The Plot Thickens

Jack Frost has been running amok over our fair lands these last few days. With temperatures dancing around the zero mark, there’s been a lot of jumper-wearing and hot drinks up on the plot. I’ve probably told you before, I’m a man who likes his seasons, and with the soil turning solid due to the weather, I’m jumping with glee. A cold snap killing off those unwanted pests means less critters nibbling at my tender crops later this year. ‘Bring it on Jack!’ I yell like a loon as I hop and skip across the frozen allotment!Agents snowBut it hasn’t all been singing and dancing up at the allotment this week. I’ve been busy, splitting our compost bin in two. Topping up one side with fresh manure, the other side is the remains of the old manure that, up until two weeks ago, had been composting for nearly a year. I’m also going to lose a path by knocking two plots into one and plant my early potatoes in there. The plot furthest away has always had a bit of an issue with its soil, it’s very heavy, so by turning it into a larger space, the moisture has a bigger area to disperse, and a crop of potatoes will help clean the soil. I’ve also put a layer of manure over the top to improve the soil structure. Snow Collage

Meanwhile, back at Agents of Field HQ, once again I’ve laid claim to the various windowledges with my trays of pepper, chilli and aubergine seeds. But before Agent Soph turns an icy white, fearful of having to deal with excessive crops later this year, I’ve already assured her that a lot of these young plants will go to family, friends and neighbours. (As well as the polytunnel. Sshhh! What she doesn’t know won’t upset her!)

winter CollageBut we’re firmly into the new year, there are daffodils poking through and I’m already chitting my tatties. Two varieties this spring: Kestrel and Kidney. After last year’s potato success, I was thoroughly impressed with Kestrel. Not just for the taste and its firm structure, but because it didn’t succumb to any pests, diseases or scab.

So despite the frost, it’s been a busy week and I’m looking forward to it getting busier. Although we’ve still got a long way to go before the joys of spring, already the days seem a little longer and the sun is hanging around past its bedtime.computer

But time waits for no man, and I need to make haste and finalise my allotment plan for 2016.. All to be revealed soon. AdeSignature

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Eat, Think and Be Healthy

We’re a week into the new year and already resolutions have been quietly forgotten, abandoned Christmas trees lay strewn across grey city streets like an apocalyptic scene from The Walking Dead, and we’re eagerly wishing away the winter and longing for spring’s gentle touch. street trees

For now, it’s all about wrapping up warm, eating comfort food and drawing up plans and seed lists for the upcoming months.  I often have visions at this time of year of gardeners heading down to their sheds which have been converted into military map rooms.  After entering a top secret code into the shed door’s security panel, and passing through voice recognition and retina scans, they step inside to be greeted by half a dozen gardeners in wellies.  Some use hoes to push around model vegetables on a large allotment blueprint, whilst others are barking orders or tuning into the two-way radio awaiting further instruction.

At the moment, we have regular excursions to our sleeping giant, plot 23d, where it lays undisturbed under its thick blanket of manure, enjoying its rest and growing strong and fertile for spring.  The days are slowly getting longer and soon we’ll all be moaning about slugs as we do every year.

But it’s also been a week of celebration for three reasons.  Firstly, keen to keep busy on the plot, I built myself a compost bay.  And if I do say so myself, it’s not too bad.  Not only will it hold the compost, I’m also hoping to grow a few squash plants in it later in the year (a tip I picked up from Gardeners’ World!).compost

Secondly, we harvested and ate our bijou Brussels sprouts!  And although they were nearly lost on our dinner plates (they looked like peas!)  they still tasted fantastic.

And thirdly, I’VE ALREADY SOWN THE FIRST CROPS OF THE YEAR! That’s right, last weekend I sowed both the chilli seeds (F1 Gusto Purple) and pepper seeds (F1 Gypsy Hybrid) into their propagators and placed them on the windowsill.  And like an over-fussy mother I’m checking them regularly, ensuring they’re happy and convincing myself I can already see shoots. Chilli CollegeA few years ago we began growing peppers but always found they never really got going until late summer, so it was always a race against time to get any fruit. However, in one of those special father and son moments when my dad saw me staring enviously at his bumper collection of maturing peppers a couple of years ago, he let me into his little secret: ‘Son, I always sow them just after Christmas’.  Early sowing is key. Finally, the apprentice becomes the master!  Since then I’ve never looked back.

Winter might be biting, but inside I can already feel the warming glow of spring. AdeSignature