It’s spring and time to start planting down at the allotment. Unfortunately, with all the recent snow and rain, it’s more like a paddy field, maybe I could grow Calverley rice! writes Anne Akers.
This is my fourth season as an allotmenteer, I’ve learned so much, and judging by last year’s disastrous kale and cavolo nero harvest and the devastation caused by pigeons, have so much still to learn.
But as I write this with a cup of tea and slice of toast slathered with home-made strawberry jam made with my own strawberries, I agree with myself that there’s nothing like the flavour and goodness of eating something you’ve grown yourself.
Leeds has 101 allotments and there is a waiting list, we waited a couple of years for our plot in Calverley.
We had a couple of raised beds in the back garden were we grew peas, beans, garlic, raspberries and strawberries, which whetted our appetites for more fresh food, in season and virtually zero food miles.
Not much happens on our allotment during the winter. We still have a few cabbage and leeks in the ground ready to pick and eat.
Other than that, it’s digging and preparing the soil, adding compost or well-rotted horse poo providing the ground isn’t waterlogged or frozen, repairing and rebuilding paths and walls, thinking about giving the shed a lick of paint and planning. The planning is done in the warmth and comfort of home, with tea, jam and bread.
Weeds are waking up
So now it’s April and the weeds are waking up. We get a lot of bittercress which is a nuisance, but easy to remove or, if you want to add it to salad, it is edible.
Creeping buttercup is starting to send out its runners, if I don’t pull them up, they’ll take over – and you can’t eat them either.
Worst of all is couch grass, which has a root network like a spaghetti factory. I don’t use weed killer, it makes extra work, but I’d rather have it this way than use chemicals.
Jobs to do
I already have leeks, cabbage and beans germinating nicely in the greenhouse, but it will be a while before they are in the ground, it needs to warm up significantly.
The main job in the next couple of weeks, once the water drains away, is to plant onions and continue to prepare the ground, these are from sets, which are tiny onions which grow into big onions, they are much easier to grow than from seed and do very well on our allotment.
This month I’ll also set my potatoes chitting, that just means laying them out in the conservatory and letting them sprout, which is of great interest to the cats who think it’s fun to sit on them.
One of life’s greatest pleasures is digging up potatoes, it’s like the gift that keeps on giving, and they store so well. We’re just about finishing last year’s harvest, they were delicious.
Right, I’ll just make a cuppa while I think about heading down to the allotment for a day of digging…
Anne Akers is a West Leeds Dispatch contributor and a very amateur allotmenteer. She’ll be writing a monthly column.