To be or not to be – that is the question

The Organic question at least.

I’ve been somewhat troubled down the plot recently.

Black Fly Stunted Beans

For example, what is it with the blackflies this year? I whipped my broad beans out really early, in fact almost before I’d had the first crop, because the flies were depressing me, but now the runner beans have got it bad. Since when have runner beans suffered with black fly?

I’ve tried soapy water but they appear to be sticking two fingers up at me.

Then there are the tomatoes. Watering is a bit of an issue at the moment. I just can’t get to the plot more than twice a week and that is just not enough for under cover, grow bag enclosed tomatoes. I went last week and had to perform assorted resuscitation techniques on some very withered plants and then went to the garden centre in search of life support machines for neglected crops.

Water timer

I came back with a battery operated timer system, which, so far so good, seems to be performing the necessary miracles. Its linked up to my sprinkler system and saturates the greenhouse for 30 minutes every 24 hours. Perfect antidote to my neglect but also provides the ideal conditions for proliferation of Phytophthora infestans or Blight of the dreaded variety.

I’m going through the same thought process as allotment blogger who is wondering whether to go for a prophylactic spray with copper or sit still and remain principled.

I’m not sure how I feel about copper, it may well be your everyday sort of metal but how does it sit on a plateful of lettuce and tomato? It brings to mind plaques, fatty tangles and early onset dementia. Possibly best avoided.

Maybe bugs and fungi aren’t all that troublesome after all. I have a feeling that I may have ingested a pea complete with maggot on the plot this evening and to be fair, it was rather delish! Now if only I could stop picturing the pulsing grub I could remain fine and principled.

These peas that I mention were the much anticipated 10ft telegraph poles (or some such) and have proven to be a big let down. 4 plants out of maybe 50 seeds, sown on 3 separate occasions, grew to the giddy heights of 3 ft and produced merely a garnish of greenery for todays tea.

Late June Pickings

It might have been somewhat more impressive than a garnish if it had not been for the holes, and creepy crawlies emanating from said holes.

I don’t want to say too much for fear of Lynn reading this after I’ve fed her but the only gigantic thing about these peas were the maggots feeding upon it. I’ve never seen the like before. I had to squash one before relegating it to the bin and the effects were “medical” to put it politely.

I’ve always gone for the maxim: “one for me, one for the pigeons, another for the grubs, slugs and others”. Unfortunately the latter are having more than their fair share and I also have a few more mouths to feed.

Which leads me back to the original question, to be or not to be?

More pondering required.

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Blunt Trauma

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I rounded the corner whistling away to a tune on the iPod and came face to face with this scene of blunt trauma nastiness.

Blasted vandals.

Not worth getting upset about it though and as my trangia and ‘room of one’s own’ mug were still intact, I managed to start the whistling again.

I ignored the DIY implications of the damage and got on with the digging. I had spud planting on my mind and didn’t want to put it off while the clouds were threatening to turn soggy.

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I’m pretty pleased by the results, I’ve pulled my hamstrings and twisted my back but there isn’t much that surpasses the satisfaction of a freshly turned plot and a neatly stacked heap of hot horse manure.

While still ignoring the shed I thought I’d whizz around and complete many an outstanding task.

My second double row of Broad Beans went in, Bunyards Exhibition next to autumns sowing of Aquadulce. I’m pretty sure that I was close to cropping my beans this time last year but I suppose it has been a harsher winter.

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I got a load shallots through the post yesterday, another forgotton and impulsive purchase from last year.

I noticed on the invoice that I have another two bags of onion sets due to arrive in the near future as well. Having only just got over the planting of the 5000 I’m not exactly looking forward to this delivery. I need to be a little more sedate with my purchases, at this rate I’ll only be cropping onions and spuds.

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Amanita Fears

I went to the plot this weekend with the intention of digging over acres of land ready for mammoth spud burying activities on Good Friday but the ground was too soggy for me to bother. I did a bit of shed tidying instead and laid out a load of the bargain seed potatoes that Dad and I bought from B&Q.

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I had to dispose of a load of King Edwards as they were black and soggy with the blight. No wonder they appeared to be such a good bargain.

The shitake mushrooms had ballooned over the past week and had turned a touch slimey. They were splattered with mud from the rain as well so weren’t altogether appealing. Not having tasted them yet I thought I’d overcome my reticence and cook them up with a few sausages.

I didn’t really enjoy them too much. They tasted mushroomy enough but it occurred to me during the cooking process that I didn’t really have a clue what shitakes looked like. They did appear to be growing from one of the dowells that I had inserted but as they were alone it could be possible that a stray variety may have self seeded itself in the log – perhaps a highly poisonous fungus of the deadly variety?

I love mushrooms but this sort of russian roulette with the foraged specimens does really put me off my lunch. I’m not dead yet but them Amanita phalloides takes 6 days to wipe you it, I think I’m on day 3, so watch out for a long delay in blog posting.

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Reputation Preceeds Me

I had a phone call this morning reminding me that this was the perfect week to hide my abyssmal firestarting skills. What better than bonfire night (week) to hide a terribly smokey attempt at a fire/smouldering embarassment?

Perfectly Alligned Weeds

Having received much advice of the paraffin/petrol variety, I thought I was assured a bonfire of truly gargantuan proportions.
I ran to the plot to escape a tortuous day of accounting boredom, and nipped into Homebase for supplies of accelerant and kindling.

On the plot, just shy of nightfall I thought I’d make some attempt at weeding, it was a bit dark and soggy though, so I could only manage a neat impersonation of a row of weeds. Thorough hand weeding is probably required at a later date.

Inferno

I started by soaking one of my old and grotty race t-shirts in paraffin and them piling it with kindling and my driest specimens of blight infested tomatoes. With application of a handfull of lit matches, most of my dreams came true as the plot errupted into a fantastical show of light.

I was immediately concerned that I wouldn’t have enough fuel to feed this monster so started looking around for tinder. I admit to glancing at the shed but in the nick of time I remembered the trauma of the erection debacle and shifted my attention towards semi-combustable material left on discarded plots.

You may wish to substitute the phrase “semi-combustable material” with the word asbestos. No sooner had I built a sky-scraper of collected junk than the inferno sputtered it’s final breath. With a dead fire I found myself left with a pile of debris considerably taller than the one I’d started with. If I’d had any sense I would have returned the pitiful kindling back to the originating plots but instead I started splashing paraffin in a willy-nilly fashion and blowing on the embers until I became intoxicated.

Thank god it was dark, I was providing so much entertainment for the commuters on the adjacent railway platform that I can only be grateful that they would never recognise me again.

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Little Helper

I escaped to the coast for most of the bank holiday to get some essential swimming prep under my belt, but today I was free to catch up on some much needed admin on the plot. All the spuds have been dug and bagged, the mid summer peas have been ripped up and the gasping tomatoes were watered.

The outdoor tomatoes have been decimated by blight but I haven’t dealt with them yet because I’m not sure what to do. Ideally I’d burn them but my arson skills are limited and I have a whopping great mound of blight invested potatoes haulms to deal with first.

New Gardener

I had a little helper on the plot today. He watered my spinach and kohl rabi and then emptied my sack of spuds as I tried to fill it. I boiled up a delightful cob of corn but he wasn’t interested and opted instead for a couple of yellow french beans and a load of shelled peas.

It feels great to share real food with little kids, so many people in cities haven’t a flipping clue where food comes from or what it looks like. This one now knows the joy of a freshly podded pea.

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Soggy July Evening

It’s been pouring with rain fairly solidly for last 3 days but perversely I had to go down to the plot this evening to do some watering. That’s the trouble of having some crops under cover.

Poppies

The plot looked satisfyingly lush and the seed heads were majestic.

I left absolutely soaked but satisfied with my first picking of tomatoes and a healthy bag of runner beans.

Rainy July Evening

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Plain Shed, Colourful Bike

Thanks for all the graffiti advice in the comments to the last post.

I took the train to the plot at the weekend and discovered that every single flat surface (mostly sheds) facing the platform had been scrawled over with the silver spray paint. It looked a bit grim and so I decided that the shed should be re-painted. It will probably take a few coats as the spray paint is heavy duty stuff, but as I had to go out and buy a new tub of paint, I have plenty to go around.

They can come back as often as they like now, I’ll be ready for em.
Shed & Bike

They didn’t cause any more damage by the way – all my crops were left intact which is a blessing.

Borlotta and Runner Beans

I picked up my new Brompton from the fantastic Wizz Bike this evening and went straight to the plot to photograph the new machine in amongst the potatoes.
The foliage just sets the colours off!

I was surprised to find that the beans are ready to start cropping, I had a trangia full of Borlotta and runner beans for my tea, shamefully mixed with a packet of curry flavoured supernoodles.

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