My first official day of toil

Three hours at the allotment today. My first official day of toil. It was only 4 degrees, and overcast, but I trotted over to Brent Cross (looking like an idiot with a garden fork in my swag) and went through the gates. There were only two others working – one of whom hailed me with such enthusiasm I feared for my facial muscles, and the other, near our plot, who ignored me. Off with the clean fleece, on with the scruffy one. It didn’t take more than five minutes work before that came off rather smartly. Digging on heavy clay is hot work. I started on the easiest bit for two hours – turning the soil that had been protected by the carpet. And then venturing into the wilder zones when my back was screaming for a break. There are plenty of rotting timbers and random bits of concrete to move. They were holding down the old carpets which now seem to have anchored themselves to the soil on their own. Held down by weeds I reckon. But I have made good progress. To cheer myself up, I paced out the site and marked the three ‘beds’ I am planning for the crop rotation. Luckily the easy part of the site is where I intend to grow the potatoes; and they are the ones going in first. The serious work is where the legumes are going to be. There are old raised beds and heaps of thigh high weeds covering the site. What do I do? Hire a strimmer and try and reduce the levels I suppose. But I don’t know what to do with the mat of grass on the ground. I did zap discretely with roundup on some of the larger clumps of couch grass (think pampas clumps) but don’t know how to clear the rest. I will ponder than one in the bath tonight. My body is definitely not up to another round of heavy digging so soon. Hopefully the cold frost predicted tonight will go some way to breaking down some of that heavy soil.

I walked back up the site and just gazed and gazed lovingly at the perfect plots. They look, as David described them, like chocolate swimming pools. The soil perfectly manured and positively fluffy.

Oh yes, and I have christened the shed. But only had a zip lock bag as I had forgotten to bring the bucket.

So what of the mystery fruit trees at the end? Evidence of one rotten apple at the base gives the game away. One of the trees is quite well pruned and healthy. The other leans rakishly as though it lost a battle with a beefy wheelbarrow, and looks weak. I may try to prune them later this week. But actually have radical plans. To chop one of the trees down. But these violent things must wait. I also want to dismantle the compost bins which are frankly hideous and falling to bits. But that too must be earned after a year of good gardening.

We do have one little crop already. There are three crowns (or possibly four if I can pull back the weeds) of rhubarb. There are a few bright pink buds peeping out of the soil. I can’t remember if they are located in the middle of the legume bed – but will look later this week. They aren’t going to be moved of course as Jana has told me they are her favourite crop (ie requires no work) so will have to plant around them.

You can see the first draft of the plot here. I had planned to plant my rows lengthwise. But every other plot on the site seems to have them this way. And I’d hate to do battle with all the allotmenteers before I even get started. I think the sweet pea wigwams are going to be radical enough. So I will meekly follow suit. And no doubt they are right. The site faces north-east, so this way there is probably going to be a better distribution of light across the rows. But that’s the fun of this garden. There are no real rules. I may go diagonally next year. Or even lengthwise and wavy. What about hoeing I hear John (my father in law) cry. And he is right. Hoeing is going to be the major task of this plot. Something I can’t imagine right now as there is only clay, mud and clods. Not to mention waist high weeds.

Woke up this morning and realised that I didn’t need to turn the earth where the central path is going to go. Must remember to pace it out and make little wooden markers next visit. Which I think is tomorrow morning – mind you it is only 2C today, so twill be chill.

Received my root trainers and cloves of ‘printanor’ garlic cloves today. I have planted up 20 broad bean seeds and placed them upstairs in a propagator. Will study the form on the spring planted garlic and see when is the best time to plant.

Vegetable: Broad Bean Aquadulce
How many?: 12
How planted?: Rootrainers
Notes: In warm heated room, then on top floor

Vegetable: Broad Bean The Sutton
How many?: 4
How planted?: Rootrainers
Notes: In warm heated room, then on top floor