My website is connected to Twitter and Facebook. These days I don’t use Facebook as much as I once did, not necessarily because of the Cambridge Analytica data scandal (though that is a concern), but because Twitter has suddenly grabbed my attention. In part this is because it’s awash with shepherds, farmers, gardeners, and allotmenteers all tweeting away with useful hints and tips, not to mention cute pictures of lambs. It’s also because I’m somewhat obsessed with anything to do with rural life and am somehow living vicariously through other people’s seemingly wonderful lives – even though I know that it’s all bloody hard work. Yes, rural life is more about feeding the soul than the bank account, this I know.
There’s a fly in the Twitter firmament though. All these gardeners and allotmenteers, whose tweets and blogs I read, enjoy, and inwardly digest, are annoyingly good at it, far more organized than I am, much more experienced, and, quite frankly, I’m getting just a little bit pissed off. Everyone’s wonderfully supportive and helpful but, even so, I’m starting to feel just a little bit inadequate! Don’t they ever have seeds which fail to germinate? Don’t they ever buy completely the wrong tool for the job? Or suffer attacks of the heebie-jeebies worrying if they’ll ever produce anything at all that’s even vaguely edible once they’ve cut out the manky bits? Don’t they ever feel like, well, like a fake? I definitely do.
All this is putting me very much in touch with a sense of my own inadequacy; what if I’m not up to the job and actually don’t produce any edible crops? I don’t want to fail, who does? However, to date my successes are few and far between. When I took over my allotment, about a year ago, it was a beautiful, tangled mess of wildflowers and weeds. There was no shed, no water; you couldn’t even really see where beds had been.
Now, there’s a brand spanking new shed, on a site I levelled myself, complete with shelves I put up myself (do yourself a favour – don’t buy metal shelving units from B&Q), hooks to hold my tools, and a kitchen unit/butchers’ block bought from a charity shop to act as storage/potting bench. There’re blue plastic barrels bought for £2.50 from the local brickworks which act as water butts.
I’ll admit I was grateful to Mr P for carrying them up the sloping site but I could’ve done the guttering and downpipe myself if he’d let me. I connected the barrels together with a bit of plastic pipe … basically, I did pretty much everything myself. I don’t want to eat chemicals so I’m clearing the site the hard way … by hand, digging out the most enormous perennial weeds – nettle, dock, couch grass, and dandelion. It’s back-breaking work but strangely satisfying and it has a practical purpose – to feed us. I’m proud of what I’ve achieved on my own. But oh, it is taking time to get going.
Apparently it can take up to 21 days for broad beans to show their faces. I planted some at the allotment and about 10 days later, as a sort of experiment, planted some in loo roll innards (I wish someone would come up with a one-word name for them) and put them on the window sill in the sitting room. A couple of days ago I came home and was beyond excited to find that a broad bean had finally germinated. I was so excited I couldn’t do anything except point and say “broad bean, broad bean, broad bean!!!” The trouble is, nothing’s happened since. And I do mean Nothing. Nada. Ne rien. What am I doing wrong?!
It’s not that everything’s refusing to grow. I’m having some success with anything floral; the nasturtiums are going great guns, the sunflowers are coming up trumps, and the French marigolds are doing well too. But the tomatoes were looking very leggy and weedy so I’ve planted them deep in their 3″ pots, and the squash aren’t looking as if they’re going to do anything at all at the minute. Ok, so the leeks are doing really well and I’m happy to plant more but Mr P and I can’t just live on nasturtiums, sunflower seeds, and leeks (if anyone’s got a recipe which requires all three, please let me know).
The question is, what can I do? I can only keep going I suppose, try to be patient, refuse to be browbeaten by vegetables, and resort to alcohol. I’ll have a ‘Pissed as Arseholes’ cocktail, thank you very much. Well, it is a bank holiday weekend. Chin chin!!
Please feel completely free to contact me about anything at all. All gardening advice gratefully received or we can just talk about cocktails we have known and loved.