February at Plot 4

The year has well and truly started now, and for me it has meant a lot of aborted trips to the allotment. My new role as project lead for Stoneham Bakehouse community bakery has meant that I have had less time to spend at the allotment. What time I have had, has often been thwarted by the rain and generally inclement weather. At least, at this time of year, a few weeks of little inactivity is manageable; although with the mild start to the year Jack Frost hasn’t been able to help me keep the perennial weeds under control, or break up the soil I’ve managed to clear. Still, a new month, brings fresh hope for drier, colder weather.

Although the plot is very much in a dormant phase, there are still vegetables to harvest. The brassicas which are overwintering under the protection of netting, are providing us with iron rich green leaves to accompany stews, go in soups or top pizzas. Yesterday’s evening meal was a delicious pizza bianca topped with an unctuous  combination of onions, garlic and kale. Jerusalem artichokes are at their best at the moment, especially pureed and accompanying fish. The onion supply from this year is dwindling, but I have plans for the production of a version of French Onion soup, using the shallots, red onions, and our last garlic (an English Allium soup if you will).

Last year I completely forgot about sowing any sweet peas, relying on a few bought plants later in the year to provide the allotment with these fragrant and colourful legumes. So this year I’m determined to get sowing soon, doing so in the protected cool of the greenhouse. Given the relative mild winter so far, I suspect the dahlias I neglected to protect and dig up in the autumn are probably fine. That said, I’m looking to pot up a few dahlia tubers in some compost, ensuring they are kept somewhere warm (well 10 degrees or above). As for vegetables (we haven’t eaten dahlia tubers in this country since they arrived in this country in the 1700s), I hope to start the early sowings under glass of cauliflower, celeriac and leeks.

The main jobs on the plot this month are ones of maintenance. The various beds need edging, weeding in some cases, manuring, and generally tidied up. Before the new sowings in the greenhouse I need to give that a good clean and sort out; the stormy winds of a week or so ago have loosened a few panels of the polycarbonate, so they need securing and sealing.  The raspberries also could use a bit of work; the autumn ones need to be chopped down to ground level, and the summer-fruiting varieties need last year’s canes removed too. The blueberries in pots will also benefit from a top-dressing of pine needles to improve the pH of the soil. The other main job is to secure the tool shed. As in every winter so far, the local rodent population have managed to nibble their way in and have been sheltering from the colder weather, whilst nibbing away at various pieces of kit. It’s time to reclaim the shed!

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.


Spring has Sprung

You make me feel so young
You make me feel like spring has sprung
Every time I see you grin
I’m such a happy an individual

Mack Gordon “You Make Me Feel So Young”

Spring is the season at the allotment when things start, and need to start, happening. Despite it not quite being March, every visit to the plot brings another shoot or stem emerging from the ground. Some seeds have been sowed, with many more to go, and new life is starting to peep out of the seed trays in the greenhouse.

My life is a little like the plot at the moment. Like the allotment, my emergence out of the dark and malaise of depression and anxiety is showing a few signs of life. As we enter spring I feel that I’m starting to turn a corner. I’m beginning to think about the future and what I might do with it. The allotment has shown me that I can succeed at things, but crucially my break from work has also taught me that I need a life that works for me and all the family if I’m to be happy.

Last week I found a jar of seeds saved from last year. Unfortunately they were a random mix of unknown seeds; but I’ll sow them and see what emerges. In a way I’m in a similar situation to the pot of seeds. Inside I have the potential to do a lot of things, but what will it be and what might stop me finding it? When will the shoots emerge, and what will it grow into, are still questions I ponder on.



February at Plot 4

The year has started with unusually wet and mild weather for this time of the year. Indeed, yesterday it was announced it has been a record wet January in this part of the country. The plot is really quite damp, with our clay soil almost impossible to walk on, let alone dig, and puddles forming everywhere!

We’ve been still managing to harvest the last of the tenderstem broccoli, often used with penne, tomatoes, anchovies and chilli, in a version of this Cime di Rapa dish. As well as broccoli, we’ve been enjoying cavalo nero, chard and the final few apples. The apples were cooked and topped with a crumble like the one on the Blackberry and Apple Crumble I blogged about in the autumn.

February is the month when I’ll be starting to sow seeds with a vengeance. On the list are some more sweet peas (I started some off a few weeks ago) and celeriac. Celeriac needs a long season of growth, so will benefit from an early start in the greenhouse. I love this root, but have never grown it and am really looking forward to using it later in the year to make remoulades and soups. It’s also time to sow some more salad leaves; started in the greenhouse, but hopefully put out as the weather improves.

This month is one of the last months to get general jobs done at the plot. The tool shed is in need of a tidy and before the rush for seed trays in the Spring they need to be cleaned and organised. I also plan to use this time to finish insulating the shed, which my brother and I started last week. In true allotment style we reused some leftover insulation from my brother’s house extension, and intend to try to complete the job using reclaimed and recycled materials to skin the shed interior and protect the insulation. The final seed purchases will also be made; there are a few varieties in the Franchi Seed catalogue which I fancy giving a go this year.

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This post is contributing to The Garden Share Collective; an international group of bloggers who share their vegetable patches, container gardens and the herbs they grow on their window sills.