Some hope, cardoons – and thank you Sophie Grigson (378)

by Max Akroyd

Losing all my potatoes recently was the kind of setback that you just have to get used to in this line of work. I’d witnessed a bit of frost damage on potato leaves in the past, but this looked like wholesale destruction. All that remained of this cornerstone crop was two hundred hopeless, blackened stumps. Gardening life has continued, but with a joyless gait.

You can imagine my delight yesterday evening when Emma spotted signs of life on the deadened haulms here, there and everywhere. Little emerald leaves appearing in the wreckage. Just to see a defiant fight back is invigorating.



Similarly, the sight of a fully-recovered goat was a shot in the (other) arm. Despite her misguided experiment in eating azalea, Handa is now back to her usual annoying self: standing on the hens and butting her neurotic goathousemate.

It seems unlikely that, after their recent experiences, the potatoes will produce a decent crop – and impossible that Handa will become any cleverer  – but I was inspired by the change in fortunes to finally get those cardoons in.

Because of the drought I had to find a bed under plastic mulch. Because of the expected size of the mature cardoons it had to be a long section! In the end I chose a bed midway up the Triangle. Planting cardoons represents another, much-needed vertical enhancement to the field and in this postion also honours an old field boundary. Which seems only polite.


Before ...

As I planted out the eighteen cardoons, a memory of a TV programme from (I think) the early eighties came to mind. As a sullen teenager I can’t imagine why I was watching Sophie Grigson presenting a show about growing vegetables – but I can vividly recall her enthusiasm about cardoons. Resident as I was in a sooty Northern suburb, gardening at that time only meant hybrid-t’s, rhodedendrons and raking up endless quantities of my Dad’s lawn cuttings. I realised today that it was Grigson’s sunny vision of vegetable abundance that awakened something in my genetic memory which is finally finding expression over twenty years later.

So, thank you Ms Grigson. I now have my very own cardoon bed – all thanks to you.


... after.