Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Water Torture

And then the sun returned. After the wettest winter, last weekend saw some bright and fresh days that resembled something like spring. Getting back on to the allotment to dig in the winter top-dressing of cow manure was rewarding – but hard - work. Now that the downpours have abated a little, the perpetual wind has been quick to dry off the surface; but that only masks the heaviness of the soil less than half a spade’s length down.

For two months, the less quick-draining corner of my plot has been saturated; torturously, this was where the rotation plan had led the overwintering garlic to be planted. It may have survived its aquatic gestation but I am not counting on it: this week I am digging some sand and shingle in with the cow muck on a corner of the higher ground, and putting in some new Cristo garlic cloves. It could be worse: the fruit farm where I have my allotment is estimating that it will lose 1,000 trees as a result of the roots’ prolonged submersion in standing water.

February is, of course, when the sowing and planting begins: broad beans are already on their way in large-celled seed trays in the greenhouse; I have not planted straight into the soil in an attempt to foil those light-fingered field mice. Seed potatoes are quietly chitting in egg boxes in the shed: I have gone for Foremost as my first earlies and the ever-reliable, rose-red Desiree as a main crop. And Sweet Million tomato and Cayenne chilli pepper seedlings are starting to show their tips on a bright, warm windowsill indoors. Next up is more back-breaking digging, followed by the strangely enjoyable donkey work of planting potatoes and onions.

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