Sunday, 29 March 2015

Spring is in the air?

Urgh. Spring may have sprung and the daffodils may be out and raising our spirits but today on the allotment was pretty grim. It was cold, it was wet and it was windy.

I dealt with this by pottering about in the shed, reorganising the shelves and "making a plan" for the week. Then I came home for a coffee. I hope my resolve isn't slipping after only one week. 

Today was definitely more Margo, less Barbara.

Fair enough when the weather conspires against us there are certain things we can't be doing. And furthermore, the allotments weren't exactly pulsating with life. I spotted one other brave soul, sheltering away with his thermos. So I don't feel too bad. 

I'm also worrying about the amount of stuff other people have planted. Time marches on and we have endless things to get into the ground within the next few weeks. We have potatoes, chard, kale, sprouts, rocket, peas, beans, leeks and beetroot to deal with and tricky asparagus to plant. We're also waiting on a delivery of rhubarb. Before we can do that we have two more beds to dig and some dead strawberry plants to dig up and dispose of. Then there's the manure.

Ah yes, it's not often in life I've imagined myself traipsing through the streets of North London humping a great big vat of organic manure. Needs must. I hope friends and potential volunteers don't see this as we may not see them again until it's time to treat the allotment as a haven mid-summer entertaining...

So really, gardeners and allotmenteers out there: how do you cope with foul weather? What sees you through and what tips do you have for carrying on regardless?

Follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82 

Friday, 27 March 2015

Dig For Victory!

The end of the first week of our new allotment project and the only word I can use to describe it is KNACKERED. The combination of the hard work, the team work and the (relatively) fresh North London air will single handedly keep Radox* in business for the foreseeable future.

The very nice ladies at the allotment advised us early on to do lots of stretching before coming up for a stint. There isn't enough stretching in the world to prepare me for several hours on all fours in the mud. It's not quite how I imagined spending my leisure time but inching slowly forward towards a fully operational allotment does give me an incredible and surprising sense of achievement.

We've now cleared four of our six beds of a year's worth of nasty weeds and various dead things. All our seeds have arrived together with a selection of very exciting asparagus plants. Learning as I go, unfortunately we won't reap the benefits of either the asparagus or rhubarb for at least a year which is a pity but they'll be well worth the wait. 

We've also been clearing out vast piles of old man detritus from the allotment shed. Bags and bags of old mugs, brown flowery deck chairs, broken glass and assorted rusty crud. I did find an old horseshoe on the floor which will be kept for good luck. I think we need it. I must admit that trudging through the streets of East FInchley in old jeans, mac, gardening gloves and knee pads carrying Waitrose bags full of rubbish is not my idea of a good time. Needs must though. 

Doing some basic research on our allotments has been very interesting. The site itself was once part of Finchley Common and has operated as allotments since the end of the Great War. The local council's lease began officially in 1930 so there is a lot of local history tied up in the site. I love the idea that our patch could have been used as part of the Dig For Victory campaign on The Home Front during the Second World War. 

One cautionary word of advice. Be careful what you buy on the internet! So far I've broken a hoe after only three days of delicate hoeing, while two boxes of new terracotta pots arrived completely smashed. Nevermind, onwards and upwards. Hopefully next week we can start planting!

*other bath products are available 

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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

The Good Life?

So after four years on the local council's waiting list we have finally made it. We are in possession of an allotment in North London. Joy to the world. What I hope to do with this blog is document the various trials and tribulations faced by two pretty green, green fingered allotmenteers.

The idea of becoming more self sufficient certainly appeals to many of us these days, particularly if like us, you live in the midst of the urban sprawl. Growing, picking, cooking and eating our own fresh vegetables is an exciting prospect and something me and my partner have long dreamed about. However now it's suddenly become a reality, the scale of the responsibility is beginning to hit home.

My partner is the big ideas man. As soon as Janet from the allotments called to say we had rather miraculously scaled the top of the waiting list, he was out scouring the locale for every piece of literature on growing your own and doing it yourself. I admit I haven't read up much on this so far, preferring to be second in command. One week into our new hobby, our flat is fit to burst with all manner of cardboard boxes, testament to the fact that the internet really does sell you everything these days.

We have a brand new set of tools, some of which I am yet to identify. We have a push lawnmower. We have matching wellington boots. We have matching gardening gloves. We have a plethora of seeds to plant and are soon to have delivered asparagus and rhubarb plants. We'll be rivalling Kew Gardens by the summer.

I have a fond, misty ideal of dabbling in self sufficiency. Already I've got the theme tune from The Good Life on a loop inside my head. It has been pointed out several times already that I'm much more Margo than Felicity Kendal's Barbara, but we'll ignore that for now. 

The reality is not looking impossibly cute in some rag bag clothes whilst sipping a glass of Peapod '75. It's actually flipping hard work. I ache in places I didn't know I had. What makes it worse is that we seem to be the only people on the allotments working hard. I can't wait to get to the point so many of our neighbours have reached where they can treat their patch as a social space for nattering, pottering and emptying the contents of their thermos flasks. I fear though that by the time we get there, I won't be fit for mulch.

Follow me on Twitter @GraemeN82