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A damp start to the year…

Allotment rather the worse for wear
Allotment rather the worse for wear

So much for my good intentions of catching up with the garden and allotment in all that free time over Christmas and the New Year: not only has it been a hectic, social whirl, but the monsoon conditions have definitely not been conducive to outdoor pursuits!

I finally dismantled the Christmas tree and decorations as the rain lashed down outside yesterday, but today it let up slightly, enough for a muddy walk with the dogs at our local reservoir, Bewl Water, and a quick visit to the allotment to harvest leeks and parsnips for dinner. I’ve been lucky and haven’t had any significant storm damage over the last few weeks, apart from my mini polythene greenhouse trying to blow away. I eventually gave up and let it lie, weighted down with a solid garden chair and the inevitable puddle of rainwater. Other plotholders have lost sheds to the gale-force winds, but the dastardly allotment thieves have also taken advantage of the lack of activity up there and vegetables have gone missing that can’t be attributed to the wind: Enviromesh neatly severed and the underlying chard removed? Hmmm… As if the weather isn’t enough of a damper!

Despite the wet, I’m still harvesting parsnips, leeks, swede, Swiss chard and spinach, although the brassicas have been poor this year: slug and caterpillar-attacked in spite of their netting/mesh overcoats. The kale and purple-sprouting broccoli has fared better and looks promising for a month or so’s time – unless we get snow to wreck the taller netting structure and let the pigeons in, that is. I’ve plenty of apples, small potatoes, pumpkins and butternut squash in storage, and a freezer full of soft fruit and beans, so last year was pretty good on the whole.

Returning home, I was able to do a little more tidying up: finally taking the chillis off the now-yellowing plants that have overwintered in the conservatory, storing them in a net bag in the kitchen and spreading the spent gritty compost over the clay soil in my raised beds, which are always grateful for a top-up. I also managed to cut the leaves off all the hellebores, as they were showing signs of unsightly leaf spot: removing them now should hopefully prevent the fungus spreading and allow the emerging buds to gleam purple, pink and white in all their glory over the next few months. One of my favourites, the pretty double Party Frock, was badly affected by black spot last year, so I cut all its leaves off in autumn and dosed it with liquid feed. I can just see signs of new growth and even the odd flower bud, so fingers crossed it has survived….

Final job of the day was transferring very wet kitchen compost from the overflow containers outside the back door (to save the long traipse to the main compost bins behind my garage in inclement weather). Not a pleasant task at the best of times, but even the overflow containers were overflowing after the Christmas festivities, so needs must, and well worth it in the end when there’s that lovely black magic compost to spread on the borders in a year or so.

Not at all what I’d hoped to have achieved by this time, but a start nonetheless – and it feels so good to come inside on a dull day having had your fingers in the earth, no matter how little. Roll on Spring!

Daphnes from the garden
Daphnes from the garden
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