Meanwhile, back at the ranch ….

Yesterday being taken up with working on the campervan, when the sun shone today – well, glowed a bit  – we set off for the allotment to plant some of the early veg that have been sitting out the winter in the greenhouse. So we planted out winter hardy peas and spinach which had been growing on in coir modules.  We’ve had mixed experience with the Jiffy 7 modules, because although the coir seems as good as peat for germination, the outer mesh looks to be virtually indestructible in the soil and can cramp crops like beetroot. Many plants just grow straight through so we’re happy on the whole, but today Madame removed the nets on half of the peas to see if there is any difference in subsequent growth. We love peas, but so do hungry mice, and our first sowing in the autumn disappeared completely until we found the seeds heaped up under the large pot protecting the rhubarb.  Growing them in modules has meant there were no losses to rodents at all. The shallots and garlic are all thriving and a peep under the cloche protecting the herbs was encouraging.  Even the tarragon seems to be alive and well. Until we started to grow it ourselves we rarely used it but I  wouldn’t be without it now.

Because we’re in a frost trap, we tend to protect most of our plants with cloches of one sort or another.  For some reason spinach – especially in the early summer – does much better under the open mesh cloches, probably because it likes a bit of shade.  The other reason for covering up is the abundance of hungry pigeons on the site. Unwary allotmenteers can find a whole crop of broccoli or kale stripped to the ribs in a night.

This time of year can look a bit desolate on the plot, and so today I planted an early flowering clematis in the sheltered spot between the shed and the greenhouse.  We’ve decided to plant more flowers, not just to attract insects but to encourage us humans when we’re tired of rain and early sunsets. The window box daffodils at the flat are just about to burst into flower – it really does feel like spring is on the way.  We’ve even got the potatoes chitting in the cool hall outside the flat, and it won’t be long before the propagators are full with tomatoes, aubergines and chillies again. Last year we were a bit too early so we’ll leave them for a week or two yet.

We rarely talk much when we’re gardening except, perhaps, about where to put things – always contentious in my experience – and so I drop into a meditative frame of mind very easily.  Hours can pass because, in essence, the work is simple and repetitive – but that adds to the potential for fruitful thinking. I don’t think I ever come back from the allotment without feeling better than when we arrived.

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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