WE WENT to the allotment on Easter Sunday with two trays of runner bean seedlings and a bag of seed potatoes.
The former had been nurtured by my good self and the latter were a gift from my mother-in-law, who can’t quite believe we never buy seed potatoes, preferring instead to simply plant the leftover spuds that start to sprout while awaiting their inclusion in a Stelfox family meal. We generally have much more success that way.
So there we were, the sun shining down on our backs as we laboured, digging little holes and pushing bean plants into the nicely-warmed soil.
I was feeling quite pleased with myself as planting things out is the very best bit of allotmenting, second only to eating the first strawberries.
However, contentedness is a fragile state of mind, easily disturbed.
“There’s going to be a frost tonight,’’ said one of our neighbouring plotters – an allotment association official and Experienced Gardener – nodding in the direction of my bean babies..
I paused to consider her words while the Man-in-Charge engaged her in the sort of polite allotment talk that he’s so good at. He’s had plenty of practice, as every neighbour stops to tell him about their operations and ailments, political views and gardening tips. He’s so popular that he sometimes returns home with bottles of award-winning pea wine or handfuls of surplus produce. We’re still picking the leeks that someone gave him as seedlings. And then I remembered that last year our bean plants had, indeed, succumbed to a late frost. Although, to be fair, most recovered.
“Oh, piffle,’’ I said to the Man, as soon as she was out of earshot. Because it really was too late, I wasn’t going to pot them all up again and I’m not the sort of person who generally takes advice that I don’t want or didn’t ask for.
I have a stubborn streak that sometimes gets the better of me.
The Man will probably never let me forget the time I was reversing my car out of a tight spot. “I don’t think you’re going to make it,’’ he said. “Go back and try again.’’
“No, it’ll be fine,’’ I replied, through gritted teeth. And proceeded to rip the offside headlight out of its socket.
We hadn’t known each other for very long at the time, but he clearly wasn’t too deterred by such intransigence on my part as he can now look back on more than 20 years of ignored advice.
The beans, of course, are a joint act of rebellion. But the fact of the matter is that we are busy people and had found some precious time over Easter to do allotmenting.
And the weather was good.
Unlike many of the members of our allotment association, we are not retired, we do not have all day to potter about and our beans have to be planted when we have the opportunity, not when the portents are good.
It’s not the first year our early planting has attracted the attention of other plotters. Last year the Man overheard one elderly gardener remarking to another, in hushed and faintly shocked tones: “He’s put his beans in!’’ Which was inaccurate as it should have been: “She’s put Her beans in.’’
This weekend I’m going to be a real devil and risk an advance planting of courgettes. I may even follow it up with a sprinkling of sugar snap peas. And if someone tells me that I’m being hasty I will throw in a defiant handful of beetroot seeds for good measure.
Patience may be a virtue but it’s one that I definitely don’t have.