Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Plan for next year

In the past post I mentioned the plan for next year, so I thought I'd commit the outline ideas to this blog:
  • Carrots, try different varieties, try planting plugs in tubes, but just get some to grow.
  • Peas, certainly mangetout or sugarsnap but maybe peas too.
  • Broad beans, pick early & don't grow too many.
  • Sweetcorn, a modest patch.
  • Courgettes, must grow a few 'Green Bush'. Need better spacing out.
  • Spring Onions, sow in pots, not tubes. 'White Lisbon'.
  • Beetroot, plant earlier than this year and plant in volume in early summer. 'Boltardy' and other varieties.
  • Potatoes, a few earlies.
  • Leeks, of course. Grow just the same. 'Musselburgh'.
  • Parsnips, of course. Grow just the same.
  • Onions, make sure they get more water to stop them bolting. Only white.
  • Tomatoes, only grow cherries.
  • Celeriac, maybe - depends on this year's crop.
  • Spinach, grow it very early and only take very small leaves.
  • Sweat peas, mixed variety again.
  • Runner beans, don't grow, grow peas instead.
Permanent plantings
  • Asparagus, full crop next year, need to water well
  • Raspberries, only half the canes now. Water as the fruit swells.
  • Strawberries, a few less plants now. Water as the fruit ripens.
  • Blackcurrants, pick progressively when they are fully ripe.
  • Gooseberries, pick progressively when they are fully ripe.
  • Rhubarb, pick aggressively to encourage succulent stems.
  • Plums, Not worth the trouble, so dig them out.
We are going to grow in patches rather than rows. Have a path down one side rather than the middle.

Winter onions

The end of September seems a good time to plant winter onions. We had bought fifty Japanese onion sets ready to go into a little patch, more of a rectangle than a single row which is how we plan to lay out the whole site. Jean had just finished planting them when Rob offered us some more sets. These were 'Electric Red' sets, so already we have not followed our ideas for next year which we said we wouldn't grow red onions because the bolted. Oh well ...

They got a good watering to get them on their way. Jean also added some blood fish and bone fertiliser that got raked into the top soil before pushing the sets into the soil. We covered them with a mesh frame to stop the birds pulling them up.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Water needed

There has been no rain at all for a few of weeks, and no real rain for much longer. It has also been breezy, so the ground is baked dry. We spent some boring time watering the plot. The leeks, celeriac, beetroot, squashes, courgettes and the recently moved strawberries all needed water. I watered the asparagus to help it for next year. The small heap of muck needs water to help it rot, so it got a lot. I also watered the dug-over ground that is ready for the winter onions. I want to plant the onion sets next week, but there is no prospect of rain, so I will need to water the empty onion bed again before I plant them. Garlic will follow soon after and once again its bed needs watering too.

The spring onions are finally going over, but the bulbs are still delicious. We pulled almost all that remain, with only half a dozen left in the ground. They have been a great success and firmly on next year's list although the planting methods will need a little change. The beetroot has also been a great success. We still have a lot of small plants in the ground. I hope some will mature with what is left of the season. There were ripe courgettes again today with more to come - another wonderful success. The squashes look to be nearly ready to pick and ripen on a window sill at home. I'm not sure that I will grow them again, they take a lot of space for not a lot of fruit, and it is not very interesting when it is ready.

I'm beginning to plan the plot for next year.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Muck and leeks

With the digging done we were ready to fetch some muck from the local riding stables. If I look over the hedge at the back of our allotment across two fields we can just see where the huge muck heap has been. I thought I could still see a huge heap, but when we got there the heap is a heap of soil. The muck has almost all been used and what remains is fairly fresh. We brought a trailerful back to the plot. I have been expecting to bring a few loads back and I was expecting it to be much more rotted. We'll leave the muck we brought back in a heap to try to encourage it to rot down before we spread it.

We took our first leeks of the season too. They are really great. They are various sizes which are useful for different things. We planted them in much deeper holes this year and it has paid off, with much more white stem which is the really tasty bit.

Thursday, 17 September 2009


We finished the digging on all of the vacant areas. It all looks so big dug over and empty. Everything that remains was watered, that is parsnips, celeriac, leeks, beetroot, spring onions, asparagus, squashes, courgettes and the recently-moved strawberries. Then the suspense was broken and we dug up some parsnips. They were all big, but some were a bit stumpy. Once again our method has reliably produced a good crop which vary from big to huge. Parsnip soup is on the menu.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

More digging

Today was warm and windy. We went up to the plot to do more digging over of the empty spaces. The back of the plot nearest the hedge had tomatoes and sweet peas in it. They have been dug up and the ground hand weeded. This part of the plot has the lightest, sandy soil although growing on it has improved the soil a bit. We plan to add lots of horse manure from the local riding school and I think we'll dump it here then spread it out a bit later. Jean dug this over with a fork and removed loads of bind weed roots. This is why I like hand digging, if we had used a Rotavator it would chop up the roots and multiply the weeds many times over.

I moved the strawberries from their old plot near the shed to be more in the heart of the fruit bushes. I planted a few of the runners from this year as well as the best of the mature plants. They are a bit closer together than they were which is what I was trying to achieve. The ground was very dry so I watered everything still in the ground, especially the strawberries of course. I think they will need more in a couple of days, with no prospect of rain.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Done for now

Weeding's done for now. Some more digging to do, then a few loads of manure as a mulch ready for the winter.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Tidy up

More weeding and digging in the sun today. The runner beans have finished so I dug them up and dug over the ground ready for moving the strawberries into that plot. There are still lots of weeds to pull up. The ground is dry and hard so weeding is difficult. The asparagus is still strong. A few more spears keep growing but in a few weeks it will start to die back and be ready for pruning to the ground for the winter.

The autumn and winter crops are coming along nicely. The squashes are a bit of a mystery to me. I'm not sure when to harvest them. There are a number of new fruits which are green and stripy whereas the oldest ones are firm and yellow. I think the yellow ones are probably ripe, but I'll leave them for a bit longer, especially while it is warm to help them fully ripen. They have been easy to grow and I'd recommend them as a plant, but as yet I don't know how they cook up, nor how they store.

The other crops that seem to be doing well are the parsnips and celeriac. They look somewhat similar, their leaves are similar shapes and the way they grow from the root look similar. It's the first time we've grown celeriac, and so far it looks promising. We got the plants from Rob in the plot next door. He sowed a packet of seeds and they all came up. He's planted them of course and a couple of other people took some of his plugs and they are all doing well.

Our parsnips are the result of our modified planting technique. Last year we planted the chitted seeds in fibre pots. When the plants were ready for planting out we cut the bottom off the pots and planted them pots and all. This was to try to get the balance right between not disturbing the root yet planting out viable plants. It nearly worked, the plants all grew well but we did get stunted roots, probably because we did disturb the roots. This year we sowed them in tubes, so there really was no root disturbance, but as yet we don't know if it worked. They do look good though.

Friday, 11 September 2009


A lovely afternoon tempted us onto the allotment. Jean started the next wave of weeding while I made another frame for next year. Tony uses frames for bigger plants. The frames are covered with netting, mine are about 1.9m long and 0.7m wide. The get used in pairs, with plants growing between them. The ends and top are covered with netting, which can easily moved to get between the frames. The frames stand up by tying them to canes pushed into the ground. I added little plastic legs to keep the frames off the ground so they don't rot too quickly.

The plot is certainly emptying so I think we'll be having a dig over then collecting some horse manure to mulch the ground for the winter.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009


We have some tomatoes in our greenhouse. They are producing some ripe plum tomatoes which are nice and there are many more still to come. We had some left over when we planted the greenhouse ones, so I planted them outside. They have been ripening steadily but suddenly the fruit went black and black blotches appeared on the stems. Blight had struck, so we pulled them up and put them in our council green-waste bin. This will get composted at very high temperature. That land must remain tomato and potato free for years.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009


So, the global temperature is rising, which will cause various problems. The cause has been demonstrated to be the amount of trace gases in the atmosphere which are collectively known as greenhouse gases. These retain more heat than the basic nitrogen and oxygen that make up almost all of the air. The Royal Society has produced a report about the feasibility of a range of engineering projects to rectify this. Some of the projects suggest ways of cutting the amount of sunlight falling on the earth to cool the atmosphere. These include increasing the reflectiveness of clouds so more sunlight is reflected back into space and millions of reflectors in orbit again to reflect sunlight back into space.

Lets just review that: the problem is global temperature rise and it lies with too much of certain types of gas in the atmosphere. Proposed answers are to reduce the level of sunlight reaching the surface of the planet.

This is ridiculous. The rule of unintended consequences will defiantly apply. If there is less sunlight reaching the surface, plants will not grow as well. Plants are the main way to remove carbon dioxide so slowing their growth is a really bad idea.

There are various other problems with climate change: more energy in the atmosphere leading to more storms; sea level rise due to ice melting and the oceans expanding and increasing acidity of the oceans causing shells of sea creatures to dissolve. Reducing the solar radiation reaching the surface will have only limited effects on these problems too.

I don't want some bunch of geeks to reduce the sunlight that reaches my allotment plot because of some misguided dabbling. My plants need the sun. If people want to deal with climate change more power to their elbows, but remove the greenhouse gases, don't tamper around the edges.