Tuesday, 14 August 2018

THE BIGGER PICTURE (AND THE LITTLE)

Seven spotted ladybird (probably) on radish leaf. Coccinella septempunctata
Seven Spotted Ladybird
I began paying closer attention to the flowering radishes when
I noticed cabbage white butterflies were preferring them to
the adjacent purple sprouting broccoli plants. 
I've had a letter from the committee. A perfectly sensible one asking if I can cope with having so much allotment space when the larger section isn't tidy enough.

It's true. I'm struggling to get all the carpet etc. disposed of, and allowing more wild plants to grow around the place than is conventional (or acceptable) on a public allotment. In part this is because I've paid most attention recently to the half allotment I took over fresh from someone who had put a lot of care and attention into it. I wanted her to know I am looking after it. There's also the challenge of staying in all day for plumbers when they aren't able to give a precise time for their arrival. So watering had taken priority over weeding.

But it's more than that. Through the years I've been paying so much attention to the small things around us I've lost the ability to see 'the bigger picture'. By this I'm talking in purely visual terms. Instead of digging everything over, I've been fretting that I haven't yet taken photographs of the variety of grasses on the site and every day I've left them till 'tomorrow'. And even when 'weeding' on parts of the plot under cultivation, I've been reluctant to pull things out. After all, they got there first, the grasses and wild plants. It was their home before I supplanted them with runner beans.

So . . . admitting to my failure, I set to work to put things on a more conventional keel.

Willow Herb flower (with Marjoram flower on its right)
Willow Herb
In real life the willow herb flower is pinker than in the picture
but the light was dull and the photo came out like this.
(To the right is a marjoram flower. The colour is right for that.)
I stood at the top of the main plot and tried to see it as if through the eyes of others. The first thing I noted was willow herb; not enough for my taste but enough to draw attention to itself because it stands higher than other plants, the flowers are of a bright and startling pink and the white curls of their opening seed pods are truly attractive when activated on individual plants rather than in a clump (where they look messy). My willow herb plants were spread about the plot and looked magnificent: flowers and pods at all their stages. But being the first thing one might notice when taking in the broader scene they had to be the first to go. Straight away the plot looked different; more boring but more tidy too. Stage one!

Common Frog (Rana temporaria)
Removing the wilds plants reveals a Common Frog (Rana temproaria).
There's still shelter for it in between and under the plastic crates.
Next . . . the grasses. Their stems of flowers and seeds (depending on the variety) were the tallest unintentional plants once the willow herb had gone. (All but one willow herb plant down near the compost bin - I had to keep one, didn't I?) So I snapped off the stems, pulled out the plants where they'd ease easily from the powdery ground with one tug. And if neither worked I slid the seeds off onto my own soil and snipped the rest off later. I got a bit irritable about this. The wind might well take willow herb seeds to other plots but most of the grasses on mine produce heavy seeds which plop directly to the ground. But they've gone.

Redshank flower
Redshank
Next, the path between my plot and the untended one beside it. I'd forgotten completely about this path. It's rough and odd and I have two others to walk down so I'd let it be. Out came nearly all the extraneous plants. Another clear difference achieved. (I left a redshank plant. Couldn't take out everything!)

With five sacks of 'weeds' I appealed to a friend to take them to the council dump in his car. Once he'd agreed to that I set about packing carpet into bin liners as an extra. It will take many more car loads to get it all away (many, many, many) and in terms of how the allotment looks, its removal makes little or no difference - but it pleases me more than getting rid of willow herb and dead nettle and redshanks and beautiful grasses.

If I hadn't kept taking time off to look at the 'little' things as I went, I'd probably have achieved much more in the time. But I can't stop doing it. See a fly - grab my camera. Pull a weed out by its roots - photograph the roots.

Redshank plant with roots.
Uprooted Redshank
And in this I see something of an advantage in having an allotment instead of just looking at the vegetation around hedgerows. Hedgerows have to be left as they are. However interested one may be in knowing what's underground, one can't go around pulling up wild flowers to take a peep. (Different location, different terminology.) But if the wild plants on my allotment have to go anyway then wa-hey . . . I can examine their roots. I have a new angle. When I take in the larger scene I now realise there's another of the same size beneath it. It's not a mirror. It's completely different. And I'm allowed to go there!

P.S. I used to go to iSpot a lot to help identify plants and insects and to confirm (or otherwise) things I thought I already knew. Then it slowed down so much it became almost impossible to use. That was a while back so I thought I'd give it another go. It's faster now than it ever was and a pleasure to use. I'm back to recommending it. 

19 comments:

karen gimson said...

Lucky there isn’t a committee looking at my plot. Mine is a disgrace to be honest. Good luck with your allotment. It will be worth it in the end.

Countryside Tales said...

It’s a conundrum I experience all the time with the garden here. Wild plants are beautiful and adapted for our wildlife, but left unchecked they take over and push everything else, diversity-wise, out. I still find it hard pulling them up. A thought provoking post, as always. I love your frog and ladybird.

Sue Garrett said...

Your committee should come and look at some of the plots on our site. They’d probably throw a wobbly.

liz said...

It’s fortunate I don’t have an allotment, I don’t think I could keep up “standards” and The Committee would be on my case. You are very good to apply yourself to weeding and getting rid of carpet. Love the frog! In my own garden, I have a mixture of native and cultivated plants. It’s mostly a flower/pollinator garden and full of bees, birds and butterflies right now!

David Gascoigne said...

Is tidy so important? I applaud your dedication to wild things and I hope you will find a long term solution to enable you to comply with the edicts of the allotment police as well as retain healthy habitat for wildlife, with some interesting native flora too. I realize that allotments are intended to be productive areas, but protection of native flora and fauna is productive too.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Karen. Whatever your allotment looks like, you are growing more than me. I would have liked to have been growing more by now and that would have shonw how serious I am but there are big expanses yet to be sorted. I'm glad they have pointed out I should be paying attention to the bits I am not yet using as well as the bit I am. I needed the prod.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Countryside Tales. I had chosen an area that would be my 'garden' - selecting some of the grasses to keep, transferring ornamental onions there and letting herbs rampage. In other words, an enjoyable, self-conscious bit of 'semi-wild'in which to sit and hope hay-fever didn't strike. But that patch was easier to dig than most of the rest so I put squash and out-door tomatoes there instead. Still at the drawing board!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Sue. The committee at my allotments are really relaxed compared with at some other sites - where rules are so stringent I would be frightened about taking anything on.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Liz. I find I'm getting to be ambivalent about pollinator attracting plants. Some of them on my plot are so attractive to bees I wonder if they've any spare time left to make a quick dash around the vegetable flowers.

Caro said...

Sadly the committee are right, a productive allotment is not the place for weeds/wildflowers to run riot but it sounds like their letter was a gentle nudge rather than being overly critical. Perhaps, in due time, you could create a contained 'meadow' area - dill, fennel and leucanthemum daisies will entice hoverflies, scabious and mullein will bring butterflies, geranium, poppies, cornflowers, borage and cerinthe are all bee magnets. I've seen all of these growing on allotments. Just yesterday (not on an allotment), I saw a glorious wild meadow (and it really was end of season wild!) growing under old apple trees - even rosebay willowherb and grasses were in there! There was a clear gravelled circle in the middle to give it balance because the area was created for visitors to sit in quiet contemplation of nature. And one thing you can be sure of - all the wildflowers you pulled out recently will certainly return next year!

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello David. I wouldn't call them allotment police. Some allotment sites are very strict and I think this one keeps the balance. But if people aren't 'keeping up' they need to know we really do want the plot. I don't know if this site has a waiting list but many do. And with my plot it's mostly that I've got 'starting up' problems. (Carpet everywhere and still getting my new (to me) house in order which is also taking time.) Once I've got things into proper beds etc. it will be easier to maintain. Where I have gone wrong is in concentrating solely on the bits I've managed to plant things in so far and ignoring the rest - which isn't truly 'rough ground', it's just that there's been a gap between tenants.

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Caro. I agree with nearly everything you say. And I wouldn't like to give the impression that I've been consciously cultivating wild life. It's just that I haven't minded - indeed have enjoyed - the random stuff that turns up when nature is given a bit of the upper hand. My plot will never be 'tidy' in the way some of the others are but I look forward to making it 'better' than it is. I don't aspire to perfection - merely acceptability, to enjoy it and to grow lots of things to eat.)
The only thing I'm reserved about in what you say in your comment is having a wild area defined within a circle. It may be good to have definite areas in which certain plants are 'allowed' to grow - but putting a circle round them would be like putting them in prison. Even if they are confined I'd prefer to have their bars better camouflaged.

Flighty said...

An enjoyable, and interesting, read and good pictures. I sympathise but understand the committee's point of view. I'm sure that you'll find that it'll get easier to keep your plots up to an acceptable standard once you've plotted for another year or two. Happy plotting. xx

Lucy Corrander Now in Halifax! said...

Hello Mike. Thanks for the complements about the read and the pictures. No need to sympathise about the letter. I agree with the committee that it needs to look better for the sake of the overall presentation of the place and am happy to comply. Just find it interesting to examine what I'm displacing and wish I didn't have to do it faster than I can document.

Phil Slade said...

If the "committee" are taking an interest you are clearly being watched, especially as an incomer. Take care, and don't slip on that frog. I think you should leave your location as Halifax. Everyone knows it's in the High Street - for now.

Adrian Ward said...

I feel for you. I too love insects and the plants they inhabit.
The farmers still have to make a living and as several have opted out of CAP they still spray selective herbicides. Full on and all in before combining. This year just one spray before the barley germinated and that's it. We will see if the combine can cope with the odd thistle and dock.
The big problem are Leather Jackets, a year last April they banned the pesticide that kills them. Holy horrors they are and can only be controlled by planting brassicas along with the grass seed or ploughing early autumn and then power harrowing up until Christmas and hope the birds eat them as they are turned to the surface. It is quite expensive in diesel and machinery and doesn't provide a good seed bed.
Ho Hum.

Marleen said...

I think you are very dedicated, Lucy. Maybe the committee should have an eye for that as well.
Wonderful photos again, amazing to see the frog! 😀

Pat Tillett said...

If it was mine, I'd probably be fined because it was so overgrown.
Nice photos! I especially love the first one.

Diana Studer said...

Perhaps the committee could remove the carpet ... to give you a fair start.