It’s ‘On Your Marks!’ season in the gardens, that much is for sure. Everything’s exploding and the growing shed is near enough empty… The sole survivors in there are the seeded Thai basil, now ready to be potted-up-and-out, a tray of parsley seed (still mainly bare earth, with one tiny shoot showing), and the cuttings from the tomatoes. There are a few potted-up squashes too, and the pumpkin – which will have to go down to M’s plot. That’s our objective today: start more seeds in our shack and also get on with turning over the ground and preparing to plant-up M’s growing spaces.
Yesterday I planted into the new thin bottom bed two of the zucchino squashes – think white flying saucers of deliciousness! – interspersing them with the seeded Tuscan Kale (Calvero Nero).
The squash grow low and the calvero nero will one day tower tall as a sprouting broccoli, which is to say up to a height of four feet or more and take two square feet of space in all directions. The squash will be short-growing seasonal crops, whereas the calvero nero is a commitment plant – one that will be with you in your garden for about 18 months or so, and really come into their best for harvesting after their first year.
I’m hoping it will be a good marriage of plants.
This is a totally new growing space that I’m excited about. The new bed was created when I got fed up with the poor performance of the two plastic troughs that were tucked in between the raised planter and the wooden lattice guard that marks the line where the earth disappears and there’s a bathtub pond full of frogs and papyrus about three feet down.
Making the mistake of stepping over this line could be fatal, so we put in the lattice, and in the gap between the two I’d placed two long plastic trough planters. It seemed, when we first got started on our plot two years ago, a good use of space for an awkward spot. I had laid some plastic (re-used from bags of soil and manure) under the pots to discourage weeds, but the trays were always drying out, the plants no more than weeds and the odd straggly calendula or self-seeded blue-flowering forget-me-not, and the weeds both under and within the troughs were persistent and hard to control. Awkward, unsightly and totally unproductive, in other words.
So I got the idea of using a bit of wood left over from the new gooseberry raised bed made from reclaimed bed boards, and the big guy got to work and made it in a flash. Magic!
Now this space will be super-productive and much easier to use. We filled it with a half bag of manure and also fresh garden compost. The plants had been sunk into the new plot for a few days to harden off (and also to test whether the whole area would be deluged with slugs and snails), but it all looked good so yesterday we took the final plunge and put the plants in. I can’t believe how large it is compared to the measly amount of growing space provided by the plastic planters. I think it’s going to work out great!
An added bonus is that the plastic trough planters will be useful for starter plants in the growing shed.
When not in use I can tuck them under the platform, out of sight and under our feet without being under our feet so to speak.
And so again, we have the marvels of the moveable feast.
It all turns ’round in most wonderful ways.
As we were winding down we harvested one of the curly-leafed red lettuces, along with winter savory, thyme, creeping marjoram.
There were six small radish too, and the first very tiny but perfectly formed green zucchini. Oh yes, and more strawberries, along with a handful of yellow raspberries and loganberries. Raspberries and loganberries are just starting to become ripe, whereas it’s been strawberry season for a month and we’ve got a glut of various harvests in tubs in the fridge. Which leads to only one thing to do: make jam.
And so the labours of the allotment truck home with us and set-up camp in the kitchen. The work’s never done, but geesh, it’s a real delight when you reap the rewards. Garden grown strawberry jam. Oh my! I left one jar open to be eaten tout suite and another I covered in melted paraffin wax, so we can enjoy the flavour of early summer much later into the year.
All told we had just under 1 kilo of strawberries, to which I added the juice of two lemons, and about 700 grams of white caster sugar. That’s all it takes, plus time and heat. Having a jam thermometer is a big help, but my experience is it’s best to go by instinct, as previous jams cooked to the rule of the thermometer ended up being just a bit too thick.
And while I made jam, the big guy constructed a lovely garden-fresh salad from our harvested lettuce and herbs, with radish, tiny zucchini and some store-bought tomatoes, into which he added sections of grilled sausage. Yum!
Lovely day, from start to end. Hurrah!