Plot 51: Beans

13.05.20. The weather forecast has been a bit up and down the past week, with sunshine one day and the threat of frost the next. I checked my weather app this morning and saw that the predicted –2 for tonight was changed to a forecasted 3 degrees. (BTW at my house in Italy the daily temperatures are currently 26 degrees). It’s sunny on the plot today and the two peony plants are in flower, giving the impression that all is good with the weather.

May (14)

Other plot holders have got their beans in the ground already and so paying no heed to the old adage of, casting nowt and clouts until may is out I get out the trowel.

I’m feeling semi-brave,so erring on the side of caution, I only plant out 6 of my 14 runner bean plants. They’ve been doing really well in the greenhouse and have started to twine around each other, so I’m guessing it’s time they had something to grow up and should mother nature betray me I’ll still have others to put out at a later date.

May (16)

I’ve been given some French bean plants and I’ve already earmarked a spot for them, so it’s more raking and hoeing to get the area ready for them and using an old piece of metal rebar; the kind used in foundations, I make a trellis to assist them on their climbing journey.

May (17)

Another couple of jobs done and I cut some peonies to take home and hope that the forecast won’t change.

14.05.20 – Woke up to a frost on the front lawn, I hope my beans are okay, but I’ll wait until tomorrow when I go to water the pots in the greenhouse. Fingers crossed all will be well.

Plot 51: Beans and Bamboo

With the exception of the border with the raspberry canes, the digging and weeding is over at last and I can concentrate on the assembly of the plot and what produce I shall be growing.

I know that despite a poor germination rate I shall have sweet peas as usual; the fragrance is always welcome and as cut flowers they never disappoint, I had ordered bamboo canes in readiness and earmarked a spot to plant them. Other canes shall be used for the growing of runner beans – something I’ve never grown before.

So with the French beans and sweet peas ready to plant out and the runner beans sown, it’s time to prepare the frameworks. The iPod is turned on and, The Hall Of Mirrors from the Kraftwerk album, Trans-Europe Express is the prelude to bamboo construction. (It would have been perfect if Sylvian/Sakamoto and Bamboo Music had played, but when you shuffle, you get what you’re given.)

April (13)

The ground has been turned but needs to have fertiliser added later to giver the runner beans enough fuel to produce a decent crop. I defy my OCD issues and decide to place the uprights by eye instead of measuring and although I’m not completely happy with the spacing in the end I resist the urge to take it down and start again. My logic being, that the beans won’t care a jot for equidistant spacing.

I decide the French beans can wait as I’m not sure where I’ll put them, so it’s time to start on the sweet pea wigwam. Once again it’s done by sight and I’m even less happier with the result.

I can’t be bothered to sort out the rogue pole as I’ll have to cut and tie new string: Besides I’ve had no breakfast and I’m ready for some lunch. This time the iPod plays, Tavares and the 1973 hit, Check It Out.

Looking at the wigwam I’m sure that my music player is taunting me.

April (15)

Plot 51

I enjoyed growing flowers in Italy however over the past two years I’d fallen behind on my veg growing. So in February as it became evident that hospital appointment forecasts meant that we’d be here for a longer time than first anticipated I decided to check out allotment availability in the area to kick start my gardening activities. First I viewed a few council run plots, most completely unsuitable; one so overgrown I’d need a JCB to get it in order, one that was little more than builders’ rubble and another that had what can only be described as an unsuitable neighbour. On the 10th of the month I viewed several available plots at, The Limes. They all looked suitable for my requirements and eventually I settled upon plot 51, (the double greenhouse swayed my decision making somewhat).

It’s a long plot with a shed at the top and the greenhouse at the bottom, it’s cluttered, apparently the previous plot owner didn’t throw anything away, this is evident by the many bags of rubbish, tucked into spaces between compost bins and behind the greenhouse.

Feb (3)

I took over the plot at the beginning of March and my first job was to decide on what will go and what will stay, the submerged bath filled with old strawberry plants will be going soon but the greenhouse will be emptied and cleaned first.

So with my iPod plugged in to its new portable speaker I set the dial to shuffle and as Stargard set the tone for the day with Which Way Is Up? The 1978 disco/funk theme from the movie of the same name I set to ripping out desiccated tomato plants and some nettles. The shelf unit at the end of the greenhouse was cleared of the endless supply of plastic pots and bits of electrical wire that had previously been used as plant ties. After copious amounts of disinfectant and glass cleaner the first job was completed and as I packed up for the day another disco classic shuffled, meaning the session ended with another, boogie-on-the-job track: cleaning is much more pleasant if you can swing your ass as you sweep,mop and polish.

March  (22)

Suddenly the world went mad and we had lockdown and the Coronavirus, I wondered if that meant I’d paid my yearly fees for nothing, not to mention the new gardening tools that had been purchased.

The government came through and said it was okay to still work on allotments as long as you practice social distancing and so I was back to my planning and it was time to organise the removal of the rubbish – or so I thought. All local recycling centres were closed and so the bags of old wood and plastic would have to wait, but that bathtub and submerged dustbins had to go.

March  (1)

Suffice to say, the first few trips to plot 51 were taken up with clearing out old plants, filling compost bins with ancient kale and making a small mountain beside the shed with enough plastic waste to shame the gardening industry.

March progressed into April and slowly my design for the plot was becoming fixed in my head. Garden suppliers; the ones still able to trade had received seed orders and between plot visits I was at home sowing and pricking out in readiness.

As the month kicked off with weather that was welcomed I was starting to feel that things were taking shape, the spot beside the shed was designated for a new sitting area and the biggest proportion of digging over had already been done.

May (5)

The Parsnip Project Finale

I’ve rather neglected my blog for a while due to my work commitments, I’ve actually been working 7 days a week, as I’m now not only writing for the magazine, but also working with a law firm and estate agent as an interpreter and also looking after their English speaking clients. Now don’t get me wrong I’m not complaining, I’m loving life at the moment.

I do however keep to my 20 minutes a day routine in the orto and have had a brilliant first year following the house restoration. We made 42 litres of passata from our tomatoes, endless pots of soups, ranging from courgette and mint (lush) to Malaysian hot broth. We froze over a hundred olive oil and garlic cubes and so many people received the glut of Dutch cucumbers that everyone was convinced would never grow here, not to mention the many friends and neighbours who thanked me for the excess pumpkins we gave away.

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For those who have followed the parsnip project, here’s the finale. After being told they won’t grow in Italy, and many other reasons why they’ll fail here, I decided to have a go. The first trial followed a French grower’s technique and that failed miserably, so y new technique was fill barrel with compost, let it warm up and chuck in seeds willy and nilly.

So how did it go?

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I harvested this batch this morning, they may not be as big as those in UK supermarkets, but they’ll hopefully be sweet when roasted with a little honey and some chilli flakes. Next year I’ll grow them in a formal row behind the summer veggies ion a plot that I’ve dug out and removed the vast majority of stones from.

Oh those doubters will no doubt now be ordering their parsnip seeds online now.

Click this link to see my Facebook album of 2014 in the orto.