November 2004


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For everyone whoīs asked where Iīve been, thankyou for your concern! Itīs nice to know folk are reading this. The answer is getting married, which really does take up huge amounts of time chasing arrangements etc. Hopefully I can now get back to the important things, like getting the garlic in and freezing my fingers off doing the winter digging.

Sunday November 7th

Oh dear - what a gap! At a time when keeping a record of wedding prep might have been useful, that's precisely what you don't have time for! So the poor allotment diary's gone west too. But now I'm back with only a few work-related distractions, so here goes.

Went up to allotment after we got back from a fireworks party, and in a persistent drizzle managed to dig up the Sárpo blight-resistant potatoes that should have been up a month ago. Four of the plants were still growing! Very muddy conditions, but only one of the quite large spuds had any significant slug damage, and the only other grumble was a bit of scab (and that's not exactly unexpected round here). Impressed. Pulled up several leeks too, which are looking huge. Soup, anyone? Also got a large bunch of carrots, both straight ones from the compost lines and the muties from the normal soil.

Biggest surprise was a marrow. Didn't think any would have been growing over the last month!!! The plants have died back, leaving the fruits sitting there. Not bad! Also have several onions sprouting from where I'd obviously missed them earlier. Oh well, shall leave them to bulk up a bit. Have loads of bulbs in the shed to plant and haven't even had the time to do them… Shall hopefully catch up a bit now! I didn't even log the rest of the jam-making escapades, which left me at one point with 24lbs of assorted jars!

Sunday November 14th

At last - a fine day, a first frost and several hours at the allotment! Had to wait until things had thawed out a bit, but finally got 4 hours or so of digging done. It's so nice to be able to get back up there. Roughly dug over three and a bit plots - now have cleared the garlic plot, the courgette plot, uncovered the fallow plot (and moved the carpet onto the old winter onion area as it's got the worst weeds!) and dug out half the sweetcorn as I figure that's where the new garlic needs to go. Need to dig over the other onion plot (which seems to be growing them again - and I thought I'd dug them all out!) and the rest of the sweetcorn. Then I'll be able to plant the second half of the garlic. Have got in the Marco variety (they're in the middle) as they were already sprouting! The Thermidromes will have to wait till next time. Pulled the largest carrot I've ever grown!

 Now all I have to do is work out next year's rotation so I can see where I'm supposed to put stuff. Since Iīve given up on the strip beside the raspberries (as itīs really too close to the apples for much to grow, and the raspberries are spreading sideways into it) there has to be a rotation into the second plot. Just as well I have it! But this also means I can get a proper 4-way rotation including the potatoes.

Saturday November 27th

Not such a nice day as last time but not raining, so off to sort out the rest of the garlic. Took longer than I'd expected to finish going over the old sweetcorn bed, possibly because I kept stopping to chat with Chris, who had very kindly strimmed all the paths. Finally planted the Thermidrome garlics (and learned there really is one called Thermidor!) and also a few rows of ones which had been missed at harvest and were growing anyway. Think they were more Marco. This time I've planted them quite far apart, straight into the ground which may mean better roots, and deeper than I have been in the habit of planting them. Hopefully this will trigger them to grow bigger. Last year the roots never really got out of the shape of the modules, possibly because I left them too long before planting out. Oops! Also took the opportunity to level the bed a bit, thanks to some pieces of slightly charred wood which some kind person had stuck on my plot 2 compost heap (weird). Itīs now considerably better for it. I shall probably use the bits of wood from my poor collapsed frames to do it to other beds and gradually end up with easier to manage plots, part of my long term plan :-)

The next dilemma was where to put the winter onions. I'd managed to pick up two large bags of Swift rather than the usual Senshyu, which will hopefully allow them to catch up with everyone else since I'm late planting again. Decided in the end to put them in the fallow plot, as the alternative would have meant digging through the old spud patch and Chris warned me that you have to sieve out volunteers carefully if you follow spuds with onions. The fallow plot had onions in 2 years ago, but hopefully the intervening time will have been enough. We shall see. Planted around a hundred, carefully putting them just under the soil. Funny how I've tended to plant garlic at onion depth and onions at garlic depth. The bag contents were a bit shrivelled in places so it's as well I got two as I could pick the better ones, and I've spare sets too in case some don't grow.

Need to do the runner bean patch next so itīs ready for squashes, then the old onion area which will get brassicas. I am determined to get sprouting broccoli this time! Then I can move on to plot 2. Need to go and get some carpet pieces first though, now I've got to the point where soil is now dug over and waiting for next year. It could do with being protected (and stopped from growing anything weedlike!).


Rotation plan for 2005, also showing the relative positions of the two half plots. A square is a square metre.

Grey = not planted Brown=planted     yellow=sweetcorn quarantine area because of 2003 smut.

Carpets label on plot 2 is a bit optimistic, since grass has got through and itīs more like a wilderness!

Currently thereīs stuff in the way of several crops, but they should all be out of the way before new plantings. The leeks are doing really well this year (even if I did cheat and use punnets in the end). Will gradually freeze them as the winter progresses in the hope that I will get them all safely packed away before the flower spikes form.

The next dilemma: what to do about the frames. The frames worked really well until the nails started working their way out of the wood, and so they lost their shape and couldnīt be tipped up for weeding. Screws probably wouldnīt have been any better, and so I have lots of bits of wood floating about. The carrot frame would have been great if Iīd managed to block the last gap, but eventually the flies got in. So, should I follow the example of Lorraine and use hosepipe with netting over? I need to get more enviromesh, sadly (and expensively). Iīm sure I can reuse some of the current mesh, despite it being damaged by the tacks holding it to the wood. It would have been fine if the foxes hadnīt jumped on it and pulled it...

So, whatīs the solution? I could trim the existing bits of wood to remove the mangled ends (and that would shorten them, as they were a bit too long in the first place) and bolt them together with L-shaped plates which may also lose the nails/screws after a few months. Or I could disassemble them completely and use the pieces to build bed edges, stacking the bits on top of each other to get the right height. And use hose. Probably this latter option, using the rescued nails to make the edging more solid, and use bits of the wood along the edges of the net, to stop invaders (but which stop me tipping them up for weeding, though that didnīt happen much as I never seemed to have time anyway).

Either way, Iīm not going to do nothing. Iīve got much nicer carrots because of the incomplete covering,  the leeks are great too and the cabbages donīt have caterpillars even if they didnīt grow in the first place! The big broccoli frame is still just about going, albeit with crossed wire supports. I can add more of those to keep it upright which should help.

Christmas Dinner and Food Miles.

Well, despite the lack of effort Iīve put into the growing this year, I will have marrow, leek, carrot, runner beans and potatoes for Christmas. The remaining onions Iīm hoarding for stuffing, so I can do the whole Christmas dinner (and Iīve certainly got enough sage too!). And thanks to the freezer Iīve still got some French beans, and thanks to Chris Iīve got red cabbage, both required ingredients for Pīs Christmas fare. The turkey is going to be free range and locally raised by Richard Waller and so I think, incredibly, the food miles for Christmas dinner will be virtually zero and the produce mostly organic. Hoorah.


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