Monday, December 31, 2012

Phew, just in time

Garlic and Autumn Shallots should be planted in......?   Errm, Autumn?  Yep, the clue is in the name for the Shallots and Garlic needs a spell of cold weather.

So when did I plant mine?  This afternoon.  Phew, just in time but at least I'm in the right year.

On which note, Happy New Year to all allotment bloggers everywhere.  Hope you're looking forward to a good season, ideally a bit drier and sunnier than this year.  See you next year.

Sunday, December 02, 2012

I am the God of Hellfire

Well, not exactly, but I have just had a stonking great bonfire.  All the hedge clippings which have been stacked up and drying, Gorn I tell you.  Gorn.

Here's before

and here's after.

Gorn, innit.

And I followed that up by sitting in the sun under a clear blue sky, drinking hot coffee and eating chocolate biscuits.  What's not to like?

But that's about all that has been happening on the allotment recently.  We're well & truly in the slow and torpid season.  Come on lad, get a grip; this isn't good enough.  The list of jobs doesn't get any shorter.  Actually it did this morning, by one, with that bonfire!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Progress report

Well, a lot has happened and we're edging towards ship-shape!  The pile of hedge clippings isn't burnt yet but it's tidy (there's tidy!), even despite the addition of an equal volume from my son's house. And it's all out of the manure bin, which is therefore ready to receive manure.  

The shed roofing material (corrugated bitumastic sheets) has however been at the bottom of the manure bin for so long that it's started disintegrating and is NBG for the shed roof.  So that has to be scrapped and Plan C started.  Plan C will actually be much easier, involving manageable sheets of plywood (not heavy chipboard) well screwed down & covered in roofing felt.  I hate using roofing felt; it's horrible stuff, but needs must.  So I can see light at the end of the tunnel, which will be a blessed relief because for the last few months I've been seeing light through what remained of the shed roof.

And I actually did some productive work today, fitting some more vine eyes and tieing in the grape vines.  So far they're looking good.  


This year is just about letting them establish.  Next year should see them going in the right direction, literally, with some pruning & training.  Now there's a scary thought!

Monday, October 01, 2012

It's been a while (again)....

....what with being in Crete for two weeks.  I love Crete.  Sun, heat, souvlaki, raki.  Bring it on.  And you just have to close your mind to the allotment fending for itself.  In truth, it's been such a poor season that it didn't make much difference.  Even Operation Deluge didn't make that much difference, although it did add another week's absence.  I was expecting it to have come over all jungloid but it's not too bad.

Needs a concerted effort of course but then, isn't that the case everywhere in autumn.  Priorities (and, as ever, these are just the priorities) include:

  • more wires and more tieing in for the grape vines
  • moving the mega hedge clippings pile out of the manure bin and burning them (Problem - need to clear some space before I've actually got room to burn them)
  • order manure (Problem - need to move the mega hedge clippings pile out of the manure bin....)
  • cut the hedge (again.  Yet a-chuffing-gain).  To add to the mega hedge clippings pile
  • clear the shed out and tidy it up some
  • put new roof on shed (Problem - new roofing material is at the bottom of the manure bin - don't ask - under the mega hedge clippings pile.....).  

Beginning to see a theme here? And once the mega hedge clippings pile is moved into a burning space we're going to add my son's mega hedge clipping pile to it, thus clearing two huge piles (so to speak) at a stroke.  We'll have to be slightly careful in setting fire to this lot because when my neighbour Ivan burnt his mega etc it was so huge the police helicopter came to have a look.  Hmm.

Anyway, problems aside, I'm still cutting the hedge!  Just in case I run short of hedge clippings to burn.

The raspberries, feeling very sorry for themselves and distinctly mildewed "apres le deluge", have recovered rather well and are still giving a decent picking.  This today, and there'll be more.  And one day I'll learn to get them in focus.  That's what comes of not wearing your glasses while using the camera.

And you just have to cheer this brave effort from my one remaining courgette plant doing it's utmost to defy autumn. 

Better get a move on, matey.  I need the space to burn a mega.... !!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

In an indication of how bad a season it's been......

......the September Allotment association show, traditionally held on the first weekend of September, has been CANCELLED.

Not good.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Hack and Slash; Hack and Slash

Well, if ya gotta cut your hedge it's the only way.

Substantial progress made this morning before rain stopped slashing (or started slashing, depending on your point of view).

Here is BEFORE, so you can see it was deffo overgrown.

And here is AFTER, much better I'm sure you'll agree

And here is WHERE IT WENT. 


I'm sure you'll also agree that this is but a problem postponed.  That's because it's in the [currently empty] manure bin.  But that is destined to be refilled in October so all the prunings will have to be out by then.  I feel a Mother Of All Bonfires coming on but that, in turn, will have to wait until the beans and courgettes are finished because that's the only space I've got available to have one.  So this all feels like an appointment with MOAB in October.  Yippee!

And finally, the door to the Secret Garden is now visible again.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Crikey, where did the time go?

I realise, to my embarrassment, that it's a full month since I posted anything here.  Well, that might do in winter but it's distinctly remiss in summer.

Mind you, what's been happening?  When it wasn't raining it was..........raining.  

But the Blackberries and Raspberries are doing OK, and plums are imminent.  There won't be as many as last year but a reasonable number.  

Leeks are in, early & main crop (Musselburgh), and I've finally tied in the grape vines to their wires.  
Won't be long before they need a higher set of wires, or two.

And, lest you think it's all edibles and nothing decorative (although some of the edibles can be quite decorative) let me show you the Cornflowers
and, a first this, California Poppies. 


These are a David Douglas introduction from the 1830s and this is the first time I've got them to flower so I'm well pleased with that.

Finally, on a grumpier note, I've had a "cut-thy-hedge, thou-wastrel" letter from the Council.  I'll not repeat the ranting I've done on Facebook about it but suffice to say I was not pleased!  Pah!!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Making progress

Strimming done? - Tick
Hedge cut? - Tick
Top two sections weeded? - Tick
Fourth section weeded - Tick (Yeah, I know, I was going to be systematic but sometimes...)
Lovage trimmed? - Tick

It's beginning to look a bit tidier, although everything is showing the effects of rain and low temperatures.  I suspect essential nutrients have been washed away downhill because things are just standing still.  There's been little discernible growth in the last two weeks.  Perhaps if I start to feed and water it'll all come right again?  Perhaps??

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The full horror is revealed

I knew it would be bad.  In truth, I can't say I didn't think it would be this bad because I DID think it would be this bad.  But it really is bad.  Constant heavy rain, along with being away on hols, and not being able to get at it has had the predictable result.  Hols was Norway - lovely country but Soooooo expensive.  "Fish and chips twice" off a market stall at Bergen harbour (paper plates, plastic cutlery) = £28.  Chuffinelle, as we say round here.  Beer at £7 for not-quite-a-pint.  Chuffi....  Burger and chips £15.  Chu.....

But I digress (up a fjord; lovely chaps, fjords).

This, trust me it is, is the strawberry patch.
I've had one picking this year.  One.  Last year I was picking kilos of them for several weeks.

This, even worse (I hardly dare show you), is the onion and garlic patch.
Ye Gods & Hatti-Fatteners.

But nowt comes of wringing your hands and moaning.  You just gotta get in amongst it.  Brace up, Mr Bracegirdle and get on with it.  It's tempting to start with the worst bits first but it's all so bad that I thought I'd be systematic and organised, rather than just lashing myself into a frenzy (steady on lad, it's only an allotment, we'll have none of that here)

So here's the plan:

First, do some infrastructure.  Strim the paths and cut the hedge.  I can't abide untidy paths and hedge.  It's like working in a mess; I don't like working in a mess; you should see my potting bench.  Paths and hedge are no small task but it'll feel "better already" when they are done.

Second, work downhill doing a sub-plot at a time.  Do each one, do it properly and before you know it Robert will be my Father's Brother. 
  • Note to self - this is gonna generate vast amounts of compostable stuff; must get some more compost accelerator

Third, errm, that's it.

Well it's a plan.  I think I'm just going to have to treat it as a job (what?  can't do that; I've retired.  I didn't retire from one job to do another.  Needs must, though) 

Anyway, always conclude on a positive note.  Here are the vines.   


Still doing well.  Tickety-boo, in fact.

Thursday, July 05, 2012


All the received wisdom is that you shouldn't attempt to work the ground when it's wet.  Not hard to work out why; it compacts, sticks to your booits and you end up reet clarty.

But sometimes you just have no choice.  Time presses; stuff has to be planted.  Things that should have been done earlier have to be done now.  So it was yesterday that I was plodging through the clarts hitting fence posts with a sledgehammer.

Here are the posts, the first stage of the trellis for the vines (which are coming along nicely).

I also managed to get in a decent number of Climbing French beans (you'll remember that it took three sowings to get any at all but at least it looks as though I'll get some this year.  In truth, I prefer them to runner beans but A N Other has a different preference so I grow both!

And I seem to have acquired a mutation.  Well, not me personally; I've always had green skin and three ears (two in the normal places and a final front ear).  But have a look at this on the blackberry.  One major stem has gone all strap-like and little shoots are growing directly out of the strap.  Weird.  Anyone else ever seen one like this?

Friday, June 15, 2012

Fort Brassica - Mk 2

You'll perhaps remember Fort Brassica last year?  An attempt to keep (heavy self-censorship in operation here) pigeons off the brassicas.  Well, a bit of a curate's egg.  Good in parts.  It certainly kept the pigeons off and the basic design is sound.  Unfortunately I used bird netting on it which, while it kept pigeons out, allowed cabbage white butterflies through.  They did what they do and my cabbages were decimated anyway.  I think that's called "Good plan, didn't work".

So this year it's all a bit more refined, or refained (as we don't say up 'ere in 't North).  Same basic design but using butterfly netting.   

A-ha!!!  Let's see the little beggars get through that.

And the first batch of leeks have gone in; 
I always feel I'm making progress when leeks go in (it's my North-east roots kicking in).

And finally, here are the grapevines looking.....young.  
But they're definitely growing, and there's no shortage of water for them at the moment!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In a packed programme this morning I.....

  •  Cut the hedge
  • Strimmed (strum?) everywhere, for the 4th time this year
  • Erected the bean pole framework (note the terribly sophisticated cross-bracing, all held together by lashings of string - but no ginger beer)
  • Transplanted the runner beans
, and
  • Hammered in some posts to tie my raspberries to (Ouch!)

All in all, a pretty productive morning.  There's still lots to do of course but it felt as though it was going in the right direction.  I'll not burden you with the "Do Next" list except to say that it's still too long but shorter than the "Do When You Get A Round Tuit" list.  Curiously elusive, Round Tuits.

Monday, June 04, 2012

So what is it with Climbing French Beans?

Mine aren't climbing.  Worse, they aren't even getting out of bed.

Two sowings this year, a total of 128 beans sown.  Germinated?  1.  That's ONE.

This is very odd.  The Runner Beans were slow but have eventually delivered a good quantity of plants.  Normally, though, the Climbing French are faster, positively leaping out.  This year they've clearly seen a warning notice "Attention - ne pas germer" and taken it all too literally.  Ils sont tres en retard.  Je pense qu'ils ont besoin d'un coup de pied au cul.  N'est ce pas?  Or re-sowing again (for the third time; it's getting to the point where they'll be too late to deliver a crop).


Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Six hours

That's how long I was at the allotment today, and it sure feels like it.  I was beginning to feel a bit oppressed by the sheer volume of jobs, and it was certainly starting to look in need of attention.  So that's what it got today.  Some before and after pictures below but it amounts to:

  • Leeks (starting to flower) and Wallflowers (starting to stop flowering!), both out
  • Every section, apart from the garlic and onions, hoed and left to dry out in the sun
  • Strawberries weeded
  • Raspberries weeded (Lordy what a job; I had to do it on hands and knees between the rows because it was the only way I could see what I was doing!)
  • Bean patch dug over, ready for bean poles to go in

Strawberry bed looks tidy (you couldn't actually see the plants and it was full of #**#**# nettles)

Raspberries too

So what is the next pressing task?  How long have you got?

  • Onions and Garlic to be weeded
  • Bean poles to go in
  • Beans to follow them (they've finally germinated - both lots; you couldn't make this up!)
  • Carrots, Beetroot & Spring Onions to be sown (clear the bed again first!)
  • Leeks into nursery bed before 'proper' planting
  • And piles of other stuff I can't remember.
 And in case you were wondering about the 10 Grape vines planted in March.  Every one of them has 'taken'.  They burst their buds through the green wax coating some time ago and they're now starting to come into proper leaf.  I'm [reasonably] confidently expecting them to start growing more vigorously any time soon and they will of course need a framework of posts and wires to grow up to.  Ooh er; another job!  In the meantime here's one, looking very pleased with himself, and another 5 of his mates shrinking into the background a bit.  You wait; they'll have taken over in no time.

Can't remember how I managed to do this AND go to work.  Can't remember how I ever found time to go to work!

And finally, in a fine piece of forward thinking and planning, not only do I now feel in need of a pint but I have one sitting in the fridge waiting for me.  Attaboy!!

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Chard Report

I showed you a picture of the Rainbow Chard last time, looking eponymously colourful.  I can now report that we have eaten some of it, as an accompaniment (ie. in) Wilma Wilbury's famous fish stew.

Hmm.  I don't think either of them were improved by the experiment.  It looked very colourful, and I do like colourful food.  But..... as we say down here, there were nowt to it and it were 'ard as wood to chew.

Don't think I'll be growing that again, except perhaps (NO; just won't be growing it again)

And, aside, The Other Half, have now been and the path looks reasonably tidy again.  But it's still A Nissue (of disproportionate effort on my part and none on theirs) and I fear we aren't out of the woods yet.

Monday, May 14, 2012

There's tidy

Well, it is on my side at least, after a morning's strenuous strimming.   

Needless to say there's been no action from The Other Side.  Pah!  Don't think they've been there this last three weeks.  If it were down to them the communal path (that's communal, as in shared, both parties for the use of) would be waist high.

Wallflowers seem poor this year (probably drowned)

but on the plus side the Rainbow Chard is being, errm, colourful. 

We don't actually like it that much but I grew it just for the colour!

And what is it with beans?  This year, just like last year, I sowed my Climbing French and Runners a couple of weeks ago, possibly three weeks ago, to get 'em up and ready for planting out in full vigour in early June.  And where are they?  Nowhere to be seen, just like last year.  I'm going to have to re-do them, and then they'll be late.  Just like last year.  Are you seeing a theme yet?  Cos I am!!  Is anyone else having this problem?  Cos I'm getting a bit fed up with it.

Friday, May 04, 2012


But not in a good way.  I guess I shouldn't be surprised, given the amount of rain we've had (this Spring - so-called - is just Pants).  This is the entrance; it's a bit "Secret Garden" at present!!

and the path to the shed.

 What is the collective noun for Lovage?  A Rampart, as here.

Even the leeks are getting in on the act and bolting towards the sun, or where it was last sighted some days ago.
I fear it's gone beyond sorting out with the strimmer and needs heavier tackle.  Bring on the lawnmower; it's got a bigger engine!!