Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Plot Thickens

The social event of the year in Headington Quarry just has to be the annual Meeting of the Ramsey Road Allotment holders. Yes it's time for all the muddy-fingered slug-bashers of Quarry to gather, pay their dues and decide all the important things that allotment holders have to decide.
I don't think anyone recognized me when I turned up at the meeting in a skirt with my hair combed, they are all so used to seeing me in my baggy gardening jeans, oldest jumper and fisherman's hat. But I recognized them as the valiant diggers and hoers, planters and weeders, whose efforts in general far surpass my own.
Of course, weather wise, it has been a pig of a year. Late frosts, torrential rain, severe storms in spring, short cool summer, early chilly autumn, more torrential rain. There was much deep discussion of the potato blight, the plague of snails and the difficulty of getting things to ripen. It helps if you put a pumpkin on a couple of bricks, raising it just a few inches off the ground so that it gets more sun.
Many of us had already resorted to picking our green tomatoes and bringing them inside to ripen on a window-sill.
The amazing success of the year has been the raspberries. They survived the weather that destroyed so many other kinds of fruit and produced an absolutely bumper crop. I am swamped with them. My freezer is full of raspberries and I have made jam for the first time in my life. This is partly for the satisfaction of defying the EU ban on re-using jam-jars.
There was also much talk about unwelcome tree-roots, the advantages of wood-chip paths and the relative merits of different sorts of manure.
Council compost is not much good at all. It tends to have all sorts of unwanted debris in it. The manure they provide did not get a thumbs up from the allotmenters (or allot-men? allotpersons?) either. It comes from a riding stable and is too coarse. The very best manure for horticultural purposes is bovine. That of course, figures. Farmers all over the world for thousands of years have kept cows, not only for their milk and their meat but for their wholistic contribution to the ecological cycle i.e. what comes out of the other end of them. Good manure should not be too new. It's like wine, it needs to laid down for a year or so before you use it.
The allotments have a boss and he assured us he knew where to get the right sort of stuff and it could be kept lying around for an appropriate time so that it gets nice and stale. Ideal!
So having decided how to spend our annual budget, we all went for a drink and chatted about planting autumn peas and beans. If you missed it - well, I'm sorry but this is rather an exclusive event and only a select few were invited.

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