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Grow and Tell allotment workshops 2014

It’s been too wet to do anything at the plot, so I haven’t been posting. But I have been writing courses!

allotment harvest29 March – propagating cropping plants (for an extra 50 pence take home a ready-rooted lemongrass plant for your cold greenhouse or conservatory

19 April – planning a productive plot (or replanning one that doesn’t seem to be working, with a focus on avoiding weed notices and other problems

31 May – Brussels Sprouts, cabbage, cauliflowers, purple sprouting broccoli: how to plant brassicas and cover your seedlings, pest protection and summer-long maintenance tips to get the best from these long-growing winter crop

allotment squashes21 June – growing winter squash – how to have a harvest that will feed you through the winter

27 July – watering and mulching – practical ways to cut down on watering, conserve moisture and keep your crops alive through the summer

20 September – composting and green manures – this is the month to start adding nourishment back into your soil: tips on choosing green manures, building compost bins and making good compost

6 December – special class on training and pruning fruit trees in winter.

Limited to 8 participants to allow for maximum practical experience and problem solving. Meet at 11:00 at Weald Avenue Allotment Gate – indoor space available in bad weather – workshops finish at 13:00. Each session includes hands-on experience, comes with notes on the plants and techniques covered, and finishes at the WAG shop so people can buy seeds and supplies if they wish.

While the site is largely wheelchair accessible, those with limited mobility are advised to arrange a site visit first, to ensure they are comfortable with the location. £5.00 per person (please note some classes have an optional extra charge for plants to take home, there is no charge for crops harvested on the day!) All money goes to Weald Allotment Gardeners (WAG) for upkeep of Weald Site.

Prior booking is essential. Please email to reserve a place on a session or book through the WAG shop.

Also, I have some very exciting news about some fun things I’ll be doing this spring with some very nice people, maybe in a shop near you … but as nothing is finalised yet, I shall just have to be a bit of a tease!


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Allotment Fruit Trees – winter maintenance

allotment fruit tree mulching

Removing the old mulch from the base of first year fruit trees

Jupiter apple tree top-dressed with manure

Top-dressed with well-rotted manure because the mini-orchard was planted in poor soil and modern thinking is not to remediate the planting hole which can lead to root binding but to top feed instead.


Jupiter apple tree top-dressed and re-mulched

Weeds removed, top dressing added, mulch reapplied – tree ready for spring!

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Belated Christmas present

It’s hardly been going to the plot weather, hence the complete lack of posts. But I did go and check my allotment yesterday, as the gales have caused quite a lot of damage locally. Nothing was wrong there, but look at this:

allotment strawberry bed My new ‘free form’ strawberry bed! It’s been built alongside the path and to abut (but not touch) the asparagus bed, so it’s an odd shape but I love it.

Now I just need to drag OH to the plot again so we can bed it down properly, then it’s my job to fill it with manure, wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow … I hope the strawberries appreciate the efforts we’re going to!

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Plastic bottle propagators and how to pot on from them

bottle propagators

This is how the propagators looked on 15 May

bottle propagators

And how they looked on 22 May

To pot on from a week-away propagator you need to remove the bottle cap and push gently on the soil and roots in the aperture, to get the whole plant moving out of the wider end.

To pot on from a week-away propagator you need to remove the bottle cap and push gently on the soil and roots in the aperture, to get the whole plant moving out of the wider end.

seedling root formation

Root formation is usually substantial, and it’s fun to be able to see the roots through the clear plastic but if you let the seedlings get too big, you’ll have to tease out the cotton wick from the roots, which can be faffy.

seedling roots

Even if the roots aren’t tangled with the string, it’s good to ease them out of the shape of the bottle top.

squash in flowerpot

Replant nice and deeply, in multipurpose compost and allow to sit in water so that the roots immediately start to reach out – don’t top water.

squashes in pots

And there they are, four Turks Turban and four Crown Prince in their new homes!

P.S. Instructions for making week-away propagators can be found in The Allotment Diaries!

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Allotment update: compost, greenhouse growing and the last of the leeks

103 compost sieving kitSunday was compost sorting day. This is my compost sieving kit – a big yellow bucket, a sieve and a stool. The good, fine, friable compost goes on the potato bed and the twiggy dry matter and un-composted material goes back into the second compost bin to be ‘re-cooked’.

I always sit, because sieving is back-breaking work. Because this is the first year we’ve had compost bins on #103, it looks as if the compost didn’t get hot enough to really cook, so it’s probably full of weed seeds. As a result, we won’t risk using it in a seed bed. On the potato bed we can hoe down any germinating seed easily, and we’ll redesign the bins to get a bit more heat by giving less ventilation on the side facing the prevailing wind and possibly insulating better through the autumn months. While I was doing this, OH was putting down the paths for the peas and beans. In between working on the mature compost bin, I dipped in and out of the greenhouse for a bit of warmth and comfort.

103 french tarragon 3 mar 13The French tarragon is shooting out of its pot very nicely – although it won’t be planted out until mid May, we can start harvesting the shoots from mid March, as it keeps the plants bushy. Lifting this perennial every year in October, dividing it in two and planting both in the unheated greenhouse until May gives us ever more plants and the growth remains green and succulent rather than developing woody stems. The old plant will just be cut out of the middle of the pot in the next couple of weeks,

103 spinach 3 mar 13The spinach is doing well too. Next week we’ll sow another crop, possibly outdoors but under cover, as this morning we had an extremely heavy frost – it happens regularly in March and we’ll hedge our bets by planting spinach outside and also another tub will get sown in the unheated greenhouse as it can always be moved outside in a couple of weeks – usually with spinach, after mid March, the risk is more of bolting in too much heat than getting shrivelled in a frost.

103 leeks 3 mar 13Finally I harvested a couple of mammoth leeks – they are late season and really are past their best now, and I’m not thrilled with them anyway – I found the fanning leaves less successful that the more columnar varieties and they’ve taken a lot more cleaning, which means this is a variety we won’t be growing again. I’ve learned to factor processing time into allotment growing, and pernickety plants or ones that have an unduly long processing period (like leeks that get mud between the leaves) don’t get a second chance on our plot!

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