Allotment


Look what we woke up to this morning!

Ariel and I went out to make a snowman and chuck snowballs – I don’t think she’s ever seen or experienced proper snow before, and she was completely delighted. After we built the snowman we knocked it over and jumped up and down on the snow.

It has been very strange weather today. One minute it is warm and sunny, the next minute the sun goes behind a cloud and everyone’s shivering – sun comes out – starts snowing – sun back out again – chillly for a bit – sun – hail shower – snow – sun – and so it went on. Talk about April showers!

This is what we all got up to on the allotment yesterday – although I took the picture *today* during one of the sunny spells (my camera battery had run out yesterday):

We finished clearing, digging and manuring the third bed.

We also dug over both the first two beds, planting potatoes in the far one, and starting off some asparagus in the middle one. There is one row of asparagus, leaving half of that bed free for salad or something this year, with the idea of possibly adding more asparagus in that space next year. We also put a tayberry (nearest camera) and blackcurrant (farthest) in the “bit” left over from where we dug the asparagus bed too big. Everything we planted got covered in straw because the weather forecast was for snow and frost and things so we wanted to keep their feet warm. 🙂

Meanwhile, back at home today I’ve started mangetout, purple sprouting broccoli and pumpkins for the allotment, all from seed – and I’m having a go at some thyme from seed for my own garden, as well. I have a bunch more seeds which I haven’t yet started including “normal” (green) broccoli, dwarf beans, baby carrots, brussels sprouts, and okra (and, again, a variety of herbs for home). I also have calendula – marigold – which I bought on impulse because it is pretty and I had heard somewhere that it is a good one for companion planting because it attracts the nice insects or something. I’m not sure we will have space or energy to do all these for this season, especially as we also plan to do courgettes, normal carrots, sweetcorn, runner beans, peas, leeks, tomatoes and probably some other things I have forgotten.

It’s all so exciting!
Yesterday I was even hyped up while digging the trenches for the potatoes…

Oh, and tonight I made a veggie lasagne and (apart from courgette, tomato, onion, non-stringy celery and aubergine, most of which Ariel pretty much refused to eat) loaded it with home-sprouted mung beans, and garnished it with cress and rocket thinnings, both also home grown – super yummy. Ariel sucked off the sauce from a bean sprout and pronounced that she liked them because the bean end looked like a nipple, and then proceeded to hunt through her dinner saying “oh look mummy I found another nipple” every 15 seconds. She had me doing it after a while, as well, so I think mung bean sprouts might now be renamed nipple sprouts in our house. Oh dear.

What else? I planted my own potatoes at home (and covered them with soggy cardboard as a temporary frost protection). My american land cress, perpetual spinach and spring onions have all germinated, along with some of the mixed salad leaves – although now I think about it, maybe the onions haven’t. The others definitely have though! And I made a raised bed planter for my blueberries and planted them out. I’m experimenting with coriander too – apparently if you just chuck the seeds from your kitchen onto some soil and water them, coriander will grow. I’ve put some in the ericaceous compost in with the blueberries and some in another planter nearby, one I’ve had for ages and never given any TLC (it will become home soon to the herbs I am growing). I suspect that neither of these is especially suitable for coriander but I didn’t have anything else prepared so that’s where it ended up.

I feel – quite literally – full of the joys of spring.

Ariel and I were there for a good six hours today, working at least as hard as we did on the first day, but although I am pretty tired I am not completely shattered in the same way I was then. This is good – I must be getting stronger, or something 🙂 I didn’t intend to stay for so long but we were both having a good time, so we stayed until the food ran out and hunger drove us home for pizza.

Here is the work for today:

Apart from an hour or so contribution to the clearing operation, I didn’t have a lot to do with clearing, digging and manuring the second bed (further side in picture), because I was too busy organising a makeshift compost bin*, laying the remaining cardboard paths and entertaining children… but I’m going to claim credit for the work so far on the third bed (foreground) since I did most of the clearing and all of the digging by myself after everyone but me and Ariel had gone home. 🙂 You would not believe the amount of couch grass I pulled out and although I think I got pretty much all the big roots there are hundreds of little roots remaining. I am a bit stressed about couch grass right now!

[* We spotted an old cheapwood filing cabinet being slung out over the road, so we dragged it over, levered out the drawers, and lay it down. By the end of the day it was completely full.]

Here is a view of the plot after Day 2 – which compares quite satisfyingly with the view after Day 1!

NB the second bed has a path down the middle because we changed our minds about how big it should be after digging it, and moved the path!

I took the day off work today, sent Ariel packing to nursery and pitched in to get the new city farm allotment started. Digging is hard work!

I completely forgot to take any pictures of how the plot looked before we started, but this picture of the part we haven’t started yet will give you a clue. The whole plot was like this – grass and weeds with a few wonderful patches of bare earth. The ground has clearly been cultivated at some point in the not too distant past but I would guess that it has been left wild for a while – maybe just months, but maybe a year or two.

So we lay down some old carpet offcuts to start marking out the beds. There will be six beds, three on each side of a central path. Four will be for rotation, one for asparagus and another for fruit canes. Each of them is around 2m wide and 3m long.

Today we managed to clear, dig and manure the first bed and we’ve started clearing the second. Hard going…many of the weeds are deep-rooted, and the soil is a bit clayey (although I’ve definitely seen worse, in my own garden for starters). So anyway, here it is: it looks great – to me anyway! – although not yet what you might call a fine tilth. We will dig it over in a week or so to work in the manure and then plant potatoes.

Here is another view, taken from the far end of the allotment so you can get a better idea of scale (the foreshortening in the above picture makes it look like we have done far more than we actually have!)

It looks like the next door plot was cultivated pretty well last year but they don’t seem to have done a lot since. There is one plot at the far end that is being actively looked after at the moment, we’re not too sure about the ones in between but hopefully they will get taken care of or we will be fighting the weeds back all the time…

So yes – I am completely shattered. I feel a bit cleaner and more human now, because if there’s anything nicer than a hot bath that you really need, want and deserve, it’s a hot bath that you really need, want and deserve by yourself! Now to fix up a snack with the spring onions I found growing semi-wild 🙂