The beginning of May and down on the allotment, it’s more like April, writes Anne Akers.
Thanks to the long, cold, wet winter and non-event of an early spring, there’s not as much happening as there should be.
Traditionally potatoes should be planted on Good Friday, which is more a nod to the fact that it was traditionally the first day off in the year for the ordinary working man and woman.
A better rule of thumb is to make sure the frosts are over and done with, we might just get away with it now.
So, the potatoes are in, second earlies and maincrop, I don’t bother with first earlies, we can’t eat them fast enough!
Up until I started allotmenteering, all I knew about potatoes was that there were ‘new’ and ‘old’ potatoes. I now know that there are so many different kinds and had a real headache when it came to choosing what I’d grow.
The earlies are smaller and waxier, best boiled and crushed with butter and a sprinkling of salt or cold in salad. Maincrop make my favourite food, chips, as well as roasties, mash and other potatatoey delights.
I’ve chosen varieties that are blight-resistant, as that’s the disease that can wipe out crops, leaving a mushy mess where there should be beautiful potatoes. Or tomatoes, they are both from the same family. So Nadine, Cara and Picasso are in the ground, making many potatoes from little seed potatoes.
Onions and shallots are showing their little green shoots and the strawberries and gooseberries have flowers, within a month, providing we have sunshine, they will be fruit. I marvel at that little miracle every year.
I’ll have to watch out for sawfly on the gooseberries and eliminate them.
As the soil warms up, the peas and beans I’ve planted will be throwing out little shoots before you can say ‘pass me the spade’, but on my plot, it still looks like a lot of bare earth with little sticks everywhere to mark where there should be something coming up.
Last year, a nocturnal visitor to the allotment dug up my newly-planted seeds and left me a smelly present.
Badgers are a big as dogs and like to make their mark in more ways than one. This year, the seedbed is covered with netting to keep the blighters away, I hope! I’ve yet to see one, but I know where they’ve been.
It can be a delight to share the allotment with wildlife, there’s a family of jays, song thrushes and woodpeckers nearby and cheeky robins who follow me as I dig, waiting patiently to snatch worms. I also spotted a nuthatch, which was pecking grubs from the bark of the hawthorn.
The other day, I found an egg, a hen’s egg. We’re not allowed to keep livestock, but there are hens on the nearby smallholding.
The local foxes like to take the eggs and bury them to eat later, sometimes they leave it too long and when they are broken by the spade, they don’t half stink! Unfortunately, they also like to eat the hens, I’ve also found the odd wing…
Meanwhile in the greenhouse, the tomatoes are coming on nicely.
I’m also growing squash and cucumber from seed, along with cucamelons, which are like a cross between a cucumber and a melon, and are the size of a grape.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself, trying something so exotic and shared this with one of the old lads down at the allotment, expecting him to be impressed.
‘Cucamelons?’ he laughed ‘Tried them, they grow like mad and they taste bloody awful’. Ah, so he wasn’t impressed, then. Cucamelon anyone?