Monthly Archives: March 2012

Allotment Update

At last I’ve spent my first morning at the allotment after checking during the week that the previous owner had finally removed all their winter plants. Whilst I’m in no rush it was good to start making plans and get to know the site. Up in the next village the allotments are run by a charity and I’ve paid £10 for a years rent on half a plot (plot 13a). It’s not as big as a standard council plot but it’ll do me. I measured it at 30ft by 10 ft and once I square it off properly that will increase a bit. Looks like I’ve inherited a large rhubarb crown which is fine by me and I’ll add a couple more from my garden up there too. My asparagus bed will also go in when the crowns are delivered.

I did about 15 minutes weeding before my plot neighbour and Hort Soc Chairman turned up with his trailer and we shifted four loads of muck from the local stables driving over the field so we could unload right next to our plots. That will dig in nicely as I weed over the next few weeks and the more organic matter I can get in the soil the better as it looks like we may be in for a dry year.

It’s more than just the extra space though I’m looking forward to meeting my fellow allotment holders. You couldn’t ask for a more peaceful site, down the end of a village lane looking out over fields, it’s going to be a great place to spend time. Can’t wait to get stuck in! I was offered some rhubarb too before I left and just round the corner is the shared plot where I picked some brussels and lifted a couple of parsnips for dinner. What a great morning!

Shallots out

With today’s rain receding I managed to get my shallots out this afternoon. A few sets of Hative de Niort and Jermor went in next to the overwintered onions. And some onion sets left over from those I planted out at the shared plot which I filled any gaps with.

I attended my local NVS DA vegetable seminar last weekend (see Darren’s blog for all the details). This was the first weekend event the DA had put on and they’d lined up two excellent talks for us. The first was a year on the allotment from NVS national chairman Barry Newman and he pointed out some great tips that he had picked up from the showing side of the Society and applied them to his allotment growing to get better results for the kitchen table (this is the way the NVS willl attract new members I think as the show tips and disciplines can be translated to the garden/allotment with great results). The second talk was from the legendary Charlie Macey on cucumbers and tomatoes. What Charlie doesn’t know about these subjects isn’t worth knowing. I learnt that you can’t really grow cucumbers and tomatoes in the same greenhouse effectively as they like different conditions with cucumbers preferring the humid, steamy greenhouse conditions that are achieved in summer by keeping the doors and vents closed and regularly damping down. We also saw slides from Charlie’s tomato greenhouse were he was still getting a great crop off the 12th truss of the plant which was growing across the top of the greenhouse. This was some serious tomato growing but nothing that anyone with a greenhouse or polytunnel couldn’t achieve. I came away with plenty of notes and a plan to concentrate on cucumbers in the greenhouse this year (the family favourite) and grow my tomatoes in a bed alongside the greenhouse using 3 mini-greenhouses side by side as protection in the early part of the summer. My main tomato variety will be Goldstar (recommended at the seminar for both its excellent taste and show qualities) and the cucumber variety is Carmen (which all the family love eating and is the top show variety).

And there’s plenty of sowing done and to do. So far Brussels, Celeriac, Broad Beans, Tomatoes, Chillies, Pepper and Lettuce are all in various trays indoors or the greenhouse. I’ve pricked out some celery plants that Darren kindly gave me and there’s the very first signs of carrots coming through in the pipes. Fingers crossed I’ll get decent germination from the pipes as I’ve only got one chance for the New Forest Show at the end of July. Well off to do some more sowing now. Have a great weekend!

Spring well underway and I’m behind

A walk round the garden on this lovely, mild weekend has brought it home just how far Spring has progressed and I now have the feeling that I’m behind on all the jobs that I’m usually ahead of at this time of year – too far ahead of in some cases like sowing seeds for example.

In previous years the greenhouse would be filling up with various brassicas on the go whilst at the moment there’s just half a dozen trays of broad beans germinating and some shallots – I would have sown these direct in Autumn before. And usually I’d have trays of chillies, peppers, and tomatoes growing on but at the moment there’s just a handful of tomatoes germinated and I’m still waiting for the peppers to poke through.

Yesterday I sowed some more stump carrots (Sweet Candle) and four rows of parsnips (Gladiator & Picador). So I’m on track with the roots it’s just the rest of the veg I need to get a move on with. The only thing I’ve done at the shared plot is plant a couple of hundred onion sets and I haven’t touched my half allotment plot – although on visiting I realised it’s much smaller than a standard council plot (it’s run by a village charity) so I am less worried about catching up there, and it’s still got the previous tenants cabbages and sprouts on so I have an excuse for my tardiness. This is where the asparagus bed will go and the plants haven’t arrived yet; there you go another excuse!

It’s great to see so much colour in the garden already. This was a tiny hellebore plant I put in last year which is doing well. And the daffs are out, even an early tulip or two, but the most colourful thing is the blossom on the cherry plum tree. We often overlook just how beautiful trees can be, not just a green backdrop.

So I’ve got plenty of work to do, the next six weeks is the critical time for every veg grower, lots of sowing and planning for the season ahead!


I sowed the first of the stump carrots today, 14 stations in two old dustbins and 8 stations in a raised bed. I’ll sow some more next weekend. These are for the New Forest show at the last week in July and possibly my local village show three weeks later. The variety is Sweet Candle and I’m hoping to get a decent set out of them.

Certainly won’t win any prizes for symmetry but they should produce some nice carrots in five months time. And with a fleece over the top they will be cozy enough if we get a frost.

I’ve had the patience of a saint so far this year with no indoor seeds sowed until yesterday when I sowed 25 sweet peppers (Californian Wonder) and 15 tomatoes (Marmande, Gardener’s Delight and Moneymaker). And 140 broad beans are in the greenhouse which will be planted out at the shared plot in a few weeks. I’ll follow these with some chillies, aubergines and various brassicas over the weekend.

Have you started sowing in earnest yet??