With incredible foresight, I dedicated most of my last entry to vulnerable seedlings.
Since then, on a day that shall forevermore be known as “very warm Sunday”, all but four of the 200 seedlings in my grow house died; quite literally baked in the savage Scottish Sunshine.
I felt both vindicated and demoralised. A weird feeling.
Not only did my grow house fail, on a recent visit to the plot I discovered that bean weevils have
decimated my emerging broad beans.
On top of this, I have come face-to-face with a true enemy of food growing. Grass!
Taking mere months to establish, sneakily growing roots through the winter, removing it requires
the entire top layer of soil to be sliced off and flipped upside-down with a fresh layer of compost on
top to avoid regrowth. Doing this messes with the soil’s ecosystem; takes great amounts of
energy/back strain to do the digging; leaves unsightly divots and, perhaps worst of all, it makes no
dig proponents like me look very foolish indeed.
On reflection, this growing year has not had the start I was hoping for. I still cling to a vision of how
the plot will look in June. Controlled growth everywhere – all manner of delicious vegetables
ripening. Lush, juicy strawberries sitting atop golden straw in the mid-Summer sun. For now, that
vision remains realistic but by no means inevitable.
There is no escaping the fact that continual time and energy are the only things that will keep the
plot in balance. Nature is wonderfully relentless and, frankly, couldn’t care less if courgettes or
dandelions win. But I do!
So it was that I got on my bike and spent a full day working the plot last Sunday, a 9.30 – 6pm shift.
Afterwards, I was exhausted but satisfied. The multitudinous dandelions had been tamed, for now. I
planted red onion, shallot and cauliflower and dug over the worst of the grass-covered zones,
covering them with membrane ahead of a delivery of compost to lay on top.
I can understand why some people might consider it all a bit much. It is certainly not a money saver,
not if you value your time at more than pennies an hour. For me, it’s not about money. When I’m on
the plot, the real world disappears and it’s just me and 250 square metres of nature, working
together to create interesting, health-giving and tasty produce.
After a day’s work, I sat in my folding chair, dirty, tired and hot, as the evening sun began to fade and
the shadows lengthened from the orchard trees, including a sour cherry with ridiculous amounts of
Birdsong rang out and a cooling breeze rippled across the fleece laid to protect the
cauliflowers. I looked across the plot and felt capable, that I can once again push the balance
towards food and away from an inedible wilderness.
In that moment, I felt like I was keeping the plot. In more ways than one.