Sometimes, when it’s snowing and you have to go up to the allotment to clear the nets, or when it’s pouring with rain, or so hot that even walking up there makes you sweat, it’s easy to ask that question and the answer is in the photo. If you’ve ever seen better true spinach, fat, fresh and bursting with life – in a supermarket – I’ll eat my new and beloved hat. This is the season for true spinach in the UK at least, and it’s also the season when the garden centres are rammed with people wanting to grow something, anything to make contact with that strange and powerful urge that must be encoded into our DNA. We went today to buy more seed trays and compost and I was happy to queue up ten deep at the checkout because every single customer was on to the same thing as me. As I often used to say at live music events, if the authorities knew how much fun this was they’d tax it or close it down. If I have one criticism of garden centres it’s their eagerness to get tender plants out sooner than they really should, which must lead to many disappointments and losses for inexperienced gardeners.
Back at the Potwell Inn, the hotbed has excelled itself in spite of my own lack of experience and we’ve been eating lettuce and lovely radishes. Elsewhere on the allotment the container potatoes seem to need earthing up every other day, and the others, planted into the soil, are beginning to pop up enough to start modestly ridging them. Our decision to eschew any more asparagus pickings until next year has provoked a tremendous response from the plants. The apple trees are in full blossom although the grapes caught the frost just as they did last year. Back then, we were devastated twice – firstly because we foolishly heeded the advice of a famous TV gardener that it was OK to prune in the early spring. It wasn’t, and the plants bled their sap copiously to the point where we feared for their survival. Trust me, autumn pruning is safer. Then the frost all but destroyed the swelling buds. Amazingly the vine threw another bunch of buds and we had a tremendous crop. So rule two for allotmenteers is – ‘never despair, plants are tougher than you’d ever imagine.” I can’t remember rule one by the way but it’s almost certainly about not giving up.
Peas, broad beans and carrots are up and the herb plots are full of energy. We decided while we were down at Heligan that we would expand the number of mints that we grow and so we came back with four more varieties that we’ll plant apart to avoid the possibility that they’ll all do the hokey cokey and taste the same.
In the flat the chillies are actually in flower and need repotting into their final sized pots. This is always the conundrum. If you sow too early you land up with a lot of tender plants that need to be indoors for a couple of weeks at least before you dare move them into the unheated greenhouse. So just as the M5 was utterly congested yesterday as we drove back from Heligan, so too is our plant supply. Every spare surface within a yard of a window is pressed into service. We were so busy today I didn’t have time to ID the flowering wild plants I photographed, so that list – plus the list of potato varieties they’re growing at Heligan will have to wait.
But this photo, taken down near the charcoal burner at Heligan did amuse me!