Row by row

I was thinking that after Cuba, I’d be putting the Factor 50 into the Cupboard of Useless Things until…well, my NEXT trip to Cuba, maybe? It’s not like I go warm places all that often. But lo, this weekend the sun made an almost inaugural visit to Northumberland, so the sunscreen was put both on me and into the Allotment Kit, and off I went.

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Like all those of my kind (gingers), I have to be obsessive when it comes to avoiding sunburn

As always, I don’t mind cheerfully admitting that there’s a lot of work to do; as one of the passers-by said to me today, “It’ll be lovely once it’s sorted”. I didn’t have to heart to tell her it’s been THREE YEARS. But my attitude towards the allotment has always been to do as much as I can in the time I have. There’s only one of me and there’s a lot of allotment, so it’s probably never going to be sorted in the sense of being ‘weed-free’, but if it’s providing me with food, and most importantly, if I’m enjoying it, then I’m happy enough.

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Allotment + weeds

I’ve been making great use of the watering spikes at this time of year, and noticed that nearly all the bottles I’ve used are tonic bottles of some kind or another. Could not speculate as to why this is.

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I really like the watering spikes though (and I really like gin, as it goes), I think they were a reasonably wise investment and although they obviously don’t fully replace watering the allotment, it’s good to have them as a kind of back-up option if I’m away.

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The peas and the artichokes seem to be getting more established, at least, four out of the five artichokes are fine (there’s a little runty one I’m concerned about, but having just four isn’t the end of the world). Two of the three potato patches are doing fine but the last one – the biggest – is just overgrown with weeds because the place I chose to plant them has been a wildflower patch for two years running. Which isn’t ridiculous in itself, because I’m a firm believer in rotating potato patches to avoid taking all the nutrients out of the soil, but of course it’s my fault that I let it get so overgrown anyway, so during my next allotment visit, I’ll mostly be tackling that.

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Rare Northumbrian pigeon baskets

So I’ve not ended up growing everything on the plan this year (the carrots failed, of course they did, the carrots always fail and I never learn), but I’ve made a few changes (I’m growing sprouts and broccoli instead) and feel like I’ve made more progress this weekend, so it’s time to sit back and get on with some translation.

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What lies beneath

I’ve still not had any allotment news, which is a bit of shame. I’m sure things will start to happen soon, I’m just impatiently waiting to DIG every evening. I’m becoming a believer in the principle of making the best of things, though, and I’m hopefully going to have a talk with some people at a youth centre tomorrow about getting involved with their allotment too. I live close by the centre, and the people working there noticed the balcony garden (it’s becoming increasingly hard to miss, what with all the foliage), and we got chatting about it the other week. I just hope they don’t think I actually know stuff about plants. I mean, I’m learning more and more each day, but I’m still a fairly new gardener. A sapling, if you will. I can still clumsily wield a spade, though, so I’m not entirely useless, and I’m certainly willing to help out.

Here’s what’s been happening in the balcony garden:

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(mini cucumbers, soon-to-be aubergines, and raspberry canes on the top row, loganberry and strawberries on the second, radish and butterbushes on the third)

Loganberries are a bit of a novelty to me. I don’t think I’ve actually eaten one before, so I’m hoping this plant survives and I get to try one. I have an interest in obscure plants that kind of runs parallel to my love of obscure languages (if I start talking about Low German, for example, I sometimes have to be gently reminded, after a while, that not everyone finds it as interesting as I do). If/when I do get this allotment, I’ve been thinking of planting a strawberry tree. They don’t grow actual strawberries, but they do grow an interesting kind of fruit you can use in jams. I’ve also considered growing sea kale. I’m roughly three miles from the coast, so I think it should do fine either on my balcony or in my allotment. Finally, I’m really tempted to one day try and grow the TomTato. I have no idea what it’d be like, or how the resulting tomatoes and potatoes would taste, but it’d be a lot of fun to try.

The strawberries I have in hanging growbags have been looking much happier since I changed my watering method:

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No, I’m not feeding the plants that delightful Danish drink, Faxe Kondi. It’s the spikes that are the important ‘point’ here*. I got them from Oxfam, and they fit lots of different bottles, so it’s just a case of filling the bottle with water, screwing on the spike, and sticking it into the soil. It’s been working especially well for the hanging plants, as it used to be difficult to get the water to drain the whole way down the growbag.

Last Sunday evening I decided to do nothing in the garden. I’ve hardly ever just sat there and appreciated it before – I’m always pacing around, wondering which plants I should move where, and whether I could fit in just a couple more. But on Sunday, I made a conscious effort to actually relax for an hour or so.

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There’s no space for furniture on the balcony because of my habit of putting plants everywhere, but I sat on an old jumper of mine, curled up with a book, and ate crisps. It was glorious. Overall, I’d say summer’s my least favourite season, but a happy upshot of the fact that the sun sets so late at the moment is that I can spend multiple evenings on the balcony.

*this marks my very first gardening pun on this blog, for which I can only apologise.