Allotment update – 12/9/2018

I meant this to be a monthly snapshot, but there has been slippage, my last allotment post being at the end of July. That was just after we’d had the first rain for ages but before anything was showing any benefit from it.


My runner beans had cropped well through the hot spell, sustained by copious watering. The problem was that in the hot weather we were eating mostly salads and had no use for runners. We’re not keen on frozen runner beans and have limited freezer space so we ate some, gave some away and put a lot onto the compost heap. I know “food waste” is as toxic an expression these days as “Donald Trump”, but I don’t see this as food waste. If it had been cold we’d have eaten lots of beans and I’d have been dumping lettuce instead. If it had been cold I’d likely have had a lot fewer beans to start with.

If a crop exceeds expectations and you get more than you need, you have food waste. If it falls short of expectations you’re off to the shops to make up the shortfall. If I have lots of cabbages I pull off all the nibbled leaves and just eat the heart; if I have less I do a bit of trimming and eat stuff you wouldn’t even buy in the shops. Rant over.

I didn’t keep on top of picking the beans and when the weather cooled the plants had stopped flowering and were laden with tough pods. I left them to ripen, the dried beans will go in soups and stews over the winter.


At the far end of the row are six plants of a bean given me by another plot holder. They are French, I was told, as if that explained everything. Connoisseur, gourmet; these are the French words that informed my expectations. They set not a single bean in the June and July heat, in spite of having plenty of flower and getting exactly the same amount of water as the rest. Since the weather has cooled, they have been producing modest numbers of short beans, enough for the occasional meal. They’re nothing special.

I read somewhere that at high temperatures runner bean pollen fails to germinate on the stigma. The unfertilised flowers don’t develop pods. ‘Firestorm’, the variety making up the rest of the row, is self fertile. I’d have taken that to mean that it could be fertilised by its own pollen but maybe it means that the beans develop without successful pollination taking place.


I grew two varieties of Sweet Corn this year, sowing ‘Earliking’ on 11 April and ‘Goldcrest’ on 6 May. ‘Goldcrest’ somewhat caught up with ‘Earliking’ and was ready only two weeks later; I could have done with a bigger gap. ‘Earliking’ had smaller cobs but bigger kernels, was much shorter and had fewer cobs per stem. That’s ‘Goldcrest’ in the picture, ‘Earliking’ was pulled out of the bed in front, shredded and spread back, then covered with a layer of compost. The ‘Goldcrest’ cob below is over 7″, without the stem.

Brassicas have done what was asked of them. Cabbage ‘Delight Ball’ took us through summer though I will sow some earlier next year. Following on was Red Cabbage ‘Kalibos’, which I did two sowings of. The second sowing of that, plus a row of ‘Huzaro’, will hopefully get us through the winter. I also have Flower Sprouts, Kale ‘Midnight Sun’ and Purple Sprouting Broccoli for winter into spring. The kale and PSB, in the lower picture, were planted where the peas had been, somewhat messing up my crop rotation.


Cabbage ‘Huzaro’, Cabbage ‘Kalibos’ and Flower Sprouts, with Dahlia for contrast.


Leeks, Kale ‘Midnight Sun’, Lettuce ‘Oakleaf Navara’ & PSB.

I used Italian Ryegrass as a green manure in the first year on my plot, digging it in before planting in the spring. It made prodigious growth, stood very well over winter, protecting the soil from winter rain and holding onto nutrients that would have leached away. The soil tilth when it was turned in was excellent and the nutrients were quickly released to the growing crop. Then I decided to go no-dig. Field beans and grazing rye were a complete failure as green manure in my second year so I gave up and simply mulched the ground in autumn with compost for the next couple of seasons.


Now I’m experimenting with green manure again. I’m hoping the Italian ryegrass will make lots of growth this autumn, perhaps even to the point that I take a cut off it with shears. Then I plan to chop it down and cover it with Mypex early enough to give me a good kill by early May. I’m not quite sure how long that will need so I plan to cover it early February, allowing eight weeks before I want the ground. I can check and leave it longer if I have to. The grassy strip in the picture had onions in the nearer half, potatoes in the further half. The strips of carpet keep the paths weed free, I just need a bit more.

At the top left in this picture are courgettes which, like the runners, cropped like mad when it was hot and we didn’t want them, then gave up. They’re now starting to crop again, so hopefully we shall have courgettes for a few more weeks. The onions still left are spring onions that have bulbed. Some we have eaten but they are much inferior to the “proper” onions, of which we have loads. I grew ‘Rumba’ from sets and ‘Armstrong’ from seed, both very successfully this year. ‘Rumba’ were lifted a month ago, ‘Armstrong’ a few days ago.


Onion ‘Armstrong’ with garden fork for scale.

The only other thing worth a mention is Celeriac, which I love and Sue hates. I should have given it more space but it’s done well enough. I’ve had one, very nice. Oh hang on, did I mention the Dahlias on the other plot?

I might have said this before but they’re seedlings. The outstanding red is called number 15.


Allotment update – 29/7/2018

Allotment-80We have finally had a decent drop of rain, accompanied by quite strong winds. I don’t know what I will find when I next go up to my plot, likely a mix of reinvigorated growth and devastation.

Once past midsummer a sense of running downhill slowly settles in, with more crops being removed than sown or planted. There is much discussion about late crops but it is not something I have had good results with and from now on bare areas will appear as crops are cleared. I will sow some with Italian ryegrass as a green manure, mulch others with compost or just raw shreddings of harvested crops.

It’s the time of year when thoughts start to seriously shift to next season and what I need to do differently. Here are my notes to myself, they may contain something of use to you; they may not.

I need to replace my strawberries, which means a new piece of ground, tricky in the fruit cage where there is no space. I was given a mixture of varieties by another plot holder and now I don’t know which is which, so I’ll buy some.
Blackcurrants. I need to prune the bushes and to do so even harder than last year, quality not quantity being the aim. I have three varieties, Ben Connan yields well and has good flavour; Big Ben has big fruits which are very tart, yields very well; Titania is a big grower and has lower yields of much sweeter fruit. I will propagate Titania to get another couple of bushes, I currently only have one. Hardwood cuttings in October.
Gooseberries. Invicta gets overwhelmed by sawfly every year, it has to go. Careless gets attacked next, but might be better without Invicta beside it. Hinomaki Red seems much less attractive and is largely left alone, I will propagate it to replace Invicta. Its fruit is small but yields not bad. Feeding and mulching them would probably help.
Raspberries are in a mess and need replacing, again difficult within the fruit cage. I don’t want them at the other side of the cage because the runners will go out into the veg area.
Blueberries are getting better every year. Darrow has the largest fruit and heavy crops, Bluecrop yields well, but the fruits are much smaller, which slows picking. The flavour is not much different. I have taken cuttings of both.
Redcurrant may as well go, though it crops well the fruit is very sour and of limited use to me.
Rhubarb (not technically a fruit) I have Victoria and Champagne, both are excellent, Victoria comes very early, Champagne is later with better flavour. I planted three crowns of Fulton’s Strawberry Surprise last winter, of which only one has grown. I may get a stick or two next year.


Beetroot. I need to crack successional sowing better, I made 3 sowings of Boldor and 2 of Boltardy, all in cells. Boldor is a golden variety, good grower, good but not outstanding taste, cooks much quicker than Boltardy. I don’t think planting as small clumps is working well, I will thin to singles and plant quite close.
Broad Bean Masterpiece Green. Poor yield seemingly because pods didn’t set due to lack of pollinators or dryness or something else.
Broccoli Rudolph. Purple sprouting. I grew these on in 9cm pots and planted them early July following peas. They have grown well since, considering how dry it has been but have caterpillars of small cabbage white and diamond back moth, as well as flea beetle and a tiny weevil. This in spite of being covered with mesh. Perhaps the eggs were on them when planted. The weevil looks like it might be Ceutorhynchus pallidactylus, known as cabbage shoot weevil. Seems its larvae burrow into the stems, it’s not the adults I have to worry about. Tricksy they are, drop to the ground and hide when you go near them.
Carrots have been poorer this year than last, I think due to the lack of rain. I sow them in 1litre deep pots and plant the whole pot full as a clump as soon as I can turn them out of the pot without the rootball breaking up. It’s a reliable method except I have sown too thickly, 15 per pot is probably enough. I didn’t mesh this year and have root fly. Will mesh next year. I shall go back to Flyaway, which has some fly resistance and tastes good.

Celeriac Asterix is looking good. I have been watering and feeding it regularly, it seems slow.
Kale Midnight Sun has the same pests as Broccoli Rudolph, only worse. I won’t grow it again. Russian Red seems similar and is easier to grow, or has been in the past.
Leek Blue Solaise looks good. Sown at end of March and pricked off about 1 inch apart in a 10 litre pot; planted out early June. Free of rust which affected Musselburgh last year.
Lettuce. I have grown Lollo Rosso, Salad Bowl and Oakleaf Navarra, all of which have done very well. My intention was to pick leaves but I took whole plants once they were big enough. I grew far too much and left them to almost flower, a green manure crop in effect.
Onions. I ordered Rumba sets in February, got them in days. They were in much better condition than when I’ve had them in autumn and kept them until spring before planting. They were planted in cell trays mid Feb and planted out early April. They are looking very good and will be lifted in the next few weeks.
Armstrong and Red Baron were raised from seed and have not done quite as well. Red Baron are quite small, Armstrong of reasonable size but smaller than Rumba. They were sown early March, pricked off into cell trays and planted out early May. Another plot holder has done well with autumn planted sets of Electric, a red variety. One to try.
Parsnips Tender and True sown 8/5 in the ground, germination slow and erratic. Looking OK, should get something.

Peas. Hurst Green Shaft sown direct 13/4. Good germination and growth, very good yield picked over three days which is much shorter than usual. In the freezer. Twinkle I shan’t bother with again, it is short and self supporting, but didn’t crop well and germination was patchy.
Potatoes. Not sure why I bother. Only grew Charlotte, the first pickings were good, later ones so dry they broke up when cooking. Self mashing potatoes. Blight has wiped them more times than not.
Runner Bean Firestorm. Excellent, but like courgettes, produce big yields when we’re mainly eating salads, and not easily storable. I should grow a lot less.
Annual Spinach Matador. Goes over too quickly, not worth the bother.
Sweet Corn. Earliking sown 11/4, Goldcrest sown 6/5. Could have sown the second lot a bit later as it caught up the earlier one somewhat. Looking very good but has taken a lot of feeding and watering to keep going. Some plants given to another plotholder are barely half the size, mainly for lack of feed I think. May well pick the first today.
Cabbage. Delight Ball has kept us in summer cabbage for salads. I could do with getting some earlier and probably also later, though Kalibos may fill that niche. Huzaro is looking great at the moment. A fantastic colour, fewer pests than the others and a longish stem getting it off the ground and away from slugs.
Sorrel. I grew this perennial vegetable from Real Seeds last year. Nice in leafy salads though something nibbles the leaves and finding good ones can be a challenge.
Garlic. Disastrous. I bought Solent Wight, planted it in October. It became infested with rust and was pulled up and dumped. Next to it was Provence, given to me by my allotment neighbour. It picked up the rust from Solent Wight. I salvaged the bulbs, I think they will be edible. Elephant garlic remained rust free and grew extremely well. If it tastes good it’s all I will bother with, it’s not like we eat huge amounts of garlic.

Flower Sprouts are looking Ok and should provide winter greens. I meant to grow Redbor Kale, but it slipped through the net somehow.
Perpetual Spinach, or spinach beet, is a useful winter vegetable and is very easy to grow.
Butternut Squash Hunter is on my other plot. I dug holes in rough undisturbed ground and they have struggled to get going. I should have done much better ground prep. They’re getting there and I will get a crop, but for a good crop they need a good speedy start.
Dahlias. I sowed seed I collected from Orange Cushion and Veritable, both growing in my garden. I have two rows of Orange Cushion seedlings, one from a sowing on 11 March 2018, the other from two years earlier. Most are bright red with some dark reds, yellows and oranges, even a mauve. Veritable has produced less interesting progeny, in pinks and mauves. I’m impressed by how good plants raised this year are and may buy some seed if I find something tempting.



Dahlias. Left row is this year’s Orange Cushion seedlings, next are 2016 Orange Cushion seedlings. The few pinks are in a row of this year’s Veritable seedlings.

A flower garden for pleasure, an allotment for satisfaction. I have both, lucky me.


Six on Saturday – 14/7/2018

SOS529Growing your own food is very satisfying, eating it even more so. When you can pile a plate with salad, accompanied by a baked spud, nine different crops in total and all harvested that day from your own garden or allotment, then follow it with blueberries and raspberries, well that is hard to beat.

This is new territory for me. I’ve had the allotment for a few years and I’m still experimenting, still learning and hopefully still getting better at it. Still a very long way short of all year round self sufficiency too.

A lot of watering and feeding has been necessary, but I have had a good season with fruit and veg. I thought it was time I picked some out for a Saturday six.

Just before I do, and every bit as satisfying as my veg, is the fact that a pair of swallows found the broken window on my allotment shed and built a nest inside

. When I checked it yesterday, it had eggs in it.

Tomatoes. ‘Sungold’, sown 19/3, now growing in my polytunnel. We’ve been picking for about a week. I got them into 10 litre pots and realised that was too small when this hot spell hit; I was watering 3 times a day. So I potted alternate plants into 20’s and stopped the remaining 10 litre plants. The unstopped ones I shall train across the roof of the tunnel.

Cucumbers (and Chillies). ‘Carmen’, sown 31/3, now in 10 litre pots, should have had 20’s. Watering three times a day. Probably should have kept two and got rid of the others but last year I started with five and managed to kill four so I was reluctant to ditch any. The Chillies are ‘Apache’ and ‘Ring of Fire’. I’m going to OK for chillies for years to come. I shall make sauce, how hard can it be?

I shied away from growing lettuce on my allotment for a couple of years because I thought it would have no chance against the slugs. I do get some damage but have grown loads of good lettuce and we eat a lot in summer salads. ‘Oakleaf Navarra’, a very dark red lettuce, has been the star turn, supplemented by green ‘Salad Bowl’ and ‘Lollo Rosso’. I’ve found them to be remarkably tolerant of dry conditions, eventually running up to flower but only when they’ve been usable for a month or more.

Sweet Corn. I’ve grown two varieties, ‘Earliking’ and ‘Goldcrest’, sown 11/4 and 6/5 respectively, in hope of a long cropping season. Looking very good so far. These have had a lot of watering; thorough soaks every four or five days. First picking is eagerly awaited.

Blueberries. A third of my plot is given over to a fruit cage, in which I have blackcurrants, raspberries, redcurrants, gooseberries, strawberries and blueberries. The gooseberries weren’t great this year but everything else is loaded. I have spent many backbreaking hours picking the stuff, more hours picking it over and doing something with it. Freezing, cassis, cordial, jam. Blueberries crop over a longish period and most get eaten fresh. This one is ‘Darrow’, which has huge fruits. I also have ‘Bluecrop’ and at least one other.
Purple sprouting broccoli. Most years my peas come ready over at least a three week period and I am reluctant to pull them out until I have harvested almost all the crop. Last week I did a picking on Monday, another on Wednesday, and that was it. I cut them off, leaving the roots in the ground and planted PSB, which I had growing in 9cm pots, into the pea row. I usually struggle to give that sort of follow on crop a long enough growing season, this year I am optimistic that I will do better.

It’s due to cool down a bit next week, but very little rain is in prospect. A lot of things are starting to look very stressed. I was reading earlier that heat-waves and droughts are happening very widely. I grow fruit and veg for the pleasure of doing it and for the freshness, flavour and nutritional value it offers. I’m profoundly glad that it isn’t a matter of survival, as it must be for many around the world.
Even so, it’s likely that some crops will be in relatively short supply this year and that we will be glad to have a fair bit of our own to fall back on.

Check out other Saturday sixes from the links on The Propagator’s entry. I’m guessing that wailing about the weather will feature large this week.


Thoughts from two hours of shelling peas.

Water and the lack of it will be of concern to all gardeners while this hot weather continues. I’ve seen a couple of myths trotted out already and I haven’t really been looking.

Water droplets on foliage do not act as a lens causing scorching. This is nonsense and can be safely ignored. Not that watering the foliage is necessarily a good idea as it can damage the leaves of some plants and increases the risk of fungal disease in others.

I saw a recommendation to hoe the soil surface to create a dust mulch and break the capillary action bringing water to the surface. It seems unlikely that this would be effective. Once the top inch or two of soil is dry it will act as a mulch and there will be little or no movement of water upward through it. Besides, with good crop cover almost all the water loss will be by transpiration through the plants, with almost none lost by evaporation from the soil surface.

My own observation when we had about an inch of rain on Sunday after two weeks of hot dry weather was that recently cultivated soil retained the water and that undisturbed dry ground remained largely dry, having become rather water repellent. I took that to mean that the loose soil retained most of the rainfall at the surface where it quickly evaporated whereas elsewhere it made its way down through cracks and worm holes to a greater depth where it would be less likely to evaporate. It would have to go very deep indeed to become unavailable to plant roots, which will go down several feet.
By the same token, mulches that absorb moisture are going to be less effective than those, like pebbles, that let it all through into the soil.

I have often read that little and often is the worst way to water, wetting only the soil surface and encouraging roots to be shallow and very vulnerable if the watering stops. I agree. I think I would add that if a plant is allowed to become a little stressed between waterings that it will toughen it up and make it less susceptible to drought. A plant that is always kept well watered will grow lush with big soft leaves and will be susceptible to drought whether or not it has been watered correctly. Some things, like cucumbers, hate being dry and may well die if allowed to get to wilting point.

When I water plants in the ground I do so with a watering can without a rose, watering just at the base of the plant or at most in a narrow line along the row. I pour sufficiently slowly that the water penetrates and doesn’t go running off away from the plant. Sometimes that means pouring a little, stopping until the water has gone, pouring a little more, waiting until it’s gone and so on. Sinking a cut off bottle or pipe into the soil and watering into it would be even better but is not practical on an allotment.

I harvested my peas today. Second sweep, I did the first two days ago. I’ve never been able to get them picked and cleared in so short a time, they normally come ready over a couple of weeks meaning if you do it too early many are not ready and if too late a lot are hard, dry and mealy. This year almost all were spot on.

I suspect that up country, where the mid summer climate is more reliably dry and warm, that what I have this year is the norm, with the occasional cool damp summer leading to what is the norm in Cornwall. The trouble with gardening books and online advice is that they usually reflect average conditions, not marginal conditions. This year it would be easy to get a second crop in after the peas, in a cooler year it would be pushed back by a couple of weeks and it would be likely that it would not have enough growing season left to succeed. It depends what you try to grow, I hear you say.

Well yes, which is why I have just planted lettuce (that’ll work) and beetroot (that may not) and have Purple Sprouting broccoli, cabbages and kale still to go in.

Six on Saturday – 30/6/2018

We chucked a few plants in the car this morning and did a car boot sale. £60 for a couple of hours seemed Ok. Might do that again. We’ve trying growing fewer plants and that didn’t work.

Great as it is to have lots of overseas contributors to this meme, it does have a down-side. When it comes to us poms whingeing about the weather, it rather cramps our style when what we think of as extreme turns out to be very ordinary indeed. I want to whinge about the weather but I don’t want to seem ungrateful.

Suffice it to say that I am heartily sick of watering. Actually, that doesn’t suffice. The plants are as unused to this hot stuff as we humans and some things are starting to suffer. If it goes on for a long time, and I’m told Farming Today said it will last until September, there will be long term consequences. The effects of the 1976 drought were felt for several years afterwards, especially by trees. Right, I feel better to have gotten that off my chest. What’s in Pandora’s box this week?

Maianthemum flexuosum BSWJ9150. Well, that’s what the label says. Obviously that’s wrong and you don’t need an intimate knowledge of the flora of the Guatemalan rainforest to see it.
I think I know what happened. I went to the Cornwall Garden Society Spring Shopw last year and admired a plant on Crûg’s stand. “Why, that is a beauty” I declared, “I shall purchase it dreckly”. “Righto sir, do you want me to put it down here for you to collect later”, “Yes please, that would be splendid”. I then remembered that I had come to the show on my motorbike and that getting it home presented difficulties. “Fret not” said my horticultural colleague, “I have my van, fill your boots, I’ll drop them off for you”.
Then when he turned up at my place later in the day, it was with a different plant because they’d managed to sell my plant a second time to someone else and had found another one in their van. Which wasn’t flowering, and didn’t, until about five weeks ago, when a couple of shoots produced a couple of dull purplish flowers. Shortly afterwards the rest of the shoots started to develop flower heads and it’s taken until now for the flowers to open. It appears that I got two for the price of one, both Maianthemum species, with almost identical foliage and very different flowers. The earlier one may be what the label says it is, I think the other is Maianthemum paniculatum. Must send them a photo and see what they say.

Daphne x transatlantica Eternal Fragrance = ‘Blafra’ and for good measure, Daphne x transatlantica Pink Fragrance = ‘Blapink’.
Daphne’s have a reputation as difficult plants, with the possible exception of Daphne odora. Robin White, as British plant breeder, raised a couple of seedling from a cross of D. caucasica x D. collina and came up with this pair. I planted both as sturdy liners just beside my greenhouse. They’ve never looked back. Both are at the edge of a low brick wall, high enough for the drainage to be excellent, but enough water makes its way out from the greenhouse that they are never short. The scent, especially on these warm evenings, is fabulous.

Hemerocallis ‘Bela Lugosi’. I’m not mad about day lilies but I do have a few. This bloom, which I confess didn’t happen on Saturday, it happened on Thursday, has more than its normal complement of petals, 10 instead of 6. It’s that “me, me, put me in your six” showing off thing again. They get really dark just before they start to shrivel up. Or maybe it was the camera settings. Or perhaps I have more varieties than I thought.

Hydrangea serrata Tiara’. I like Hydrangea serrata for its generally less coarse demeanour when compared with H. macrophylla. They don’t seem as robust though and this one is always the first to suffer if it turns dry. A fortnight back it looked set to be the best ever, now it’s a struggle to keep it alive.

Eryngium giganteum. This is never more than a biennial for me, but seeds about enough that most years I have a plant or two somewhere. If I was organised, I’d collect and sow the seed so I could have more of them, and where I want them too.

Cucumber. The variety is Carmen. Last year I started with about five and ended up with one. This year I have watered them and it’s really worked, I started with four and I still have four. One is absolutely as many as we need, the number of developing cucumbers on four plants is a little unnerving. Next door have children who recognize green stuff as food, they’ll take some. Cucumber sandwiches anyone?

I may have spent too much time in the sun this week. It’s at times like these that the gnat’s piss strength Australian beers come into their own. 5.5% alcohol is a tad on the strong side for thirst quenching. It can be dangerous; it’s inclined to send me to sleep, not a good idea if you’re out in the sun.

Right, need to get this done and do some watering. The magic wardrobe into the world of six on Saturday is in The Propagators back bedroom. Through the door labelled ‘Comments’.



Watering plants in pots.

You can’t say it’s not topical.

I just potted on some of my tomatoes from 10 litre pots into 20’s. I should probably have done all of them, but I thought if I did alternate plants, then stopped the ones in the smaller pots while letting the others grow on, it should even itself out.


I have been watering them twice a day for the last week or two, the combination of rapid growth and drying weather making it an absolute necessity. They’re looking a bit stressed, as am I.

It set me thinking about what advice I would give to a beginner about watering plants in pots. It might go something like this.

1) Try and anticipate how much growth a plant will make and aim to get it into a big enough pot to need watering no more than once a day.

2) Bear in mind that different composts will hold different amounts of water when saturated.

3) Water when a plant is dry and before it starts to wilt. Do not wait for evening, or any other time.

4) Ideally you want to apply enough water to bring the compost to field capacity (holding as much as it can against gravity) and not a drop more, run-off being wasted water as well as carrying away soluble nutrients. It’s impossible, get as close as you can. Don’t apply less; if you repeatedly give small amounts the roots lower in the pot will dry out and die.

5) Whatever amount of liquid feed you include in your watering will be better parcelled out into small amounts with every watering. Plants in pots will need more feed than the same plant in the ground; having a much smaller root system.

6) Dry compost is very hard to wet and often shrinks so that water runs down the sides of the rootball and out of the bottom. It helps to have the top of the compost dead level and it may be possible to wet the rootball by applying small amounts of water and repeating several times as soon as it has been absorbed. If that doesn’t work, stand the pot in water overnight, preferably submerged in a bucket. Next time don’t let it get that dry in the first place.

7) When planting out into the ground the plant will need much the same amount of water until its roots get out into the surrounding soil, a bit less because the root ball is surrounded by moist soil and a lot less after a few weeks.

8) Putting a potted plant into shade will reduce the amount of water it needs a great deal.

9) Don’t be complacent about watering, it is easily the most important part of looking after a plant in a pot. Pay attention while you’re doing it, it’s an opportunity to give every plant a quick check over. If you’re bored rigid because you’re spending hours every day watering you probably need an irrigation system.

Allotment update 18/6/2018

It’s a day under four weeks since my last allotment blog and it was the comparison in the pictures above that prompted me to do an update. The growth rate in the last few weeks has been something to behold. I am now harvesting quite a range of crops and a few more are very nearly there.

Strawberries have been good, almost untouched by slugs, meaning I’ve been able to let them ripen properly. Jam has been made. Lettuce, carrots, sorrel, spinach, spinach beet, rhubarb, beetroot, spring onions and courgettes have made it to the table. Early potatoes and peas will start this week. The only real disaster is that my garlic has rust.

For some strange reason the plots to either side of mine have had their peas ravaged by pigeons, while mine are completely untouched. I was a little earlier than they were but that seems to me the only difference. Not that I’m complaining.

I have mentioned before that I have real problems getting plants going from seed sown directly on the plot, almost everything being brought on in cell trays and planted out when an inch or two tall. Leeks, needing to be planted deeper, I did differently. I sowed them in a one litre pot then pricked them out about an inch apart in a ten litre pot when they were about 2 inches tall. They were then grown on until they were big enough to plant out. They are in the top right picture, beside the spinach beet at the far left.


The top half of the plot here still has brassicas covered with mesh to stop root fly. The cover will need to come off those on the right very soon. From left to right I have celeriac, first time I’ve grown it, seems to be doing OK. Above that is sorrel, a perennial I grew from seed last year. It is great in mixed leaf salads. Annual spinach serves the same purpose, along with lettuce. The very dark lettuce is Oakleaf Navara, a great success, the lighter one is Lollo Rosso. Green Salad Bowl was in the earlier picture. Between the lettuces is beetroot, a golden form called Boldor. This cooks far quicker than Boltardy and is sweet and tender. I’ll grow it again.


To the right of my windbreak are onions. Furthest on are Rumba, grown from sets started in cells in mid February and planted out in April. They’re planted quite close, we find medium sized onions more practical. I did two sowings of onion Armstrong, the later ones in early March, planted out in May, have caught up with the experimental earlier ones. They look fine but are way behind Rumba. Red onion Red Baron are at the same stage as Armstrong though they have suffered more slug damage. You can see my rusty garlic, Provence, with four good sized elephant garlics in the foreground.


Lettuce ‘Oakleaf Navara’ and Onion ‘Rumba’


In the top half of that section are courgettes, potatoes, sweet corn and runner beans. I sowed all the courgettes in the packet, they all germinated and they were all planted out. I figured to get up to speed quickly then remove plants when the glut kicks in. I’ve only grown first early Charlotte spuds this year. In the four years I’ve had the plot I’ve had one decent crop of maincrops, every other year blight has flattened them. I’ll start harvesting any day now.

I’ve grown two varieties of sweet corn, sowing them about four weeks apart. I’m hoping for a longer picking season. They’re closer than it said on the packet but I figured on a wide open south facing slope I’d get away with it. I run the beans along the top of this section, same place every year, because they are not throwing shade over any part of the plot. I haven’t seen much difference between north and south side of the bean row. The beans are Firestorm, with six odd ones given me by another plot holder who got them in France. A week after he gave them to me, he apologised because his own sowing of them had failed completely so he’d realised they were duff seeds. I sowed 20 and 19 germinated. He wasn’t very happy when I told him, he’d gone out and bought plants. I suspect he’d used poor compost, or had them at too low a temperature, but you never really know.


Runner beans ‘Firestorm’, Courgette ‘Ambassador’, Carrots ‘Romance’ and ‘Autumn King’

Carrots I have continued to successionally sow in one litre deep pots, planting out as a clump as soon as the compost will hold together. Germination is faultless, fairly slow but always around 100%. Slugs are the enemy, I have had pots of seedlings razed overnight by a single slug in the glasshouse and one clump disappeared overnight just after planting out. The tricky bit is sowing them thick enough to have the roots hold the rootball together for planting but thin enough that they grow to a decent size. I aim for about twenty in the pot, but it’s usually more.

On my other plot (I’m greedy, I have two) I am growing Dahlias, Sweet Peas and Butternut Squash. (There are strawberries there too but I can hardly claim to be growing them). The ground is poor and very weedy. Several months of being covered with Mypex failed to kill nettles and buttercup. I sprayed part of it. The Sweet Peas and Squash are struggling but the Dahlias are doing rather well. I have three rows, all grown from seed collected from my own ‘Orange Cushion’ (rows 1 & 2) and ‘Veritable’. The middle row are from a 2016 sowing, the others from 11th March this year. I’m pretty chuffed to have flower buds forming even on some of those. I’m expecting most if not all to flower this year. I’ll keep you posted.


Dahlias among the weeds. I started weeding after I took the picture, honest.


Buds on plants sown 11/3/2018


Sweet Peas and Butternut Squash. I have high hopes.