We here on Monster in the Corner always like a challenge, and never more so than in maintaining the Monster’s mantra of reducing, reusing and recycling. When first we encountered the overgrown eyesore that was our allotment plot almost 4 years ago we knew we’d have our work cut out in trying to clear and cultivate it, but once we had achieved this we started to think on how to develop a character for our plot. Where other plot holders had bought metal plates and wooden plaques with numbers on, or, as in some cases still had the original 12” corrie-board plot number signs pegged in the ground by the council to demarcate each allotment, we decided on something different. For three years we used a large log, sourced from a tree felled by winter storms, and onto this we placed the Monster’s call sign i.e. 49, and for good measure – and also because my daughter bought it as a gift to the plot- we had a small bug hotel pinned to the log. This ‘rude mechanical’ as we called it, was always one of the talking points of the larger walled garden and helped set the early scene for the way the Monster in the Corner would develop over the years.
However, three wet and stormy winters always take a toll and this spring the Monster’s mechanical was looking forlorn to say the least. It was time for a change, and as such a challenge. Sooner than simply replace like with like, we decided we’d try to plant-up the plot’s designation, a living floral mechanical if you like, but also to incorporate –as is our practice- some element of recycling. So, with a spare wheelbarrow, a large hole, 4 square yards of dirt and a slow but steady supply of Dimpled Golfus (golf balls from the adjoining park golf course see post of 6th May) we set about this year’s rude mechanical…
We’ve had to wait for some of the initial bedding to fill-out in order to mark the template, and the deterioration in sunshine levels together with increased rain the last 20 days have slowed the blooming scheme a little, but here’s hoping it will colour up by mid July…
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.
Once again Easter is come upon us. St. Bridget, St. David and St. Patrick have been observed; the daffodils that brightened the early grey February and March days are just about hanging onto bloom; the newborn lambs are acclimatising to life on open pastures, the equinox has come and gone, this coming weekend will see the end of winter light saving with the clocks springing forward by an hour, and though still a long way off as yet British Summer Time (and thus by dint of proximity and associate extension Irish Summer Time) officially begins!
With March’s arrival came a much needed respite from what is officially the wettest winter on record, and although the days have been cooler than average for the time of year, at least that slow moving blocking anticyclone situated over the North Sea for the last 2 weeks has allowed the saturated ground to dry out a good deal. The lower than average temperatures will have slowed if not completely stopped all the early growth, but, with a forecasted return to Atlantic weather patterns from mid-week, there should be a pick up by this weekend and early days of next week.
Of course, the Easter holiday period also heralds the 1st big bonanza of the year for the gardening fraternity with all the major DIY stores and garden centres making their first big push for your attention and potential future custom throughout the coming year. Everything from wheelbarrows to hand trowels and dibbers, Patio tables to BBQ’s, decking, lighting, sheds and paving will be on offer; whole sections with the latest range of gardening power tools to help you to mow and to strim, to rotovate and propagate and power-wash every square inch of your garden, no matter what its size. There will also be a dazzling array of seed packets to peruse and confuse and even still (at this late stage) some summer flowering bulbs which failed to shift over the late winter and will now be cast as the loss leaders, and may only prove worthy of the outlay so long as you get them in the ground before the weekend is out. There will be pots and trays and labels and waterproof pens; kneeling pads and micro-mesh, compost bins and water butts; pond kits, tap kits, hose kits, polytunnel kits, everything to help tie in your roses, tie up your peas and tidy up your act as a gardener.
This Easter weekend will also see the year’s first big displays of potted bedding plants. Of course, with Easter this year being celebrated extremely early in late March (from a gardening perspective that is) a lot of greenstock is already on display and a cursory glance should alert you that a lot of what will be on offer will not have been adequately hardened off.
Worth remembering is, that these big retailers are solely interested in the depth of your pocket and their ability to have you constantly dip into it at their bequest. From the gardener’s viewpoint you must not forget that if you buy early, plant later…at least a week or two later
Chase the bargain by all means; but, if you rush directly from the checkout to the chilly March soil, you will simply be sowing your good money to go bad…
Buy a bargain, sow on time and cultivate it well and bully to the gardener;
buy a bargain, then have to buy the same next month, and the month after that…and …bully to the big boys…
Extremely early is late March! Be thankful and Joyous for what Easter brings. Eat plenty of chocolate if you wish… but, easy as you go when in late March soil you sow!
Wednesday 23rd March is International Meteorological Day, and not forgetting that
Saturday 2nd April is International Greenfingers Day,