The year is nearly spent and it has been many months since I posted. It has been a mad, frenetic few months of assignments, new tasks at work, the new house, dealing with builders and lists and endless money spent. There have been precious few hours for growing, or planning or sitting for five minutes and thinking.
And now Christmas has rushed past in a ham-haze of family and food, sparkling lights and filled glasses, piles of presents and, unfortunately, a funeral. Suddenly it’s over and there’s the prospect of a precious week of breathing space, planning space, preparation space - before the next rollercoaster of exams, college and work begins.
So, what of the allotment? It stands a resilient, scruffy, patient oasis, thankfully indifferent to my neglect. The weeds have galloped into every scrap of spare earth and colonised the paths. None of the beds have been cleared, covered or mulched. The polytunnel is still in summer mode, with stacks of grubby pots and withered chillies propped around the benches. And yet, upon my first visit in six weeks, there were leeks and swede to harvest, chillies ripe on shrunken stems and even lettuce and cape gooseberries to pick. The annual die-back means that clearing the beds will not be too onerous a task, so long as I wait until the soil is not too wet and the day not too cold.
And soon, now that the year has turned, bulbs will stick their optimistic fingers above ground to herald a new season. There are some indications already evident. Garlic I stuffed hurriedly into the ground last October has already sprouted and the blackcurrant bushes have fat buds biding their time to finally unfurl in March or April.
The house move has provided another challenge for the new year – a blank canvas of a 60 foot garden. I say blank, but it does include a block-built shed, a half-roofed shed (which will become a potting shed/greenhouse) and a lean to. There is also a huge apple tree badly in need of pruning. The apples are cookers – possibly a Bramley – and delicious. Almost the first thing my mother did when I got the keys was to gather a bucket load and make apple tarts and vats of stewed apple. Her freezer is still yielding welcome reminders.
The work I had done on the house included removing the top storey of an extension and re-laying drainage and sewage pipes. As a result the grass has suffered – what was verdant and overgrown when I bought the house is now a barren trench-scarred expanse covered in worm-casts. Therefore another task for the holidays is to produce a proper plan for 2015 for tackling the garden. On a very very low budget.
Tonight, though, it’s cold – there is to be a frost tonight and tomorrow. I will leave the heavy duty outdoor work until later in the week when it is milder, and content myself with plans and dreams and lists for the new year. I want to paint the walls of the garden, remove the barbed wire, deal with the ivy. I will plan where the patio is to be, where I will espalier some fruit trees and how to prune the old apple. I’m making a list of the structural shrubs I want to gather over time – holly and dogwood, corkscrew hazel and callicarpa. The new roof for the potting shed needs to be planned, and an area allocated for composting and leaf mould.
For everyone sitting at home with a seed catalogue – happy new year in advance, and may 2015 be our best year yet.