Friday, 14 March 2008

A late night intruder leaves a message

After the storms of the earlier part of the week, I checked over the garden for damage. All I could find was one hellebore with a broken stem, which I took in, cut down to size and put in a vase, and a small pot of feverfew on its side. Upon further inspection, I decided that the tipped herb pot wasn’t blown over by the wind. Nearby I spotted an animal dropping, and by checking reference books and websites my initial suspicions were confirmed - a Hedgehog has been visiting the garden.

I knew there were some in the area - someone a street away had some hibernating under her shed, and there is a small gap underneath the back fence that I guess is the entry point. We salvaged a pallet based crate to make a lean-to to store bags of potting compost, and the dimensions of the pallet are ideal for me to use it as a cat-proof hedgehog feeding point. There are plenty of plant saucers scattered around the garden for them to drink out of.

I’m looking forward to being outside at dusk, and to hear the tell tale snuffling and grunting from the undergrowth.

I guess most people’s gardening tasks this weekend will start with checking for storm damage and tidying up, and some of you (those with their plots prepared and not suffering from back twinges) will be starting to plant potatoes. I remember this weekend five years back. While many people were marching in protest of the upcoming invasion of Iraq, I was planting potatoes in preparation for the trade sanctions I expected to be the consequence.

The Wartime Weekend Gardener suggests that this weekend you make another sowing of early carrots, and a first row of turnips. If turnips don’t appeal to you, maybe try sowing Cima di Rapa, turnip greens, which are very popular in Italy.

Now I have a proper potting shed, I’ve been able to start seed sowing earlier than before. Most years I spent the mornings of Cheltenham Festival week frantically sowing as many trays of seed as I could, then lying on the sofa in the afternoon watching the racing. This year I am far enough ahead to have celery germinating and broccoli ready to pot on.

Tomorrow will be seven years to the day from when I started working on my first allotment. To say the day was grey would be an understatement. The rain was barely falling - it was more horizontal, kept from landing on the ground by a foot high shagpile of mist. The plot hadn’t been touched for years and the couch grass had knitted itself into the assorted objects that had been dumped on there. But from there on in, it was mine to do what I wanted. Well in a couple of weeks I’ll be handing that plot back to the council. The clearing has been completed on the new plot. We now have to start on the cultivation proper. This year I’m not going to let anything get in my way.

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