Do you sometimes have moments when you wonder why on earth you're doing what you're doing?
I've had plenty of those times in the last three years - converting our allotment from derelict. I must have removed at least a hundred bags of broken glass, old pots and other rubbish from the site. Not much fun.
But this weekend has been one of those times when, although it's still hard work, activities on the plot seem to be getting easier and more pleasurable. I've taken up all the garlic and brought it home in my Pashley tricycle. It's a whole year since I bought the tricycle and there's very little maintenance. I asked the bicycle shop to put that green gunge in the tyres and I haven't had a puncture once. That's pretty good going on our allotment site. And as you can see, it is perfect for transporting vegetables.
The bulbs are a really good size and (I think) they smell really good - in fact our whole house smells of fresh garlic. Not a stale and unpleasant smell, but vibrant. That's enough garlic to last us for the whole year and we've given some to neighbours too. Once the bulbs have dried, I sort them through, store the good ones in baskets and use the others as soon as I can.
I like the sound of this garlic soup - especially since we also grow fresh sage on the allotment - but the possibilities are endless really.
Garlic is particularly useful when someone in the family has a cough or cold. I make a simple, instant soup sometimes too - using Marigold organic stock, which comes in a vegan and low-salt version. I just chop one fresh clove of garlic - then put a teaspoon of Marigold into a cup and drop the garlic into it. With a piece of bread it's a great pick-me-up. Then there's garlic bread for barbecues...
This weekend was a big weekend on the plot work-wise. It's Open Day next Saturday and I've agreed to show people round our plot so I'll need to cut the grass too and planted out some clumps of Marigolds which had self-seeded to smarten up the bush tomato beds.
Emptied the old compost heaps and created new ones - our pro-wildlife policy is really kicking in now - lots of different ground beetles which had been breeding in piles of logs I had left around - and in the wood mulch I used for some of the paths (there are a huge number of different ground beetles and many eat slugs, I believe). I've stopped using organic slug pellets altogether now - which is good news on cost grounds too as they're fairly expensive and there are large areas to cover. Our plot has settled down - and with all these wildlife friends we don't seem to need them so much now.
Everywhere you look there are now hundreds of worms - I'm pleased to say the character of our soil has completely changed due to these guys. When I first started tilling the plot, the soil came in huge lumps and it was really difficult if not impossible to get a fine tilth. We've added a huge amount of organic matter now and the soil is much easier to work. I listened to my alter ego 'Gardener's Question Time' yesterday on the radio and Anne Swithenbank seemed to confirm the view that on a heavy clay soil, if you've added lots of organic matter, the soil improves by Year Four.
I emptied out one compost barrel which contained well-rotted rabbit manure. I put half of this on the asparagus bed and used half to create a new strawberry bed using six plants that someone had given us. The well rotted manure was teaming with worms too - I covered it with some porous fabric and cut holes to plant the strawberries through.
Carried on harvesting the new potatoes (Lady Christl) - and planted leeks in those beds. Planted out a couple of Lovage plants (which are good to use for chicken soup, I understand). The Globe Artichoke plants I'd raised at home were ready to go out too.
On the wildlife front, the mini-pond is fine and the big news - next-door-but-one a fellow plot holder has set up his very own honey-bee hive. I went over to say 'hello' to our stripey, furry friends on their very first day. It's all very exciting. I'll post some pictures as soon as I can.