Allotment: Getting ready to grow

Alright, I confess. This update has taken longer than it should have.

In part because the snow really scuppered my plans, but also because sometimes life just happens. It felt like spring took its sweet time making an appearance. I dithered about whether to put my potatoes in the ground for weeks, frantically checking my weather app for signs of a late frost. And then when spring finally happened, well, there was lots to do!

It feels like every spare moment recently has been spent sowing seeds, and yes, like every crazy plant lady, sometimes this involved checking on trays of compost a mere 24 hours later and being surprised that nothing had happened. But then came ‘pot fever’ and no, I know what you’re thinking, pot fever had nothing to do with any drugs – although it did turn out to be a bit of an addiction (wahey!). Suddenly the seedlings were growing (such joy) but almost overnight they needed a bigger pot. And then a bigger one. And then OH MY GOODNESS I could see roots, until I found myself squeezing five minutes in before work frantically tending to aubergines and tomatoes – sometimes brushing off compost from my jeans as I got in the car.


Anyway, this weekend the first plants have gone in the ground. And even though things will go wrong and I’ll sow plenty more seeds, I can’t help but feel excited whenever we walk to the allotment. There are signs of life all over. And it’s really flipping marvellous.

Many hours have been spent preparing beds and in particular the back area of the allotment and our plans for a wildlife area. When we took on the plot, this area was covered in brambles – and we only discovered the pond tucked away one day when cutting them back. Him Outdoors has spent ages using the reclaimed wood to section off this area, and with the help of donated plants from family (thank you!) we’re slowly developing it. I plan to put lots of wildflower seed down this weekend, so fingers crossed that attracts the bees and butterflies. But over the last few weeks we’ve both sat excitedly watching as the newts dance through the water and curious insects discover any opening flowers.

We sadly found out that the man who loved the allotment before us, and who had put in the pond, died recently. I like to think he would have been proud we’ve restored this little patch of land (and water!), and we hope to show his daughter our progress soon. I’m also hoping that some flowers and plants will soften the rather, um, well, phallic-looking shape of the pond in the meantime. Yep, insert penis pond jokes here…!

Moving swiftly on, I’ve erected (sorry, that was an open goal) the pea construction for the year, as well as the bean structure. I’m growing a small dwarf pea, purple mange tout and a sugar snap pea, using each variety as part of my mycorrhizal fungi experiment, which I’ll write about shortly.

Confession number two – my bean germination was spectacularly poor. There’s a strong chance I may have left the greenhouse door slightly ajar and come back to find nibbled leaves which looked suspiciously like a chicken had sampled them. Obviously when I asked the chickens what had happened they all strongly denied this, so I guess we’ll never know. But the result is I’ve bought a couple of plants from our local nursery, and now I’m actually really excited to have four different types of bean on the go. A borlotti, purple climbing, white climbing and Israel. Last year I got slightly (extremely) sick of beans, so I’m hoping some variety will give me back my excitement.

We’ve also put up all three of our arches we got for Christmas and I’m still swooning over them every time I get to the allotment. It’s something about the height that does it. I’m delighted to report the trailing grey, baby boo and tromboncino squash varieties are all looking healthy and ready to be planted out soon. I have four healthy gherkin plants for the other arch, but they don’t appear to be in any hurry to leave the safe haven of the greenhouse at present, let alone reach lofty new heights.

Anyway, the gherkins better get a wriggle on else they’ll be replaced with a clematis, because this year it’s the year of flowers.

When we first starting growing things, I wasn’t interested unless I could eat it (I really do love food). But I’m getting as much pleasure out of growing flowers at the moment. I wanted a cut flower bed so I didn’t feel guilty cutting them for the house, and oh my, the tulips were incredible. However, admittedly, I didn’t really cut them much because I still felt guilty – something to work on! But many summer flowering bulbs (freesia, gladioli and lilies) have been planted and I’m fussing over dahlias at the moment like they’re my long-lost children. The point is, there are lots of flowers to come!

The other thing we’ve done is make a mini border around our beloved artichokes. It’s been planted with calendula and trailing nastursium, which I hope spills out onto the path to provide a sea of frothy colour.

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The next jobs on my list are starting to plant things out (my sweetcorn are looking longingly at the blue skies), as well as sowing crops like beetroot, carrots, turnips, salads etc so we have a constant supply. I’ve said for a long time that May is my favourite month, because it has so much potential. And so far, this May isn’t letting me down.

I’ll update you on the garden shortly – lots going on there which is delighting me every morning.

Hope you’re all as excited as me for the growing season! Love Rach x

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