Surprise parsnips

My mum and I made a trip up to plot 31 today despite it being freezing. I wanted to tidy up and get rid of some of the old crap that was left by the previous plot holder. We bundled some of the old pots, broken wood and holey netting into the car and headed off to the local recycling and waste centre.
Back at the allotment I made a start on digging over some of the beds on the newer half. I made a start on this last summer, clearing about half of it of weed and planted some squashes and corn to fill the space and smother the ground. I have been dreading weeding the top half, it has every weed problem you could think of: couch grass, bindweed, horsetail, creeping buttercup – you name it, we have it…and because it hasn’t been worked for 3 years the weeds have had a field day. I managed to hoe 2 beds and dig over one of them. Absolutely backbreaking.

Beaten by the creeping buttercup and the dark clouds over head we decided we decided to call it a day, but before heading home I wanted to take some of the leeks I had overwintered. The leeks have done really well and still have 2 rows left. Whilst digging them up I noticed the top of  a parsnip peeping out next the the row of leeks. I had sown and harvested a row of parsnips on the other side of the onions but had completely forgot about this row I had squeezed in here. They are huge. The smallest were about the size of a supermarket carrot. However, I found 3 monsters – here is one of them.

Unfortunately, the canker has got to a few of them, indicated by rusty orange patches on the skin invading into the root and turning the flesh into an orange mush. However, the rest were fine so I dug up the row, picked the non diseased ones and sent them off to family alongside some leeks.



The Allotment 2017

I have not been the most efficient alloment holder this year. I dug over 2/3 of it and then lost the energy to complete the rest. This time last year I had it all cleared and dug over and rested for the winter – then again I have taken over the other half giving myself twice the work, and there are plots that are in a far worse state then mine so I am not too downhearted about it. Each weekend for the past two months its either been too wet or too frozen to dig and with the moon appearing when I finish work getting any work done has been a challenge.

Today, however although it is freezing cold and frosty, the sun is out and I am in the mood for something allotment related. So I grabbed my pencil and drew out the plan for this year then sorted through the  seeds to see what I needed. I decided that where possible I will use up whatever seeds I have rather than buying new just for the sake of satisfying my obsession with buying seeds. I will buy new carrots seeds as they are so fickle you really should use new each year and I could do with some more runner and french beans. I want to grow a globe artichoke or two as well this year to both fill up some space and create something of a natural barrier between mine and the next plot.


I bought the first seed potatoes the other day which are chitting away on the windowsill. The only problem is I threw away the label and cannot remember which type they are  – I want to say Desiree but might just be imagining that. So I need to get some more spuds and am looking for Charlotte and International Kidney, aaaand maybe some Sarpo mira if I happen across any.

I haven’t yet put the garlic out – next weekend I will plant it up at the allotment. I know most people plant it in autumn but its so wet up here that on our heavy clay I find the cloves just rot, so January/February when its still cold but dryer then I put the cloves out and just harvest them a month or so later and they always work fine. The downside is running the risk of the bulbs not splitting into cloves and ending up with 1 fat bulb of garlic – this happend to 2 of my elephant garlic last year but it didnt matter as it was still useable chopped and preseved in butter, oils or just chopped up in jars with a bit of oil.


Autumn is here

Last week was the autumn equinox and I celebrated with my first apple harvest from plot31. The apple tree was already on the plot when I took over and  isn’t labelled so at a loss as to which variety it is other than its red and green and it isn’t a baking apple.

As I understand it, the tree is quite old and has been on about five different plots before ending up on this one, following its previous owner each time he vacated a plot. Last year it only produced about 6 apples and I suspect it has some sort of fungal or bacterial disease leading to me making the decision to take the tree out and plant another at some point this year. However, I took over the other half of my plot to make a full one and it was waist high in weeds so the apple tree plan went on hold, and it seems to have been worth holding off for this year as there is a bumper crop. I will however, still replace this tree in time, changing it for a bramley or a similar baking variety as we will make more use of baking apple variety than a variety designed to be eaten fresh and they will store better.


The plot this year has been ok, not brilliant but not terrible. Last year I couldn’t even get into my greenhouse without being clonked on the head by a tomato, this year however hasn’t been half as good. I only managed to harvest 1 medium sized trug full plus about 4 beef tomatoes and they are now all harvested (compared with last year where I was harvesting well into the end of September and each week was going home with a paper bag full and I was even giving them away). Another issue I have had was other people watering them. I went away for 10 days in summer and the guy on the plot next door was watering and feeding my toms for me twice a week just as I do. However, another plot holder who happens to be my interfering next door neighbour took it upon himself to water them – EVERYDAY. The result – masses of fruits split and went bad, including my precious brandywine beef tomatoes which I had never managed to grow before. Very annoying.
I know some will think ‘oh he meant well’ or ‘he was just trying to help’ but this isn’t the first time he has taken it upon himself to make his presence known and constant comments and criticisms if someone doesn’t do something the way he does…anyway.

My brassica bed was doing well, and my wire wool collars seemed to be doing brilliantly at deterring the slugs. Then, one evening I nipped up after work and noticed the nets had been removed. Initally I thought a bird had got in there and someone had dropped the net on one side down to release it, but as I got closer I noticed that the wire wool collars had been carefully removed from a few of the cabbages. Not much I could do to protect them from the slugs so I replaced the net and returned the cage back to its former self. A few days later I nipped back to the plot to harvest some leeks and this time the net had been taken down again and all or the wire wool collars removed AND someone had even had the cheek to harvest some of the swiss chard whilst they were at it…hungry work is theft. By the time I got some more wire wool collars by the weekend the slugs had been in and munched there way through half of the brassica’s, leaving holes in the hearts of all the red cabbages, a few of the greyhouds and even had munched some of the centres of the purple sprouting brocolli.

So, thats it for the brassica bed, or what’s left of it. It is very disheartening when things like this happen and worse when you don’t know who has done it.


Summer, Showers & Slugs

Its been a mixed year up on the allotment this year. The weather has been…well, wet is the only way to describe it. From April to June it has been what felt like a constant downpour. The rain I can get over, but the wet weather has brought out an army of slugs in numbers which could rival that of the British armed forces and although warm it hasn’t been enough to allow some of the crops to establish well and grow strong, and a slug loves nothing better that to take advantage of new growth on a plant not at full strength.

I planted 5 rows of potatoes in total: 2 rows Colleen (early/seconds), 2 rows of Sarpo Mira and 1 row of International Kidney all or which have grown well and we have even lifted 4 plants of Colleen and had a pretty decent crop. It wasn’t a massive crop but being impatient I did lift them early as they flowered. They were delicious and I’ll be growing them again next year. We did have a moment one day when I found one of them had gone brown and my heart sank as I tried to work out if blight had made an appearance. Having looked carefully and gathering the opinion of some of the more experienced people on the site we deduced that it probably wasn’t blight but just a bad plant that had probably got damaged and rotted. To be on the safe side I burnt it anyway…blight is not something you want to risk.
The parsnips are growing beautifully and are green a luscious and so far no sign of pests *fingers crossed*. The carrots on the other hand have been a nightmare. I sowed 2 rows, 1 a small globe variety good for clay soils and a rainbow mix. None of the globes germinated…well actually I tell a lie, 3 germinated. Half of the rainbow mix came up but they have recently decided that they don’t want to grow and some of the tops are now dying off. Not one to be defeated I have purchased some seeds for an autumn/overwintering variety, they can be sown up to August and I will be doing so in a few large containers on the sheds balcony. Unusually, I have had the same problem with the beetroots. I sowed boltardy, chioggia and golden burpees and all of them either didnt germinate or stopped growing. Once again, the slugs took advantage of the weak plants and demolished the remaining beetroot tops, stopping the plants from harnessing energy to grow.

Following their feast on the beets and carrots they moved onto the climbing french beans. About 4 out of the 10 plants have recovered from being eaten and begun to climb the poles but given the time of year I think Ill be luck to crop enough for a meal before they need to be taken up. Ill be replacing these with some dwarf french beans which I will start at home to ensure strong growth before putting them out.

Finally it was the turn of the brassica bed to take the hit. After a disaster earlier in the year when I forgot to bring my seedlings in after a warm day and they all died from a night frost, I was already running behind. The brassica’s were planted out a bit smaller than I would have liked and because the weather had been less that ideal, it has taken them even longer to esablish and start growing well. The bed is covered which has helped to protect them from the hungry pigeon and caterpillar but the slugs are cunning. They will not be deterred by such things as nets and cages and instead will tunnel underneath where they can happily feast away on the fresh green growth smug in the fact that a) they have the brassica’s all to themselves and b) the predators cannot reach them under the netting.

I love all animals and even actively go out of my way to care for, rehabilitate and release sick and injured wildlife. However, I do sometimes wonder what the point of a slug actually is?


Sweetcorn and Squashes

Yesterday was sweetcorn and squash day. My squashes were so big that they were starting to get damaged from being moved about and desperately needed to get into the ground. There are 4 butternuts 6 climbers, 6 patty pan and 9 sweetcorn all of which will go in the same bed along with climbing french beans and some sunflowers creating a three sisters type bed.
Having taken on the other half I changed my plans last minute and moved my three sisters bed into the first bed we cleared and dug over last week. If I would have taken on the plot earlier in the year then I would have put my spuds in here to let them do the deep digging but such is life. I didnt have enough manure to cover and dig into the whole bed so opted to manure locally – digging a larger hole than needed and filling with putting manure and compost then planting the squashes directly onto it. I also watered them with a dilute seaweed feed to give them a really good start. I followed a similar process with the corn and planted them deep to control any root rock.
I have a mix of different squashes including butternuts as ground cover and rolet and uchiki kuri as climbers. I also have 6 patty pan sunburst which I will squeeze in…somewhere. I put together three simple teepees made from bamboo and twine, I do love these make do and mend structures made from bamboo and string (as does Monty Donn according to the latest episode of Gardeners World) and is something that no allotment should be without.

Once again it was another scorcher, to the point that I had to take shelter in the shed with a cold drink and a book because for my, it was far too hot to work – I am not a fan of too much sun…and, once again, I got burnt.


I may not like the sun much but the chilli and aubergine are soaking it up and both are in flower. The chilli plant is even in fruit which I was so excited to see as I have never grown chilli’s before and these were grown from seed. Both are in the house on the dining room window sill as its the warmest and sunniest place. I am tempted to take the chilli to the allotment greenhouse where it is warmer are more humid but the aubergines will remain at home where it is still warm and bright but is cooler than the greenhouse which is better for these plants.



Breaking new ground

Last week I officially signed for the other half of the plot meaning I am now the proud keeper of a full plot and get the shed all to myself rather than having to share it.

Seeing that the weather was going to be nice I booked the week off work and made a start on clearing the mass of weeds that have sprung up. The site gets every nightmare weed you can think of: couch grass, bindweed, dock, creeping buttercup and the worst one…mares tail (or horsetail as it is sometimes known). Even the comfrey which is a gardeners best friend has become something of a nuisance spreading around everwhere. So, on Saturday, armed with my wellies a flask of tea and my other half we started clearing it. Now, he isn’t a gardener at all and has a Jeremy Clarkson approach to everything, in a sense that instead of taking a minute to review the situation and how best to go about it, he decided to take a spade and hack everything at speed, like chopping through the mares tail so that it breaks into lots of tiny bits thus creating lots of new plant potential…sigh. Anyway, I won’t complain (too much) because he managed to clear the tops of the weeds in a very large bed in a couple of hours. I, of course was left to do hard task of digging because as he rightly pointed out, its my plot and if I want it, I dig it…and to be honest I prefer it that way.


On the Sunday, my mum joined me at the plot to lend a hand becuase I really wanted to clear the tops from a decent area before they all went to seed. So, with hoe in hand she set about the next two beds and paths surrounding. One of the beds was full of spuds and surprisingly were still in good condition. I would have expected either earworm or slug damage but almost all were great. We dug a couple up but have left pretty much all of them in the ground for now as thats a days job in itself and didnt want to get sidetracked.
While mum attacked the tops with the hoe I set about digging, meticulously turning over every square inch of soil and pulling out as much root as I could. It took so long that I only cleared half of the large bed but it will be worth it in the long run.

By 2pm it was so hot that we had to stop. I as always, burnt to a crisp and got quite a nasty bite on my elbow. I seem to be quite sensitive to bites from little flying things like midges and mozzys and whatever it was resulted in a very noticeable reaction – a swolled hard bump just above my elbow which grew and grew and was so itchy I wanted to rip my arm off…more annoying because it was coupled with a nasty sunburn.

Allotment 1 – Colleen 0


Rhubarb, pears and onions.

I have an entire week off work as of now, so it is typical that after a few weeks of scorching weather it has decided to rain…and rain heavily over the past few days. Thankfully it had perked up a bit today and was quite warm.

My first job planned was to weed the paths either side of the rhubarb, however the combination of sun and rain has sent the rhubarb into overdrive, so much so that I couldn’t even see the paths. So, a proper rhubarby harvest was in order. I had picked a stick or two about a week ago for a friend but today I managed to get 3 carrier bags of it. It may seem drastic to be picking so much this early in the season, but seriously, this hasn’t even touched the surface of what is in that bed. Really, what I should of done was to take the 7 crowns up in winter and divide them but alas I ran out of time so I must remember to do it this year before it becomes too congested.


After a fight with the the rhubarb I managed to weed the onions and shallots, carrots, parsnips and beetroot as well as turn over and manure what will be the three (four) sisters bed of squash, sweetcorn, climbing french beans and sunflowers. Taking over the other half of the plot has come at a great time too as it means I can sprawl out a bit and plant my climbing pumpkins in a bed on their own – and I can keep them all rather than giving my spares away.


Before heading home I had a nosey at the pear and apple tree on the new half of the plot. The apple tree is quite old and last year only produced two apples which were left for the birds (mainly because the plot holder never came). It has loads of blossom this year so I will see how it goes but I think I may take it out and replace it with a bramley as I have another apple tree in a container which produces loads of fruit.
The pear tree was brilliant last year, not that I harvested anything as it wasn’t mine then but the tree was laden with big fat juicy pears, teasing me as I sat in front of my shed staring at them. It was a shame as every single one went to waste, either rotting on the ground or feeding the birds (not that I consider feeding the wildlife as waste). This year however, the tree is mine I will happily stuff my face with them.