English Walk

Yes, I’m still alive! Apologies for being absent from this blog for so long.

Today was such an absolute stunner of a day, that there was no other option but to go a wandering in the English countryside (after all the sun doesn’t show itself all that often on this island so we better make the most of it). Of course I took my camera, thinking if I got bored I could at least have some photo opportunities. As it turns out, it was a very successful walk through the fairy-like woods at this time of year filled to the brim with bluebells.

There was a brief (ahem) stop at the local garden centre.

There was a brief (ahem) stop at the local garden center.

She's got the shades.

She’s got the shades.

It was super dry.

It was super dry.

Magical fairyland.

Magical fairyland.

A beauty amongst beauty.

A beauty amongst beauty.

A sea.

A sea.

Why, hello there.

Why, hello there.

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Spring on a plate

Asparagus and radish

Asparagus and radish – the first harvest of the new season

Bean, squash and courgette plants may be shivering in the little plastic-covered greenhouse at home, but we are sustained for the moment by the magical emergence of asparagus spears, the fattening of radish bulbs, and the peppery fire of soft rocket leaves. I hunch over the ragged lines of beetroot, spring onion, chard, and fennel seedlings, willing them to shake off the cold and begin to grow!

Under a dome of plastic, sparklers and cherry belles

Take a peek, under the hoops, at what is growing in my little polytunnel:

Radish and rocket race ahead, snug in their plastic tube.

Radish and rocket race ahead, snug in their plastic tube.

Polytunnels are not pretty. The plastic sheeting glinting in the sun, rippling in the breeze on plastic hoops, does not blend easily into the earthy, natural delights of my garden. It’s an interloper, an alien, definitely unnatural and inorganic. It doesn’t belong!

Aesthetically unpleasing, polytunnels caught my eye – and then impressed me. Gee, those heat-trapping and insect-repelling domes really produce the goods! I became envious of several massive, walk-in tunnels that have sprouted up on the allotment. Look at those tomato vines, dripping with non-blighted fruit… Check out those brussels sprouts and purple sprouting broccoli, not a cabbage white on them…

And so early this year – keen to get growing, anxious not to have such a dismal season as last year – when I stumbled across a basic kit of plastic sheeting and hoops for £5, I took the plunge:

7th April. The structure is erected and seeds - lettuce, sorrel, radish, rocket - sown within its protective atmosphere.

7th April. The structure is erected and seeds – lettuce, sorrel, radish, rocket – sown within its protective atmosphere. 

So far, so mixed. All the seeds I planted got off to a great start, especially when you consider that the spring has been very cold and delayed. Then three quarters of my lettuce seedlings, looking so succulent, disappeared. Our dear friends the slugs also like warm and protected mini-environments, unfortunately. But they have eschewed the sorrel, radish, and rocket, which I have begun to harvest. Only slightly deterred – it’s early in the season! – I responded by filling the gaps with misticanza, dill, and parsley seeds.

"Sparkler" radish bulk up.

“Sparkler” radish bulk up.

Am I a convert? We’ll see. I’m thinking of placing my tender aubergine plants, currently in pots on my dining room floor, under the protective polythene arch when the time comes.

Beautiful Garden or Successful Plot – do I have to choose?

And the garden grows

4th May, 2013. Sun and clouds punctuate our al fresco lunch on the allotment with Jonathan.

4th May, 2013. Sun and clouds punctuate our al fresco lunch on the allotment with Jonathan.

Spring at last. Despite the drought of allotment-themed blog posts since we celebrated the rhubarb’s emergence, the garden itself has not been neglected. We’ve taken to the seasonal tasks with some diligence and even gusto: digging over beds, weeding, harvesting over-wintering crops, planting seeds both indoors and out. In fact, at this moment, the allotment is probably in better shape at this time of year than ever before. (Though there’s still the issue of several flower and fruit beds overcome by creeping couch grass that must be tackled soon. Not to mention the weed seeds biding their time, waiting for some warmth to begin to colonize those neat patches of bare earth.)

Some things that make my heart rejoice:

Asparagus! Our transplanted crowns have survived the winter and seem to like their new location. We'll have more than four spears this season.

Asparagus! Our transplanted crowns have survived the winter and seem to like their new location. We’ll have more than four spears this season.

Peas grown in the gutter begin to climb up their twiggy supports and begin to flower. Behind them you can see the broad beans and, further back, autumn-sown spinach.

Peas grown in a gutter at home, then transplanted outside, climb up their twiggy supports and begin to flower. Behind them much-anticipated broad beans assert themselves. And behind these, rows of autumn-sown spinach continue to produce.