The half-plot next to ours has been unkempt since the end of the summer, despite having crops of strawberries, cabbages and brussels sprouts planted. We heard on the site grapevine that the owner had moved on to a full plot. Last Sunday the new owner appeared, and in a whirlwind of activity hauled out the cabbage stumps, dug over the ground, and as a sign that he meant business, cut down the holly bush that was taking up a good quarter of the plot.
Rather alarmingly it turns out that he works at the Royal Botanic Gardens. He must have seen my alarm, because he was quick to reassure me that he wasn't a horticulturalist, but a tropical plant specialist. I'd still put him in the 'knowing a fair bit about plants' category. Perhaps I can pick up some tips.
He was accompanied by his two young sons, who found the whole event full of excitement and wonder. With two older teenage children I'd forgotten just how full-on life is at that stage.
This weekend's visits to the plot were real workparty affairs. We dug. We planted two rows of 'Solent Wight' garlic, and four rows of shallots, 'Jermor' and 'Topper'. I love planting shallots - just pushing them into the ground and that's it. We dug some more. We turned one of the compost bins and spread the lovely dark brown, crumbly finished compost over a couple of beds. A very short rest in the deckchairs, and then we dug again. There's still lots to do. While not overgrown, there's a certain scruffiness around the edges.
Amazingly, against all the odds, the purple sprouting broccoli has sprouted, in a late defiance of the pigeons. I didn't get a photo, because I was too busy picking it. We ate it that evening, lightly steamed, along with couscous, mixed salad, salad dressing made with balsamic vinegar, and oven baked organic salmon from West Voe, Shetland. Hence this shot of a Shetland salmon farm. I've posted it before here, when I was feeling nostalgic for Shetland (and posting it again is probably committing some dreadful blogging faux pas, but never mind).
My first foray into Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, with surprises coming up daily in the pot outside my front door. The winter pansies have been stalwart all through the dark days of the Scottish winter, and they're now blooming in earnest. The crocuses in this pot are pretty much over - just a few leaves with characteristic white centre striping left over. The broad leaves of tulips are coming to the fore now (and I can't remember what variety I planted back in November, so this will be the real surprise factor). The sky-blue flowers in the background are Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa).
Below, another cheerful pot of crocuses and daffodils. It was worth that afternoon potting up bulbs with fingers that were numb with cold by the time I'd finished.
The first of the season, scribbled on a Post-It at work last week. Miraculously, despite the frantic pace of everything else in life just now (children taking part in music festival, plus 3 weeks of school orchestral, chamber and choral concerts to mention only a few pieces of our jigsaw), I've done everything on the list. It feels good to have started the season with a small success, although I've had to cut down on blogging and visiting other sites. I'm eager to catch up with what everyone's been up to.
To explain the list: the box for chitting is a sturdy wooden tomato box which I use for chitting seed potatoes. During most of the year I store it in the allotment shed, but it's now cluttering up the dining room with the first phase of the potatoes: Charlotte salad potatoes.
The 'fleece to allotment' was a new fleece tunnel I'd ordered, which sat in its box in the hallway (already taken up with the Ikea 'Billy' bookshelves which are waiting for chain reaction too complex to go into here). I've now re-located it to the allotment shed. Billy is still in the hall.
In the autumn I ordered garlic. I was too late to get the winter planting variety, so I settled for the soft-necked spring type. It arrived way before Christmas, and in the meantime has been rotting gently in our garage. I've now re-ordered, and intend to bung it in as soon as it arrives. It's already late for getting it in the ground.
Broccoli - well, I was seduced by Delfland Nurseries' purple sprouting broccoli programme - two organic plants of each of four varieties. Delivered in July, this will take the stress out of my limited windowsill space for raising seedlings.
Time for action again: husband and son have just arrived back from collecting water samples for son's Advanced Higher Chemistry investigation, and I've made a romantic date with my DH to turn the compost bins at the allotment - if it isn't too windy. March is roaring like a lion today, with a blizzard of quickly melting spring snow this morning.
Or if not this pigeon, at least one of its relatives feasted on my kale. You would think the pigeon equivalent of butter wouldn't melt in its mouth, tho. "Who, me?" it seems to be saying. I caught this one peering in through our kitchen window - presumably to see if any tasty greens were available. Still, they are rather beautiful birds.