Allotment successes and failures

I’ve been slacking in the blogging front but have been just about keeping up with the plot itself. I can’t believe how fast the weeds pop up during the summer though, especially with all the rain we’ve had.

Anyway, as it’s now officially autumn, here’s a quick summary of what’s worked and what hasn’t so far this year

Successes:

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Broad beans – sown in November, these gave an early crop

Beetroot – a big success, so easy to grow

Asparagus – thanks to the previous plot holder for this

Rainbow chard – rampant and colourful

Runner beans – these are past their best now but the five plants I sowed could have fed the whole street

Dwarf French beans – tricky to germinate – I only got three plants – but I’ve been surprised at the large crop

Kale – huge and pretty although I’m not keen on the taste

Purple sprouting broccoli – needs a huge amount of space but have been trouble free and delicious

Tomatoes – red, yellow and chocolate colours are all cropping now and are much more tasty than shop-bought

Blueberries – from my Poundland bush and one smaller one bought online. Lots of berries for breakfast pancakes.

Radishes – quick and easy.

Failures:

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Garlic – after a promising start, most of mine suffered from mould and I only got one full sized bulb

Carrots – I sowed a couple of rows which seemed to be doing ok before promptly disappearing.

A mixed bag:

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Mange tout – I expected a larger crop from these but what I got was very nice.

Blackberries – the plot has problems with out of control brambles but at least I have enough blackberries to make jam to see us through the winter.

Parsnips: these are notorious for being hard to germinate and I only have a few seedlings. Will report back on how they do.

Veg galore

Here are a few photos of the plot and recent harvests. After six weeks of asparagus, we’ve now moved onto feasts of rainbow chard, broad beans and mange tout.

The garlic hasn’t gone as well as I’d hoped with some suffering from white rot and only one full size bulb so far.

The weeds are rampant on the side of the plot I haven’t tackled yet but on the plus side, I have loads of poppies and some foxgloves.

A bump in the road

My bump in the road took the form of the (now dreaded) allotment inspections. I went to the plot yesterday to eat my lunch, as work’s been super-stressful for the past few weeks and it’s nice to get away from my desk for a few minutes. One of the men popped over and opened with the line “it was the inspections yesterday and you failed dismally”.

I hadn’t known the inspections were happening or what the criteria are so it was all a bit of a shock and not conducive to a relaxing break from work. I asked what the criteria are and it’s apparently to be 50% planted up and 100% weed free which, on a plot which six months ago was completely covered with rubbish, old car parts, broken glass, bindweed and matestail isn’t realistic I don’t think.

They’re right that one side of my plot is a disaster zone as far as weeds are concerned but I’ve made known that my plan is to focus on the right hand side this year before tackling the left, and as it’s thigh high in marestail I’m not entirely sure what can be done in the short term besides getting hold of a strimmer perhaps.

Anyway, I’ll dig up the most visible weeds at the top end and make it obvious I’m continuing to battle the weeds. The inspections are monthly so I’m hoping for no black mark next time.

Here’s a pic of the better side of the plot, complete with runner bean wigwam.

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Lunch from the plot

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The title of this post is a slight exaggeration but two elements of today’s lunch are from the plot: yet more asparagus, and the multicoloured radishes.

Today we put up the wigwam for runner beans and I sowed some sunflowers in an attempt to add some colour to the plot.

Here’s how it’s looking st the moment (not shown: marestail forest on the left hand side of the plot).

Garlic, radishes and broad beans are all doing pretty well, while beetroot, chard, broccoli, kale and carrots are all tiny. Mange tout took a battering in the wind shortly after I planted them out so I’m hoping they recover.

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Poundland blueberries

A few years ago I bought one of the blueberry sticks you see in Poundland. It’s in a pot out the front of my house and over the past three years had grown but never shown any sign of giving fruit.

I read that blueberries do better when grown next to another blueberry plant of a different type so a few months ago I ordered a Bluecrop from Amazon and potted it up next to the other bush. I don’t know if it’s a coincidence but this year both blueberries are covered  in promising-looking buds and flowers which I’m hoping will result in lots of fruit later in the year. So it might take a few years but it looks like £1 fruit bushes are worth a go.

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First harvest!

Guess what our tea was tonight? Or our starter, at least. Asparagus! Grown on the plot!

I went down this afternoon just to water the garlic and the seeds I’ve planted recently and realised that the asparagus was growing at such an alarming rate that I needed to harvest some. I cut four spears which we’ve literally just eaten so I can tell you that they were delicious.

I didn’t harvest the giant, intimidating, biggest-asparagus-spear-I’ve-ever-seen as it isn’t quite long enough yet but it certainly has enough girth.

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PS – I noticed an influx of visitors this week which I think was due to a mention from Richard on Sharpen Your Spades – thanks Richard!

Making an allotment plan using Excel

I spent a while Googling to see how other people create their allotment plans. A lot of people had made really beautiful illustrations with drawings of each veg but these seem to serve more as an artwork than a practical plan which you can change as things change on the plot. I’d drawn a plan in my notebook (you can see it in this previous post) which didn’t look very inspiring and was also hard to amend as plans changed.

I decided to give Excel a try and here’s my current plan. It’s pretty satisfying making the different coloured sections for the different crops:

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This only shows half my plot – I’ve left out the side which is dominated by the corrugated metal container of rubbish and felled trees.

The raised bed on the far right (close up of it from my plan is below) is the one I’ve done the most planting in so far and it already has garlic, beetroot, radishes, rainbow chard and carrots sown in it.I’ve sown the nasturtiums too but there’s no sign of them popping up so far.

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My plan still seems to change every time I visit the plot though. Today I decided that the mange tout should move to the bottom end where I’ve currently planned parsnips so I’ll change that at some point.

 

 

First seed sowing of 2017

Of course, the start of March signals seed-sowing time. It’s still a bit chilly here so I’ve started a few seeds inside and plan to move them out into the zip-up greenhouse before transferring to the plot a bit later in the spring.

Planted so far are tumbling and vine tomatoes, mangetout and various chillis. The mangetout were by far the quickest to appear, poking through the soil within five days or so. I sowed both red and yellow tumbling tomatoes but only one of the yellow seeds germinated. You only get 15 in a pack and 1/15 seems like a bit of a rubbish result but never mind. I also have the chocolate tomatoes from the Real Seed Catalogue too so fingers crossed they’ll do better.

 

Asparagus excitement

This morning I spotted several exciting new developments on the allotment. First up, the asparagus which has started poking through the weeds. I knew there was an asparagus bed in one of the raised beds, but I didn’t know there was more on the left hand side of the plot. I did tread on one of the spears so I’m hoping it’ll recover.

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My first crocus has also appeared! I planted these way back in November so it seems like they’ve taken ages. Daffodils and anenomes yet to appear.

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We’re having sausage and mash tonight so I dug up loads of horseradish. It was a bit rainy and all the other plotholders had disappeared into their sheds so there was no one around to offer some to. It’s in danger of taking over the bottom end of the plot so I dug up more than we need just to try and get rid of some of it. Here’s the two pieces when I dig them up and then one of them in the kitchen sink so you can see what a monster it is.

Four months in

It’s four months since I took over plot 45 and here’s how it’s changed. The first photo was day 1, the second was two months in and the third was lunch time today.

There’s still endless black bags full of plastic, broken glass old tools and other weird finds, a ridiculous amount of weeds and tree branches to burn, plus the re-emergence of weeds as the weather warms up, but I think it looks like we’re making progress.

Today I put down some weed-supressing fabric to see if it has any effect keeping the mare’s tail and bindweed at bay. One useful find amongst the debris was a couple of metal tent pegs that I anchored it with, along with some bricks and bits of paving slab.

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Can you see in the pictures the gradual clearing of stuff from the giant metal boat-shaped pit of doom? I pulled about 50 canes out of it today along with a small stool and lots more dried wood and bindweed so fingers crossed for some dry weather and another bonfire at the weekend.

Springtime

The sun came out today so I sped down to the plot with my helper.

I didn’t intend to stay long but ended up getting quite a bit done. The main thing was that I marked out the edges of some of the beds with some of the many bricks I’ve found strewn around. The beds had been kind of overflowing onto the path and making things look even messier than they already are, so I scraped the soil off the paths, dug down a bit at the edges and sunk bricks in.

I also found a rhubarb sprout in amongst the piles of rubbish on the left of the plot so I popped it into the main bed. That should see us sorted for maybe a crumble between two later this year.

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There were signs of Spring everywhere: buds appearing, blossom on my neighbour’s plot and lots of new horse’s tail and bindweed appearing. There was also a very relaxed black cat napping behind my fence.

In terms of planting, I put in a couple more broad beans, sowed some of the ‘mystery mix’ radishes my sister bought me from The Real Seed Catalogue, and sowed nasturium seeds in the old oil drum that’s sunk into the ground. I also found this cheery duck under a fallen tree.

These worms were wriggling around when I moved a paving stone which hopefully will eventually form part of some stepping stones across the big bed.

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Next on the list is to think about how we handle the emerging horse’s tail and bindweed. The horse’s tail will definitely need spraying with weedkiller but that means I can’t plant anything until after it’s dealt with and it seems to be everywhere. I know my seed stash will keep until next year but it’s very sad to think we might not actually be able to grow much at all for another year. Fingers crossed that the garlic and beans we’ve sown already can hold their own against the weed invasion.