Friday, December 20, 2013

Grow something to eat every day?

I've been reading this:

I rather like the concept.  Wouldn't it be great to be able to eat something you'd grown yourself, every day?  I'm thinking about giving it a go next year. 

There is of course the problem of when to start.  I've only got Leeks in the allotment at the moment.  I like leeks but not every day!  Mind you, once you extend the concept to include preserved stuff the list gets a bit bigger.  But even then, there is a limit to how many Pickled Onions a chap can eat.  The home-grown wine wouldn't last but the Sloe gin might.  And there are certainly lots of Blackberries, Raspberries, Rhubarb & Beans in the freezer.  But, however you look at it, there's a bit of a hungry gap until Spring sowings/plantings come on stream.  Perhaps 1st April would be a good time to start, with lots of early salads?  1st May?  I'd definitely need to get the cold-frame refurbished.  It's huge - 6 metres wide and 1.25m deep.  Plenty of space there to supplement the greenhouse, and it's crying out to be brought properly back into use.  A winter project methinks.

As for the book itself, I've had it on loan from the local library and toyed with putting it on the Xmas list (£15).  I'm glad I didn't though because I've found an "As New" copy on Amazon for 1p + postage.  Result!!  It's in the mail.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Well, I could crush a grape

Oh, hang on, I just did.  Well, seven and a half kilos of them actually.  They're now in a plastic bin fermenting quietly away for a week or so, still with all the skins and pulp in there.  This is the "must" apparently.  Must get used to using the proper names!

It turns out there's been a run on wine yeast, with a lot of wine being made after a good summer.  I couldn't get Burgundy yeast so am having to use high-alcohol port yeast.  High-alcohol?  Oh dear, how sad, never mind.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Vendange

The grape harvest has started (and finished). 
  7.5 Kilos of red wine grapes picked this afternoon from my allotment, with able assistance from my two granddaughters (aged 2 & 4). At one point one of them asked "why do you grow so many grapes?", closely followed by "If I pick many more grapes I'll get chicken pox". Not sure of the logic there but I'm very well pleased with this harvest; this is only their 2nd year in the ground so the best is, hopefully, yet to come. 
Now I need to work out what to do with them. Wine obviously, but not entirely sure how I get from the bucket of grapes to the bottle of wine!! Solve that problem tomorrow.  Chateau Wilbury, here we come!!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Evidence of Activity

Well, I said yesterday the pesky phone wasn't co-operating.  It's clearly slept on that and thought better of it because here are some photos of how things stand on the plot.  I guess I must have been busy if it's not looking too bad.

Lettuces (I must have a sad life if I'm posting pictures of lettuces!!)

Blackberries - I'm getting this many just about every time I go to the plot.  Freezer is full, family are at saturation point.  What next?  Ah well, I have a recipe for Blackberry Whisky!  Fear not, it won't be single malt, more like Aldi's finest.

Part of the Courgette glut.

 The Cornflower hedge is doing well

 And don't forget the Grapevine!!  Look carefully at the next two shots and what do you see?  Bunches of grapes, innit?  Must net them to keep the birds off.

Somewhat tidied Raspberries
I have two varieties - Glen Thingummybob (summer fruiting) and Joan J (autumn fruiting).  Joan J consistently outperforms  Glen TGB, both in quantity, size and quality.  The whole raspberry patch  is also very overcrowded.  So the plan is to dig out all the Glen TGBs (two rows) & replace with one more row of Joan J.  That will give me three, less crowded, rows of Joan J which will give me a consistently better crop and make me a happy bunny.

I've also decided to dig out the Strawberry bed and replace with new plants (Marshmello) at home where I can keep a close eye on them.

And finally, here's a cheery chap. 
 What's not to like about Sunflowers?!!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

I have been remiss

No, not about allotmenting, just about writing blog posts.  After the pigeons-ate-my cabbages debacle, followed by the some-barsteward-nicked-my-strawberries catsarstostrophe, well, I sort of mislaid my mojo a bit.

But, in truth the plot isn't looking too bad at present and in some areas (blackberries, beans, courgettes, cornflowers) is positively fecund.  I'd show you pictures, the very pictures I took on my very phone this very morning, but the very blasted thing is refusing to co-operate and transfer them to the computer.  So I'll go back tomorrow and do the job properly with a decent camera.

Sithee, as we say in Yorkshire (318 days to the Grand Depart of the Tour de France in Yorkshire).  Can't wait to see the peloton hurtling round the Rhubarb Triangle.

Sunday, July 07, 2013


Pigeons; vermin or what? Pigeons; shoot on sight? Too right, on both counts. Just wish I could. 
If that offends anyone they clearly haven't got an allotment. I'm just back from holiday and find 50 assorted cabbages, broccoli, kale etc reduced to stalks (just ****ing stalks), completely beyond recovery, after the protective no longer in place. How come the protective netting is no longer in place? Inquiries are continuing. Three months work wasted. Flying rats. Not a happy bunny here, in case you hadn't guessed.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Busy, Busy

We go on hols tomorrow; as ever, so much to do, so little time to do it in.  But it's all been done, just in time (actually, if I'm sitting here typing this with a whole evening ahead of me there's plenty of time).

The plot is actually looking quite good, courtesy of a mammoth strimming session yesterday.  You ever tried strimming a mammoth?  No, I thought not; take it from me, they're big chaps.

So, how do things stand:

  • Runner Beans - in
  • Climbing French & Dwarf French beans - in
  • Mangetout peas - in & a successional sowing coming through behind
  • Cornflowers - in
  • Lovage - rampant
  • Rhubarb - prolific
  • Plum - has flowered
  • Sloe - has flowered
  • Asparagus - very poor, 2nd year running;  think it may be heading for an appointment with the Big Mattock
  • Shallots - doing well
  • Garlic - ditto
  • Leeks - just so over, & bolting (a common problem at our age)
  • new Leeks - poised in a nursery bed
  • Gladioli - in but not up (only went in this afternoon so not entirely surprising!)
  • Grapes - buds have burst; all 10 survived the winter and look healthy
  • Broccoli, Cabbage, Cavolo Nero kale & Fildenkraut shredding cabbage - all in & Fort Brassica reassembled
  • Strawberries - rampant & heading for a glut
  • Cherries - tree shrouded in netting to keep Sammy Squirrel off
  • Blackcurrant - flowering
  • Blackberry - flowering
  • Raspberries - lush
  • Courgetti & Trompetti - in and not dead
  • Salads - thriving
  • Onions-grown-from-seed - half transplanted, other half in the nursery bed
  • Coriander - in, looking OK
  • Sorrel - just way OTT & had a haircut
  • Sunflowers - through & here's hoping
  • and finally, Weeds - yep, there are some but not too many.
 So after that fabulous list here are some pics after today's pre-hols (drink it while you can, chaps, cos there ain't no more for a week) watering session:

The Nursery Bed

The Bean, Pea & Cornflower corner, tastefully bordered left by Lovage Rampant

A potential glut of Strawberries (Problem?  No, I thought not )

Lush Raspberries

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Six butts good..... butt, errm, not so good.  In fact, leaking.

Some time ago I had a leaking metal water butt so fixed it with what seemed like the crude expedient of putting a couple of shovels of concrete in the bottom.  Hey, it worked!

So when two more butts sprang leaks it seemed like the time to repeat the trick, but with mixed results this time.  The metal butt has been completely repaired but the plastic one, which in truth is a discarded Sheffield Council wheelie bin, still leaks.  I think the problem is that as the water fills the bin the plastic distorts and lets water out round the edge of the concrete plug.  I may have to put a liner in it.

But for the moment I have six lovely, FULL, water butts and one empty one, and of the seven I only bought one in a shop.  Now that's allotmenting!

But for the 3rd year running it's been me who has had to excavate the winter's silt from around the tap and hose connection so it is usable.  The tap & hose connection are in a box set slightly below ground so it fills with silt in winter and has to be dug out.  It's a grubby, dirty, uncomfortable job and some of the other plotholders on this site need to step up to their responsibilities a bit, methinks.

On plant-related matters, lest you think all I ever do is repair water butts & dig out silted up taps, the cherry is starting to flower, plum ditto, blackthorn has finished, lovage is rampant, asparagus is just starting to show and the grapes are on the point of bud-burst.  Needless to say the weeds are "active" too!!
And finally, down on the bindweed farm, look what I dug out of this bed. 

Horrible stuff.  I'm not convinced I got it all so may need to go back and do it again, conscious that even then I probably won't get it all!  The stuff at the end of the bed is sorrel, and it seems indestructible - probably because it bears more than a passing resemblance to dock.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

It may not look very exciting but.....

...there are 68 strawberry plants in there.

 And I still had 30 surplus to give to family.  They are all Marshmello and originated from 12 plants, about 4 years ago.  The strawberry patch was in a terrible state, infested with couch and nettles, and had gone well beyond mere weeding.  It needed digging up and replanting, so that's what it has had over the last two or three days (yep, it took that long!).

But, lest you think I slave away bereft of creature comforts, I thought I should show you
the refreshment station

and the necessary unguents for clean hands.

I do get a decent cuppa, and clean hands, out of this but the hands still feel akin to a badger's fundament.

And finally, new camera, new pics - I'm quite pleased with this one, demonstrating that the plum is beginning to stir into life.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Busy afternoon...... the great seed sowing emporium which is our garage.  So, today I've sown:

  • Tomatoes (x3) - ordinary, cherry-type & plum
  • Baby Leeks (non-specific, labelled as "East European"!)
  • Onions (x2)- Bedford Champion & Red Baron (aka Manfred von Richthofen, ace German fighter pilot of WW1.  Why was he growing onions?)
  • Cabbage - ordinary (Primo) & German shredding cabbage (Filderkraut)
  • Broccoli
  • Ordinary Leeks (Musselburgh)
  • Rocket
  • Pak Choi
  • Basil
  • Sybil
  • Manuel
  • [just checking to make sure you're awake]
  • Parsley
  • Mizuna
  • Cavolo Nero Black Italian Kale
  • Five varieties of Lettuce
  • Night-scented Stoics
  • Bidens (yellow, flowery, dangly things for hanging baskets)
  • California Poppies (a David Douglas introduction)
  • Poached Egg Plant - Limnanthes douglasii (another DD introduction)

And I didn't get to the Sweet Peas because I'd lost them.  But the best bit is that the neighbours are away so I can plug the iPod into the speaker system in the garage and crank the volume up.  Cue much hilarity when 'Er Indoors comes in quietly and observes Dad Dancing going on.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

At last!

A new roof on the shed!!

It's only been a year (or more) since it started falling in.  But no more; the new roof is on today.

Looking back, I can see that the old roof was a poor thing.  I followed conventional (aka cheap) practice of using chipboard covered by shed felt.  Chipboard, when wet, has all the strength of cold porridge and it's heavy too.  Shed felt is horrible stuff to work with and when it inevitably fails it lets water into the chipboard which....well, don't stand underneath it is my advice.

So, judicious application of a wrecking bar removed it in much less time than it took to install it.  Two new "joists".  Then a combination of an underlayer of builders damp-proof membrane on the top and bottom thirds of the roof and the whole overlaid with clear corrugated PVC sheets which, handily, come in just the right size!  So the roof is waterproof and the shed has lots of light because the middle third of the roof is transparent.  Neat, or what?

And finally, in a burst of mad enthusiasm, I painted it too.  No, not the roof!  Just the walls, and it looks a damn sight better for it.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Hot, Hot, Hot?

Nope, not outside, still snowy.  But inside the greenhouse......nope, not hot there either

But I have just built a hot bed, essentially a giant heated propagator, to help germinate seeds.  20 feet of cable at 75 watts = warm, not hot, but that's OK.  Gentle warmth is what seeds need.  So here it is at the almost-final stage.  About an inch of grit-sand has now gone on top of the cable and it's quietly warming up.  In case you're wondering, there's a thick layer of coarse gravel and coarse grit underneath to ensure that the warmth doesn't simply vanish downwards.

And here's the power supply for it.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Know your history

There’s an excellent article by Lia Leendertz in the latest edition of the RHS magazine The Garden, on allotment history.  In the face of local authorities, notably Watford, wanting to build on allotment sites (and presenting allotment holders as selfish and defending a ‘luxury’ position), she reminds us of the origins of allotments.

Essentially they were a revolution-preventing sop to the landless poor following the great land grab, by the already-landed classes, which was the Enclosure.  Lia reminds us that “between 1600 & 1850 the rich and powerful fenced off and claimed as their own millions of acres of common land, previously considered a common man’s birthright…..They are our last fingerhold on the vast tracts of land we [all of us] could once call upon, carved off millions of acres at a time.  No-one should ever be regarded as selfish for defending that.”

Absolutely right, and well said.  Worth remembering as allotment rents are about to rise by 100% in Sheffield.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

I'm a lumberjack and.....

.....I'm OK

I pay my subs,
I cut down trees,
I go....

[OK, that's quite enough of that, we get the picture]

But I have done both of those today.  Paid my subs to the local Allotment Society (£3), and cut down a hawthorn which has been lurking, and a damn nuisance, at the bottom of the plot since I took it on.  It's gorn now though, the last of the self-sown trees to be cut down.

I'm beginning to wonder whether my neighbours at the plot have gorn too.  Haven't seen either side for weeks now, in fact not sure I've seen them this year.  Perhaps the proposed massive rent increases for allotments have caused them to have a rethink?

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The 2013 campaign.....

....has now begun!

First seeds in, sown in the command centre which is our garage & potting bench. 
A couple of varieties of Tomato (Gardener's Delight and Pomona - an F1 hybrid from Seeds of Italy).  They are in a heated propagator in the greenhouse because......I've now got electricity in there, courtesy of a long and "outdoor-ised" camping power lead from when we used to go trailer tenting.  I've got some soil warming cable too to make a hot bed for germinating even more seeds.  I've also sown some Onion seeds (Bedfordshire Champion and Red Baron).  I've never done this before but the results with sets have been decidedly mixed so I thought I'd give seeds a go.

And on the allotment itself, digging has started.  
Old Foxy strolled across at one point but didn't wait to have his photo taken, or help with the digging either.  Though I must say he looked very fit and healthy, absolutely in the peak of condition.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Suitably replenished with string.....

.....I've finished tieing in the blackberries.  Job done!

Not deterred by rain and hail, the coppicing is also finished.  Yay!  Job done, even if the photos are out of focus because my hands were cold.

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Only minor lacerations.....

....and the job is nearly done, the job being that of tieing in the very thorny Himalayan Giant blackberries.  And it's only "nearly done" instead of completely done because I ran out of string.  The gardener's faithful friend, string!  But the blackberry hedge is now not so much wall-of-sound as wall-of-blackberries.  It's fully 15 feet long and about 5 feet high (this is only about two-thirds of it).

Anyway, let down by absence of string,  I moved on and pruned the autumn-fruiting raspberries (Joan J) and in the process gained a stonking pile of pea sticks from the prunings. 

Frugal or what?  The raspers will look better once they've been weeded so you can wait for a picture of those!

Then there's a load of work to do around the summer-fruiting raspers (Glen Summat-or-other).  They didn't deliver many rasps last year but had their best-ever season in terms of actual growth, which means (hopefully) a good crop this year.  But they too need a better support system, done early and with wire into which they can be tied.  That'll make a radical change; they're normally done [too] late and with yet more string because they've degenerated into a floppy mess because they weren't done early enough.  This year I'm determined to get on top of them early enough!

And finally, I've started to coppice the hazel again.  I last did this about five years ago and although I got some decent poles off it they were a bit too gnarly & lumpy to be much use, so they've sat around in various spots being not much use at all.  Think I'll probably end up burning them.  But the ones I've been working on today are altogether different.  This is coppicing as it should be done - the poles are long and straight, ideal for bean poles and/or sweet peas.  Here's a before,


in progress, 
 and 'poles' view of the hazel clump.  Neat!

I think that in terms of job description I've been an underwoodsman today.  Suits me.  I quite fancy being a charcoal burner but it'd be a bit hard to get away with that on an allotment!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

What a difference a day makes

Yesterday....snow stopped play.

Today.....snow all gone.  I was able to work on the allotment (cold but not in the least bit snowy), building a blackberry hedge, until it was almost too dark to see the knots I was tieing.  Absorbed in my work I looked up and found all the street lights were on.  Ah, time to go home.

And I've only done half the job.   I started with the Oregon Thornless, cos they are easier.  Gotta summon up the courage to start on the thorny one next!

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Snow stopped play

Well, it's as good an excuse as any other!  But, famously, snow really did stop play at a cricket match in Buxton on 2nd June 1975.  We were living in Aberystwyth at the time and it snowed there too.  As I recall it the next day was quite hot.  Both unusual for Aberystwyth!!

So...... nothing has happened on the allotment.  BUT.....this year's seeds are ordered, this very afternoon.  All the usual suspects, except that having not had much luck with onion sets for the umpty-umpth time I thought I'd try growing onions from seed this year.  We'll see!

Sunday, January 06, 2013

I only went to pick some Leeks

But you know how it is.  Having taken the trouble to go there I didn't feel that picking Leeks was quite enough.  So I started to prune the Blackberries.......and when you've started, well you can't just stop.

Pruning the Blackberries is always a nightmare.  I have two plants of Himalayan Giant, which produce HUGE berries but also HUGE thorns.  They lash about and lacerate my hands and, if I'm unlucky, my face.  This may sound a bit overkill but I prune them wearing safety glasses!  Then I have two plants of Oregon Thornless which, do what they say on the tin vis a vis thorns; their berries are good but more seedy.  Tough choices, huh?

Both of them are very vigorous but this year they seem to have been on something (Manure! Doh!).  That combined with the warm, wet weather has seen phenomenal amounts of growth.  I was reeling the buggers in from the adjacent raspberry patch.  Some of the new growth was a good twenty feet long, and not spindly, feeble stuff either.  Good solid sturdy growth.   Must have had my eye off the ball for a long time for them to grow that much, although they do go pretty fast once they start.

All that has led me to conclude that the existing support framework (post and wire) just won't do.  It's starting to show it's age and it's debatable whether it was holding up the Blackberries or vice versa.  And with 20+ feet of growth to deal with it just ain't big enough.  So this week it's off to the timber yard to get the tallest posts I can find to start building the framework for a Blackberry Wall.

Lord knows what Wilma Wilbury will think when I broach the subject of yet more Blackberries this year; we haven't quite finished the ones from the year before last.  Now we don't eat puddings (sob!) I fear they may have to go into a new batch of Blackberry Vodka (yum!)