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The future's in salad-sitting

The dog is going to kennels, the kids are strapped in the back seat and the neighbours will keep an eye on the house. But who's minding the fruit and vegetables? It's a question that a lot of people have to consider with the growth in home-growing and allotments.

You may be able to keep a check on your emails on the beach, but you can't water your pea plants -- and summer holiday season comes at a time when everything is growing at the rate of a tropical jungle on which Miracle Gro has just been raining from the sky.

An allotment-sitter seems like the best solution. It's only a matter of time before allotment-watering can be ordered with the click of a mouse. In the meantime, a friend who gets the job of watering, stopping the salad crops from bolting and keeping the weeds under control should be paid in the form of produce.

We didn't organise anything like that for our short break, so this week I returned to a neglected allotment sprouting giant vegetables, bolting salad crops and a few nice and slightly nasty surprises. A look at our small lawn (now a meadow) and the raised beds at home had prepared me for the size of everything at Weaver Allotments.

My already-large cauliflowers have turned into beasts, their tight white heads loosening at the edges as they started to go past their best. Cauliflower soup, purees, fritters and salads will be a strong feature on the dinner table this week.


Unfortunately, the fruit bushes haven't done anything dramatic other than sprout two beautiful golden raspberries (yes, these are golden rather than red) and a few tiny blueberries. The most resilient have been the peas which are flowering and throwing out pods. The broadbeans are also doing well but the nasty surprise were clusters of mean-looking green beasties on them. So I've taken steps to deal with them.

In a great RTE Radio One item on allotments last month, gardening expert John Adamson recommended a home-made organic method for killing aphids. Tear some leaves from a tomato plant and soak them in water in a jam jar overnight. Dilute this with the same amount again of water and then spray it on the leaves to kill the pests. My killer concocyion is being brewed.

The nice things that happened were two lines of new seedlings -- beetroot and spring onions. A short distance from my raggle-taggle patch, Stephen's garden is growing beautifully and bursting with colour and food.

He kindly gave me some Christmas potatoes, a special variety he ordered from Scotland. I can plant them now and tuck into with the turkey, if I earth them up at every sign of the first leaves and all goes well.

Now, if I could just drum up the same enthusiasm for the mountain of holiday washing . . .

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