Vestry Museum: Saturday 19th July – Arts and Crafts (Poets for Sale): 2-4 pm

Poets' Corner: Walthamstow's finest

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It’s amazing the talent that’s lurking in the nondescript streets of Poets Corner. Behind almost every door is a creative spirit burning with animus: eager to remove their light from under that bushel.

If you’ve a bushel you want removing, a creative spirit you want exposing or a desire you want sharing, why not join us at the Vestry Museum in the Community Room on 19th July from 2 pm to 4 pm.

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Summer’s a bummer

another viewIn the allotment lab

Such are the trials and tribulations of an allotmenteer. Days of backbreaking watering, anxious days when other business mean a day away from the beloved plot. Pleasure unbounded as the broadbeans plumped up, the peas climbed and the strawberries blushed. The Italian lettuces all in a row, so pretty and so pert, the onions and garlic promising a bumper crop.

Now much rain, rotting strawbs and onion white rot! But all is not in vain. The spuds promise much – glistening and green leafed: and the apple trees, last year near naked, are bowed low with heavy fruit.

The hazel and cob trees bought this year have suffered much from too great an exposure to the winds that whip across the face of the allotment.  I feared that they might be lost; but hallelujah, the first nuts are forming.

I’ve under planted them with herbs and perennials, with borage and evening primrose, tall sages and confetti coriander, lavender, snap dragons, sweet rocket and savory. In the mid May heat they flourished, now they look bedraggled, heavy-headed with  June’s soddenings.

Today it has rained all day so I’ve spent the day cooking.

I love bacon and ham, and roasted a smallish piece of smoked bacon covered in a marinade of star anise, garlic, ginger, brown sugar, honey and red-hot chilli. The result is just as I like it, the sweet, salty meat offset by the heat of the ginger and chilli.

I also love ginger. So I baked a ginger cake. Delia’s recipe produces a super cake with a mixture of stem ginger, fresh and ground ginger. And now this blog.

In the allotment lab

Foxglove and hazels

First cob nut of summer

Wait, Oh Yeah, Wait a Minute Mr Postman

It’s getting to be extremely interesting. The broccoli is now over – I found grubbing up the huge, architectural plants really difficult; they’d been with me for a year. In their place are garden peas, sweet, sweet green pods which I cannot resist. I’m sowing them at 10 day intervals, giving me an extended season – I hope.

The asparagus is already sprouting madly and we’re pigging out on the stuff. i can’t believe we’ll be fed up to the teeth with the stuff in four weeks time. I’m growing it from seed, in the hope of setting up a rival to our ageing, weed encrusted bed.

The broad beans are in flower and the honey bees from our local hives are doing their magic. I’ve planted winter and spring beans so we’ll have a plentiful supply of my favourites.

In the shed, the toms are beginning to stir, as are the sweet and hot chillies, courgettes, aubergines, cucumbers, and shallots and onions grown from seed and the acres of lettuce. I am, as usual, over reaching.

Having bought too many seed potatoes most are in grow bags. A layer of 6 months composted horse shit, a layer of top soil mixed with general compost, the seed potatoes, and a covering of top soil has stirred the

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into life – after only a couple of weeks. Green leaf is already on show, soon to be covered.

But my main joy is the mini orchard with it apple, cherry and plum, under planted with a mysterious assortment of perennials. Day by day new marvels appear and spread carpeting what was once extremely sad, heavy clods in luxurious blues, reds and yellows.

This year the growing compost heap will be home to the winter squashes – they should thrive on the bodies of their late colleagues.

One Potato, Two Potato, Three Potato…

Yet again I’ve over egged the seed potato stakes. I’ve simple run out of space, and I’ve still a considerable number of orphans to find a home for.

It all started two years ago – the first year of the allotment and growing potatoes. Somehow growing potatoes seem the acme of allotmenteering and so I bought some. Unfortunately not that many so the first year’s crop didn’t go that far. Last year, I bought loads, got them mixed up, planted most but still had a number over.

Last year’s crop (or most of it) was eaten by the mice. So this year I was determined not to over buy and not to keep them anywhere near my mice infested shed. In February we paddled off to the Garden Centre – it was the first weekend the  seed stock was in. It was a most miserable afternoon but the place was humming with us “potato heads”.

I blame the missus. I had four small bags of First and Second Earlies and Main Crop. The trouble was the bags weren’t full and since you paid per bag, “Mrs GrabtheLot” grabbed a load more to fill them. Which meant I had quite a number.

Proudly I took them home and placed them in concentric circles on a wrought iron table under the verandah. Away from mice and men. There they stayed until mid March when I planted the Earlies. I used most of the spare space on the allotment and it was going to be problematic to find space for the main crop. It was bad enough with the Earlies as I used 6 potato grow bags in order to get them all in.

There’s a raised bed which I had ear marked  as a seed bed – it started life as that last year, but an over production of broccoli and sprouts meant it doubled up as a veg bed instead.  I had hoped that this year it would be used as a seed bed: today it was viciously  tore from its destiny and became home to some of my main crop. I still have about 20 seed potatoes to find a home for; the three new potato bags I bought today will help but it looks as if I may have to jettison some. How I hate that – so wasteful!

I’ve been planting broad beans for the nation. As well as my overwintering broads which are thriving and putting on flower, I’ve planted a load around the edge of a raised bed and some in a bare patch on another bed. Last year we ran out of broad beans very early, despite freezing a few pounds of the little gems. So this year I’m not going to scrimp.

That means raising more from seed in the cold frame and planting out when they’ve got a really good root system. Which I did today.

I placed them in an attractive arch. There’s another lot just popping their heads about the surface and they’ll go in later this month. These and the garden peas I’m bringing on in my cold frame, planting in intervals of 10 days, at present have nowhere to live. However, by the time they are ready to be planted out the White Sprouting Broccoli, which disguised its true nature until early February (a case of lost labels again), will have finished providing us with all the goodness we need, and filling the freezer. They’ll be grubbed up and the peas and beans will take their place.

However, I did plant out some garden pea seedlings today. We have a huge plastic tub which last year was home to the runner and French beans.

It wasn’t too successful in that the teepee I constructed for the beans to clamber up collapsed  early on. This year I’ve planted my peas in the thing. I enriched the soil with rotted down horse manure (6 months a stewing in large bags) and planted the little darling – they look so sweet – in a circle round the edge with a cross in the middle. I hope it will look attractive.

What I’m hoping is that instead of climbing up some pea sticks, I could persuade them to hang down over the edge of the tub. I’m sure it will look extremely fetching.

I finished up today by planting out some camomile, winter  savory and French tarragon. I have the Russian stuff but the French is so much better – well it would be wouldn’t it.

I’m inter planting the three cob trees and medlar with perennials including loads of herbs. The spot is ideal, getting loads of sun,when it bothers to  make an appearance!

Tomorrow, I’ll finish finding  homes for the potatoes and sow my asparagus seeds. Our existing asparagus patch is  old, parts have died off, and I’m hoping to raise a load of plants from seed, dig up the old bed at the end of the season, getting rid of the invasive grass and weeds, manuring it well and so start a new invigorated colony. Bit like the Sims.

I think the current inhabitants must have heard the whispers because already there are some fabulous heads of the delicious veg which will be ready to cut tomorrow.

What joy!