We are no perfect gardeners. Our enthusiasm for home grown vegetables changes just like the seasons. Summer, when the harvest is bountiful, is our peak time. Then we visit every day, filling our pockets with peas, carrots and handfuls of salad for the day. Come autumn it slowly starts to dwindle until we finally pick the last bits of the squash patch in early December and leave the garden to be for a while. Only when the first shy snowdrops make their appearance the following spring, we hastily return.
Therefore, the first walk up to the allotment in the new year is always one accompanied by a little guilt. Has that winter break been a little too long, again? Shouldn’t the tomatoes have been started off already? In what state will our overwintering brassicas be?
While it might seem we’re far away from the bounty that the summer will provide on opening the door in the hedge, there is a small batch of hyacinths getting ready to blossom again near the compost heap. And yes, the forgotten Brussels sprouts have self seeded; the once heavily overgrown pumpkin patch is bare now with the stringy remains crawling across the muddy floor and the pea tipi is surrounded by winter grass. However, the broccoli is actually doing remarkable well for the neglect it had suffered during the darkest months. And with a little help the tomatoes will shortly be on their way. Not that bad after all.
It is quiet up here in early March. Most of our allotment neighbours will start their seedlings at home. However our windowsills are clear of egg boxes full of compost. Instead we turn our greenhouse from a cluttered storage space for all odds and ends to a seedling nursery, holding the beginnings of our vegetable garden as well as some flowers. Sometimes allotment neighbours bring some of their seedlings along too. Since we finished the greenhouse two years ago it has proven to be one of the most functional on the site. Despite a few leaks, it gets really hot, sometimes reaching 38dgrees in the summer. But not yet, at this time of year it still needs a little help from the wood burner in the corner to be a snug home for our plants.
Once the greenhouse nursery is up and running, we go for our annual manure run. A little farm stable in the neighbourhood is always grateful when we come and carry their sh*t away. Literally. Otherwise they would have to pay for the removal from their site, so they’re more than happy to let us have a few bags. Well a few times ten, usually. You have to dig deep into the pile of horse poo and straw to get the well rotten manure. The top layers are still too fresh to be used as compost. Horse manure is incredible rich so we tend to mix it with other compost or even sand for our root vegetable patch. Two years ago we overindulged our pumpkins a bit. They almost died from all the nutrients.
In past years we practiced a simple crop rotation to keep the grounds healthy and avoid the spreading of pests, but this year we’ve got a lot more on our list. New paths need lying, a play pen for our littlest lady needs finishing and after another modest year for our peas we’ll finally move the vegetable beds into a new and sunnier position. The latter will see us breaking into the second and last third of the allotment for the first time. It has only taken us five (!) years. Our ambitious plans don’t end here. Parts of the old vegetable beds will host my first dyer’s garden and I’m also keen on growing a few more flowers this year. Some edible flowers, a wild meadow to attract wildlife but mostly cut flowers; I’m dreaming of a house full of poesies all summer long!
Until then, we slowly pick up our gardening pace. Extending our visits with every bit of extra daylight and digging, watering and nursing our way back to the full pockets of summer.
Oh & H – a homemakers column. A weekly sharing of life’s little stories between keeping a tiny terraced house and tending to an overgrowing allotment.
Oh and I almost forgot:
If you’re curious about growing your own now: I recently took a little trip down memory lane and wrote about our beginnings on this gardening path. Find the deeds and a useful little guide for a simple Kitchen garden, here.