Last week I was reminded what its like to be cold, so cold, only a hot bath can remedy it. Sometimes I leave home blinded by the cosy warmth of central heating, and the promise of a warm sun, forgetting its February, and 1 degree celsius with a sharp wind. On the way to the allotment I’m usually loaded up like a packhorse, rucksack with a flask of tea, and sandwiches, a small bag containing seeds, bulbs, notebooks, and other bits I like to carry back and forth, and a weeks worth of kitchen peelings for the compost. By the time I have walked the 10 minute journey I am usually quite toasty. But on an exposed site, and a harsh wind, this toasty feeling does not last long.
The allotment can feel quite daunting when you are a solo gardener. I can see all the beds which need digging over, the flower beds which need overhauling, and the weeding, so much weeding. Not forgetting the seeds, and bulbs which need planting. Sometimes I don’t know where to start. It can be tempting to get distracted, and try to do EVERYTHING, but I’ve started to give myself a break and now aim to dig over one small bed or half a large bed, a little weeding – this time of year I’m attempting to prevent the spread of buttercup, which seems to grow as soon as you turn your back on it – although it is pretty, so I do tend to forgive it. This way I leave the plot feeling I have achieved something, and I can go away and plan what needs to be done the following week.
Last weekend I cultivated a raised bed in preparation for root vegetables – carrots first, followed by lots of beetroot. I bought some horse manure compost, and raked in a full bag*. In the corner of the bed, was a lovely crop of nettle. It was doing its best to creep across the earth, and take over. I like nettle, it makes a great tea feed for vegetables, and it’s also an awesome medicinal herb and superfood. I harvested the best tips to eat, and put them to one side, I popped some in a bucket with water, and dug out a decent chunk and replanted it in my special nettle herb bed. It always makes me chuckle when I dig up a weed and transplant it. It’s important to know which wild plants are useful, such as nettle, plantain, dock and dandelion – although the latter two I wont transplant – I have quite enough already, and don’t wish to spread them further.
Lots of things are growing, which always give you hope. The garlic I planted in December is starting to make strong shoots, the rhubarb I replanted last week seems to be happy in its new home, and many of my herbs, such as St John’s Wort are starting to peek up through the soil.
On the way home I noticed signs of Spring all around me. I was particularly happy to see leaves growing on the elder, and look forward to foraging for elderflower in the spring. Heres to next weekend, and hopefully warmer weather.
*I’ve subsequently realised my error with the manure, I should have done it months ago!