Archive for the ‘Allotment’ Category

Summers Bounty On The Shelf

vegOctober is a wonderful time for the grow your own enthusiast, this is the time of year when you put into store pumpkins and squash, pod all the dried beans, bag up the onions and shallots that have been drying for the past few weeks and lift the main crop potatoes for storage in Hessian sacks. Its the one time of the year when the scale of your efforts can be be easily seen and appreciated.

The trick now is making sure the harvest remains in good condition, something which is as much of a skill as growing them in the first place. Temperature, light, damp, vermin and moulds can quickly render even the best vegetables into a slimy mess.

Regularly inspecting the harvest is now the winter task, which is not much of a trial as it happens whenever a squash or onion is selected for the day’s menu. The sense of pride at growing your own continues all year. Smug? Certainly. Well fed? Oh yes. Happy at not having to shop for vegetables? That’s the best bit.

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Why?

homegrownWhy do weed seeds manage to germinate during a drought where the seeds I sow require constant watering for just a few to decide its time to sprout?, Why do weeds grow faster, taller and better than everything else you plant in the garden? Why do frosts wait until late Spring, when when your fruit trees are in blossom, to make an appearance? Why do bugs only infest your best plants? Why don’t slugs and snails eat weeds but wait until the juicy shoots of you vegetables show themselves?

Why does it only rain at weekends and the days you plan to do lots of gardening? Why does grass grow better in your flower borders and vegetable patch than on your lawn? Why do birds take a peck out of every ripe fruit instead of eating a whole one? Why does the best looking apple drop to the ground just after you have tested to see if its ripe? Why do the local cats dig holes right in the middle of a newly raked seed bed? Why do birds throw the bark chippings off the boarders onto the lawn? Why does bind weed appear out of nowhere? Why, if it is such an effort do we bother with gardening?

Why does home grown fruit taste so much sweeter than the stuff sold in shops? Why do vegetables gathered from the allotment look much more fresh and enticing than supermarket fare? Why are salad items so much crisper and tastier than the greengrocers offerings? Why? Because we are hunter gatherers at heart and providing food for the table is a natural instinct. Why then have so many people become detached from real food and how it is produced?

Its Good For You, Er, No Its Bad For You

omega3Recently published research has suggested that good fats in the form of polyunsaturates, or more correctly the linoleic acid they contain, may increase the incidents of inflammatory bowel disease. A similar finding was also discovered for omega 3 fatty acid found in oily fish. However, another research project claims that high levels of omega 3 fatty acid helps prevent age-related macular degeneration, a significant cause of blindness in the elderly; it is also thought to be of benefit to the heart.

These contradictions are becoming increasingly common as scientists delve into the minutiae of the human body and nutrition. All they serve to prove is the body is an incredibly complex organism and the best life style choice is moderation and variety in all things edible; never was the term ‘balanced diet’ more appropriate. Unfortunately many people have become detached from the idea of a balanced diet, they have become addicted to high fat, high salt foods, ready made meals and ready prepared foods.

These items go under the very inappropriate banner of convenience foods, an aid to the fast pace of modern life. The truth is they cost more, are no quicker to prepare and contain a whole range of chemicals to compensate for the poor quality ingredients. Fortunately, one way people are getting back in touch with real food is by growing their own, either on a vegetable patch or on an allotment. The satisfaction of serving a meal where all the fruit and vegetables have been grown yourself is immeasurable. The taste is pretty good too.

Its Only Good If Its Got A Celebrity

AllotmentIn today’s Sunday Mail colour supplement is an article about Sky News presenter Kay Burley’s exploits in growing her own food. The pictures that accompany the article show Kay in three different outfits each carefully posed to show her at her best and not the real subject of the article the fruit, vegetables and chickens she is raising for the dinner table.

An important role of the media is to keep the public informed; keeping an allotment and growing your own food is has become very popular and is worthy of objective and informative coverage. Unfortunately the article is typical of the way the media feel that unless there is a celebrity at the centre of the action the public will be uninterested in the subject matter. What happens, of course, is the subject is only used as a vehicle to promote a celebrity who ultimately becomes the focus.

Allotments are not just about growing your own food, they also increase community cohesion and provide opportunities for families to work together, teach children about food, nutrition and the environment. There are many very interesting stories stemming from the resurgence in interest in allotments, its a pity the Sunday Mail did not give the story the importance it deserves.

Stepping Out On Target

Don’t we have enough targets already without some researcher coming up with another? Apparently we should all exercise by walking around for half an hour a day; and, just to ensure our walking around is not merely a pleasant stroll along a country lane, we need to count each step to ensure we do 3,000 steps in the prescribed half hour. That’s 10 steps every 6 seconds, that’s not walking that’s jogging.

Anybody who reads the sporting press will know of many athletes who have required knee and hip replacements by the age of 40 because all the jogging and running has worn them out. A gentle, or even a brisk walk does not put such a strain on the joints as jogging. Exercise is good for one’s health but there are far more productive ways of doing yourself some good. Get an allotment and do some digging, weeding, pushing a wheel barrow and hoeing. It will help you to work up a sweat and you get the healthy produce as well, what could be better?

Why anyone would want to run on a treadmill or use a rowing machine in a sweat filled gym is when they could be out in the open air communing with nature beyond me. An allotment costs a fraction of gym fees, does not need special clothing just wear those old clothes you planned to give to Oxfam but forgot. Once you grow your own fruit and vegetables you’ll look on the supermarket offerings with more suspicion and wonder just how many chemicals were used to get those perfect specimens and how much of those chemicals end up in your dinner.

This Blessed Plot

Having lifted the last row of potatoes and dug up two of the last parsnips and four of the last nine leeks the allotment is looking bare. The strawberry plants are just starting to throw up new leaves and the rhubarb has small bright red shoots just showing above the soil. The rest of the plot is covered with old carpet to suppress the weeds, act as a mulch to keep the soil moist ready for sowing and planting and provide protection for the resident mole. For a few months the plot will be unproductive until the asparagus starts to shoot in mid to late April.

It’s easy to understand why there is a high demand for allotments. If you are careful they can save you money, the fruit and vegetables taste much better, and it helps to keep you fit. It can be frustrating to see you cabbages eaten by caterpillars, broad beans eaten by partridges and peas eaten by mice. But when you find a grass snake basking on the top of the compost bin and friends begging a few spears of freshly cut asparagus it makes more than worth while.

If you plan carefully and choose easy to grow produce it does not have to be hard work. In fact what work there is to do is tempered by the many conversations with fellow alottmenteers and just sitting in the quiet of the plot and absorbing the peace all around.