Planting up the food factory

At last, a busy planting day when I can do all the last chores at the allotment. We are Ardèche-bound on the weekend and due to take possession of our new home and huge garden on Monday. So I had to get everything done today; I won’t be back for at least ten days, and the garden has to survive without any careful ministrations.

First job was to plant all those little huddled plants. No slug attack, and they seem to have survived the night well in their rather crushed surroundings. When I potted the artichokes up (Violetta di Chioggia  and Gros de Laon) I naturally had one label for all five on separate trays. And now they are all muddled about and who on earth knows which is which. I really must learn to be less careless with my labelling as it may throw up some rather inappropriate surprises. And in fact I was thinking that as I stood back from planting eight artichokes near the tomato bed. One of them looked suspiciously cabbage like. And if I had paid more attention to maths classes when young I would have realised that when one gets 10 artichoke plants one doesn’t end up with eleven little seedlings in eleven little holes.

Three artichokes are under the apple trees (well spaced) and the rest (plus rogue cabbage which will be attacked by cabbage moth, pigeon and slug as it is not under netting) are towards the top of the plot closer to the shed. They are such fast growing creatures, I am hoping they will put on growth without the need for nets. Ten days will prove me right or wrong. But I just don’t have any more nets to spare. Two nets went on the parsnip seedlings. They were frankly a bit too small to plant out in the place where the celeriacs used to be. But as it was a bonus they germinated at all, I’m going to risk it. And they have their little poison circles to try and evade a bit of the food chain.

Next to the parsnips (and also under nets) went seven salad plants that I sowed from a mixed pack of seeds. And two flower seedlings that have been mooching about in jiffy pots for long enough. I like my little flower garden in the middle of the plot. It is a bit regimented and orderly, but it looks set to produce a good crop of pretties. One of the flowers (a white antirrhinum) is already in flower and just waiting impatiently for another few to pop up so they can serve their duty in vases at home. The staking with pea netting about a foot from the ground seems to be working. It isn’t pretty, but it seems to deter the birds.

The sunflowers will do their sentry duty hiding the wheelie bins I hope. They are strong little growers in their pots and I planted out seven behind the bean poles. And just to complete my over-enthusiastic crop planting dreams – I even planted up three little cucumber plants in the very holes where their predecessors were massacred. They have gone in with a bit more protection. And I have about six more growing as seedlings on the roof terrace at home.

The sweet peas are finally growing. Very late this year compared to last when I actually sowed them early and got them going much faster. But they are putting on enough growth to warrant being tied in. The nasturtiums that I planted next to the celery plants are putting on lovely growth. I was sort of hoping to use them as a sacrifice crop for the blackfly; but they are so lush and pretty (a dark crimson flower) that I may end up putting in as much work saving them as I am doing with the broad beans.

A bit of watering of the climbing beans and cucumbers; and then it was time to sit down on an upturned clay pot and have my lunch. On the menu – last night’s salad of new potatoes, freshly picked broad beans, a few leaves of lettuce, olives and poached chicken. Bliss. The potatoes are so much creamier than the ones you buy. But I really can’t tell the difference between just picked broad beans and the ones I buy frozen all year round. The skins are a bit thinner perhaps. But you still have to slip the grey skins off if you want to be rewarded with that piercing green of the bean underneath.

I picked more beans and the first mangetout for freezing and removed the growing flowers from the spinach I transplanted from their inappropriate old growing position. The plants are growing way too well and keen to set seed. I don’t really know if it will be a viable crop, but they have served so well in the hungry gap in providing us with a meal of good but robust spinach leaves that I’m loathe to cut them right back and hope they grows again. The mint next to the spinach is safely settled and doesn’t seem to mind being transplanted from Oswaldo’s garden.
The sun was still blazing when I realised that there was nothing more to plant. I could be useful in the shed and actually do a bit of tidying away of the pots and such; but I will leave that for a downpour of rain when I have to lurk in there and wait for the shower to pass.

I think the allotment can be left for ten days. Things look rather lovely and I felt a pang when I realised that it is going to become the real Cinderella of land in my affections from now on. It can’t compete with France.

Back at home I blanched and then froze the broad beans and peas – my first excess crop in the freezer and realised that the garden has done the job I set out to achieve back last January when I took it on; it has become the food factory.