First day the year 2021

It’s Saturday, February 13th, 2021. And it’s the first time I’ve been down to the allotment for a very, very long time.

Robin on the case immediately

When I arrived the main gate house was open and they were allowing the public to visit the gardens. I have brought along a box of damson gin bottles for the girls in the main house at the front. Previously I had sorted out allotment allotment owners with their own box of damson vodka and gin at Christmas. However, because I have not visited the allotment in such a long time, this was the first opportunity I had to deliver for the volunteers at the main gate.

The snowdrops were out as I walked through the main gate and down the path towards the walled garden. The gate to the allotments was closed but there was one person inside tending their area.

The place wasn’t really in a bad state. I began by trying to dig the soil, but it was too frozen solid — the temperature is below freezing today. So instead I started by scraping the surface weeds off on the larger side of my plot. Then after that tiny bit of effort, I started to dig around the plastic pot that holds the horseradish plant. The plan is to take that out this year.

Partly dug over the easy part

The last job was to move the tarpaulin sheeting from the end of my plot towards the middle. That would allow me to dig over the end of the plot which had been previously covered. This part was not frozen because of its covering, so it was really easy going. No weeds and easily dug.

The time now is about 2:30 pm in the afternoon. I’m back at the car and ready to head home. As things go it was a really easy time at the allotment today. Because of lockdown number two, I haven’t really been able to make it. Work has got in the way, it has been rainy throughout January the weather has not been too great for a while — there have been plenty of excuses. But now I’ve been I’m wondering if they really were proper excuses. I should make more of an effort.

It’s been a few days …

It’s been a few days since my last posting. But I’ve done a lot of work on the plot. Finally, I’ve finished the path! The full length of the plot now has a proper path down both sides — something that isn’t a mild death trap as you walk. No more uneven surfaces and no more pot holes to go over on. A nice even smooth well proportioned path.

Robin keeping me company

A couple of Robins kept me company while I worked. They kept flying in and taking the worms and millipedes etc. They have such good eyesight to be able to spot those from further over on the far side of the plot. Then they sweep in and grab a grub and then dart off to safety. Once or twice they stopped to give the insect a quick bash with a flick of head, just so it stopped struggling. Then off again to wherever the food was going.

Digging through the brick layer again

Before I can finish the last section of path I need to dig through the brick later again in order to get my stake into the ground far enough.

A path that’s about 30 or 40 cm down under the ground and runs parallel to the short edge of my plot stops me from sinking my stake any further. It’s a well built path with flat white stones and a couple of red bricks. So I guess although it’s an old path, it’s not ancient. I don’t feel bad about removing enough space to get my stake in. It’s not like I’m destroying a path from the ancient kitchen garden or maybe an old Roman road or anything.

The first time the path has been finished

So here it is! This is the first time the garden path has been completely finished. It’s looking a little bit worn here because the turf has just been laid, but it should settle down over the next week or so and in a couple of months it should look like it’s been there forever. At least it’s finished! I can now start to concentrate on fixing the long plot against the wall back to the allotment association.

Too hot for Elvis

The weather over the past week has been exceptionally hot. It’s just too hot for the garden cat who can only manage a few steps before dropping into a border to try and keep cool again. It’s just been too warm for Elvis.

Early morning Saturday path fixes at the lockdown allotment

Today is Saturday, the 25th of April 2020. It has been quite a marathon visit to the allotment plot today. Arriving at 6:30am at the front gate and staying for 5 hours and 40 minutes. This was planned and expected because I was fixing the path surrounding my main allotment.

Each 2m 40cm section of path takes approximately three hours to complete, as I discovered the last time I did a section at the allotment last weekend. This weekend I hoped to get two sections completed.

Two sections dug out

First job is to dig out the turf, each piece of turf is approximately 35 cm wide on the short side. This makes two of them fit in the 70 cm width of the path. Digging out the turf is not a difficult job but each piece has to be carefully cut with the spade to ensure it is the correct thickness all the way across the grass.

Adding the wooden border is easy after this. The width is 70 cm across and so the only two things to do are: keep it 70cm all the way down and then level it across with the spirit level.

Back fill the new path

The long plot against the wall is used as a source of soil for backfilling into the path. It is raised up to path height. A surprising number of wheelbarrow trips are needed to backfill this section. Each wheelbarrow was individually sifted to remove stones, plastics and weeds. The the soil was then stomped down and finally a loose layer added on top and flattened equally using a wooden slat.

The whole place was very quiet. There are lots of birds around however. Robin as usual, the large noisy pheasant, a couple of magpies that would keep appearing, some crows in the trees. Lots of small birds on the feeders. Every hour the village church would chime (one hour behind). Other than that it was quiet.

Turfed up

Then, once the soil level is ready for turf is replaced lengthwise. Each piece is carefully added and then the gaps in between is filled with more soil. Everything is compacted down. Finally the whole thing is given a good soaking with the water pipe.

Here comes Elvis

This whole lot took proximately 5 and 1/2 hours to finish. As I was packing up and getting ready to go home I saw the garden cat, Elvis. She looked quite tired and hungry. So when I return the tools to the car I picked up some cat treats from the boot and returned to finish the final job of the day: give Elvis some cat treats.

The lockdown is still in full force. There were a few people at the allotment today, but only 4 or 5 while I was there. On the way out of the gardens I saw some cyclists passing through. There are a few more people walking on the back roads and some more cyclists. But it’s still very quiet.

Hello Robin. What an evening!

A watering session was possible on the main plot after a bit of digging with my friend Robin. In fact, my two friends Robin and Robin. Keeping me company and snatching worms, grubs and centipedes from the newly tilled soil.

The rake was used to flatten the soil once it had been turned over with my fork. Robin was sat really close by, on the trug which was used to filter out the couch grass. Waiting for singing to catch the eye. Something creepy and crawly.

There wasn’t much of a wait needed. Always something on each fork turn.

At the end of the night, the sun was starting to go down, there was only one more person at the plot. They were finishing off the watering on their allotment. Robin had gone. I snapped a few photos of the sunset, packed up, and then headed home.

The sweetcorn have now gone in

Tonight’s job was to take the sweetcorn seedlings down to the allotment and dig them into the plot. I’ve now moved onto the next half of the plot because the first half is full. I cleared a space and arranged a grid of bamboo poles before planting the seedlings.

I had grown 36 sweetcorn seedlings and all but 4 of them had grown okay. My grid of 5×7 has three missing poles. And this has turned out better because it makes it easier to get to the centre sweetcorn. I have left a little path into the square.

This half of the plot doesn’t have a proper border yet. I have the wood planks and some stakes but I thought it was more important to bring the sweetcorn seedlings from home rather than finish the edges.

I have left enough room for the next job: the borders again.

Apart from digging in the sweetcorn, there was a lot of wildlife this evening. The garden cat came calling, wanting some food which I keep in the compost bin. Elvis was fed and went away happy. There were two robins dotting around and waiting for me to dig up some grubs. And finally the large male pheasant made an appearance and let out an almighty “squark!” noise, before strutting off to bother another plot holder.

It was a nice evening and I spent two hours at the allotment this evening.

Film crew, Robin, rhubarb and Elvis

As I parked the car outside the grounds tonight, Elvis the cat was waiting. This is exceptionally strange! Elvis has never ever gone this far away from her usual place inside the grounds. There can only be one reason, she is starving and had gone looking for food.

She followed me in through the main gates, past the main house, through the garden and into the allotment, then all the way to the other side of the walled garden, where I gave her some cat food. She really was starving. So, I gave her the contents of one cat food sachet in thirds, and she didn’t manage to finish the last bit, because she was too full. But, when I left she was looking a lot happier and a lot more sprightly. I will have to visit more often.

While the garden cat ate the food, a robin sat on a branch nearby and began to sing. I sat on the wooden bench while the cat had some food and listened to the birds singing and the rooks cawing in the high trees.

After that I went to pick some more rhubarb, but only five stems tonight because they are so huge. That will make quite a few portions of rhubarb crumble for desert later on in the week.

The allotment hasn’t changed, the grass will probably need cutting in maybe three weeks from now. But for now there is nothing to do. My hard work clearing and covering has served me well. The seedlings at home are growing and as soon as the risk of frost has disappeared I will be planting!

When I left, Elvis the cat was looking a lot happier. Her tail was up.

As I walked out of the garden, the main house looked like they had finished filming. The equipment has nearly all been cleared away. The film crew has been here all week, and I have seen it from the car window as I have passed on the main road to work in the morning. Apparently Johnny Depp had been seen somewhere in the village. That usually only happens after they have finished filming. I’ve never seen anybody famous though.