This year we started work on the allotment in March, which is unusually early but I had never had so much time before and staying indoors during the lockdown with all its news would have been intolerable. I continued improving the shed, which I started last summer on our return from Iran but this time it was more therapeutic than anything else. I covered its old semi-rotten shell with a patchwork of short and long boards that I picked up from skips and in the street.
What is seen remains from the last season, e.g., the mustard leaves at the foreground – they continued to grow throughout the winter, which was mild. We still harvest Swiss chard (on the right). The garlic (on two small beds in the middle) was planted in November. Chiara has already weeded strawberries beds and the area around gooseberry shrubs, which we would have normally done in June.
The winter was incredibly rainy as well. Hence, I had to rebuild most of the raised beds. To date we haven’t planted much yet. It is still too cold. Yet, little red radishes (ravanelli) that were planted just a week ago are already growing under the mesh and even turnip tips (cime di rapa) under the blue net started to appear!
The radishes, turnip tips and garlic. Behind them is a potato bed. Last year I started planting potatoes in late April so that the plants begin to appear in mid May. By then sudden cold nights with sub zero temperatures and frost are normally gone. The potato bed is in the last row. That’s where our allotment ends. I cover some beds with a weed guard. One bed is ready for planting courgettes and the other has to be re-developed yet. I am going to plant beetroot and cucumbers there.
Chiara has just transplanted tiny parsley seedlings onto what is going to be a salad bed. Behind it is a tri-partite bed with carrots – they remain from the last season, basil (in the improvised green house in the middle) and the garlic, which was planed in November. Carrots are not very tasty in April. Nevertheless, Chiara prefers them to those available in shops. I planted basil seeds in pots indoors in early March. The seedlings developed rapidly even though all the varieties come from either Italy or the Middle East. The Iranian red basil decided to turn green in our climate!
Behind the tri-partite bed is our communal area. It used to be flooded every spring but this stopped after we dug two ponds on it. The smaller one to the right provides my allotment with an army of toads that eat slugs. Slugs are numerous, nasty and massive in the UK. They eat everything on their way. Besides, this tiny pond is now populated by two varieties of newts! These are protected species.
At the foreground is another potato bed. We have five of them this year. To the right are three narrow onion beds. Our onions are excellent on pizza that is made without mozzarella or other cheese. They taste much better than any type that is available in shops, those marked as organic included. In front of the shed is a rhubarb bed and next to it is the thyme one. The shed is like the leaning Tower of Pisa. There is no vertical distortion in the photo at all. Chiara fears that it will collapse but it's absolutely stable. I love leaning and twisted structures. When expanding the shed last summer I consciously reinforced this feature. Perhaps, I am still nostalgic about my work as an architect that I left behind in 1991.
That's a view from our neighbours' plot.
The small pond. It is full of water lilies now!