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The Plot Thickens

Hi, I’m Karen Meadows. Thank you for visiting The Plot Thickens.

I’m lucky enough to be the tenant of one of fifty large allotment gardens in the middle of the small and beautiful stone town of Stamford in England’s East Midlands. The gardens were first created by Brownlow Cecil, 4th Marquess of Exeter in the mid 1800s and their layout has remained virtually unchanged. Between the plots we have some 200 old apple trees, many of them rare varieties, and in 2017 Natural England awarded the gardens heritage orchard status.

Over the centuries at least 500 people have worked these plots. Follow our quest to discover who they were, what they grew, and what shenanigans they got up to. Be prepared for numerous diversions and musings along the way about gardening life here in our quiet (and occasionally not so quiet) little corner of Stamford.

If you haven’t discovered our website yet, do head over to Waterfurlong Orchard Gardens, where you will find a wealth of information about our gardens and gardeners, past and present.

And now for the small print...

The Plot Thickens is a non-commercial blog. All recommendations are based on personal preference and my own or our other gardeners’ own experience. Payments or free goods are not accepted in return for reviews of products and services. If an exception is made this will be clearly stated.

All words and images, unless otherwise credited, are my own. If you would like to copy text or images, I’d kindly ask that The Plot Thickens gets a positive mention and a link back to this blog.

Recent Posts

May in the Gardens: 'After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.'

Although summer is my favourite season, I feel a twinge of sadness when lovely May comes to an end. It will be another year before the world is as green, lush and full of birdsong again and I'm always reminded of Gerard Manley Hopkins's line 'After-comers cannot guess the beauty been.'

May has indeed been a beautiful month in the gardens - full of new life and possibility and blessed with some welcome rain after April's drought.

Gardener Graham noticed a green woodpecker making her nest in one of his old apple trees and has been watching over the brood like a protective grandfather as the fledglings emerge.

We collected and installed the smart glazed noticeboard generously made for us at cost price by the carpentry and joinery department of Stamford's New College. What a difference - no more laminating notices and hammering in drawing pins!

It's been the normal late spring race to get seeds sown and vegetable patches weeded and planted - peas, potatoes, courgettes, carrots, beetroot, kale, squashes - you name it, our gardeners are growing it. This weekend was warm enough for tomatoes and French beans to go out and I always know summer is round the corner when my gardening neighbour Simon sets out his neat grid of sweetcorn. Andrea and Alex are two of our more adventurous Waterfurlong growers and they've been supplying the honesty box stall with red orach and mizuna plants as well as giant rhubarb stalks! It's been sweet hearing one small customer pleading with his mum to make ANOTHER rhubarb crumble as they pass the stall on their daily after school dog-walk.

I look back over my old gardening journals to check whether past years have been as challenging when it comes to weeds and pests, but I think spring 2019 really has taken the biscuit. Goosegrass is so tall and rampant it is peeking out from the tops of the hedgerows, bindweed is strangling the dahlia stakes, we had greenfly by Easter and thanks to the pheasants and the muntjac deer, the sweet-peas are still only two feet tall. Flea-beetle is everywhere and don't get me started on slugs and snails - within a day of going out into the cold-frame my sweetcorn were in ribbons. Normally nematodes keep the slimy beasties under control, but there seems to be a national shortage. Was it last summer's heat? Some enterprising soul is advertising a single £15 packet for £150 on eBay!

But all the frustration fades when we pick our first broad beans and radishes, realise new potatoes and strawberries are only weeks away, see the sparkle of raindrops on the ladies' mantle and catch the bullfinch's fluted whistle as he darts in and out of the dog roses, heavier with bloom this year than I can ever remember.

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