Saturday, 13 June 2009

Everything planted!

I think this week will be the week with the most amount of soil under cultivation. Today I planted up the last free space on the allotment with pumpkin and squash plants and next week I shall start digging up new potatoes so for this week only every bit of land has something growing in it!

I started the morning by making rhubarb lollies as inspired by Wednesday's episode of River Cottage. I love that programme - a whole hour dedicated to the hobby I feel passionate about, growing and cooking my own food. The lollies turned out well too, tasting like honey and lemon on a stick.

As Steve had worked until 4am, he was still sleeping and to help him get some peace I took the girls out with me to B&Q to buy some essential gardening supplies. If you intend to grow pumpkins you need some manure and as I don't have a free supply of the stuff I have to buy it. Still, in some ways it is worth it. There is a lady on the allotment who owns a horse and for a while she brought bag after bag of fresh horse poo down to the allotment and said we could help ourselves. Well, I would have done if I'd had the chance but one of the other plot holders always snaffled the lot before I could get a bag. He spread it on every bed, filled his compost bins with it and stacked it up still in bags on his plot. I'm sure it will be a good investment but in the short term it has done him no good. The horse in question had clearly enjoyed eating Good King Henry because within a week or two every bed on his plot was thick with a mono-culture of the stuff, swamping everything that he had deliberately planted there. Then, last week with Good King Henry standing 2 feet tall, he announced he was going to Canada for 3 weeks. I commented that the weeds would be high by the time he got back. But I walked passed his plot repeatedly in the last fortnight and yesterday I could stand it no longer and I attacked one bed with my bare hands, pulling out the Good King Henry and rediscovering the cucurbits and brassicas beneath! Another plot holder thought I was mad to weed someone else's plot and she certainly wasn't willing to lend a hand but it seemed such a shame to see vegetable plants being strangled to death and in the end a well cultivated allotment benefits everyone. Whether he will work out what happened when he returns I don't know!

Anyway, back to B&Q. I also had 9 tomato plants left to plant out and with no soil left available to put them in I was on the hunt for 3 grow bags but believe it or not they didn't have any and I was told the whole company is experiencing a grow bag supply problem. A missed opportunity I feel. Who care if they resupply in a few weeks time, people need their grow bags now! So instead I bought 3 troughs and 3 bags of multipurpose compost for £10. It worked out more expensive in the short term but I shall still have the troughs next year and I can refill them. Beside, they have more depth then a grow bag.

As I wheeled my trolley back to my car a man nearby asked me if I would be OK loading 1 bag of manure and 3 bags of compost into my car. I had loaded them onto the trolley OK and they weighed considerably less than my children, whom I carry upstairs on occasion, but I decided to keep these thoughts to myself and accepted his offer of help. It was a nice offer and I suspect it made him feel as warm inside as it did me. Then I drove the car to the allotment and unloaded my purchases there - unaided, I might add!

Later in the day, when Steve was awake and willing, we went around to the allotment as a family. Steve spread the manure, some growmore and some lime onto the last remaining bed and then I planted it up with squash and pumpkin plants, digging out and infilling with multipurpose compost for each plant. I like to create a "crater" around each plant so that I can properly puddle water around them when watering and so that the rain runs towards the plant, not away. This year I had two willing helpers who enjoyed sculpting little circular mud walls around each plant.

As planned I also filled 3 troughs with multipurpose compost and 5 scoops of water retaining gel and planted 3 tomato plants into each. I erected canes at the same time and popped an empty yoghurt drink bottle over the end of each to stop us poking our eyes out.

That left 3 cucumber plants to plant so I put one each on the girls plots and found a space near our pond for the last. Training them up a stake means they won't take up much space.

All this time the girls busied themselves with picking the strawberries and the ever increasing quantities of raspberries. At first my eldest would pick the fruit, pass it to her younger sister who would pop it straight into her mouth but gradually as her belly filled, we began to accumulate fruit to take home. It was quite a harvest, especially considering the time of year and I'm thinking I'm going to have to become very inventive with my use of raspberries this year as it looks like it will be a bumper crop.

We also took home another bag of mangetout, a few tiny and delicious broad beans, a catch crop of radishes and a few shallots that had offended Steve's eye for perfection by growing over the straight edge of his path. So tonight we ate pork chops for dinner accompanied by mangetout, broad beans and a mushroom/shallot medley. Tomorrow I shall figure out what to do with a couple of pounds of raspberries!

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