To dig or not to dig?
Madame and I are definitely no-diggers, but not in a religious sense and so there are some occasions when we resort to the fork because we share a thirty yard border with several untended plots which constantly test our defences with daring raids. Sometimes they’re aerial – dandelions and sow-thistles are regulars, but also underground – particularly bindweed (hiss) and couch grass. Both of them, especially bindweed, spread underground rapidly; I think I read somewhere that they can grow a metre a week. Anyway, every two or three years we have to dig it out and dispose of it. There’s no point in composting it and we’re all much more circumspect about garden bonfires now we know how dangerous the smoke is. In the intervening years when it’s not a problem, it’s usually enough to run a three tined cultivator hoe, or a sharp draw hoe across the beds and slice them off at ground level. What’s particularly irritating is that our then neighbour allowed us to grow potatoes on a part of one of the plots. We could still keep the ground clear and even improve it but the Council wouldn’t hear of it. However often the plots are offered, there are no takers, it seems, and meanwhile we listen to the bindweed growling at the gate!
It’s been a difficult year for growing so far. We were late getting on to the ground with spells of very wet and very cold weather so we decided to go with the flow, sowing and planting whenever we could. Many of our veg will be later than usual, but fellow allotmenteers who stuck to the textbook timetable have been caught out. We lost some old friends during the winter; the Achillea, the Calendula and Salvias all gave up and a quick trip to a garden centre showed a huge increase in prices so we’ll have to do without for the time being. However the always reliable angelica and some second year parsnips are flying the flag for the insects. We also lost two rosemary bushes down at the cold end of the allotment, so we’ll have to replace them with cuttings somewhere out of the frosts.
The polytunnel has given us great fun and tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and a long row of basil are all thriving. This year – purely as an experiment – we’re growing a patch of sweet corn in the tunnel, hopefully out of reach of the badgers. So notwithstanding a fortnight’s camping in Cornwall; between the kindness of neighbours and the lateness of the season the plot came through for us.
A bit of a post-covid tree planting binge has shown its first fruits in the shape of ten victoria plums while the others all flowered for the first time. We bought them just after the lockdown eased and they were pretty poor, but loads of TLC has helped them along. A Tayberry has grown tremendously fast and looks like it will be providing a good crop later on. All in all, our resolution to cut back last autumn has been comprehensively trashed, so maybe next year. We both ache in every muscle after having to water the vulnerable plants so much in this mini-summer. On the other hand, seven years of regular composting and leaf-mould spreading have left the soil in good condition with decent amounts of moisture at about four inches down.
The asparagus bed is under a final warning because it’s not really producing nearly as well as we’d hoped. Our immediate neighbour grows Connover’s Colossal and he gets great crops, so maybe it’s another example of the old saying – “Right plant, right place”. After a rather lonely winter, the site is finally buzzing again. A few of the newcomers who started during Covid have discovered that Liz Leendertz’s book about a “one hour allotment” doesn’t stand up well to the reality of jobs, children and all the other distractions. Hopefully they’ll return to gardening later in life.