As the old year slows down, shudders to a halt, it is time to take stock of our first six months with the new soil. The long winter exile ended in May, so our usual spring planting was necessarily later.
For a long while we were playing catch-up. The new earth was finer, sandier than before, so we added much manure: 25 sacks of heavy horse, a giant dumpy bag of a ‘soil improver’ mix, more manure, bark and grit. And it worked, mostly.
The plot has taken on a slightly different character, like a cat you come home to after your holiday. You have to work to win it over. Things that had always thrived didn’t always do so. The climbing French beans and Basque tears peas particularly struggled.
Many of us grew sunflowers – more than ever before. A gardener’s solidarity. We had success with other seed from a central Ukrainian supplier, particularly with squash, green pumpkins and Grandpa Ott morning glory.
This was a favourite new flower – as if from a fairytale, trained on the old sweet-pea frames. The blooms morphed from classic deep purple to paler stripes in almost every shade of blue. Vines reached out and spread everywhere.
Another new success was Mexican aster (Sulphur cosmos) from an internet friend in Vancouver. Tall clusters of purest orange. Simple to save. A bowl of spiky seed is sitting by me on a bookshelf as a write. A strong recommend.
Chicories, too. Red Treviso spreading and colouring now. New, smaller plants not far behind. The puntarelle hedge is tall and heartening; a welcome green wall of spiky leaf. Otherworldly zombie stems are fattening up. We will consult chef friends on recipes for cooking them alla romana.
It’s been so good to be back. To play our part in the plot. We have much to be grateful for. But tell me, how’s your garden growing?
Allan Jenkins’s Plot 29 (4th Estate, £9.99) is out now. Order it for £8.49 from guardianbookshop.com
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