Monday, 13 July 2009


I dug up all my garlic today. It was about to flower - just about every plant had a spindly flower stalk growing out of it. I waited till there were no Italians around to criticise what I was doing, or to laugh at the size of my bulbs (they are very small). I didn't know whether I ought to leave them longer, but we've been lucky with the weather, and I didn't want the garlic getting sodden if we have rain and going mouldy. Back at home, I made some French dressing with the garlic and some wine vinegar and olive oil and doused Angelo's infernal lettuce in it. It is delicious, but you can't eat it the night before you have to go to work.

Friday, 10 July 2009

Cathedrals for the veg

These are the tunnels I've been building out of net curtains, bamboo poles and bent coat hangers to stop the butterflies laying their eggs on my brassicas. The Brussels sprouts were nurtured under fleece, and grew like triffids. I have never grown brassicas so fleshy and immaculate as these - but I can't believe I'll manage to keep all the pests off. The whitefly have already wheedled their way in.


Someone planted this rosemary bush on my allotment while I wasn't looking!

Chris, Plot 334, arson.

This is Chris, whom I met today. I hadn't noticed him before, but that's because his plot is way down the end over the other side. He rolled up in his Land Rover and started telling me this horror story about how his shed had been burnt down last year. Since then, he said, he hasn't been able to use his plot because the firemen said it would be too polluted. In his shed were sacks of fertilizer and plastic sacks and other objects. The smoke from these was so noxious that the firemen had to don masks to fight the fire.

Chris said the fire had been set after an incident involving four teenagers/children. He'd seen them on the allotment and told them to leave. They were very lippy and refused, but he was adamant and they went. Days later, their father saw him coming out of the allotments and came and stood in front of his Land Rover, saying "Come on then!" and threatened him because of the way he'd spoken to his children (which wasn't angry or rough). He replied "That's what I call dragging up your kids, not bringing them up." The bloke blustered back saying, "I know which your allotment is!" A few days later, his shed had been burnt down.

He told the police the whole story afterwards, but they said, "If they're from Tree Courts, you haven'g got a hope in hell of nailing them." What a bloody attitude - 'let them get on with it'! It just about sums up the official apathy where the yobs round here are concerned.

Pigeon peas

Angelo gave me a huge bag of pigeon peas. The plants look just like broad beans, but the pods are much smaller, and the peas are bigger than ordinary peas, but taste like broad beans without the charm. You feel they are doing you good, but so they ought to after you've spent so long shelling them - they're very fiddly. It will take me two weeks to eat the ones Angelo has given me. He also gave me about six lettuces because they were about to bolt, which means I have to put mine on the back burner (while they bolt too). Today, Joe, his brother, offered me more pigeon peas and lettuces. I politely refused.

Andy, Plot 352a

This is Andy, the new tenant of Plot 352a.

Water trough

My new water trough - hurrah!

Thursday, 9 July 2009


I have been struggling for the past few days to get into my blogging account after such a long time, and have only just succeeded.

Of course, we're half-way through the season, and I've not written a thing about how it's going. Where do I start? Maybe with a summary, or a bullet-point list of all the important new developments, which I can come back to later.


  • Water troughs! Hurrah, hurrah! The council has finally got round to installing the promised water trough on MY allotment! July 1st was Water Trough day, and when it was finally up and running, so many people tried to use it all at once that it was nearly emptied and they then complained that it wasn't filling up fast enough.

  • Gli italiani. The wonderful brothers Joe and Angelo are proving excellent neighbours, and I have an open invitation to borrow Joe's zappa (italian hoe), which has made life so much easier. Angelo has promised to bring me one back from Italy in August, and Joe said that when someone asked who I was, he said I was his cousin.

  • New arrivals. Two of note: Ken (opposite me, Plot 348), and Andy (a little further down on the other side, Plot 352a). Ken has a half-plot and plenty of family members to help him work it. He is very friendly and chatty and has taken early retirement from Royal Mail. He's on holiday in Scotland at the moment. Andy is from Glasgow and is a self-employed computer programmer. He is also very chatty and great fun. He has charmed Angelina, and even made her laugh (she usually moans about everything). He is thinking of retraining as a teacher. I think he'd make a good one. He knows nothing about gardening, but is making a good go of his half-plot, thanks to hard work and many donated plants.

  • The family-from-hell are still causing problems. My neighbours the other side say they have a ladder which they use to get over the fence on to his shed roof and down via his picnic table, and that they have now stolen two old doors which he was using to hold his manure in place. They know this because their picnic table was broken and they saw white paint on top of the fence.

  • Lots and lots of other things, but that's enough for now.

The pictures show what the Family-from-hell did to the lovely privet bush that was overhanging my shed. Big John actually saw him climb over the fence to cut it back on MY SIDE.

Friday, 3 April 2009

Apart from that...

Apart from that, Spring is here, and I've regained my enthusiasm, and am spending hours and hours down the allotment. It's mostly spent digging couch grass, but it's pleasant enough in the sun. I get endless advice from the Italians. One day, I had no fewer than three of them tell me I should be using a fork not a spade. I don't think they realised that my soil is so compacted, damp and clayey that it sticks to a fork, and you just end up with a great big lump on it and break your back.

Anyhow, it's getting dryer by the day, and I can use a fork now, though I still have to spend hours picking couch roots out of each clod. I had a bonfire tonight and burned a dustbin-full. And of course, it's springing up immortal and the top end is starting to look as if I never dug it at all. I'm contemplating Glyphosate (aaagh!), on that end at least, because I'll never conquer it otherwise. I was going to use ammonium sulphamate, only to find it's been banned by the EU, despite being safer than Glyphosate, and is now only available illegally over the internet. And of course it is expensive. The fact is, at the moment I can't afford either, so it's all academic.

Meanwhile, I do a bit a day, and though I've got a lot left that I haven't even touched yet, I managed to turn over a lot before the winter weather got too bad, and that broke down (on top at least) to a fine hoe-able tilth. So I had a good surface for my seeds, albeit riddled at both sides of the plot with lurking weed roots.

More bloody vandalism!

I went down the allotment early three days ago, only to find that the padlock had been cut off with a pair of bolt cutters. Chris tells me today that another shed was burnt down recently, though I haven't seen it. I phoned the Allotment Officer as soon as I saw what they'd done to the padlock, but she can't have got my message, because it wasn't dealt with until the next day (she only works part-time). She's put a temporary padlock on there, but we've already been given new keys for the new locks they'll be fitting on May 1st. These will be super-duper burglar-proof locks, but knowing our vandals, they'll find some way to get in and cause misery. (The picture shows the remains of the old padlock, which was welded on to the chain, and the new one, which is just slotted in).
I don't know what can be done about this problem. I know the Allotment Officer reports it to the Police, but what do they do? The problem is that a group of youths from Pinehurst is targeting the allotments as the venue for their drunken/drugged rampages. Putting up a fence and padlocking the gate just seems to incite them. They would argue it's because they've nothing to do, but that's a pathetic excuse. The fact is, they find it funny to burn things down, and to break into our shop and when they don't find money, to burn that down too. They probably talk about it next day, saying, "You should have seen the flames - they were sky high! It was funny as fuck!" What can you do against that sort of mentality.
I said to Chris, I'd like to go down there at night with a shotgun. He said, I think there's a lot of people would like to do that. But we've got to leave it up to our Allotment Officer to sort out, though God knows what she can do. It's enough to make you want to set up a posse of vigilantes, though. Big John said he had his shed broken into, too, though his shed is the other end, and could have been a sensible thief who wanted to find something to sell. I can understand that. But these kids - or rather, their ringleader - is, I think, sick, and needs to be taken out of circulation before he sets fire to a place with someone living in it. He's obviously a true fire-bug, and enjoys setting fires in a pathological way.

Saturday, 7 February 2009

More snow

I walked down the allotment today just to drop off some compost. It was really an excuse to walk through some virgin snow again. Someone had driven and someone else walked down the main track, but the other track was untrodden - all my footsteps of the other day had been filled in by another fall of snow. All there were were the barely-visible prints of cats, the loping stride of foxes, and the patterings of crows and pigeons.
On my way home, I saw these catkins - reminder that this will soon be over, and that spring is on the way.

Thursday, 5 February 2009


I went for a walk down the allotment in the snow this afternoon. I could tell from the footprints that I was only the second person who had been there. It was wonderful walking in the virgin snow. There were lots of tracks of birds and foxes.
Nothing was visible through the snow on the Cat Alloment. I examined the purple-sprouting broccoli on the Salvation Army allotment, and it seems to be being eaten by something - probably the pigeons, but also possibly by some sort of grub. It was badly attacked by both caterpillars and whitefly last summer, so maybe it's the grubs of one of those. Anyway, it's affecting the florets badly - they look as if they'll be useless. You never know, though, they might turn out all right when it gets a bit warmer.

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

More vandalism

I haven't been down the allotment much these last two months. It's been too wet and too cold.

When I did go down a couple of weeks ago, however, this is what I found. The allotment shop, which is run by volunteers, old men, had been broken into by vandals. The till had been taken out and burned, and papers scattered everywhere.

I wouldn't have liked to have been those old men when I discovered the break-in. I should think it must have been heartbreaking. They run the shop out of pure enthusiasm for gardening, just as the Allotment Society they belong to has been run for years out of enthusiasm and goodwill. Now, just like that, for a bit of "fun" on a Saturday night, years of work have been destroyed. I dread to think what state the inside of the shop was in - probably it, too, was burned out - i.e. all that stock destroyed. Stock that had no value to anyone but the old men and the gardeners. I would be very surprised to see the shop open up again next season. There comes a point where you just feel like going back to your house and sitting in front of your telly for the rest of your life - at least it's safe, and there is no chance of heart-sinking disappointment.

Up my end of the allotments, I seem to be out of it. It is too close to the houses for kids to risk being seen. But what with having to start on what is now an unforgiving piece of couch-ridden, waterlogged clay, I too feel that it might be better just to sit in front of the telly all summer, or bugger off to France. Only I can't afford to. I need the vegetables I grow. On £60.50 a week, you can't pass up any chance of supplementing your diet virtually for free. I expect my enthusiam will return. After all, there are green shoots of recovery down my allotment, if nowhere else - the runner beans have come up. And I managed, before I came down with flu, to put in a row of shallots, saved from last year. So I'm going to stick with it. After all, why let them win?