Patch of land is now a murder plot

Life on the allotment with Sheena Grant

YOU may not think that writing and gardening have much in common.

Ordinarily I would agree but on this occasion I beg to differ and I’ll tell you why.

There’s a saying among writers, coined by an early 20th Century English professor, about the process of editing your work, and this is it: murder your darlings.

It means that the perfect literary prose you think you have crafted is probably self indulgent, detracting from the piece as a whole and without purpose. In short, it has to go.

It’s a hard thing to do, perhaps the most cruel cut of all. It might well hurt but it is undoubtedly the right thing to do when you consider the bigger picture.

Where does gardening come into all this, you might wonder.

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The answer in my case, at this precise moment, relates to broccoli.

We had a beautiful bed of it at the allotment. We had been growing it for months, waiting for it to sprout in all its purple glory so we could cut and eat it, a joy that has lasted just a few too short weeks.

Note the use of the word ‘had’, because I have to report that the broccoli is no more. It was one of the aforementioned darlings that had to be murdered.

After all that nurturing it reached (actually, almost passed) the pinnacle of perfection; it was still sprouting (probably a little too enthusiastically if the truth be told) but more to the point, it was not serving the allotment as a whole.

It was, you see, a hangover from the winter planting and the space it was occupying was needed for the climbing beans, which have reached the stage where they are trying to climb their way out of the soilmate’s greenhouse.

The onward rush of the seasons is reflected in most of the rest of the allotment beds: cabbages have made way for first early potatoes and sprouts have moved aside for a carrots and beets to be sown.

It’s the natural order of things and while the rest of the allotment is looking very spring-like as a result the broccoli was looking, well, a bit hung over. It really had been over-indulged.

It was time to be ruthless.

So I took a last cutting of the delicate purple stems and then got nasty, digging and wrenching the plants from the ground and leaving them in the corner by the gate: the site of all allotment food mountains.

This lot is going the same way as the kale that previously occupied the spot. The local chickens will have broccoli on the menu for the next few days. They’re a well-fed bunch.

It was a gruelling task, completed on what was the hottest day of the year so far.

But I didn’t mind. It was a good excuse to stop for lots of little water breaks and take in the sounds all around: the fluid, lyrical song of the blackbird, the constant noise of hens, and the most evocative of all summer sounds as far as I am concerned - the screaming of the swifts over head, newly arrived from Africa.

There are many worse ways to spend a couple of hours, even if it does involve murdering your darlings.