To Scorpions, By Way Of Vipers and Wasps


“How much can they grow?” we innocently – stupidly – asked each other, up at the plot before a few days away. London beckoned. Tours of the Houses of Parliament and Buckingham Palace and anything else that could be shoe-horned in. The they in question were courgettes: looking as sweet and tinily charming as Gremlins before water.

We get back and like the un-named plant in God’s creation garden in Ted Hughes’ marvellous creation story How the Whale Became* they have doubled, re-doubled and doubled again. In size. and in number. Strangely there are only yellow ones – and we both swear that we planted equal numbers of yellow and Green Bush seedlings out into the raised beds.

So the Plantation Owner takes a former chef’s kitchen knife to them and they will be headed for veggie bakes, relatives, sponge cake (I hope!) and the gym fairly soon. Problem of course is that Hydra like when we take one off, two more seem to take the place.

Nearby the pumpkins have finally taken off, but have not yet produced a flower. The top dressing of horse do-dah may have helped, but we need pumpkins for bonfire celebrations.

Elsewhere the potato plants are naturally dying back. The first row we lifted was poor, but since then we are getting reasonable crops: no blight and – so far – no damage from wireworm or slugs.

Runner beans, deliberately planted late are now ready for picking and peas are coming to an end: but, Hurst Green Shaft – still sweet.

Good crops of cabbage – and the best cauliflower we have ever grown – in fact in more than ten years of trying the only ones we have got to full heads.

But most of all: so many, many currants: red, black and white. Wines made and plans to pick as many of the remainder as possible before the weekend.

Then another plotholder approaches: he’s going round telling anyone who’ll listen – and on an allotment many of us have perfected the art of seeming to listen while planning either how to get away or what we need to do next on the ground – that there are still adders on site. He came across one on his plot this morning in the long grass (my mind is saying “weeds” but very quietly). Fifteen inches long apparently. He poked it with a stick, then went to have a brew in somebody else’s shed while, presumably the serpent, taking the hint moved on.

We have our own wasps’ nest: in the third compost bin where we keep the straw dry; it’s used for the “wee bucket” and to put under the strawberries (of course – oh, except that we forgot this year – whoops!). Not a problem yet, the wasps are still gardener friendly, taking pests from the crops to nurture nest mates and larvae – but the nest is very close to plum, apple and pear trees.

The new-this-year guy across the path proudly shows us the range of peepers he is growing in his smart greenhouse (“thanks for the compliment he says,” when I mention it to him, looks great, but was a very bitch to put up!”). he’ s got bell peppers, jalapenos and one called Scorpion which apparently you need to wear gloves even to touch it.

Vipers, wasps, scorpions: allotmenteering suddenly sounds very risky!

Sitting upstairs at the moment listening to football commentaries and secretly wondering if I can manage to stay up long enough to look for the Perseid meteor showers that should be visible in clear skies promised by BBC’s weather forecasters: it would certainly be something to see, wouldn’t it?

*What? Never read it: I can heartily recommend it.


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