Hasta la victoria siempre

I thought today would be a good day to start taking the potatoes up.

To the left we’ve got Sarpo Kifli, and to the right we’ve got our trusty old Carolus.  I wasn’t too thrilled with the yield in either case but I suppose it’s fairly early days yet, and we’ve got to remember there’s an upper limit to the amount of potatoes I can eat. On which more later. Also dug some of the Salad Blue:

They don’t look too attractive when unwashed but I like the fact that they have these (highly poisonous) berries to tell you when you can start digging them. I’ve noticed some of the Sarpo Kifli greenery’s started to die away, another sign it’s time for me to start harvesting.

Not sure what it is about my allotment and artichokes but they’re the one thing I’ve never had trouble growing, and they’re massive – you can see my hand on the photo to the left there and my hands are roughly average size. If anyone has ideas for what to do with artichokes other than de-spike, boil and then eat the bracts, I’d like to hear them. I always leave a few to turn into flowers before cutting them back for the winter. I’m glad to have them – 5 tiny plants are now taking up a reasonable amount of space and keeping the weeds down, which I’m hugely grateful for at this time of year.

Fruit’s doing OK this year too – I need to put more effort into making sure the non-wild strawberries have somewhere to grow properly and ensuring the wild ones don’t take over, but they’re all delicious. The raspberries weren’t happy with me after I cut them back, so I didn’t get any last season, but they’re showing signs of forgiving me.

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All my peas got eaten by rabbits quite early on in the season so, living out the true definition of insanity, I just replanted them, took no anti-rabbit measures, and anticipated different results. So far the second batch of peas remains uneaten but they’ve got a lot of growing to do. My go-to peas, the Lord Leicesters, have always survived right into late October so I’m cautiously optimistic.

Talking of rabbits, they also ate around half the fennel, the hoppy little rascals, but I’m pleased some of it’s survived and it’s looking healthy.

I’ve been obsessed with this idea of getting hens. Especially if I had a chicken tractor – they’d have plenty of space to move around, they’d keep the weeds down, I’d have eggs, we’d all be happy. There’s a farm near me that does pick ‘n’ mix hatching eggs and also takes hens in while you’re on holiday and it’s really tempting, but I’ve concluded I can’t really do it at this point in my life. Even if I had low-maintenance hens, they’re still a daily commitment and I travel a lot (pre-plague, anyway). But one day, I think it’d be good to have some around. Silkies are my favourites from all the research I’ve done although I’d be worried whether they’d survive damp Northumbrian winters.

There’s this stereotype of allotmenteers, in Britain at least, that we’re generally quite middle class, and I mean – fair in my case. It feels weird to me, someone with time and money to put into growing food as a hobby, to be sharing these photos of relatively abundant crops when there are people in my town who struggle to buy food each week. And this isn’t something that’ll improve, with the Global Circumstances being what they are and the government being what it is. So let me talk a little about Community Larders, comrades.

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It’s a simple enough idea, based on the principle of mutual aid. Our group’s trying to actively involve allomenteers:

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So there’s a chance that I’ll be filling a phone box with potatoes if the yield improves later on (or using the money I save from growing my own food to buy non-potato items for the Community Larder). It’s not how I anticipated 2020, friends. But I don’t think the year’s working out as any of us had really planned, and I’m worried we’re only seeing the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact this’ll have of people who are already struggling thanks to Tory austerity. It’s worth doing, at any rate, even if it only feels like a small thing.

Limits of the allotment are the limits of my world

I’m lucky to have the allotment given The Circumstances and I’m finding that it’s pretty much my whole world now, because beyond that I’ve only got work, volunteering, and my failed attempts to befriend the local avian populace.

It kind of all hit me at once last week. Everyone’s finding it hard and I don’t really want to add too much to the collective pile of online complaints about this horrific situation we’re all in, but I had my isolated lockdown birthday and kept thinking how long it’s been since I actually saw my family and friends, and how it could be months until I see any of them again. Keeping busy and distracted is OK as coping mechanisms go, and very much what I’ve been doing for decades anyway to try and navigate through the horrors of neo-liberalism, but sometimes you’re just tired and you miss your mam a bit.

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My sadness did not prevent me from eating the whole cake though

It could be much, much worse. My world’s shrunk, so I’m trying to focus on the good bits, and look, soon I’ll have lettuce.

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And I spent several hours yesterday appreciating the fact that my hair looked unusually good.

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And I had onions (Rumba) delivered in the post so I put them in yesterday. I’d miscalculated the space I’d need, something you’d think I’d be better at by now, so I’ll need to figure out where I’m putting the swedes, if I end up growing them at all. Possibly close to the fennel with some more lettuce forming a buffer zone, but I’ll have to check that this’ll be OK with the fennel, which I understand to be a picky and skittish vegetable when it comes to companions (same, to be fair). I’m trying to get better at demarcation as well (it’s been 5 years and I’m still on the basics) in my quest to gain ground on the weeds.

I went to pick wild garlic on the way to the allotment today. Normally I’d do this on our local Duke’s land, because it entertains me to pretend I’m poaching. Currently our local aristocracy are nowhere to be seen, disappearing during an emergency as the rich are wont to do, meaning their land’s all closed off, but I did at least have the added excitement of wondering whether an overzealous member of the public would call the police on me. They didn’t, and I went full middle-class and made it into pesto using this recipe, which was the first one I found.

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It’s delicious and actually saved me money for a change, and means I won’t have to go to the supermarket for another few days. I’ve also been collecting recipes including nettles, since they make up roughly 60% of my allotment now. We’ve all heard of nettle soup, but what about NETTLE SPANAKOPITA, WHERE IS YOUR GOD NOW.

My attempts to make friends with birds in the absence of humans might not have failed totally, either. I was about to add stuff to the compost heap today when I met her:

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I didn’t want to get closer – her unwillingness to fly away immediately made me think she’s nesting in there, which is wholesome and nice. The compost heap itself isn’t wholesome or nice – I’ve been meaning for ages to invest in one of those heated compost bins that breaks everything down really fast, but they cost hundreds of pounds and since I’ve had many thefts before, I didn’t want to risk losing it. The woolly stuff to the right of the picture is from packaging, and the vague idea I have is to keep that on the outside to insulate the heap, and then add things like coffee grounds and apple cores to the middle. I drink a lot of coffee, so that makes up much of the heap. Isn’t it cool though, if she is nesting there? I’ll have to give the compost heap a wide berth but I’ll keep an eye on her.

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And that’s my week, really. I still have fennel and swedes to plant but other than that (and occasional salad top-ups), I’m on top of things. I keep dreaming of all the travelling I’m going to do once I’m able, but until then, the allotment’s a 10/10 distraction.

State-sanctioned allotment work

Well friends, how are we all doing? Michael Gove says it’s still ‘perfectly sensible’ to go to allotments, which is a great relief. I think it’s ‘perfectly sensible’ to ensure we have an adequately-funded National Health Service so that we don’t crumble in times of crisis after years of Tory austerity, but that’s just me, maybe.

 

I thought of a fun allotment game people like me can play, i.e. people who will only be having contact with an allotment for the foreseeable future.
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Basically I’m doing a sunflower race, one sunflower for each of my hilariously numerous siblings. Thought this would be a nice way of staying in touch with them in some way, even if it’ll be months before I get to see them properly.

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I’m sabotaging things so that the siblings who are in favour with me currently stand a better chance of winning the sunflower race.

 

There isn’t a huge amount to see on the allotment at the moment, although I know I’ll be spending a while there (finally taking my own advice of doing a little at a time and doing it often). The daffodils are looking pretty and I planted parsnips and spring onions today. I’ve been thinking of introducing wild garlic to the allotment (I used to forage on our local Duke’s land because it felt like I was robbing the wealthy and that appealed to me, but he’s closed all his parks to the public now), but I need to do more research on whether that’d work.

I find I work for longer if I listen to my Good Playlist. I’m from the past so I still use an MP3 player (I’m relentlessly mocked for this but ACTUALLY it makes sense not to use your phone if you’re flinging mud everywhere), but it’s your lucky day, I’ve rendered it in an accessible format here. I discovered that angrier music helps me tackle weeds more effectively.

It is deeply weird taking my one state-sanctioned walk through my town. I’m doing alright personally – my therapist rang to check in with me and was surprised that my anxiety levels have gone down, I guess because anxiety’s a state of emergency in your own head all the time, so an actual emergency that other people can see feels like solidarity.

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I’m going to have a really strange birthday in a week or so too. It’s just weird to think that I don’t know when I’ll next have a face-to-face conversation with someone I know. In the general scheme of things, this isn’t huge, so I’m not complaining. I’m luckier than most really.

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But comrades, there’s no way but through. I find that looking at endless pictures of my dog helps (this is actually a picture of a dog, not e.g. a ball of wool or a badger gone wrong). And if you’re bored, and it helps, why not make a nice window display? And join your local mutual aid group.

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Planting in a pandemic

I’ve got my pandemic gardening outfit down to a tee, comrades, look:

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It’s OK if you feel intimidated by how cool I look, many people do. And no I haven’t made my bed, stop judging me.

It’s hard not to talk about the pandemic, really, and things are scary for everyone right now. The town I’m in’s quite cut off from other places and has a high retired population, which accordingly means our charity volunteers are older, which (thanks to government austerity making us collectively reliant on charity for years) means that things are quite fraught even just in our little microcosm. It also means that I’m really busy, even busier than I was pre-pandemic. So it was a relief to just go to the allotment and distract myself. If I start going all ‘dig for victory’ in this time of global crisis, please remind me to give my head a wobble.

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This is the peskiest patch of soil on the whole allotment, I’ve tried so many things to keep it weed-free, or even just to have some kind of impact on the weeds, and nothing works. Over the winter I’d put in broad beans to break up the soil, but they didn’t grow much, due in part to my own neglect and constant attendance of political demonstrations.

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I had potatoes in there last growing season anyway so you’d think that’d break up the soil a little, and this year it’s going to be a salad and garlic patch. I’ve planted it in not very straight rows and I know, even at this early stage, that weeding’s going to be an absolute pain. Luckily everything I was looking forward to has been cancelled so it’s fair to say I’ll have more time to dedicate to it.

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I’ve never really tried these seed bombs before, I know they’re very popular at the moment with the cool kids. Apparently you just…do nothing with them other than put them on the soil? It feels a bit like cheating to me but that’s what I’ve done. They’re in clay so theoretically it means that the birds and whatever other creatures access my allotment won’t take it away. Obviously I planted borage too, because I love borage so much that if crop rotation wasn’t a thing, I’d plant only borage and potatoes because they’re the best things to grow.

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I didn’t get proper pictures of it because I was distracted by looking at how beautiful this soil is (isn’t it amazing?), but I also got round to sorting the strawberry patch. I moved the whole patch to a sunnier location last year and although the plants were OK with being moved and have survived quite happily, they didn’t produce as much fruit as normal and because strawberries are delicious, I want to pay them extra attention this year. I’m using the blue growbag in this picture to grow wild strawberries too (not at all wild, technically, given that this is the only growbag I currently have on the allotment, making them the most contained crop of all) and if they do well, I could look at moving them to a patch of their own, because it’s not like I don’t have the space for multiple strawberry patches.

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Finally, here’s a little insight into my mental state/planning. I tend to go to the allotment with a vague idea of what I want to do, and then adapt the plan based on circumstances (including my energy levels). I still think the best approach is to do a little and do it often, so although today I only did half of what I was planning to on paper, I’d rather that then to have felt like it was a chore. Especially if I end up heading over daily, once my work inevitably dries up.

Gardening before lockdown

I guess one thing about the current situation is that I’ve finally got time to sit down and write about the allotment. I’m currently doing the self-isolation thing that’s so popular now, since I’ve had a dry cough for the past few days (I’m otherwise fine though).

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Look mam I’m fine

Luckily I managed gardening before lockdown, even if it was only getting the potatoes in. I’ve dialled it back again, gone are the days when I tried to grow 5 varieties along with everything else I’m trying to grow. No, it’s only 3 this year, namely:

Carolus – many years ago when I was young and foolish, I bought some of these off a random guy on Facebook after I’d had some cocktails. Turns out it was one of my better post-cocktail decisions because they grew really well, despite getting lost in the post for weeks. They were perfect as baking potatoes and because the plants were so big, they took up a lot of space without me needing to do anything.

Salad Blue – I don’t really know what the rationale behind this decision was because when I grew Shetland Black, I concluded it wasn’t worth growing novelty potatoes, especially if they’re so dark that you can’t properly see them when you’re digging them. I think it’s just because I was a goth as a teenager and never grew out of it? Anyway, I’m sure Instagram will be happy if I last till autumn and post pictures of these purple lads, even if I’m already questioning my decision.

Sarpo Kifli – I wanted high yield potatoes that’d be good for chips, and apparently these are a good go-to potato.

I was on the point of growing Ratte again because flavour-wise, they’re the best I’ve ever grown, but I have to keep some form of rotation system going and if I grow potatoes on more than a quarter of my allotment, I’m going to be causing issues further down the line.

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Here they are, chilling before starting their adventures in the soil. They all come from McCreight Potatoes because they weren’t sold out like everywhere else I tried.

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Me, happy to be gardening but also worried about pandemics, complete with fluffier-than-normal hair

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You’d think by now I’d have developed a more sophisticated plant-labelling system

Earlier this year too, while under orders to ‘relax for the weekend’ instead of ‘constantly go on political demonstrations’, I took the time to plan this year’s allotment, so here goes, here’s the artwork:

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I know, I’ve been using this allotment plan for five years and have made absolutely 0 progress on the ‘seating’ thing. The main thing is that I’m trying to avoid the two traps I always fall into: 1. Planting everything in one go and 2. Planting it all too early. The only new thing I’m planning on trying out is fennel. I don’t eat it all that often so I’d never really seen the point in growing it before, but I do like it so we’ll give it a shot. I found it relatable anyway:

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Although one of my Twittercomrades said:

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And I never thought I’d be getting emotional or philosophical about fennel, but there we go, comrades, there we go.

As I say at the start of every growing season, I don’t really know what will happen this year. I’m still finding it difficult to garden with full enthusiasm because I know I don’t want to live in England long-term, even if I haven’t taken concrete steps to resolve this yet. And now, of course, we don’t even know what’s happening next week. So I suppose it’s just doing what I can, when I can, as always.

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Finally, let’s admire the size of this absolute unit, Norbert the strawberry tree. As far as I know, basically the only practical use for them is to make a rare type of brandy, so maybe that’ll be a nice project for me later in the year.

Sunflowers

I’m a very simple woman in a lot of ways, which is why I was delighted to see this finally happen on the allotment:

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The daft thing is I don’t even like sunflowers that much as flowers go, I think they’ve got notions, give me the more subtle sweetpeas any day (or some nice Goth lillies). But the important thing is that bees like sunflowers, and any friend of my bee comrades is a friend of mine.

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Me and my new friend

Went to dig the second round of potatoes today, the Vales Sovereign. I wasn’t that delighted with the yield, if I’m honest – it wasn’t the sunniest spot on the allotment but I’ve had no issues growing salad there in past years. I’m yet to form a judgement on the taste (I need to get far better at getting round to eating the stuff I grow, I tend to forget).

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NB – some of the potatoes pictured here might actually be Accord, come to think of it, as your heroic allotmenteer is bad at planning what she puts where, meaning that Accord and Vales Sovereign had a share a bit of space. Which isn’t the end of the world in the great scheme of things. Also yes, mother, I know I need new gloves, I get through them at a shocking rate and haven’t got round to getting new ones yet OK.

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I did have a nice view of the flowers as I dug the potatoes, though. The wildflower patch, which I forgot to get a picture of because I had to head back inside for urgent coffee, is doing pretty well too, lots of poppies and cornflowers although the borage isn’t too happy this year. This is a pity because I use the flowers to add to salads, which has almost no practical impact on the salad itself but makes it look very Instagrammable, and as a millennial that’s literally all I care about.

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My approach to soil has incredibly become less scientific over the time I’ve had the allotment – I’ve long since stopped bothering about soil pH and I like to think it’s because I now have a better idea of what grows well and what doesn’t and less to do with the fact that I’m lazy. However, I do understand that potatoes take a lot of nutrients out, so I’m growing green manure over the former potato patches during the winter, and then for the non-potato patches, I’m trying to grow as much garlic as possible. It’s not really a radical plan for the winter, but I’m OK with that – garlic’s something I’ll use, green manure’s easy enough and beneficial, and I’m apparently starting a diploma in Modern Irish in addition to doing my Actual Job, Whatever That Is, so perhaps I’m actually being realistic about how I manage my time for a change. I found last year that clover worked badly as green manure because the roots all got clumped together and it was tricky to dig back in, so I’ve stuck with mustard and a mix for the time being, and might go with broad beans for the potato patch I’m yet to dig.

I also got a load of the green lawn edging you can see in one of the pictures above for 50p each from Wilkos. I’ve been taking multiple trips to bring it all over, it’s exactly what I need, especially now that a lot of the wood from the old raised beds has rotted away. Over winter (but before the ground’s hardened) I’m planning on digging the edging in properly, it should be easier once the weeds have died back. Plus I’ve have fewer jobs overall to do by then.

I still have a couple more tasks ahead of me before the frost sets in – the third and final batch of potatoes (I think it’s Pink Fir Apple and yes believe it or not, I do use plant labels, it’s just that they usually go missing, I imagine the rabbits steal them) needs to be dug and if I actually have sense this year, I’ll start eating the ones I’ve already taken up so I don’t end up with a socially unacceptable amount of potatoes stored in my house. I’m happy I’ve managed to save an adequate amount of the Lord Leicester peas – I only ever needed to buy the original lot (back in 2014, incredibly, when I was a different person entirely) and I’ve had more than enough ever since.

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Just like last year, I got to a stage where I was sick of eating artichokes, so I’ve left several of them to flower and not only does it look pretty, the bees really love it. I’ll cut them right back after the frost but for now, I’m pleased to have them as they are.

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And that’s about it as far as this month’s update goes! Over the last couple of years, certainly, stuff on the allotment’s been more maintenance-focused than experimental – in a kinder, gentler and slower world, I’d love to be figuring out ways of growing sweet potatoes and grapes up here in Northumerland and building sheds and finally sorting out more permanent pathways. But lads, there’s paid work to be done and fascists to fight, and I suppose the important thing is, although I can’t do even a fraction of what I want to do on the allotment, I’m still growing things and most of all, I still love it.

The ravages of time

One struggle with the allotment (and with life, tbh) is the limitations of my personality, i.e. overcoming my laziness. Life threw another challenge at me last month, though, when I decided to develop sciatica. 0/10, would not recommend. I thought it was only elderly people and sportspeople who got sciatica, and I’ll be honest, I never placed myself in either category, but there we go. It was horrible, anyway. When you’re used to being fairly active and travelling the whole time, and suddenly, you can’t even walk to the shops without a lot of pain. I’m very impatient and hate being confined to the house, and my coping mechanisms involve ‘talking to llamas and otters about politics’. Which isn’t healthy or normal behaviour.

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Graeme and Gaoth Dobarchú understand that political neutrality is not an acceptable stance in 2019

Anyway, the point of this wasn’t to give you all an update on my declining health (which is now actually improving), but to provide an elaborate excuse as to why the allotment’s more neglected than usual. I finally came off the powerful painkillers today and celebrated by attacking some nettles. This was therapeutic, because the painkillers had softened me and made me partially blind to current political realities in the UK, so I used my sudden anger for something good.

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(listening to angry music while attacking the nettles also helped a lot)

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My period of ill health was really badly timed because of course, there’s always loads to do on the allotment at this time of year. It’s not all hopeless, though. I’ve given the shallots up as lost, but the onions are looking promising. Although my allotment neighbours are doing much better with their onions, compare and contrast:

I’m probably going to start taking the potatoes up next week, since the foilage has started dying back on one of the patches (I can’t remember if it’s the Pink Fir Apple, Vales Sovereign or Accord that I’ll be digging up first, but I imagine I was wise and labelled them properly back in spring). And the peas (Lord Leicester, my go-to favourite) have been doing well this year too, even if I wasn’t able to give them much support:

So basically, it’s not the end of the world – towards the end of every growing season, I always wish I’d been able to do a bit more and in an ideal world, I’d have a more manageable allotment that make far better use of the space I have. But in an ideal world, I’d have a lot more free time, boundless energy, a communist partner and a horde of small communist children to help me out, and most of all, a shed. Plus, the flowers are at least looking really nice:

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I’ve said it before, but I’m really lucky that our chronically underfunded rural council doesn’t care at all about these allotments, because if they did, I’m sure I’d have been kicked off long ago for neglecting mine. But like every year, you can only do what you can do, and even if I’m not totally self-sufficient and thus able to withstand the inevitable and imminent collapse of our neo-capitalist society, I am at least happy to be eating food I grew myself on a semi-regular basis. OH and sunflowers might be in my future too:

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In your face, capitalism

Northumberland is extremely hectic at this time of year.

Luckily I’m coping well. I was absolutely delighted to find grow tunnels reduced from £12 to £3 at Wilkos. A VICTORY FOR SOCIALISM.

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I’ve got three of them now (I even took on extra work over the week to afford them, assuming they’d be full price, and now the exact things I wanted are reduced. I know this simple fact shouldn’t make me so happy but it does) and I’ve found they’re pretty good – you just take them out of the packaging, lay them flat and then pull on the ropes inside to made them tunnel-shaped, and secure them with pins. They haven’t blown away yet. And if you’re lucky enough to be a fairly small human…

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They’re big enough to crawl all the way in! If you’re careful and don’t casually kneel on your seedlings. They’re much better quality than the plastic-covered ones I got a few years back which tore easily and just stored condensation. I’m using them for an ‘experimental’ patch. I took the garlic I’d overwintered out a bit early:

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And added in seedlings I’d been growing thanks to various gifts from family members, including tomatillos, tomatoes, cumin, jalapeños and (outside the tunnels), the odd sunflower. So it’ll be fun to see how it all does, I hadn’t been planning on growing any of these things but I have a bit of space, given that most of the parsnips aren’t growing from the very elderly seeds I planted back in March. Which is OK as well, because I didn’t want hundreds of parsnips, not after the Incident*.

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The peas, sweetpeas, artichokes and radishes seem to be doing well, and the potatoes got off to a slow start but seem alright now. I’m growing some kind of blue squash in one of the tunnels and so far, it’s not even germinated but we live in hope. Until then, I’m spending a lot of time walking back from the allotment covered in mud, thinking about my upcoming reunion with the family hound:

Normally gardening (and computer games) are the hobbies I use to get away from people and collect and store introvert energy, ready to be converted for my hobbies that require some extrovert energy (namely minority languages, politics and climbing, I have no hobbies beyond these five). However, it’s sometimes nice to give other stuff a go too and I headed down to the Star and Shadow Cinema in Newcastle last month to do a bit of community gardening. It was lots of fun and if I can justify abandoning the allotment (which I usually can), I’m totally going to come back again. Most of what I’ve ever learnt about gardening hasn’t been through books, but from having conversations with people more knowledgeable than me.

*The first time I tried to grow parsnips, I didn’t thin them out and ended up with hundreds of monster parsnips and lived almost entirely on parsnip soup for several weeks. At least they’ve thinned themselves out this time, that was polite of them.

 

All work and no play

I’m finding that basically all I’m doing on the allotment at the moment is weeding, which is a lot better than not doing weeding on the allotment, because as we know, that’s not something I have a shortage of.

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Observe my torment

I don’t hate weeding as much as I say I do, to be fair. I normally just listen to music and get on with it, but at the same time, I feel that taking periodic breaks from weeding by hand to use my weedburner is more for my own emotional wellbeing rather than to get rid of any weeds. And today I nearly set my foot on fire because I got distracted, that’s very much how my life currently is.

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I guess the issue is that weeding: a) just needs to be done and b) is quite boring, especially when you have a huge allotment. Normally I try and switch between the multitude of tasks I’ve got ahead of me just for the sake of variety, but today it was hours and hours plus the feeling that I hadn’t really achieved much. I’m thinking of bribing people to come and do weeding for me, maybe using a trail of biscuits or something.

I picked this up at Lidl and had a moment of thinking ‘How have they combined cucumber and dill to make a hybrid’, before realising I’m an idiot and it’s just cucumber and dill seeds in the same packet. I’ve never used seed tape before, though, so it was interesting to give it a go. One thing I’m useless at (along with ‘not setting my feet on fire’) is planting anything in a straight line, so I’m keen to see whether this’ll help with that issue of mine. I’ve also never planted cucumbers straight into the ground and I’m hoping it’s late enough in the year to get away with it. I put the lettuce in last month when it was sunny, then we had snow two weeks later which killed most of it off, it’s weird, it’s almost like there’s a climate emergency and urgent action needs to be taken or something.

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The peas and garlic are surviving, anyway, even if our planet won’t and we’re all doomed. I’m still using the watering spikes I’ve been using for the last couple of years. If I’m honest, I don’t know if they make a huge difference – because it’s so far under the surface of the soil, you can’t immediately see what’s been watered and how far one bottle can go – but I think it’s a simple back-up solution for drier periods.

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I’m also hoping that the cherry tree will produce fruit this year. Last year it produced exactly one cherry. Well, it might’ve been more and it might be that the birds got there before I did, come to think of it. I’m just pleased that my attempts to prune it haven’t yet killed the tree, although I’m not 100% pleased with the shape.

So that’s it really, I now have everything planted except the squash, which I might leave out completely this year, although it leaves one bed unplanted. April’s quite boring from a ‘taking pictures of produce’ point for view because there is no produce except weeds and my resulting declining grip on reality, neither of which is photogenic, but I’m hoping that by June, I’ll have more interesting stuff to report.

Spring, enttäusch mich nicht

I’m starting this year on the allotment with exactly the same problem as I had last year – I’m kind of in between countries at the minute because I don’t know about the extent to which our self-serving, morally bankrupt failure of a government is going to further mess up the country I started off in, come March 29th. So once again I’m going for a kind of compromise – I’m growing the basics, but avoiding time-consuming experiments like the asparagus and sweet potatoes of years gone by.

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Smashing the patriarchy while gardening because I can MULTI-TASK

I was going to report on the abject failure of my no-dig latecrop potatoes after I’d had the idea and then didn’t sleep for about a week because I was so excited to try it out. The experiment resulted in 0 potatoes, but like all my failures, it wasn’t absolute. It kept the weeds down beautifully, and once I’d moved the layers of straw away, there was some of the most lovely-looking soil I’d ever seen:

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I’m pleased with this because I’ve never managed to grow anything on this part of the allotment before. I’d had potatoes there a few years back but I’d struggled to get it dug over because of millions of roots (including dock leaves). I really want to try no-dig again, it still required roughly the same amount of effort at the start, but I’m happy with the way it turned out after winter, and moving the mulch and everything away was a nice break from digging in the green manure.

At the risk of coming out with the least cool thing I’ve ever said, I discovered a REALLY GOOD potato website. I’m only growing three types this year, and I knew I wanted first earlies, a maincrop and a salad type but wasn’t sure where to start. This website lets you search for what you want AND compare varieties:

I’m going with Pink Fir Apple (which I’ve grown before), plus Vales Sovereign and Accord (both new to me). I really wanted to grow Ratte again, as it’s still my all-time favourite, but I’ve had a word with myself and I know I’d run out of time, space or both.

allotThis display of artistic might is my rough plan for the year, and it’s more or less based on the seeds and plants I already have. I think the globe artichokes have been the main success on the allotment over the last 2-3 years (now I’ve said it, I’ve jinxed it). They’re really easy to maintain, take up a lot of space, and I actually use them, and they’re not something I’d normally eat if I didn’t have an allotment. I’m also trying to minimise the amount of seedlings I have to transplant because I don’t really have anywhere to start them off, and besides, constantly walking from my flat to the allotment bearing seedlings, cultivators and forks is giving me a reputation around town.

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Basically the only thing I’ve bought this year in terms of equipment are these half-length boots, and they are a total game-changer in my book. One thing I struggled with when wearing full, adult-sized boots is my failure to remember that I’m in fact a three-quarter length human, and trying to waddle about in them was not helping at all. Now I don’t have to struggle with boots going over my knees and I’m able to actually walk around.

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So that’s it, really, for the time being. Plenty of work still to do, and I’m really not sure how much I’ll get done this year, but it feels good to have a plan of some kind. I feel a lot more ‘grounded’ (hahaha, pun very much intended if unlikely to be appreciated, like all my puns) when I’m gardening and I’m glad spring’s on the way.