Sunday, 7 February 2010

And so another year begins....

It's probably time to start paying attention to the allotment again.  The sun was out yesterday but I was selling my jewellery at a craft fair in Alresford, Hampshire, so couldn't get there.  But this morning wasn't too bad - the sun was going in and out and it wasn't icy cold, so I thought I'd ease myself into the 2010 season with a little light digging and seeing what's what.

First thing I noticed was that the plot next door to mine has been taken over.  Another older chap on the site, Henry, had been sort of semi-using it (he also has two full plots opposite) and was basically using the lower half of this particular plot as somewhere to park his car, and the top part as a sort of overflow potato site.

From the top edge of the potato beds to the boundary with the house behind was a massive tangle of brambles from which we picked pounds and pounds of blackberries over the last couple of years - Henry's wife made blackberry crumbles and pies and I made jars of blackberry and apple jam and, perhaps more practically, bottles of blackberry vodka.  These brambles have now been totally cleared away and new beds dug in their place.  While I can appreciate that the new tenant will want to have as much growing space as possible and what they've done is very sensible, it is a bit of a sadness to me as I will now have to go farther afield to find my blackberries - although I suppose I could always grow some large, thornless variety on my own plot *ponders*...

The 'new' plot next door. From where the white square is at the top of the picture to the hedge behind and right across the width used to be all brambles.

The new people weren't there but it looked freshly dug so I'm assuming they came in yesterday when the weather was nice.

My plot looks as if it's come through this past extreme winter remarkably well - the fruit trees are still standing, as is the shed, and the black weed suppressing fabric is still more or less in place.  I'd gone there today with the intention of just having a bit of a look round and perhaps picking some brussels sprouts if there were any to be had.  There were.  And what's more surprising, I harvested quite a lot of other stuff:

Leeks - there are about 10 more still in the ground, thinner than these guys.  I didn't grow very many last season as they weren't too successful the season before, but these don't look too bad, do they?

Ridiculous monster parsnip.  I take a size 6/39 (European) size shoe [I change into wellies on site, in case you were thinking I was wandering around barefoot - I'm not that much of an Earth Mother!].  Remains to be seen if this is at all edible.

There were about 4 Desiree potato plants that I hadn't managed to get round to digging up before the snows arrived, so they had to take their chances.  I dug them up today and was astonished to find some spuds that weren't rotten from the ice.  There was, though, about an equal amount that were and they got lobbed into the black dalek compost bin.  But, hey, usable spuds!

The Savoy Cabbages that I planted seem to be a bit like a Curate's Egg - good in parts.  This is the largest of the dozen or so I have and this is after I've removed the rubbish outer leaves.  You'll see the frost has blackened the tips of the leaves but I'm hoping that the heart will be okay once I get in there.  I love eating steamed and buttered Savoy Cabbage with bacon and onion herby suet roll - yum!

I was completely astonished to find some small but hopefully usable carrots.  They'll have to be steamed or roasted whole because they're too small to do anything else with.

I also got a coupla handfuls of pretty small brussel sprouts (the whole reason I went to the site in the first place today!) and picked some curly kale but forgot to take pictures of those.

I now have all these veggies sitting in my kitchen waiting for me to wash them and decide their fate.  I am amazed that there was so much to be harvested - my flabber has rarely been quite so gasted....

Before I left the site this afternoon I thought perhaps I ought to do a bit of digging and make it look like I've been working the plot a bit - the obvious work that's been done on almost all the other plots on site has rather put mine to shame, so perhaps it's time to start this season in earnest.

The wee spot of digging over I did around what's left of the brassicas.  I don't feel quite so bad about the state of the plot now!

My next task, I think, apart from the never-ended digging and weeding, is deciding on the layout and plan for this coming season, and starting to get my head round what I can and can't start sowing. 

And so (sow)  it begins.


  1. I am having such a slow start this year, simply no get up and go but I expect that will soon change.

    Nice harvest you got today, even better as most it was a surprise.

  2. Wow!! It looks good. I'm quite envious of your harvest, my leeks are mostly ok but the sprouts are 'blown' and the kale, brocolli and cabbage haven't done well at all (not helped by mice nibblings!!) Very disheartening.

    Enjoy your lovely veg.

    Cousin K

  3. Kella - it's always difficult at this time of the year to get started, and it looks like we're in for some more cold weather but everything will catch up. We ate the leeks, sprouts and most of the potatoes last night and they were lovely. Will have to tackle the stupid parsnip soon, though.

    Karla - you need to plant sprout seedlings (or sow seeds) into very solid ground, not loose, crumbly soil which causes them to blow. Put the seedlings or sow the seed and then tread the ground around them very heavily so it becomes dense. That might help. There are also probably varieties that are less prone to blowing but I've had such great success with the F1 Brigitte variety that I've not bothered researching that side of things. My broccoli was rubbish last year and I'm not bothering again and I haven't had a single edible red cabbage this year, but my kale's been good. But that's all part of it, sometimes you find what grows well one year won't do it again the next, so don't be downcast and just try again.

  4. You got a great harvest there, it's especially good when you're not expecting anything. I don't have any crops at all left in my allotment now, it's just waiting to be dug over, but the weather is putting paid to that at the moment.

  5. WE have a cultivated blackberry growing along part of the boundary between our allotment and the next. You can buy some great cultivars now - some have really huge berries - why not have a go at planting one - you can also buy thornless varieties.

  6. Jo - I have to admit I've chucked out the parsnip - it's enormousness was just too overwhelming and I figured I could probably live without it! I'm going to try again with Tender and True next season but, so far, I've found parsnips to be particularly flummoxing.

    Green Lane Allotments - hello! I'm thinking I may well look into the thornless ones with enormous fruits. On my site, Henry (who had the one next door but still has 2 opposite) grows a row of them and the fruits really are very big and luscious looking - do they taste good too?

  7. We don't have a thornless one but one with violent prickles which we were given when we first took our plot years ago but they taste wonderful.

    The thornless ones are advertised as delicious though.

  8. Hello Mrs Jones, I grow the cultivate thornless blackberry and it grows well on a north facing wall producing big berries so if you no long have the wild ones what you suggest about growing your own is a good and worthwhile idea. Bob.

  9. Hello Bob, and welcome! Isn't it too late to plant new fruit bushes? I thought it was an autumn job....?

  10. The RHS say that bare-rooted fruit bushes and trees can be planted between October and April (although April seems just a bit too late to me - I'd go for a deadline of early March)presumably it depends on whether they have come into growth or not. But container grown fruit can be planted at any time.


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