Ah.  I know what you’re thinking.

You’re thinking we had a fire today, and surely it wasn’t the first one of the year?

No.  We didn’t have a fire.  What is currently on fire however is the back of my neck…

And mighty painful it is too, thankyou-oh-so-very-very-much.

Like a fool, I’d gone down to The Plots today, fully prepared to do as much digging as I was physically able, never thinking that as soon as I took my jacket off, my neck would be exposed.  Still, its only the middle (…-ish…) of March.  Why should I need sunblock?  Ha!

Well tomorrow, as soon as the jacket comes off, the sunblock goes on.

Still, its the best reminder that glorious summer is but a few short weeks away.  Hopefully.

Long days of T-shirts, shorts and searching for a shady spot.  This year, myself and Ian (no relation) have staked out the wooden bench beneath the big, shady old tree on the childrens’ plot near the fireplace.  A great place to sit and watch as other toil.  Its also a pretty good look-out to make sure ‘Senior Management’ doesn’t catch us skiving off!

So, this last couple of days have been action-packed and full of fun.

Yesterday afternoon, New David, myself, Ian and Diane set about planting in the beds we have oh-so-carefully prepared.

Garlic.

Garlic.

First off, it was garlic, and beautiful it looked too.

In previous years, Diane has bought new bulbs from the shops, but this year because we have so much left over from last year, we decided to plant our own, and here you can see them aching to be planted, many with shoots already starting to form.

Planting them out.

Planting them out.

Here’s a shot of Ian, pushing them deep into the soil after they had been laid out on the surface to check numbers and positions.

If you’re eagle-eyed, you might notice that the rows are ‘staggered’ so that the bulbs from one row are immediately in the middle of the two rows adjacent.  This is the optimum layout and gives each bulb plenty of space to grow and develop.  We planted over a hundred just in that one bed, so given that each clove will produce seven or eight more in a bulb by the end of the season and given that this is only one of quite a few beds of garlic this year, we’re hopefully going to be pretty much self-sufficient for next year.  Okay, we’re not going to have many close friends, but we don’t care.  Its good for the blood!

All in.

All in.

Here you can see the bed once all the bulbs had been pushed in.  The depressions all the way round each clove are exactly the same size as the average man’s fist.  This is becuase to plant them to the correct depth, you simply push them in between your thumb and forefinger to the depth that your knuckles just about disappear in the soft soil.  When we’d done this, we carefully covered them up, then we covered the whole bed with a layer of potash from the fireplace that we’d made sure was dry.  Wet potash is next to useless because all the trace minerals wash out if it rains.

After the potash, we gave the whole bed a gentle watering from one of the wheelie bins we have for that purpose, then covered the whole lot in a layer of leaf mold from one of the leaf clamps.  This helps prevent weeds growing, but also helps keep the moisture from the watering in.

Done!

Done!

Here you can see the bed with its layer of leaf mold, and if you’re eagle-eyed, you’ll notice the single green shoot sat in the very centre of the bed.  This isn’t a particularly fast-growing clove!  This is an elehpant garlic we left in from last year that has self-seeded and started to grow.

We then went on to plant nearly a hundred red onions in one of the top beds near the entrance fence, but space doesn’t allow me to show you this.  Suffice to say, we planted them in very much the same way, except we didn’t plant them as deep as the garlic.  This gives the local feral pigeons plenty of time as they grow to mistake them for earthworms and try to dig them up.

And eat them.

Today, as I said, for the time of year was warm.

Consequently, Ian and myself didn’t get as much done as we’d planned, but as we always say, its not a race, and there’s always tomorrow.

I arrived just after ten, and Ian was waiting for me down on the children’s plot.  As today was another ‘taster’ session for future ‘Bee Buddies’ from our allotment site, we guessed we’d be alone in our work, but this didn’t matter.  It may actually have helped as we weren’t constantly interrupted in our digging!

Clearing out a gulley.

Clearing out a gulley.

Here you can see from the road side of this particular fence down on the demonstration plot.

Our task, given to us late yesterday afternoon by Diane, was to clear out this gulley of any woodchip that had dropped in and remove any grass and weeds, then dig a bed over on the other side so in a few days, after some careful soil-enrichment (…well-rotted manure and compost…), we can plant raspberry canes we have scattered all over the site.

In the meantime, Matt had arrived and set to more of his excellent privet hedge sculpture.

Can you tell what it is yet?

Can you tell what it is yet?

Here you can see him as he starts on the demonstration plot side of it.

As he worked, the shape gradually ‘came out’, and tomorrow, I’ll post another picture of it from a better angle.

I may even tell you what it is!

All too soon it seemed, Diane returned from the bee-keeping course, then our resident artist Emma came down, and we fell to talking, drinking tea, and of course, feeding (…and re-feeding…) Mitzi who’d decided there were just enough people about warrant an excursion from wherever she was dozing to come and give us the once-over.

Tomorrow, we’ll hopefully have two groups of people, eager to take away as many strawberry plants as they can, and we’ll certainly give them a hand digging them out.  We need the space on the top plots for many more crops this year.

As I myself found out last year, you can get sick of strawberries.

Honest.

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