I was horrified last week when one of the other plotters at the allotments told me the growing season is almost over. We really haven’t got very much food from our plot. Today I harvested our carrots. All four of them 🙂
You may be wondering why we only got four carrots and I’m embarrassed to admit this but it’s because I got a little carried away with the weeding not long after sowing the seeds. It reminds me of the time I accidentally ordered a single carrot from online shopping.
Rule number 1 of allotment gardening: don’t weed out the legitimate vegetable seedlings.
I planted about a dozen kale seedlings a few weeks ago and all but one has completely vanished. I put them under bird netting so I can’t blame the birds. I suspect it was snails or slugs.
Rule number 2 of allotment gardening: don’t plant kale seedlings out until they’re larger than 5cm high.
Rule number 3 of allotment gardening: birds eat kale.
I wish I had planted more broccoli because that has been doing well and we’re enjoying eating it. The kids like it too and eat it raw.
I highly recommend the no dig method of gardening. I had a small patch of grass that I covered over with cardboard a couple of months ago. I started piling weeds on top, partly to stop the cardboard blowing away and also because my compost bin was full. Today I shoved the pile to one side to find a lovely patch of soil, without any weeds or grass, and full of small organisms. Here it is in this next photo: the square of dark soil is the earth that I uncovered when I removed the pile of cardboard and weeds. Previously it was just grass.
The growing season may be over for some but I’m going to continue through the winter. My favourite crops are green leafy vegetables and these can be grown all year round. I also sowed some parsnips today. I’m told they won’t grow because it’s too late in the season but I’m going to try anyway. If it doesn’t work I’ll know for next year.
I ordered some fruit and veg boxes from The Organic Delivery Company and so far I’m impressed. The company is based in London but my order still arrived the very next day which is fantastic given we’re at the other end of the country. My main complaint with fruit and veg from supermarkets is all the plastic they use. Everything is wrapped in plastic. There was still a little bit of plastic in my box but hardly any when compared with the supermarket versions. Here’s what I got:
I don’t know what that big orange thing is next to the bananas. Anyone know?
I spent several hours at the allotment this morning. Our plot still needs a lot of work but when I compare the now photo with the before photo I realise we have come a long way. Here’s how it looked in April:
Here’s how it looks today:
Now I just need to turn it into food. Right now I’m mostly feeding the resident slug population. My kale has been decimated:
I have a three-pronged strategy in my war against the slugs. Firstly, I bought some nematodes which are microorganisms that infect slugs and kill them. I watered that into the soil today so hopefully I’ll see some improvements in the coming weeks. Secondly, I put out some beer traps which will attract the snails and drown them. Thirdly, I put down some strulch. Strulch is a straw mulch that repels slugs and snails. I put it on the garden at home. It reduces the number of weeds and helps retain soil moisture. It also smells lovely. Poisonous slug pellets are best avoided. I’ve heard they can be eaten by small animals and then the small animals are eaten by larger animals causing the poison to travel up the food chain getting more and more concentrated. The poisons have also been found in streams and rivers.
Here is one of the beer traps:
It’s fair to say our allotment is the worst one there except for this one but it doesn’t look like anyone is tending to this one so it doesn’t really count.
It’s a lovely drizzly day today. I cycled to Newton Dee thinking I’d have the bike path all to myself but there were lots of people there – dog walkers, cyclists, and joggers. I love it when it’s overcast and I don’t have to squint. Squinting is annoying because it gives me wrinkles and somehow squinting and frowning affects my mood. Try relaxing the muscles in your face except for those that make you smile for about 30 seconds and see how you feel. Now frown and squint for 30 seconds and see how you feel. It’s much more pleasant to smile and not frown, don’t you think?
I took a photo of Busby, my trusty steed, outside Newton Dee.
I’ve got seedlings growing in abundance in my glasshouse right now. All the plants in this next photo were grown from seed.
My tomatoes were also grown from seed and one of them is beginning to flower.
These are carrots in this next photo and also grown from seed. I’ve never grown carrots before so not sure how they’ll turn out.
About a year ago I applied for an allotment and just this week got the call to say there’s one available. Allotments are a very British thing. They have been around for hundreds of years, since Anglo-Saxon times, according to The National Allotment Society. In Victorian times they were handed over to poor people as a way for them to feed themselves. During the second world war they became an important food supply for the nation; “Dig for Victory” was the slogan at that time. Everyone was encouraged to grow vegetables and parks everywhere were converted into allotments for this purpose.
Most of us have enough food to eat today but allotments are still very popular and some people sit on waiting lists for years before they get one. I think it’s important for communities to grow their own food. It builds resistance for times of need and it will play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change. Growing your own vegetables is also intensely satisfying and good fun.
The microplot they’ve offered me is in a sad state. Here’s a photo:
I don’t plan to dig up all that grass. I think I’ll try the no dig approach or lasagne gardening, as I think it is also known.
Recently one of the dads at school was telling me how he’d played professional rugby as a teenager. He said he got to play against some really great players and then listed off a few names. I could tell by his tone that I was supposed to be impressed by this and that these were people I should have heard of and so I pretended to be wowed but I had no idea who he was talking about. Later I relayed the conversation to Ben and because I couldn’t quite remember the names I said the closest names I could remember: something like Lumos and Kamekaze. Ben roared with laughter. Apparently I should know who Jonah Lomu and David Campese are. Obviously, I’m not a true Australian.
The wool “slug gone” pellets I tried are useless. This week I started to notice holes in my pak choi.
Then I saw the tell-tale sign of slime right on top of the wool pellets.
The cheeky bugger crawled right across the top of them! The other night I decided to wait until dark and then go and investigate with a torch. It was very timely because just as I went into the greenhouse I saw the antenna of a giant blank slug just about to crawl over the side of the raised garden bed. That’s the end of midnight feasting in my greenhouse for that slug. Now I just need someone to stand guard all night long in the greenhouse.
On three separate occasions in the past month, pedestrians have called out to me asking for an ice-cream as I cycle by. Does Harald look like an ice-cream bike?
Pashley Classic No. 33:
Oh dear! So much for looking cool and trendy.
Pak Choi. What a wonderful vegetable. I’ve been craving leafy greens recently and so I decided to try growing pak choi and spinach. I already have kale in abundance. Kale grows anywhere and with little effort. Here’s some of my kale:
My experience with pak choi so far is also good. The seeds germinate faster than any I’ve ever seen. These ones only took about 3 days:
Apparently it’s a good winter plant so I’m hoping to have a constant supply over the winter months. Most of it is growing in the greenhouse but that’s probably not necessary since I think it will survive outside. I also have some in my kitchen on a sunny windowsill. The pak choi is on the very left, rocket in the middle, and basil on the right. I put the cling film over the top to see whether they’d grow faster.
Growing your own food is fun and rewarding. It also tastes better. Maybe it’s just bias or maybe it’s because the food is fresher.
I lay on the trampoline today looking up and this is what I saw.
Very soon now the trampoline is going to turn into a gigantic bucket of leaves – they’ve already started falling – but I’d still rather have the trees.
Here’s my garden produce on the dinner table tonight:
Everything on that wooden chopping board came from my garden. Isn’t that wonderful?
I’ve also got cyclamen in my garden. I’m amazed that they grow in the ground and without any attention from me. Years ago when I lived in Brisbane I struggled to get them to flower and look healthy. Here I just dig them in the ground and do nothing and they look beautiful. That’s my kind of plant.
I was cycling the kids home from school this afternoon and just made it to the top of a hill when a young man shouted out in a very exuberant and “look, there’s a flying pig!” kind of way,
OH MY GOD! YOU MUST BE SO FIT! JESUS!
I’m really not that fit but this put a smile on my face for the rest of the afternoon.
We now have a constant supply of cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, and kale from the garden. All my rocket went to seed but I have some new seedlings on the way. It’s so satisfying to grow your own food. I suppose it will all come to an end in a couple of months as the cooler weather sets in. What vegetables grow well in winter here?
A couple of months ago I posted a photo of my newly planted tomato seedlings:
Here they are today:
One is a cherry tomato plant, hence the smaller size. I actually thought they were both cherry tomatoes but now I’m not so sure. There’s a bean shoot growing in there too. I’ve probably got too many things in that one sack but they seem to be doing well and I can see the beginnings of small tomatoes at last. That’s not bad for a climate where most days are about 10 or 11 degrees celsius.
I’ve also got several cucumbers which I grew from seed fairly recently. Here’s one of them:
My strawberries are looking good:
And I’ve got lots of kale, also grown from seed, which I can start pulling and eating the leaves from now:
Those are sunflowers on the left in that last photo. I’m not sure what to do with them. I didn’t mean to end up with so many and I think it’s too cold here to put them outside in the garden but they’re getting really tall.
My garden is also taking off and there are so many things growing that I’m not sure what’s a weed and what isn’t. Having grown up in Brisbane where the foliage is so different I’m still unsure what all the different species here are. But then one person’s weed is another person’s flower. For instance, a lot of people here regard poppies as weeds because they grow so prolifically and self-seed all over the place but I adore them. They’re everywhere in my garden and just starting to flower now:
Once upon a time people used to view daffodils as weeds too. I’ve also got what I think are perennial cornflowers which I think some people regard as weeds but I love them.
They look nice indoors:
I saw this TED talk today about being a weekday vegetarian and thought it was quite good. I know that many people are put off by vegan/vegetarianism because it seems like an impossible task. But it needn’t be done militantly and as Graham Hill makes clear in this video, eating less meat is still beneficial in lots of ways. Here’s what he says:
My footprint is smaller, I’m lessening pollution, I feel better about the animals, I’m even saving money and best of all, I’m healthier, I know that I’m going to live longer and I’ve even a lost a little weight.