Allotment update – 9/5/2017


Onion Brunswick


I decided to give onions from seed another go this year. I have grown the red onion ‘Brunswick’ and a Spanish variety called Liria, from real Seeds. Brunswick I pricked off singly into modules, the twenty to a half-tray size. Liria I did singly, in pairs and in threes. Yesterday I planted them all on my plot.


Onion Liria by threes, twos and ones.

I’d also made an early sowing of leeks which I’d pricked out into a 2 litre deep pot. They were about a foot tall so I planted them too. I was surprised to get 35 from the pot.


Musselburgh leeks

Elsewhere on the plot I’ve recently planted out lettuce, trying to grow pretty by edging a path with alternate green and red.


Lettuce sitting pretty, broad beans behind, pot grown peas Onward in front.

My early sowing of Meteor peas need support; I’m hoping that the later Twinkle, which was described as short and self supporting, will need little or none.
I had some Onward peas from last year and not confident that they would still grow, sowed them in pots. They’re all planted out now. Sugar Peas I have direct sown.

My direct sown parsnips seem to have started coming up and disappearing again. That has been my experience with almost all direct sown stuff. Whether ’tis slugs or leatherjackets or wireworms or some’at else I don’t know.
Some of the mulch material I spread in the autumn had a lot of shredded leaves in it. Possibly partly because it was a dry winter, they are largely still there. I think slugs are hiding beneath them and attacking cabbages I planted through them. I’m now working any compost I apply just before planting into the soil surface a bit to avoid that happening.


Spuds, outer rows Kestrel, inner rows Charlotte.

Spuds aren’t looking bad, just hope the blight stays away long enough to get a decent crop.

Gooseberry sawfly is rampant this year. They are the undisputed champions of hiding in plain sight. You squash every one; the following day there are hundreds more.

Allotment update 14/4/2017

I’ve put in several hours on my plot yesterday and today, strimming, weeding, sowing and planting. It still feels early in the season but I’m well on the way to a full house.

I’ve said before that I have trouble getting seedlings going on my plot and start most things off in pots or cells. Today I planted out some carrots done in deep pots – I think they had seedling trees in them in an earlier life – and sowed another batch as soon as I got home. I sowed parsnips next to the carrots and covered the lot with fine mesh to keep out carrot fly. I hope that works, they did a lot of damage to last years crops.


Carrot Early Nantes


Carrot fly protection for carrots and parsnips.

I grew Flower Sprouts for the first time last year. They did very well so I have them again. I am trying two different cabbages this year, Huzarro and Delight Ball. The Flower Sprouts replaced overwintered and fairly useless Chard. I’ll give the spinach alongside a few more weeks. All thes brassicas had been sown in seed compost and pricked off into Sylvagrow peat free. They’ve done well but the cabbages are a bit soft.


Brassicas in 5cm cells.

My first sowing of perpetual spinach was in cells in Jack’s Magic compost, a peat based product that I have now used up and won’t be using again. That’s less because it’s peat than because it hasn’t given me good results. The spinach was sown under cover on 1st March and is looking hungry. It has been planted where the leeks were and since I am


Hungry spinach, planted out with last years leeks.

still digging and eating them, I haven’t mulched the ground. The no-dig model of mulching bare ground in autumn works well but it’s not so easy to fit in an annual mulch when there is an overwinter crop being followed by direct sown seeds or small transplants. Perhaps I shall top dress with compost when the plants get bigger.

Today I sowed in pots beetroot, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, courgettes, butternut squash, purple sprouting broccoli, purple curly kale, sweetcorn, parsley, peas, spinach, sorrel and giant goosefoot. I have no idea how I am going to fit it all in.

Allotment update – 3/4/2017


My purple curly kale has had it. Time to go. I chopped round the stems with the spade, leaving most of the roots in the ground and took them away to be shredded and added to the compost heap.
I’d wanted to plant spuds in the space nearly a month ago but thought there were still a few more pickings, so those potatoes went into 1L pots in the tunnel. Today they got planted out and unsurprisingly are well ahead of the others. This is Kestrel, which I saved from last year. I planted a row on 5 March and some are up, others not. None of the Charlotte’s planted at the same time are up. Perhaps I should have started them in pots too.


I had a bit of old carpet which I cut into strips and laid on some of my “paths” to save weeding. I fear they will provide slugs with hiding places, equally it may work to roll it back every few days and kill them.
The purple sprouting broccoli at the left was sown 25 May and planted out 12 August. Too late, it didn’t really make the growth before winter.


The mesh I laid over early peas has worked and they’re now coming up. I took off the mesh before the peas became entangled in it. Broad beans which I planted 17 March are looking pretty good.


Pea ‘Meteor’, sown 13 March.


I had struggled with onion sets until another plot holder suggested starting them in cells. Last year I had my best onions ever. I planted them in cells on 12 March and planted them out today. I gave them a couple of weeks longer in cells last year but the roots seemed quite well developed and the forecast isn’t bad, so I went ahead. I’ve kept one tray back for later, see what the difference is.


Onion ‘Rumba’ sets in 20 cell half trays.


Elsewhere on the plot I still have lots of leaks and parsnips which are not going to get eaten. I shall put them through the shredder and compost them. I don’t see it as waste, more as production of raw material for compost, of which there can never be too much.


And finally, in the fruit cage blueberries and gooseberries are flowering like mad. I have several different blueberries, the best of which is ‘Darrow’, with huge tasty fruits. I took a few cuttings of it last summer and it looks like some of them have rooted. Be a year or two before they start to crop though.


Blueberry ‘Bluecrop’


The star turn fruit wise last year was the blackcurrants that I left steeping in vodka until after Christmas. Strained it off, added some sugar and I have something very drinkable indeed. More this year I think.

Allotment note 13/3/2017

There’s very much a sense of the season accelerating; that transition from not enough to too much to do. This was my week, as far as veg goes.

5/3/17 Planted potatoes Charlotte and Kestrel. I planted Kestrel 18/3 lst year and they were fine so I should be OK. I’ve put more Kestrel in pots to go out when Purple Curly Kale gives up. There’s 3 inches of compost where they are planted, which I shall use for earthing up, maybe with more added if needed.

My fruit bushes are breaking bud, I gave them a lightish feed with Vitax Q4HN.

Today I sowed Pea Meteor on the plot. Not grown it before. My one attempt at autumn sowing failed, in Cornwall too many slugs are active all winter I think. I’ve put mesh over the top to deter mice, though I haven’t had problems in the past.


Peas protected, hopefully, from mice.


Also sowed, in pots, Lettuce Red Salad Bowl, Black Seeded Simpson and Lollo Rosso as well as Cucumber Carmen. I’ve planted my Rumba Onion sets in cell trays to get them started.

To the right of the peas in the picture is an area where I spread some finely shredded leaves in the autumn. They have done an excellent job of protecting the soil beneath but haven’t broken down at all. If repeated it needs to be a very thin topping, they are a bit in the way of planting and sowing. I’m slightly surprised it didn’t blow away.

Allotment note 4/3/17

Sowed Onion ‘Liria’ in seed tray, on prop bench at 25C.
Pricked off Leeks ‘Musselburgh’ sown 5/2 into 4L pot. Will plant out when bigger. This was an early sowing, will do another soonish.
Pricked off Tomato ‘Sungold’ into 9cm pots. In Sylvamix peat free with 2.5g/L CRF added. Back on window ledge.


Tomatoes on the window ledge. South facing, so mustn’t allow to dry out.


Up the plot removed Flowersprouts, which have been good but now running to flower. Mulched area with compost. Early potatoes will go in very soon, pretty much on soil surface beneath mulch. ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Kestrel’ chitting now, the former bought, the latter saved from last year’s harvest. I’ll be doing a few of each in pots in polytunnel.


Flowersprouts going to seed; will get shredded and composted.


Six 35L tubs of compost on bed already mulched in autumn.


Eight tubs of compost where Flowersprouts removed. Purple curly kale good for a while yet. Garlic at right of picture and Russian Purple kale, top middle, looking pretty good.

Allotment note 3/3/17

img_2142bToday I received a few packets of seed from The Real Seed Catalogue. I picked up on them on Charles Dowding’s blog and wanted to try them out.

Salads were a success last year in the sense that we ate almost all I grew and could have done with more, especially into autumn and winter. Thus I ordered Giant Goosefoot, which looks colourful, winter lettuce and perennial sorrel Belleville.

I fancied having another go at onions from seed and Liria was described as having done well in Wales; I figured it could do well in Cornwall. Must sow them tomorrow. I also got Runner bean The Czar, thinking to focus on getting ripe seeds for winter soups and stews. They will hybridise with all the other runners on the allotment site but I might still keep and sow some out of curiosity.

I love that they’ve sent with the seeds advice on collecting seed for each of the things I’ve bought. I just might give it a go.


Allotment stuff, new season.

It being neither freezing nor raining I just spent a few hours weeding on my allotment. My plot is very weedy and I was reflecting on that unpalatable fact while I worked.

Apart from brassicas and roots, I don’t have much on the plot at this time of year, so there is a lot of bare ground. I mulched it all with compost in autumn, which affords some protection; I see the weeds as adding a little more to that as well as hanging on to soluble nitrate that would otherwise be leached by rain.


Epilobium, nettles, annual meadow grass and dandelion.


I’m weeding now because I don’t want them to seed and I will be wanting to sow and plant quite soon. The weeds are a mixture, almost all growing from seed. Bittercress has probably seeded from plants on the plot. They flower and set seed all year and start flowering when very small. Epilobium has more likely blown in from the margins and the neighbouring plot.


Mouse ear chickweed, speedwell, chickweed and hairy bitter cress.


Some of it has come in with grass mowings of lawns that have seeding weeds in or adjacent to them. There are things that I have naturalised in my garden and have taken up there inadvertently. So there is Viola tricolor, Aquilegia and Corydalis cheilanthifolia. Some I cannot account for at all. Does it matter? Not much. I am retired, I have time to weed them out. They come out easily enough from my no dig beds; less easily from the paths. They go on the heap and will be back in the autumn as top dressing.


Before and after.


It would be nice if you could slice the tops off and leave the roots in the ground, but it’s easier said than done. Satisfying when done, except for the aching back!

It often strikes me as odd that gardening movements like organics or no dig, purporting to take their inspiration from nature, do things quite differently from nature. Not that nature grows vegetables exactly. Non woody growth in a temperate climate would die down in situ and lie on the surface over the winter. It doesn’t get removed elsewhere to be partially decomposed before being brought back. Any bare patches would quickly be filled by vegetation of some sort. I have put quite a lot of fresh material, usually shredded, directly onto the ground in autumn in the belief that there is a component of the soil fauna and flora that has evolved to live on that type of material. It certainly disappears quickly enough.


Rhubarb’s doing well, bloody moles and Corydalis cheilanthifolia.


I sowed beetroot 17 June last year, planted them out 12 August. I thought they would grow to usable size then stand well into the winter. They didn’t grow enough and haven’t grown at all in the winter. Need to get them in earlier. Ditto chard and perpetual spinach. The idea was that they would go in after peas and spuds were finished, but it didn’t really work. Must do better this year. I need more salad veg for winter salads. Perhaps I should invest in some cloches.