Holding Back The Weeds

It’s the height of summer, and doesn’t it show. My allotment is overflowing with greenery and flowers, there are crops to be harvest nearly every day and the bees and hoverflies are buzzing about my head as I toil away. The warm weather, interspersed with heavy downpours are almost perfect conditions for everything to grow. Yes – everything!

The downside is the never ending weed situation – be it nettles, bramble, dandelions or dock; they pop up everywhere there is a spare millimetre of ground. They grow as quick, if not quicker than any planned seeds, meaning they often dwarf your beds. So every visit to the plot involves a hefty weeding session just to keep things under control.

Having a full time job and an allotment requires considerable time management in the summer. Although you are blessed with the longer days, there also seem to be more social events and trips away. People getting married, birthdays and BBQs; all these fun things taking up precious gardening stints. So you often find that it can be several days between visits, and then turn up to find nettles have invaded your courgettes, the spikey arms of bramble have encroached on your spuds and you have no idea how you are going to fit it all in your compost bin.

I try to console myself that the soil must be in good shape to be constantly producing these uninvited guests, and there is something therapeutic in their methodical removal. But it does mean every day I’m kept away, at the back of my mind I’m dreading what I will find on my return….

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May Madness: The Joys of British Weather

It’s often been commented upon that the British like nothing better than discussing the weather. We always have something to say about the current temperature, how it performed yesterday or a particularly noteworthy forecast to come. We never fail to mention the rain, either when it has dampened our plans or effected our journeys.

Maybe this is because we really are a nation of gardeners. As an allotmenter, my eyes are often fixed to the skies. Outside of social media, the most used app on my phone is one that forecasts the weather. Plants are relatively simply creations, they need light, warmth and water to grow (though I appreciate that different types vary in their requirements of each). To ensure that seeds germinate, seedlings survive and a harvest is achieved, you have to be constantly aware of the climate.

What makes British weather a constant topic of conversation is its inconsistency. Not just day to day, but even when comparing months from year to year. May 2017 is another fine example of this. Spring this year has, with the exception of the odd day, both cold and dry. Frost has been a constant threat, with daytime temperatures barely making it into double figures. And the ground had often only been we by the morning dew for weeks at time. My windowsills and propagators have been rammed with seedlings, far to tender to plant out, and packets of seeds have been untouched waiting for the right conditions.

But I knew that once the change arrived it would be all hands to the pump, and in the last couple of week the earth has warmed, the rain has come (admittedly in some extreme outbursts!) and this weekend we have had temperatures normally only reached in the height of July. Everything has grown, weeds included, meaning the frequency of trips to the plot are required on an almost daily basis.

This mad rush to get everything in the ground is because summer time is precious for growing crop in this country. if you are relying on just the earth and the elements, the time is short to get maximum returns on many vegetables,  before it all cools down in the autumn. I hope that my efforts this last fortnight have not been wasted, and I will be well fed with my own produce for the rest of the year.

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December Wonderings

So suddenly I find I have time and inclination to write. But what do I say? How can I express myself? What do I have to express? It’s not that I don’t have anything happening in my life, I seem to be constantly busy, but more that there’s no drama. No conflict, no disturbances, no passions, no tragedy. Life is just plodding along, and everything is fine and I’m getting on with stuff. The only thing that is missing in my life right now is my allotment.

It’s winter; the days are short and little grows. What time I actually get to spend on my plot, is mainly just digging and clearing and thinking. Lots of standing about; making plans in my head and considering my options for Spring. I spent a whole evening this week just going through seed packets, and listing ones I wanted to buy. And I must remember this frustration, so that when the days start to get longer once more, I make use of that daylight. Not let my laziness waste those precious hours I could be toiling away. I can’t wait to start planting again. As soon as the Christmas festivities have passed, I will be starting my endeavours to ensure a fruitful 2015 on Hill Farm.

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I’d rather be on my allotment

January 2013 was a new chapter in my life. After a two years of helping out a friend, and sitting on the council’s waiting list, I was offered my own plot. My own patch of land. A very over-grown, neglected patch. By taking it on, I would be taking a lot of hard work. But I saw the opportunities and a challenge I could rise to. So I said yes!

And then the hard work begun.

If you remember the Spring of 2013, it was long, cold and pretty miserable. I was spending my weekends digging through grass, nettles and bramble; trying to get the soil in a condition to start actually growing. It was a slog. I carved out small beds so I could get some seeds in the ground. There were hits and misses; some plants were devoured by the wildlife as soon as they were in the ground, some struggled with the long, cold Spring weather. But on I soldiered.

When the first flowers burst into bloom, the seedlings breaking through the earth, I felt real achievement. Four months in and the first fruits of my labours were ripe for picking. I had grown my own food, I had become self-sufficient! Well for a meal or two anyway.

Then I was hit by an unexpected problem. It was me. Or to be more specific my left hip. The extensive digging had given me trochanteric bursitis. The pain had got so bad, I’d been forced to make a rare visit to my doctors. I was given some medication and told to rest up for 4 weeks. FOUR WEEKS!

Of course by then the long, late Spring had turned into a beautiful, warm summer. I had to stop for a month, but the plot was looking good; plenty of colour and lush green vegetation. So it was time to take it easy and enjoy the scenery devour the produce.

So although my first year plans were curtailed, it was a steep learning curve. But despite all the hard work, the bad weather, the physical pain, the plants that didn’t make it, I had fallen in love with my plot. I often look out of the window on my day job, rain or shine, thinking “I’d rather be on my allotment.”

This is what I took on in January 2013. Much to do!

A lot of digging, and a bad hip, later….

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Summer is ending… its time to plan for Spring!

There is a change in the air. In the last few weeks the mornings have been crisper, the have evenings have come sooner and the sunlight is almost golden just after dawn and before dusk.

Summer is on its way out, and many are mourning it’s passing. 2014 has been a good year, with many long, sunny days. Rarely to humid, and when the atmosphere was it soon broke with thunder and sharp showers. We were then all refreshed, and ready for more glorious rays.

It has been a good year on the plot, and its now harvest time and I am struggling to eat enough to keep up with supplies. This year I have made my first attempt at pickling and chutney, determined not to let goods go to waste. However I have also gifted many courgettes, as they seemed never ending.

But as things are starting to end, most of the cottage blooms have died back and spaces are appearing as I take home the crop, I am working on next Spring.

Already I have biennial seedlings in the greenhouse, and the first of autumn sown flowers have been planted. My next job is to clear the ground to start next years first batch of carrots, onions, spinach & broad beans.

In between chores on my allotment I take a moment to survey my small piece of land. I imagine how things will look, consider what to plant next, work out the next rotation of vegetables. This thinking time is often as long as the physical, and by visualising it I can organise my thoughts and work out what needs to be bought and the tasks ahead. So I never mourn the passing of a season, and in my mind I have already moved on to the next.

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