Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Mild and tasty

The weather is always a topic of conversation amongst gardeners. The summer was very warm and quite dry when it eventually got going. The beginning of the autumn has turned out very mild and rather wet and windy. I had to wait for a dryish slot with the wind blowing away from nearby houses to have a couple of bonfires. I pruned back the trees and bushes that I planted around the edge of the plot and I wanted to burn the branches. I set the fires in an incinerator borrowed from my neighbour and it worked very well. All that was left was wood ash which today I spread, just as a heavy rain shower started which was ideal.

The warm, wet weather has helped the remaining veg to grow. The leeks were looking a bit small but they are swelling nicely now and will be ready to take now. The remaining carrots are great too, I pulled a few and they are lovely. The purple broccoli has recovered from the caterpillars. It will be a few months before it's ready yet, but I look forward to it. I need to keep it covered to keep the birds off.

The parsnips that have self sown are looking strong. There are many more than I thought, and loads more than I will keep. I pulled one out to see what the root is like and it is already more than 15cm long.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013


I let a few of last year's parsnips grow on this year, by mistake, and they all bloomed as flowers and set loads of seeds. I gathered the seeds that I wanted, more than need really, and then cut down the seed heads and dug up the roots. Then the ground was dug over. I noticed that lots of seeds had fallen to the ground but I ignored them and dug them in. To my surprise, lots and lots have germinated.

I have decided to leave them to grow on. In the spring, if they are still growing, I'll thin them out and leave them to grow into the delicious roots that are parsnip.

This whole process has been interesting. Parsnips are renown for being poor at germinating. A packet of parsnip seeds often have 2000 seeds in it and if they are sown outdoors it is common for only a few to germinate. These have been dropped onto the ground and roughly turned into the ground, yet there seems to be a lot of germination. I would normally sown parsnips in the late winter or spring and start them off indoors, but maybe I should be sowing them in the autumn. The soil is still very warm, whereas in spring the soil is always cold and at the moment the soil is pretty dry, whereas usually the soil in early spring is wet.

Every year there is something interesting to try and something to learn.

Friday, 4 October 2013

Hedges (again)

The parish council delivered their occasional newsletter today. In a section about the allotments they announced:

The bordering hedges are due to be upgraded and rabbit-proof fencing will soon be installed, possibly November this year.

I have just written to the Trees & Landscape Team in the East Riding of Yorkshire council to ask if the parish council has spoken to them about their plans.

It would have been good to have been notified as a plot holder rather than noticing it in a general newsletter.

I would like the hedge improved with more native species grown to fill the gaps in the hawthorn. Installing a rabbit-proof fence seems ambitious. Will a fence really keep out rabbits when the two entrances are open? How much of the site will be fenced? It also seems unlikely to be able to be done without first removing the existing hedges or encroaching on the allotment plots that the hedges border.

Last time there were plans to pull up the hedge, the Trees and Landscape Team stopped it happening because the parish council had not applied for permission under the 1997 Hedgerows regulations. Let's see what happens this time. If the parish council insists on wasting this money I doubt I can stop them, but I can remind people at the next election what went on.

Tuesday, 1 October 2013


Part of clearing the plot is about deciding when some plants have come to an end. Beetroot is not going to grow any more, so I pulled it all up and cooked the biggest ones. They are still small, but they are still tasty. There's some in the freezer now for another day too.


I've been working my way slowly across the plot digging and weeding. I've been concentrating on the edges. Weeding along the edge of the fence is good at this time of year and keeping the grass from the path outside the plot spreading in is a good thing to do. There are other problem weeds too, the worse on my plot now is bindweed.

As the days shorten and the average temperature falls various plants retreat for the winter. Many weeds have made loads of seeds which have spread around and we allotment holders kindly dig into the soil at this time of year. Bindweed is different. It does have flowers and seeds, but it spreads with fleshy roots. At this time of year the greenery shrivels and the roots swell. So digging up the roots now takes away the reserves that plant has built up for next year. Of course, it's not that easy.

The roots are fat and fleshy, but they break easily, so the ground has to be loosened and the roots carefully extracted. Some inevitably break and any left in the ground will grow next spring, but I have a plan for that too. The biggest problem area is around the perennials such as fruit bushes, rhubarb and asparagus. Digging up the roots of bindweed around these is very hard, but hopefully my new springtime strategy will help here too.

Next year I'm going to watch carefully for new bindweed shoots, but this time I'm not going to pull them up as I've done in the past. I'm going to push a cane into the ground next to the shoot and train the bindweed up it. Bindweed loves to climb, so that should be easy. Letting it climb should keep it in sight and not help it spead across the ground. As soon as there are a few strong leaves I'm going to carefully treat them with a systemic weed killer, such as glyphosate. That should kill the roots as well as the leaves and should make an impact on whatever remains of the bindweed.

My previous attempts to eradicate the weed has not worked, only kept it from overrunning the plot. Hopefully my current efforts and my new plan will do better.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

More digging today. It was cold and windy so only a bit more done.Still plenty of tidying up to do, then maybe a bonfire to finish off.

Friday, 13 September 2013

Autumn approaches

The weather is still warm but nights are drawing in. The recent rain is very welcome; the ground was very dry and hard. Digging season is upon us.

I like to see the plot dug and weeded in the autumn. I feel that it gives the weeds a poor start in the spring so less work then when there's plenty of other stuff to do. If I use any manure I like to spread it over the freshly weeded and dug ground in the autumn so it gets drawn into the earth by the weather and worms over the winter.

Everything has effectively finished except the leeks and purple-sprouting broccoli that will stand much longer. Leeks are fairly resistant but the broccoli needs protecting from pests such as pigeons, so I've surrounded it with frames covered in wire mesh and covered the top with netting.

Digging the weeds up, I suddenly realised that the pattern of weeds was different from previous years. This year there has been a huge number of sow thistles, I'm not sure which exact species. There has also been a lot of deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna) too. I do wonder if it was brought in amongst the manure that Jim had delivered as we all used it to some extent. The weeds are not a big problem and both of these are easy to clear. Last year there were a lot of dandelions and this year there are hardly any. I suppose that weeds respond differently to the weather for the year just like my plants.

Deadly Nightshade
Sow Thistle

Friday, 9 August 2013


Last year when we dug up the parsnips we missed a few. This year they sprouted, flowered and now are covered in seed heads, some of which are ripe.Today I put some of the seed heads into a paper bag and shook them. The result was a ton of seeds and a lot of greenfly and black fly in a paper bag. When I got home I tipped them out to see if they look any good and indeed they do. If anyone has any hints for ridding the kitchen of a mass of black fly and greenfly I'd be interested.

I also did some of the obligatory weeding and pulled a carrot to see if they are ready. The carrot is still rather small, so I left the rest.

The male flowers on the sweetcorn are magnificent, but sadly there are no cobs, not a one. I'm not sure what has happened, other people have lovely looking cobs developing. I'll just have to write sweetcorn off this year. Mange touts have been doing well and still more are developing, Runner beans are slowly developing, rather too slowly for my liking. I'm still taking a few black currants and about half of the gooseberries have ripened and been picked. The raspberries are about done now. All of the fruit has been particularly good, with plump, juicy berries and lots of them. My freezer is bursting.

If only a small fraction of the parsnip seed grows next year it would fill the whole plot.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Catching up

After some pretty hot weather there has been the usual thundery breakdown and a few days with a fair amount of rain. Today is warm (forecast to be hot later) but the ground is very damp, so great for plants to grow. Decent rain is so much more effective at watering than I can be and it is much less work.

I have tried to tame the grass that grows in from the borders under the fence. Mixed in with it is still some bind weed too. I have resorted to carefully spraying the bindweed with Glyphosate weed killer in the hope of at least keeping it in check.

I took a few phone-photos (i.e. badly framed, badly lit and out of focus) to show some progress.

Courgettes are doing well. As always, if they get some sun and water they produce masses of fruit which I like to take when they are quite small. If left they will turn into marrows and the plant will produce a few large ones. If picked they produce loads of smaller ones.
 The runner beans are flowering and the first beans are growing. They grow very quickly so they need monitoring often to pick them at their best. If the pods get too long they often become stringy and the skins get too hard. I'm hoping to get lots of these beans this year.
 The spinach is a disappointment. I have taken a little to eat, which was very tasty, but the hot weather has made it bolt, which means the leaves lose all of their flavour.

 The mange-touts have been good so far and the rain will boost them some more.  There are two varieties and one produces fatter pods which may not be intended to be mange-tout, but they all taste great so I'm happy with them.

Gooseberries are in full flow now. The raspberries have almost finished, black currants are past their peak and now gooseberries takeover as the amazing torrent of lovely soft fruit continues. Surely the best year for fruit for a long time. These gooseberries are the so-called desert variety, so they turn purple when they are ripe. This makes it much easier to know when to pick them compared to green goosegogs. They are almost hairless, a bit sweeter than green varieties but they still have vicious thorns which need to be grappled with when picking the berries. They are worth it though.

Happy Yorkshire Day.

Friday, 12 July 2013

Fruit, lovely

The soft fruit looks really good this year. Raspberries have begun to ripen - I needed to cover them with nets. I've taken nearly a kilo of blackcurrants and I've scarcely begun. The gooseberries are just beginning to ripen and there are plenty of them too.

Courgettes are beginning to produce fruits and I'm taking them quite small this year. The broad beans also have some pods ready to take. There will not be loads of beans as the later flowers don't seem to have set into pods, but the ones that are ready seem good and are very tasty. 

The peas are growing very well with the beginnings of flowers forming. They are getting too tall for the netting so now I have to decide if I should take a gamble and remove the nets or risk getting the peas tangled in them. My feeling is to remove the netting, but we'll see.

The sweetcorn is growing well next to the purple-sprouting broccoli that Gary gave me. The new savoy cabbage is also doing well. The spinach is doing well, in a week or so there may be some big enough to harvest. Spring onions and beetroot are both growing well, but the newly sown onions need watering so they don't wilt in the heat of the day. Carrots are doing quite well and the last sowings are sprouting.

All in all, things are doing well and this evening I had a meal that included courgettes and broad beans followed by raspberries. Lovely.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Seeds are sprouting

I sowed spinach, extra beetroot, extra spring onions and more carrots and I'm pleased to say they have all sprouted. The weather has been very good for growing, with warm sunny spells and a plenty of rain. No baking hot weather, so very little watering. I fed and therefore watered, the courgettes to encourage them to fill out a few fruits.

The blackcurrants are beginning to ripen, the gooseberries are fattening but remaining green. The raspberry canes are covered in fruit but it need to swell a lot yet before it ripens. I have a couple of ripe strawberries and because I didn't clear the weeds around them very well the plants have not done well. I think I'll start again with new plants next year, probably in a slightly raised bed.

Some broad beans are close to being ready, runner beans are developing a few flower buds, mange touts are growing well but with no sign of flowers yet and sweetcorn is a bit small, but looks healthy. Everything is netted, wired or has dangling CDs over it. This hasn't stopped carrot tops being eaten but they are recovering. The fleece wall around them will hopefully keep off the carrot fly.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Sowing seeds

I sowed some seeds directly into the ground today. I like to sow seeds in pots and then plant out healthy plants, but today I decided to try sowing seeds alongside some plants grown in pots. I sowed beetroot, spring onions and spinach, all under nets.

The spring onions and beetroot are together under a plastic net stapled to a low frame. Last night something chewed through the plastic mesh and nibbled a few spring onion leaves, so I fixed the hole with some string. I want to replace all of the plastic mesh on frames with chicken wire but a small repair will do for now.

The big topic for discussion amongst all of the plot holders is what is eating all of our plants. I've not suffered much, but it would be helpful, I think, to know what is eating stuff, so I'm trying to work out how to get a camera that will be triggered by a passive infra red sensor to snap a picture of the culprit. If I build it myself it might be ready for next year.

More netting

Having seen a rabbit easily jump over a fairly low fence, I wondered if I should replace the low fences with higher ones. That would still not keep birds off my veg, so I'm leaving the fences as they are and covering vulnerable stuff with nets.

I put some leeks out yesterday and put nets up over them. The nets are big enough for all my leeks and some cabbage. I will need more netting yet and more frames to support it.

Friday, 14 June 2013

Jumping Jack Rabbit

This afternoon I planted out some mange touts. They were sown late, have grown slowly and look strong, but not very big. Following previous years were peas were scoffed by something or other in the blink of an eye, I put up some frames to grow the peas in. I kept the prunings from a hazel tree as peas sticks.

Just before I set off for the allotments the heavens opened and a downpour delayed me. While I was there there were a few spots of rain, but I got the peas out in the dry. I then set about the pea sticks which I thought would be a moments work, but as the rain started to bucket down it seemed to take ages, so I took refuge in the greenhouse. After a few minutes the rain eased up a bit so I finished the sticks, covered the frame with netting and headed for home. As I turned the key in the door at home the rain stopped, the sun came out and I needed a towel.

A bit later I realised that in my haste to finish I had not clipped the netting to the frame at one side, so I popped up again (in the dry) to do just that. As I walked past Tony's plot I heard a rustle and saw a small rabbit on his plot, inside his fence. As I moved towards it, waving my arms, it calmly jumped over his fence and ran off from the site across the road. The fence is about knee high but some of my fencing is only slightly higher and its effortless leap would easily have cleared by fence too. This is an bit of a surprise and I might need to think again out fencing to keep 

Sunday, 9 June 2013

What destroyed some fencing?

More pest trouble, but this time something with muscle. As I mentioned in the last post, I think something has died under the shed, judging by the bluebottles and the smell. When we took over the plot there were three very substantial concrete fence posts which I used as a base for the shed. I levelled them and put damp-proof plastic on them and put the treated shed base across them. This keeps the wooden base off the ground to help keep the rot away. Once the shed is down you can't treat the bottom of the floor again without fully dismantling the shed, so keeping it off the ground helps a lot. This leaves a small gap between the shed base and the concrete posts next to each of the wooden rails. I covered this gap with some strong wire fencing, held in place with plastic strips screwed to the shed. Something destroyed this.

The stiff wire is bent and mangled. The plastic has been ripped off the screws. There is blood on some of the wire. Something was very keen to be into that space. It looks like it was ripped off from outside rather than pushed off from inside.

I had to use a hammer to straighten the wire, so whatever bent it was pretty strong. I suspect a fox or a dog was trying to get at whatever was under the shed.

I hammered wooden stakes into the ground, replaced the wire and screwed the stakes and more plastic bands across the wire to hold it in place. I hope that is enough.

Thursday, 6 June 2013


The weather has been warm and calm and is set to be so for a few more days at least. I've built a simple frame for runner beans from canes and planted out the beans. I decided to wrap the bottom of the frame in netting to, hopefully, keep any bean munchers out. I've weeded the next strip of ground ready to plant out sweetcorn and mange tout. I know all peas are vulnerable, especially to birds like pigeons and partridges so they need carefully covering. It seems that sweetcorn is also vulnerable this year, with other people's being munched. Some suggest deer which might be the case. My perimeter fence is intact as far as I can tell but it certainly wouldn't keep deer out - they could easily hop over it - so I'll try to cover the sweetcorn as it goes out.

The beetroot I planted out a few days ago is now recovering from flagging badly as it went out. I've planted out the next batch too and some spring onions have gone out. All of this is under a netting cover.

At home the broccoli is coming on nicely, another batch of spring onions is on the way and savoy cabbage is doing well. All of these are vulnerable and will need netting, so I need to make sure I have enough netting and some frames to hold the netting would be good too.

Whatever the pests are that are eating our produce, one of them has died under my shed I think, it probably succumbed to rat poison on other plots. There are lots of bluebottles around and a smell of rotting flesh. I can't easily get under the shed, and I'm not sure I want to, but it has encouraged me to ensure the space under the shed is all secure with wire mesh.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Rabbits with a sense of humour

The saga of the hedge being pulled out and replaced with a fence and then, eventually, being replanted as a hedge has caused a lot of comment, some mirth and some bad feeling. The parish council chairman, who is strongly in favour of this plan, has decided that he is not talking to me. I asked the East Riding of Yorkshire (ERoY) council if our parish council could pull out the hedge, ERoY confirmed that they needed permission which they didn't have so wrote to the parish council to let them know they couldn't just pull out a rural hedge.

The parish council was invited to a meeting to discuss this, but the parish council chairman took this as some sort of dressing down, which was certainly not the case. As a result of a simple email from me the parish council chairman is now shouting at me that he is not talking to me. His childish behaviour is causing a lot of mirth and has lost him a lot of respect. Other village residents are very unhappy about the way the parish council is handling some planning matters too, so I hope that at the next election there will be some changes, but I'm not holding my breath.

The hedge-to-fence-to-hedge idea is supposedly about stopping rabbits getting onto the site which I don't think stands any chance of working. Some rabbits have taken up residence in the middle of the site underneath a shed. Clearly a fence along one side of the site would not keep them off our plots. Oddly enough that rabbit-infested plot is rented by, of all people, the parish chairman.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013


I had given up on the carrots. I've bought some more carrot seeds to have another go. Today the carrots have decided to show up. I will sow some more carrots as the new seeds are later season carrots so hopefully they will extend the season. It seems impatience and vegetables don't mix.

I have dug over some more of the plot in anticipation of planting out some of the things growing on, mostly still at home. The recent rain has left the soil lovely and crumbly but it has pushed up weeds like mad. I do wish weeds were edible and tasty, but they do make good compost in the long run.

I have sown some runner beans, and two sorts of manges touts. I have some prunings from the hazel trees and I think they will make great pea sticks. I do need to cover the plants this year, the peas especially. Partridges have been seen and already onions across the site have been nibbled. I expect to net over everything and surround stuff with wire netting too.

I have noticed that Ronnie has planted out sweetcorn. I'll see how it does before I plant mine out, which is still a bit small yet.

Friday, 17 May 2013

Cold again

The courgettes have survived their first night out, under fleece, but the wet, windy and chilly forecast for the weekend is ominous and then it is forecast to get colder!

I'm planning to sow some more seeds at home, I hope it warms up soon.

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Asparagus glut, odd weather and courgettes

Today's asparagus
The asparagus is prolific at the moment. There are new spears every time I look and I can hardly keep up with it. It is lovely, especially the soft tips. I've tried it cooked by searing it on a griddle pad and steamed in a dribble of water, covered in a microwave. Both work well. it goes with fish, eggs and meat and now I'd like to try something else, just for a change.

I think the wet year last year will have helped the asparagus bulk up and it started to show nearly a month late this year, probably due to the very cold March winds, but what every is the cause the crop looks and tastes very good this year.

A poor photo of a great courgette
The cold start to the year has held up everything. I sowed seeds deliberately late this spring, but still there are come concerns about tender plants. My courgettes have grown fast at home and have main leaves and even flower buds, but I was concerned about frost so I haven't put them out, until today. The plants look really strong, but one nip of frost and they will be doomed, so after planting them out, I covered them with a fleece tunnel which I hope will protect them enough until the risk of frost has passed. I planted them quite deep and made a little well around them, so when they get watered it flows to the plant - they are very thirsty. I also planted them wide apart, they can be rampant and need a lot of elbow room.

The broccoli is still producing spears, though some are flowering now so I think it is nearly over. It has been really good and I'll certainly try growing it again, though protecting it from pests has been difficult and it is important, having lost two thirds of the plant in a couple of days to pests - probably rats.

The broad beans are beginning to show the first truss of flowers. They have all survived the wind and chill and are looking good plants. They are getting big enough to think about tying them in to another string support. Leeks in the greenhouse are all doing well, the failure rate so far has been almost zero. No sign of any carrots yet - I may have to sow some more.

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Harvests and sowing

Some rhubarb was ready to take today. It looks lovely, but the real treat today was asparagus. The spears were finally big enough to take and many more showing so it could be a good harvest this year. The broccoli is still producing lots of small florets. I watered the asparagus, broad beans and fruit bushes.

I dug over, carefully weeded and finely raked out a bed for carrots. I sowed two rows of seeds with lots of room for more rows, but I need more seeds. I'd like to try some other varieties so I'll see what I can find.

It was another lovely day at the site, sunny, calm and warm. As I dug and weeded the ground it was great to feel that it was warm even well below the surface.

A house just across the street from me is having an extension built and Paul had a chunk of lawn to dig up. He asked if the earth would be useful at the allotments - it is. People now have extra raised beds and all those little sunken corners have been filled in. I fetched a few barrow loads of the rich, loamy soil which I will just use as a mulch to improve a few parts of the plot.

Friday, 26 April 2013

Late sowings

In previous years some of the seed sowing might have been a bit too early. This year the very cold, dry start has meant that I have held off sowing seeds for much longer. Today I sowed sweetcorn, cabbages and beetroot to add to the courgettes and spring onions I sowed earlier. All of these are in pots at home at the moment. I need to work on a carrot bed on the plot as I'd like to get a crop of carrots this year. I need well dug and finely raked soil to get carrots to grow and it needs to be in an area that can be surrounded by fleece later on to keep the carrot fly at bay. I'll pick a spot and make a start shortly.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Lovey place to be

I just spent a lovely couple of hours at the plot. The sun was out, with a gentle breeze nudging some bees and butterflies around. The bees were large bumblebees, but I couldn't see them well enough to be sure what they were. The butterflies were small tortoiseshells busy defending territories and attracting mates. A decent flock of linnets came and sat in a holly tree nearby and sang as hard as they could, but they were drowned out by a singe wren in the hedge. Wrens must be the loudest British bird for their size. At one point a blackbird was trading bursts of song with a song thrush. Gold finches twittered across the site and a very welcome greenfinch perched on the hedge for a couple of minutes. Greenfinches have had a hard time for the past few years with a parasite called Trichomonosis killing birds here and onto continental Europe too. I hope they are making a comeback.

I weeded some of the ground and planted out the broad beans. They have been waiting to go out for rather too long. They are too tall, although they were not yet pot bound. I decided to stake each plant to stop any breeze snapping them off. I also nipped off the tops of some of the taller ones to try to get them to bush up a bit. All of this took longer than you might expect as I lingered over watching butterflies, bees and birds. I hope there are more days like this for the rest of the spring.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Not the biggest harvest ...

... of broccoli, but it is the start of my long-awaited season. The spears are small and I'm not going to get fat on it, but it smells great and later I'll see how it tastes. There are other spears forming lower down the stem, so if I take the top ones that should encourage others to fill out too. If they all come to something there should be a decent harvest and one that I had given up on so rather unexpected.

I have rechecked the rabbit hole and it remains filled in, so it must by now be unoccupied. The photo is looking down at the back of a compost bin with the heavy iron bar holding down a large wooden block where the hole was, with a part brick also standing by make digging harder. I will keep checking and keep retaliating if there are any signs of digging or other activity. My aim is to persuade any pests that my allotment plot is not a pleasant place to be so they go elsewhere, sorry to my neighbouring plot-holders.

It seems we did not dig up all of the parsnips over the winter as a couple of them have sprouted new tops. I don't think they will be worth keeping so I'll dig them up as I turn that part of the plot over prior to planting.  Many of the plots are being prepared for planting, with onion sets being planted on a few plots. My broad beans in the greenhouse are romping away and I need to plant them out, but strong winds today and for the next couple of days are making me wait, they would just snap in the wind for now. I'll get them out at the end of the week and stake them I think.

I have potted on the first batch of sixty leeks and another batch is on the way. I've sown courgettes and spring onions at home too, but the parsnips chitting has been a complete flop. I'll try again - I do want some parsnips on the go.

The next job is to make a carefully prepared carrot bed ready for sowing carrot seeds direct - I might have to sow parsnips direct too at this rate.

Monday, 15 April 2013

Warmth at last

The warmer weather is with us, with winds finally from the south and west rather than the dry and very cold east. The longer days, with stronger sun has quickly warmed the top of the soil - it's still chilly a bit lower down. The ground is very dry on the top, but it is damp lower down. Some rain is forecast over the next few days, but stronger winds too. The rain will be welcome too.

The season seems a few weeks late, maybe as much as a month, but as the sun is so strong now I think things will quickly catch up if the wind remains from the south and west. As evidence that the season is very late, I finally have some broccoli spears. I had really given up hope of seeing any fresh broccoli, but I didn't clear the plants until I needed the space and now I'm glad I didn't. I'll pick a few spears in a day or two and take a photo if I remember. I hope now the asparagus will begin to grow too.

The best news so far is that I do seem to have persuaded the rabbits to move on. I have been constantly refilling their hole and adding wood and bricks to make it harder to dig out. I found a large, heavy iron bar and a large wooden block. I used them to reinforce my refills and it seems to have worked. The hole has not been dug out for nearly a week - rather than every night - and there are no droppings or scrapings anywhere to be seen. I can't find any other hole nearby either, so things look good. When I'm sure they have gone, I'll level the ground and cover as much as I can with chicken wire to prevent future digging.

Looks like the growing season is finally under way.

Friday, 5 April 2013

Too soon?

I have moved the broad beans up to the allotment greenhouse, which is more of a cold frame really when it is so cold. They need to slow down as they were romping away at home. I hope the ground warms up soon, otherwise they will get much too tall and when they do go out they will probably get damaged in any kind of breeze. I might have been too early sowing them. Should I sow some more just in case?

The leeks are just beginning to come through - once again I need to keep them in check, but first they will need potting up. I will sow some more leeks later and they seem to be less rampant than broad beans.

The cold easterly wind continues. It is also very, very dry so even though the ground is still cold it is drying up. The forecast is for somewhat warmer and wetter weather to spread in from the west next week. I hope so.

Thursday, 28 March 2013


I sowed some leek seeds today. Roll on October and fresh leeks.

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Beans and a reprive

The first broad beans have pushed through the soil in their pots. I need to keep up with watering as the pots are a bit small. No sign of any parsnip roots yet. Everything seems a bit slow this year.

The East Riding of Yorkshire council have emailed to confirm the parish council does need permission to dig up the hedge. I have heard through a third party that the parish council have abandoned the removal of the hedge until next year, but the council have yet to confirm this.

Thursday, 21 March 2013


In other news, I've started the parsnip chitting process for the year. They are happily sitting on damp paper, waiting for their root to appear before they get potted on.

Losing the hedge?

The parish council, from whom I rent my allotment, have written to me again to confirm that they intend to pull up about 70m of hedge and replace it with what they call a secure rabbit proof fence. The site is a rectangle, with the northern and southern boundaries being about 80m and the eastern and western about 50m. The southern boundary has two entrances in it, one at each end, which are open. I have walked the length of the northern boundary and I can plainly see two rabbit holes, but there may be more hidden from view amongst the stuff on people's plots.  Across the road from the southern boundary is some land surrounding the Water Tower which is not cultivated nor obviously managed. There are rabbit holes there and rabbits have been seen running across the road from the allotment site to take cover in there.

The plan now is to grub up most of the existing hedge along the northern side of the site, dispose of the rabbit holes, build a secure, rabbit-proof fence and then next year, replant the hedge along its existing line.

My questions are:

Why will fencing 80m of the 260m boundary prevent rabbits entering the site?

When the main reservoir of rabbits seems to be to the south not the north, why is a fence being proposed to the north?

Do the parish council know they cannot remove a hedge without permission from the county council (1997 Hedgerow regulations)?

Will any nesting birds be disturbed by grubbing up the hedge, contrary to the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act?

What other steps have the council taken to minimise the disturbance to existing wildlife (other than rabbits)?

Why did the council press on with this without seeking any consultation with plot holders about this?

Is putting up this secure, rabbit-proof fence really a good use of public funds?

Will funds to replant the hedge next year really still be available?

When the job is done and the money spent, if we still get rabbits on the allotment site who's head will roll?

I would like to see the back of the rabbits. I would like to see the hedge improved, especially elder replaced with, say, hawthorn. I'm just not sure that the upheaval of grubbing out a hedge in the spring, the nesting season, replacing it with a fence and hoping a new hedge gets planted next year is the right way forward.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Rabbits are not so smug now

I went up to the plot to find it very wet after the weekend's torrential rain. There's water standing in many fields around the village and the cold is not helping shift the water. The sap should be rising in some trees now which makes a big difference to the wet ground, but winter wheat is waterlogged and not growing at all well.

Plants growing is the main way water gets moved out of a lot of the ground. They suck it up into their leaves so some water molecules get an electron stripped from it by photons from sunlight to start the generation of sugars, mostly from water and fresh air (CO2). The water that keeps its electrons is passed out, alongside some oxygen from the broken down water molecules, in a process known as transpiration. This sucks yet more water from the roots, which dries the ground a bit more.

Once I had decided the ground was still to wet to walk on or even dig over I looked at the rabbit hole behind, and under, my compost bin. I looked abandoned. There were no new dropping and no sign of digging. I filled it in with the pile of soil the rabbits had dug out, adding a few big rocks for good measure.

As I did this I heard a familiar sound, the keewik of a buzzard. Across the field there is a copse and sitting on a branch there was a buzzard, quickly joined overhead by another one. I'm hoping they nest there and then they can feast on their favourite food: rabbits. They would also take rats which would also be a good thing for us plot holders.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Late start

I've made a very late start this year, but given how cold it has been I don't think that is a mistake. I have begun clearing up the plot ready for a dig over, but I'm waiting for the frost to go first. I want the soil to warm up so digging frost deeper into the ground doesn't sound like a good idea to me. Maybe I'm wrong though. The other reason to wait a little is that the very cold weather has left the melted ground very claggy so walking on it is harming the soil structure. It needs to warm up a bit and let the beasties in the soil work their magic.

Our new plot holders have got off to a start turning over their plots. It is certainly a better time of year to take over a plot than when we got ours in June. I wish them well. Let's hope the weather and pests give them a break this year.

I've sown some broad beans in pots and as I came inside the sky darkened and it looks like rain, so just in time. 

No further word about fences, hedges or rabbit warrens and no sign of activity. I suspect reality may have taken hold, but we will see.

Thursday, 28 February 2013


We visited the plot today to get rid of some wood from the hedge bottom. The wood was rotten and went to the newly refurbished local recycling site, which was much easier to use than before. The reason I did this was due to a letter from the parish council, the site landlords, asking people to clear up any such rubbish.
The letter suggested that access was needed to deal with rabbits that were causing problems. Given my battle with rabbits you might expect that I would be happy, but I was not. The letter went on to say access was needed to remove the hedge and replace it with a fence. I wrote an email to say how unhappy I was about this. Removing countryside hedgerows is the kind of vandalism that I thought we were leaving behind. Since the rabbits burrow under the hedge I didn't see how a fence would help. It seems that a parish council meeting had decided all of this and was was setting about it without discussing it with tenants. 

I got a reply from a councillor who is also the guy who farms the field at the other side of the hedge. He said the hedge is staying and indeed will be improved by removing elder and replanting suitable species. The fence would supplement the hedge and it would be dug down 12 inches to prevent burrowing under it. 

I replied with more detailed concerns, but I have not had any response yet. Let's remember that any action the council takes will be paid for by public money, so they need to be able to justify its value.

Rabbits are a concern, but destroying hedgerows is not going to stop rabbits. The majority of damage to fenced plots was not from rabbits. There are rats, pigeons, crows, partridges, mice, slugs, snails, caterpillars and possibly deer all causing problems, rabbits are just more visible than the rest. I believe rats have caused more damage in the past year. The contractor the council asked said there was no sign of rats, even though the council chairman himself found a dead rat on his plot last year, to go with the others found elsewhere on the site.

Let's see what letter arrives after the next council meeting.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Crops destroyed

We went to harvest some leeks. I expected there would be enough for one or maybe two more harvests. I was wrong. They were eaten to the ground. The photo is lousy, but you can see they were covered and there is almost no sign of a leek left. Looking around the whole site everyone else's leeks have suffered the same fate - except Norman's. He has covered his handful of remaining leeks with a complete covering of chicken wire mesh. Even then the few leaves that poked out through the mesh have also been eaten off. Something likes leeks. In previous years we have simply protected them with CDs hanging on strings when they were first planted to stop the birds pulling them up, then safely left them uncovered but this year something has changed. There are no tracks to be seen around the plot, there are lots of rabbit droppings in the hedge bottom behind our plot but as far as I can see there is no gap in our fence to let rabbits in. Besides, there is worse to come.

We have been growing broccoli and for the first time we have got it to grow well. I know pigeons like it, so I covered it with frames and netting, and so far it has be doing well. We had three separate patches each covered with frames and netting. Two have been eaten to the ground.

This is utterly dispiriting. Our vegetable harvest for the whole year have been destroyed by pests and once again I think it is rats. Birds would love the leaves of the broccoli, but not the thick stems. The stems have been gnawed through and not a trace of the rest of the plants are left. As you can see the frames are intact, but a the plastic net covering was pulled off and a piece had been gnawed through. This is not birds. There are other plots with cabbages and sprouts not covered up which are largely untouched, yet leeks and our broccoli have been destroyed when they were hard to get to.

I hope the parish council, our landlords to whom we now pay increased rent, will employ a pest controller to deal a serious blow to these rats - we cannot have another year like the last one.

Sunday, 13 January 2013

Wiring the compost bins

Our furry veg-stealers (aka rabbits) have still been burrowing under our compost bins, near the hedge. We dug out the oldest bin deeper than usual, put a piece of wire fencing cut to size across the bottom of the bin and covered it with a layer of soil up to the normal level, putting the extra compost on the plot to do some good. We then turned the other bin into the newly wired bin and found a large hole under the rotting stalks and leek tops but it looked disused. We dug that bin out, filling in the hole, lined its base with wire mesh and covered that with some soil too. That is now ready to receive any fresh cuttings and trimmings, though there won't be much just yet.

I feel as though we may be making progress. There were no fresh dropping that I could see and none of their incursions made it past our fence and onto the plot, so nothing valuable, like the last of our leeks or our slowly growing broccoli, was eaten. I can get on with a plan for this year's planting now.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Still filled

The rabbit hole I filled in is still filled in. There may be another hole deep in the bottom of the only part of the hedge that is thick and prickly. I have shoved a thick off-cut of fence post into the hole to see what moves. If that is active then a lot of digging will be needed to get at the main hole and continue to discourage the rabbits from our site and our vegetables.

I'm starting to think about the plot plan now too.

Sunday, 6 January 2013

Changes, roof and old foes

The new year brings a sense of anticipation to allotment holders. Our first seed catalogue has arrived and we have discussed a set of changes to our plans, mostly growing more variety and less stuff easily bought like onions.

The rent for the plot has gone up so this year I expect the council to do their job in engaging pest controllers if they are needed. I will not stand by and lose most of our produce without a fight.

I have heard that Rob on the next plot has given up his two plots. I'm a bit surprised, but everything comes to an end eventually. The pests, weather damage, rent increases and other commitments have driven him away.

Today we replaced the felt on the shed roof. It was easier than I thought, went very well and looks good. It was not a moment too soon as a damp patch has appeared in the corner of the shed.

The rabbits are back. They have dug a hole in our compost bin. I'm going to encourage them move out over the next few days.

Edit: I returned to the plot to start the blitz on the rabbits. Their hole was deep and steeply sloping down, but now it is filled in. I expect they will dig it out, but I will fill it in again with rubble, gravel or anything else I can find. Eventually I hope they take the hint to move on.