Monday, 7 April 2014

Mad, Bad and Dangerous Upon Which To Grow.

Full of chit
Don't let anyone ever tell you that allotments aren't wild and dangerous places to be. Within just a minute or two of arriving on site Sunday gone, and while doing my customary scout round checking for new growth and progress I was very nearly brained by a massive sheet of corrugated plastic, released from its moorings on our neighbours' greenhouse by a ferocious gobbit of wind. Having leapt out the way, pausing only to screech out some choice expletives, I did my best not to curse the neighbours' workmanship, reasoning that these things happen. Whether I'd have felt so magnanimous if I'd been decapitated by the thing is moot.

A fate that sadly became of this fellow. What is it, a female blackbird or a thrush or something else? Something had a right go at it, feathers everywhere. Must have been a cat I thought, although someone at work reckons blackbirds themselves can be absolutely ferocious and sadistic killers when the mood takes them. Anyone else heard of that? All of which excitement and alarm has hopefully grabbed your attention, but has admittedly been top-loaded into this post. That's the gore and murder done with, now let's talk about potatoes. Again...

I was alone on the plot on Sunday, Kasia off to London. I'd banked on a full day of potato planting and digging. Those chitting atop this post were well ready for the ground.

And so to my usual spud routine of turning in some manure, digging trenches and in with the little fellows, before gently back-covering and giving a good soak. I planted out what second earlies we had left (Maris Peer), and managed to do a load of Desiree main croppers before eventually running out of time and patience. Digging trenches is slow work which allows the mind to wander, to thoughts such as "man, I'd have been crap in northern France in 1916".

I did start digging over one of the new patches we've acquired since taking over the "other half" of the plot. I don't think it has ever been dug in the last couple of years as the soil was well compacted and had a thick vein of clay running through it at about 20cm deep. Dirty great clods of the stuff just kept coming until I had enough to start a small pottery. This was no fun at all, so like the lazy git I am I shelved this project for another day.

Lots of clay
Since it's the time of year when things are really starting to move a bit, lets have a quick swing round some of the movers and shakers on the plot...

The main rhubarb patch is looking healthy. You can't beat the rude tartness of rhubarb. It'll soon be time to break out the rhubarb and vanilla cordial recipe, not least as it makes a most agreeable companion to gin.

As much as I like it, and especially how hassle free a plant it is, rhubarb is very odd. It rises from the ground in weird tumescent bulges, before erupting in mad colours like these. As I say, I like it a lot but I maybe don't altogether trust it. 

Plenty of green on the blackcurrants now. We missed out on practically the entire crop last year; we failed to net them, they all appeared within a few days and then just as quickly disappeared into the gullets of all manner of wildlife. We'll be more on the ball this time round.

Our blueberry bushes seem quite happy too, especially since they have a nice mulch of ericacious compost to keep the ph of their surrounds at around 4.5-6. That's how they like it, apparently.

Broad Beans
Some of the broad beans are doing good, others not so, having fallen to the frost/slug tag-team. We'll probably cheat by buying a tray or two from a garden centre to fill in the gaps.

Splash of colour from the daffs. Good old daffs.

Some of the onions planted a couple of weeks ago are coming through which is good news, no doubt aided by the fairly mild and wet conditions we've had since they went in.

The over-wintered leeks have put on a bit of growth in the last month or so, enough so for me to decide to hoik the first of them up in the interest of dinner. Not having eaten anything much from the plot in a while, it was with a frisson of excitement that I liberated them from the cloddish soil. The smell of allium, fresh relieved of the earth is a thing of considerable wonder.

They're not looking too bad either. We made the appalling error of letting our over-wintered leeks bolt before we got round to eating them last Spring. No danger of that happening this time round. Inspired by a recent feast at House of Tides, I steamed these whole til tender, then charred them with fillets of salmon, sauteed spuds and a preserved lemon mayo. Not gonna lie, they were great, sufficiently so to merit a recipe, up on here in due course.

Just as I was about to cycle off home the sun came out and was almost shockingly warm. A fitting coda to a fine day of pootling about, getting a decent amount of spuddage in the ground and just enjoying myself by being present elsewhere. Hope you had a good weekend too.


  1. so glad you were not decapitated,close shave there...Spring is definitely springing through now.Growth is speeding up.Sad about the baby bird.Lovely post :)

    1. Thanks Cath. This time of year is the best. Full of hope!

  2. I haven't even started preparing my potato bed yet let alone got any in the ground. It is on the agenda for thid/next week though. Everything is looking great though I really don't envy you digging throough all that clay!!

    1. I'm sure your spuds will catch up in no time Tanya.


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