The Waiting Game

Agent Soph will be the first to tell you, patience and I don’t sit well together, we’re not the greatest of allies. If there’s something to be done, why wait? Yet patience is a tool all gardeners need in their kit bags. You can’t plant your Maris Pipers in the morning and expect to have a sackful to take home for Sunday’s roast. You can’t tell a sprout to get a move on, it just won’t work. 5 spuds

Yet right now, all across the land, gardeners are asking that crucial question: when shall I plant out?

This year, I’m stretching myself a little by playing the waiting game. Sat in my map room (polytunnel), I’m plotting and planning. I won’t be rushed! On Instagram, there are daily updates of people sowing seeds on their allotments. On garden blogs, gardeners talk of wheeling out their Banana Trees from the greenhouse, unwrapping them and planting them out. But I won’t succumb to this media pressure. Have these people taken leave of their senses?!?

Yes, we’re enjoying moments of spring sunshine, but don’t be fooled. She’s a fickle one that Mother Nature, no sooner have you donned your flip flops, shorts and sunnies, she’s cranked up the wind machine and sent Jack Frost to do the rounds one more time. 2 Polytunnel

With the polytunnel in full swing, I can afford to grow my plants on a bit, get them larger and stronger. There’s no rush. For those who don’t have the luxury of a polytunnel or greenhouse, I feel your frustration. I remember the days of balancing pots on windowsills, or supporting them on on towels in airing cupboards. I remember being in a constant state of tension, worrying that my precious seedlings would become leggy. That’s no way for a gardener to live.

Do allotments partake in polytunnel sharing, I wonder? If not we should. We could set up polytunnels across unused plots and these gardeners could groupshare. Costs would be cheaper, there would always be someone around to keep an eye on plants. Maybe have a rota system for watering. Getting to know your neighbour and bringing a community closer together. That’s what we want, isn’t it?

OK, maybe I’ve gone all William Wallace for a moment, but I’m still one of you. I haven’t entirely boycotted the planting, my potatoes are in and I’ve sown both my carrots and parsnips. 6

But the truth is, I’m a little nervous. Last year my onion crop succumbed to the dreaded onion fly. They’d only been in the ground for a few weeks and the whole crop was ruined. Alliums do suffer on our site. My garlic always suffers from rust, no matter how far apart I plant them for maximum ventilation. We’re only into April and my garlic leaves already have small patches of the dreaded rust. 1 Onion

I know, I’m acting like an over-protective father, but I brought these vegetables into the world! Is it wrong I only want the best for them?

Maybe it’s time to let a few of them go. The next sunny morning we have, I’ll find them a good plot to go to. They’ll be happy.3 Hand

I remember when I could still cradle them in my hands..  they grow up so fast!

sniff! AdeSignature

November Harvest

Up at the plot with not a fellow gardener in sight, it felt like I was truly alone. The sun had disappeared, the wind was pounding, and my face looked like an over-cooked sprout, scrunched up trying to fend off the cold and the rain. But I couldn’t have been happier. Having spent another week on the London work treadmill, I was itching for my piece of freedom, whatever the weather was going to throw at me. 5

With not a soul in sight, it was an opportunity to have a little nose around at other plots. Who was growing winter veg? Were plots prepared for the coldest of seasons? And had anyone spent time on their plot since the warm tickle of late summer sun?

For somewhere that oozes life and growth, it’s surprising how downtrodden and desolate allotments can look this time of year, including mine. Despite the effort to carry out those winter tasks of primary cultivation, fleecing winter vegetables and taking the time to strip paths of weeds and overgrown grass, my allotment is starting to look a little sorry for itself. Nevertheless, it can’t be that unhappy as I’m starting to harvest some of the winter vegetables. 1 Collage

This time last year, the only thing growing was garlic, due to the fact I had only acquired my second plot so was busy designing and creating beds, borders and paths. This winter, however, it’s all going on!

Although it’s a little late to get things going now, if you’re considering year-round harvests next year, my one piece of advice would be this.. preparation.

In the height of summer when there’s so much life on the plot and you’re relishing those long days, it’s difficult to think that in a few months, all that you see around you will have decayed and withered, but seasons come and go. So when I knew I wanted to branch into winter harvesting, I spent the end of summer preparing those beds for the harshness of the winter. And a few months on, the hard work seems to paying off.

Not trying to blow my own trumpet but, things are growing. So far we’re enjoying leeks, beetroot, celery, carrots, parsnips, two types of cabbage, swede, sprouts and both my red brocoli and caulflower are just coming into their own. 1

So although many allotments in these dark days may seem lost and unkempt, take a closer look and you’ll be surprised to see how much life is thriving throughout this chilly season. AdeSignature