On a cold, wet, gloomy weekend morning, when most people are cosying up in front of the fire with a cuppa, admiring their Christmas tree and enjoying the comforts of home, where am I? On a desolate plot of land, soaked to the bone, trekking barrows of well rotted horse manure to and fro. But you won’t hear me complaining, a week on the London treadmill and I’m screaming for this, it’s my therapy. In recent weeks, our local stables have been delivering free manure to the allotment, and like bees around a honeypot, the allotment old boys have been there on cue, whisking it away before anyone else can get a look-in. It’s like some secret society, they’re in on it and they’re not sharing delivery times with anyone. But that’s OK, because I’ve noticed something. It seems everyone wants the freshly-delivered manure and are ignoring the blackening heap at the back. It’s like black gold waiting to be discovered. So, I’ve been biding my time for a good few months as this heap has been rotting down, untouched, unwanted.. until now.
I don’t know why people are taken with the sparkle and glamour of fresh manure, but to me, it’s asking for trouble. It’s only when it has been well rotted down do we get the results. Fresh manure can bring a host of problems from burning tender shoots to hosting parasites and other unwanted pests. The one thing I’ve learnt as a gardener is, take your time – gardening can’t be rushed, and the best results are always worth a wait.
And so, planting my flag firmly in this mountain of blackened sludge, I claimed it as the property of Agents of Field. Then quickly I set about whisking it onto my beds before the allotment freemasons got a whiff of it.
This year I’ve opted for green manure on a lot of my beds, but I’ve left a couple purposely for horse manure. Why? Call it an experiment; I want to see if there’s any difference in my crops next year when using these two manure types. I’m a gardener, I always want to learn more, so why not?
Other jobs this weekend included lifting the last of my beetroot. We’ve had great success with our three varieties this year, Boltardy, Golden Globe and Chioggia. From roasting to pickling to Agent Soph’s delicious home-made borscht, beetroot in our household is a must, so I decided this remaining crop would spend their final days swimming in pickle until a cold meat buffet calls upon their services.
Finally, and I know I keep going on about it, but my Christmas Day goal this year is to have all the veg on the big day grown from our allotment. So imagine my excitement when I got to the plot this weekend to find tiny purple-headed ‘Rudolph’ broccoli blowing in the breeze, proudly displaying their vibrant colour!