Friday, 24 June 2011

The highs and lows of going on holiday

First trip to the allotment after a lengthy holiday is always a nerve wracking experience, but with all the rain Essex has had I felt sure I wouldn't find everything scorched to a crisp.

It was a strange feeling when I arrived - everything looked bigger, but not in a good way. It was like greeting an old friend who has since piled on pounds and has become almost unrecognisable. I felt uncomfortable.

First things first: while the cat's away the slugs go mental. I spotted one wrapped around the Giant Hybrids Dahlia like Kaa the snake from the Jungle Book. I should have taken a picture but it died before I could get my camera out... died under the sole of my Converse trainer.

The Mexican Tree Spinach (above) is living up to its name and has shot up like a beanstalk and the nasturtiums (below) have exploded.

Grass and weeds have suffocated the peas which had all but given up anyway after being harassed by drought and some unidentifiable nibbling insects before I left. The Carouby de Mausanne mange tout, which I planted in abundance to guarantee germination did indeed grow but were buzz sawed down to stumps by the aforementioned mystery insect.

The real horror was witnessing the devastation of the broad beans. They had began sprouting bean pods before I left but black fly had partied like it was end of the world. They had destroyed them. By the end there was more black fly than bean plant. They looked like they'd been sprayed with tar as if they'd grown up on the side of the motorway.

So peas gone, beans too. But there was worse to come. We harvested the garlic. Nearly 70 percent has succumbed to mould. I'm almost too heatbroken to go into detail. But the final injustice was digging up the new potatoes. I found one solitary, comically oversized potato. That was the entire haul from three plants' worth. It was like a Swanee whistle punctuating a depressingly unfunny joke.

Onward, however, to the good stuff.

There will be a bumper crop of blueberries, big fat ones currently in heart-melting shades of pink, purple and green.

The raspberries have burst into life.


The sunflowers have grown tall and strong and the onions, which were once sickly and weedy have finally manned up into an approximation of something worth chucking into a pot.

Anyway, I'm back now to reclaim my land and I'm in a fighting mood. There's still squashes to grow, beetroot and I'll have another pop at those peas. Tomorrow is another day.

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