Archive for the ‘Winter’ Category

After all the snow, illness and Christmas in December, it’s no surprise to be starting January with a renewed vigour and energy.  This has been helped by the brighter, less frozen weather.  We went to the Stanley Road plot today, and what a wonderful sight.

Firstly and unusually for us, the shed was still in the same place on our plot, instead of half-way across the site crushing someone else’s plot.  Secondly the site looked lovely bathed in cool winter sunlight, showing to best effect how much effort has been put in on the part of many plot holders.

Finally, we managed to get loads of digging done before the whingeing started.  Maybe the novelty effect was at work, or it could have been the picnic lunch that kept the girls going for longer?

Tonight it’ll be time to get out the crop rotation plans from previous years, and work out the plan for this year.

Current thoughts are that we will dig out even more of the couch grass paths.  The stuff is relentless, and never stops spreading either by invasive roots, overhead suckers or seed.  Once dug, the size of the beds shrinks every couple of months under constant pressure from the sides.

It’s also decision time for the strawberry patch.  It was such a disappointment last year, the crops were so puny and it now takes up almost half of the main growing area.  One option would be to dig them all up and go for something else.  Alternatively we could dig them up completely, pick the very best looking plants, manure the bed, cover it with weed membrane, replant the best along with some new vigorous ones and hope for a better year.  Not sure which one we will do at present.  Tempting to give it up as a bad job.

Other ideas are to use the beds for a Sarah Raven type “Cutting Garden”,  or to give annual crops another go.  One lesson I have learned is that I need a proper dedicated annual bed, with no perennials or shrubs which just make weeding too difficult.  Time to get those seed catalogues!

Decisions, decisions.

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Well, I’m sure that title needs an explanation.  Improved British Winter??  What about all the snow and the disruption?  Well, firstly it is a question, not a statement.  I am not saying it is definitely better.  But on the other hand, I can see the benefits.  Snow and frost break up the soil nicely.  They also kill lots of bugs.  Non-native invaders like killer bees and monster ladybirds will find it difficult to survive the colder winters.  The weeds will not have grown so rapidly when under cover of snow.

Important to look at both sides I think.

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The Warren photos

Not much going on yet, but here is the plot

Shed, water butt, compost bins...

Shed, water butt, compost bins...

Not to mention…

A wheelbarrow!

A wheelbarrow!

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Snowed in…

Feb 09 Snow

Feb 09 Snow

Well, I finally picked up a key and we visited our new plot at The Warren site last Sunday afternoon, which was a bitterly cold day. We stayed long enough to survey the site, which has what look like 3 fruit trees, a shed, a compost bin and plenty of couch grass to be dug up (groan)!

However, it was a very good job we had gone straight away, because that evening we got 11 inches of snow, which seemed to bring the whole of London to a standstill.

At least there was no worry that the weeds would get a headstart on us…..

The garden

The garden

Just had to tag this photo on the end.

Check out the icicles!

Check out the icicles!

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Reflections on winter

Although nothing really goes on at the allotment during Winter, plants are hibernating and starting to prepare for their next season of growth.

In the same way, gardeners are musing the possibilities for next year.  One of the things I love about the British seasons is the necessity of downing tools for a couple of months.  Each year offers a second chance at things that didn’t work and excitement about trying something new.

First visit of 2009

We popped to the allotment today to put the Christmas tree back and get some digging and weeding done.  It was great to be back out in the fresh air.  The strawberry patch was looking overcrowded by weeds, so we cleared them and the annual beds, ready for the year ahead.

This year’s seeds have arrived

I have heard from many sources that newer varieties are bred for uniformity and qualities that make them suitable for cropping on a large scale (like maturing at the same time).  I am not really bothered about mass production, but I really want my crops to taste good – otherwise what is the point?  I thought it was worth trying older varieties that were bred for flavour.

I have bought a selection of interesting seeds from ‘The Real Seed Company’ and will be growing these alongside some more modern versions.


This year’s selections are as follows:

‘Ashworth’ sweetcorn: reputed to be a very early variety – so should ripen while we are visiting the allotment every day in summer, rather than ripening once we have slackened off and the birds get to it first.

‘Long Lisse de Meaux’ Carrot: Red blunt tipped carrot for late season harvest, and old French variety chosen for its excellent keeping qualities in a cellar, apparently.

‘Waltham’ Butternut squash: An improved butternut that is mostly neck, with a rich flavour.  Also stores well.  Hopefully this will be a nice tasting squash – they are such good value to grow if they taste ok.

‘Patisson Blanc’ Patty-Pan Squash: French heirloom variety of white scallop squash with flat white fruit.  Delicious used young as if a courgette.

‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ Climbing French Bean: A very rare bean. The tall plants have purple flowers and beans with green or red tinged pods.  One of the best beans ever from the Cherokee Indians.

‘Golden Sweet’ yellow-podded mange-tout peas: Incredibly rare.  Tall plants with lemon yellow pods.  This will be a good addition to last year’s purple podded peas.

‘Gardener’s Delight (supersweet Irish version): small red cherry tomato with very sweet flavour.  I am on a search of a tasty home-grown tomato which will ripen properly outside.

‘Leaf Selection’ Coriander: slow to bolt coriander.  The usual problem with Coriander is the speed with which it sets flowers, changing the leaf shape.  This will hopefully avoid the problem.

‘Winter Marvel’ Winter butterhead lettuce: A cold resistant lettuce from France.  Something to fill in the gaps before spring gets going.

Hot off the press

We got a letter today telling us that we have been given a plot at the very sought after ‘Warren’ site, which is walking distance away.  There are only ten plots there, and I have been on a waiting list for a plot there since September 2000.  Of course we could never leave our beloved Stanley Road plot, but having one walking distance away might prove useful, especially if we ever move house closer to it : ).

The new one will be for growing vines and fruit cages, whereas we will keep annuals on the Stanley Road site, because the social aspect means we will probably go there more often to keep an eye on things.

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Winter hibernation

It’s hard to get to the allotment in winter. Firstly the dark nights mean we can’t go after work. Secondly the rain, wind and cold mean that even weekends are often tricky.

However, we have checked on things a couple of times:

1) I popped up there to check on the place and to give everything a final once over before winter. Clearing the last of the final greenery.

2) Jamie dug up the Christmas tree about a week ago. After a couple of nights on the patio in a pot, and a night in the cold outside hallway it came into the living room for Christmas.

Although it is looking a bit fragile, it is still going after 3 years. Who knows whether it will be here next year, but it is a worthwhile experiment.

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