At the start of a new allotment year we do indeed need to pick ourselves up, dust ourselves down, start all over again, and forget the problems of last year.
January is the month when we start to sow some tiny seeds and see them magically transform into an abundance of vegetables. Each year when I look at all the packets of seeds I have ready for the coming season, I feel somewhat humble when I visualise the amazing transformation from the seeds nestling within their small packet, to the immense range of produce they will develop into. I somewhat fear for the occasional failure, but am also optimistic that this will be a good year for cultivation and we will produce bumper crops along the way. In many ways it is a privilege that we will be the instigator and caretaker of this wonderful process.
Incidentally, Pick Yourself Up is a Jerome Kern song written in 1936 for the film Swing Time starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Swing Time was a dance musical, a very popular genre for many years, which surprisingly has gone out of favour now. I say surprisingly because with the popularity of Strictly and with the majority of theatre shows in London being musicals, I would have thought there would be a market for them. Perhaps Kevin Clifton and Oti Mabuse starring in Last Ferry to Grimsby - or even Anton and Anne Widdicombe in Love on the Plot.
Talking of Fred Astaire, I have occasionally scratched my head as to why there is an Astaire Road in Eastbourne, near to ESK. I eventually resorted to Wiki to see if I could find where the name derived. Evidently, it is named after Fred Astaire’s sister Adele, who was Fred’s dance partner for thirty years. Adele later married Charles Cumberland, a son of the 9th Duke of Devonshire – whose family of course own half of Eastbourne. And so a dancer from Nebraska, who most probably never visited Eastbourne, has a road named after her. I can imagine a Eastbourne Council Meeting from the 1930’s when a pompous councillor made the proposal for the road naming – no doubt in order to curry favour with the Devonshire family. An England from bygone age, but one which I perceive the likes of Jacob Rees Mogg would like to see us return. Doff your cap lads.
But back to seed sowing. So far in January I have sown some onion seeds, variety Toughball. Plus some Aubergine, some Lettuce Little Gem, Cauliflower AYR, and some Cabbage Golden Acre. All of these are sown at home into small pots of compost placed into a propagator perched rather precariously on cabinets in the spare bedroom.
The onion seedlings have been pricked out into modules and placed on windowsills throughout the house. This process will go on for a few months until it is warm enough to take the plants over to the plot. The lettuce, cabbage, and cauliflower plants will be planted in the polytunnel and under cloches.
Today I will sow some chilli and pepper seeds, and next week the tomato seeds. It isn’t particularly necessary to sow this early, but I can’t wait to get started, and I also like to stagger the sowings over the coming months.
The one other thing I start in January is that I pot up my dormant Dahlia tubers, give them a water, and place in the propagator to await the shoots coming up for me to take cuttings. Every year I think that the shoots won’t happen, but they always do – but I still worry that they won’t.