April, come she will, and the overgrown plot of land we signed for at the end of December 2016 is beginning to resemble an allotment at last. There is still much to do on the monster’s New corner, but, at least we have some onion and shallot sets growing away in terra firma. We have also moved the onion seedlings out of our daughter’s polytunnel and set these in the ground and our cosmos are germinated and putting on an inch or so. The dwarf sunflowers have germinated, and all the fruit bushes we moved from our former plot in January have burst bud and the bees are pollinating the early flowers on the Hinnomaki gooseberry bushes; the summer John and April Queen heritage apple trees are about to bloom, and all six of Mrs. Dirt Diggers rose bushes are topping away with this year’s growth, and to cap it all off we have actually harvested some rhubarb form our new plot. We know it’s a little early as, ideally we should have left it a bit longer before picking some stalks as these stools were only transplanted in early January, but, we just had to, and what a sweet treat…the first produce from the monster’s NEW corner. We’ve set the structures of our raised beds, marked out our pathways and mulched the whole fruiting area with woodland chippings; and last week saw us take delivery of a new shed: a new bolt-hole for the monster. With peas, broad-beans and some new strawberry plants being set this weekend we’ll be busy as this year’s sowing season gets under way in earnest, and we are glad to say that we are just about on cue. Although a little cool and grey for much of the last 5 days at least the weather forecast is for somewhat brighter and milder weather than of late, and remembering that tomorrow is Greenfingers Day, sure what more could any gardener or allotmenteer hope for eh! Buy some seed…… and sow up a pot or a drill on your plot…
Over the last four weeks me and Mrs Dirt-digger have been busy transporting and transplanting our fruit bushes, brambles, rhubarb and apple trees from a plot in the garden where we formerly worked an allotment to our new plot in a new location. We began the migration on 15th December and glad to say we shall complete the process of moving this coming weekend when we finally relocate our strawberry plants and a well established sedum which we will also take. The relatively mild weather for late December and early January has helped no end, affording the opportunity to get ahead of the posse, so much so that we actually turned some of the terra firma on the new plot which is still a little heavy but trafficable nonetheless, and at least we have some basic cultivation with which to plan. Here at Monster in The Corner our belief has always been that a garden’s summer glory is set in winter’s planning, and Boy oh Boy! will this hold true this year, but then we never shirk a challenge. Now that the all important time-critical work of relocating the dormant bushes is complete we have set our mind to mapping out some other design aspects at our new plot; pathways, shed location, polytunnel situation whilst not forgetting compost bin and leaf-mould location. We are also assessing ground cultivation versus raised beds possibilities, and have opted for a 50-50 approach. Some of the neighbouring plot holders at our new site have offered us compost and manure and even seedlings in a couple of weeks time, and where wildlife at our former location consisted largely of flocks of pigeon and magpie (not forgetting one of the highest population densities of grey squirrels in the whole country) at our new site we have thus far observed hares and pheasants and even exotic looking waxwings in the last 2 weeks. The Dirt-digging Mrs. has purchased Bedfordshire Champion onion seed, Tuscan black and Scottish Green kale seed, tender and true parsnip seed and cornflower seed; and we also bought some onion sets (Stuttgarters) and Jumbo peas; and our short term plan includes shallots, main-crop potatoes and broad beans which we shall start off in pots in the next fortnight along with the Bedfordshire Champion seed. All in all things are moving apace, and though we were a little deflated (to say the least) last autumn when reconciling the reality of our experience at our former location, what a difference a month can make. There are not too many photo opportunities on a midwinter’s allotment plot, and all the more so when it’s an overgrown unused plot, but we are making headway, and though at present we have little to show of the planned schema at this stage we will simply post this photo of the other two workhorses on monsterinthecorner, i.e. The Barrow Bug and TheDottyDolly…
On this day 6 years ago, Mrs Dirt-digger was one of the first plot holders to turn a sod in the then newly opened walled garden allotments in St Anne’s Park in Dublin. We took possession of our keys on 3rd July that year, and sooner than attempt a verbose essay on our experiences during that six year period, we’ve decided to post a little photo journey of our challenges and achievements to date, and over the coming days we’ll update the scrapbook with more images…
Today being April 24th 2016 it is National Census Day in Ireland.
Exactly 100 years ago today at the General Post Office in Dublin city centre some of our patriots and heroes publicly declared their desire to run our national affairs in our own way. Of course, such a declaration was also a succinct declaration of war on that once great empire which had governed this small western European island for almost a millennium, and in the ensuing rebellion and subsequent civil war just a few years later, over 800 years of national records were totally destroyed.
So, it is fitting in this great year of commemoration and celebration that we also take stock of our greatest national asset, i.e. the people of the state.
Today is the day when every man, woman and child currently residing in or passing through the state on this particular day is asked to give an account of themselves. The lines of enquiry are quite simple and are concerned with finding out who you are, where you are, what you do on a daily basis, with whom you do it, and the when, why, and how of doing it. In short the Who What Where When Why and How of your life on this particular day in time. The information gathered will not only provide a picture of The Nation precisely100 years on from that momentous historical event, but it will also provide a valuable blueprint for future local, regional and national planning…
And so I thought ( as I often do with little else to think about) that it may be a good exercise for us to do likewise and complete a census of The Monster in the Corner: to record exactly what we have planted on our allotment plot. A inventory of what we planted and when we planted it and of why we planted it in the first place, and how well it has performed since; this will allow us to see how our plot plans have changed over the years, and perhaps spur us to make other changes on the basis of the collated information… right, that’s the waffle well and truly prepared.
The Monster in the Corner is a 120sq metre clay based and stone strewn suburban allotment.
We are working this plot the last 3 years having moved from another much smaller plot within the walled garden. The plot has 3 clearly defined areas:
Our fruit patch consists of 4 stools of Victoria rhubarb planted 5 years ago; 2 Ben Lomand blackcurrant bushes and 5 gooseberry bushes, 2 each of Invicta and Hinnonmaki, and 1 Captivator all set out 5 years ago; 2 blueberry bushes, Bluecrop and Reva planted last winter; 2 heritage Irish apple trees, Summer John and an April Queen both only planted 2 years ago; a clump of Autumn Gold raspberry; a climbing scramble of Tayberry brambles from winter 2014; and this year after foregoing such the last 3 years we’ve once again planted up a strawberry bed with 20 runners of Malling Centenary.
In the front aspect of our plot we have 9 vegetable beds, 3 of which are raised “14 high. As our soil is a dense claggy clay, we grow our deep rooters in the raised beds; parsnips,carrots, celeriac etc. and to help with a semblance of crop rotation we use one of the raised beds for summer catch crops, this allows us to move -especially the parsnips – along the raised beds year on year.
So this year we have a bed of Gladiator parsnips; a bed of Longue shallots; a bed of summer scallions,bunching onion, lettuce plants and rocket; and in Terra firma we have large beds of Stuttgarter,Centurion and Karmen onions (in as sets) also Ailsa Craig and Bedfordshire Champions in as seed; a bed of Sutton Broad Beans; a bed with Solo Beetroot and radishes; and 2 beds awaiting Velour beans and Kelvedon Wonder peas.
The Monster in the Corner is a most awkward shape; like a giant wedge of badly cut birthday cake that we’ve come to love. There is a markedly curved run along the plot perimeter that was never going to be easy to cultivate as it skirts the original pathway of the walled garden and as such became little more than a holding area for the hardcore and foundation fill of the path, which over 160 years with little or no maintenance decided to migrate eastwards and has, by dint of being gently sloped, crept into the adjacent garden border that is now a large part of our plot. However, we use this area as a herb border, and over the years this is one of the Monster’s aspects which seems to catch the gaze of all strollers and passers-by.
There are established upright and prostrate Rosemary bushes; Munstead and platinum blonde lavenders; Cambridge Monarda Bergamot; Oregano; Faustini, Common and Lemon Thymes; Broad sage; Marjoram; Red Orach; Fever-few; Chamomile and clumps of Chives with plenty of chocolate Mint. There are 6 rose bushes here also: A Rosa Port Sunlight; Rhapsody in Blue; Tequila Sunrise; Lily Marlene and 2 Korresia. Currently we have trays and pots of Sunflowers, Cosmos, Zinnias and Catanache ready to spot plant all over the plot, but not just yet.
In our tool shed we have 3 garden forks and a pitch-fork; a shovel, a spade, a pick and a coal shift; a grass rake and a soil rake; 4 hand trowels, I large sweeping brush, 2 Dutch hoes and an onion hoe; a hose, 2 watering cans, 3 buckets, a shears, a loppers, a pressure sprayer, whilst back on the Monster there is a large poly cloche; 200-300 pots of varying sizes; 2 wheelbarrows, one a makeshift summer planter, and the other the work horse. There are 2 compost bins and a leaf-mould cage; 40-50 Bamboo stakes with various lengths of netting and fleece. We have a stainless steel potting table, access to a communal poly-tunnel with propagating table, 2 locks and a bunch of keys. And that, by and large, is that: the lock, stock and 2 wonky barrows, The Monster’s itinerary…
Of course there are other things we have garnered compliments of the Monster In The Corner, but these are not so easy to enumerate and take stock of. These are not things you’ll see growing in the soil, or find tucked away and buried in the end of a locker or shed. And yet they are there every time we walk onto our allotment. But then just like tonight’s census, there are some lines of enquiry best left unanswered at present, providing fruit to some other occasion…Census 2016 complete. Roll on this year’s harvest.