Climbing a warship in her wispy undergarments, only to mount a cannon, Cher once sang, ‘If I Could Turn Back Time’. And I know exactly where she’s coming from. We gardeners are always complaining that there isn’t enough time in the day to get everything done.
As the soil begins to warm and the sun starts making more frequent appearances, so do the gardening jobs begin to mount up. From now until early summer, until we hit that tipping point, we’re busy putting plans into action as we dig, sow, weed and water.
For some, this weekend was about planting out chitted potatoes. Did you know, many gardeners assign St Patrick’s Day as the day for potato planting? For me, I’ve never been one to follow the crowd, and tend to plant them a week or two later, in the hope that both the weather and the ground will be slightly warmer.
A few seasons on, a little weather-beaten and faded, my polytunnel remains a proud beacon on the allotment. It’s been a hive of activity in the last few weeks, and things are coming on nicely. Onions and shallots have made themselves at home, while both varieties of my peas, Blauwschokler and Hurst Green Shaft, have emerged. Once they’ve grown on a bit, I’ll plant them out. Two varieties of spring onion, Lisbon and Apache are peeking through, along with various varieties of lettuce, leeks, kohl rabi, celery and chard.
It’s not only the vegetables that have a place in my polytunnel, but flowers too. Poppies, cornflowers and after a season’s break, I’m growing sweet peas again. I’m a big fan of a Cosmos bipinnatus and Ammi majus combination, they just complement one another so well. Grown in small plugs, these were ready to be potted on. Although both my Larkspur and white Calendula are looking healthy, they’re lacking height at the moment.
But it wasn’t all about marvelling at the growing process, I had to knuckle down and get my beetroot sown.
Beetroot and I have a wonderful relationship: it grows and I eat it! Roasted, raw, pickled or juiced, I can’t get enough of it. Due to the success I had with them last year, I’ve gone with the same varieties this season: Chioggia, Cylindra and Pablo.
However, something I did have major trouble with last year was carrots. I threw everything at them, and although I eventually got a half decent crop, it was nothing to previous seasons. This year, I’m taking no chances. As well as sowing them on the plot, I’ve got them in containers and am growing them in the polytunnel. With several varieties, there’s one I’m particularly eager to try this year, an old French variety, Oxheart Carrot. A wide-shaped carrot, it’s sweet and grows well in containers.
Life is starting to emerge on the plot. Worms are turning and birds are chirping. But where there’s life, you know pests and diseases aren’t too far behind. Our allotment suffers from both onion fly and over-friendly pigeons. To safeguard things, both my garlic and broad beans are surrounded in fleece, and are happier for it.
It’s early days, but there’s much to do. However, for now it’s time to sit and look forward – actually, I’m thinking I might need somewhere to sit. Why is there never a cannon around here for me to straddle when I need one? Cher never has this problem. Maybe it’s time to build myself a seat of some sort. Hmmm, watch this space! I mean, it’s not as though I’ve got enough to do at the moment…