Sunday, 1 November 2015

A day late

I had hoped to finish digging over the plot by the end of October. It was very wet so I had to wait until today to finish the main dig. There are still a couple of patches left next to the cabbages and leeks which will make picking them easier and they will get dug over when the respective crops are finished.

There are a few jobs to do still. There's a fence post that needs renewing, one post supporting the raspberries looks rotten and some of the frames I use for covering plants need mending where the joints are broken. I should dig out the compost bins too, but that sounds like a job for a sparkling winter day.

Now I need to draw the plan for the site for next year so I can start looking for seeds and plugs next year.

Friday, 23 October 2015


I spent a half hour this morning digging some more of the plot; there's not much left to dig over now. There is a big pile of stuff to burn and then the ground that is on needs digging.

For the second time in two visits I saw a shrew today. The last time it was in the shed. At first I thought it was a mouse, but it didn't run away and hide, it just pottered around the floor of the shed. When I got a look at it and could see it was longer and thinner than a mouse and it had the long pointed nose of a shrew. It then came to the open door, scampered out and went under the shed. Today there was a shrew next to the fruit bushes. I expect it was the same one, but who knows? This time it ambled under a blackcurrant bush and then I lost sight of it.

I hope it's happy on plot 18.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

What's left

The dig continues, in fact it's not far from complete. Some parts of the plot can't be dug over in the same way, such as under fruit bushes which can only really be weeded. I've just dug up the last beetroot, which looks very good. Other than the permanent stuff like fruit bushes and asparagus, all that will be left in the ground are some cabbages, purple-sprouting broccoli and leeks.

Thursday, 15 October 2015

The big dig

Autumn is firmly here and the digging is under way. The warm days of late September and the unusually warm early October have turned into damp and cool autumn days. I've cleared the north end of the plot and dug it over, now I'm steadily working along the rest.

The plot has provided a lot of fruit & veg as always and, like every year, there have been successes and disappointments. Soft fruit was great and my freezer is still bursting with it. Broad beans were very good, French beans not so good. Mangetouts were very good, though the plants were not quite the 2 metres tall the packet promised. Early potatoes were good and they helped clear a bit of overgrown ground. Carrots grown from plugs don't work, cabbage and broccoli do and have been good. I've just taken some late beetroot which is excellent - I hope there will be a bit more yet. Lettuces were really great, spring onions didn't sprout. Spinach went too quickly to flower so I didn't get much of that, but sweetcorn was the best ever with many full cobs and the sweetest taste imaginable. Squashes have completely failed to produce any fruits. Asparagus was a super crop, but the stems that grew through the summer were weedy - I hope it springs up again next year. Onions were a modest size and a few had white mildew around the roots. This afflicted the whole site. They taste fine. The purple sprouting broccoli has already flowered but I'll leave that standing and hopefully it will produce some heads at the end of the winter. The leeks look great, I might take a few this week.

I have a cutting of thornless brambles from Tracy on the plot - it seems to be surviving - and another she gave me I have potted up at home as a split strategy.

I'm happy slowly turning the ground; it's easier than fiddly weeding. The plot looks so much better for being dug over. I hope to have it complete by the end of October, but if some takes until November that's not a problem. I now need to think about next year's plan ...

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Fruit fest

There was loads of fruit to pick today, blackcurrants, raspberries and now gooseberries too. More mangetouts too. There are a few French beans forming and the sweetcorn are beginning to show some tassels for the pollen to fall onto.

All of us plot holders got a letter to remind us to tidy out plots and keep them free from weeds. I would prefer that if a plot holder is not dealing well with their plot that someone from the parish council contacted them to find out if there is a problem. Sending a letter vaguely threatening eviction seems a pompous way to behave, but that's what I would expect from the parish council.

I will put extra effort into weeding, I would be very sad to lose my plot.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Fruit and a bug

The hot spell has been followed by warm weather with some rain at times - ideal for growing. The broad beans have all come on well with loads of swollen pods. I picked loads of pods today, most will now be frozen for later in the year. The raspberries are producing lovely berries while the blackcurrants are better than ever. Gooseberries are just ripening and in a couple of days there will be a glut of them too. I've made some great blackcurrant jam and frozen lots of extra berries too.

I've dug some of the potatoes, and they are really good, but not that many tubers on each plant. The French beans are still behind, with no pods and only a couple of flowers. The sweetcorn is short and stubby, with the start of male flowers showing, but no cobs yet. I hope there is still some pollen when the cobs need it. Onions look good with no flowers, but they are not turning yet, so they seem a bit late to me. The manges touts have already been prolific with much more to come. It looks like the cold May and June has played a big part this year.

On the next plot Louise discovered a bug of some kind on her blackcurrants, I only managed one decent picture of it. I have no real idea what it is. At first glance it looked like a ladybird, but there's no obvious head or legs. I wondered if it is a shield bug, but again the shape is wrong. It could be a scale insect, but it's a bit big and a bit thick. I wonder if it's the young stage of something.  So I'm puzzled. Louise found three on one of her blackcurrant bushes, I hope they're not harmful.

Edit: I'm reliably informed that it is a ladybird pupa, so beneficial not harmful at all (Thanks Jerry).

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Hot stuff

There's the beginning of a heat wave just now. I popped up to see how things are coping and all seems well so far, indeed heat is just what sweetcorn and squashes need, so they are picking up nicely.

The peas are looking good too. The plants are big and strong and flowers are appearing all over the stems. A few have developed into pods.

The flowers are colourful and the pods are very pale green. They taste great.

Sunday, 7 June 2015

Taking their time

The plot is looking good, but not everything is flourishing. The things that need a bit of warmth like sweetcorn, squashes and French beans are all struggling because it has been too cold and too windy. In the last couple of days the temperature has risen, but the wind has still been strong. I think the sweetcorn will survive, but it's always a race to see if it has time to ripen before the summer is over. I hope so.

One the other hand some things are doing well. The first buds of potato flowers are showing, broad beans are much stronger with flowers on them. Spinach is almost ready for a first pick, all the brassicas are looking strong and the peas are growing fast. The new sowing of peas are all showing too.

I sowed some extra French beans beside the existing ones, one of which has perished completely. I hope the extra plants will give me a decent crop which looks unlikely from what I have already.

A bit of work with a hoe and the weeds are largely under control. I think it's time to get the leeks out now.

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

More peas please

I sowed another row of peas this morning so the crop will hopefully be staggered. A bit of weeding to keep up with their non-stop advance and then cut a crop of asparagus for lunch.

Sunday, 24 May 2015

All out

The plot is looking great, but I've not got around to writing a blog post, so here's a catch up.

I have planted out and sown lots of stuff and all is doing well. I thought I'd run through the plot with both the permanent and annual stuff and comment on them. At the back the raspberries are almost coming into flower. The cuttings of black currants and gooseberries are doing well, both with a small number of swelling fruits on them. One bramble from Norman has taken (the other died) and it's leaves are growing well. Rhubarb is prolific and I've taken loads. The potatoes are coming through nicely. The main gooseberries and black currants are smothered in small fruits.

I've planted out the French beans which are alive but not liking the shock of being out yet. Beside the French beans I have a short double row of savoy cabbages which look small but good. Beetroot has sprouted and looks good, but the spring onions next to it don't seem to have sprouted. I may need to sow some more. The lettuces and spinach is going well. They both really need thinning but I need a warm dry day for that. A double row of autumn broccoli is looking strong. After the gap for the leeks, which are still in the greenhouse, there are the peas which the packet claim could grow to 2 metres. They are all growing well, but so far they are only short like any other kind of pea. I think the packet may have been wrong. I will sow another row this week to spread the harvest.

Squash with a new leaf
At the other side of the plot are the carrots grown from plugs. The wind has been strong and has blown down the fleece fence to keep the carrot fly out more than once. The flapping fleece has damaged some of the carrots but most look good. The broad beans look very strong. They have some side shoots but no flowers yet. I planted out some sweetcorn in a block and next to that some purple-sprouting broccoli given to me by Louise in the next plot. That looks strong. Next to the sweetcorn there is a rather large bed with three small butter nut squash plants in it. I expect them to fill the bed, but we'll see. They are putting out new leaves and look healthy. I grew them from saved seed from a squash given to me, so I hope they do well.

The onions look great. I've taken more care with weeding between the rows this year and they seem to be benefiting. Lastly the asparagus is doing really well. No sign of the asparagus beetle this year, though it is on other peoples' plots now. I've taken lots of spears and lots more are showing.

There has been plenty of rain, but strong winds, cool days yet no frost. Things are going well.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Peas and beans

The French beans at home have germinated, and they quickly grew to be 10cm tall. I can't put them out for a few weeks yet as frost would kill them, so I need to slow them down. I'll find a cool corner for them for a while.

At the plot, some peas have appeared. I stuck some hazel sticks in a pea canes and some of them have buds that have opened too. If any have rooted then when the peas are done I'll move them to near the hedge at the north end of the plot to grow as hazel trees. They will add to the shelter from the north wind and might have hazel nuts in a few years.

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Rain over the radio

I've just finished potting up the leeks from a seed tray where they were sown into small, soft pots. Sitting in the conservatory, listening to the radio over the sound of rain pattering, and sometimes battering, on the roof is pleasant enough, but add the wafted scent of leeks makes it even better.

I now have all the first batch of plants either sown in the ground, as plugs or in pots so things are progressing well and having more rain than was forecast helps too.

I think the purple-sprouting broccoli is nearly done and will need digging up this week. It is occupying some of the space I plan to use for sweetcorn and squashes and there's not a great hurry for them yet. Frosts are still easily possible which would kill both of them.

The local weather forecaster warns in his latest blog that a warm dry April often leads to a wet summer. He ought to know better - any forecast more than a few days out is just a guess, or in the case of tabloid newspapers, a dubious way to boost sales.

Spring harvests

I popped up to plot 18 to get check everything was OK. The air was much colder than for the past week or so. A chill wind was blowing and there was a hint of rain in the air. I picked some purple sprouting broccoli and decided that there was enough asparagus to take the first cut of that. Still no sign of the peas, but beetroot shoots are breaking through. My watering has worked there at least. 

At home I had to rush out to rescue the washing as a heavy shower broke. I'm happy to see some rain, with more forecast over the next few days. The asparagus made a wonderful lunch with some eggs. The sweet stems, quickly steamed, were delicious and something to relish every year at this time.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Seeds sown

The weather has been hot (for April) and dry. The ground is very dry and warm so sowing any seeds will be warm, but need a lot of water to germinate. Today I sowed lettuce, spring onions and spinach. The carrots from a plug all look good, the broad beans are pushing through the ground with most of them showing. The peas and beetroot are not yet showing.

At home the leeks are ready for potting up, the sweetcorn has almost all sprouted, the French beans are not showing yet and two of the squashes are just appearing.

I've had to water the young plants a lot and water is going to be an issue soon. The forecast was for rain on Friday, but now that may not be until Sunday and may not be very much. It seems a shame to want this warm weather to end, but a night of steady rain would be very welcome.

Friday, 17 April 2015


Norman, who has the next plot to mine, has a fruit cage. In it he has thornless brambles amongst other fruit bushes. Some people would call brambles blackberries. He offered to layer some of the stems and give any off shoots to anyone interested. I took him up on his offer and took two such stems. One looks really good and one not so good.

I've dug over a spot in my fruit area. I knocked in two posts and strung some wire between the posts. I planted the stems and carefully tied in the stems to help support them so as not to put any strain on the young roots. A good glug of water followed and I hope I'll have some new bramble plants for the future.

Overall the plot looks good, but it is very dry with no real rain in the past couple of weeks. The forecast looks dry for the rest of April, so watering will be needed again soon. I think a good soak for everything in the ground is looking essential in the next few days.

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Peas carrots and beans

I decided that I needed a frame to grow the mangetouts on when I discovered that they were due to grow up to 2 metres high. A few longish canes and some string and I'd soon created such a frame. I put one side of the frame above the row of peas I'd already sown and the other side fell just where I'll plant the next row in about three weeks. That should give some spacing for the crop. Staggering the sowing doesn't always work, plants have a habit of catching up and all producing their crop at the same time, but it's worth trying to spread them out.

A few days ago I bought some plants as plugs and one of the set of plugs I bought were carrots. I've only ever sown carrots in place as I believed disturbing the young plants would stop them growing properly, especially causing them to fork or stunt. When I saw the plugs I decided to see how they do. The plugs were groups of carrot seedlings so I split up the plug and planted each seeding separately. There were no instructions on the plugs, so I hope this is what is intended. They look fine planted out and now I have effectively thinned them, so none of that fiddling around. I will need to surround them with a fleece barrier to keep out the carrot fly - probably tomorrow's job.

This year I sowed broad beans direct rather than growing them as plants in pots first. The first few have emerged and look fine. I forgot to mark the rows where I sowed them but that should be obvious shortly. Norman on the next plot has beans all above ground from sowing them direct, but mice have nibbled the tops and dug up the plant looking for the bean. I'm watching out in case they fancy my beans and, like Norman, I'll set traps if they appear. Broad beans are too good to lose to pests.

Things are moving on quickly now.

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Read the packet

I decided to return to the plot after lunch to sow some beetroot and mangetouts. Firstly I built a simple frame with canes for the french beans that will go out later. that told me where the beetroot should go. The freshly tilled ground was easy to rake and a I sowed a row of beetroot quickly. I then looked at the mangetout and got a bit of a surprise. They are a tall variety, needing supports up to 2 metres tall. I didn't have any long canes left, so I sowed them, pushed in a few offcuts of hazel as peas sticks and left it at that for now. I'll get some taller canes and string some netting up for them to climb.

I should have read the packet properly before I started the job.

Digging is done

I finished the main part of the dig for the plot. I turned all of the ground over and removed most of the worst weeds. 

Turned over
After the tiller

The tiller does a good job of finishing breaking up the clods and a quick rake over levels and drags out any of the remaining weeds. The plot now looks great and it's ready for the next phase of sowing and planting.

I've bought some plugs and seeds to move on. I have some broccoli, savoy cabbage, spinach and carrots as plugs and some sweetcorn, french beans, mangetouts, lettuce and beetroot as seeds. I have already sown leeks at home and broad beans at the plot, as well as potatoes and onion sets in the ground. The onions are showing now. I also kept some seeds from butter nut squashes last year. I've sown the squash seeds and sweetcorn seeds at home.

I plan to sow some mangetouts and beetroot directly in the next day or so and the carrot plugs can go out too, but the remaining plugs and any plants grown from seed need to wait until frosts are over.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

April fool

Yesterday was very windy and felt very cold in the wind. I decided to plant my potatoes, I just wanted to get them going. I felt the soil and even in the cold wind it felt fairly warm, so that confirmed that they needed to go in. The trenched were already dug so planting the spuds and backfilling the trench didn't take long. The cold wind made me wonder if I was an April Fool.

Today I went up to turn a bit more ground. On the side of the car park someone had dumped a pile of top soil, so I helped myself to some to add to the banking up above the potatoes. The wind has dropped today and the sun is out, so it was much more pleasant than yesterday. Overnight rain had left the ground pretty soggy, but the forecast is for fine and settled weather for a few days, so it will dry quickly.

I've still got more ground to turn, but I'm getting there.

Saturday, 28 March 2015

Ready for spuds

Last year there was a piece of the plot that wasn't properly used and got a bit overgrown. This year I've got that area of ground turned over and the weeds out. It is just about the right space to plant potatoes, so I have dug the trenches ready to plant the seed potatoes. They are chitting and still not quite ready to go out, but that job will be quick and easy s soon as they are ready.

I've been turning some more of the ground and making use of the little tilling machine I bought last year. If the ground is turned to break it up the tiller makes short work of turning it into a fine tilth ready for sowing or planting. It's great for mixing compost into the soil too. It has made preparing the ground much easier.

Monday, 23 March 2015


I spend while digging a bit more ground today. Still plenty to do. The ground is almost perfect for digging, soft but not muddy.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Lovely day

I planned to sow some broad beans and plant some onion sets this weekend. The weather played ball, the sun shone brightly and the wind dropped so I got on with it. Bunyards Exhibition broad beans and the standard Sturon onions. I had dug over the areas I wanted to plant in earlier in the week. I dug another section over for the next stage.

The purple sprouting broccoli is producing spears and I'm enjoying them.

Friday, 27 February 2015

New hedge

After a few days break I went up to plot 18 to carry on weeding and see what is what. The sun was out the breeze was chilly but light and it was a pleasant place to be.

The first surprise is that the hedge along the north side of the site that was grubbed up nearly a year ago has finally been reinstated with new seedlings in their plastic tubes to stop them being grazed. It will be very good to see a proper hedge again, though it will take a couple of years before it looks like a hedge. They look to all be hawthorn, which is ideal. I checked around the site and the new hedge saplings have been planted along the western hedge too as an infill for the existing hedge.

As I walked around I flushed a couple of red-legged partridges and I could hear another couple chuckling in the distance. They are lovely looking birds, now more common that the grey partridges, but they are also good at demolishing greens on the site.

I dug up a decent chunk of weeds and inspected the rest of the site. All looks well and hopefully ready to weather the storm coming across the weekend. There's still a lot of weeding to do, but nothing will be ready to plant out for weeks yet, so I can plod through the weeding and digging without any rush.

I had a good look at the netting around the purple sprouting broccoli and that looks secure. Hopefully it is secure enough to keep the partridges out. They would demolish my broccoli in one sitting. The first heads of broccoli are showing through so I should get my first harvest soon, which I look forward to.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

A bit warmer

The snow and ice has melted, and although it was overcast today, when the sun has shone it has been warmer. I've started clearing some weeds ready for the spring dig. The weeds come out very easily as the ground is very soft, but anywhere I walk over a couple of times is quickly turning to mud. I'm hoping to clear more weeds over the next few days, weather permitting.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Frozen leeks

The snow fell last night giving about 5cm coverage. It has been steadily melting all day in a bright warm sun, It will not all melt today and there's more forecast overnight. I walked through the wet snow to to Plot 18 following the tracks made by someone with a dog and saw the tracks left by a cat. I was hoping the ground would not be frozen to lift a few leeks, but I was disappointed. rather than break them I left the leeks for another day.

I checked the traps, both were under a covering of snow and both were still set. I added some bait and left them set. Traps or not, nothing is being eaten and there are no tracks in the snow to show anything is around the plot. I'm content with that.

Thursday, 29 January 2015


There was a smidgeon of snow about and a bit of sleet in the air, but the temperature was above zero and the ground felt soggy not frozen. The traps were still set, but the rain and snow had washed most of the bait away. The traps were tripped, another dollop of jam to top them up added and the traps reset. I'm still not sure what the best bait might be.

There were a few faint prints in the wet snow, but not very clear. A set of car tracks in the car park had foot prints and a dog prints leading from it. No sign of Norman's bike tracks, but there was a set of small paw prints that I think is a cat. No sign of other tracks, but with so little snow any creature might have avoided it and still got around.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Waiting for the cold blast

I nipped out this morning to plot 18. There is a cold blast forecast with some snow, though the snow forecast for parts of North America has not really arrived, so maybe we'll not see much snow too. Only time will tell. Overnight there was a lot of rain and the ground was very wet, with puddles standing anywhere the ground has been flattened. One of the traps had been sprung, but not showing any signs of what might have sprung it. The jam bait was still untouched. As the rain started again I simply reset the trap and headed home again.

After writing the piece above I looked outside. There's a thin cover of snow and more falling. Maybe we will have a proper cover of snow over the next few days. I might get a good look at any animal tracks around the site, then I need to identify anything I find.

The thought of starting planting or sowing any veg seems a bit further away.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

A waiting game

The two traps were still set and none of the jam taken. I left them untouched. If there's no change tomorrow I'll rethink the bait.

Monday, 26 January 2015

Rat trap

This morning a pair of metal rat traps arrived. After lunch I took them and some apricot jam up to the plot. I wired the traps to metal fence posts added a dollop of jam and set the traps. Lets see what they catch. The last poison was completely eaten so there's still vermin around. I meant to record the installation with a photo, but I forgot.

I then dug out some of the weeds around the fruit bushes which is easy while the bushes are dormant and the ground is very soft. I also pulled out a couple of stray raspberry canes from in amongst the black currants. Raspberries get everywhere. There are a lot of teasel seedlings at the hedge end of the plot and one day soon I'll dig them all out.

Gary arrived with his friend Billy to replace the felt on his shed roof. I gave them a hand. The biggest problem was that the temperature being only about 8°C, the felt was stiff and easy to tear and crack. It looked pretty good when we had done and I hope it lasts years like the previous one.

Thursday, 22 January 2015


A bit of gentle weeding supplemented a rat poison check, which was just lightly nibbled. There's still a bit of snow on the site, but around the weeds it had melted, almost as though the weed had a little heater in it. It may have been simply that the weed stopped as much snow settling at that point too.

The ground is now very wet, with a couple of puddles of standing water where the snow has melted. I didn't think there was enough snow to flood the ground so maybe the ground is frozen below the surface stopping the melt water draining away properly. When the ground is so wet it quickly becomes a quagmire if it gets walked on, so I'll stick to the margins for now.

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Plan B

The rat poison was only nibbled when I checked today, but that may not matter any more. Plan B has been initiated. Rat nemesis is winging its way towards me right now. More later ...

Monday, 19 January 2015


I hadn't checked the rat box for a couple of days. Overnight a hard frost and a light cover of snow left a very different-looking site. The box was empty, but there were no footprints in the snow at all, so the poison must have been taken before the snow fell. However, how did they know not to return last night?

I added some more poison and walked around the site. There were no vehicle tracks in the car parks and no footprints to be seen. I quite like the effect of the snow and the frost might curtail the weeds for a while.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Feeding time

Modern laws about poisons have removed various pesticides from sale for ordinary folks. The result of that is entirely predictable: rats have become largely immune to rat poison available to the general public. If a mixture of poisons were available and used in rotation and sometimes together immunity would not develop, but now that immunity is widespread we have no chemical tools available to kill vermin without breaking the law. I'm not going to break the law.

You may have guessed by now that rats are still taking the poison I put out. The poison is a coating on grains of wheat, so if the poison is not affecting the rats then I am simply feeding them grain.

I need a legal alternative.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

False hope

All of the rat poison was eaten when I checked today. It was especially cold and windy today so I refilled the tray and left quickly. I took a spool of wire home, but that's a completely different tale.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Getting somewhere

The wind was bitingly cold and there was still some frost in the shady parts. A puddle was all ice. As I arrived pigeons flew off from Gary's plot and I saw the netting had blown off from his purple sprouting broccoli, so I covered it up again. I checked the rat poison and it was untouched. Maybe I'm getting somewhere against the rats.

I pulled a few weeds up. They are mostly groundsel with some flowers even in the winter. Grass is also showing signs of germinating too. It feels too early (and cold) to be digging yet. If I turn the ground now I would have to do it again before planting, so I'll just pull a handful of weeds as I see them.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tidy up

A quick visit to plot 18 this morning was a pleasant one. The air was cold and calm. The bright winter sun lights everything with a warm, yellow glow. I watched as a female kestrel hunted along a hedgerow, diving out of sight to find a meal and listened to the verbal ding dong of two great tits warming up their song for spring.

I placed a better rat box that keeps the poison dry and away from all but the vermin. I secured it with a couple of pegs into the ground and put a brick on the top to keep it in place as more strong winds are forecast, but only what I'd expect in winter.

I looked around the green house where there were a few pots and a couple of trays that need washing so I brought them home. The whole plot looks untidy with a low cover of weeds, so a slow dig is needed soon to prepare for spring, but there time for that yet. It's also a good time for weeding under the fruit bushes as there's no leaf cover to get in the way and to hide the thorns on the gooseberries.

The gooseberry and blackcurrant cuttings are doing very well. If they continue to thrive I may chance moving the main bushes next winter as the cuttings will be my backup in case of lost plants or poor crops - blackcurrants do not like being moved. I have some loganberry cuttings at home too, I hope they grow in the spring to add to my fruit crops.

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Take your fill

I've checked the rat poison I put out every day and it was nibbled, until today. The tray was empty and upturned. Maybe the rats are back, if so they took a bellyful of poison away. The tray is refilled, let's see how much they take tonight.