Saturday, 17 February 2007

Planting and other Oddities

Today on the allotment was a bit strange.

It's February, it should be cold, but there I was nattering with another plot holder and we were both wearing t-shirts, all nice and warm enough thank you very much.

I suppose that is a symptom of this Global Warming that has been so fashionable in the news over the last few years.

Well, to be honest I was a bit bored. I've done all the big digging and found myself wondering what on earth to do next. Staring at well tilled beds with nothing growing in them is rather disheartening.

It was time to bite the bullet and do the job I'd been dreading. That was to clear the grass from between the raspberry canes. I knew it was going to be a bitch of a job, and it certainly was. I'm a reasonably big chap, I like digging and doing the heavy work (much to my surprise I can tell you), but I am not well designed for bending down and scrabbling between raspberry canes yanking out tufts of grass. Nor does it suit my temperament very well, and probably wasn't helped by the mild hangover I had from last night's beers.

Well I did it, after a fashion. It's not the greatest job ever done, but it'll do. Herself had the digisnapper today so no photographs of my work, not that it was worthy of a snap if I am honest about it.

Herself and baby had gone to meet the Mother-in-Law at Pensford Fields, where there was a 'work day' going on. I'm not terribly sure what a 'work day' means but having glanced in on them it seemed to mean a few people generally hanging around not doing very much. Mind you, the MiL had just popped home for something or other at that time and I have no doubt whatsoever that upon her return it would have been all hands to the pumps and chop-chop, work-work, busy-busy, bang-bang (you would have to meet her, she doesn't exactly sit idle and doesn't expect anyone else to sit idle either).

For what it's worth I have no idea what this 'Sunrise Senior Living' lark in the link above is all about. The Pensford Fields crew are all middle aged as far as I can tell, they have Wassail each January organised by the MiL, an art exhibition / sale each summer (to raise money for the upkeep of the field they charge a commission on all works sold) previously organised by the MiL who actually slept on site in a tent to guard the artworks over the weekend, and they have occassional disagreements with the tennis club next door or so I am told (I've never seen any evidence for this).

There seems to be something of a theme developing here, being Things I Don't Know About. Ho hum, well I am trying to learn about gardening which is a start.

After I'd cleared the grass, or more to the point once I had sort of cleared it enough to say bollox to it and get on with something else, I decided that it was high time that I did some planting. After all, that is the point of an allotment isn't it?

First off was the spuds. I took the advice of the Wise Old Bird in Residence and read the instructions on the packet. OK so the instructions said not to plant the spuds until March, but everone seems to agree that the weather is a month early so with little or nothing to lose I dug three trenches, about 4"/10cm deep and 2'/60cm apart. The instructions also said to plant the spuds 10"/25cm apart but I think I erred on the side of caution and planted them a bit further apart from that. In the end I planted 27 spuds, with the shoots pointing upwards also per the instructions.

That was easy enough, and I still have plenty of seed potatoes left. They're a variety called Arran Pilot and should be ready for lifting and munching by about June I think.

With 27 plants, each expecting to deliver maybe 1kg of spuds I am wondering just how we're going to eat them all, but I'll cross that bridge when I come to it.

Next the garlic went in. That was incredibly easy. I planted the whole pack, maybe 40 or so garlic cloves. I have no worries about how we will eat that much garlic, oh no, for garlic is yummy and well used in my kitchen.

I met the lady from the plot nextdoor, the one that shared the buried watertank with my plot. She was absolutely fine about me having dug the tank out, she agreed that it was dangerous and said that it was actually a real pain being where it had been because it interfered with some of her planting. She was also thoroughly disinterested in having anything more to do with it, so Herself gets to keep it and use it as a planter. All good stuff. Oh, and she gave me a cabbage to have with our dinner, always a bonus!

Anyway, the lady nextdoor gave me some advice about raspberry canes, and suggested that I mark the rows of garlic I had planted, which I promptly did. Now I understand why allotments require such a vast number of bamboo canes, it took ten little ones and a ball of string just to mark the five rows of garlic that I had planted. Once I get going, building net cage things for the peas and beans and brassicas I can see me running out of canes and having to buy some more. Fortunately the site shop seems particularly well stocked with them.

The Wise Old Bird in Residence spied my gardening gloves, which are leather and cloth and not terribly waterproof, and he gave me a pair of waterproof, very heavy duty ones. He does seem to be an extremely decent chap, and he keeps an eye on everyone or so it seems (he is the lettings officer for the site).

One of my friends and fellow plot holder tells me that he's got almost all the materials for my shed now. That's brilliant, I didn't ask him for it, he just offered because he gets loads of such material which would otherwise be thrown away in the course of his job (he's a builder).

We've got a new bloke starting at work on 1st March, he's moving down from Scotland and selling his house. He's promised me his old gardening tools when he arrives, because he doesn't expect to be able to afford a place with a garden here in SW London. So that's that, by the start of March I should hopefully have a shed and my own tools on site. Yay!

I'm going to ask the Wise Old Bird in Residence if he would mind me using a bit of space in a greenhouse that is going spare on a certain plot that he's currently tending. I don't know if he'll have plans for it, but if not then maybe I can get some greenhouse space too, which will please Herself no end.

I'm hoping to get back to the allotment tomorrow, and maybe plant some peas. Unfortunately though I seem to have been struck down with a nasty 'make you feel decidedly unwell' bug this afternoon. Herself had it a couple of weeks ago and it put her off work for a week. I bloody well hope that doesn't happen to me, I've just had the best part of a week off looking after my daughter (she had chickenpox). My boss is very decent about such things, but er, well I do have a pretty responsible job and my absence is noticed. Sod it, they can and do get me on the phone when I'm not there. But I'd rather not be ill thank you.

I think since my daughter started nursery school myself and Herself have had more colds and ailments per year than we'd had in the previous decade. The trials of parenthood eh?

Ho hum.

Lastly, I picked up a leaflet from the site shop today. Apparently they're taking orders for plants, veggies and flowers, to be delivered in May. Now I'm not terribly well versed in the prices of plants in gardening shops, but the prices from the site shop do sound amazingly cheap to me. Cauliflowers for £0.70 per dozen, and trays of flowers for £4.50 per 40. Is that cheap? I think it is. Perhaps this is a bit of an eye-opener for the prices charged by garden centres etc?


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