Cast not a clout ’till may be out.

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May, in this case, being not the month but the hawthorn flower – notwithstanding the pedants who claim it refers to the begining of June.  Of course it’s the flower, silly, hawthorn might well be flowering earlier and earlier due to climate change and it seems appropriate to pay attention to that inconvenient fact rather than go by the (disputed) Roman calendar. Whatever – today we took off the last of the winter clothes from the new beds and at last the allotment looks like a garden rather than a recycling centre. A early morning trip to the sawmill saw me drive back with a precarious load of stakes ready for the new peas.  This year we’ve decided to grow a heritage variety called Alderman which reaches five or six feet in height and therefore needs a different form of support.  We decided to go for biodegradable Jute netting which we could buy in 10 metre lengths at 2 metres high – just right for our beds.

While I was at the sawmill, Madame was repotting the chillies, peppers and aubergines in the kitchen.  They’re growing so quickly it’s a struggle to keep up, but it’s going to be at least a fortnight until we dare to take them up to the greenhouse.  So then, this afternoon, we got on with clearing beds of their winter wrapping, watering the many seedlings that need lots of TLC at this time of the year and planting out successional sowings in anticipation of a week of warm weather.

I was daft enough to take a book up, thinking I might grab some time in the sun but – at this time of the year particularly –  the jobs are queueing up to be done.  It was so good to wake up this mornng to the news that Mark Carney was warning businesses to take climate change seriously or face enormous losses. There’s definitely something in the air, and the present wave of demonstrations seem to be resonating with many people rather than just annoying them.

As the allotment matures, and (the first half) enters its third season it’s settling down and looking – dare I say – as if it’s been there forever, which goes to show just how unnatural nature generally is.  As Sam Goldwyn once said, it’s all about sincerity and once you’ve learned to fake that you’re made. But walking around amongst the plants they feel more and more like children  You can see when they’re pleased with themselves and you can see when they’re not doing so well and need a bit of help or encouragement. There’s an old saying that the farmer’s boot is the best fertilizer and it’s absolutely bang on.  Plants don’t just die, although blight can make it feel that way, but generally they tell you when something’s wrong. The time spent looking at our plants is never wasted and may well be as important as hoeing on some days.

But our biggest problem – as always – is that we’ve propagated many more plants than we can concievably  find space for so a bit of bartering is inevitable.  As I write, my shoulders are burning from the first touch of sunburn of the year – I really shouldn’t, given my risky history, but the sun warms the soul as much as it threatens the skin, and I’ll promise to be more careful in the future. The conditions in the hotbed are provoking a surplus of growth – particularly among the beets and radishes, and luckily the leaves of both taste pretty good too.  Tomorrow we’ll plant out the heritage peas and maybe I’ll even sit down and read for half an hour! The first photo is of the remarkable sweet cicily plant which has survived infinite hardships and just come into flower.  The other flowers are wallflowers which were alive with bees all afternoon.

Author: Dave Pole

I've spent my life doing a lot of things, all of them interesting and many of them great fun. When most people see my CV they probably think I'm making things up because it includes being a rather bad welder and engineering dogsbody, a potter, a groundsman and bus driver. I taught in a prison and in one of those ghastly old mental institutions as an art therapist and I spent ten years as a community artist. I was one of the founding members of Spike Island, which began life as Artspace Bristol. ! wrote a column for Bristol Evening Post (I got sacked three times, in which I take some pride) and I worked in local and network radio and then finally became an Anglican parish priest for 25 years, retiring at 68 when I realised that the institutional church and me were on different paths. What interests me? It would be easier to list what doesn't, but I love cooking and baking with our home grown ingredients. I'm fascinated by botany and wildlife in general, and botanical illustration. We have a camper van that takes us to the wild places, we love walking, especially in the hills, and we take too many photographs. But what really animates me is the question "what does it mean to be human?". I've spent my life exploring it in every possible way and the answer is ..... well, today it's sitting in the van in the rain and looking across Ramsey Sound towards Ramsey Island. But it might as easily be digging potatoes or making pickle, singing or finding an orchid or just sitting. But it sure as hell doesn't mean getting a promotion, beasting your co-workers or being obsequious to power, which ensured that my rise to greatness in the Church of England flatlined 30 years ago after about 2 days. But I'm still here and still searching for that elusive sweet spot, and I don't have to please anyone any more. Over the last 50 or so years we've had a succession of gardens, some more like wildernesses when we were both working full-time, but now we're back in the game with our two allotments in Bath.

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