Playing in the soil at this time of year by Peter Parr (2001)

ink and wax crayon on canvas - 2nd November 2012

Year of the Pigeon No 1 – ink and wax crayon on canvas – 2nd November 2012

Do you like Garlic? Ever wondered why it is so expensive? It must be grown abroad in the sun! No! Now is the time to plant it, even in the North, and your original garlic bulb will multiply tenfold when divided into individual cloves and planted a few inches apart with the pointed clove top upwards one inch under the soil.

If you have an allotment or vegetable garden, fine, plenty of room to plant, but even pots and window boxes stripped of their bedding plants and still containing their potting compost can be reused at no expense.

Garlic bulbs to plant are available at garden centres and via catalogues; but my stock is from a purchase eight plus years ago at a Bradford Asian greengrocers, opposite our favourite curry house. Each year I’ve selected the biggest and fittest bulbs to save and plant. Now I have to open my fingers two inches across to pick up the bulbs. Over the years they have naturalised to my soil and local climate. They are so juicy people beg me for them each June when they are lifted especially for making salad dressings.

Garlic likes a cold spell, and if planted in Spring, sometimes it does not segment into cloves and remains a bigger single round clove. Next time you see garlic in the shops, buy a couple of bulbs. It is even said to keep greenfly off roses when planted nearby.

What about fresh juicy solid onions in June when old shop ones are held together by chemical upkeep? Winter onion sets planted four to six inches apart with their tips just under the soil surface to put off inquisitive birds pulling them out, will give you a reason to patrol the garden in the cold to watch their steady winter growth.

The same applies to Shallots (seven inches apart) traditionally planted on the shortest day to be harvested on the longest day. Druid seasonal poetry in itself.

Broad beans, usually ‘Aquadulce’ and ‘The Sutton’ are sitting nervously in their seed packets in shops, willing customers to buy them so they can germinate, after sowing, into life.

Winter peas especially ‘Feltham First’ and ‘Meteor’ sown now, will be a magnet to the taste buds in May. I’ll bet few ever see a saucepan, just an open mouth standing above them, grazing on the hoof as primitive man did before us.

If your soil or old bedding pot compost you are planting into looks a bit fatigued by the summer growing season, fork in some blood, fish and bone, or pelleted chicken manure before planting; choose a sheltered spot you know will catch the winter sun and be warmer. If you have the soil space, leave twelve inch walkways between rows to tend the crop. Come early spring, give these winter crops a boost with blood, fish and bone or chicken pellets scattered around them for the rain to wash in.

By May, you will have such early abundant produce about to harvest, your neighbours will think you had the Mediterranean sun hired to hover above your garden all winter.

 

Taken from ‘The Zoo and Logical Times’, first issue, Autumn / Winter 2001

In remembrance of Peter Parr 1949 – 2012

L.M.S

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