Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Book signing by Kay Sexton

Earlier in the month I met Kay Sexton, writer of Minding my Peas and Carrots, in one of my favourite shops, White Stuff. She was there to promote her new book with a signing and to demonstrate some fantastic ways to use White Stuff paper bags as part of your harvesting and gardening. We chatted for a good 90 minutes about allotments and she was kind enough to give me some of her own seeds as well. (Wild Garlic and Dill)

I haven't finished reading the book yet but it's all about Kay's allotment experiences which have left me nodding and laughing from page to page. She also adds in recipes between chapters that go beyond most kitchen garden recipe books into practical and tasty dishes that are easy to make from your produce. 

I enjoyed the first few pages so much that I also had a book signed for Karl now that he has a plot over in Pontcanna (west side of Cardiff). 

With special thanks to Kay for signing my book and for the wonderful chat we had about our 'other halves' not understanding why our veggies don't look the same as in the supermarket! 

Sausage-shaped pumpkins indeed! 

Friday, March 21, 2014

Allotment Plan 2014

It's coming up for planting season so I've put together a brand-spanking new allotment plan for 2014. I'm not entirely convinced that I'll get everything planted in this drawing (strawberries are looking unlikely due to the perennial weeds creeping up) but it's a rough guide for this year. 

Due to Spring being more punctual this year I managed to get 50 broad bean seeds sown of the Witkiem variety in the new large bed. I don't think I have planted this many broad beans before so it will be an experiment. I've also got Sarpo Mira spuds again as they were pretty good in 2012 and had a lovely flavour (plus they're not prone to blight). They are currently 'chitting' by the lounge window at home. 

I've also got 3 varieties of courgette as they always seem to do so well. I've got ball, yellow and regular courgette seeds. I've also got butternut squash seeds that need to be planted so I'll be sticking those in wherever they will fit. They tend to sprawl anyway so I'm happy for them to do that.  I haven't decided on the mange tout or other beans seeds yet but I have some leftovers from last year so I'll probably finish those off. 

I've also gone for a new logo for The Dig Issue - a rather playful typeface called Festivo that reflects my chaotic gardening style! I've also used the typeface for my new plan below. 


Allotment Plan 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Hello 2014!

Happy New Year from The Dig Issue!


This is my 9th year of allotment gardening and this blog has served as a great reminder of what has, and hasn't, been achieved in that time. I'm still no expert gardener, I haven't won the war against weeds (or slugs!), I've never managed to grow a cauliflower and I've never owned an Alan Titchmarsh calendar. I am an eager and experienced, catastrophic gardener!

I started 2013 on a positive note but soon realised that I actually needed a year off to get the beds, weeds, paths and grass sorted. The strawberry bed had sunk too low after having new beds assembled on the plot and I needed to establish a proper home for the fruit trees. Plus the plot was overrun with rotting wood and grass so I decided that everything just needed an extra spring clean. I got fruits and beans last year but that was it.

This year I have started early and decided to get the allotment ready for spring way before spring arrives. By a happy coincidence of events, the good folks at evergreenwales.com have been back on the scene and helped me by putting the extra set of beds on the other side of the allotment. They have even built me new compost bins! The rotten wood has been cleared and I'm thrilled with the results. New beds just waiting for planting! I need to turn over the beds that were built in 2012 but usually that's a pretty easy job. I'm going to put down a new chippings path and then I only have the grass on the paths either side to worry about. (Hopefully!!)

Karl is coming over in the next couple of weeks to grab a rhubarb crown (hopefully before they sprout!) and I'll start to level out the other beds at the same time. I think the strawberries need to move now, it's been about 3 years now so they need a new home. Time to work out a new planting plan!

Pictures below show the newly cleared areas. I might even try and grow in some pots near the front seeing as there is some extra space there.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Back on the plot

It's inevitable that the longer you stay away from your allotment, the harder it will be to get it up and running again. Grass takes over very quickly in the winter months and leaves you with a mini football pitch on your return in early spring. This year has been (yet again) spectacularly bad weather having endured a very soggy 2012 and then a very bitter winter that just would not go away until fairly recently. We've had the coldest April day in 20 years too, it's like some sort of gardening depression!

Even Monty Don got into hot water by saying it's okay not to plant until April which has annoyed an army of gardening centres and nurseries. As us gardeners know, most of April has been way too cold and / or wet to grow anything outdoors so I'm going to be rushing seeds into the ground this week if the weather holds up. I'm going to cover everything in fleece and cross my fingers. That's my expert advice.

Luckily my raised beds look like they only need a quick tidy up and the soil turned to be back to normal again. The rest of the plot looks like it's ready for 80 minutes of rugby.

Next post will hopefully be an allotment plan for 2013. I'm going for hardy veg this year. Big, chunky, water-loving veggies. I'm taking no risks with delicate plants that conk out at the sight of a cloud. 

A broken chair, grass, broken scarecrow, more grass and the greenhouse
Worzel Scummage looks like he's been beaten up!

When all else fails, there's always rhubarb!


Thursday, January 03, 2013

2012 was the second wettest year - official!

Today the BBC are reporting that 2012 was the second wettest year on record in the UK*. You ain't kidding!!

This year has been possibly? no, definitely the worst year for allotment gardening. I successfully grew some early peas, rhubarb and some round courgettes but that's about it! Everything else has rotted. In fact, I haven't seen the allotment since September as it's been THAT bad. Plus I only wrote 6 blog posts last year!

I received my allotment tenancy renewal last week and I'm wondering if the plot is still there? It might have slipped off the face of the planet for all I know? Nice weather for ducks but horrible for vegetables. I am dreading my first plot visit of 2013 but hopefully I'll bump into some fellow allotmenteers and report back on their experiences too.

There was a positive to 2012 though, one of my blogging buddies, Matt, made a lovely courgette gratin from my yellow round courgettes. I'm definitely giving these another grow in 2013!
You can try his recipe here: http://easyteas.co.uk/2012/10/21/courgette-gratin/

*(According to the Telegraph, Wales was the 3rd wettest) 

Friday, July 20, 2012

Fifty Spades of Clay

Whilst a lot of women are spending these long and miserable rainy days musing about Christian and Anastasia in 50 Shades of Grey, I'm worrying about my plot... my soggy, saturated, waterlogged plot. I've barely been up to see it this year hence the scarcity of blog posts since spring. It just won't stop raining and it's the same story all across the UK so I can't blame the Welsh climate this time.

The 2012 plot plan has been rewritten as I cannot get the ground ready in time for potatoes and squashes. Everything is growing in the *raised beds this year including 4 varieties of squash.

I have pretty much given up on growing beans as well as they have been appalling this year and I'm normally a dab hand at growing anything podded. My broadbeans started well but then only grew to about 10cm tall, flowered slightly and created one measly bean before keeling over and rotting into the ground. Pathetic would be an understatement. Plus the slugs got to the one bean before I did so I couldn't do much with them except pull them all up and put them on the compost pile. No broadbeans this year sadly.

I think the only thing I can do this year is grow in the raised beds and spend the rest of the year clearing the other side of the plot in preparation for some new beds. The couch grass has gone bonkers so it needs to be strimmed, covered to rot and then turned over and weeded. It's going to be a long job that will take me into winter. I would start digging now but the ground is saturated. Even after a dry day, the top soil is solid but 6 inches down it's mushy and heavy and pretty much impossible to dig.

On a positive note, I'm growing tomatoes on the balcony at home and they're flourishing! I hope I don't get blight 30ft off the ground?! If the weather eases off I'll be able to grow some more delicate plants but whilst we're getting drowned in biblical rain I'll keep the seeds in their packets.

The rhubarb has been consistently wonderful and I've made about half a dozen crumbles this summer. When we get a bigger freezer I'll try and store them as I'd like to enjoy rhubarb in the autumn too. The rhubarb is sitting in a huge pile of couch grass however so Karl has offered to help me dig it out and replant in a few weeks in exchange for a couple of crowns (rhubarb, not 10 shillings!) and some nice ales down The Albany pub.

As you can see from the photos (taken in May), Spring had a good start with all the bees pollinating and spiders carrying eggs around. There was even blue sky! Since then we've had the wettest June on record and the first half of July has been riddled with flood and storm warnings. As I write this post, the sun is shining and the weekend is meant to be dry. Fingers crossed this is the UK's summer at long last?!

Bees Pollinating

Broad beans before they went soggy

Allotment essentials!

Raised beds full of plants

First rhubarb harvest of the year

Raised beds and overgrown patch opposite

Rhubarb looking plump!

Old rotten plants for the tip!

Spider with eggs

Strawberry plants flowering

Worzel might need a new hoodie!

*Special mention to Evergreen Wales for making my raised beds. Top gardeners and I doff my potting cap to them! You can find them at www.evergreenwales.com

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Allotment Layout 2012

It's taken me a couple of months to sort out my final allotment layout for 2012 but it's completed at last.

I'm sticking to my usual veggies this year with a couple of extra fun plants to see how they get on. I have a yellow ball courgette to try out and some Jerusalem Artichokes that my neighbour gave me. I have included Sarpo Mira spuds again this year as we didn't benefit from the ones that we planted last year. (Dave went over them with the strimmer by accident!) They're blight-resistant and unattractive to slugs so fingers crossed they do well. I have 12 tubers but I may also get some late cropping varieties if I have some room left.

The general plan is to put all delicate plants on the raised beds (beans, peas etc) and the hardy sprawling plants on the ground (potatoes, squashes...)

I have bags of seeds that haven't been used from last year so if I find some random space I will be sticking them in where suitable. Otherwise they're heading for the compost bin as they won't germinate. It's amazing how much excess you get each year. I need a bed just for "left over" seeds.

The raised beds have been lined and filled with more soil right to the top - they look fantastic!! Tempted to get the other side of the allotment done for next year as they look so good.

So far, the first batch of broad beans are in. They have been transplanted twice from the raised beds being made but they seem okay. I'm going to plant a second batch at home. The potatoes and jerusalem artichokes are next once I have dug over the ground beds again. Still plenty of couch grass to dig up.

I also cleared out some space in the green house so that the occupants of Plot 21B have somewhere to put their tools. A mouse jumped out of a bucket which scared the living daylights out of me whilst I was moving stuff around. Eek!

Just hoping the weather stays dry for more than 2 days to get the beds completed. Everything is still very wet and more rain is coming on Bank Holiday Monday. :(

Allotment Layout Plan 2012