Signs of spring on the green

These were pointed out to me today by our neighbour  – a professional botanist. This patch of sweet violets and celandines are growing almost outside our front door.  We were discussing a proposal to ‘rewild’ a part of the green, which is a great idea, and it’s good to see that it seems nature had the idea first. The big battle, as we realized, is to convince the council workers not to strim them all off before they’ve had chance to flower. I’ll keep you posted.  The violets could be garden escapes, I suppose, but who’s counting?  Sweet violets are increasingly rare in the wild and they’re easy to identify.  If they’re perfumed and the sepals are rounded they’re pretty certain to be Viola odorata. The shame is that in the battle for space, the celandines appear to be winning.

Before we went back on the allotment today I did a bit more research on hydraulic ram pumps and it seems my enthusiasm for their use on the plot was a bit misplaced.  Their efficiency is such that they only work where they’re situated in an abundance of replenishable water – like a stream –  because they’re terribly inefficient, managing to pump between just 2% and 20% of the input water. That could mean that of of 500l of stored water as little as 10l would make it to the top and the rest would spill out of the pump. What we could do, of course, would be to isolate the three underground streams running through the site and pipe them into a giant sump, and then pump all the water back to the top of the site into a 50,000 litre tank  – a bit of a major civil engineering project and unlikely to attract funding from the council whose whole budget for allotments in the city is about £70,000!  I don’t think we’d get away with a hose draped across the main road and joining us to the river.

IMG_20200305_154717And so to the allotment where we were delighted to see that last night’s rain had flowed obligingly into the first tank.  This will be the one we direct to feed the greenhouse drip system. It will provide easily enough water to last a fortnight.  The previous system, which was supplied by the far right hand barrel in the photo was too low and so stopped working after about the top third was gone.

While we were at it I moved the hurdle screen in by a couple of feet to create a new bed for Nepeta, Lavender and other bee plants.  The soil there was very soggy so I dug in half a bag of gravel and a whole bag of horticultural sand to improve the drainage and set the first batch of plants in alongside the early flowering Clematis which, we hope, will climb up and over the hurdle. That created a lovely little sheltered space between the greenhouse and the shed, where we put our donated seat and moved the horrible plastic picnic table. One day I’ll build a proper wooden one but it’ll do for now. Ironically, losing a couple of square metres to the new bed has released more than twice as much space on the paved section so we can create a bigger area with moveable pots filled with whatever’s in flower at the time. It’s probably the sunniest patch on the plot and with the reflected heat from the paving stones it should do well with some chillies.  Elsewhere Madame planted out some onions that we’d brought on from sets in pots in the greenhouse.  We’ve put them into what we’ll have to call Allium Alley for the rest of the season. Our leeks – the ones that were so sad in the autumn – have recovered so well that we’ve bought two new varieties to try.  No fool like an old one!

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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