Pea stick envy

Well it’s official; I have pea stick envy. Arriving at the allotment this morning I was amazed and utterly envious of the rows and rows of pea sticks lined up at the Irish gardener’s plot right next to the cars. How does he do it? And how on earth does he have a plot that shows no signs of paths or footprints, but everything is set up for peas? He must rake behind him as he finishes a row – give the man a job in a Japanese gravel garden. It’s a perfect site and sight.

I had the whole day to garden which was a real treat. Yesterday was spent with a bunch of climate change activists plus Al Gore in a crowded conference room. And today was just me communing with my own piece of the planet. The only endangered species being slugs.

I started by writing out a plan of what I actually planted in the potato beds. Took off the fleece, scattered the chicken pellets down the lines just I had promised, and returned the fleece to their soil and rocks as anchors. Doing this job first thing was a mistake. I had the dubious honour of smelling of chicken pooh for the rest of the day. It is exceptionally aromatic. Even a fellow allotmenteer’s Jack Russell dog walking past took an unseemly interest in me, but I’m assured it will do good.

Next task, apart from basking in the glorious sunshine (marred only by a partial eclipse), was to get the bottom bed ready for David’s potatoes. Not much was needed as I had already weeded (hah! that fresh air again makes me rhyme things). I prepared the two trenches and will plant the potatoes next week. But first I had to cut off the excess horticultural fleece and cover this top bed too. The plot looks lovely – all covered in white fleece.

Inspired by the glorious pea sticks others were using, I hunted about my poor plot for any suitable candidates. These were the ones I had ‘rescued’ from Regent’s Park a few months back. It looks like I will have to go out hunting again. A few didn’t look too embarrassingly bent or weedy and I placed them in a sculptural row where the peas are going next week. (Lots of next week planning here – I’m nervous about frosts. But I have dug the two trenches for the peas in preparation.) They will probably blow over in the first gust of wind.

My hand-made tarpaulin rain trap (attached to the wheelie bin) suffered from this gusty stuff, it fell to the ground. So I have secured it a bit more firmly and then came upon a cunning plan. At the bottom of the plot I have impermeable plastic covering the weeds. And rain has been puddling there quite gleefully. So I pulled it up and dug a trench and then placed the plastic back over it, hoping to have a jolly good scoopable source of rainwater. Naturally I accidentally cut a few holes in the plastic by leaning on my spade in between arduous digging exercise and pronging the vital membrane behind me; but it should trap some of the precious water. The hose pipe ban starts on Saturday.

Next it was time to do some real planting.

I grew bulbs of lilies in pots here at home last year and they were gorgeous. I didn’t really think hard about their eventual blooming in August – and planted up two pots of seven lilies each at the same time; which meant I had a glut all at once. So I am going to stagger the planting this year; two weeks apart. And they are now sitting in the bottom of the salad and herb bed ready to receive all that lovely sunlight and rain.

I have been reading from Sarah Raven’s book about growing flowers for the house and I am feeling very ambitious. I want a flower garden too. So far I have been heeding everyone’s advice about not taking on too big a project on the first allotment. But I think I have shown that I have the gumption to dig and weed and plant and nurture what I have. After lunch (left over Thai chicken casserole with rice scooped cold with a takeaway plastic fork and very dirty fingers out of Tupperware while resting after weeding) I stalked up to the top end of the site still covered in plastic and thought: that’s where the flowers will go. So all being well – and they promise rather adventurous rain storms tomorrow, I want to get weeding up there too.

I must bring my broom to the shed tomorrow; it’s full of soil, bark chips and sand that has accumulated over the past few months. I’m nervous that Jana will turn up and turf me out for being a bad shed sharer.

To finish the day – storm clouds brewing – I started the carrot bed. My father in law’s family had a nifty way to grow long and fat carrots. They dug about with this massive piece of steel and made a good-sized hole; then with an equal mix of sand and compost, filled the hole back up again. Supposedly I am to deftly drop just one carrot seed onto the top of this prepared bed, sit back and wait for huge carrots to be produced. Well, I shall follow advice as I have never grown carrots before.

Half the area reserved for carrots will get this treatment, and the rest will just have to be the traditional way –scatter and hope. I did feel silly wielding such a heavy weapon but they did make good deep holes in the clay. I think it’s too early to do the seeds. I need to put up the fleece curtain around the bed to deter carrot fly, and I have run out of the flimsy material. Perhaps I shall drive up on Saturday when the little allotment shop is open and see if they sell it. Mind you, they probably find the fabric completely sissy and will refuse to stock it, but we shall see.

Vegetable: Stargazer Lily
How many?: 7
How planted?: Plastic pot
Notes: Sunk into bed 3