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.