Saturday, 27 November 2010

Frozen leeks and the church of permaculture

These leeks at Regents Park Allotment were definitely frozen this morning. It feels like we have fast forwarded to February. Only a week ago I was at Wisley, marvelling at how mild the weather was. But after that spell of warmish autumn days that lulled a few bulbs into poking some leaves above the soil and made the autumn leaves sing against blue skies, we are now in deepest winter chill, even in central London.
I went to frosty Regents Park this moring for an introduction to permaculture course organised by Sustain. As a complete novice, I learned that there is more to it than the much talked about forest gardening. Trainer Stefan told us that it is first and foremost a 'set of thinking tools'  - more about how you live your life than what you grow in your garden. That's all very well, but I am suspicious of any set of principles that 'must be adhered to' - something to do with a Catholic upbringing I suspect. But as a method of getting the most out of a small growing space, I will overlook the quasi-religious rulebook and I will read more.
These hard frosts are very unusual for central London, especially in November and I fear for my echium which was very belatedly wrapped in fleece. Luckily my last 95 bulbs have been planted, two rows of Feltham First peas have gone in at the allotment and hopefully the ground will unfreeze in time to plant some garlic.
The days are excruciatingly short and cold and it really is time to retreat indoors - fires and cakes and some time to pore over seed catalogues and catch up on all those gardening books. And then, surely it will be nearly spring again?

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Shooting sprouts and kale

There's only one thing to do on the allotment at this time of year. Dig. Very vigorous digging, just to keep warm. But this week the digging was interrupted by photographer Paul Debois. Paul has decided to shoot all the women allotmenteers he has worked with as a follow on to his gorgeous series of gardeners hand portraits (worth looking to see if you can guess which hands belong to which celebrity gardener, it's quite fascinating). But for this project, he is photographing me, Tamsin and Kate (from Gardeners' World magazine) on the work allotment. How flattering and potentially glamorous!
But I don't recommend a photoshoot on an allotment in November. It's been hard to get the right day, weather and light, and when these did converge, it was, naturally, freezing cold. So we waited for a red bus to shoot past on the flyover behind to set the Londonscene and tried to smile in the wind. Chapped lips and flyaway hair aside, the end result looks great - a sort of more down-to-earth Charlie's Angels, if you wanted to be complimentary - and, consummate modelling professionals that we clearly are, you can't really tell that we were frozen to the bone. I will post a link to the photo if and when Paul adds it to his website.
Meanwhile I have to report that the Tuscan Kale is looking truly magnificent, but the sprouts have a long way to go before they reach any sort of respectable size.