Dig for victory (or maybe partial success)…!

I think the last time I spent two consecutive days at the plot was the middle of last year. Well, that has just been put right, with two sessions, of maybe two hours each. My eldest son Jamie also actually volunteered to come with me on the first day and my youngest, Jac, volunteered on the second day : )

So, the mission over the two days was digging and potato planting, so if nothing else, we’ll have a load of spuds to eat over the coming autumn and winter. This year we’re focussing our less than considerable efforts (less is more and all that), into only two varieties: Red Scarlett (1st earlies) and Victoria (main). Roughly 50 of the reds and 100 of the Victoria will be going in.

First day was finishing digging over the previously undug middle section, which took about 1.5 hours with the awesome Canterbury fork. 45 Red Scarlett went in (5 rows with 9 in each) – 18 cms apart.

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Second day was digging over last years onion area and 42 Victoria were put in (6 rows with 7 in each) – 20 cms apart. The soil is looking pretty good there and getting a finer texture.

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42 Victoria about to go in

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If I assume 6 spuds per plant, this would result in 522! There are still another 45 Victoria to put in, bringing the total to roughly 800 : ) That should be plenty. Once that’s done, it’s easy to handle, with only a bit of banking up needed. Then it’s onto the peas, tomatoes, squash, corn, onions and shallots, carrots and parsnips. Roughly 10 varieties only, rather than the crazy 60+ we had last year from Rocket Gardens.

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Canterbury Fork, carpet and potatoes…

A very satisfying trip to the plot, on my birthday! A very cold day but fairly clear.

The good thing about the very cold and unseasonal weather has been the suppression of the grass and weeds so it has looked virtually the same for the last 4 months, including the state of the undug ground!

So, I managed to move the plot on a bit and have now dug over another part of the central area, between the raised beds and last years potato patch. This will be this years potato patch, leaving last years potato area for peas and beans. The area had been covered by a tarpaulin over the winter which possibly helped keep the weeds down, but there was still a lot of tough grass and accompanying roots to remove.

It was also a good chance to test out the new Canterbury Fork. Overall it was a bit easier using this, compared to the traditional fork, but I wouldn’t say there was a lot in it. The downside was getting the soil and clay off the fork, which was slightly more tricky than a normal fork. I even managed to bend my spade! I may have to use the solid metal one i’ve got at home next time : )

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Go potatoes, go…!

Ok, it’s the most exciting time of the year – all the expectation and hope for the coming growing season, without any of the disasters, pest attacks or unknown disappearances in the night! : )

The growing (pun intended) sense of new life about to emerge.

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So, the sight of chitting potatoes on the window sill is something to cherish. I opened the bag up and the majority of the Red Scarlett’s had already well advanced on their own, so minimal chitting needed. Can’t wait to get planting – just need to select and dig over their new home (a bit behind!).

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The Chillington heavy duty Canterbury Fork.

Given the lack of opportunities to get to the plot, I have enlisted the help of a serious tool, which will hopefully make digging the plot over a breeze (and does according to one of my fellow plot holders).

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Allotment mission starts here…

Ok, for me the start of the allotment season is buying the seed potatoes. This may be because we haven’t yet managed to gather the required where with all to actually sustain a growing campaign through the winter months, therefore the ‘start’ of the season is really the start of Spring. : )

So, Spring is nearly here and now is the time for getting the seedlings going, putting the finishing touches to soil preparation and buying and starting to chit potatoes.

We have made our pilgrimage to Dundry Nurseries for the seed potatoes – this year instead of the 6/7 varieties, we’re going for just two: for new potatoes / first earlies it’s Red Scarlett and for the Main Crop it’s Victoria. Both were selected from the Dundry website for the highest level of disease and pest resistance. The website is great for general info and a good tool for helping to choose varieties.

So, onion setts, potatoes etc will soon be put to work but in the meantime, there were jobs to be done at Plot 18B. I dug over 6 of the raised beds, spread out 5 tubs of home-produced compost onto last years potato area (peas and beans this year) and cleared a whole load of rubbish from the shed, which had been left from the previous plot holder.

I was there maybe two hours, during which time is started snowing (!!) and I was visited by my mate the ever-hungry worm eater. we’re trying out a weed-suppressant method which involves spreading newspaper over most of the soil and covering with more soil. we’ll have to wait and see if this works but could save some weeding. The great thing about digging is the heat it produces – just what I needed on a very cold day (see ice in water trough!). The rainbow chard and spinach had survived the winter with only minimal die back.

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Green fingers on one hand…?

Some signs of success against all the odds! We weren’t too confident of getting a huge range of products from the plot but so far, during our first full season, it’s looking like some definite progress, with the first few things being harvested.

The obvious main crop are the potatoes, and the first test plant has been dug up, producing 0.7 KG of Maris Peers. We’ve planted around 100 seed potatoes and a total of 6 varieties.

The leeks and onions are also doing well and so far some amazing growth of chard and spinach. It’s looking good for a good first year there and we’ve learned lots and managed to dig over 70% of the plot, with all the raised beds (except one) being set out and planted.

All we need now is a magic spell to stop the slimy snails and slugs plus a decent grass strimmer to make lighter work of the grass surrounding the plot.

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Allotment (bit of) progress…

Some good, bad and really bad happenings in allotment world.

We received our 4th Constant Garden delivery from Rocket Gardens, which was full of awesome seedlings. All those were planted out in the hope of at least a few of them growing enough to be eaten. The lettuces are doing well in our garden as well as the cabbages.

I also put in the penultimate raised bed at the plot and did a load of weeding and borber grass cutting. I was dreading what it would all look like after 2 weeks away, but it didn’t look that bad – the ‘main crops’ of potatoes and leeks were doing well and a few of the other things were also strong, such as the chard, spinach and pumpkins. Wildflowers doing well and celery still alive!

There are slugs and snails everywhere! My god. I must have picked out 20+ while I was there.

Here’s to continued success, if only partial, and a massive slug and snail predator outbreak!

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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 – 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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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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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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Wild garlic soup…

A really nice soup recipe from the good people at UKTV Food…

http://uktv.co.uk/food/recipe/aid/600561

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Sunday at the allotment…

We finished off the weekend with a very warm and sunny day, almost a summer afternoon, but with us not yet in spring. Loads done at the allotment and all of us were up there pitching in during the day.

We all went over there in the morning for 2 hours and got the first lot of 2nd early potatoes in (Maris Peer), in three tenches. These are spaced 1 metre apart with each potato spaced about 25 cms apart. The next rows we’ll probably dig closer together, just to be able to get enough rows in for the three batches of potatoes we’ve been chitting + the leeks and onions! Also marked the rows with laths from various Victorian renovations in a nearby street.

I got another raised bed in during the morning and some more digging about the place. We also had a good chat with the plot holder adjacent to ours, which is nice and there were a fair few people up there enjoying the sun.

I went back again after lunch for another two hours, half an hour of which I spent chatting with John the Chairman of the allotment association. He;s got loads of stories from over the years and he let me borrow his sledge hammer to knock the raised beds down.

I got another 5 beds in with a fair bit of levelling needed for the last one (last two images) and the whole thing worked out well – as a complete stroke of luck i’d been placing the beds about 30 cms (1 foot) apart), without thinking about how many I could get in along the whole width. The last 3 beds went in with only an extra 5 cms needed between each to get right into the corner. I could have claimed I planned it but anyone who knows me would have spotted it!

So, finally something in the ground and most of the raised beds are in, with just two more to go, each side of a central open space, which could be seating, or logs, or wild flowers (for pollination). The soil is starting to look good and it’s getting a finer look to it, with a good amount of manure in it now.

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Allotment kick-start…!

After spending months transporting manure to the plot, planning what we’ll be growing and digging 2/3 of the area, we’ve finally started setting out and planting for this season. My target of finishing the digging by Christmas wasn’t exactly met but 2/3 isn’t bad and this will give us enough space to grow a lot of vegetables.

The day before this session at the plot, we went over to Dundry Nursery and bought seeds, potatoes and onions to put in over the next few weeks. It’s a really nice nursery and very near to the little airport, with propeller planes flying over every few minutes! The boys loved that + the large blue and green parrot which they have there.

I’d made a list of the most disease-resistant potato varieties from their website (very useful btw), but two of the second earlies had already sold out (Fabula and Milva) but we did get the Victoria main crop variety. We also picked up Maris Peer (2nd early) and Nadine (2nd early), which we’re chitting on various window sills, ready for planting in a few weeks.

We’ve also been reading up on the whole potato process but every author seems to have a different version of the timings. Monty Don seemed to have the best approach, which is just adapt the planting to the weather. He does set out some fairly precise planting tips, which also seem sensible.

Anyway, that was a good trip out in the new car and that late afternoon I went up to the plot and was digging for a straight hour until it got dark. I got some nice sunset, bird and moon images and it was a brilliant time in the peace and quiet.

The next sunny and warm day (and it’s late February!!) was spent for a couple of hours at the plot, digging, trans-planting raspberry plants, setting out spaces, aligning raised beds, shifting logs, scattering pot ash. The boys were amazing and very patient and helpful. Jamie was raking the ground which now looks brilliant and Jac was digging around and collecting water!

Both boys were also painting the shed and Claire managed to finally get our plot number painted on there, which is one of the requirements of the allotment (having the plot number displayed).

Defining the areas has really helped us get an idea of what we have to do and it makes it all more doable. There is now only a couple of hours digging left to complete the main potato/onion/leek growing area and enough space to the side to experiment with the three sisters approach, where beans are grown up corn, with pumpkins grown between. Lots of wild and other flowers will be going in to help pollination and more edging and plot defining to be done!

Can’t wait to get up there again. Just hope my back stays strong! : )

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Potato & tomato bake…

I’ve turned out some half decent meals or dishes recently, amongst the chips and fishfingers! The latest one was a potato and tomato bake, which (not surprisingly) contains  potatoes, three tetra packs of chopped Italian tomatoes + one chopped red onion, a large handful of spinach, a tetra pack of kidney beans, a handful of cheese, Italian herbs, salt and pepper.

Everything is just cooked in the oven at 200 degrees for 1 hour, with the potatoes cooking in the tomatoes. Cheese is added to the top for the last 10 minutes to melt.

This is great heated up the following day and keeps really well. It’s a good balanced meal which has loads of vitamins, protein, carbs and fibre. The cheese could easily be left out or added after, for a vegan option.

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