Gardening In A Pandemic (Loves Labour Lost)

A Good Old Pint Of Adams Ale
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

I’d enjoyed my seaside break but I was, as always, keen to get back and see what was happening in the greenhouse. The answer, at least that first few days, was plenty, including more weeds. I was intending to post a couple of “before” and “after” weed images, but decided against it. If you want to view my wide and growing collection of said foliage just look closely at the pictures I do post. The bloody things, no matter how long I spend on my knees, or gathering splinters in my hands from the hoe handles, just keep coming.

Small Beginnings, High Hopes
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Amongst the things which gladdened my heart was the emergence, just when I thought it was never going to happen, of a few leeks. I’ll be planting two small beds this year. The second one in July probably, letting them over winter, allowing me to hopefully harvest this first small crop to eat as a summer vegetable, rather than just as a soup ingredient. They don’t look much, but once they’ve germinated they are very hardy and take little or no real looking after. I’d seen a leek crop in an allotment just outside Amble as I was driving past, they were so big and fat I initially thought they were pineapples. We’ll follow their (albeit slow) progress over the next couple of months. I doubt I’ll produce any pineapple sized ones though.

Hot Stuff, Hopefully
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

I was also happy to see some progress on the pea and chilli front. I’ve taken a gamble on the last of the frosts being over and done with & I’ve potted 10 pepper plants on. They’ll stay in pots this year as I’ve always had a problem with them becoming musty later in the season. I’m not sure why it happens and, being a rough gardener, I haven’t been bothered to look it up. Hopefully being able to manage them in a different environment will sort the problem out. As I write this missive the latest 4 pea plants, germinated in small pots, are ready for transplanting into their forever homes. I just have to weed them first (again). Lots of things have been quite slow to germinate this year, I’m guessing it’s been the weather, rather than the compost, although I do have my concerns.

A Success Story, Of Sorts
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Having said all that, the strawberries are planted in the same medium as I’m using for seed germination and they’re thriving. A bit too early if truth be told but it isn’t unusual, when I’ve had the odd plant crop early, for them to produce a second crop. Here’s hoping. Maybe these plants are more at home with the cooler damp climatic conditions, I might look it up one day, if I can be bothered. Of course, one of the great joys of having a bolt hole is the time, in between potting on, pricking out, watering and weeding that one gets to oneself. The mind wanders, often onto the inconsequential and, equally as often, onto things that may (or may not) be of great import.

Thoughts turned this week to the political landscape, the Hartlepool by election and the serious drubbing Labour took in the council elections. I think, if we were all to be honest with ourselves, we’d all like to live in a country where some of the things Labour has called for were realities. A working, fully integrated, non profit making, non subsidised public transport system? Utility services that were owned by the nation and run for the benefit of users, rather than foreign business conglomerates and shareholders? An NHS that had ceased to be an over managed, fiscally incontinent political football? A social care system that integrated smoothly with said health system for the benefit of all and the exclusion of none? All these things are “perfect world” scenario’s  though. Bitter experience tells us that Unionisation, political appointees & the over-promotion of cronies has always brought about the virtual collapse of publicly owned services. This wasn’t always the case, if memory serves, but greed & the lust for power of any kind, in today’s world are powerful drivers.

But I digress, the problems Labour has are existential ones and they won’t be solved by Keir Starmer, Angela Rayner, either of the Milliband brothers, Andy Burnham, Eddie Izzard, Maxine Peake, Tony Blair, a by-election in Batley or even Uncle Tom Cobley and all his pals. Labour isn’t two parties either, it’s morphed into a hotch-potch of factions, obsessed with either single issue identity “causes” or the plight of people in other parts of the world, such as Palestine, to the exclusion of the British citizen. Add in the factor of the Islamic vote, which I fear sees Labour as a vehicle to elicit favorable change on its behalf and we are left with an ineffective opposition that appears unable to have any chance of being elected. Many will see this as a good thing, I’m not so sure, the Tories aren’t delivering, Covid or no Covid, and an opposition that spends its time navel gazing, or attacking the government simply for the sake of it only emboldens them further. I read an article on  which I have taken the liberty of lifting a couple of quotes from, they kind of sum up the points I’m trying to make. Politics is becoming an increasingly grubby business and all parties need to be held to account. Maybe the time has come for a real “centre right” party of Socially responsible Democrats to enter the fray;

Their problem lies in the fundamental re-alignment in British politics, of which Hartlepool is simply the latest development. Only a radical change in policy on some very difficult subjects will change Labour’s fortune and their future“.

The uncomfortable truth for Labour is that it has proved far, far easier for the Conservatives to move left economically than it has been for Labour to move right culturally.”

No String Left Untied
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Back to more mundane business. As part of my rethink surrounding how I plant I’ve started with the plan to put a couple of larger plants into the ground, in pots. Hopefully, although again I have no experience or knowledge to back this up, it will restrict roots, limit growth and deter the spreading of foliage, to the detriment of fruit produced. If it doesn’t work at least I’ll have given it a try. A stone in the bottom of each large pot, securing the support string, will hopefully carry the weight of the plant upwards, instead of outwards. Time will tell.

Natures Bounty, My Hard Work
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

Salad leaves, small lettuce and radish are, if not flourishing, at least providing us with a taste of what’s to come, once the sun deigns to shine and the rain deigns to stop for a couple of days. As dry as April was, May has been as wet. Maybe there’s a pattern here. March was very wet, could be that “Climate Change” business they all keep going on about. I wonder if Klaus & Bill could do us all a favour and “Reset” the bloody weather?

There’s Always A Job To Be Done
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

A job that needs doing regularly is the “side shooting” of the tomato plants. Not everyone does this, but I think most commercial growers do. Removing these shoots, which periodically appear at the junction of leaf and stem encourages the plant to grow upwards and trusses of fruit become concentrated on the main stem of the plant. I nip them off with thumb & index finger before they get too big. This plant was more than ready for a trim. The shallow ditch idea has certainly done its job in keeping weed back & retaining water, I’m happy with this little innovation.

Binsey Trig Point
© Colin Cross, Going Postal 2021

As much as the greenhouse is currently occupying my time and as much as the weather might put lesser mortals off, there’s always time for a a trip into the local countryside and a walk up a fell or two. The latest Wainwright conquered (Binsey) is a bit of a “tiddler” in comparison to some of its larger neighbours, but it presents it’s own challenges and, at an elevation of just under 500 metres with the odd steep section, it offers a reasonable level of exercise for my old bones and ticker. I’m not sure of the exact position it holds in the hierarchy of height and difficulty, suffice to say it comes nearer the bottom (Castle Crag, which I’ve done, at 290m)  than the top (Scafell Pike, which I haven’t done, at 978m).

Next time; More of the same, weeding, potting on, planting out, radish, strawberries(hopefully) and maybe a postcard from Dumfrieshire.

© Colin Cross 2021

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