We’ve already had a couple of dig-days in 2012, but these felt more like Spring than deepest winter, so when it hit -8°C overnight in Ealing, and was still -4°C when I jumped on my tricycle this morning, I wondered what I’d let myself in for!
Our dig days are a model of precision planning: we plan the days months in advance, once at a meeting in January, and then again in the Summer, and for each day we allocate a key-holder, who will pledge to be there at 10:30am (a time that’s become known as ‘Ealing Transition Time’), and a back-up key-holder who will also plan to be there (in the inevitable event that I’m late!), ready to welcome the Community Gardeners who come along.
Depending on the time of year, there’ll be various tasks to do: in the Spring, sowing, potting, potting-on and planting dominate; in the Summer there’s more of the same, plus weeding, lots of trips to the water trough, and a bit of harvesting; in the Autumn, more sowing and lots of harvesting, plus a bit of clearing and tiding.
The Winter can be a bit more unpredictable: there’s not much that can be planted in the open in mid-winter, and if the soil’s wet or frozen, it’s not a good idea to dig, even if we did much of that these days (damage to soil structure), and we tend to leave a lot of cutting back of perennials until later, to give any sheltering insects a chance. Thus winter tasks can be a little, um, eclectic!
Back during the January ‘heat-wave’ our task of choice was to collect from the local stables as much horse-manure as we could fit in a small rented van , and bring the stuff back for our hungry veg beds. In two hours, with four in the van, and three on the plot, we managed to fetch one heavily-loaded van of muck, and apply the whole lot, covering just half our beds: we now know we’re a ‘two-load plot’!
So today, turning up to the allotment still covered in snow, with the ground frozen, but the sun out, what could possibly be on the agenda? Scones and tea, that’s what! Yes, just as it can be a bit of a surprise, on a community allotment, who turns up, quite often it’s a surprise what they bring with them too! We’ve had people turn up with a patio set, a water butt, some really rather fresh horse manure… but best of all, food for the hungry workers!
So as Christopher and I, in the time-honoured fashion, looked down a big hole that the council contractors have dug for the supply to our new water troughs, it was a delight to have someone who we last saw during the Open Day last year, turn up with freshly baked scones and tea! After enjoying those, and having a bit of a chat, we did a bit of weeding, cleared the ice from the bird-bath, wondered at the recently tided shed (it’s far too tidy: you can see the walls and the floor!), and generally just enjoyed the rare experience of being out in the cold and the snow, on a sunny day, without any rush to be anywhere else. Bliss!