Allotment Times…

In this latest edition of The Allotment Times, we’ll see potato banking up, weeding, wood chip laying, plant protection strategies and Rocket Gardens appreciation…

Lots of banking up of the potatoes needed – they looked really abundant before but a little sparse after! Some success stories and some not so good stories. The potatoes all look very healthy, the leeks, onions, and shallots look good. The strawberries are doing well and the cabbages are just about hanging in there.

Most of the carrots got munched by the slimy creatures but we’ve now got another 20 in to compensate! I also covered a whole section of the plot with whatever I could find just to try and stop the tough little weeds growing while we were away for a week or so.

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Potato plan…!

Very exciting final potato plan for the allotment, with 6 varieties and 1st and 2nd earlies + mains. I also put the maris peer (2nds) in first and basically planted from left to right in the plan. I also left lots of space between the first three rows and less between the next four rows. We’ll see if this makes any difference in about 2 months time. : )

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Allotment + time = weeds…!

The latest allotment adventure consisted of only maintenance – the first time we’ve needed to do this since last year. Mostly (very long) grass cutting around the borders of the plot, weeding and a bit of clearing. well worth it though and it now almost resembles a proper plot!

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We did roughly 5 hours of work between Claire and I and there is still another section around the middle to dig over. The latest Rocket Garden delivery is within the next 7 days (!!) so more planning needed. This will include more carrots, courgettes, celery, lettuce, beans, peas, tomatoes, artichoke, mint,  and parsley.

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Allotment – potato fini…

The last of the ‘mains’ are in the ground and this time I actually marked them out! Two varieties of 10 each in the single row – Victoria & Remarka. Ground very very heavy. More soil stuck to the spade than I was actually shifting.

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Planting cabbages…

Bit of a random blog post but there is a lot of planting to do at the allotment and I need to make sure I don’t put the cabbages too close together. So, just checked out a couple of websites and apparently cabbages like an alkaline soil, so i’m going to add some potash to the soil first and dig this in.

Red Cabbage (rodeo) – from http://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/

The ash from our wood burner contains potassium carbonate (potash) and sodium carbonate (soda ash), both of which are very similar. We have already added the manure over the winter and it’s nearly ready.

I’m going to put them in 20-30 cms apart and i’ll see what happens…

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Rocket Gardens comes through…!

The new Rocket Garden shipment arrived and has been distributed in the garden and allotment.

It’s been raining everyday for weeks and we’ve just had the wettest April for 100 years, so getting these things planted has been a mission. Even so, I got to the allotment in the evening and was out there still at 8.30pm.

There was red, white and savoy cabbages, beetroot, carrots, spinach, leeks, peas for the allotment and herbs (sage, thyme, chives and rosemary), lettuce and rocket for the garden.

Next job is to attack the rapidly expanding weed population and finish digging over the plot, ready for the next batch.

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Allotment growing and digging…

I’ve had no sight of the allotment for the past two rainy weeks and was itching to get over there.

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Managed to get the final section of the potato and onion patch dug over and carried on with the area between the potato patch and the raised beds. A new path has also been set out to the right side which gives a bit of definition.

Lots of healthy potato leaves popping up and the onions are well established. Also doing well are the various weeds! Lots of rain and mild weather has kicked them into life, so a weeding session is needed me thinks.

T-minus 1 week till the next delivery of Rocket Garden seedlings! Need more growing space!

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Organic v Non-organic food…

We’ve had a inclination to buy organic food for years now and all the work we’re doing on the allotment is going towards our ‘good life’, but there have been times when the price of organic food compared with non-organic has meant we’ve gone back to the other side.

After all our experiences with organic food and our knowledge of nutrition, I still didn’t know what the actual nutritional difference was between the two types of foods – was it really worth paying more for? Is organic not just better for the environment but more nutritionally rich?

Well, an interesting table below…

http://permaculture.rickpickett.com/post/19305461941/conventional-vs-organic-mineral-and-nutrition-content

Another very useful article here.

There are various studies out there but this is a good way of getting the info across. From a personal point of view, i’m particularly interested in the iron content of foods. Iron maintains energy levels, prevents anaemia, is vital in enzyme reactions and is a major component of the blood. Just looking at the frankly massive differences in iron levels between the organic and non-organic vegetables is shocking. All these minerals are essential for the body and mind and it seems standard food just doesn’t provide what’s needed.*

*It’s weird that only in the last 50 years has ‘standard’ come to mean non-organic, while organic is the non-standard approach, even though since way before the last ice age, all our food would have been ‘organic’, i.e. no pesticides etc.

This just makes the whole issue a non-issue. The one and only factor limiting our complete conversion to organic (for fruit, vegetables and dairy) is the extra cost. For example, we can just go to our market or greengrocer and buy a large bag of non-organic apples for a Pound (£). Still good value and the boys love apples. But 6 of the same organic apples from the supermarket will cost maybe £2 (half the apples for double the price). Over the month or year, this can really add up – particularly as Jamie is addicted to them!

The same goes for cheese. A 240g medium organic cheddar would roughly £2.50, but the standard version would be roughly £1.90 (20% less). The thing is, if you feel the environmental, nutritional and taste benefits don’t outweigh the extra cost, that’s fair enough but we’re all about finding ways of getting everything we eat and grow into the organic section.

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Potato knowledge…!

Ok, in my quest for huge levels of amazing organic fruit and vegetables from the allotment, i’ve been doing some potato growing research. Various sources, including books, verbal and internet.

– Plant seed potatoes in rows 75cm apart for main crops and for 2nd earlies. 60 cms apart for 1st earlies.

– Place each potato 10-15 cms down into trench and up to 30cms apart within each row.

– Use a fertiliser directly around potatoes with lots of organic matter, including potash.

– Lightly cover potatoes then as each new shoot comes through. At a height of 15cms, cover with just 5 cms showing through. The bases of the plants must be covered to avoid scalding by sun which makes green areas on potatoes which taste bitter and contain a poisonous alkaloid.

– The new growth potatoes always develop above the height of the original seed potato.

– Cuts can be made and each seed potato can be divided up with each piece having a single bud. See images below for my latest plant experiment! : )

– If you want to store potatoes, leave them in ground for at least 2 weeks after plant has died back for the potatoes to develop thicker skins.

– Use straw or newspaper between layers of stored potatoes – keeping for 6-8 months.

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Allotment potatoes & onions in…

More potatoes are now in. The first 3 rows were filled with Maris Peer and the next 1.5 rows were Nadine, all second earlies. I’ve just finished the 5th row with 10 more maris peers, this time from Rocket Gardens.

I’ve somehow got to find space for another 10 x orla (1st), 10 x charlottes (2nds), 10 x charlotte (2nds) and remarka (main). Added to this, are the ready to plant Victoria (main) x 24! We’ll be over-run with them all but most will store well.

Claire has also put in an area of shallots which have been fenced off! Again, we’ll need some more of the plot dug before all our leeks and onions can go in but we have a 3 week window before the next delivery, so the pressure is on!

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Allotment planting plan…

Here’s my latest attempt to plan out the first phase of the allotment…

I’ve been motivated into this because my Mum has very generously bought us a Constant Garden, from Rocket Gardens, which means lots of deliveries of little plants every month or so. The list on the plan is just what is included in the second delivery! The first delivery has just arrived and is a selection of potatoes, but after that, it all really kicks off!

I may have to dig over the last section to get it all in but have nearly finished setting out raised beds and the main planting area is pretty much ready also – we’ll at least have a load of spuds to keep us going. : )

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