September digging


September. We made it through the heat wave and the rainy season is upon us. The Rye flower and veg show was a huge success and has brought together the community of growers to show off our harvest. St Mary’s church’s annual harvest festival lunch will take place this year on Sunday October 2 after the 10:30am family service.

The allotment is beginning to rejuvenate with cooler temperatures and rain. But courgettes, corn, and most of our French beans all seem exhausted and finished. Tomatoes have done amazingly well and I have cut almost all the leaves away to try to ripen the remaining fruit. Runner beans are loving life right now. Our allotment neighbours sowed winter salad and turnip four weeks ago in seed trays and are now transplanting into the ground. I may just try to direct sow to see if anything comes up. But beware, whitefly and pigeons are causing havoc on anything cabbage/kale/brassica-like.

This year’s apple harvest looks awful. Half of our fruit has already been shed.  We will try to make apple sauce with the discarded but ripened fruit. A few years ago, we collected windfall apples and turned them into a lovely hard cider. Incredibly simple to do with apples as the only ingredient.

September is the month when little packages of bulbs start to drop through our letterbox.  Spring garden visits led to photos of flowers I loved which led to looking up nurseries, which led to bulbs being ordered. Now September has arrived, and my husband repeats his mantra of “where will you find room for that in the garden?”.

I have a good friend and garden designer who lives in the icy cold climate of Sweden.  She told me when I first started planting bulbs to think about where I would see them from the warmth of my house- “who wants to really go outside in the cold just to view a flower?” she advised. So ever since, I have planted bulbs based on when they will bloom and what we will see from the house.  Therefore, snowdrops closest to my window, tulips further away with the weather warmer when they flower.

My focus this year is picking bulbs which will last. Scilla and daffodils always feel like good value, for their ability to slowly divide and spread through the garden. This year, I saw a daffodil called narcissus tête bouclé which looked like a little yellow peony/rose to try. Tulips are trickier. I have found simply planting tulips deeper means they do last a few years longer. There are some varieties eg “Spring Green”, which seem better at returning every year. I spend ages researching sources for each bulb- prices can vary hugely, especially for unusual ones.  For example, scilla peruviana is on my wish list, and it can range from £3.50 a bulb, to £6.

Finally, a very special gift was handed to me in the allotment last month that I wanted to share with you. Phil Mullane is our allotment winning artist (first prize for his painting at the Rye Flower and Veg Show).  His poem captures the magic of growing and nature beautifully:



Oblivious to the morning traffic
Two brown moths
Jive madly in the sunshine
Air kissing and flirting above my head –
Two crazy rock ‘n’ rollers tipsy on love.
Through the latch gate
Grass is bedewelled.
Now with sheds unlocked, tools selected
Watering cans full
I set to work on the allotment
Our robin’s on Worm Watch
Sweetly singing in the tree.
The spade cuts into hard earth-
Weeds in one bucket, stones in the other.
All around there’s new life –
Beetroot, onions, parsnips
A small dense forest of potatoes
Lines of leeks and garlic and shallots
Pear and plum and apple and fig
Thirsty melons and courgettes in the cold frame –
A cornucopia of leaf and flower and fruit.
And here am I
My pencil a dibber
Spacing out my words like seedlings on this pale plot.

By Phil Mullane
Poet/artist in residence, down on the allotment

Image Credits: Abigail Cooper-Hansen .

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  1. What a fabulously engaging piece Abigail! After reading your description, I too want to be part of this ‘allotment community’….one day when time is on my side!

  2. Lewis. Google …Rother council allotments there will be list of allotment sites.
    Then click on the contact link…of the one nearest to where you live.
    There is most likely a waiting list for a plot..


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