Thursday, 30 December 2010


Rabbits seem to have got a taste for our leeks. Even though I repaired (bodged) the fence they found a way in by burrowing under the shed, which forms part of the rabbit defence. I want to repair and alter the fence, but the ground is a quagmire.  Most of the snow has melted, but the ground is frozen about an inch down, so the meltwater can't drain away.

We took some leeks, with a struggle, but the parsnips were frozen in and will have to wait. The winter has only just started and already the plot is a muddy mess.

The rent for the plot is due. This year it is moving to January so that anyone taking over a plot will be able get it ready for the spring, a good idea I think.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Leeky rabbits

The weight of the snow on our fence brought it down, the fence post was already weak. As some of the snow melted and revealed the leeks the the rabbits sneaked in and nibbled the tops of them. Yesterday I propped up the fence to keep the hopping nibblers out.  Jean harvested some leeks and parsnips. Only the tops of the leeks were eaten so the rest will be fine.

There's still more leeks so they will last into next year, just. The parsnips were awkward to find in the snow, large and a bit woody in the middle. The ground was soft under the snow, but now the hard frost has set in again and harvesting without damaging becomes harder.

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Looking for leeks

It's now two weeks since the first snow fell and there has been no real thaw at all. We ventured up to the allotment passed the chunks of ice dug from the road and piled onto the footpaths. The diggers were probably well-meaning but they certainly have not done us any favours. The piles of ice, well over a metre high, will take ages to melt, the compacted snow was fine to drive and walk on and now some parts of the road are cleared and some not there are four inch steps from one to the other making driving difficult and walking a nightmare as you are forced onto the narrow strip of cleared road because the rest is covered in jagged mountains of ice.

At the allotment there was only one other set of footprints in the snow, heading to Norman and Sue's plot. We carried on past to our plot. The fence in one corner is down and the foot prints show rabbits have ventured into our plot. We entered the same way as they had rather than dig out the gate. At the back of the plot the snow had drifted slightly, engulfing the fence and making a route for more rabbits to enter. They seem to have just had a look rather than eaten anything here, though on one of the other plots they have dug under the snow to get at crops that had not been gathered.

We had hoped to dig some leeks but they were under a deep mound of snow, you might just make it out in the middle of the picture. If we had uncovered some we would have laid them open to rabbits getting at the rest so we left them alone. The blanket of snow, which is about 45cm deep, will hopefully be protecting them from the worst of the frost and from hungry lagomorpha.

A thaw is forecast, so we'll need to repair the fence quickly when we can get to it.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Next year's plantings

The bit of snow that has fallen has reminded me that winter is close and I haven't put a plan together for next year's plantings. There will be a bit more room for vegetables because we've moved the raspberries to the back of the plot which we've not made much of and cut down our rhubarb by three-quarters.

Firstly the review.
This year we didn't take enough care to water when the rain didn't fall. We planted more leeks but they didn't get enough water and are small. Winter onions were great, summer onions were good, but also small. Spring onions came to nothing. Mange-touts were great, but freezing them was not very successful so we need to eat them as they are ready. Cabbages were awful because they didn't get enough water (even the caterpillars left them alone). Potatoes were small and not spectacular. Peas were nice, but not plentiful. Garlic is great, but a bit small. Courgettes were great again, and our first sweetcorn was wonderful, but needs a bit of care to pollinate it all. Broad beans were few and a bit tough, but tasty. Parsnips seem good so far. Spinach was very poor, some not even surviving planting out. Beetroot was good, and better for leaving to grow to a bigger size. Gooseberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and rhubarb were all great, strawberries were poor.

Overall with either more rainfall or careful watering we could do better.

Our current plans for next year include:
Beetroot, broad beans, courgettes, French beans, garlic, leeks, mange touts, onions, parsnips, savoy cabbage, spinach, spring onions, sweetcorn. The existing fruit bushes will remain. I need to plan the layout around the winter onions, spring onions, garlic and broad beans that are already planted.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Mice and compost

A calm, sunny day tempted us to do a bit of tidying up. The asparagus was ready to be cut back almost to the ground. I put up supports for the newly moved raspberries and tied each stem to a wire. Jean turned the compost heap and covered the heap to help it rot. The compost bins work, but we don't get enough from them to improve our soil and to use for potting young plants.

We cut a few more leeks. They are growing well, but they won't catch up enough before we are ready to eat them all. The winter onions are growing well and a lot of spring onions have come up too. The recent warm weather and rain has helped. Some of our broad beans have sprouted, but the mice have dug a few up. I'm currently going to leave them alone and fill any missing ones in the spring, that might help spread the harvest. I might yet plant a few more in the spring anyway so we can try harvesting the beans a bit earlier than in the past so they are even more tender.

Most of the work has been done for this year now, so there will be a few little jobs and wait for the spring.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Wandering raspberries

The raspberries have moved. Well actually the plants moved, the berries have long since been picked and either eaten or consigned to the freezer for later use. The plants needed a hand to move of course - they're raspberries not triffids.

The land at the back of the plot has not been very useful. The soil is very sandy and light here, so we have been steadily improving it with compost. We moved the raspberries here, with a good dollop of compost from our bin under each one. The original plants came with the plot and we have struggled to clear the bindweed from around them. Digging them up made it easy to clean the roots of all of the weeds before moving them.

The whole plot now looks pretty tidy, but the old raspberry plot needs another dig over to completely rid it of the weed roots.

The next stage could be to move the fence. We've decided to not fence the new fruit bush area - rabbits should leave them alone. It will make it much easier to dig the weeds out from the bottom of the hedge and so stop them spreading to the rest of the plot. We also have some young trees around the edges of our plot and the original plan was to move some into the hedge to replace the grotty elderberries and supplement the hawthorn bushes. We have all winter to do this.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Less rhubarb

A bright, calm day tempted us up to the plot. We took some more leeks and some good-looking beetroot. The beetroot seems to have slowed down, so most of what is left might turn out to be small. A few of the bigger beets had been nibbled - it looked like mice.

Jean dug over the piece where the courgettes were, next to the newly planted garlic. The winter onions are sprouting and some of the spring onion seeds have sprouted too. We dug our first parsnip. It was huge, probably our biggest ever. One parsnip that big is more than enough.

The biggest hassle was digging out a chunk of the rhubarb. The clump of rhubarb is much too big and is full of bind weed, so we dug more than half of it up. We might yet dig some more of it up.

Saturday, 23 October 2010


The last of the summer onions is going in tonight's phat thai. They have been lovely, but small and we didn't grow enough. the winter onions won't be ready until the middle of next year, so quite a gap on shop onions.

There was never any idea of self sufficiency and our plot would be hopelessly too small, but it is good to eat your own produce for as long as possible. This year's onion crop suffered from being too dry, but we also didn't grow as many as we could have done, so next year I might plant another row or two and try to keep up with the watering when it is needed.

More digging of the plot is still to come.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Garlic squeezed

We planted the garlic today. There were more cloves than would fit in a single row so we squeezed it up a bit, I hope that was a wise move.

There were lots of beetroot to take and we took some more leeks. The beetroot is great, the leeks are wonderfully crisp and tasty, but they are quite small so we will go through them rather quickly. next year we must water them if it's dry.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Take a leek or two

The courgettes have finally finished so we dug them up. The last few tomatoes were ripe too. There were some great beetroot ready and one chewed by a mouse. I pulled up the last of the red cabbages, they have been a big disappointment: very tough, tasteless and boring. Jean lightly dug some more of the plot and planted a row of broad beans planted in pairs.

We took the first leeks of the season.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Onion time

Some winter onion sets were planted today, two rows each of white and yellow. The winter onions we harvested this year were great, so I hope these do well too.

We also sowed three rows of spring onion seeds. We've only had success with spring onions sowed in pots and planted out, but we've not sown spring onions in the autumn before.  They should grow over the winter so we can harvest them, well, in the spring.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Getting ready

Yesterday the first batch of autumn digging started. There has been very little rainfall this year, but lately there has been more rainy days, so I expected that the ground would quickly become a muddy mess, as usual at this time of year. I was wrong. The rain we have had has not soaked the ground at all, so digging it over was easy and the resulting tilth was lovely, crumbly, damp soil not great clods of mud and not dry, unbreakable lumps either. In fact it seems almost perfect.

We now have enough ground turned for our onions, spring onions and garlic to go in, but first it wants a bit of blood-fish-and-bone raked in to give the onion sets and garlic cloves a good start. The spring onion seeds need really fine soil so an extra rake over there is needed too.

The next spot to dig will be a space to plant broad beans to stand over the winter as an experiment. If that doesn't work we will just plant broad beans in the spring as we have done before, so there's no risk of not having broad beans which would be a big loss.

All of this is using up space when we haven't yet planned out the layout for next year. I will make a plan up, but as usual it will only be a starting point rather than a strict plan.

The extra rain has helped our leeks a lot. They are still not as big as last year, but they are doing well now. They were covered in rust earlier on, but now that seems to have gone. Reading about rust on leeks has left me feeling that people may have mixed their ideas about it. It's called rust because it is small, rust-coloured spots on the leaves. People equate rust on iron with water, so I think people have followed that thinking through to leeks, but I think that is wrong. The rust was there this year, and last year, during the dry spells. When there was plenty of rain it disappeared, so I think leek rust is a disease of dry weather and not wet as my books say. This time last year we were already taking big leeks, we will start taking some next week I think.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Next plantings

Today we bought some onion sets and garlic. The onion sets were fifty each of white and Japanese yellow which should be planted about now. The garlic will be ready to be planted in a couple of weeks. We want to try growing some spring onions over winter too, so  the seed needs sowing while the ground is still warm.

Thursday, 16 September 2010


The crops on the allotment have been a bit poor generally. The extreme lack of water through the whole year has been broken to some extent recently, but still much more water would be welcome. The leeks are beginning to fill out, but they should be twice as big as they are by now.We'll start to take a few leeks soon but even though we planted more this year and that almost all of them have grown we will have less to eat because they are so small. They also have a bit of rust.

The sweet corn is delicious, but many of the cobs have not been fully pollinated, so some of the kernels have not swollen. I expect to grow sweet corn next year, but I'll have to improve the pollination rate. I have read that the male flowers on the top of the stalks can be cut off and the pollen introduced to the female tassels, so I'll try that.

We have continued to take courgettes and beetroot, both are good, but the courgettes have not been as plentiful as expected. The tomatoes are almost done. They have been good and they were spared the drought by being watered in the greenhouse almost daily.

It's time to start thinking about the winter crops and any changes in the layout. Winter onions and garlic are certainly on the cards again and we will try growing spring onions and broad beans over the winter too.

We are planning to move the fruit bushes to the back of the plot and digging up at least half of the rhubarb. I'm also thinking about moving the fence so the fruit bushes will be outside of the fenced area. It should make access to the compost bins easier. Moving the fruit should give us much more space on the very best soil too. I hope the weather lets us make the most of it next year.

Thursday, 19 August 2010


We've been gathering tomatoes over the last few days, with a few courgettes now and then. Jean took some more beetroot today which still has a lot to come.

Today's highlight though was the sweetcorn. I've been watching the cobs growing and waiting until the tassels have all died back. I opened up the top of the cob to squeeze the kernel. Today the juice was milky rather than clear so it should be ready.

Sure enough a few minutes in a roasting pan and it was easily the best sweetcorn ever. If you eat a lot of sweetcorn, don't try it when it's very fresh - you be so disappointed with everything else.

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Autumn already?

We had a bit of a clear up this morning. The pruned raspberry canes proved to be too short to be kept for pea sticks. Last year's canes were nearly half as long again. It goes to show what a difficult year it has been and still no real rain. We cut the peas, mange touts and broad beans off at ground level, leaving their roots to feed the soil from their nitrogen nodules. All the tops went for composting. Last year's pea sticks came up without a problem so we'll keep them for next year.

There was a courgette to take along with four nice beetroot and some tomatoes. We now have only about a dozen onions left to lift, the rest are either drying, hanging up at home or we've eaten them. I took the garlic home from the shed to hang up too. It is good garlic, but very mild, if anything a touch too mild.  The sweetcorn cobs are still fattening, both it and the courgettes need more rain. Our sweet peas are still producing flowers, but only just. The red cabbage is just about beginning to produce hearts. Parsnips and leeks look fine, but some of the leeks are a bit small still.

All of this tidying up makes it feel like autumn. Some of the trees around the village are clearly suffering from the lack of rain, with horse chestnut and sycamore both showing yellowing in their leaves. Even a couple of beech trees look yellow, which is a problem because beech trees are known for losing a big branch suddenly if they under stress. The apples on the two small trees near the entrance to the allotment have a lot of apples, many are already quite red, but they are very small.

Thursday, 5 August 2010


The raspberries are now history, so today the old wood stems were pruned to the ground. Over the winter I think we will move them, but for now they can grow the new shoots that will bear next year's fruit.

The last gooseberries were ripe so they were picked. We have had nearly three kilos from our single bush. A few more mange touts were ready too. A few more onions were ready for drying, I've dried them on a shelf in the greenhouse for a day or two and that seems to work.

Saturday, 31 July 2010


I write two blogs, one about openstreetmap and one about our allotment. Today I decided to post the same entry in both blogs because I surveyed the plots on our small allotment site. You can see the results here: Allotment map.

More detail is still possible, more sheds, the position of the water butts, and perhaps the plot numbers, but the detail of which crop is where I'll leave alone.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010


Gooseberries are mixed up fruit. Not that gooseberries think of course, but evolution and the hand of breeders have still left them mixed up. Soft fruit is all about attracting birds and animals to eat the ripe fruit to disperse the seeds, but gooseberries don't seem to get this. They produce succulent, delicious fruit, in our case purple dessert berries. You watch them slowly swelling and eventually ripening ready to pick but the bush has other ideas. It defends the fruit from all-comers with dagger-like thorns hidden under the leaves to assail you as you reach for that juicy berry. They scratch and stab you, they tear at your clothes and leave chunks in you to remind you later that you stole those berries.

Is it worth this attack to get at the fruit? Oh yes. They are well defended but the assault is well worth it. So maybe the gooseberries are mixed up, but they are delicious too.

Saturday, 24 July 2010

Tomatoes and asparagus

The courgettes are still going strong - there are going to be courgettes given away up and down the street. The beetroot are also growing well, with a few getting to the size ready for us to use. The onions which we took up are dry now so they are at home now.

Another milestone was our first tomato of the year. One small niggle is the asparagus. We purchased the plants as only male ones. We don't want the plants to produce berries, both because we want the plants to fatten the crown for next year and not waste energy making berries and because if any of the berries ripen and fall they can crowd out the existing plants. Unfortunately one of our plants is female and producing berries. Today I pulled off some of the berries before they ripen and I'll pull the rest off soon.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

See what the rain does

Today's harvest was nearly half a kilo of raspberries, a half kilo of wonderful gooseberries and three large courgettes. The first tops of the summer onions have turned, so I pulled these up and put them to dry in the greenhouse for a day or so. They are firm and a good colour, but they are smaller than last year.

We've had some rain over the past few days. The ground is not soaked but it all helps. The older sweet corn stems have responded by throwing out flowers. The male ones are dancing in the breeze on the top of the stems and the female ones are just showing on side shoots. The sowing in batches looks good because not all of the plants are ready together.

Monday, 19 July 2010


We made a quick visit today and came away with some new potatoes, some mange touts, some sweet peas and our first beetroot of the season.

We have left the beetroot to grow into bigger beets this year, more like tennis balls than golf balls. There looks to be about a dozen that are about ready, but we took only the biggest three to try. They are currently boiling in the kitchen and smell pretty good.

Friday, 16 July 2010

Wind and rain

Finally there has been some rain and the temperature has dropped. Today it is very windy which is due to drop later today. I'm hope our sweetcorn all survives the blast. Jean has been round with a hoe to combat the weeds that the rain has brought out.

Our beetroot has been quietly growing, benefiting from the water we gave it earlier in the year. Some of the earliest batch should be ready to take soon. We have allowed it grow much more this year to try to get bigger beets, some of which we will freeze.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

The dry spell hits

The very dry spell over the first half of the year has had a bad effect. The broad beans have finished. It was a bit of a surprise but the plants are dropping their leaves. I've gathered most of the pods, which was nearly a kilo, and left a few to ripen for next year's seed if they will.

The raspberries are ripening quickly. They are juicy but very small. There's still some more to come. The blackcurrants are all gathered in, there was about four kilos in all. I dug some more potatoes, which look good but there are not many to each plant, again they needed more water. The peas are over. I picked a few pods but the plants are shrivelling up. The mange touts have continued to produce more pods than we can eat, so more go into the freezer. The courgettes have produced another fruit today.

The dry spell is forecast to end this coming week. I really hope so.

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

New fence post needed

The flow of harvested fruit and veg continued this morning. We took about 1kg of blackcurrants, 350g of raspberries, another batch of mange touts and our second harvest of broad beans, which, out of their pods, was about 500g.

The blackcurrants continue to look great, fat and juicy and they smell wonderful as you pick them. The raspberries are rather smaller than usual, but juicy all the same. I think we have taken about a quarter of the broad beans, but I need to leave some of the best pods on the plants to ripen into next year's seeds.

Mange touts are hard to harvest. As I stand over the plants looking down on them the pods are thin, match the colour of the rest of the plant and hang down often under leaves. As we leave the plot I often notice a few pods that I have missed. Today I leant over the fence to pick a couple and broke a fence post. I'll have to replace it now but I might take the chance to change the fence and gate layouts.

Monday, 5 July 2010

Spuds we like

I have been trying to decide when to dig up some of the potatoes. They have been in the ground for twelve weeks, but the first few weeks were very cold and the whole twelve weeks have been very dry. Today I dug a single plant and found a collection of smallish tubers. They were very good to eat, so I'll look forward to having some more and probably plenty to give away.

We also took out first courgette today. There's a lot more to come, but they have made a bit of a slow start. They will need watering as there is no prospect of rain. I took a lot more mange touts and some peas too. There are still more pea pods forming, but the mange touts look as though they may be slowing down. The last winter onion came up today and went into onion bhajis for lunch.

Jean picked nearly a kilo of blackcurrants and I picked over 300g of raspberries. This year the rasps are on half measures because we dug up and gave away about half of the canes. We will still have loads for us and some to give away.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

The harvest continues

Yesterday we harvested about another 800g of black currants. There's so much fruit to still fully ripen, it is hard to see that we have taken any fruit. The strawberries are over and have been disappointing. They just didn't get enough water. At least the fruit we did get were very tasty. The first of the raspberries were ready to pick. They are surprisingly plump and juicy. I have watered them a bit, I would have liked to given them some more.

We took lots of mange touts, most of which we froze. There were some peas too. They are sweet and good to eat, but there are not very many.

Today we took some more mange touts, some made their way into an omelette for lunch. A few more peas were ready too. I cut another batch of sweet peas, with some of the darker flowers opening up now. Jean planted the last batch of beetroot. The first batch is beginning to form beets so I hope it will be ready soon to try.

I took the first broad beans today too. There seems to be lots to pick, but only a couple of handfuls were firm enough to be ready to take. I watered the courgettes which are beginning to produce small fruits. They are also putting out plenty of new leaves and spreading as I expected they would. We have four plants, based on last year that is probably twice as many as we need so there will be lots to give away.

Wednesday, 30 June 2010

Produce of the rain

The rain has helped to water the plot in a way that watering cans never can manage. Today the first of our blackcurrants were ready to pick. We took about 600g with much more to come yet. The strawberries have been very poor this year, small and not many. I'm going to allow the runners to grow and root so we have a few more plants next year. We covered the raspberries with a net to keep the birds and the berries apart.

There were many more mange tout pods to pick, with more to follow and a few pea pods to pick too. They are both very good to eat, but I'm not sure that peas give a big enough return for the space they take up. There were also a few sweet peas to bring home too. We took some spinach to eat later. The remaining spinach plants seem to be bolting so that might be the last for a while.

I dug up the garlic and hung it to dry out in the shed. It looks good, decent sized bulbs and quite firm. All but two of the winter onions were ready to take today too.

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Strawberries, leeks and dry ground

This morning we went to try to water as much of the plot as possible. The north west of England are close to a hosepipe ban. We are not quite as dry, but it has been a very dry start to the year. The local weather man says the driest since 1964. We did what we could, concentrating on the most vulnerable stuff, but we will need to water some more in the next few days if the weather forecast is right and no rain falls for the next week. Watering is boring, lugging watering cans is a nuisance and I always manage to water my feet.

Jean planted the last batch of leeks. They looked really strong and I expect them to do well. We took some more spinach and a couple of winter onions. The best harvest was about 300g of ripe, little strawberries. They are a bit small, more water would have helped, but they do look perfect.  There are more berries to come and with the extra water they might swell a little.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


The dry spell is now extending. The weather is hot and dry and the plot is beginning to be baked dry. Some heavy duty watering is going to be needed soon, but some things like courgettes and sweetcorn will benefit from the sun if we can deliver some water too.

The peas and mange touts have yielded pods ready to pick, so we'll see what they taste like shortly. The strawberries are producing fruit, I left it to fully ripen on the plant. The blackcurrants are beginning to turn black. There's a decent crop coming and, because we have watered them, the berries look a good size. Raspberries are covered in small, swelling fruit, but they haven't had much water yet so they need gallons. Our potatoes do not have any sign of flowers yet we might have new potatoes in late summer at this rate.

The newly planted, small plants need water almost every day. The forecast is to stay dry and get hotter.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Grass, plantings and harvest

The grass around the edge of the plot has got out of hand.  It is a nuisance because it grows in amongst the fence so cutting it is awkward. I tried to deal with it with some weed killer, but that's awkward too, I don't want to risk anything on the plot. Jean did a good job with the shears, but it will need attacking again, and more regularly.

I planted the remaining sweetcorn, so we now have 18 plants out at varying stages of growth. The remaining spring onions went out as well as the spinach. While I was watering in the new plantings I put some blood fish and bone onto the asparagus and watered that in too. The tomatoes have the first truss of flowers opening and two other trusses are appearing. I fed them and the strawberries with tomato feed. I was expecting to feed the courgettes, but they still have no open flowers, although the plants look very strong.

We gathered some of the older spinach to eat, norman gave us a super lettuce and we took our first mature winter onion home.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

The rain works its magic

The past few days have seen much cooler weather and quite a lot of rain. We popped up today to check the stuff in the greenhouse and do a couple of jobs. We came away with some spinach and some rhubarb.

I tied up the sweet peas. The plants are growing well now, but they were not climbing the canes so I tied them in. The mangetouts, next door, are growing up the old raspberry canes I provided and a few are getting flowers. Last year they quickly went from flowers to pods, so maybe we'll see some crunchy mangetouts in a stir fry soon. The peas have pods, not yet filling out, but looking good. These are a new crop for us, so I'm not sure how to tell they are ready, but they certainly are not ready yet. The broad beans have shot up on the last few days. They were already covered in flowers and now even more so. The first pods are appearing too. I added an extra layer of support strings above the existing one. It is breezy today and I don't want to see any damaged by the wind.

Our potatoes are looking strong, but no flowers yet. Some people's earlies are getting flowers, but there's no hurry. Our tomatoes have their first truss of flowers. They look tidy and strong, but they will need some support soon; they won't stand up with the weight of fruit that I hope they will get. They need feeding and perhaps pollinating with a dry finger to ensure the fruit all sets.

The rain also makes the weeds grow - I wish they were edible too.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010


The rain has finally fallen and everything is damp. We took the first two strawberries, hardly a feast, but very tasty nonetheless.

Monday, 7 June 2010

First leeks go out

Today was greenhouse emptying day. We had a few spare tomatoes, courgettes and cabbages. No one wanted any of them, and they looked so sick that today they went on the compost heap.

The big event of the day was planting the leeks. Leeks get planted in a hole about 15cms deep. Last year we used an old hoe handle as a dibber to make the hole, but the ground was hard and it was difficult to make the hole deep enough. This year I added a couple of metal brackets to stand on to help push the dibber in. It failed completely. The first time I stood on it the bracket bent and collapsed.

The ground was hard again, so Jean loosened the ground with a fork and then the dibber went in easily. Each of the 85 leeks went into a hole which is then filled with water.  We still have about 65 leeks to plant, but they need to be a bit bigger first.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010


This morning we planted out our first sweetcorn. Seven plants looked big enough to go out, with as many again to plant out at a later date. The ground is damp, there's only a light breeze and the sun is out.  This is the forecast state for the next few days, so the corn should get established.

We replaced two of our courgettes with spares. That doesn't leave us with any more spares, but the warmer weather should do them some good.

We took some asparagus and some rhubarb both looked very good. The rain yesterday seems to have released some pent up urge to grow, but especially in the weeds and the grass around the edge of the plot, so they need dealing with quite soon.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Spring onions and beetroot

Yesterday we planted out some spring onions and some beetroot. I fed the strawberries with tomato feed to encourage the fruit.

Today it rained hard for a few of hours, which was very welcome. The next few days are forecast to be warm, dry and calm, so the plants can make the best use of the rain.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

More, soon.

The promised rain for yesterday arrived and fizzled out. Today the ground was dry with no real sign that there had been any rain. We took some asparagus, which continues to be delicious. We watered the stuff in the greenhouse and the newly planted courgettes, which need a lot of water to do well.

Some more beetroot will be ready to go out soon, as will some spring onions. Leeks will follow soon after, and everything will need watering again very soon.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


Jean planted four courgettes out today. They look strong and healthy, I hope they are as prolific as the ones we had last year.  We got some more asparagus which had grown very quickly in just a couple of days. Another winter onion had bolted, so it will become part of a salad. The recently planted beetroot was wilting in the heat, but the water it got should revive it. We have very little water left for watering in the greenhouse, never mind the outside plot and no real prospect of rain.

Friday, 21 May 2010

Warm spell

We went up to the plot today to do a few small jobs. The first was to plant out the strongest of our beetroot. Where Jean turned over the soil before planting it was surprisingly damp under the surface. We have more beetroot in the greenhouse coming on - part of the usual successional sowing. I used the metal frames from an old clothes dryer to make a frame to support the peas. They are doing well.

The last job was earthing up the potatoes. We planted ours fairly deep and waited to see them appear before covering them with another layer of earth. Some people earth them up as soon as they plant them, but the potatoes then grow out of the side of the banks as they seek the light. We'll leave them to grow now and only add water as needed.

The forecast for the next few days is increasingly warm - the local forecasters on the BBC seem to confuse 'mild' with warm, I can't describe 27°C as mild in May. There doesn't seem to be much prospect of rain either, so the watering needs to continue.

A few more of the winter onions have bolted, so I pulled them to use. There were some long asparagus spears to take too, the warm weather seems to have prompted them to grow really quickly now. Two of the asparagus plants have not yet produced spears, so, sadly, it looks as though they may have perished.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Carrots, not this time

We've just given up on carrots. I don't understand what we are doing wrong, or what we're not doing, but carrots don't seem to be interested in out plot. One the other hand, everything else is doing well.

We have planted out the rest of the mange touts. I added the remaining pea sticks to support them, but I will need a few more. The existing mange touts may have been nipped by the frosts, but they are picking up.

We planted our peas out too, using some of the space set aside for carrots. As in the past my space planning has been a bit off, but by juggling the space based on what is available there is always somewhere to plant things.

The potatoes are coming up now too. I wonder if we planted them deeper than most people but their timing seems pretty good because they missed the frosts. Some people's spuds have been badly nipped, but look as though they are recovering.

We also planted out some red cabbages. I protected them with the frames made over the winter, which should keep the pidgeons off.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Flowers you want and those you don't

It looks as though some of our sweet peas may have sucumbed to the few nights of frost. I hope at least some of them survive. Close to them, and certainly subject to the same frosts, the mange touts seem to be thriving. The spinach we put out recently is fine. It's a much warmer day today so let's hope the frosts are done.

The very dry weather could be taking its toll too. One of our winter onions has a flower spike on it. They seem to bolt when they get too dry, I hope the others are not thirsty. Past experience tells us that as soon as an onion has bolted it will not grow into anything useful, so I pulled it up and it will probably end up in a salad.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Cold and upside down

The ground looked damp today, I was all set for watering but didn't need to. The air is so cold (8°C) that the soil is not really drying out. We planted a few tomatoes into a growbag, still in the greenhouse and planted row of spinach out. A few weeds were pulled up and we headed home to warm up.

We have some spare tomatoes, Brenda wants a few I think, but I'm going to try growing one upside down. There has been an advert for a tomato growing device that hangs the plant upside down. I'm not sure what the advantage is, but I'm going to find a way to try it, probably just outside the back door at home.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010


Last night there was a hard frost. All of the plants we have out withstood it, but some other plots suffered. Another hard frost is forecast tonight.

We had to water again and no prospect of proper rain. If the weather gets warmer we will need even more water.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

A few jobs

Over the last week we've done a few jobs, but I haven't posted a blog about them, so here's what we did.

We lightly dug and raked over the hedge-end of the plot, ready for spring onions and spinach. We raked the opposite end for the mange touts peas. The spring onions were looking limp in their seed tray and needed to go out, but the weather has been cold so we've been waiting. In the end we planted them out, the weather turned even colder and windier and they look pathetic and weedy. I'm not sure that many will survive. To give us a second go Jean sowed some more spring onion seeds in cardboard tubes, which is what we did last year, to see if we get any better luck with them.

The mange touts were looking big and strong. Jean planted the best ones and I pushed some supports for them into the ground. These were the prunings from last year's raspberry canes, kept specially for this purpose. Today they all look strong except one which has been broken by the wind.

The winter onions are forming bulbs. This is the vulnerable time, if they get too dry they will bolt and the bulb will be lost. We watered them today, even though we have had a shower, the ground was not even damp in some places.

Tomatoes in the greenhouse are looking good and almost ready to plant into a growbag. Beetroot and red cabbage will not be long before they are ready to go out, but we need the weather to warm up first and that does not look likely yet.

The carrots might have a very few shoots showing, but they might be weeds. There is no sight yet of our potatoes even though other people's are beginning to show. All of our summer onions are growing well and the asparagus continues to produce delicious spears.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Asparagus at last

The first spears of asparagus are finally big enough to cut. They tasted great, especially with eggs, but it was not much more than a taste. There are many more spears growing and this year many of them are quite fat. I expect we'll be having regular harvests for the next couple of months.

The strawberries, now mulched with fine wood chippings, have their first flowers. The broad beans are thickening up with extra side shoots - more places for beans to grow. Many of the newly planted onion sets have sprouted. The winter onions are beginning to fatten and the garlic looks tall and strong.

Everything got some water today. It might rain at the end of the week, but the lesson from last year was make sure things get lots of water.

No sign of carrots yet, but there's still plenty of time yet.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

A frame for the sweet peas

The warmer weather tempted us to plant out the sweet peas. I made a frame for them from canes and Jean planted them out.

Friday, 23 April 2010

More shoots

We went up today so I could build the last of the frames I want. I ran out of time to finish it, but the wooden frame is complete.

The ground is dry, the steady rain earlier in the week is really required again. Jean watered some of the newly planted things. Last year I think we did well with watering some things, especially out fruit bushes, but some things we ignored and they didn't do as well as they could have.

The second sowing of peas and the second sowing of beetroot are both beginning to come through. At home the sweetcorn, courgettes and spring onions have all sprouted. The night time frosts are declining, so more stuff can go out soon.

Monday, 19 April 2010

It had to happen

Yesterday we watered the allotment, today it has poured down for hours. Steady rain is much better than a few watering cans, so I don't mind really and the rain will be refiling our water butts.

Sunday, 18 April 2010


The really dry spell means that everything needed watering. The grass on the paths between the plots has started to grow too, so Jean gave that a trim. I spent a few minutes getting some bindweed out from the raspberry canes and elsewhere.

The gooseberries have their flowers out. They seem small and insignificant, but they are the source of this year's crop. They were being attended by a few small, orange bumblebees. There's been a lot of talk about how the decline in honey bees will stop crops being pollinated. We hardly ever see honey bees; all of our pollinators are bumblebees and hoverflies both of which seem plentiful. I like honey, so I hope honey bees thrive, but our plants seem to manage without them.

Saturday, 17 April 2010

A few photos

We planted a few more peas and mange touts so I snapped a few photos while we were there.

The sweet peas are doing well, but not quite big enough to go out.

Mange touts are sprouting well, most pots have a plant or two in them.

This year is our first attempt at growing red cabbage, so far so good.

Tomatoes are doing well. They will go into a growbag soon.

Outside the rhubarb is bursting into fresh growth. We certainly have too much, but it's too late to dig it up.

The newly uncovered parsnips are responding to the extra sunlight. They grow slowly, they will be in the ground for the rest of the year.

The broad beans are responding to the wind and cold by getting a few extra side shoots, which will all produce extra bean pods.

And lastly a picture of the various frames I've been building to keep the birds off our plants.

Friday, 16 April 2010

Carrots (maybe)

A lovely afternoon tempted us up to look at the allotment. We took the latest batch of potted leeks to the greenhouse. About half a dozen of the existing leeks had keeled over, but we still have more than enough for what we want.

I made another frame to protect our plants from the ravages of the birds. There's still one more to make, but I need some more plywood corners and some more staples to fix the mesh to the frame.

Jean dug the carrot plot over again and sowed our first row of carrots. She moved the fleece tunnel from over the parsnips to over the carrot row.  Given our poor record with carrots I hope these grow. The parsnips are growing well, although a few have not survived the planting out process.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Shoots are showing

The seeds in the pots in the greenhouse have started to sprout. We now have beetroot, red cabbage, spinach and peas alongside the mange touts, tomatoes and sweet peas.  Jean sowed another batch of beetroot - we have set aside lots of space for it and this year we are going to let more of it grow into bigger beets, tennis ball sized, rather than taking them at golf ball size. 

The asparagus is also beginning to show, with the tips of three spears just poking up through the soil.   This is the first year we can harvest it fully, everything that appears before mid summer day is for the pot and everything after then is left to mature for the plants' to feed from.

The broad beans and parsnips are both getting bigger, so much so that I will be able to remove the fleece tent from the parsnips to use for the carrots when we're ready to sow them.

We still have lots of seeds to sow, but we have run out of the soft plastic pots we prefer and I can't find any more to buy. Wilkos used to sell them but they don't seem to have any this year and I haven't seen them anywhere else. Shame.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

Our first potatoes get planted

We've not grown potatoes before, but this year we thought we'd squeeze a few rows in. The weather has warmed up so today was the day to get them into the ground. Three trenches, about 60cm apart and about 15cm deep. These are first earlies, Pentland Javelin, I hope they are going in soon enough, but the ground really has only just warmed up. After burying them the onion sets went in too.

The half kilo in the bag from Wilkos turned out to be about 140 sets. The sets were planted quite close together, 25cm between rows and 10cm between each plant. We covered the freshly planted rows with the frames that have covered the winter onions and garlic over the past few months to keep the birds from pulling them up.

I refitted the tap outside the greenhouse. I took it off to protect it from the frost over the winter, but now we are watering things it is much easier to use outside again. I had a quick tidy of the greenhouse too, which makes it much easier to get in and out. When the peas go out (they haven't sprouted yet) the pile of pea sticks will go out too.

Friday, 2 April 2010

Only leeks

We potted the last leeks from the first packet of seeds and took them up to the greenhouse this afternoon.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Seed sowing

The forecast cold snap seems to have passed us by and April is almost upon us, so the next batch of seeds have been sown. Red cabbage, spinach, beetroot, peas and mangetout have all been sown two-to-a-pot. They have all gone straight up to the greenhouse along with the potted leeks, which are doing well. Another small batch of leeks have been sown too to top up the numbers. They will need to be brought on at home before they are potted up and ready for the greenhouse.

The broad beans and parsnips in the ground are doing well. The blackcurrant and gooseberries are coming into leaf. The winter onions and garlic are doing well too. 

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Sweet peas are up

The warmer weather seems to have nudged the sweet peas into germination. Their ground is ready for them to move in as soon as they are big enough, as is more of the plot.  We did some more digging yesterday in a dry spell. There is still some digging to do and some weeding around the fruit bushes.

I made a frame to help keep the birds off our growing vegetables. I want a few more of these frames yet.  They are easy to make and they should work well. Like all the best ideas I pinched it, in this case from Tony. It is just a rectangle of wooden battons screwed together with some kind of netting fitted to it. This time I used chicken wire, but the last two were a plastic mesh. They have little plastic feet so the wood doesn't stand on the earth and rot.

We bumped into Gary who was thinking about planting his onions and potatoes. The forecast for next week is colder weather again, so I think I'll wait and see.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Nearly done

The digging is nearly done. There are a few bits left to dig and there's still some weeding to do where we don't want to dig deeply, such as between the fruit bushes. It feels like the bulk of the work is over.

The white markers are there to lay out the plot. I have been working out what will fit where.  The general layout is still what we decided last autumn, but I still need to work out how many plants we want in each area. We have about 100 leeks started and we could fit in about 160, so we will sow some more.

We want to grow carrots this year.  The carrot plot is the one part of the main area that has not been dug over. It seems that to grow carrots we need to have very finely dug soil and we should cover them with fleece over hoops.  We have covered our parsnips like this (the white tent in the top of the picture). We may need some more hoops and fleece. We will dig the carrot patch at least twice to get it fine, and do so when it is quite dry.

Any suggestions for growing carrots are welcome.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

More preparation

The digging continues. The back of the plot has not been properly used so far. We grew some tomatoes there last year, but they got blighted.  We've grown sweet peas and spinach too, but they have always been a bit of an afterthought. This year we want to use it for spring onions and beetroot. I've dug some of it, but there is still more to do.  The soil is light, but much richer than it was thanks to the muck and compost we have added, especially over the winter.

Jean dug a huge chunk of the other end of the plot, so we have the space we need to plant peas and onions as soon as we're ready. There were some weeds in both parts that we dug, but not too many, and the more we take out the less they get a hold.

I fed the asparagus with a small amount of blood fish and bone. We are expecting some rain over the next few days so it will get properly washed in. The first spears should be appearing in the next few weeks.

A bit of a tidy up and we were done - until we're ready for more digging that is.  There's probably still about half of the open parts of the plot to dig and then there's the weeding around the fruit bushes ...

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

And now, the parsnips

Another warm, dry day so we planted the parsnips. Most of them had roots showing at the bottom of the tubes, so they were ready to go out. Just to help them on their way I put up a set of fleece cloches to keep them cosy.

We seem to be getting on with our plot, other people seem to be holding back in case the icy breath of winter returns. They are digging the land, but not putting anything out. Now, we might be jumping the gun, so we'll see.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Beans are out

Another session of digging means we now have more ground ready for planting.  The broad beans have gone out. I put a little stake next to each plant to help support them when it gets windy. I added a row of CDs dangling as a deterent to birds, especially the masses of pigeons.

There were a few other people there too, making the most of the better weather. The whole site is getting tidied and dug over ready for this year's plants.

Thursday, 11 March 2010


The ground is finally dry enough to dig. Gary put Rob's Rotovator to work over the weekend. It looked good so we ventured up to turn some of our plot. I hand-weeded the asparagus patch to get that into good fettle before the new spears appear. Jean turned over the broad bean patch. That needs to be ready because the beans are nearly bursting their pots and need to be out very soon.

We tackled the potato patch too.  The soil is much too cold for potatoes yet, but it is weed free and manured.  The seed potatoes are still not chitting, so there is no hurry.  Jean also turned a little bed for the sweet peas.  That had the newly arrived cow muck on it and proved to be an awkward thing to dig in. There's so much straw in it that is is difficult to turn over.

Finally I took a look at the salad patch, which has had a lot of manure on it over the winter.  It was very sandy soil but now it seems much richer and has more body - just what we want.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010


Today we ate our last leeks and broad beans from last year's plantings. Delicious.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Moving muck

Jean planted some sweet peas and tomatoes today. We wanted to take the sweet peas up to the greenhouse. When we got to the site there were quite a few people there, great to see. We collected some of the manure that Jim had had delivered and spread it over some of our plot.  Some of the horse manure that we had spread in the autumn was still lying on the surface.  We had covered part of the plot rather too thickly, so we moved some of the excess to where we plan to plant potatoes. We removed a few weeds too, but the ground was still very wet and sticky.

We put the sweet peas in the greenhouse, where the parsnips are flourishing and the broad beans are getting ever stronger. The weather forecast for the week is cold, but fine and dry.  This might be enough to dry the plot enough to dig at least some it.  If so, then we will be able to get the weeds out and the broad beans in.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Parsnips and a load of work

The parsnips in their cardboard tubes are thriving, so we took them to the allotment greenhouse. Most of the tubes have a young plant in it so they need to be out in a cooler place to stop them romping on too far.  In a few weeks, weather permitting, they will be in the ground, tubes and all.

The greenhouse is untidy because we used it to store stuff over the winter. When the weather warms a little more and there is a less chance of frost it will get a tidy out and some stuff will go back outside.

Rob was there making a start rearranging some of his plot.  He dug out some fruit bushes last year and wants to extend the fenced, rabbit-proof area for more vegetables. He also has some heavy-duty pallets to make a stand for his water butts.  Its good to see people about again after the winter.

Rob pointed out that Jim's friend had just delivered a load of manure onto the car park at the Quarry End. Jean helped Rob move some of the muck that had stayed onto George's newly planted hedge beside the car park. The muck looks to have a high proportion of straw - it was from cattle sheds.  It should rot down well.  I think we'll use a few barrow loads to suppliment the horse manure we got last autumn.

Saturday, 27 February 2010

Potting on

The leek seeds have sprouted and have been potted on.  This is earlier than last year, so we may be taking a chance on the weather warming up, but we can easily sow some more seeds if things go wrong.  There are now 105 leeks in pots filling window sills and shelves.  When they have settled down they will go up to the greenhouse for their slow, growth to the thickness of a pencil ready for planting out.  The broad beans are now in the greenhouse to settle down before planting out. Parsnips will not be long before they go into the greenhouse too.

We marked out the plot with plastic markers according to our plan.  The land was very, very wet and claggy and unworkable.  We spoke to Jim who is arranging for some well-rotted manure to be delivered, probably about ten tonnes. He's looking for people to chip in for delivery. Ten tonnes sounds a lot but it won't go that far if many people want it.

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


We took a walk up to the site this morning.  It was a misty morning but not quite as cold. All of the snow from the last few days had melted, revealing the weeds slowly taking hold.  These will all be removed when we dig the soil over but that will have to wait until the ground is drier, which will not be this week. 

Something else that appeared when the snow melted was a series of little holes outside of the fence surrounding the plot.  I think they are from mice.  The fence is not buried very deeply so I expect they have tunnelled under it into the plot. We plan to plant peas and beans which mice will happily eat as seeds before they sprout, but our tactic of growing seeds into small plants before planting them out should help.

At home the broad beans are opening out; we will take them to the greenhouse soon.  The leeks too are sprouting nicely.  They will be ready for potting on in a week or two. 

The parsnips are interesting.  The general view is that parsnips are hard to germinate.  This year almost all of the first batch of parsnip seeds we chitted have sprouted.  They have been planted in compost in cardboard tubes and the first leaves are emerging from the compost.  If all of these grow away we won't need to sow any more.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

The beginning and end of leeks

The last leeks are in from last year's planting.  This year's leeks are on their way, though there will be a gap of about six or seven months before we can eat them. The land is still too soggy to dig it and too cold to plant anything, so I'm hoping that over the next couple of weeks it warms up and dries out a bit.

Just by the hedge between the site and the road a new sign has been put up.  It is a fancy affair in relief and is hard to miss. It must have cost a few quid, and there is at least one more on another road into the village.

I think they are a bit naff.  I know the village is called Swanland, but there's not much evidence that the name has much to do with swans. The picture is also a bit out-of-proportion; the swan is a bit dumpy and not as elegant as the real thing. I'm sure many people will like it, and I'm probably being grumpy, but I'd sooner the money had been saved or given to charity.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

And we're off ...

The broad beans are shoving their heads through the soil, a few leeks have sprouted and the parsnips have started to push their roots out of their shells.

The broad beans are in pots and will stay there until they go in the ground, but we will take the pots up to the cool greenhouse as soon as proper leaves show so they don't run away. The leeks need transplanting into pots as soon as they are big enough to handle and they too will go up to the greenhouse soon after. The parsnips that have roots showing (chitted) have been transplanted into cardboard tubes.  When they have a couple of proper leaves they will be planted, tubes and all, so the root doesn't get disturbed. The tubes rot away leaving the parsnip free to swell.

Red cabbages, a few carrots and some spinach are in the queue for sowing next.

Monday, 8 February 2010

It has started

The sowing of seeds has started.  Broad beans are in pots, leek seeds are in a tray of seed compost and parsnip seeds are sitting on wet paper to chit them. I like this process, even though every available surface in the kitchen and spare bedroom gradually become covered with trays and pots.  In a couple of weeks there will, hopefully, be fresh young plants shooting up. 

I just hope the allotment will be ready for them. There was a little bit of snow today, with cold and maybe snowy days forecast for this week and into next.  We haven't begun to dig the ground yet, it's much too wet and claggy.  The ground will also be too cold to plant into.  The greenhouse will be fine for the hardy plants and should remain free of frost, but things can get a bit queued up if the cold lasts too long.  On the other hand some things can't be delayed too long either.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

When is spinach not spinach

When it's perpetual apparently. We have grown varieties of spinach over the past few seasons and I really enjoyed some of the fresh young leaves.

Part of the reason for my misunderstanding lies in the way we grow things. Our main route for starting plants is to sow seeds in trays or pots and transplant them to the soil when the young plants can be handled, but that doesn't seem to work well for spinach (or, for that matter, carrots). We did have success with perpetual spinach and when we took a few leaves the plant just throws more out. It was easy to grow but I wasn't convinced about the flavour. The few spinach (non perpetual) plants that did grow didn't like having a few leaves taken, so they bolted, but those leaves tasted great.

The main part of my confusion is that a leaf beet is called perpetual spinach which I thought was a variety of spinach, well you would - wouldn't you?  Even the gardening magazines list perpetual spinach as though it is a spinach.  I finally realised my error because a seed catalogue pointed out the difference.

This all makes sense now. Perpetual spinach is not spinach, its a leaf beet. It can be sown in a pot and transplanted. It is tolerant of having leaves taken. It doesn't taste like spinach.

Real spinach doesn't like being transplanted. It is not tolerant of having some leaves taken so to keep a steady supply it needs to be sown at regular intervals, probably directly in the ground. It does taste like spinach.

I understand now, so I can buy some spinach seeds.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Leeks are great

The leeks that remain are smaller ones that were in-fills.  They are very good, possibly better than the bigger ones.  After the ones Jean took today there's still enough for two more harvests.  We might sow this year's leeks before the last ones are gathered.

Kenilworth Avenue

We popped out to the Kenilworth Avenue Allotment Society and joined for the year.  The fees have doubled to a whole pound.  We saw some White Gem parsnip seeds and they had some Sturon onion sets, so we bought both.  We already had some onion sets, but I thought it was worth buying some more.

The weather forecast is cold for next week, so we'll be cautious about sowing seeds, even though I want to see them on their way.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Seeds are home

The next batch of seeds and sets are home.  The first batch were freebies from a gardening magazine, but these were carefully chosen to match the list of varieties we want. When a specific variety was not there we chose to wait and get it elsewhere, whereas last year we just chose another one. 

The list so far:
Onion setsSturon
CourgettesAll Green Bush
CarrotsKingston F1
Sweet peasold Fashioned Mixed
Mange toutReutzensuiker
PeasKelvedon Wonder
TomatoesGardeners' Delight
Spring onionsWhite Lisbon
LettuceMixed Salad Leaves
SweetcornApplause F1
Red cabbageRed Fuego F1

Most of the choices were long considered, but the red cabbage was a rapid choice - I just fancy growing some. We haven't yet bought parsnip or spinach seeds - we didn't find the varieties we want.  All of this is in addition to our existing seeds, either gathered, free or left over:

PotatoesPentland Javelin
CarrotsNantes Frubund
BeetrootChoggia Pink
Broad beansNorman's Beauties
TomatoesAilsa Craig
BroccoliEarly Purple Sprouting

Let the sowing begin

Monday, 1 February 2010

Time for seeds

I drew up a plan for this year as we were beginning to tidy up last year.  I don't stick to these plans rigidly, but it helps to get straight what you need to do.  I knew where to add the horse manure and where not to (some things don't like manured ground). In the event we didn't get as much manure as we wanted so this year I'll get it early before the riding school has spread it on the surrounding fields. The plan still looks a good place to start.

I've been going through the list of seeds we need for the new season.  It's not just the plant, it's the variety.  I think the variety is a very important part of getting the best tasting vegetables, but we are still working out what is best for our soil, the local climate and what we prefer.

Last year we grew White Gem parsnips and I think they were better than the Patriot variety we grew the year before.  They tasted a bit better, they grew bigger and there was less rot and canker.  Last year we grew two sorts of courgettes, with the Green Bush being by far the best cropper and a wonderful flavour and texture.  We have grown Musselburgh leeks now for two years and they are superb, big, crisp, tasty, not woody and resistant to bolting. Sturon white onions were dependable, not too strong-tasting and kept well.  The red onions have been a disappointment for two years so we will not grow them. Runner beans have also not passed the taste test. They are easy to grow, but a bit bland, so we will try peas instead. Our own broad beans from saved seeds will be there too. Last year we grew mange-touts for the first time Sugar Bon (snap).  They were tasty, but not strong growing so we might try something else for experience.

In addition we will grow early potatoes (Pentland Javelin), broccoli (Early Purple), sweetcorn and peas for the first time.  There will be some wall flowers that were surplus to the garden pots and some sweet peas for a bit of colour and we might even plant a few marigolds to divert the pests. There are the fruit bushes and the asparagus too. We have to see what the harvest turns out like this year.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

More leeks

We planted the leeks last year in stages.  There were two long rows of leeks that we realised were too spread out, so we in-filled with another row later.  The last leeks to go out are considerably smaller that the first ones.  Jean took some more leeks today and that finished the bigger ones off.  A few had suffered in the cold weather - they had had too much water in between their leaves and then when it froze the stem was damaged. The remaining, smaller leaks (which are still a good size) seem to have fared better.  Fresh, crisp leeks are a delight to eat.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Parsnips are over

The snow has all melted a few days ago and the parsnips have thawed out.  The mud was the usual winter clag.  Jean dug out the remaining parsnips.  We have given some away and blanch and freeze the rest, which was more than I expected. 

There were some beetroots still in the ground and Jean pulled all of them too.  The tops had died back, but the beets might yet be good to boil and eat.  There are still some leeks standing, so we need to walk on the plot to harvest them over the next few weeks, but otherwise we need to stay off as much as possible to let the plot dry out.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Seed potatoes

A wet and murky afternoon drew me to shopping. We had a look in Wilkinsons on Hessle road and their shelves are filling up with gardening stuff again.  I had a look at seeds and the like.  They had onion sets for sale, sold by weight so it's not clear how many sets you're buying.  They had white 'Sturon', an unnamed red onion and some shallots.  They also had quite a range of seed potatoes, including Pentland Javelin which we want to try for our earlies, so I bought a bag. 

We have put them away in a dark cupboard for now, we should bring them out for chitting next month.  The cold winter might mean a late start for planting; potatoes don't like cold ground or frosts.

Ice is melting

A quick visit to the plot today showed the snow is still covering the ground, but it is melting.  I looked at the water butts and the ice in them was melting too.  There was a big plug of ice in the middle of each butt which was stuck to the lid, but water was all around each plug. When I checked the tap in the greenhouse there was running water, so the pipes seem to be intact.

So no leaks in the pipes, but leeks in the ground are certainly still there. They are exposed now and look fine.  The winter onions and garlic are exposed too and they look a bit limp and yellow, but I expect they will pick up.  The days are getting noticeably longer so the extra sunlight should help them.

All seems well.

Thursday, 7 January 2010


The first falls of snow melted away, but quite unusually for England some more has fallen and even more is forecast. The water tanks are very icy, but the shed is warmer than I expected, probably due to the greenhouse soaking up what sun there is.

The leeks look wilted in the frost, but I expect they'll be fine when they are thawed out.  We'll take a few more in a day or two.  Hopefully the snow will have stopped the ground freezing too hard so we can dig some out.  There are some parsnips under the snow somewhere, I think they can stay where they are for now.