Cucumber seedlings are sulking on an east facing window sill and waiiting to go down to the allotment. From spring onions oiled to shimmer in their skins to the disco dress of Purple Haze carrots, I had over-ordered seed packets. With no where to sow so much, it was a stroke of luck to get the call from the Town Clerk. The beginning of April is the day for plot tenancies to be renewed. There are a few vacancies.
We have got 8a, half a plot and I’ve just sneaked down with the dog for a remeasurement. The neighbours look great, Sandy and Bob to the left and Ruby sharing the other half, in a furious hurry to get her potatoes in. Half looks like a lot. Paced out, it measures about 12 by 36 feet. Whoever has decamped and moved on has left us with some raspberry canes, the hub of a leek crop and a sizeable area down to strawberry plants. The weeds have cravenly crept in, particularly couch grass with its scything blades.
My experience is pretty limited on the vegetable growing front. Not so all around. Proof of years of expertise. Serried rows of onions, potatoes earthed up, rhubarb in mid force and orderly compost heaps. The old hands have yet to show themselves but it hasn’t really been the right weather as since Easter we have had too much rain.
Joy Larkcom's "Grow your own Vegetables" is my at-the-elbow guide. “If the soil is sticking to your boots then it is too wet” - and I have left the guilty evidence of muddy footcasts in the neatly mown paths round the plots. The Tenancy Agreement allows for reasonable numbers of rabbits and hens and so Charles Boff’s furiously labour intensive regime “How to Grow and Produce your Own Food” is beside me for when I stray into livestock.
The productive ortaggio or vegetable garden spills over available land by the branch line from Arezzo to Terni. It is familiar to my sister in law who spends time in Italy every year. Her mother in law ploughs by tractor, bottles, pickles and distributes provender to the family. Our Sunday morning hoeing, drawing string lines and sowing was feeble by comparison. Also our bees are two counties in a hive in Sussex but the first faltering steps have been taken.
[caption id="attachment_1740" align="alignleft" width="225" caption="the tidiest plot of all "]
A friend and neighbour has agreed to split the plot and we got some work done before the forecasted rain set in. Weeding and forking over and the marking out o two beds of 48 inches wide with a narrow trodden path between the two. Plot work followed - levelling, light treading, raking to a tilth and making our drills.
A sowing of parsnips, beetroot, carrots, spring onions and beans was made. A random selection with a view to sowing little and often to avoid a glut. A beginning of order in the daunting sea of mud and weeds.
Now to plotting compost making, what else to grow, when to feed the soil, crop rotation. There is no time to regret the rule against allotment sheds. Where would we find the time to sit and drink tea and got lost inexorably in a view over an inland lake and a medieval castle?