School Out part one

Sparse mini green house

Sparse green house

The mini green house is awfully sparse. A recent acquisition, it currently contains lettuce, cabbage, all year round caulis and the mystery chilli plant. It is perhaps not situated in the best position, but it’s not doing too bad. Will have to plant out lettuce and cabbage as soon as possible.

Chillies undercover


These are being kept undercover as we keep getting lots of rain. I am yet to nail the art of growing chillies. There are leaves and flowers underneath, and may be a few baby chillies.

Have for next year gathered:

Early jalepeno, pretty in purple

Really want Nigel’s outdoor chilli

Bruno Babies


There are two babies, and I have spotted a third today. The boy flowers have yet to flower so I am bit confused really as to what will happen. Chances are that like the ones off Gladys the butternut squash, these two poor mites will turn a funny colour and wither away. Sadly, the boys on gladys haven’t flowered either as of yet. The plant itself is huge, and dwarfs whatever is sat next to it. I have high hopes for this pumpkin, but that may all be wishful thinking.

Radish experiment


On the left are the wilkos value for money ones. Enjoyed, as you can see, by the local slug population. The Freebies are on the right, and I suspect it won’t be long before these are chomped upon as well.

Stopping slugs hypothesis


Beer traps! The tape didn’t seem to do any good where it was attached. So will be using this as a possible method. I never seem to see the blighters, so have no idea when they actually do roll up for dinner.

Mystery chilli plant “Take this chilli plant. Put it in your greenhouse. See what happens.”

Mystery chille.jpg

Acquired from a community garden centre. This is a mystery. I have no idea what type it is, or in turn what to do with it. Have to treat it as generic chilli. Was a bit pot bound, so I have put it into a slightly bigger pot. It remains for the moment in the greenhouse, and will probably need re homing. Looking at it, it is very different from the others. All very speculative as how it will turn out.

Aubergine analogue study for next year Diamond, dancer, De barbentane. Just expecting seeds to come through.

Independent Variable: Type of Aubergine

Dependent variable: Quality/number of crop.

The first three months, and so it was Christmas

Getting the plot

Getting a plot on an allotment is a both exciting and nerve wracking experience. There is so much more than can be actualised, in comparison to using Pop’s backgarden with plastic pots. With Early September,came 88 metres squared of allotment at the local site. The very last site, the patch of which I have half was covered in weeds. Thankfully, in some respects, the weeds had been treated. So all that remained to be done was clearing and digging it over. This was something of a mean feat. With the help of Ma and Grandad Mike, the site was cleared. There was so much to do, it felt altogether intimidating really. Clearance did take time, a couple of hours here and there over the course of fortnight. The evidence of the sheer effort was the presence of strains in places one didn’t think strain could occur.

plot and ‘wendy house’

Whilst pots and containers at home may in some cases be ignored and left to their own devices. This is not going to be the case for the hobbitland plot. Such a commitment, requires careful observation. If crops are going to be the goal, you need put in the effort. One of the valuable lessons learned this year was about fertilising the soil. Making sure it was in a fit state. Whilst up til now, I have played with nothing better than Multipurpose compost, the clay soil of the lotment presented a previously unexperienced challenge. This dirt was horrible, the sort to pick fights with you and stick around. Cue farmyard manure and chicken pellets. Being spread during a dry spell in efforts to make the clay more manageable. There was even some clay breaker in some places. I made the executive decision to not cover the soil over the winter. It remains uncovered so far, in that there is no plastic shrouding it. This was in the hop that the cold frosts would help break the clods down. To some extend that has worked. However, the other day, digging up the compacted down legume bed, it didn’t particularly feel that way.

Getting the family down there

There will always be naysayers. However, it is nice, and a challenge to try and communicate how an allotment works. The Siblings have only been down there the once. My mistake was take them down there when chicken manure had been applied. Needless to say, that out them off ever so slightly. They might not want to play there, but they will appreciate the produce. Other relatives have also been down to have a look. There are requests, I am yet to figure out of these are made jokingly; to sample the produce. To also grow certain things. One idea is to grow Christmas dinner, with a cousin saying they’d put an order in!

Valuable lessons learned

Chillies: Yess, you can grow them outside. Put a polythene gardening bag over them. But you do need to bring them into the warm to colour up. And yes, if you bite that Red Cayenne in a fit of bravado, it is going to hurt. Not so much for the Pops, who will much quite happily on one and so what about the beads of sweat. This year, there are ten varieties currently sat on the window sill. Not of all these are going to work, but it’s nice to find out which ones.



Are a folly. An expensive one. To be fair, we did get a few. Not enough to justify the cost though of buying the kit. These are strange creatures. Whilst sticking to the instructions, the way they work is a brain ache. Didn’t get consistent shaped mushrooms. As nice as they were, not sure I’d do it again. The compost remains, after about three separate crops. Perhaps there will be more in the spring. Not too sure about these.

Gladys, Kevin and Bruno:

Three characters of the growing season, which provided so much knowledge and insight. All of which, I will attempt to grow again. With Kevin mark two, there is a whole analogue study planned where there will three or four types sown. We shall endeavour to see in time what happens. Aubergines also require heat, so will benefit from being under cover.

Wendy House:

Whilst I’m not too confident to get a proper one. A plastic walk in greenhouse took up residence on the plot. Not so much use

wendy alone

Wormery and Compost:

The idea of having a wormery was a novel one. Another science experiment. The problem over the last few months, has been to keep them warm. The wormery has been covered in many layers of fabric. The wormery was stuffed full of paper, with some food and the darlings left to it. My one concern was that it wasn’t damp enough. So they were sprinkled with some water. The beings looked rather limp and dozy, which didn’t make me feel so good. Not sure whether they really were asleep or in league with the Ex-parrot of Monty Python fame. Will check on them as the spring arrives. I really don’t want ex-woms….


The compost bins. The imposing would be daleks. I need to hit on a fool proof way of playing with them. Currently one is less than half full. The other empty. Whilst our veg waste and tea bags go in. There never seems to be enough in there. Will be pressing on that in time.

Seedsaving and Heritage Varieties

The seed stashers are heaving. Due to the generous nature of other GYO-ers I have learned a valuable lesson. This year, the pumpkin produced hundreds of seeds. Some which have been given away and swapped. In return, some kind hearted souls have donated seeds in return. Seeds that have been saved by growers themselves. This is truly amazing idea. What is also nicer, it seeing if the pumpkin’s babies make it.

This idea of heritage varieties. I will be honest, I had no idea what it was. Varieties that are out of favour perhaps, no longer grown or are subject to the EU rules. Fruit and veg that no one grows these days. There are few in the box, and in joining the heritage seed library, I quite like the idea of saving seed for the future.

The plan for 2012:

To put it simply, is to use the lotment properly. Whilst the beds are divided up, and the wendy house is in position. What remains is to start sowing, to get crops going and fill the 88 metres squared with lovely GYO produce. It will by no means be easy. Nothing worth doing ever is. There is a lot that I would like to, as my bulging seed stasher testifies. And there’s not just one, there are two stashers. One has got somewhat carried away the seed selections! There is a plan. There was always a plan. Sketched out in the log book, it was there as the anticipation of having an allotment started to build. There have been a couple of changes, in the one bed is rock hard and would do well for brassicas. This has been swapped with what will now be the root veg bed. It does pay to consider the soil. As mentioned previously, the seed stashers are heaving. There are lots of seeds. There is no way, that I could sow everything. That of course won’t stop me from trying. Whilst all the beds are divided up and spoken for, I am keen to try different things. If they work, they work. If not, I will simply try something else. There are lots of different ideas that I want to try, one just hopes that I have the energy, time and inclination to try them.

Surviving the Siberian beast from the east

Well, it is nearly half term, and I’ve not really had much opportunity to go play. There have been a couple of hours here and there, when I have been along and shuffled around. Last weekend, I did go and dig over what will be the pumpkin patch after having gone to the Ryton ‘tato day. I naively ignored the advice to stretch before I started to dig, and boy did I feel it later. This had been on my mind for some time, and I still have to add the FYM that is sat next to the water butt. Job for Half term that. There is long list of things I want to do. I have also cannibalised the struts from the wendy house that fell down last year, and they will be forming the basis of the supports for the legumes in addition to bamboo canes. I plan to string pea net across them. The plan was to sow legumes this week, alas the cold snap has persuaded me otherwise. Will wait for a bit. As it stands-and it does, for the moment-the wendy house is still there. I did worry this morning, that post snow, it may have fallen over. Looked a lot warmer than the rest of the plot. Was all right, didn’t need to sweep snow off the top That would have been interesting, on tip toes in pink wellies. I assure you, grandad Mike was supervising. The broadbeans-claudia aquadulce, are now has beans. I forgot to cloche and cover them as I was having a fight with a tooth ache(grinding your teeth in your sleep does that to you, apparently). Ventured over on Friday after school, to find them keeled over as ex-beans. Beans that have ceased to exist. The pics are of the plot this morning and of yesterday. The over wintering onion and garlic patch was altogether depressing, looked like everything had keeled over. I was not in the least bit buoyed when I bumped into the ‘lotment secretary busy chopping down dead branches; who told me that that nothing over wintered on the site as it was so cold. “oh, right, thanks” said I, wandering off to my plot with fleece under my arm, muttering under my breath. I dare not to even open up the wiggly woo’s. Just made sure on Friday, that they were covered up. Haven’t opened up since before Christmas when they were stuffed with paper, fed and covered up. If I have ex-worms as well, I will not be a happy hobbit. Chillies have been sown inside, with a fair few causalities. Early Jalapeños, don’t quite like it this early. Killed a few early tomato sowings, but second ones are coming along. The aubergine analogue study has also started. Once the heated propagator is empty, they will be moved there. Currently on a warm window sill. I like my bog basic heated ‘lectric propogator. Makes me feel that bit more confident! Am itching to sow curcurbits but will most definitely wait til March. March will also be the time for carrots and parsnips. For the carrots at least, the generous advice garnered means digging in some sand. March will also see Maris Pipers and King Ed’s spuds going into the ground. I don’t fancy digging a huge trench, so I’m taking advice about bulb planters. Just need one industrial strength to do the job. There’s lot more to be done. I’m just not there yet 🙂

With April, come the showers

With April, come the showers.

With the country in the throes of a drought, you’d think that April showers were something of a God send. Finally, the arid earth of the hobbitland allotment would be quenched. The easter weekend passed with the lotment being left to it’s own devices; I was elsewhere, but it was most definitely at the fore of mind. The plan had been to use Easter Monday to sink potatos. Alas, the April showers suggested other things ought to be done.

It was grim this morning, when the curtains were twitched. The heavens had opened, there was a lot of precipitation. We were being rained upon, from a great height. The precipitation had put paid to the potatos. Sat with their chits a-twitching are the Maris Pipers from the tattieman. Along side them, six or so King Edwards. I have resisted, in buying more. Especially as there are space constraints, and I have never grown potatos before. I have been meaning to also look into Christmas potatoes. That will have to be a summer job.

In the last few weeks, a number of valuable lessons have been learned.

The cold kills, for one.

Even more brutally, when things are sown early.

One would have thought that the four tier blowaway was a fairly safe place. However, since it is unheated, that doesn’t necessarily mean a thing. Today, there was a close inspection of the beans and peas that were sown at the start of March. With the exception f the Cascadia sugarsnap, a few of the borlotto fire tongue bean, there were a few that were decimated. White lady, and the suttons prizewinner, had all but keeled over. Gone black in places. I have actually made a second sowing of runners, as there is now a frame built to accommodate them. Built today, in the spitting rain. Slightly wonky, but serviceable.

I hasten to add, that the legumes are all very experimental. I have yet to get my head around sowing them properly. There have already been lotment transplantings of shiraz mange tout and also Bijou mangetout. The aquadulce broadies have recently started to flower, since we have had a lot of mild weather. I will be double checking these, they are very small!

Standing sentry on the plot is the garlic and onion crop. Mulched at the base, I do hope that will help with watering. I was getting rather annoyed in having to water so frequently with the unseasonably warm weather. Now, there is a wonderful alpine and allieum smell from that bed. A bed that may see a few decapitated shallots and onions, as weeding before the mulch was a monstrous job.

Before Christmas, I had sown a great number of blooms. Hyacinths, tulips, anemones. The anemones, are as good as gone. I’ve not seen a single one push through and bloom. I assume they have all rotted down in the clay. What has come through, are the hyacinths and tulips. Lots of pretty pinks and purples. A nice splash of spring colour. The plan is to now add some summer colour too. Marigolds have been sown, as well as poppies and are sat in the 4TB as babies. These will be then transplanted when the time comes. In adition, there are some summer flowering bulbs that will be put in once the late may frosts have gone. By which time the squashes and things should be ready.

The squashes and things, that whilst sown; the first batch of babies keeled over when being moved from the heated propagator to the wendy house. This was despite being covered in fleece. Second resowings have been made, and more care will be taken of these. The aubergines, for the moment, seem to be okay. However, with the growing season still in it’s infancy, everything is still woefully precarious.

I don’t want to see another baby onion. There are easily a couple of hundred, dotted around the plot. And shallots. There is a fair few there. From observation, I can see that the over wintering one’s are okay. In fact, most of the overwintering garlic, shallots and onions has got foliage. Only a few of the recent sowings of onion and shallots have. The recently planted garlic, is probably a write off. Nothing is happening there at all.

Chillies, are biding their time as per usual. Less than half the class of thirty has germinated, but this the umpteenth sowing due to cold killing them. I think we are on twelve babies, with two sweet peppers only just starting to germinate. I have had more success with these in the unheated propagator compared to the heated one.

Sprouts have been sown in the wendy house, some purple sprouting autumnal broccoli. As well as lettuce. Some bubbles and Claremont. The cabbages will need potting on, some are quite big. Not quite to the six leave stage yet, though.

Parsnips are sown, but nothing appears to have germinated. Thought it is hard to distinguish between a weed and a parsnip baby. Carrots are germinating beneath a fleece. A fleece that needs to become a cloch type thing soon. There are baby turnips also. The cabbage bed has been dug over, I just need to stamp on it now before i transplant. Though I will also need to sink slug traps. Tomatos are splint into two groups. Those that are growing, look lovely, are very much tomato plants. And those that are taking their time, and will be tomato plants but haven’t got thereyet.

Stay tuned, and thank you in anticipation


Autumn and allotment Sept 2011

With autumn, comes an allotment

The Gods of Horticulture in tandem with Saint Fiacre, have come good. One has a patch of hobbitland to call one’s own. About a week ago, I got that call from the allotment secretary. The half plot was mine, if I still wanted it.

At the end of week one

And I did!

The whole plot, only half is mine.

Eight by eleven metres, the half plot was over run. Not nearly as bad however, as the other plots that I had a choice from. There were two others, where the weeds were twice my height. Perhaps not then, the best to tackle. My plot, is the last but one. And at half the expected price due to just how neglected it was. I was fortunate, in that the ‘llotment secretary was one of the previous owners, and had also sprayed weedkiller that created a carpet of dead grass. Beneath it, the soil is clay. In the first half an hour that I was there, there were a few folks who did that sharp inhalation of breath usually associated with car mechanics. What ensued, was me digging up my log book and Ma saying she wanted the whole the thing. Not on my nelly. The spat lasted the whole weekend, and was not particularly amusing. But I had the key, the ‘lottment rules and time.

The start of week 2

Only today, have I found out the aspect. There are many who would feel that is useful. Standing at the front corner. I was standing 158 degree south. North was on my left shoulder, South diagonally opposite. To the more hard core, that makes perfect sense.

There is a plan. I have had it for what it feels an age.

The plan!

It is not set in stone, very few ever are. So this may well change. What I will have to do, is make sure that the soil is made lighter. There are plans afoot to form a leaf mold and also to have a compost bin. I did toy with the idea of a wormery, but then I took a look at the cost. That and I spent most of today apologising to every wiggly woo that chanced upon whilst digging. They are after al the good guys, to whom it pays to be nice.

At the moment, I am trying to pace myself. Being only too aware, that whilst this requires hard work, in the long run there will be dividends. It will be all to easy to pelt at the plot, when like all good things it is nice to have a process. I was very encouraged to see that there were butternuts on the plots. Poor Gladys was our summer drama queen. Seeing the cropped product made me feel that much better. That butternuts can be grown, and in hobbit land. There are also pumpkins, a lot like Bruno the ghost rider. I must have been doing something right at home.

Allotments in themselves, are a community. Seeing different people come and go, is really quite nice. And here I am, starting out.

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