‘Getting your onions in?’. ‘Got your garlic ready?’ have been popular questions asked at the allotment in the last few weeks. ‘I need to give something back before I sow anything else‘ I’ve been saying almost apologetically to clarify my head shake reply. You see I’ve worked my plot for 5 years and never really gone in for manuring in a big way. I know that I should but when your plot is in the furthest possible corner from the road and you refuse to drive your car on to the allotment your not left with a lot of options. Believe me I know: a morning back in 2005 spent schlepping back and forth to drag bags of horse manure, in the pouring rain, kind of put me off. Instead we leave an area of the plot covered in black polythene each year which rests the soil and rotates where we plant. In truth it’s also because I have more space than I’ve ever managed to keep on top of. But with more time for gardening this year and a massive increase in produce as a result I thought it was time to nourish the soil we have worked and manure the patch we haven’t. I’ve been reading up on green manures*, particularly the varieties that can be sown as late as October/November. These packets of Hungarian grazing rye and field beans arrived from the Organic Gardening Catalogue a couple of days after placing my order (the Red Clover is for the Spring.) It may seem extravagent to buy organic seed for plants that won’t be consumed but I figure it’s akin to the choice between putting wholefoods or processed foods into our bodies. And, get this, it was the cheapest option for the variety of seeds I’d chosen because the P&P was only £1.75 compared to £5 from other on-line suppliers.
The feeding of the soil commenced last week with the sowing of the grazing rye on the blighted tomato patch. It took about an hour and half to dig the rest of the weeds out (started the weekend of rain and muffin making), about the same time to remove the runner bean canes and a couple of the sprout stalks and a further hour to sow the seeds in drills. I liked the idea of a biblical broadcasting of seed but not the idea of birds pecking it up before it germinated hence the rather tedious sowing in drills. Fortunately it was a fresh and bright autumn day and the task was made easier with the company of Radio 4 and a flask of tea.