Well I’m not sure where to start this month. Things are looking bleak on our patch and I’m feeling very despondent. I read somewhere recently that allotmenting is a marathon and not a sprint, if that is true then I have reached the wobbly legged stage when you think all is lost. All the green bean, courgette and pumpkin plants that I was so pleased with in my spare room are looking extremely sorry for themselves and are actually smaller than when they went in. The growth really has been non-existent for these guys and the leaves are all yellow, which I have learned means lack of nitrogen.  The gales have stripped all the baby gooseberries from the bush and the strawberries can’t make up their minds whether to live or die.

The cold and windy weather has been only part of the problem. I have been playing detective and discovered that in the ten years under the previous tenants not one scrap of manure went into the soil, and there have been dark murmurings of mysteriously disappearing top soil prior to that. So I am facing up to the fact that our soil is incredibly impoverished and needs serious nourishment. After an evening of gloom, we have determined to make soil improvement a priority come the autumn.  I made a good start by tracking down some beautifully rotted horse manure from Knowes Farm in East Lothian, (£4 for a BIG bag and all proceeds to cancer charity).

Meanwhile we are nurturing what we have planted with a combination of tender words, organic liquid feed and chicken manure. The broad beans are growing slowly. Despite a mugging by a gang of Pea Weevils who made charming lacy edges on the leaves, their beautiful flowers have been attracting the bees so we hope for a plateful. The potatoes are also growing, but oh so very slowly. My heart did give a leap when I spotted a flash of white on the green potato leaves, I thought it was a flower but on closer inspection it turned out to be a large pigeon dropping. Oh well – more fertiliser I suppose!

From my brick build raised bed, we have had several small lettuce leaves, a few nibbles of rocket and enough sorrel to make a tasty, salty addition to a salad. The tomatoes are sporting some feeble flowers, and I have started again with peas in another grow bag, the first lot succumbed completely to the bad soil/Pea Weevil combo. Did you ever notice that the word “weevil” contains the word “evil”?

My unease at killing slugs has led me to develop a lovely mixture of coffee grounds, chilli seeds, egg shells and chopped up banana skins to scatter.  I just put all those things in a bowl as I generate them in the kitchen, cover it with a tea towel and let it dry out a bit, I have high hopes for its effectiveness but time will tell.  I discovered that rats raiding the compost bins are a problem on the whole site – not helped by the fact that they have developed a taste for the organic slug pellets.  A fox has also been leaving us large droppings, maybe drawn by the rats? Biodiversity in action.  There have been sightings of lots of tiny fogs from the pond – but they will have to get a lot bigger before they can tackle our huge shiny black slugs.

A final word – at LAST some very tiny carrot seedlings have been spotted – the marigold carrot fly scarer plant is towering over them – dare I hope for a small success?

by Nicki Slater, Imagination Workshop

[Red metal lunchbox, £12.99 from Museum Selection]