Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Seed tapes

I'm thinking about what seeds to order for the Spring. One innovation is to have seeds stuck to a tape, spaced out at the distance they would normally be thinned to. This seems like a good idea. They cost more, but the convenience could be worth it. Thinning is destructive and a bit hit and miss. In the past I have sown as many seeds as possible in pots and pricked them out as small plants, partly to avoid thinning, but I'm still not sure this is always the best way.

One issue with the tape system is that type of vegetables and particularly the varieties available are very limited. White Lisbon spring onions are available which I like, but other vegetables are not what I would choose.

So maybe one option is to try making my own tapes, even just for fun. If I use some lengths of lining paper that I already have I could cut out a double-width tape, add seeds at suitable points, fold over the tape to enclose them and glue the tape sides together. If I use simple flour and water paste that should not affect the seeds, but the water may trigger germination so I can only do that when I want to plant the seeds. I could also try to twist the paper to hold the seeds in place. A small test seems to be in order and if I do use any of my own tapes I think I'll not have to rely on them alone.

Beetroot, carrots, parsnips and spring onions seem good candidates to try.


A small amount of the rat poison has been eaten. The tray it is in has not moved. This means rats didn't eat it - they eat everything and chew or move the plastic trays.

I'm not bothered by mice, they are always present and do little damage in small numbers. I left the remaining poison and I'll check again tomorrow.

It was very frosty, sunny, with a clear sky and lovely crisp air. Always a nice place to be.

Monday, 29 December 2014

Defensive measures

I decided to put down some rat poison. The stuff available to ordinary folks is not always effective now against rats, but it's all I have. I put it in a hollow by the fence where rats have dug under their way into the plot. I covered the tray with a plank across the top of the hollow. That should keep any rain off and keep all but vermin away, but there's enough gap for a rat to get in and fill his face. I'll see if any has been eaten tomorrow.

The purple sprouting broccoli is looking strong and I still have a few leeks left to harvest. It always looks forlorn at this time of year, but soon spring will arrive with new growth. Can't wait.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Oh Rats

I went up to Plot 18 today to gather some leeks and parsnips. There were little holes here and there and all the parsnips had been dug up and eaten. There was a hole dug under the fence where the culprit got into the plot.

If I were to mention this to the parish council they might point the finger at rabbits as that is the only pest they seem to consider. In 2012 when lots of stuff got eaten, the fact that dead rats were found on the site, including on the parish council chairman's plot, was ignored as they blamed rabbits. The chairman then put out rat poison but claimed the problem was down to rabbits.

The parish council then dug up one of the four hedges surrounding the site, without the appropriate permission from the local authority and at the beginning of the bird nesting season, and, eventually, installed a fence. They have broken their promise and not reinstated the hedge. None of this has stopped root veg across the site, including my parsnips, from being eaten.

Rabbits did not dig under my fence as the hole is far too small for any rabbit to squeeze through, however rats would fit through nicely. The culprits didn't eat my leeks, the onion family make rats ill so they avoid them, but rabbits will eat the green tops of leeks.

What I want to know is that now the money has been spent, the 1997 Hedgerow Regulations broken, the Wildlife and Countryside Act ignored, the undertaking to reinstate the hedge forgotten and still the fence has not stopped our crops being eaten as most people on the site correctly predicted, who's head will roll at the parish council?

Friday, 16 May 2014


Looks like I have asparagus beetles which are a serious pest. Not sure of the best way to deal with them.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014


It has been very wet over the last couple of weeks, with very wet days and nights and very heavy showers too. The forecast is for higher pressure which might suppress the showers now, though the ground is so wet that any hint of sun rapidly raises more shower clouds.

I sowed purple sprouting broccoli and autumn broccoli. Both have suffered damping off - a fungal disease that kills the young plants. I have managed to rescue some autumn broccoli and potted it on but the purple is all dead. I've resown some more purple, but this time in separate pots. Cabbage is doing well, so not all brassicas were affected.

Sweet corn is doing well - I've just taken it up to the allotment green house to harden off alongside the leeks, which are also doing well. I have some so-called dwarf French beans that are already pretty big. The sugar snap peas are planted out and looking good.

I have got behind with weeding but the ground is so wet it is hard to work it. I hope a couple of dry days will sort that out and I can then catch up. Everything else will go out soon too. The self-sown parsnips are very strong and will need thinning when I can get on the land.

Not bad so far.

Monday, 14 April 2014

Spuds, leeks and cabbage

I put in a row of new potatoes today. The soil was warm. The surface is drying out, but lower down it was moist and crumbly. I dug a trench a spade-spit deep and planted the tubers into the soil at the bottom. A quick fill in and dragged some surrounding soil up over the row to start the banking up process.

At home I potted 60 leeks into pots. That may be a few more than I want, but few might not make it. I looked at both the autumn and purple-sprouting broccoli and both are not yet ready to pot on as they still only have their seed leaves.

I sowed some savoy cabbage seeds. I'm expecting more than I want, but that's the way it needs to be.

Sunday, 13 April 2014


Every year there are firsts that mark the passage of the year. First rhubarb, first buds opening, first flowers on the gooseberries, in the early summer there are the first broad beans ready to eat, later in the year the first sweet corn to take home, and at this time of year it is the asparagus spears. I have taken my first asparagus of the year today and look forward to eating it later.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Onion sets

A couple of days ago I planted the onion sets at the prescribed spacing. I know Gary likes to increase the spacing which makes for bigger onions but I like smaller onions as they are more useful to me. I was just about to go when the rain started, so when it had stopped and the ground had dried a bit I pushed the sets into the freshly dug ground with the very top of their little bulbs just showing. I didn't cover them. That evening, and since, there has been spells of rain, sometimes heavy. That should hopefully kick them off into growing. A warmer, drier spell is forecast later this week which should help the onions and help me do some more tidying and digging.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Early progress

More digging and weeding to get things ready for planting, but still more to do. The murky air that has created air-quality warnings has spread to the plot today. The cool east wind did nothing to clear the murk.

At home the leeks are through and the hairpins are all straightening out. Autumn broccoli and purple-sprouting broccoli are both through and looking good. All of these will need potting up soon. The next round of seed-sowing should start next week.

The seed potatoes are chitting and I'm thinking of planting them in the next few days - their spot has been dug over.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Broad beans

The broad beans have been growing steadily at home. I've hardened them off outside and the blustery weather will have helped strengthen them too. Today I decided it was time plant them out.

I have planted them more widely than in previous years as an experiment. I think the plants will have more room to grow, but they may need individual support.

Monday, 24 March 2014

Walk on water

Today the sun was out and the wind was lighter. One of the plastic panels of the roof of the greenhouse had been cracked in the winter storms so in the lighter wind I decided to replace it. It turned out to be a simple job. I dug over a patch near the asparagus bed and planted garlic there. I had another go at hand weeding the asparagus too. Hopefully I got most of the weeds this time.

The long discussed change to the hedge along the north side has started. The hedge has been dug out, a trench dug in the edge of the field and fence posts installed. So far no replacement hedge planted and no fence installed.

It seems that the East Riding council have not been asked for permission to remove the hedge under the 1997 Hedgerow regulations and, because the job has pushed into March and the bird nesting season, it is possible that the Wildlife and Countryside act has been broken.

We will see what the police and East Riding of Yorkshire council have to say on the matter. I would have expected the parish council to have behaved in a better way, but perhaps they feel exempt from the law of the land. Maybe they can walk on water too.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Broccoli is go

The warm, dry weather has worked its magic and the ground is a lot dryer, so the digging has started.

The purple broccoli has started to push out its spears and I've eaten the first few today. Nice.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Turn the soil

I popped up to the plot to see how things are. The purple sprouting broccoli is looking strong and has out grown the frame around it. I extended the frame a bit with canes to allow the netting cover to not touch the plants. No sign of the spears yet.

I dug over a bit of a ground to see how wet it was. It is too early I think, so I'll wait a bit longer. The forecast is warmer and dry so in a few days I'll try again.

It seems that other people's sheds have been broken into and the police were informed.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Seeds galore and an intruder.

I looked at the plan and looked at any seeds I still have from last year. I needed some new seeds. I've stuck to some old friends like White Lisbon spring onions, Sturon onion sets, Boltardy beetroot, Apollo spinach and Musselburgh leeks. I tried Bunyards Exhibition broad beans, Ferrari French beans, some unnamed autumn broccoli and Incredible F1 sweetcorn. For carrots I want some variety, but I bought some Autumn King 2 for now. This lot should get me started.

The ground is drying out a bit and the weeds are starting to stir, so it will soon be time to turn the top soil and prepare for planting out, but the early sowing is under way at home.

The rabbits seem to be under control for now at least.

Do you know who's boot matches this print?
Today, my shed door was open. I don't lock it - that just makes more of a problem if someone is determined to be in, but I do fasten it shut in a particular way. My subtlety was not needed, the door was swinging in the breeze. Inside the wooden box I keep hand tools and small bits in was open and I can't find my small hand-weeding tool and my big hammer. Other tools seem untouched. In the ground near the shed there were a couple of footprints, clearly not mine and the tread seems to match other prints I've seen before when things were disturbed. It seems we may have a regular visitor - I wish he would scare away the rabbits.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

The plan

I have laid out a plan for this year's planting. As always it is probably only an idea and things may change, but having a plan helps focus the mind too.

The layout is a little different as the lines run along the length of the plot, rather than across the width. I'll see how this looks on the ground, as I plan to mark the plot with pegs. I will adjust this plan of course, I always do.

One consideration is that some parts of the fence are step-over while some are higher. It makes access to some areas easier and so I might move things around when I've looked at that.

Monday, 17 February 2014

Closing the gate

Repaired gate
The winds blew down one of my gates in the fence around the plot. I took a substantial wooden post that is tanalised and some tools up to repair it. The gate itself is fine. It is suspended above the ground by its hinges so it doesn't sit on the wet ground, and is, therefore, not likely to rot in a hurry. The old fence post, on the other hand, simply rotted off at ground level, as they tend to do eventually. The ground is wet and soft, so digging was very easy. I put a new post in, cut to length and screwed the gate hinges to it. I reinforced the post with a steel angle iron support and screwed the post to it. I hope it will last for a few years now.

The rabbit holes that I filled in are still filled in, so that seems to have been successful, but I found another one. This was carefully hidden in the hedge bottom and the pile of spoil that I thought had come from the hole I filled in, now looks more likely to have come from the newly found hole. I shovelled a good load of the spoil down the hole and we'll see if it gets dug out over the next few days. If not, them more cement will complete the job.

I took a quick look the hedge bottom along most of the north side of the allotment site and there are obviously other rabbit holes, only one of which has fresh-looking droppings outside of the hole. I don't know enough about the habits of rabbits to know if that is significant or not.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Cementing relations

Rabbits have been present around the plot all the time I've been there, and probably much, much longer. The previous tenant seemed to have buried old glass panes on their edge near the hedge, when we dug them out I couldn't understand how they got there, but not I suspect it was an attempt to stop the rabbits burrowing into the plot from the bank behind the hedge. It was a very unpleasant task to dig the glass out and it didn't stop the rabbits.

There are a couple of rabbit holes behind the compost bins and I've been watching them all week. The rabbits have dug up into the bins in the past, now they can't because I dug out the bins and lined the bottom of them with strong wire mesh, so now they surface just behind the bins. I've been watching the holes for over a week, putting dead sticks and leaves across the hole to see if it is being used and nothing has moved. Since I doubt they have stayed underground all week, I concluded that the holes are not being used at present, so today I fought back.

I dug up the pile of very sandy soil they have left as a spoil heap and mixed it with cement powder, one part cement to four parts spoil and tipped this dry mix down the hole where the spoil came from, followed by half a can of water. The holes are not quite filled flush to the surface - I'll do that later if all goes well. Tomorrow I hope to visit and find a solid fill where the hole was before. This does not mean the diggers can't just dig a new hole next to the old one, but if they do, I'll take that one on too.

In other news, the chairman's shed has been righted and the post supporting some fruit bushes that the shed blew onto has been replaced. In the lighter winds yesterday the gate next to my greenhouse has blown over, which does seem odd. Maybe the real damage was done in the earlier, stronger winds. I've put up a frame over the gap temporarily and I'll take some tools and a new gate post up to fix that properly in the week.

Thursday, 13 February 2014

Wind damage

Wednesday's storm largely passed us by, I only have a broken fence post. The next storm is on its way, but so far so good. The chairman's shed didn't do quite so well: it blew over. It's much too heavy for me to right and the next storm might blow it over again anyway.

Monday, 10 February 2014

A quiet start

The mild, windy and wet winter is not yet over, but today felt like it might be. It was a calm, warm(ish), sunny afternoon so I went up to the plot to see what the winter has done. The ground is, of course, very wet and I don't want to destroy the structure of the soil by walking on it any more than I have to.

I hand-weeded the asparagus bed. It is easy to get at the weeds when there are no stems at this time and even though it is a small patch, just tidying that up makes the spring seem closer. I added some blood, fish and bone fertiliser which the rain forecast overnight will wash in nicely.

The ever present rabbits seem to have moved in to the bank behind the hedge, so a bit of work will be needed to encourage them to move on again.

The remaining leeks are now woody and need digging up. The purple sprouting broccoli has no flower buds yet but it looks strong and healthy. The rhubarb has some buds that are pushing through.

Now I need to draw up some plans and get a few seeds in pots.