My, how the world has changed since I last blogged. A mere three weeks ago, Ade and I were having dinner in the pub, without a care in the world. Now, all the pubs are closed. Nobody is allowed outside, except for the daily government-approved walk. Continue reading “Lockdown”
The solar eclipse smiled on us all last Friday. In that moment of eerie surrealism, birds returned to the trees and time seemed to stand still. It was also the day of the Spring Equinox. Two pivotal events marking a singular point; a time of change. For many, this brought a sense of optimism, looking towards something better, whether it be longer days, warmer nights or a more positive attitude towards our fellow Homo sapiens.
But us gardeners know that as the days start to stretch out, the jobs on the allotment quickly start to backup; those extra hours we’ve pined for start leaching away in the blink of an eye. So I threw myself into some sowing and planting this weekend. I opened up two beds, from the new part of the allotment, which I have been working on since last autumn. After a little secondary cultivation and consolidation on the first bed, I created a tilth so fine I caught myself appreciating its crumble and colour. The soil was speaking to me, stirring something deep within me… legumes! It was here I christened the first of the beds with a little successional sowing of mangetout and early peas.
On to to the second bed, which I had marked out last year for carrots and parsnips, and I was clearly a man possessed. Again it was secondary cultivation but this time there wouldn’t be any consolidation as I didn’t want to compact the soil and cause the carrot and parsnip seedlings to struggle and fork. I also made sure that this bed wouldn’t be as rich in nutrients, as carrots aren’t a fan of rich soil. With the bed primed I carried out further successional sowing with two types of carrot, ‘Purple Dragon’ and ‘Maestro’, knowing in the weeks to come I still have other varieties to sow. As for parsnips I’ve only gone for one variety this year: ‘Gladiator’.
With both beds fleeced, the Spring Equinox was flowing through my veins.. was I evolving into some gardening demigod? Into the polytunnel with no time to waste, I made for the module trays filling them with various seed gems; pak choi, celery, swiss chard, two types of beetroot, ‘Boltardy’ and ‘Golden Globe’, more ‘Tumbling Toms’ and to finish, I filled a trough and planted some ‘Little Gem’ lettuce.
At this point I was surely spent, but no, I had to press on; seize the moment! So in my newly dug flower bed I broadcast various ‘meadow’ flower seeds to bring in the wildlife, for when spring merges into summer I’ll need all the pollinators I can get.
Then as quickly as it arrived the moment was over, I slumped into my gardening chair, made a cuppa and reflected on what had come over me. Was it the keen gardener or had Mother Nature marked me for great growing things this season? Only time will tell.
When we began this adventure back in January, we never thought, in such a short period of time, just how happy allotment-keeping would make us. We’ve met some fantastic people, created some amazing recipes with our home-grown veg and out-seeded ourselves on the growing front! But whist we’ve enjoyed the dizzying heights of success, there’s also been the inevitable failures of pest attacks and losing a few veggies on the way.
But it’s all part of the learning curve and next year we’re hoping for bigger things as we plan ahead. But before we reveal our blueprint for 2015 global domination, we’ve withdrawn to the study to ask ourselves a few questions to help understand our journey to date.
In this first part, I’ll be pondering on all things ‘growing’, and in part two, Agent Sophie will be mulling over her culinary journey of the past year.
1. What have you learnt over the past year?
I knew I loved growing, but I never knew what a passion it would become. Not only do I have a garden and now two allotments, I am currently studying with the RHS. Where this will take me I’m not quite sure yet, however, it has changed my life and it’s re-shaping my future in a positive way.
2. What will you do differently next year?
I realise that vegetables need proper spacing to grow and succeed, so already I’m thinking about next year’s crops in spacing and rotation terms. We’ve taken on a second plot so this will help things and ease the congestion.
3. What was your biggest success?
The allotment itself. We took a piece of neglected land, landscaped it, mulched it, made beds and created an environment that would encourage wildlife to stop by and help our crops.
4. What was your biggest failure?
I would say that has to be the Brussels sprouts I’m currently growing. As they were a last minute decision, and with only a little space on the plot available, I crammed them into an already condensed plot. Although they have grown and there are sprouts emerging (just!), they have clearly been in the wars with other crops in a fight for nutrients and water. So although they should make an appearance at our Christmas dinner, blink and you’ll miss them!
5. What new thing will you try next year?
Again, as we have taken on a second plot adjacent to our first, this will again give me an opportunity to landscape and try the crop rotation method. Also, I shall be trying some new crops I’ve never grown before such as aubergines, celery and the dreaded cauliflower. (A sore point I will discuss at a later date!)
Finally, I’m in the process of creating an ‘experimental’ bed, not sure what for yet, but here I shall adopt the organic Dr Frankenstein persona as I go about bringing hope to newfound crops…. ‘IT’S ALIVE!’
So as we enjoy the festive season, and I warm myself by the fire with mulled wine and mince pies, I’m itching to action my plans, and with one eye on 2015 and more growing possibilities, the passion has never been stronger.