up though, the weather forecast tells me we should have a dramatic improvement in weather this week, we might even get some decent sunshine and a raise in temperatures. I’m just hoping for at least one day when I can get out on the plot in my shorts, is that too much to ask?

I’ll leave you for now with some shots of the plot from the other day.

Rain pooled in lupin leaves

View from the shed window

Spuds

Borage

Grey skies