A day of progress

It’s that precise pain right between the shoulder blades that finally made me stop. That, plus the oncoming darkness: I had no desire to navigate the tricky roundabout at Hendon Way and the North Circular in the dark.  Especially as this is my first day driving instead of getting the tube. But what a day of progress. The entire plot is now in some state of ‘garden-ness’. Half of it dug over and just waiting for more compost, and the worst bits covered in plastic and weed-proof membrane.  It took five hours, but they passed so quickly I didn’t even remember to have lunch.  My day was rather sociable as well. Met Susie who has a large plot in the middle of the site, Louis, or Luis who is Portuguese and has a plot nearby.

Luis didn’t seem a very happy man – he is from Portugal and is yearning to return. I have decided to try and get some gardening hints from everyone I meet. And Luis was helpful in identifying the bindweed roots I was carefully uncovering in my forking over task. There promises to be quite a crop of them in spring. I also met John, the allotment President, who was busy bagging up the seed potatoes and onion sets, but he took the time to recommend chicken pellets as the ideal manure for my soon to be potato beds as I struggled past the shop with my tools.

And the most sociable person was the allotment secretary’s assistant, Janet, who spent her day clearing the fence next to my plot. It actually looked like a task I should attend to. Eventually. There are straggling brambles, ivy and other odd mystery vines that are creeping over from the neighbouring fences.  Plus a few rather sorry flower beds that she is keen to revive. They seem to be growing on termite nests and promise to be garish. But there are iris in there apparently, so we shall see.

Janet is the happy owner of the half Burmese cat Misty who is a joy and a constant companion (she has a cat basket on the front of her bicycle handle bars). Misty is full of play with the plastic sheeting, keen to be patted and hugged – particularly when you are full of tools, muddy gloves and mess.

But my main task of the day, socialising aside, was death. I bought a jumbo sized amount of glyphosate at Homebase before coming up to the garden. And I couldn’t resist blowing the rest of my allotment budget by buying shears, secateurs, a watering can, a soil testing kit (will wait until David and I can do that one together), twine and heavy sticks.  I did resist eight foot high canes which I want to use for the sweet peas and beans. Too early for that. I don’t even have the paths sorted out yet.  But of poisons there were a plenty, and I have just too much thigh high grass to try and get rid of by hand. There was luckily less ice in the water trough today, so I was able to do loads and loads of trips to get water for the weed killer bucket.  I must invest in a water butt to save the walk.

But first I had to haul carpet. So much of it had rotted into the soil that it was like picking gravel out of a wound – delicate and fiddly but necessary.  Some carpets came up in long thin strips, but most of it was well anchored with weeds that had crept under it or through it – I stopped wondering at the tenacity of the rotters.  I cleared it eventually and have sprayed like mad. So keen was my watering of the weed killer that I think I zapped the few strawberry plants that were lurking underneath the grass. We shall see. At least I managed to avoid getting anything on the nascent rhubarb patch. It is in the middle of where I want the peas to grow; but I am confidently told that I can lift and move them next year.  Actually I’m not a fan of rhubarb – especially as everyone always seems to have a glut and is keen to give the stuff away.  But it will be mighty green and leafy in an otherwise bare spot.

Next trip will have to be Monday or Tuesday as we are off to Scotland.  I want to get my trusty Victorian measuring twine (a gift from John) and steels and plot out the paths. That way I can also calculate just what crops will grow where. I don’t think the weedy beds will be ready in time for the April planting.