The Heathland Conservation Crew employed at Core Hill, Sidmouth, Devon…
Spring can be an anxious time in the allotments waiting to ensure that our gardening expertise over the last twelve months has ensured that we are invited to tend our plots for another year.
Luckily we all survived to dig another day in these allotments which were carved out fifteen years ago in the walled Garden adjoining a Tudor Manor House. One holder has reduced his commitments and handed over a half allotment that he has been using to grow countless varieties of Gladioli which won prizes in National competitions. It is a great pity as they added a huge amount of colour even if Dame Edna might not have approved.
The Cadhay gardens are open to the public and our plots are under the close watch of the Head Gardener, Dave who is keen to make sure that the allotments are fit for inspection. Many visitors are just as interested in seeing what is going on in the allotments as in the formal gardens. This gives us a strong incentive to keep our plots in good order, and miraculously the vegetable gardens become remarkably tidy in May once the gardens and Tea Room are open every Friday afternoon. They also provide a wonderful backdrop for the weddings that go on here and are now in full swing.
One allotment holder is a soil scientist and seeing him digging his plot with great vigour earlier on prompted the question whether the ‘no dig’ policy actually works. He thought it might in some places but certainly not here as the ground forms an impenetrable pan. It may just be a conspiracy theory, but it is tempting to think that the idea is being promoted by the producers of sprays and fertilisers to make us dependent. Luckily there is no chance of that here as we are strictly organic.
It is all the more important when you consider that is common for some farmers to spray shortly before harvest to help dry the crop.
There is another allotment where the holder has jettisoned the spade in favour of a Merry Tiller which must have been one of the first off the production lines back in the 1950’s. Seeing him risking a heart attack having to coax this machine through its paces made the rest of us feel even more determined to stick to the spade especially if you are lucky enough to own a Devon Spade with its long handle which takes the strain from the back if used correctly.
The Rhubarb has been fantastic this year and they are very prolific in this ground which must have been the beneficiary of large amounts of manure administered over the years. The Strawberries all flowered well with the promise of a bountiful crop in June. Some of us got a bit carried away during the Easter heatwave and planted out peas and beans. The beans survived but the peas did not enjoy the subsequent icy blast or the attention of the mice.
Whilst chitting potatoes earlier in the year the labels got mixed up so the proof will be in the eating! Those with a ‘distinctive buttery taste’ will be International Kidney and the others Arran Pilot.