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So many people just abandon their allotments at this time of year and just turn up again in the spring (most likely to a patch of rampant weeds which it’ll then take them another couple of months to get going again).

Surprise, surprise, I’m not one of them. I’ll confess to missing the odd day when it’s really tipping down with rain, though even then I sometimes have a mung around in the greenhouse. And there are some weeks around January time when I’m reduced to sitting at home grinding my teeth because the ground is just too soggy and horrible to do anything with, so I have to give up and stay off it.

This week I’ve been starting off my new season – my fifth year on the allotment, and it’s just getting better and better. You learn a new thing with each year that passes, and just fine-tune what you do until you get it right. This year my big learning curve has been the broad beans, which almost totally failed in spring because I sowed them indoors in November and then planted them out in January as strong, but overly tall-stemmed specimens without protection. Result – the whole lot were wiped out by a combination of wickedly bad weather and stem rots. Actually, I say the whole lot, but several re-sprouted once the weather improved, giving me a fairly measly crop but a crop nonetheless. These really are tough plants.

Anyway: this year I’m experimenting with sowing in the ground, but under cover of polythene cloches. I used to avoid sowing direct, as everything just got eaten straight away, but since the mice are having a hard time even getting out of bed thanks to my ever-vigilant pussycats, I’ve felt able to risk it this time. The result ought to be sturdier plants, more able to cope with being outside all winter, and a thumping great glut of broad beans (which thankfully freeze beautifully) come May. Can’t wait.

PS: that’s my trusty allotment dog appearing in the background, mooching around looking for smelly things to eat. Am considering setting up a rebel Gardening Dog movement to counter the army of rabid cat-lovers around here. Or perhaps a Gardening Chickens movement, for which I am similarly well-armed with pictures with which to bore you rigid.

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