Friday, 9 April 2010

Coming to terms with a summer without plums

Spring has arrived in glorious style - bright sunshine and a breath of warm air. The washing is back out in the garden, fighting for space with the nesting birds and the spring flowers. But it is on the allotment that things are really getting going. You can't step away for a moment without missing a growing opportunity but step away we did nonetheless. The traditional weekend for planting potatoes is the Easter weekend but instead we went for a long weekend to the mother-in-law's house! Well, what can you do when duty calls? Still, the main reason this weekend is traditional for planting potatoes is because it was one of the few occasions that people historically were given a day off from work. Fortunately, working practises are a little more relaxed these days and if, like us, you missed the Easter weekend, there are still 3 more in April to use instead.

As it happens, Steve took Tuesday off work too and it was a beautiful day. I decided to postpone the weekly shop for a day and we went out as a family to catch up with the gardening. It did mean having to eat cheese and crackers for lunch (no bread) and fish and chips from the freezer for tea!

It is a funny thing really, you spend all winter chomping at the bit, anxious to get things growing again and then suddenly before you know it you are behind schedule with the sowing of seeds. Steve worked hard all day with the intention of getting the rest of the first early potatoes planted but he didn't quite manage it. Instead he built a couple of more raised beds ready for the potatoes so hopefully this coming weekend he'll get them in.

In the meantime I found space for the last few onion sets then sowed some carrots and parsnips in between in the hope that it will confuse the carrot root fly... or at least the dozy slugs. Following that I filled half a bed with broad bean seeds.

By this time the girls had had a good run around and play and were keen to sow a few seeds on their little plots. First I used a staple gun, string and a tape measure to divide their long raised bed into five 1 metre square beds. The first of these will be their shared sweetcorn bed, the second will be my youngest potato beds, the third is her main vegetable bed, followed by my eldest's veg bed then her potato bed. The last 30cm that otherwise doesn't fit in the plan we will use this year to give mini sweetcorn another go.

You may remember that my youngest wanted to grow all yellow vegetables and my eldest wanted to grow red and purple vegetables. We got this underway by planting 6 Yukon Gold seed potatoes and 6 Roosters. Next my youngest sowed her yellow mangetout, golden beetroot, and radish seeds. In the meantime my eldest sowed purple podded peas, red beetroot, red lettuce and radish seeds. There was then a short pause from sowing whilst we mixed together a bag of multi purpose compost with half a bag of sharp sand. This we shovelled into a couple of square wooden planters. Into this mix we sowed their carrot seeds. This mixture seems to help the carrot seeds germinate as well as giving them an easy job pushing their way into the soil before making it easy to harvest.

I was pleased with the enthusiastic way in which they got on with sowing the seeds and was also pleased that they could get on and do it completely on their own, with me sat back providing descriptions and instructions. They are 5 and 7 years old now and have a promising range of gardening skills. They were happy with their work but pleased when it was done and they could return to their game. My youngest rushed off to see how many dandelions she could pick from the allotment site and none of the other plot holders there that afternoon complained about that! My eldest decided to see if she could dig her way to Australia! Well, we all have to try that at some point don't we?!

I finished off with the gentle task of tying the new tayberry stems to their archway support. I'm pleased to say that my two rhubarb crowns from Thompson and Morgan are now above the surface and unfurling leaves. The one from Wilkinson's is looking less promising. I am also very pleased to see blossom on my apricot tree. I planted that 2 years ago and this is the first year it has flowered. It would be brilliant to get some apricots off it! I also think the pear, planted the same year, could also be about to burst into blossom. On a less positive note, my plum tree shows no signs whatsoever of giving any blossom this year. It often has a bumper year followed by a lean year whilst it recovers but this year there seems to be nothing at all. Suddenly, the remaining frozen plums in Sue's freezer have gone from being something of a nuisance to a valuable commodity. A summer without plums... I've not had one of those for 12 years... how will I cope?

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