Checking in with the allotment

It's been a while since I've shared an allotment update and there's a very good reason for that. It's because I've not been to our allotment, until Sunday, that is. Unbelievably that was our first visit of the year. We should have gone before, but you know how it is, when you put something off, it's easier to keep putting off and that's the cycle we got ourselves into, until the previous weekend when MOH declared we would spend "all weekend next weekend doing the allotment."

And that sounded promising, although in reality it didn't quite work out like that as we spent Saturday at the Ideal Home Show and then on Sunday I didn't manage to persuade MOH out of the house until gone midday. So not quite all weekend, but we did get there. Well after we'd gone to the garden centre to buy some seed compost and some horse manure to help improve the soil.

That was a good call - the horse manure, not the garden centre which was super busy - as little did I realise just how much our plot needed it, but more on that in a moment. I was keen to see how some of the things we had planted had coped on their own. It turns out the honest answer is mixed, and that's a little disconcerting.

Let's start with the celeriac. Above ground it looked, well like celeriac. The bulb hadn't swelled and pushed itself out of the ground though, so I wasn't sure what I'd find beneath ground. 

It looks like celeriac

And I was right to be cautious, as underneath there was a bunch of roots but no vegetable. Not even a tiny one. Not on any of the plants that had survived MOH's trampling, which was disappointing (both things were disappointing, I'm not sure which was more so). Especially as I'm quite partial to eating some celeriac. We'll try again next year I'm sure, and hopefully that horse manure will make a difference.

It's looking less like a celeriac now

Some of the kale had gone to seed, and while it looked pretty, it's not very edible.

flowering kale, pretty but not so edible

The red cabbages, well they've done better. They at least are starting to look like red cabbages, but just look at the weeds. I'm not sure if I should say it's a red cabbage among weeds, or weeds with a red cabbage.

a red cabbage and weeds, or weeds and a red cabbage?

Yes exactly.

All a bit demoralising really. And despair was starting to creep up on me. But I carried on looking around the plot. 

The crab apple tree caught my eye, with the ladybird and the lichen and I quickly remembered a conversation that MOH and I had after the lichen section on a recent Gardener's World programme, featuring lichen (obviously). One of those daft conversations where we talked about liking our lichen, and seeing it here immediately lifted my spirits.  

And yes, I liken my lichen. Especially this lichen, I'm liking it a lot. See I told you it was daft.

do you liken my lichen, the ladybird seems pretty keen on the crab apple tree

And once I saw this photo it made me pleased again, but of course it's not going to help get rid of those weeds...

Or the grass. Every bed we've dug over is once again full of weeds or grass, including around the rhubarb. But on the positive side, it looks like it won't be too long before we'll be eating our rhubarb.

rhubarb on the way

Underneath the crab apple tree the random artichoke which seems so happy in the strangest of places, continues to thrive. I had meant to move it, but I'm too late it seems. We also appear to have lost our other artichoke which was one of the first plants we planted, and without a single artichoke from it. I'll be reading up on how to take cuttings from this one, as it seems happy and maybe I can persuade some of its offspring to move to the other side of the plot.

the artichoke is doing well, and looks like I won't be moving it this year

The weeds and grass are also growing through the lavender plants, which were supposed to be forming an edging. This is what I found the hardest to deal with, these are supposed to grow unaided and ideally unweeded. If we keep having to weed and de-grass every part of our plot, I can't see us making any progress at all.

weeds and grass among the lavender and pretty much everywhere else

That's not defeatist, but probably more realist than I've been about our plot until now. Wondering if it was all worth it only lasted a short while - most likely until I spotted the raspberry canes - and then I was back to coming up with a plan to help us avoid weeding these edging plants repeatedly. And that's quite simply to plant these edging plants through weed membrane. It's probably not usual for an allotment, but hopefully it will help. Obviously it's not something we can do for the whole plot, we'll need another plan for that, but that needs more thought.  Advice most definitely welcome if you've experienced anything similar.

But the sun was shining, and the raspberry canes were doing well. We'd cleared around these as much as we could at the end of last year and for the first time actually remembered to cut the canes, and the pay back is already clear.  So that's something at least.

looks like we might be successful with raspberries this year

Our other smallish success was the handful - or bunch - of cavolo nero that we picked, and will be eating. I'm not sure if that counts as our last crop of the growing year or our first one of this year, but either way it's a win.

a handful of cavolo nero

So much more to do and many more weeds to conquer, but hopefully with a plan, renewed energy and some more zen-like digging we'll make some progress. And maybe this year will be the year I'll get my cut flower bed - I hope so, the flowers would most definitely help!