Friday, 31 July 2020

Squeezing the brakes

This blog post should have gone out this morning at about eight o’clock. But I awoke feeling that we were missing something. I had felt the need to refer to the ending of lockdown but was puzzled at the lack of clear-cut information try, as I might, to get itSo, I decided to delay publication. Here is the intended first paragraph. I wrote it, yesterday, just after we heard about the re-imposition of lockdown in certain northern towns:

Tomorrow is the first day of August. The day that lockdown ends, doesn’t it? Well, I have just done a search on Google and cannot get a very clear answer. It certainly does not feel like the end. In any case, our local paper says that our borough (Sandwell) is halfway to a local lockdown as we appear in the “top ten” coronavirus hotspots

One reason I held back was our local situation. By the time the Prime Minister made his “squeeze the brakes” speech at midday, Public Health England (PHE) had published the latest data. Here was the missing information. The key indicator is the ‘Incidence per 100,000 population (weekly)’. Sandwell (which includes Tipton) stands at 28.1 – higher than in many towns that are now locked down again
So, put simply, we are on the brink. The local council is urging those considered vulnerable to continue sheltering, despite the national easing. See video here. So, in effect, we have a moderated form of local lockdown. The shape of things to come? You can check the figures on the PHE site here - you will see how narrowly missed being locked down with the northern towns (see Local Authority Watchlist Areas)

So, Codger?
You may rightly ask what this has to do with our gardening / fund-raising initiative? Well, it is in its origin a lockdown initiative. Without lockdown the question arises – do we continue? Should we draw a line under the Codger project? It now seems that the question is premature. But still we need to be thinking about it. One thing is certain: I want to support the Webb's plant sale next year (see previous issues for details) and hope very much that it will go ahead

Right now, I still have plants to supply those who would like them from the stock that has been built up. And, as far as I am aware, the BCM need has not gone away. So, it is business as usual but, hopefully, at a rather slower pace. Certainly, slower on a day like today – I thought I would melt. Perhaps I should not have made the comment about more sun to ripen the tomatoes. And, you may remember, I also said something about how uneconomic it is to grow potatoes. Here, I shall eat my words …

Buckshee potatoes weighing 4.5kg
Potato bonanza
At the beginning of lockdown, I noticed a bare patch of soil with some shoots coming through. Suspecting these to be potato plants I decided on an experiment. A covered them with some half-rotted wood chip which I banked up as further growth was seen, adding more material every now and then. Would I get a result?

Did not look promising but ...
On Wednesday, I cleared the pile of woodchip and had a little dig. The photograph shows the result – a surprising 4.5kg! Even more surprising was the efficiency: the area measured 70cm by 45cm, which I make 0.315 of a square metre. This makes the yield around 14kg per sq metre, which seems pretty good to me. Looks like I shall have another go next year

It makes me think of the quotation, “I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase”. Except, in this case, I did not even plant! Rarely a day goes past when I don’t learn something new from gardening. So, much happens outside the plan – it is part of the endless fascination. Helps with humility, too

Shot taken in April showing raised beds
Square-foot gardening
Doing the sums above on the potato yield reminded me of something I have been meaning to cover - square-foot gardening. This was a technique advocated some years ago and involves splitting your plot into one-foot squares for planting and growing. I gave it a trial but came to the conclusion that the size was too small. However, I found the concept helpful. That is, divide your plot in to squares or rectangles. The web abounds with videos on the topic

It fits well with raised beds. I'm glad that I constructed these as I have now reached the stage where bending is not as much fun as it used to be. I have only found one disadvantage - they dry out at the edges. Also, I wish now that I had not gone over completely to raised beds - not so good for raspberries, I have found. The drainage is a bit too good - it is one of the many jobs I need to get around to doing. That's about all for this week, friends. Sorry to be late with this post

Best wishes from the old Codger (melting in the heat)

Pears looking good in the sun

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