It was chilly this morning, but by late afternoon we were back in high summer. London early June. Hot with blazing sun. Sunburn weather, really. The big guy got back from work and we agreed to take a walk to the allotment. I wanted to call and provide an opportunity to switch the keys – and also request a spare key for Mr G. Despite dripping and soaked through after his four mile sprint home, he was amenable to the notion. ‘But only if we go down and water the grass seed first.‘
That would be the grass seed spread on the front woods lawn to the back and side of the ‘Michael Palin’ oak and new flower bed on Sunday last. So we did. He watered in repeated trips with a watering can, and I weeded and did some spot watering on the half circle bed in the woods, as well as somehow finding time to trim the tops of the side elevation bed’s currant bushes, thoroughly watering the raised bed with edible cherry, black currant and strawberries. (Amazing how currant trimmings actually smell like black currants! Try it! You’ll be amazed.) The espalier cherry are setting fruit, as are the currants and also the strawberries. There, hidden, nestled at ground level you could just about see the pale white unripe strawberries – still forming but most hopefully making their presence known. Yum!
And on we went until the mister thought he’d done enough watering and we were good to go. At which point I retrieved a portion of ‘found’ wooden lattice trellis to use as framing for our new plot – to divide the edge from the one in front of us, which presents a 3 foot drop from our level, and some of it into a sunken cast iron bathtub full of green slippery slimy growth and toads’ tadpoles. Gadzooks it’s dangerous. A restraining edge, trellis border, is most definitely required. And off we set.
British Flower Week runs this year 18-24 June. Who knew it ran at all? We are officially knackered. Gardened-out after a 9+ hour cumulative weekend, not to mention that I’m mentally running to the end of the year at work. And the fact the flat is a tip: have to organise, clear-out, get ready to paint the living room, and all that. Oh my! We’re busy!
So there’s almost no chance that we’ll visit any of the Flower Week festivities. But I’ll make a note for next year: we live in hope.
Five hours later, and we exposed the edges and could survey the full scope of the plot. It’s bigger than we thought. Room at the back for a pallet patio, or even a shed. I got so hot cutting out the bramble, piling the cuttings and general clearing that I started to fantasise about a summer cold water shower!
We cleared and cleared and cleared…
Iris are pretty spectacular. We have a nice clump in the corner of the back patch. Psychedelic blues and purples.
They are in flower now, and have been for at least week, which is the last week of May and heading into early June.
Iris are perennial, relatively hardy and easy to grow if they are in the right location. They do well in well-drained to dry soil in full sun.
Iris grow by rhizomatic spread. According to the Royal Horticultural Society plant iris rhizomes from July to October, spacing plants 1 foot apart (30cm).
Ensure root sections are partially exposed to the sun.
Adding sand and grit to ground for iris is recommended.
Divide clumps every 3 or 4 years. Plants can be divided after flowering from early- to late-summer. The RHS recommends dividing in August.
So there we were, walking back from an evening meal out at a local cafe. Ambling along hand in hand, and then got to dawdling along the railway path – the last stretch back to the flat – and stopped to wonder at all the plants. The rose on the wooden pergola is going absolutely bonkers and is at this moment dripping in flower buds. When it all opens up – and the roses will very soon come into blossom – it will be glorious.
I was busy grubbing out some of the low growing weeds – pernicious buggers and it takes vast amounts of persistence to rid the ground of them. The big guy was re-weaving rose stalks to get them from being too tangled in the metal fence rails (already looking forward to painting the fence later this summer). And then we both stopped and together paused to marvel at the lemon verbena.
It was a very rainy day today, with booming thunder and crackling snapping lightning. So I stayed inside on a day I had hoped to start to turn over the new plots, and dreamed of what to do in the allotment.
After slicing my finger quite badly on a blackberry thorn on day one I prepared a small waterproof tub of ‘first aid’ materials – bandaids, surgical tape, after-bite and an Avon skin spray that is supposed to work as a bug repellent. So, other than a first-aid kit, what does every allotment need, according to today’s dreams and plans and scheming?
One necessity is an area for weeding, trimmings, compost. Compost heaps can be areas that in turn become cultivated, after being left fallow and richly fed with compost for a few years. This is what I like to call ‘lazy gardening’ – creating new beds by heavy mulching and softening up the soil naturally before getting in to turn over the ground with a fork.
Last week I had a call out of the blue. Are you so-and-so? Do you still live in on Sesame Street? It was the coordinator from the allotment cooperative I’d signed up to join over 10 years ago. We chatted briefly and arranged to be in touch in coming days. It was an illuminating conversation: yes, my address is the same, yes my work email is the same, yes my mobile number is the same. Has nothing changed?, I wondered to myself. And yet in those ten years much also has changed. In fact, it feels like everything’s changed – all the most important things in any case – but evidently not.
She warned me: it is very overgrown. It will be a lot of work. That’s the way with allotments that come available. They do so because people have let them go. And she knew it was late in the year, really, for a vegetable plot. Part of me felt it mad to undertake. The woods and back patch here closer to home are more than enough gardening for anyone, really. But I was intrigued even if somewhat wary of taking on even more. I have enough to get on with, without adding more to the task list. So many projects left dangling, undone. (The sewing, the glasswork, the general tidying).
Even so, when she rang on the bank holiday Monday morning, I couldn’t help but agree to meet her on site later that afternoon. I couldn’t come sooner as I’d committed to go to D’s birthday party mid-day. When I set off I was steadying my nerves and preparing to say that I would love to have a plot, but would prefer one that was clearer, or smaller, or bigger, or something of the like. But when I got there and looked around, it seemed small enough to manage, and really quite sweetly situated.