Planning under a banana-shaped moon

img_3189On this last day of February I cycled to the allotment and spent a sunny morning making and tending a bonfire of the old raspberry canes and fruit tree prunings and planting two rows of shallots. I weeded what will be the potato patch and picked a colander of purple sprouting broccoli. I resisted the temptation to pick rhubarb as today is Shrove Tuesday and we’ll be eating pancakes with sugar and lemon tonight. I noticed the newly planted autumn raspberries are starting to shoot from the base, but nothing else is moving apart from the weeds – oh and daffodils and tulips. I picked the first daffodils from the plot last Friday.

I paced the plot planning this year’s growing and now I’m sitting on the floor and drawing a rough plan onto graph paper. I haven’t made a paper plan since 2014, a bad omission as I like looking back on my plans of what I’ve sown, planted and harvested.  I see I used to be much more experimental growing over 40 different varieties of fruit and vegetables – not all of them successsfully. Nowadays my plot has more space devoted to perennial plantings which fits with my ‘no dig’ permaculture approach to growing. I’ve been allotmenteering for 16 years and in the early years I  grew as many flowers as I did vegetables. In the middle years flowers were squeezed out as I tried for maximum self-sufficiency.  Now I’m happy to grow only my favourite vegetables especially asparagus, baby broad beans, wet garlic, new potatoes, salad leaves, summer herbs, French and borlotti beans, purple sprouting broccoli and squashes and allow plenty of room for floral experimentation.  I also grow rhubarb, summer raspberries, several different varieties of strawberry, autumn raspberries and I have one red gooseberry bush and five (six when I get round to planting my quince) fruit trees. No longer do I grow main crop potatoes, onions, any currant bushes or thorny cultivated blackberries, carrots or parsnips or cabbages. But old habits die hard and I find room for leeks, beetroot, courgettes, cucumbers, chard and kale.

So far this  year I have sown a tray of broad beans (Red Epicure) and four pots of sweet peas from saved seed. I have  new seed for ‘Spencer Waved Mix’ and ‘Kipper Cream’to sow but this year I would like to extend my sweet pea season to beyond a July heatwave so I will hold onto these until after Easter. I’ve checked through all my seeds today.  I don’t order my seeds preferring to call in at my local garden centre on my way to the plot for whatever I need.  Luckily they stock Sarah Raven seeds for flowers,  Jekka McVicar seeds for herbs and carousels of vegetable seeds.

In other news I’m enjoying my self-directed art appreciation course and on a freezing cold Saturday took the train to Dulwich to visit the small but perfectly formed Dulwich Picture Gallery for a Vanessa Bell retrospective. Vanessa has been a favourite artist for a long time, I love her loose brush strokes and colour sense and the feminity of her paintings. She loved picking flowers from her garden, arranging them in a vase and painting them and clearly had her favourite vases which she used over and over again.

You perhaps won’t be surprised to read that I loved the feel-good modern musical that was ‘ La La Land’ and tomorrow I’m looking forward to seeing  ‘Manchester By The Sea’.  At the end of the week I’m going to London to see the David Hockney exhibition at Tate Britain and then catching the bus to Hampstead  to visit Fenton House and Erno Goldfinger’s house.

I’ve just looked up to see the sky is a most beautiful pearly rose and there is a silver sliver of moon.

I’m finally ready for 2017 and excited about what this year has to offer. I didn’t enjoy 2016 which I spent in an almost permanent state of anxiety. I feel bad, almost fraudulent, talking about it here because everything that happened was completely self-inflicted and it is over now, yet it still has some residual power. I need to get fitter and stronger in my body and I know that will help my mind. I’m swimming quite hard once a week (I swim 1500m in under 30 minutes) and I know I’m lucky to have so many wonderful walks on my doorstep, but I still need to recover my confidence on my bike and try out my shoulder with a game of tennis. I followed a 30-day on-line yoga course with a teacher from Texas which was great fun. I’ve practised yoga for decades but stopped going to weekly classes a few years ago. I’m good at practising by myself and attend the occasional class at the local leisure centre but I miss the camaraderie of a weekly class with the same bunch of people. But everyday I am feeling a little better and a little more confident and today I feel as if I’ve leapfrogged forward. Tomorrow is a new month and renewal and spring is in the air.



12 thoughts on “Planning under a banana-shaped moon

  1. Hi Sarah, it’s so nice to catch up with you. I’m glad you’re feeling better so far this year. I struggle with anxiety myself and I find that it really piles up if I don’t do certain things all the time to keep it at bay. I hope this year will find you feeling better inside and out. Your gardening sounds like it is coming along very nicely. I’m really looking forward to planting annuals again and also starting some veggies and herbs from seed. I hope all is well with you and your family, take care.


  2. I enjoyed the Vanessa Bell too but was rather bothered and distracted by inane chatter from two members of staff. I found it hard to concentrate on the captions and pictures. Your gardening sounds so competent and well organised. I feel I should really be better at it by now. I have ordered some flower seeds from Sarah Raven but have been discouraged in my vegetable growing efforts by foxes and slugs.
    I hope you enjoy Willow Walk. I was asked to lend them some toys for an exhibition there a few years back and it was my first visit as a result. Do you follow Adrienne for yoga?


  3. I’m so pleased you’re feeling more like yourself. Hopefully this year will be a good one. All the allotment plans sound wonderful. I love the list of things you grow. I do a weekly yoga class and really get a lot back from it. I practise at home too now. The vanessa bell exhibit sounds great. I enjoy her work too. Xx


  4. It’s lovely to read that you are feeling positive and more content, Sarah. Anxiety is so corrosive; yoga definitely helps with that. I’m impressed by your various visits to exhibitions and films. The only one I have seen is ‘La La Land’ and I didn’t enjoy it as much as I thought I would. I’d love to see the Vanessa Bell exhibition and the David Hockney and you’ve spurred me to make more of an effort to do things like this. I’ve been feeling rather isolated lately.
    Your allotment plans are super-impressive and your plans look so neat and organised. (I have a beloved tin of Caran d’Ache too!) No actual garden plans here yet – they’re all in my rather jumbled head. I hope you enjoy all your other visits and trips and here’s to a good growing season. Take care. Sam x


  5. Glad you’re feeling more yourself this year. I struggle with anxiety as well, and have been feeling a bit stressed. But hopefully it will pass. Exercise is a great tonic I think, I must do more. Anyway, I hope 2017 is a very good year for you. I’m so glad you’re feeling so positive. Love your allotment plans, let’s hope it’s a good growing year as well. CJ xx


  6. Sarah, I had no idea you had such a tough time of it last year. I am sorry, and I hope 2017 is better for you. Anxiety is a personal demon of mine although I don’t tend to discuss it on the blog, so you have my heartfelt sympathy. But I think this post is full of quiet strength and positivity, and it sounds like you are slowly building yourself back up again, physically and spiritually.

    My mouth was watering reading your list of things you might plant and grow this year – it was like a menu of all that is good about summer.


  7. I am glad that 2017 is going well for you. You certainly sound happy and full of energy. I am impressed with your allotment efforts (I am an armchair gardener). We had to sacrifice our quince tree to allow access for builders, I am sad but rarely fruited, it is so exposed where we live, too much for that poor little tree. Wishing you a happy March.


  8. Hello Sarah, how lovely to discover your blog! I seem to have been seduced over to Instagram (@occasionalscotland) from blogging. Not sure if I’ll resume blogging but I do love discovering new blogs and settling in for a good read back through the months. I’ll definitely be doing that with yours. Was so envious of your Paul Nash and Vanessa Bell exhibition visits. We had a London trip booked to see those and also the Two Temple Place Sussex Modernism one, but I was ill and we had to cancel the night before. We’ve just given up our allotment after many years, as we’ll be moving north and are just too busy at the moment to keep it, our garden in Edinburgh and our garden in the north going all at the same time. But it was a wrench, and I’ll look forward to your allotment tales!


  9. Thank you for the kind comment you left on my blog. There is a tiny communal garden at the back of the flats but I have no garden of my own. I don’t have the energy for gardening any more and will be content with my memories, and I have other hobbies which will keep me well occupied.


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