herald

Friday 17 August 2018

Birdsong in the city and other new pleasures

It's been a long day of juggling work and family life and the last thing I feel I want to do is pull on my wellies and head to the allotment. But there are beans and peas to plant and compost to spread.

Gardening in an allotment is different to heading out the back door into a private garden. It takes more effort. But once you get there you find fewer distractions, no emails to read (blackberries with a small 'b' are the only kind welcome) and there's less chance that someone will call you into the kitchen to pour them juice or mop up the mess they caused by pouring it themselves.

Time in an allotment is fenced off from the rest of the household chores and, as a result, it feels a lot more peaceful. I don't think I've ever heard so much birdsong in the inner city. I'm aware that I will be cursing those birds when they're feasting on my soft fruits, but at the moment they provide a great soundtrack.

"Yes it's peaceful because you are escaping from your children," the father of those children pointed out. This is true. But I've also been bringing them along, one at a time, to help dig, rake and potter.

My eldest son has been schooled in gardening by both sets of grandparents and now he's well able to put his back into hefting soil. Child labour it may be, but he enjoys it and we get a rare chance to talk without the other two jostling for attention. He's also chatting to other allotmenters who are delighted to see a young recruit.

But tonight the kids are in bed and I'm heading out to put in my gardening time. I've been away for a couple of days and there has been more work done in other plots. Raised beds are popping up all over the place. Each patch is different and work has started on the one right beside me. A soil sieve and some proper garden twine have been left here so I'm guessing this is someone who knows what they're doing.

My peas and beans will, hopefully, scramble up quickly this late in the season and they need something to scramble up. Unfortunately, I haven't had time to get to the garden centre for bamboo canes.

I could just plant the beans and put in supports when they start poking their heads through.

Then I spot the dried clump of dead woody weed in a corner. I start snapping branches and twigs off and soon I have three bean teepees finished off with the blue mohair wool I used to mark out the paths. It's all a bit Blair Witch meets Blue Peter, but it works and they cost me nothing.

This is good because a helpful hint through Twitter from gardening expert Jane Powers about good gloves led to me splurging nearly €80 on luscious looking plants in an online garden centre.

Meanwhile, our brown-bin compost delivery has announced the allotments' arrival throughout the neighbourhood with a strong stench. Thankfully, the smell has abated this week and it's slowly being dug into the soil.

During Sunday's torrential rain community gardeners Alice and Rosie raked and composted and generally started the community garden. This kind of enthusiasm is catching. Usually around this time of the year I miss all those grand stretches in the evening. Not this year. I've been out in the long evenings anoraked against the rain, working hard to keep warm.

It's dark by the time I get home, tired and a little bit smelly, but very happy.

Twitter.com/catherineeats

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