An inner city allotment

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September 2021

Welcome to autumn, although the first three weeks of September have been almost tropical in the UK. The colder weather has just about begun to kick in. We hope you are all well despite the oncoming darker nights. It’ll soon be spring again.

Our two pumpkins, variety ‘Jack o’Lantern, are lovely, we’ll definitely be growing them again. The picture doesn’t do them justice. Our lovely grape vine – we call her Barbara – produced loads of grapes, bowls full. They were very sweet with a pip but we didn’t mind. It just seemed amazing to us that we can grow grapes in the north of England and they’re edible!! Must be something to do with global warming …

We decided to begin a ‘Winter’ veg bed, just to keep things ticking along. Most of the veg won’t be ready until spring, but we love to visit the allotments in winter, unlike a lot of our neighbours who seem to disappear in the middle of September and don’t reappear until March when the better weather comes along. We’ve planted some cabbage ( surrounded by copious slug pellets after an accident!!) broccoli, leeks – which look a bit small on the pic – and bright lights chard.In the green grow bags there are some ‘Christmas potatoes’, which have already begun flowering due to the warm weather, so they may be ‘ Run up to Christmas potatoes’! Also going in the ground when it gets a bit colder will be over wintering red & white onions, garlic and spinach in containers. Busy busy.

We purchased some spent Anemones from a local garden centre. 50p each. Bargain! So, they’re going in the soil for some colour next Spring/ Summer. The Helenium looks AMAZING at the moment. We’re going to get some different varieties for next year. We’ve fallen in love with the autumnal colouring. The Sedum that we grow along the spine path is also looking great. We leave it for it’s colour and as well as feeding the pollinators that are still around.

It’s the big tidy up at the weekend. The dahlias get lifted, pots & containers brought inside and plants pruned. It’s all go, and tinged with a bit of sadness as well. The summer really has ended, another growing season gone and this one was over so quickly for us because of all the ‘goings on’ (sh*t!!) at the allotment site.

We hope you are well, and if you are in a lockdown try and stay positive. It’s horrible, but it will come to an end eventually. Keep masking up if you feel the need, wash your hands, use a handkerchief. OK, end of lecture. Happy Plotting!

Twitter @PlotDaze @view_shed

Instagram @plot_daze @view_of_a_shed @view_from_a_shed

*Helenium,Pumpkin,Sedum pics courtesy of @view_from_a_shed

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August 2021

We have been adding ‘Lock Down Days’ to the title since March 2020. In the U.K. we are out of lockdown … for now. If you are still in a lockdown situation, we are thinking of you and yours. Hopefully things will change for the better soon. Actually, they WILL change for the better, so there.

Autumn is coming, and so are the blackberries. We have a wild blackberry bush that grows around the back of the shed and produces bags of fruit each year. Other than the occasional prune it gets no maintenance at all. We take half and leave the other for the birds.

A small success! We’ve never been great leek growers, so when we saw a free packet of ‘Summer leek’ seeds with a horticultural magazine, we thought we would give them a go. We literally started them off in the greenhouse, then stuck them in the soil and forgot about them, other than give them a good watering every couple of days. We pulled them a few days ago. They’re lovely and we’re going to grow more of them next year. They’re obviously not as thick as the other type of leek, but the flavour is just as strong and they freeze well.

The climbing borlotti and Greek (butter) beans are beginning to dry out nicely on the vine. The mistake we made last year was picking them too early, so they were still ‘wet’ and wouldn’t store for very long. We just keep picking them as and when they have dried out and turned brown.

The Pumpkins! We have never grown them before. Yes, we know, we must be the only allotmenteers who couldn’t be bothered, but we had the seeds and thought ‘why not?’ The variety is ‘Jack – o – Lantern’ . Even though they are not very big we still think they – we have two! – are a success. Roll on Hallo’ween!

The brassicas have been decimated by cabbage white butterfly – despite netting – and greenfly oh, and slugs! A triumvirate of pests. They were awful. We had to give some to a friend who has chickens on another allotment site for them to pick over. This attack seemed to happen within a few days! Ah well …

The apple trees in the orchard are literally drooping with fruit. We had to buy a cheap metal arch ( you can see how cheap it was by the way it’s already bent with the weight of the apples!) to hold the branches aloft so you can sit on the bench without being hit. We wrap them in newspaper when they’re picked, and store them in a cool place – the shed – to keep them for as long as possible. We WILL buy an apple press one year, honestly.

We visited another allotment site last Sunday – Clubmoor. It is set within the city, like ours, and is surrounded by houses. They had an open day to celebrate the renovation of the club house/shop, on their site. It’s always interesting to see how another site is managed. This was so organised; all the finances/names of plot holders were on display for everyone to read. Each plot had it’s own gate and the place was immaculate with clear pathways and carpark. It was a lovely visit and we hope there are many more. Next Sunday we are visiting other allotments – Sefton Park – having an Open Day. These are in a very different type of site – a park duh! – in what is classed as a more affluent part of the city. We’ve been there before and it was lovely then, so we’re hoping for more of the same. What both have in common is, a genuine interest in growing, pride in their site and the welcoming attitude you would expect from the plot holders of most allotments.

This is the first Plot Daze blog for 16 months that has not been subtitled ‘Lock Down Days’. It’s been a loooong time. We hope that soon everyone will be out of lock down, and we don’t have to mention that bloody word ever again. Take care, wash your hands, wear a mask when you feel/want to, use a handkerchief when you sneeze and STAY SAFE.

Happy Plotting X

Instagram: @plot_daze @view_from_a_shed @View_of_a_shed

twitter @plotdaze @view_from_a_shed

Big orange pumpkin pic courtesy of @view_from_a_shed.

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July 2021 Lock down days …still

I wonder how long we’ll continue to add ‘Lockdown days’ to the title? A lot of the restrictions have been relaxed in the U.K., but despite us both being double jabbed, we are continuing to wear a mask and be respectful of the 2m distancing rules. It just seems like the right thing to do. So, back to growing things …

It’s been a bit of an unusual month on Plotdaze land. We have been spending as much time as we could there while trying NOT to engage with the extreme negativity that is stinking the allotment site out. It’s worse than the stench from the pony manure that was delivered a couple of months ago to fertilise the plots, and that’s saying some thing. It stunk! But it has been excellent fertiliser, unlike the negativity and slyness that we wish we could go into, but wouldn’t want to spoil your day. Anyway … we have done our best and our gorgeous plot always looks after us.

We have carrots !! Yes, we actually have some. We have always had bad luck with them and the rotten carrot fly had ended up enjoying them more than us. We planted some seed in a trough and tried to forget about it. We left the trough on a high shelf by one of the composters and did our best to ignore it, just watering it occasionally. We emptied the trough last week had our first proper harvest of baby carrots. Joy!! The Romanescu broccoli has done really well, looks ugly but tastes great as has the beetroot. There’s lots of it, or was, it’s all been eaten. we’re going to plant some more and see if we get anything.

The squash are doing well. We have a lot of Patty Pan, Tromboncino and baby Butternuts starting to sprout. We also have pumpkins! We have never grown any before, as we never had the room. We have started growing one on the compost heap – apparently the heat from the compost helps – and one vine in the ground. The peas have started to come to the the end, we’ve had a good harvest and the courgettes are just being courgettes – the glut crop!

The weather has been, for the U.K. exceptionally hot. We’re not used to these heatwaves! Rain was sparse until the very end of July and then there have been floods in certain area because of the sudden torrential downfalls. We don’t know where we are sometimes.

We post lots of flowery pics over on that Instagram, @plot_daze , if you are interested,and there are other pics on @view_from_a_shed and @view_of_a_shed. We are also on the twits – @plotdaze. Blimey! All of this social media stuff can take up your time. This is our favourite though, our little diary of our time at the plot. We hope you enjoy it too.

We’ll finish off with this picture of a clematis in the orchard. It was bought for £1.00 about three years ago and planted out. Nothing happened for about two years and we chalked it up to us planting it in the wrong place. Look at it now! This just seemed to happen overnight. It loves the apple tree it has wound itself around. The flowers are beautiful and it is non invasive. They just co-exist. Happy together. Not bothering each other. Encouraging each other if you like. Maybe we could all take a leaf (!) out of their books? STAY SAFE. Happy Plotting.

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June 2021 Lockdown days …still

A favourite month in Plotdaze land. This June has been lovely – weather wise. Lots of sun and not too much rain, the plot looks lovely and everything seems to be blooming and growing. Fabulous.

We’ve been pulling some of the beetroot that was sown in the salad bed, while it is still quite small. It gets roasted in our house, the last time we allowed it to get too big , quite a few years ago, it had to be pickled – it tasted a bit ‘woody’ – and I think some of those jars are still around somewhere! How pretty are they though? The different colours really stand out.

The salad bed is looking a bit scruffy as it usually does. The spring onions, sown into pots , have just gone into the soil, the lettuce keeps getting cut and we’ve placed a pot of strawberries in there, just for snacking purposes of course! We love the red flowers… and as you can see we have a visitor now and then from one of the allotment cats.

The peas and beans are doing very well. We seem to have grown loads of them … too many? Anyway, they’re really going for it. The peas are the best we’ve ever grown. Some were planted out early. We’re sorry we didn’t start more, because they seem to have a difficulty in making their way home to be cooked!

The runners and purple french on the main bean frames, after a slow start have taken off. A favourite time of the allotment year is when you first see the red flowers appear on the runners. It’s like seeing nasturtium leaves or onions drying out after being pulled. It just says ‘allotment’.

The climbing beans that need to be left out to completely dry off – climbing borlotti and greek/ butter bean – have already begun to flower and climb. The full sun is really helping them.

The garlic is up! Hooray! At last! I feel as if it has been in the ground FOREVER. It’s worse than planting bloody parsnips! This year it’s been a successful crop. The really cold snap we had in early spring – the temperature plummeted to as low as -10 helped it, even though it did kill off a lot of our perennial flowers. The bulbs are drying nicely in the polytunnel next to the cherry tomatoes, which have got masses of flowers. Can’t wait to be harvesting them.

The sweetcorn has gone BOOM! It looks so lush and healthy.The plastic sheeting that we used to surround it at the base as wind protection has been left where it is, mainly to deter that pesky squirrel from chewing on the stems.

We hope that you’re still doing well and are able to get out into your green spaces and grow something – veggies, fruit, flowers or even weeds! We love our plot and never take it for granted, although there are some who do and abuse the ‘good fortune’ in actually having a piece of land to enjoy. Ah well …

Look after yourselves. Get some vitamin D. Keep washing your hands and wearing your masks.

Happy plotting.

Instagram @plot_daze @view_from_a_shed @view_of_a_shed

Twitter @PlotDaze @view_shed

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May 2021 Lockdown Days

We’re still in a lockdown in the U.K. until the middle of June ( up to now, the way things are going it could be extended! ). We’re both double jabbed, but still being cautious, maybe that is the way we’ll be for a long time, I think a lot of people will. Anyway, after a miserable rainy month, the last few days of May have been gloriously warm. Most of the veg is out in the soil, so now we get down to the fun of weeding and watering!

All of the sweetcorn, our own seed and the bought seed has gone into one bed along with four ‘Sweetypop’ corn we saw for sale in a garden centre that looked miserable – we took pity on it and brought it to the plot. We’ve put the sheet plastic around it to protect it from the wind, which has decimated our corn before and to stop THAT DAM SQUIRREL. Every year we always seem to loose a couple of stalks that have been chomped by our little furry friend but the plastic seems to deter him/her a little.

The onions are growing well in their bed. We’ve planted three butternut squash, ‘Hunter’ and one ‘Patty Pan’ squash in the same bed, so their vines can wander among the troughs in between each row of onions. Love a bit of companion planting!

We started some summer leeks, they won’t grow as big as the normal, and they are doing ok. At the moment they are in what looks like gaol! It’s to protect them from the local pigeon population, who like to wander around at dusk and pull up the seedlings for fun.

We have planted A LOT of beans this year. On one wigwam are climbing Borlotti and Greek( Butter) beans. Last year we grew Greek beans, but we did not leave them on the vine to dry out, we picked them too early. We have been told to leave the Borlotti beans on to dry out as well, so they are co-habiting on their own wigwam where they can grow and dry out together. Awww

On the large bean wigwam we have some french climbers and some runners. As well as being tasty, the beans provide some privacy from the path that runs along one side of our plot, not that many other allotmenters used it but the ‘odd’ one does…ahem. We stopped using plastic netting a few years ago now, and always take the time to make one from bio degradable string that’s strong enough to take the weight of the beans. Last year it just about clung on, but it’s better than the plastic stuff. We use the same plastic around the crops as well, we’re trying really hard not to buy more of the stuff and wear out what we have got.

We had to plant up a third wigwam ( told you there’s going to be LOADS of beans this year!!) for some purple French beans. We planted a tray up, then forgot about them until they were huge. Good job we had bought some new canes this year! These are a favourite though. They don’t keep their colour when you cook them but they taste great.

The mangetout are growing , like they always do, in the trough next to the poly-tunnel. They’re doing well, we bought new seed this year, just a green variety and we can’t wait for them to begin producing! They’re the best snack food – apart from fresh peas- on the allotment.

We planted three courgettes, two ordinary varieties and one ‘Trombone’ . The seed came free with a magazine, so we couldn’t resist growing just one to see what it is like. Already they look a little mildewed..

The Peach tree – which did have the tiniest baby peach on it – has finally come outside. It has leaf curl, and we were told to spray it with a fungicide, which we have done, but we hate spraying any thing with chemicals. We’ll see. She seems to have perked up since being allowed outside, and the weather is very hot at the moment so maybe that will aid to her recovery.

After losing all three of our pear trees in the orchard some years ago, we invested in two smaller varieties. A couple of weeks ago we saw that they had both began to suffer from the same blight as our old ones, apparently its something to do with the Hawthorn trees that grow adjacent to the plot – anyway we went to work with the secateurs! We cut out most of the blackened leaves, and it seems to have done the job. We have fruit beginning to grow on one. The other has ended up looking like a lollipop but at least its alive!

We hope you are doing well, and those you love or even just like are ok. Keep wearing your masks and washing your hands. Let’s enjoy the good weather together. Happy plotting!

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April 2021 Lockdown days

We’re still in lockdown in the UK. It’s been a year of it , one lockdown after another, hopefully after May 15th I think, we should be coming out of it. Fingers crossed. The seed planting and potting on has been going happening at a pace on the allotment. The flower seedlings, beans and salad seeds are growing strong. There’s been a problem with the brassica though. They just don’t seem to be thriving, and that’s all of them – broccoli, cabbage,red & green, kale. We’ve even changed the compost we’ve been using and tried feeding some of them with a weak seaweed solution, but they are slowly failing. Maybe they will be better once we get (some of) them in the ground? A few of the other allotmenteers have complained of a similar reaction, and we’ve used different seed compost and seed packets, but the brassica are definitely not strong this season. We may have to buy plug plants, something we’re not keen on doing. Oh, and as for cucumbers, well lets just say we won’t be munching on cucumber sandwiches this summer. Three times I’ve tried to start them off and nothing, even with different seeds and compost. Nada.

The flowers seeds have been great, especially with the varieties we’ve not grown before – zinnias, cosmos, flax, honesty etc have all flown up. We can’t wait to get them in the ground. There is going to be a ton of tomato plants as well this season. We’ve been more selective about the varieties, and not just tried to grow everything that came our way. We have, ‘Green Envy’ (always, a favourite.) ‘Garden Pearl’ ‘ Black Opal’ ‘Tigerella’ ‘Golden Sunrise’ and a mystery tomato – we took the seed from a plum variety that was given to us last year – so we’re calling it ‘Plum Surprise’!

The sweetcorn has taken really well. The kernels from a saved cob from last years crop have also germinated as well as those bought from Unwins Seeds, so we should have a lot of sweetcorn later in the season. I’ve also got some ‘Minipop’ small corn to plant out. Don’t know where we’ll find the space!

It’s great to start getting stuff into the ground – or trough. The mange -tout have gone into their usual place, the trough alongside of the polytunnel. They grow really well there and it easy to stick in some supports when they get bigger. This year we’re growing only a green variety – just called’Mangetout’ – from Thompson&Morgan. The yellow and purple which we usually grow just seemed to be harder and stringy last year. Less crisp than the green.

The peas, a variety called ‘Alderman’ have been great. All of the tray we planted up germinated quickly. They’ve gone into the soil with the garlic and have had to be netted – they’re already growing through that- from the squirrel and pigeons, who will do anything to get at our crops!!!! As you can see from the photo of the salad bed, we cover it with sicks and twigs to try and deter them, which it does some of the time! In the salad bed at the moment are some baby beetroot seedlings, radish, calendula- to try and keep away any aphids- chives, lettuce, spring onion and other seedling will be added soon no doubt.

We really hope you’re doing well, staying safe, washing your hands, wearing masks and socially distancing!!! The longer days are here at last – well in the UK anyway. Please keep positive, even though it’s difficult sometimes. The growing community HAS to stay positive in a way. We’re always planting seeds, seedlings etc in the hope that whatever it is, will GROW. We fight aphids, slugs, snails etc etc etc, fight winds, frost and ice just to get our stuff to thrive. We’re fighters!! Let’s not forget that. End of pep talk. Happy Plotting!

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It was only through seeing today’s news, that we realised that we had had an allotment for ten years! It is the wedding anniversary of Prince William and Catherine – ten happy years, three kids and one huge fallout within the family – good luck to them. It was on that day we got our allotment, all those years ago – we had been watching their wedding on the telly, – when there was a phone call from the then secretary of our allotment site ‘Dave’. There was an allotment free, officially it was classed as a half plot but really it was bigger then that, ‘Would you like to come and have a look?’ We had waited for years on the council allotment waiting list, so the answer was ‘YES!’

And that was it. We were addicted. In all weathers we’ve been there, sometimes we’ve hated it and other times we’ve stayed until it’s been dark. We gardened on the ‘half’ plot for six years, then we were offered the plot we are on now. It had been allowed to become overgrown due to unforeseen circumstances, which we really can’t go into, but all is well now. Anyway, here’s some pics of how it was when we took it. Deep breath.

A bit daunting, I’m sure you agree. Over the time we have been here we have freed the orchard from bindweed and got the boat ship shape. The chicken coop was moved along with the chickens and the green house was tidied and repaired – sort of.

Here’s a few pics of how we have changed it and have it now.

Anyway, it’s been a good ten years full of lots of fresh produce, learning and laughing. During bad times it has been a place to go to forget about any troubles and during the pandemic it has been an oasis. Here’s to another ten years … and more. Happy Plotting!

Twitter: @plotdaze

Instagram: @plot_daze @view_from_a_shed @view_of_a_shed

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March 2021 Lockdown days

Hello! It’s spring! At last! The sun is shining, the breeze has become slightly warmer and in Britain at least, we have gained an extra hour of daylight. We are still in a strict lockdown here until the middle of April, but many have been jabbed with the first vaccine and the second should be following on soon. There seems to be light at the end of this tunnel.

Lets go to the allotment.

We had to put a new cover on the poly-tunnel. The old one was literally crumbling into horrible little plastic pieces. Last summer we actually saw a tomato plant growing through the roof of it. It’s not a job for a windy day – you only have to look on instagram to see photos of the many blown away poly-tunnel covers. We cut the old one off, then maneuvered the new one on the remaining skeleton. The doorway was slightly too short so we had to add a hem from the old one onto it! We thought that it would be the same length, but hey, it was on. It’s been dug into the ground, and staked with wood around the bottom, so even when it billows like a lung in a high wind, it’s not going to move … we hope!

The garlic looks really good. We had a freezing frost, -10 a couple of weeks ago and that seems to have done it some good. We released it from it’s protective cage – that squirrel was not going to munch on it – and it’s perked up even more. We’re planting peas in the middle of the rows. Hopefully they should be good for companion planting. We had started some modules of spinach a while back. It’s been put into a trough to let it spread, as it’s beginning to crop already.

March has always been frenetic with seed planting. This year we have been ‘organised’. With a list and all that! We’ve kept to small modules for the brassica, larger for the beans. Flowers have also been done in the same way, rather than planting whole trays up and having too many seedlings in a few weeks time. New crops for this year are kale, chard, broccoli and turnips. Carrots have been planted in troughs and placed on a ledge by the shed to try and avoid white-fly, who enjoyed themselves last year on our crop. Apparently they cannot fly higher than three feet … we’ll see.

After the hard frost we had not long back we realised we had lost many of the strawberries and had to replant one of the beds. It was looking very sorry for itself so we invested in some new plants and got them in, hopefully in time for some fruit this summer.

It’s been a year since we’ve all been affected by Covid. A horribly long one. We hope you are coping and that you are well. Happy plotting.

(@PlotDaze twitter) ( @plot_daze Instagram)

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February 2021 Lockdown days …still

February has been COLD! We haven’t had a February like this for years. Below zero temps and SNOW. Proper snow! Snow that you can make snowballs with! Winter is here and we’re all surprised by it, but it’s what we need and what we should have anyway.

The plot has just been too cold to do much other than tidy and fix things. The garlic seemed to have suffered in the temperatures but apparently it needs a good cold spell, so we should have a bumper crop come summer. We lost a broad bean and the onions don’t seem to be faring too well. Maybe the Spring will perk our crops up and get them moving.

We’ve never grown ginger before, so we decided to give it a go. We bought a piece ( What is the name for a piece of ginger? A knarl? A hunk?) from Wilko for £2.00. After having a nosy at what others were doing on the instagrams and the twitters, we let it soak overnight then cut it up and planted the pieces on their sides the next day. I don’t hold out much hope. Don’t know why, but fingers crossed.

We were given some leftover potash from a plot neighbour. We don’t usually scatter it this early but we decided to get it on the gooseberries. They were rubbish last year. They were in pots and had become a bit neglected admittedly. We had dug them into the fruit bed to give them a better chance, and now they have had the first feed. ( These photos remind me of a cemetery, sorry folks.) The gooseberries look lethal with their thorns, and they are if you get your hand scratched by them. They’re a dark red variety and not too sour.

We had been given a packet of leek seeds, the variety was Musselborough – hope I’ve spelled that right – and decided to try and grow some. Our onion seed was a no show, so we bought some onion sets instead. The leek seeds have sprouted … a lot of them! Our own fault for starting so many! We may be giving some away to other plot holders later in the season. More have sprouted since the pic was taken.

Spring is on the way!The tulip and daffodil bulbs are pushing their way through the soil. daylight is lasting longer, the temperature will – hopefully- be getting warmer. We’ll be taking the tarpaulins off the beds in the next few days, maybe give them a dig over. Sowing will begin seriously very soon. We don’t like to start too early, the seedlings seem to get a bit leggy. Happily, this all goes to show that SPRING IS ON THE WAY. This Lockdown has been difficult, and continues to be so BUT the longer days are coming everyone, and with that comes the jab and hopefully in the not too distant future … NORMALITY or whatever will pass for that. Keep washing your hands and wearing your masks. Stay safe. Happy plotting x

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January 2021 Lockdown Days …still

Welcome to 2021! It feels too late to wish everyone a happy new year, and everything still sort of feels the same. We have gone into much stricter lockdown measures here. Thank god for the allotment, even though we have not done much planting, the repairs ( why do we always have repairs??? You would think we smashed the place up every summer!) are well under way.

We actually had some snow this month! We don’t get much in England and when we do there is usually a newsflash on the TV, especially if it’s in London – only joking, sort of. The plot looked less drab in the snow. We had a visit from our plot cat, who we have christened Tabs. Very original, we know. She is lovely and follows us around the plot when we work. We think she has a home nearby, but we have made a little place for her in one of the sheds just in case.

We always leave the sedum – it started as one plant!- to die down over the colder months. It’s such a good food supply for the bird/bees, and we suspect has kept the squirrel – our nemesis – away from the sweetcorn we always plant here. It has already began to poke new growth through the soil, so it was time for the oldies to come down.

The original strawberry bed finally gave up! We’ve had to build around it, so now it looks massive, but we couldn’t move the original wood without everything spilling out. A quick paint job and it won’t look so big! Thing is, we really should do the other one so it doesn’t stand out so much! Never mind, we’ll soon be eating our strawbs this summer. Apologies for the shortness of the blog this month, it’s been a bit of a tough one, but stay safe everyone and HAPPY PLOTTING!