Earthly chores

It’s curious the things you contrive to bring back from the garden. I was reaching into my pocket to get out the house keys and managed to drag up three good bindweed roots. I must have put them in there while I was working on the potato bed. It has become such second nature to swoop on spaghetti-like strands of white bindweed and try and dispose of them. The pocket of whatever trousers you are wearing is really on the safest place.

There was no frost in the past few days, but I knew I really had to sort the potatoes out. When you enter the gates of the allotment you get the lovely view of about 15 people’s gardens, and today I noticed they all looked very business-like indeed. Gone are the mountains of manure that look as though they have been forgotten over the winter; the weeds are gone, the cabbage is in and the rows of soil are raked to a regimental neatness ready for the potatoes.  I do get obsessive about how high and plump other peoples’ potato crops look. One day that will be me – but not until I manage my soil better. This is the time you notice that you didn’t manure properly over the winter. I thought I was giving up this garden in November, so foolishly didn’t order in my very own manure mountain. Too late now. And besides, by the time I have parked and put on my gardening shoes all I can think of is my own nascent crop.

Would there be anything left? I am still smarting from last year’s cucumber debacle. I only had one plant about this time and it was gorged by a slug which was so full o’ food it lay bloated and huge at the base where the plant ought to have been. It had eaten the lot.

My fears were not realised. Everything is extant. What a relief. And to my surprise I even scooped out about ten slugs from the beer traps. So that’s a success.

On with the earthing up of the potatoes: quite a satisfying task. I do think some of my rows are a bit close as I had trouble digging my spade between the rows and getting enough soil onto each plant; but after about an hour’s digging it looked better. And just to be doubly sure I put the fleeces back over the top. Most satisfactory labour.

In the winter I had moved the perpetual spinach from the middle of the plot where it had tolerated my rather strict linear design, and is now thriving nicely at the side of the path where the potatoes start. In a week or so I may even get a good crop out of them for dinner.

I had kept some of the weed proof membrane down at the end under the apple trees, and think they will be the perfect place for my cucumbers. I was putting up the hooped cane supports when Rino came past. He was completely baffled as to what I was doing (it does look odd without any cucumber plants growing up and over them) but was mollified that I had earthed up and protected the potatoes from his dreaded frosts.

All the earthing up had made me peckish, and I must confess that I devoured the very last of the purple sprouting broccoli shoots from last year’s plant. They go wonderfully with the flowers from the land cress which has gone to seed. A peppery and quite filling combination.

Last year all my cabbage, ahem, suffered (tried to wash them off as best I could before cooking) from an infestation of white cabbage moth. And this was despite using a very natty and expensive netting protection. Naturally I realised too late that the creatures may have come from the soil. Or is that another pest? I really must pay more attention to the literature. But I knew that this year I needed to give the brassicas a better chance at thriving. 

In the best make do and mend tradition, I have been hoarding cardboard and cutting out round shapes all winter. So today it was down to hands and knees under the new net and place the little cardboard collars around their base. They look a bit wonky but I shall seek out the professional collars on my next trip to a garden department. Right now they are protected from all invading marauders. Let’s hope it lasts.