Chris’s allotment blog


Before (July 2009)

...and after (August 2010))

Bonus blackberries!

It whizzed by so fast, I missed it! I was slightly distracted by the celebrations for my husband’s 60th birthday on August 1st, but the allotments FIRST birthday was on 30th July! The before and after pics tell some of the story…when I took delivery of it a year ago, you could loose small children in the tall grass (I did in fact glimpse Hansel and Gretel at one point…) Now, it is mostly under control and looking pretty organized. A whole year of allotmenting! Do I count as an old hand now? I have learnt a thing or two along the way…like asparagus needs to be protected by netting to prevent infestation by asparagus beetle. And you do need to water potatoes when it’s really dry, even if they are planted quite deep in the ground – I think the crop has suffered from water deficiency, it has been an incredibly dry summer. I went down today to check how the French beans were doing, planted where I had grown the onions and garlic, and I’m pleased to report they are doing well so far, more growing to do but a good start. But it was bonus day on the allotment. – there were loads of blackberries! Not planted by me, just growing wild in the hedge next to my plot. I’ve got blackberry-coloured fingers now and a saucepan full of blackberry & apple (windfalls from the garden) Looking forward to eating those!

Chris’s allotment blog

Hello Charlotte…

Jewels in the Ground...

Let the cropping commence… I have dug up the first potatoes, some Charlotte salad ones and they are DELISH! Just plain boiled, with a dash of butter, they are an adornment to any meal…although I say it myself.

They have much more flavour than bought ones (…possibly a hint of rose-flavoured tongue, do you think?)   It’s really good to dig them up, like buried treasure, trying not to spear them with the fork – there have been a few casualties so far but not too many…It’s great to be able to harvest them at all, after they got badly nipped by that late frost.

They’ve made a good recovery. The red onions have also been pulled up- actually they seem to fling themselves out of the ground somehow – once the green tops go floppy, they kind of fall over, out of the ground. I’ve not grown them before, so onion behaviour is all new to me. I have to report that they are not as huge as they looked when they were growing – they had quite broad shoulders sticking out of the soil but are a bit on the skinny side – maybe they haven’t thrived in this hot weather, although I have been devoutly watering them at least every other day. Perhaps that isn’t enough when it’s this hot.

They are currently drying in the shed – I thought I’d tie then in plaits, à la Français…then I can cycle home with them on my handle bars….

Chris’s allotment blog


Young and tender carrots for dinner...

After the disappointing Autumn carrot crop at the end of last year (see blog of 24th December…)

I am very pleased to announce a “win” for the human gardener at the allotment. I thought I’d thin out the carrots, as they are looking a bit squished up, and the “thinnings” are quite thick!! Marvelous!

I’d left them to grow without thinning, as I’d read somewhere that you shouldn’t thin carrots, as it  gives carrot fly a sniff of “eau de carrot”, and they come flocking to ruin the roots.

Don’t know if it’s true, but I’ve got no carrot fly! So I’ve beaten the rabbits and the pesky carrot fly…Guess what we’re having for dinner tonight – yep, nice, sweet, young and tender carrots!

Chris’s allotment blog

Some good news…

Carrots and beetroot, with rhubarb and butternut squash in the background!

Onions, garlic and loads of spuds...

Parsnips galore...and last seasons leeks

After my last rant about garden pests, I thought I’d report the good news on the allotment – that is to say that most things are growing really well!

They have needed a fair amount of watering as it’s been so dry, but water plus sunshine plus a bit of warmth equals much growing!

The crops so far that are shooting up (we won’t mention the asparagus…) are the parsnips, red onions, garlic, potatoes (Cara and Charlotte), celeriac, carrots, beetroot and butternut squash.

On the soft fruit side, there are gooseberries, autumn raspberries and blackcurrants, with a transplanted rhubarb crown doing well for a first season. I’ve just put in a row of leeks and they are standing to attention nicely!

Today, as a little diversion, I collected all the old packets of flower seeds that have been in the shed for ages, (all out of date, most going back to 1997) and sprinkled them all on a rough bank by the compost heaps – if any of them germinate, it will be very pretty… and if they don’t, well, it was worth a try!

Chris’s allotment blog

Asparagus outrage!

I know I keep going on about my asparagus, but it’s all new and exciting as I’ve not grown it before…there I was, down at the allotment, doing a bit of general tidying, and I noticed the stalk of the asparagus nearest me was CRAWLING with little black caterpillars! The sauce!

They had striped the frondy leaves from the plant, which was looking pretty sad. Well, it would, wouldn’t it, being bereft of it’s frondy bits….I checked out all the other plants and they ALL had a posse of predatory munchers roaming about their foliage.

I spent quite a long time picking the pesky critters off, then Keith and Mo popped down to visit and Keith joined in the picking process too! It’s not a nice job, so thanks Keith. I Googled it when I got home and it seems it’s an Asparagus beetle larva.

There were also some adult beetles on the plants – I was hoping the beetle-y things would be eating the grubs, but no such luck! The web site said this about them:
Sanitation is one of the principal preventative strategies for suppressing these pests. This usually involves autumn/winter burning of dried fronds and other “trash” to eliminate sites where the beetles overwinter.
(2) However, this may be undesirable if it leaves the soil vulnerable to erosion. On small acreages, enclosing the asparagus beds and letting hens
(Hmm, lack of chickens for this method!) forage on the beetles is one possible strategy for control.
(3) Rotenone or rotenone-pyrethrum mixtures are an organic control measure for larger acreages. Natural predators include a chalcid wasp and lady beetle larvae

I’m a bit late for prevention, I think! I’ll have to keep an eye on the situation and see if it improves. Those greedy gobblers may have won the first skirmish but they haven’t won the war…

Chris’s allotment blog

Olympic Asparagus.

new asparagus shoot...

Tall and willowy...

The asparagus has survived the recent cold nights without incident…hurrah!

All the plants have now emerged from the soil and I’ve back-filled the trenches, so they are growing away now at their final level.

One has been tunneling along underground and has come up right next to it’s neighbour, about 20cm from where I had planted it but it has come up! The plants are now quite tall and willowy, but when they first come up there are quite hard to spot – see the pic with my finger pointing to the newly-emerged tip.

This is a crop for the long haul – they can’t be cut for the first two years, it’s a game of hoeing, watering and mulching, the reward coming in the third season…it should be ready for the London Olympics!

Chris’s allotment blog

Browned off spuds! potatoes should look ie green not brown!

When is Spring really going to arrive? Today is a lot warmer but this week’s frost has had a bit of a go at my potatoes…they are well up and have out-grown the heaping-up several times but their heads were well above soil level when the frost struck. Imagine my dismay when I saw the green leaves had gone droopy and brown. I was as browned off as the spuds! I am being a bit of a drama queen here, cos they are not completely dead, there are green leaves around the base of the plants and I think they will rally and survive. But I should have raced down and heaped up more earth when I heard the weather forecast. (Mind you, I would have needed search lights or night vision goggles, as I had watched the half past ten weather…very poor forward planning!) I didn’t have the camera with me, so next time I’m down there, I’ll record, hopefully, the Potato Revival. It seems the frost has caught a lot of gardeners on the hop, so I’m not alone. But you live and learn…

Chris’s allotment blog

Donkey Aid

Donkey mulched raspberries...

The long-awaited delivery of donkey manure, courtesy of Judith and Don, has happened at last! Many thanks, J & D, for your patience – it seemed like every time we planned to meet at the allotment, something stopped it happening – if it wasn’t rain, it was holes dug in the access road to lay the new water pipes. And when the rendez-vous finally came, the Donkey Lorry (containing the 2 donkeys as well – they are so cute!) was too tall to go under the height barrier! I don’t believe it! Don ended up wheel-barrowing the bags of manure quite a long way…Molte grazie, Don! So the soft fruit (raspberries, gooseberries and blackcurrants) has had a good mulching of donkey doo manure (very special…), so they should do very well this year…Oops, forgot to put any on the rhubarb, but there is plenty left……

Chris’s allotment blog

Cowboy asparagus…

Cowboy asparagus in the saddle...

Spring is such a busy time for veg growing – it’s all happening “down on the farm”! Since I last blogged, there’s been much activity on the allotment, both by me and the sun-energy-converting-food-producers (aka veg…)

The thing I’m most excited about is the arrival of my asparagus plants. I had mail-ordered them ages ago but they are only dispatched at planting time. Having not grown it before, I consulted my veg growing bible, which recommended digging a trench then creating a “saddle” (ie a ridge down the middle of the trench) for the long asparagus roots to straddle. It was jolly hard work – 20 plants, 4 trenches (5 to a trench) – it felt like a lot of soil to shift. Handling with care, I settled the roots on their saddles and loosely covered them with soil. And now, every time I visit the allotment, I add a bit more soil as the tips emerge. The trenches are nearly completely refilled now – there are 2 places where the tips are not doing so well, but hopefully they will catch up soon…

I have also planted garlic (doing well!), red onions (smaller than the garlic but sprouting well), 2 potato varieties (Cara and Charlotte, both now pushing up leaves and in need of earthing up). The inherited blackcurrants are showing signs of life, as are the gooseberries. I have butter nut squashes and celeriac in pots at home, all germinated. The carrots and beetroot Kim planted are up too.

Last years leeks still looking good and I take some home most days I visit the allotment – I may have to invest in a bigger rucksack to take my produce home in this summer, I’m hoping for bumper crops!

Chris’s allotment blog

Anorexic carrots…

Fantastic – a sunny Sunday and a great day to get down to some planting. I’d arranged to meet Kim from my singing group at the allotment – she is a fairly new gardener and was coming down for the inaugural planting of the season, always a nice thing to do.

I was concerned that the digging part wouldn’t seem much fun (it is, believe me, I love it, but it may be an acquired taste…), so I was keen to finish the last bit before she arrived.  I gave Kim the full allotment tour (compost heap, shed, freshly dug soil!) and then we got down to the business of seed sowing.

The target for the day was to get the beetroot and carrot seeds in. First things first, read the tips in the allotment books and then the instructions on the back of the packet.

Both seed types mentioned moist warm soil (tick!) not recently manured (tick – I had specially reserved an area for non-manuring last autumn, as I knew beetroot doesn’t like to be over-fed. Didn’t know carrots were also anorexic…) and finely raked (tick!)

We made a 1cm deep grooves and Kim sowed both lots of seed while I completed the last section of digging. What a team! A gentle rake over and a light tamping and seed sowing done! We retired to the shed for well-deserved sit down and cups of coffee and tea from our respective thermoses.

Ah, the luxury – who said gardening wasn’t glamourous…?