Thursday, 14 February 2013

Getting back into it...

It has been almost a month since we've done anything even vaguely allotment-related, which, clearly, simply won't do. In fairness, the weather during that period has pretty much all been on a scale from mildly repellent to cataclysmically shit, so there hasn't really been much to do. Better to neglect now than in the middle of summer when things are really happening. Yes, that's it; we've been getting our neglecting in at the most appropriate time.

Anyway, there's nothing like seeing the arrival of seed potatoes in various retail outlets to focus the mind and force you to start planning. We bought a sack each of Pentland Javelin and Rocket  (both first earlies) from the local Wilkos, and I've set them to chit this morning. I see from their website that both these varieties are in the "value" range, but so are Arran Pilot which we grew last year and they came out fine, so hopefully this year's first earlies will too.

Time to chit
The fact that the time to chit spuds coincides with pancake day, when it is very easy to accumulate egg boxes from colleagues, is one of nature's beneficial rhythms!

I seem to remember spraying my chitting spuds with water last year (the first time we ever grew spuds properly), but I can't see anything about that on any websites; does anyone else do that? Wonder if I just made it up in my head. I'm planning to get a few different varieties of second earlies and main crops; definitely either some Ratte or Pink Fir Apple, all the better with which to make Robuchon's legendary mash.

Not wanting to stop there, I committed this year's first seeds to soil in anger; some Fothergill's Bunyard Exhibition broad beans which we got free with a magazine last year. Godspeed them on their way, as the ones we planted in autumn, suffering from horribly wet soil, did bugger all (although perhaps more than I'd resigned myself to- read on!)

Really fired up now, and full of joie du jardinage, I trotted down to the plot, ostensibly to take some compost down, but also just to remind myself what it looks like.

Seriously bloody wet is the quick answer to that. The ground is just utterly saturated. It would be great if we could have a considerable period without rain now, as any ideas about committing spade to soil seem an incredibly long way off given conditions underfoot. Veering momentarily off the paths resulted in an instant 2-inch clart platform attaching itself to the soles of my boots.

There are whispers of life among the ice and the damp however. Garlic continues to announce itself and rhubarb crowns are putting tentative splodges of pink above the ice. There is no sign yet of the elephant garlic; I hope I didn't bury it too deep.

One of a number of different garlics we're growing
I was certainly not expecting to see any sign of the broad beans we planted all the way back at the start of November last year. When we planted them direct into the ground the previous autumn they sprouted and got established before the cold weather really hit, sat tight over the winter, and then kicked on in the following spring. The ones we planted this autumn gone did absolutely nothing however, so I had just assumed they had rotted in the ground, and was preparing to replace them with the ones I had started inside today.

And yet, what is this:

You know, you've just got to give it to plants, they work on their own schedule and they'll find ways to surprise you. There are a few of these broad bean sprouts on the patch, it'll be interesting to see if they are joined by reinforcements. I don't know if the plants will prosper or if the ones that have belatedly popped their head above the soil are just announcing themselves before they give their death-wheeze, but either way it's nice to see them.

Just before heading home I gave our compost piles a good turn with the compost aerator that I gave to Kasia as probably the least romantic Christmas present of all time and was happy to note that the more mature of the piles has turned into a pretty full on worm-fest. 

Dunno exactly what they're doing, but I'm sure it's good

And that was that. Anyway, good to get a little bit back into the swing of things. We're off to London now for a long weekend which will have absolutely nothing to do with allotmenteering, but quite a lot to do with food. Of which more, in due course...


  1. Yup, you probably sprayed your chitting spuds with water or water with a very mild dilution of seaweed solution. It's said to encourage chitting but I've never noticed any particular difference in the experiments I've run. Well remembered though, and great news on the broad beans!

    1. Aha! Good to know I wasn't imagining it, thanks Kay!

  2. Dad's pink firs were lovely whenhe grew them a few years back. Good luck.

  3. I'm addopting Charlie's,(N Ireland) techique of leaving some spuds in the ground to grow again as seeds this year.


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