Good for the soul. But not the back

I am creaking my way back home again: aching back from a few more rows of potatoes. It’s a good thing they are such low maintenance produce after the hard planting. I wouldn’t want to spend much more time on them than I really have to. Crouching low over a trench and crumbling clay soil into acceptable chunks row after row after row is more than enough thank you very much.

Actually I spent the first two hours today avoiding potato planting; and it was most diverting. I was prettying up the shed. And getting things out of pots and salving my conscience about the months of neglect these pot plants have endured. I just know that the when it warms up those poor plants that used to be on our roof terrace will suffer from lack of water. Right now they are out of sight at the back of my little shed. So I rarely go there to inspect. And the poor westringias, which have been absolute workhorses of foliage and white flower, deserve better.

So I dug the soil in the bed beside the shed, planted one of the Madame Alfred Carrière climbing roses, two westringias, and even put the two thyme balls that had been lurking in pots around the front of the shed too. Add to that one of the rosemary bushes plus ivy and things are starting to look a bit better.

Not designed mind you – and a bit scruffy. But thank goodness no-one hands out pretty awards at allotments. Everyone has messy sections, and I’m no different. I can’t wait to put up the bean poles to hide the hideous wheelie bins and rubbish at the other end. The other rose is at the end of the plot underneath the apple tree. And it has to stay there because it is propping the tree up. It leans rakishly unless it has the hefty weight of the rose pot just so. Let’s see if I can water it well over the summer. I love reading about people who have climbing roses growing up through their old apple trees. My poor ones will probably get fly blown or whatever it is that worms its way into my apple crop. They are an inherited ‘joy’, so must take second place to all the other tasks that need to be done.
I finally sawed up the bit of pine tree that was left from the gale. It took ages as I had to cut off all the little branches and then do the trunk in two bits. The smell of the pine resin was gorgeous, but I’m glad it’s now more out of the way.

I had my first go at propagating too. A few of the westringia branches came off as I was transplanting them (careless activity really and so glad no-one saw me yanking them about as I tried to get them into the holes) so I found some grit that was left over from an old pathway, added that plus multi purpose compost to two good-sized pots. I trimmed off the shoots of a few plants and stuck them in. I’ve been watching this procedure for so many years on the tele that I hope I got it right. I know I’m supposed to put a plastic bag over them and keep them in a good warm sunny place for a bit. But I am fresh out of plastic bags (I’ll take some up tomorrow) and warm isn’t a feature of London right now. Today was barely 9C and quite drizzly all day.

Once all the pretties had been planted, and the contents of the cold (freeze) frame inspected, I headed off to the potato bed. You get great exercise at the plot because you are forever forgetting one thing (the scissors, the fork, the labels) in the shed and need to plod all the way back. But there was no putting it off. Well I did do some heavy lifting of multi purpose compost bags (dead weight – 70 litres) because naturally they are in the way. I use them to hold down the fleece protecting the beds, and need to get them off the beds when it’s time to dig. Goodness knows how I’m going to get those monster tomato grow bags into their final spot. I guess I have to do it first thing in the morning when I’m fresh.

Today’s haul of rows were one Charlotte, two Duke of Yorks and two Pink Kir Apple varieties. And I think I only have three Pink Fir Apples to go. Yippee. I covered up the rows with the fleece that wasn’t eaten by the mice in the shed; made a mental note to buy more, and then stood back at a bent crouch and surveyed the handiwork.

Rino came by to survey as well. He is in twists of anxiety about his tomato seedlings in his greenhouse. The poor man grows so many seedlings for all of us, he takes his responsibilities seriously. And this cold snap has slowed down and even killed off some of the growth. He is a worried gardener. And unlike me – who has noticed that I managed to snap freeze about a dozen little seedlings – I don’t have to share the fruit of my labours with other allotmenteers. The lid came off the cold frame and the poor little teensy plants ‘enjoyed’ a night in the elements.

I am putting a lot of the new bark chips to use by adding them to my long straight paths. That’s another first thing in the morning job; leaning into shovel loads of recalcitrant bark chips that have been dumped on long grass on refuse to budge is good for one’s soul. But not the back. But they aren’t doing much good just lurking at the edge of the plot. And I can see some little weeds already poking through the old path. Time to get mulching and try and slow the blighters down.

I’ll go up first thing tomorrow (I did manage to leave my wallet and mobile phone and mp3 player there yet again) and do those potatoes.