Allotment News ~ Late June Edition

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Lately, between showers, I’ve been enjoying the company of birds on my allotment plots. First there’s been the pheasant family – Mr and Mrs and a single puff-ball chick. The adults make soft puck-pucking calls to each other as they wander up and down the weedier areas beyond my borders. I suspect they may also have been nibbling the celeriac seedlings which I’m not so pleased about. More recently I’ve been pursued by robins and hungry blackbirds. They have been most excited by my turning of several compost heaps. One blackbird in particular is adept at filling her beak, five worms at a go, dangling down like a mouth full of ribbons. The robins just nag, moving in at ever closer quarters, and piping up whenever I look like flagging on the heap turning front.

And talking of heap turning, in my last update on plot doings I was feeling a bit despondent over plans to adopt no-dig gardening methods. I realised I would need a phenomenal amount of compost. I think I’m talking tonnes here.  (The main principle of no-dig being that you cover all the growing areas with several inches of compost every autumn so you don’t need to dig in spring and thereby upset the balance of soil micro-organisms which create fertility. It also cuts down on weeding and watering). Anyway, I can now report some success, at least in a small way.

Back in March I was inspired by TV gardener Monty Don to try growing new potatoes in a raised bed. I had one ready, with its autumn compost topcoat well applied, so I thought, why not? In went my twelve Pentland Javelin earlies, set out in a grid formation. I simply popped them into the compost layers, placing them around 40 cms/15 inches apart. I then buried the lot in several inches of compost, and covered the bed with horticultural fleece. Later, once they’d started sprouting, I earthed them up with more compost (which accounts for why I found myself short of the stuff later). A fortnight ago, once flowering was over, I pulled up the first plant to see what was going on. And here’s the result (cue fanfare):

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And coming up next is the raised bed where the rest of the plants are still going strong. I used 2 plastic raised beds (2 x 1 metres) bought from a departing neighbour a couple of seasons ago, each a hand’s span tall, and placed one on top of the other to create enough depth to contain the earthing up compost. The end result of this is: no weeds and no need for digging up. When it comes to harvesting I simply pull up the plants and have a quick scrabble around in the compost like a lucky dip. Also, I’d fully expected slug damage after all the wet weather, but so far there’s none to be seen. In fact these are the best first early spuds I’ve ever grown – in looks, taste, ease of extraction and quantity per plant. And, I repeat: no weeds!

Once the spuds are lifted, I’m planning to use the empty bed for winter sprouting broccoli and kale.IMG_8449

And so, with all this vegetable encouragement, and a break in the rainy season, it’s back to the compost bins and bays and my demanding avian companions. More waste gathering and turning are definitely required. I’m thinking now that no-dig can work, even on my claggy Silurian soil – albeit one raised bed at time and with mega quantities of compost. In the meantime, here’s Mrs Pheasant, a view of a scarcely visible chick, and a bee in the nigella:

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51 thoughts on “Allotment News ~ Late June Edition

  1. How wonderful. Your taters are smashing!
    Since the arrival of the Hens at our spot open planting of certain veg dans le jardin is well nigh impossible as they simply scratch everywhere anything is planted.
    And as for cabbage – forget it.
    So numerous veggies are now being grown in tubs etc.
    I had moderate success with a first late potato planting and I am hoping for better results come September when spring arrives.
    If I can match your efforts I’ll be chuffed to bits.
    The pheasant are adorable.
    Are they not at risk of ending up on someone’s table?

    1. Pheasants will indeed be at risk come the autumn, though the ones in the allotment are probably feral, i.e. not reared from chicks by game keepers for shooting purposes. Good luck with your container growing. It can be a very productive way of growing – because of course you can control things more easily – hens included.

      1. It is a wretched pursuit. On top of which pheasants aren’t the brightest of birds, which makes them sitting ducks rather. Except it’s supposed to be sporting to ‘beat’ through their cover and frighten them into flight.

  2. Pheasants are beautiful birds. Your compost technique is quite illuminating. Potatoes… the ones I grew years ago in a large backyard garden were so sweet and tender that we ate them raw!

  3. How lovely to be surrounded by wildlife when at work, even though some may take advantage of your good nature 🙂 I think taller raised beds are the way to go. Mine are only one plank deep, but I would like them deeper. I am thinking of buying one of those trug planters for outside the conservatory into which I can grow the herbs I use most in cooking like parsley. At the moment I am busy removing stuff that has grown too big for the herb bed: Bronze fennel, looks lovely smells gorgeous, but boy does it grow BIG and Golden Marjoram which has taken over half the bed! I have the sweetest smelling compost bin ever!

    1. My bronze fennel has been taking over one of my beds. You’re right. It wants to be huge. But I love the idea of a trug planter for kitchen herbs. Also the notion of composting the fennel and marjoram. Far more sweet smelling than a heap that’s gone a bit squishy and whiffy

  4. You are so good with everything, Tish, and I love how you write it. My grandmother was a gardener and grew many fruits and vegetables in here enormous garden of 1 hectare. She always had birds working with her, and I know she loved the company. I grew up in her garden, but did not inherit her skills. Unfortunately. But I try…

    1. That’s a very precious image, Ann-Christine – your grandmother among her plants and birds, and in a whole hectare! And I’m seeing you there too, with her and watching her.

  5. It takes a lot of passion and work to be a gardener. Wonderful to see harvest fruits and vegetable from your won garden. A beautiful bird capture. Thank you for sharing, Tish!

  6. One year, we had a plague of lawn grubs. Not that we have much of a lawn and we were planning to let the grubs have it since it’s really the dog’s yard anyway. But instead, flocks of robins came and ate every last grub. We had dozens of fat robins joyfully eating every last grub. When they left, the grass grew greener than it ever had. Love those birds!

  7. Always a delight to read about your allotment adventures. I only have a lawn and backyard, but with my endemic laziness I’ve applied new age composting by leaving all leaves where they lay. Especially in Los Angeles, it’s a water saver too.

  8. Congratulations are in order for those splendid looking spuds, Tish! Isn’t it satisfying when a plan works so well?! It’s so lovely to hear about your feathered visitors. The Robins & Blackbirds definitely know which side their bread is buttered, they do love you to do most of the work though..cheeky things! Male pheasants are so pretty, but I wish they wouldn’t fly out in front of vehicles so often..they’re much safer in the huge, accompanying fields, rather than on the roads! I sometimes wonder if “bird brain” was coined because of their daft actions!

    1. You’re right about the pheasants. Hard to know why they’re so keen on ‘playing chicken’ when it rarely ends well! My spuds are basking in your praises 🙂

      1. Takes me back to my childhood, summer Sunday lunch, roast lamb, peas, home grown spuds and mint sauce and the cricket commentary on the radio, an idyllic era

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