I is for …
… inspired by old people.When I first got my allotment I spent more time researching how to grow vegetables than actually doing it. Fortunately it soon dawned on me that the best way to learn was to get outside, sow some seeds and see what happened. Allotment folk, many of whom still fit the retired male stereotype, are very generous with their time, knowledge and spare plants: all invaluable to a new grower lacking in confidence and know-how. Tips are shared off the cuff with no thanks expected if you bring in a bountiful harvest as a result or offense taken if advice goes in one ear and out the other.
One of my greatest sources of inspiration at the allotment is 86 year old Henri. Whenever I stop to chat a familiar pattern emerges.
Henri: ‘Have you got letttuce/redcurrants/beans/greengages? (etc)
Me: ‘growing or to eat?’
Henri : ‘to eat.’ (I shake my head). ‘Come, follow me, I give you some’.
This inevitably leads to a little tour of the beds on the way to the lettuces/redcurrants etc with much gesturing from Henri and nodding from me. I love the way he points to something, asks ‘You know why I do that?‘ and smiles broadly whether I guess correctly or have to say ‘no idea, you tell me.’
There are so many things I’ve learned from Henri over the years but for today’s post here are some snaps from his plot this afternoon. I like to think they capture an Italian way of companion planting but I think Henri would simply say
‘if I see soil, I plant something.’
Courgettes and tomatoes growing between runner bean poles (the shade keeps moisture in the ground for thirsty plants).
Lettuce, purple sprouting and dwarf beans between rows of strawberry plants (they’ll be gone by the time the runners spread and it keeps the weeds away).
Beets between beans.
And my absolute favourite (even if it doesn’t look pretty!). Purple sprouting between cut down broad bean plants (it keeps the birds off. No need to net them as the birds won’t land on the ground if they can’t safely see around them for predators/annoyed allotment holders).
© The first image is from ‘We are what we do’ – a brilliant website from the creators of ‘Change the world for a fiver’. There’s so much I could say about this fantastic initiative but the website says it so much better.