30 Streamline runner beans waiting for more rainIt has been a long time since I last went to the allotment, which is disappointing as one of the main reasons we bought our new house was to be close to it. I saw RSA Matthew Taylor on Wednesday as I attended a round table discussion on their recent publication, the facinating Business, Society and Public Services: a social productivity framework, and he asked me how my allotment was, and was no doubt confused by the look of horror on my face. Because instead of contemplating luscious crops my mind swung to guilt and scenes of neglect. The problem has been the time taken by our move followed by my pneumonia so it has been weeks since I went, which is unprecedented in 15 years of keeping an allotment. It was therefore with heavy anticipation I headed down yesterday, still feeling uncharacteristically weiry but looking forward to a good day tending my little patch of heaven.
I picked lovely weather, the sun was shining and many of my fellow allotmenters had their families in tow enjoying the warmth and 'helping out'.
comedy parsnipsThe first thing that hit me was the grass, with the rain that has fallen recently it had got to over a foot tall on my paths and needed immediate attention. Then there were the pests. Much of what I have in the ground like my asparagus had been got at either by the asparagus beetle or slugs and on closer inspection I found hundreds of slugs and snails curled up around the weeds and vegetables like the cavalo nero. I destroy snails and slugs by standing on them. Fellow gardeners have more genteel ways of dealing with the gardeners nemesis, like plopping them in a bucket of water but as they can climb out of water I find the quickest way is to stamp on them or if they are smaller squish them between thumb and forefinger as I go about my business. I took out the cavolo nero saving the best for our rabbits at home and also dug up the last of the parsnips which were rather large and probably past their best, though I will try to make them into soup today with chicken stock from last nights roast.
serpentine asparagusMy asparagus is coming out of the ground bent because as they grow incredibly quickly, they are contorting around the damaged side of the spears. They look like mythalogical serpents rising out of the sea, but I have to report still taste delicious.
I make it a rule to try to add something when I go so I had the fun job of putting in my runners. This year I have gone for Streamline which is a new variety for me but grows very straight, hence the name, and as I have invested in a 'new' vintage bean cutter, thanks to good old ebay, I am keen to get slicing with straighter beans reducing waste.
who dun it?I then weeded and re-netted my broad beans that have once again been well and truly got at by pests. It could be pea weevil but given some of them had been knocked over more likely to be slug damage. It's time to order the nematodes!
I gave my apple trees a spray as signs of apple aphid and scab are already there and made a mental note to get some codling moth lures and arm my traps.
Finally I earthed up my potatoes, Pink Fir Apple which are our favourite and still hard to buy unless you shop on Harvey Nichols Fifth floor.
With things looking a little tidier, though by no means up to scratch, I said goodbye to our scarecrow, Bob and wandered home in the evening sun to sort my screaming back out with an ibuprofen, washed down with a clinking gin and tonic.
That most English of sun downers and a hot bath, I find to be the cure for most things that ail a body.
I have a busy week ahead, but like Arnie, I will be back and armed for war. Don't be fooled by gentle breezes and sweet fragrance, gardening is a constant battle and not for the feint hearted.
PS. Please sponsor my Sammie who did a 60 mile training cycle yesterday in preperation for his ride to Paris for Street Child Sierra Leone on June 2nd. He's only 14 and is constantly monotoring his Just Giving site so go on give him something to cheer at!
For more information on the work of Social Enterprise London visit www.sel.org.uk