early morning work

I went to the allotment yesterday morning to water the plants and turn over the compost heap. Turning the compost heap was thwarted when I peeled back the top coverings to discover a large slow worm, its skin the colour of burnished copper, curled up on the newspaper, watching me. I wasn’t inclined to disturb it, not least because we have had a couple of slow-worm fatalities on the allotment this year (I put a spade through one as I was digging and P accidentally killed one when he was mattocking up some tough ground) and I still feel guilty about both deaths. I love having slow worms on the allotment so leaving the compost unturned for a while is a small price to pay.

I did get the plants watered, and was thrilled to discover that the bean seeds I planted just a week ago are vigorously springing to life already. The Florence fennel and beetroot seeds that went in at the same time don’t seem to be doing anything much, but the lettuce seeds I put in around the same time are showing themselves. (I’m thrilled about this as I’ve never had that much luck with growing lettuces in the back garden.)

Also, unexpectedly, the final lost seed potato has finally put out a sprout through the earth ridge, weeks after the other plants got going. I never quite gave up hope but it was a near thing. I’m growing a few plants of International Kidney, just to have some potatoes on the go, and because International Kidney is an old variety (better known now as Jersey Royal) and I’m interested in heritage plants.

And the courgette plants are starting to produce the first few fruits. I am very excited about this.

This morning I stayed home and finished digging the back garden. There are a few tiny beds where I try to grow salad vegetables and, for the winter, spinach beet and chard. My early attempts to grow salad leaves this year were thwarted by Rosa Krump, the younger of our two cats. She is part Maine Coon and ‘blessed’ with a streak of devilment a mile wide. Quiet and demure when under observation, there is nothing she likes better, when out at night, than to dig up the seed beds and rows of young plants. I tried cloches in May and she greeted them as a superior cover for her outside toilet and digging activities. I haven’t quite given up as yet (and she has failed to dig up the herb garden) but I do wonder how I am going to keep her out of the seed beds this time.

The only good thing at present is that she has lost interest in the strawberry bed, which has been a favourite playground for the last three kittens and has suffered accordingly. We are adopting a new kitten this autumn and I am planning to dig the bed out before its arrival and make ridges before replanting the strawberries. I think it will be better for the plants anyway and it will give the cats somewhere to hide and play without causing major suffering to the plants. At any rate, that’s the theory.

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