Slow painting

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Getting tiresome

The fourth break-in at the shed. This is really getting tiresome. A notice at the entrance to the site alerted me that there had been break-ins on the night of 12 January. As before, metal cutters had been used to break the hasp. The still-locked padlock was lying on the grass in front of the door. You can see in the photo how the cut ends have rusted since 12 January.

Nothing seemed to have been stolen, however. We had taken the strimmer motor back to the house before Christmas, making the strimmer head alone a much less attractive prospect. Our forks and spades were grimy with dried mud, which I had fretted about slightly but which turned out to be a blessing.

Time seems to be passing strangely during January. I could have sworn that I had been to the plot since the 12th. It seems like months rather than weeks since Christmas. Perhaps it's the short, dark, busy days that create this effect. But just in the past few days it's been noticeably lighter by the end of the afternoon. With the growing light has come frost, which is often the case in Scotland, so no digging just yet. Still, I feel the first stirrings of Spring interest in the plot. It's been a long, fallow winter with many other preoccupations.

Sunday, 8 January 2012

Wish they were mine

Healthy new raspberry canes, with a sprinkling of sulphate of potash lightly forked in around them. How I wish they were mine, but following our persistent raspberry failure syndrome we're not rushing to try again. For the moment I can practise on my Dad's raspberries.

Perhaps it's our soil. Although the soil in these photos looks dark, that's only because of recent rain. Forking in the potash, I was struck by the difference. Here, it's light, slightly sandy, former farmland, river plain soil. At our Edinburgh allotment the soil is black, heavy, shot through with clay.

You can see my usual hit or miss approach when it comes to quantities. How much IS 25g per square metre, anyway? Perhaps this shot will be interesting to look back on in the summer. Will the third cane from the right turn out to be a poor, weak specimen? Will the one at the right with the generous application be a super-cane? Or will I have killed it with kindness?

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Looking back - and forward

Looking back - at my overly optimistic promise of a post before Christmas and lots of blog-visiting. Where did the autumn go? Weekends were swallowed up, and for the most part the plot has been unvisited. A question of out of sight rather than out of mind: I've been very conscious of it just 10 minutes walk away, hibernating under its (patchy) covering of green manure. It will be quite a reunion when we do get along after the New Year.

Looking back also at these retro illustrations. They almost have the look of engravings from a Victorian gardening treatise.

In fact they're from the Reader's Digest 'The Gardening Year', 1968. Don't you love it? "rewarding but seldom grown vegetables". Courgettes, seldom grown??? But who grew courgettes in 1968, at least in Scotland? I remember my first taste of green pepper - in 1977. Incredibly exotic. I remember the first time my mother and I ventured to use garlic in a recipe, circa 1976. We asked the greengrocer (NB greengrocer) for two cloves of garlic, being wholly ignorant that garlic was sold in bulbs.

I've been sorting through boxes of books in my Dad's loft this week, and have been enthralled by the discovery of The Gardening Year. A first edition too. Perhaps it'll be really valuable in about 200 years time.

Among the lurid-hued photos of bedding plants and flowering shrubs, the instructions for pruning newly planted floribunda roses, and the never-ending list of 'general tasks' for each month, was this little global warming prickle of anxiety.

This December's temperatures have seldom dipped below 4 degrees, it seems. And taking as a yardstick the year of my son's birth, 21 years ago, I remember watching for the first spikes of crocus and daffodils in February. For the past few years, despite frigid December temperatures, the spikes have been showing before Christmas.

But the looking forward I'm doing just now is to carving out a bit of time for the allotment. Perhaps I'll use The Gardening Year as my guide. So, for January: "The coldest month is the time to plan ahead with seedsmen's (sic) catalogues and to send mowers and other equipment for servicing." And "General Tasks: order seeds, gladioli, onion sets and shallots, and garden sundries such as tree stakes, pea sticks, bean poles, string, canes, insecticides, fertilisers and weedkillers." How many different kinds of stakes and sticks and poles and canes were there in 1968?