Thursday, 21 April 2011

Honkjazz The Musical Allotment - Part 24

Right then.

Lots to get through so pay attention, notebooks out, etc.

1) Our lovely plot.

I know that last time I wrote about this the plot had been going through a bit of a rough year. In a nutshell, weather and lethargy meant that it had suffered somewhat. You’ll be happy to hear that things have balanced up a bit. Over the last three months we’ve managed to fill every bed and it’s looking pretty good over there. Pretty, pretty, pretty, pretty good. Here’s a quick (not quick at all) rundown of what’s in where:

At the very top of the plot the awkward bit (‘Mullered Fruit Corner’) has finally started to settle down. In the past Bibs would let it go completely wild to the extent that you couldn’t see the raspberry canes and gooseberry bushes in there at all before spending a few weekends clearing it all back and moving everything around a bit so the whole process could start again. The last time this happened the raspberry canes were shifted about which had the effect of DEATH on them. I decided that something needed to be done. Everything was weeded and a small border was put around the lone surviving gooseberry bush. The rest of this paddock was taken up by some winter onions which really should have gone in when I bought them (October) and not when I found them under the front-passenger seat of my car (February). They were sprouting and had a mouldy look about them but I thought “myeh” and chucked them in the ground. This devil may care approach may result in my releasing a plethora of mould spores into the soil that render all future crops completely and utterly useless. Stay tuned, etc.

We’ve turned the back of this bed into a beautiful rockery.

Sorry, we’ve thrown all of the old bricks and any stones of lumps of wood and other cr*p into this corner and put some plant pots nearby.

Each of the five plant pots contains one twig-sized cutting from the gooseberry bush and they’re taking nicely. The cutting back has also given the gooseberry bush a massive lease of life and we’re going to try and manage it a bit more this year. Who knows, maybe we’ll get a berry to eat. Just one would be an improvement on last year. One berry!

There’s also a rhubarb plant which was put in a couple of years ago and happily sits there doing its own thing. Last year we failed to take any rhubarb from this beautiful creature as it rotted down into itself. Another one for the list of shame. We did learn to snap the seed pods off which was very annoying because we thought that this was a sign of a champion plant, stalk rocketing toward the sky at an alarming rate. But no, Bob/John walked over and with a grunted “you don’t want that” just snapped it off at the base. And now we know to do this ourselves.
Hopefully we'll get some rhubrab stalks to eat this year.
Just one would be an impro........

This bed also has the last few bulbs of garlic which were left over from our bumper crop last year dotted around the mouldy onion bed of poison.

The rest of this garlic overspill has been planted in one of the top beds. It’s going really well and I’ve staggered it by three weeks so we won’t get it all at once like we did last year. This bed also has broad beans which have nearly all sprouted and also houses the bay tree which once belonged to the King Of Devon (or something). I had noticed brown spots starting to develop on the bay leaves so I ripped every dodgy one off and all of a sudden there are loads of new buds all over the plant. This gardening lark is very interesting. More on that later.

The bed opposite contains more of those late onions. These ones weren’t going mouldy but were about three months late. They seem quite happy and some of look ace. Because they’d already started to sprout internally the green shoots were trapped in the skin causing a rather amusing concertina effect. There’s also a flat leaf parsley plant in this bed which is looking really healthy. All of the herbs that we planted last year got lost in the gooseberry/raspberry/weed bed so they’ve all been moved to the corner of a different bed and are all thriving now.


Down one level we have a bed that used to be full of cabbages. Until the frost and the bugs had at them. Six remain. The last survivors. The Dirty (Half) Dozen. Still standing.

And not growing at all beyond their pathetic proportions. They are useless and the new cabbage seeds that went into the ground about a month back have done nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Niente. Cabbages may well be relegated to the Blue Square South of our gardening world, joining carrots, squashes, cauliflower, tomatoes and sweetcorn in the pantheon of things that I can’t grow yet.

Opposite this bed is another late winter-onion bed, all of which are doing pretty well, which also houses a beautiful sage plant and a robust rosemary bush.

Down and over from this is a bed that has contains some radishes, leeks and more herbs. The leeks were planted last summer (along with a full bed opposite) and have probably reached their zenith. We’ll be crunching our way through these as of next week. The radishes are great and I can’t believe that we’ve not grown them before. They show in a matter of days and are great eaten straight from the ground as a mid-work snack. At the front of this bed sit some more re-housed herbs: dill, coriander and something else which escapes me know. All are healthy and happy.

The next one down from here was a bit of nightmare last year. We filled it up with the plugs from work and it was all very random with squashes, chard, herbs and lettuces fighting for attention. In the end we managed to eat most of the lettuces but the rest failed. Well, the squashes produced nothing and the chard was ignored. So that’s a massive fail on our side as well.

This year we’ve put all of the strawberries that have spawned from the five plants that were donated to us a couple of years ago and have been slowly spreading their tentricles across the Belfast sink area at the top of the plot. We dug about fifty of them out and after trimming the dead leaves and creepers planted them safely in their own bed. The corner of this bed housed a knackered raspberry cane which had sprouted up from the arse of thieving bird and was about to get clobbered by me when the lady who runs the local launderette (amusingly nicknamed Bubbles by us although we’ve never called her this to her face because we both know the weary look which would be cast our way due to it not being funny at all, we know this, we do) wandered over and practically ordered me to save it. So I did. It’s got its own paddock now and the roots are bursting through the ground in several places. As long as we get the security aspect right we might even get to eat one berry this year. You hear that? One berry!!

The last two plots continue our experiment in cultures. There’s a potato bed that has been planted out but not with shop-bought seed potatoes, oh no. Instead we’ve chucked some spuds that were knocking around in the bottom of our kitchen veg’ box, looking a bit rough with eyes up, skins withered. They were starting to rot so I’m hoping that this cavalier attitude doesn’t result in me releasing a dreadful plague of potato disease, rendering the land completely poisoned and desolate. Stay tuned!

This bed also has two of the chard plants which were rescued from last years disaster and they seem to be doing quite well. It’s nice to know we’ve got some plants that will come back year after year. We’ll be picking some leaves from one of these soon and hopefully that will only spur it on more as well as being nice to eat.

The last bed was finished last Sunday on a afternoon of glorious sunshine, tea and egg mayonnaise sandwiches (I mean egg mayonaise sandwiches and tea but you knew that right?).

This was the worst of all the beds. Last year it was a mad mixture of cabbages, squashes, brussel sprouts, more cabbages and cauliflower.

All of which failed with the exception of the sprouts. The bed was in chaos and soon became completely overgrown. So yesterday we completed the reinvigoration of the plot and our attitudes by turning this one into a runner bean bed. We’d used the Belfast sinks as seed beds to bring on our stock of beans from two years back along with some from work and they’d nearly all sprouted. Two bean teepees later (complete with some beautiful pig manure from our friends Harry & Sue in the trenches) and the bed is transformed. Hopefully the fact that the bean seeds had started to go mouldy shouldn’t matter too much. Hopefully this caution to the wind attitude won’t end up with a sea of fungus creeping up, around, over and into everything that isn’t fast enough to run.
Hopefully you'll stay tuned, etc.

So everything is in the ground.

And everything might die.


The plot looks good now. Last weekend saw the strimmer getting its second ever outing which helped fill the compost bin up nicely. It’ll need another bashing in the next few weeks such is the speed at which the grass and weeds are growing. The shed has had a good clean out as well.

It all coincides with a refreshed outlook only touched upon last time I wrote on here. We’ve started going for walks again, studying the hedgerow larder and edible seashore books that we own and our local greengrocer has started selling our chutneys for us. We’re sorting out our affairs both on the plot and off of it. Evidence onsite is in the tidier, planned out approach to mixed beds, the bordering off of the fruit bushes, relocating unhappy plants and finally casting an eye to security. We’ve always had a fairly laided-back approach to protecting our crops, thinking somehow that its OK to plant enough for ourselves and then some over for the bugs and the birds and the mice.

Well f*ck them!!!


Now we plan to cage and net our berries to within an inch of their fruitful lives.

There’s also a plan to make a polytunnel. In fact I type with fingers covered in mud from a huge sheet of plastic that was being unloaded from a van on the farm where I work. Blow me down with a feather (!) if it’s not old plastic sheeting from a giant polytunnel in the fields. I’ve blagged myself a nice big chunk which will help construct our own bespoke tunnel over the next season or two.

I’m sure that there are a lot more things to talk about……………..

Oh yeah, the pub garden garden and music and how sorry we are for being very wasteful last year.

This will have to be a two-parter.


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