Slow painting

Sunday 27 April 2008

Lime-induced chlorosis

The things one learns from an allotment. I'm fairly certain this is what is afflicting some of our new raspberry canes. We planted them last year. One didn't make it through the winter. Another has had a tough start because the family man-with-strimmer keeps razing it to the ground when he powers by on grass-cutting duty. This year, as the canes have started to really pull away, it's become very obvious that all is not well with two of them - perhaps significantly the canes nearest the grass edge of the plot.

So we have healthy canes:

And these pale yellow specimens:

By chance this week I received free with an order of other soft fruit from the wonderful Ken Muir a book called 'Grown Your Own Fruit'. Although I must have read about yellowing raspberry leaves in the other gardening bibles I own, it took the nice photos of raspberry ailments in Ken's book to make the penny drop. I gather I now need to apply the wonderfully-named Flowers of Sulphur.

Oniony things

If there's one thing we can grow it's shallots. Whatever else has failed, shallots have stuck with us every year. I'm rather partial to them for being so obliging - as well as liking them in cooking. So we've got two long rows this year, one of 'Jermor', and the other of 'Topper'. We put them in 2 weeks ago, as pictured, and this week they're already sprouting robust green shoots.

To the right of the shallots is our winter garlic crop. I wonder if we've planted too much. Unlike shallots, there's only so much garlic one family can eat. I imagine we'll be distributing our largesse to friends.

In the beginning

The beginning was actually a while ago - five years this spring. In five years some people go from weedy allotment to model plot supplying the family with all its fruit and vegetable needs. Not us - we're on a different timetable, of fitting in allotment life alongside family life. Sometimes, looking at photos from these years, I think that the only thing we've grown successfully have been our children, but I'm happy with that priority.

I've been thinking of allotment blogging for some time, but the thing that really spurred me on was an article in the Spring 2008 edition of 'The Organic Way', the journal of Garden Organic. It looked so enticing on the cover - 'The Slow Allotment'. "That's us!" I thought, and turned eagerly to page 42. Not so. I learned from this article that we shouldn't have an allotment at all: that allotments cannot be 'an extension to the school run', and '2 or 2.5 hours a week? Never!'

Well, some weeks 2 hours is all we have to spend on our allotment. Five years has been quite a slog of getting to where we are, and some years we've made progress:

While other years things have been a bit more frilly around the edges:

Last summer in particular was BAD. A wet June and first half of July, then a house exchange for a month with non-gardening exchange partners. But this spring we're up and running.

With some pretty strenuous digging over the past month to reclaim parts that were overgrown when we inherited the plot, we've added clear ground for another bed, and feel that things are taking shape. I'm glad we've taken time to get the measure of the plot. I now know where the sun falls at what time of day and in the different seasons. I know the different weeds that afflict different parts of the plot, and what I can plant there that won't be too disturbed by their removal. We enjoy our escape to the allotment when we take time out from the busy-ness of work, school, children's music and the general domestic round. So slow growing it is.