Once upon a time this was a blog about a transplanted townie tending an allotment. Not quite the “good life” (whatever that is), but the odd belthering about weeds, polytunnels and broccoli.
All of a sudden, the calendar said 21 March. Vernal equinox. Or, as we know it in the northern hemisphere, spring.
And, allotment 5 1/2 is looking a sorry state.
That’s a poor show considering it’s been a mild and dry winter, suitable for clearing weeds and putting goodness back in the soil. There’s been too many distractions. Community life aside, Jeff Stelling, the Saturday Soccer crew and a comfy sofa have proved too much, too easy.
There’s no promise that I’ll get out this weekend. Rarely, the southwest forecast is the best of the regions: dry, bright and 16 C. But, there’s some stirrings in the loins.
In a week filled otherwise with telephone calls, meetings, internet searches, re-writing business plans and share offers (and this was supposedly a holiday), I did fit in a little bit of yard work (I love that phrase) before returning to the day job on Monday.
The raised bed has been cleared and primed with cat deterrent. I’ve even got some baby greens thriving under a cloche, a remnant of autumn planting. I spent a couple of back breaking days pulling weeds, hacking down redundant shrubs and stumps of trees that should never have been planted. The garden waste bin overflowed with green detritus.
Meanwhile, up at the allotment, my Brussels have finished. Three types of garlic have wintered well. There’s but a few stunted bulbs. So, if I can avoid rot, we should have a good crop come June.
The spring cabbages are looking slightly sorry for themselves. All bar one should perk up. But, that renegade has bolted, sprouted a seed head. I’ve never seen a cabbage do that. My thinking is it’s a function of the dry, mild weather.
Next door to the cabbages, I have or had a good bed of broad beans that I planted out in early October.
Look at them now. Those that I covered under a netted cloche are straggly, but alive. In contrast, those left to the elements have expired.
Check out Mr F's forearms - wow! It's Popeye!
Always read the instructions - yeah, right.
So, off to our local budget garden centre last week to fill a big shopping trolley. With a small packet of discount seeds. And, three large bags of peat-free compost. And, cat repellent. Naturally slug repellent too. All organic, mind you.
The toilet roll method
Using the expired toilet roll method, I’ve started off another batch of broad beans, which hungry mice permitting should be ready to plant out by the end of April.
The rationale for autumn planting of broad beans is to avoid black fly which can devastate your crop. Late planting means you run the risk though by pinching out the tops once the fruits start to form also discourages the flies.
But, in three years of trying I’ve now lost well over 50% of my crops. Conclusion, next season I’ll start off beans under cover in January for March planting out.
For many gardeners in my division (Conference South) broad beans are one of the first crops to be ready, a bit of a treat in April or May.
The beans are quite versatile. You can eat them as young ‘uns, in their skins and quite sweet. As a mature bean, pop off the skin after a quick blanch: great in a salad with spring onions, kidney beans, couscous, lemon and oil. As old boots, add broad beans to casseroles and soups.
From indifference, I’ve become a great fan.
For the weekend, the lazy to do list consists of tomato seed sowing. The active, active, not sitting in front of screen list includes additional digging, weeding and shooting the breeze with fellow allotment growers.
Ctrl+F5.5=Allotment 5 1/2 refreshing.