Tuesday, 31 March 2009

At last, something planted.

Although it probably shouldn't have been it's turned out to be a quiet week or so allotment wise. Thankfully now the clocks have gone forward there's going to be time in the evenings to work on the plot, starting tonight all being well.

Having said that, the allotment hasn't been completely without activity, we got our early spuds in for a start. One row each of Red Scarlet and Annabel planted in individual holes rather than a trench (will do the main crop in a trench I think, was just giving this a go as an experiment). We've cut back on how many we've sown this year, only ten tubers of each, as we found we had far too many last year and we don't actually get through that many new potatoes compared to main crop so it made sense to cut back a bit and save the space for something else.

As you can see at the top of this pic we've also planted the ten asparagus crowns we got from Victoriana Nurseries as well as some broad beans (closest to the camera) I accidentally chitted at home. I say accidentally because I'd been trying out a tip I'd heard about soaking the seeds in some water overnight before planting, unfortunately circumstances then stopped me from going to the plot for a couple of days so I ended up leaving the thoroughly soaked beans on some damp kitchen paper and by the time I get to plant them a couple of days later they'd all started to sprout. With any luck they'll not mind the change in environment and carry on growing, if not I'll know not to do that again next year...

The parsnip seeds I started off in the airing cupboard have been something of a success too, pretty much 100% germination which doesn't seem bad for an old packet of seed. I've potted up twenty eight into loo roll's full of compost to give the roots a good start before they go outside. The plan is to sow a row of this years parsnip seed direct into the ground one night this week to see if there's any big difference between the two methods come harvest time.
Sorry for the horrible quality photos by the way, I used my phone in not great light. I'll use the proper camera from now on....

Thursday, 19 March 2009


One of the regrets from our first year on the allotment was that we never got round to sowing any parsnips so this year we plan to make up for it in style.

Since parsnip seeds are notoriously picky about germinating it's generally recommended to only use seed sold for the current growing year. However, never being one to let considered logic put me off I'm going to try and get some results with the unopened packet I have left over from last year.

So, last night I emptied the packet of seeds onto some damp kitchen roll, put it in a Tupperware container and placed it in the warm of the airing cupboard. All being well this will allow the seeds to germinate easier and will provide me with the added bonus of being able to see which ones have 'hatched'.

As soon as I see shoots I'm going to take the individual seedlings and pot them up into loo rolls full of potting compost and let them grow on a little more till they're established before planting them, loo rolls and all, out onto the plot when they're big enough. I imagine I'll run out of loo rolls before I do seeds (assuming any sprout at all) in which case I'll try planting those little seedlings directly into their rows on the plot and see if they survive. I may even dig a bit of a trench for all of them and fill it with fine compost to give them some easy growing space if I get chance.

Since this is all a bit of an experiment I'm also sowing a packet of this years seed direct into the ground as per the instructions as a backup. In an ideal world we'll have a bumper crop when all growing methods work out but if not we should at get a decent return from at least one. We hope...

It's also that time of year when chitting potatoes are looking at their bizarre best so here's a quick snap to celebrate them in all their knobbly glory.

Monday, 16 March 2009

A Beautiful Sight

Considering the location of our allotment, nestled at the bottom of a hill amidst beautiful Cotswold countryside, it takes a lot for the view inside our plot boundaries to match the one outside it. However, under the beaming Sunday afternoon sunshine my Dad, a rotovator and I managed to create one of the most pleasing sights I've seen in a long while. A beautiful fully dug allotment.

It turned out that rotovating was actually far harder work than expected (ok, not as hard as digging the whole thing, but tough none the less). The rotovator, quite naturally I suppose, was always keen on taking the path of least resistance which meant it'd be perfectly happy to skip along the surface blades spinning at a million miles an hour dragging me along for the ride if I’d let it. To keep it actually in the ground doing its job required me to rein it in all the time a job that needed the upper body strength of an Olympic rower especially over the bits of harder more compacted ground.

Once done however it looked fantastic and by the time we’d gone over it all picking out any weeds that had got churned up and giving it a final rake over we were left feeling very pleased with ourselves.

This week after work I'm going to lay some paths out with some weed suppressing fabric ready to start the planting at the weekend.

Friday, 13 March 2009


It's looking, weather permitting of course, like Sunday could be the day we christen our new rotovator. I'm really looking forward to it if I'm honest, not just because it's a big red petrol powered boys toy but also because I know that once the plots been rotovated then the sowing and planting can at last begin in earnest (is it too late to sow broad beans direct into the ground?).

There is one thing troubling me though, having never used anything petrol powered other than a car I'm a little worried I'll somehow kill myself. I've read the instruction manual and it seems to be just a long list of things to avoid doing if you don't want to die while operating it. It's a 4 stroke engine which means I don't have to worry about getting the petrol/oil mix correct so I was thinking it would just be a case of adding the oil and patrol into wherever they're supposed to go, turning it on and bingo, rotovation.

I know the manual has to cover all the possibilities for legal and safety reasons and it's probably not as complicated as it sounds, but I was just wondering if anyone out there in blogland had some experience they could reassure me with...

Wednesday, 4 March 2009


It was a quiet weekend allotment wise, we were away for the weekend visiting friends so didn't get to take advantage of the good weather and get any work done. However, just because we weren't physically up there didn't mean we'd stopped thinking about it.

The end of the plot that contains the increasingly rickety fruit tunnel, a million strawberry plants run wild, a black current bush and a couple of rhubarb crowns was the part of the plot we effectively left to nature last year and although we harvested a massive load of strawberries and raspberries by the end of the summer it was pretty much a weed ridden mess.

This year we want to get it under control and the first step is going to be to abandon one half of the strawberry patch since it's become ridden with couch grass. The plan is to simply cover it with some weed suppressing fabric and turn it into the seating area we've wanted since day one complete with some pot grown fruit bushes (just to keep the space productive) and, of course, a seat.

So, late last week we ordered a couple of fruit bushes from the lovely people at Victoriana Nursery and last night I came home to find an exciting looking parcel awaiting me. A flurry of unpacking later and I had a healthy looking and surprisingly large Red Currant bush (Rondom) as well as a nicely potted Blueberry bush (Bluecrop) all safe and sound and guarded by one of the cats.

As well as the fruit bushes we also ordered their 'Asparagus Lovers Kit' which consists of ten crowns and a scary looking asparagus knife as now seemed a good time to start the asparagus bed we've promised ourselves since day one.

The plan for the weekend is now to get the two new fruit bushes up to the allotment and pot them into the big plastic potato tubs we used in the back garden last year then prepare and plant the new asparagus bed before making a start of the seating area.

Assuming it doesn't rain or snow of course....