A light mizzle turning to insistent rain, an hour spent hand-stirring cow manure, building a second hazel teepee: another day in the spring life of our allotment. Never quite sure what to say when someone asks about biodynamics. Leave it to qualified gardening gurus such as Jane Scotter at Fern Verrow farm in Herefordshire or Bernard Jarman at BDA in Stroud. So when Howard’s daughter Nancy asks what is in the murky water we are spinning in a bucket, we tell her it’s magic cow poo – that we are working with the fairies that help us farm the plot. For kids it is often explanation enough: Nancy later enthusiastically joins in.
Biodynamics is instinctive rather than philosophical for us, a non-invasive ultra organics that has always ‘felt’ right. Preparation 500 – the cow manure prep buried in a horn over winter – is one of the building blocks of our growing: food for the soil and nourishing for us. But first, the new teepee. They are handsome, rugged, robust, the hazel poles and after changing our minds about where the ‘want to go’, they are soon standing proud on the plot.
It is a key time when the allotment starts to stand tall instead of hugging the ground. The nursery rows of beans are breaking through (we will move them to the teepee next week). The rills of salad seed are also up, showing broad-leaf mizuna, wild and salad rocket and a Wild Garden spring mix. But the big surprise is a patch of self-seeded mustardy winter leaves (red-frilled and green) that has appeared among the chicory.
Calendula, too, is scattered though and the Basque ‘tear’ peas are four or five inches tall, almost the same as the broad beans which are already flowering at half-height. There is a lot yet to sow and we are already running out of space. I love this time.
But quickly back to the biodynamics. An hour spent stirring (we tend to take 20-minute turns) and we are also energised, Nancy poses as a scarecrow and then helps spray the mix around.
The visits are becoming more urgent now as the days open up. The call of the land is louder. Soon enough we will go home laden with food but first a few precious weeks to remember how lucky we are, to remind us that what we give to the plot is as important as what we take away. It is so good to be back. Happy growing!
words – Allan Jenkins
photographs – Howard Sooley