FionaGrowsFood 2: Lockdown Boogaloo – I was gardening long before Covid made it cool

Look, I’m going to come straight out and admit it, I haven’t shared a blog post for the guts of two years. It’s not for the want of trying. I have, on numerous occasions, sat down to type something out here about the allotment, but words kept failing me.

Perhaps I had writer’s block, perhaps I got really fed up with my garden for a while, perhaps I met a mad sexy bloke and was lost in the giddy, early throes of romance, perhaps I was busy focusing on my career, perhaps I had to move house six times in 12 months, perhaps a pandemic has been sweeping the globe. Perhaps life got in the way. Perhaps life just happened.

Here’s the thing about gardening, it will wait for you, even when life gets really busy.

I have spent quite a while trying to gather together some thoughts here about Covid-19, lockdowns, the ever-changed world in which we now live. But I write at length about the pandemic all day in work, and it has bled into my every waking hour for more than a year. I have written many draft blog posts, sharing my lockdown story, trying to explain the devastating affect it has had on the allotment. But to be entirely honest, I don’t wan’t to write about lockdown and the pandemic and how awful it has all been.

Not here. This is not the place for it.

And so, after some careful consideration – and some soul-searching via the ingestion of wine – I have decided this will be a Covid-free environment from here on out. I do not want it here. It is, simply put, not fucking welcome.

But before I veto it entirely, I will say this, I was growing food long before lockdown made it cool – and the fact that everyone else has taken up gardening would indeed be wonderful if it didn’t make it impossible to buy any fucking seeds. But that is a conversation for another day.

Last autumn, following months of imprisonment, I was finally able to access my allotment again. After some dramatic wailing about “the bleedin’ state of the place” which lasted for roughly four days, I decided it was time to absolutely rip everything apart and start again… again.

To be fair, the wood on the old raised beds had rotted due to years of exposure to the sodden, Irish weather; the fence was the saddest excuse for a fence I’ve ever seen; and the thigh-high weeds were so entrenched into the drought-baked soil that they had practically become load-bearing weeds.

The ravages of months of lockdown on my allotment

So, before winter kicked in and put the plot (and myself) into hibernation, I enlisted the help of my better half Simon (I fucking told you all I’d manage to grow myself a fella some day), our legend of a friend Phil, a couple of tank tops, two pick axes and a few cans of beer and ripped the place to shreds.

Gone are my old blue raised beds, gone is the old crumbling fence, gone is the third (yes an entire third) of the plot that was honestly just weeds for two years.

In their place are some new raised beds, a new fence (which needs some finishing touches) and because winter happened before I could make a new gate, I just used an old bike instead. I’m pretty sure the entire concept of a gate is betrayed by the fact that a person could simply… cycle away on it, but that’s temporary, I swear.

I am concocting some plans for a sexy new project involving more beer and me drinking said beer while handsome men in tank tops dig my plot for me on the promise of some of said beer (this gardening thing is easy, lads).

But of course, all the hard work will have been a complete waste of time (except for the beer, obviously) if I don’t have plants to fill the plot with, so I’ve been slowly hoarding seeds over the past few weeks and am ready to get growing.

It’s still early in the year, and despite Met Éireann issuing dire warnings all week about heavy snowfall, we’ve had barely a speck here in Dublin. Still, it is still far too cold to plant most things so it’s best to hold off and finish binging whatever it is you’re binging on Netflix. However, if you’re really eager to get started, it’s a good time of year to try propagate some chillis. I’ll be sowing some chillis this week – in coffee cups because I’m a cheap bastard – so I’ll share the inevitable disasters with you.

Until then, warp up warm, try source some seeds and stay safe.

PS. I’m putting together a list of Irish companies to buy seeds from, if you know one, drop me a line and I’ll include it.

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