Parental Visitation

The weekend was scheduled for the installation of the guttering and water butt, a task I’d handed over to Lynn but not before I had passed on the benefit of my huge and heroically unsuccessful experiences. I’ve been spouting tales of woe for the last week, predicting DIY disasters of monumental proportions and just to add to the pressure I thought I’d invite my parents down to witness the whole event.

Of course my parents are renowned troopers in the allotment world so I might also have hoped to benefit a little from their digging prowess and work ethic as well.

Kinky Boots

This shot nicely captures Lynn’s fear as she spots the kinky boots I bought my mum a couple of Christmases ago, I like to think she’s wondering desperately how she can backtrack and remove wellington boots from the xmas wishlist she left me with.

Too late though I’m afraid.

I’ve been revisiting an old book “Companion Planting” by Gertrud Franck and it triggered a little obsession with the mass planting of spinach seeds. I sourced a bulk supplier, Seeds By Size, awaited delivery of my 25,000 spinach seeds and then waited for the general mocking and guffawing from the children to die down, before sitting down myself and wondering if I’d gone ever so slightly nuts.

I am reasonably content that the mocking will die down when they find plate-fulls of slimey green stuff turning up day after to day but between then and now there is a lot of planting to do.

Spinach Sowing

Luckily my Dad was quite prepared to get stuck in there and start me off with the first row.

I think the general idea with the spinach planting is to cut and leave in-situ as a mulch or green manure but I’ll worry about the specifics later.

water butt

Heading back to the water butt, I’m afraid there is very little left to say.

It was disappointingly uneventful.

The guttering was erected in moments, Lynn and my mum sorted the trajectory without recourse to swearing and the whole thing was dressed up like a work of art before I had chance to get my hands dirty.

Sync Dig

My hands may have remained relatively clean but I didn’t let my folks get away with anything easy.

All in all they transplanted two fruit trees, dug the grotty front patch, planted a rhubarb crown, transplanted a row of spring cabbage, commenced the sowing of the 25,000 and demonstrated a bit of synchronised digging.

I did give them a cup of tea though.

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Community Allotmenting – War or Peace?

One of the plots adjacent to mine is run on a community basis and I find it fascinating to see how well it flourishes. I would expect utter chaos but it’s a very well ordered plot. I haven’t spotted a Gantt chart pinned up on the shed wall with tasks and timelines allocated to individuals and I’ve never seen them huddled round a cuppa holding secretive planning meetings.

Last weekend though, G wandered over to my plot with a half eaten tuber in her hand. She was digging over an empty bed and unearthed what she thought was a Jerusalem artichoke, after rubbing it on her trousers she popped it in her mouth and gnawed off half it. It’s at that point she discovered it wasn’t actually edible so wandered over to seek my help in its identification. Turns out she was trying to enjoy M’s Dahlia collection.

She quickly went back and reburied the tuber and patted down the evidence of the freshly turned over soil but I have an inkling that she’ll be caught out when M gets back from his holidays.


As you know my parents visited a fortnight ago, after tea on Sunday, Dad and I cycled over to the lotty to see what we could achieve in the last remaining hour of daylight. Working in the same tiny section of the plot (a 4m row), we set off almost shoulder to shoulder, planting our respective crops. Dad stuck in a load of sweetcorn seeds and I popped in 3 tomato plants and just in front of these went the 3 heritage potatoes that we’d saved from lunch (prior to cooking of course).

I marked the spuds with 3 quite impressive hillocks but yesterday while I was down there, I could find no sign of my potato mounds. Instead though, I found a scattering of swede seedlings. Under interrogation my Dad admitted to seeing the potato hillocks but assumed they were just evidence of poor cultivation. He had flattened them out and sown his seed on top!

Dad's Cauliflower

I will forgive him this once as he also put in a row of carrots and these have actually germinated, which is great news as my most expensive carrot in the world appears to have disappeared.

While on the subject of my Dad, I have to sneak in a photo of his rather substantial cauliflower. He dug this up before he came down and it fed 4 of us for 3 days.

That is my kind of vegetable, so I’ve been quick to gets some seeds in.

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Carrot Torment

I’m on the edge with my carrots. Three squandered seed packs later, I’m wondering whether to just walk away and forget that the sweet, orange roots ever existed in my life.

A trip to Petersham Nursery on Sunday gave me another option:

Extortionate Carrot

Now 50p may seem a little steep for an individual carrot, even in a pretty coir pot, but my multiple seed pack scattering has generated just one single germinated frond. If I can nurture that single beauty through the inevitable carrot fly onslaught, one day soon I will get to eat a £6 carrot, maybe the most expensive carrot in the world.

Incidentally the nursery had a whole line of individual potted crops, folk were carrying them away by the wicker trug load, presumably to stock their pretty little potagers.

Turnip anyone?


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Wot no Grandkids?

My parents arrived today, searching for grandkids as predicted.

Finding the flat childless, they were persuaded to walk along to the allotment in search of productivity. There I handed them a fork each and set them off at either end of the row of manky cabbages in a horticultural dig out. Mum won of course, by virtue of both reaching the middle first and rooting out the biggest pile of couch grass and bindweed.

By means of a reward I brewed them a cuppa char each, after all they had just driven all the way from Yorkshire and ought to be able to multi-task while watering the spuds.


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Sadly Barren

April Steamings

The title applies to me and not the plot which continues to be satisfyingly productive as todays steamer contents will confirm.

I had a phone call today from my parents who were happy yet a little puzzled to find my blog mentioned in the Saturday edition of the Telegraph under the section: Best Allotment Blogs. The puzzlement was not so much due to the broadsheet recognition but rather the manner in which I was described – “Earthwoman is a working mother who posts beautiful pics and regular updates on her plot.”

Now I would like to reassure my folks that I have not been hiding any grandkids from them and as a note to any new readers I have to say I am resolutely childless, but I do post quite nice pics.

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Fungal Foray

For Christmas this year I got a couple of packs of mushroom “seed” or more accurately, packs of wooden dowells impregnated with mushroom mycelium.

mushroom log

I went up to Yorkshire for a few days so I split them with my Dad and we had some fun trying to bash the little plugs into some freshly cut logs. We’ve got two varieties, oyster and shitake, can’t say I’m that fond of shitake but I’m hoping to acquire a dessicator before they crop, they should be pretty useful in soups after I’ve dried them out.

Mushroom Logs

Back home I sunk them in the ground just in front of the shed, where I hope they’ll get sufficient shade to be happy. They apparently crop best in October but I can’t imagine they’ll take that long to issue some fruit.

I can’t remember which is which now.

While I was visiting my parents, I also raided their established pond and nicked some weed, pond water and a water lily. I think the allotment frog population should be jolly happy with the new residence.

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All Quiet on the Allotment Front

Well it hasn’t been all that quiet it’s just been so stressful recently that I’ve kind of gone into blogging hibernation.

I mentioned in my last post that I had been offered a super shed for use on the plot and I’d roped in the help of my mum, dad and brother to help erect it, after I’d dismantled it and delivered it to the plot.

So, full of excitement and enthusiasm I set too on the shed, whipping out screws and nails, or at least I would have done if I hadn’t shredded every screw I touched. The flippin things wouldn’t budge and faced with the enormity of my task I sat down in a little sulky heap and tried to remove all shed dreams from my memory banks.

Shed Foundations

Following a call to the family, I discovered that there are many people way more talented than me on the DIY front. It seems my brother knows special tricks for the removal of stubborn screws and the shed dream was back on. With excitement creeping back, I booked the van (after checking it would take an 8x6ft shed) and then headed to the plot to prepare the site.

Seems a little strange to prepare the soil for planting a shed but I was worried about it becoming a safe haven for bindweed if I left any roots. Now I risk the shed sinking instead but the ricketier it looks, the safer it will be.

Early last Saturday morning the 4 of us headed to my friends to start ripping the shed apart. What a job that was. After getting all the screws undone but before pushing the shed apart like a pack of cards, the question was asked – “should we not just put it back together and leave it well alone?” Clearly there was an inkling of the trouble ahead.

We continued and after about 4 hours had the shed piled up in a heap ready for me to go and fetch the van, parked about 8 miles away in central London. I was a little concerned when I saw the van, VW Transporters aren’t that big really, but I had asked the question and was told it would fit so I drove it back.

So much for asking questions and really I suppose you shouldn’t trust anyone to do trigonometric calculations when you are quite capable of doing them yourself and discovering that the doors are more than a foot too short! Curses! Where do you get a whopping great van without notice at 4pm on a Saturday. No where is the answer.

We carried the shed back into my friends garden. I went back to drop the useless van off and spent the rest of the evening trying to get my dad and brother drunk on vintage port so that they weren’t too concerned about all the wasted effort.

Next morning I managed to hire a massive hi-top transit van and we were back on the job by 9am. Vintage port gives the sort of headache that doesn’t welcome early mornings and hard labour. Still, the shed fitted like a dream and we were off to cause havoc at the allotment site.

Sunday morning is no time for trying to squeeze the biggest damn vehicle ever down the middle of the site. I must have disturbed just about every plot holder there and anxiety levels were sky high. We unloaded it pretty quickly though and I skulked off to dispose of the van. By the time I was back it seemed the shed was almost up! And I promise I didn’t take my time, I was only gone for about 15 mins. My brother is clearly an ace at construction.

Shed Erectors 1

I didn’t really do a lot, I just looked on with gradually declining anxiety and fetched screws. When I finally got to look inside I discovered that my dad and brother had knocked up some fantastic staging and laid a laminate floor! This is definitely going to be a home from home.

With the shed up my brother had to shoot off home (and I didn’t even give him any lunch). My mum and I set too with the organising, finding special spots to hang the tools and finishing off the shelving. As if they hadn’t all done enough by this point they started digging over some of the areas I’ve missed, planting bulbs around the pond and constructing a permanent bench. I had to drag them away eventually so we could get some dinner.

It’s almost a wonderful end to the weekend except for the fact that I seem to have broken some allomenting by-law. The shed is apparently too big for the site. Quite a bit too big. Now I’m living in fear of being issued an eviction notice and having to go through the whole sorry process again. If push comes to shove I may take a chain saw to either end and make it smaller that way, but it would be a terrible shame.

So at the moment I am keeping a low profile, I need to go up to the plot to plant an apple tree and empty my overflowing compost bucket so I think now would be a fine time – tis absolutely belting it down. I bet I won’t see a single soul there. I’ll be able to plant my tree and sit in my dry shed admiring the view and waiting for the bulbs to poke through.

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Industrial Espionage

Dads plot

The Great North Run travel arrangements put paid to all plans for allotment labouring this weekend but I was able to do a reccy of some East Yorkshire plots and pick up more veg growing tips.

I think my dad was having payback thoughts after all the hard work he did on my allotment but “unfortunately” it was raining and we all know its not a good thing to dig on wet soil! Shame. Doesn’t stop you from admiring the handiwork of others though. They have some pretty productive plots in Bridlington but they seem excessively keen on brassicas, who needs 50 spring cabbages and 20 plants of purple sprouting? I am only jealous of course, I love purple sprouting and was just a bit too late with the plot to source any plants.

Bridlington Allotments

I met a couple of allotment holders who were happy to demonstrate the art of seed collection and monster onion growing. I am now going to scrub all the dahlia seeds from my order form and go out on the scrounge for dead heads. I hope to have a patch of prize specimens this time next year. As for onions, I’ve been alerted to the labour required to grow a monster, no wonder I only end up with pickling onions. The trick seems to be to grow them from seed, then keep em watered, manured and fertilised. Can’t go wrong.


I acquired a little pack of spicy salad leaves this weekend so on my return to London I made a quick trip to the lotty to sow them. I was going to sow over my row of rocket as I’d given up hope of the 6 year old packet producing anything but when I arrived I was greeted by a flush of green seedlings. How satisfying! Now I have two rows of salad stuff for the autumn.

The weeds are up in my newly dug bed as well. I must have missed some of the couch grass roots and its too late to dig it over again now. I’ll have to hope I can exhaust them with repeated hoeing.

I’ve been trying out a new website called myfolia, I think it is still in the beta testing stage but it is worth keeping an eye on. You can set up unlimited gardens such as home and allotment and then record all your planting details and journal entries. I think its going to be a really useful tool for monitoring successes and failures. If you use flickr for your photos it will automatically link into these as well, very pretty.

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