Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 27th of April

Sowing Potatoes

For the last two weeks, I have, after waiting patiently to ensure there will be no late frosts, and a steady minimum temperature of 6 degrees, been sowing potatoes. A variety of early and main crop, Maris Piper, Desiree and King Edward.

Sowing potatoes is hard work, in my case I first dig a trench, (Thats when I come across the dreaded weed Mares tail, nicknamed the Devil’s entrails) then fill it with leaf mould saved from the autumn and cow manure. (Being a vegan I am contemplating switching from cow manure to green manure) The potatoes are then mounded up and watered. Watering is a huge problem, my own particular site has a huge annual water bill with tenants asked to only use a hose to fill up water butts and to use watering cans filled from the butts. (A time consuming task)

Bringing It All Back Home

I brought home the first Rhubarb of the year for a rhubarb crumble.

Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 30th of December

A new year gardening plan

Measured the plot today, its exactly 11 x 5 rods, (or perch) an old measurement for allotments.

Made a plan for the plot in 2019.

In no particular order: Move the mushroom bed. Research plants that cope with drought. Distribute the remaining cow manure on the soil.

Install a new window into the shed. Prune the apple trees. Fix the green wheelbarrow wheel. Clean the pond and buy new pondweed and barley straw.

Stabilise the old shed. Fix the old shed drainage pipe. Weed the rhubarb patch. Research and plant winter vegetables.

Grow courgettes, not marrows. Grow pumpkin and squash. Grow peas and beans x 3.

Design, build and locate a new sculpture from recycled and old waste materials. Repair the Ransome push mower (buy an old ransom mower for spare parts)

Lime the cabbage patch. Add fish bone to ailing shrubs and young oak tree. Finish repairing the paths. Research companion planting.

Research no dig gardening.


Bringing It All Back Home

Brought home a bag full of apples that had been stored in the shed in cardboard boxes, they have kept well in this way.

Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 2nd of December

Raking autumn leaves

I love autumn, the changing colours of autumn leaves, its a milestone, another year gone by and spring to look forward to.

Today I raked autumn leaves from all over the site using a good old fashioned rake. I can’t understand why people have to use noisy energy consuming blowers, because they are their presumably, when you can get some good exercise and meditate upon the act of raking, a traditional activity and not unlike scything.

The leaves are placed in a home made wooden purpose built frame from discarded palettes. When covered, to keep them from blowing away, they rot nicely and can be used the following year as an excellent mulch for potatoes and all round soil enhancement, I like the idea that this years old leaves are helping next years harvest.


Bringing It All Back Home

Brought home some more kale though its getting a bit tough now, I read that the frost helps improve the taste of kale and other winter vegetables such swede, turnip and chard.

Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 19th of November

Swan Vestas (Smoke Gets In Your Eyes)

Fires on Birmingham allotments are now restricted to November and March, by order of the council. I am unable to find an explanation for this but I guess its something to do with pollution? Fires are good for burning a variety of materials such as old dried out weeds, (especially marestail tail, commonly known as the devils entrails) hedge cuttings, old wood left over from maintenance and any other suitable combustible materials acquired over the course of a year, cardboard, paper etc. The ashes make potassium, calcium and trace elements and are good for improving the soil but don’t put them on acidic plants such as soft fruit. I tried to grow carrots this year by degrading the soil and filling it with ashes but alas it didn’t work.

The smoke from fires gets deep into your clothes and can smell weeks later even after washing, but on a cold November day, who cares.

Bringing It All Back Home

Brought home some more kale and a handful of turnips. I feel a stew coming on.

Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 11th of November

Make Do And Mend. The Low Carbon Low Cost Renovation of an Allotment Shed.

Sheds are interesting places, allotment sheds in particular, full of junk, bric a bric and cobwebs and memories, each one is different and closely associated with the identity and personality of the owner. Some are brand new and straight out of the warehouse, paid for to be erected on site, others are delapidated and in ruins. The sheds on “plot 99” have a long history and are associated with the anti-capitalist philosophy of forgoing new in favour of second-hand, recycled, renovation, repair and self installation.

Historically we have always had two sheds, two old wooden ones, both of which over twenty five years of weather have deteriorated. One was very small and so bad we burnt it and replaced it with an old but still functional wooden shed languishing on another allotment. After a stroke of luck and generosity we acquired this shed and rebuilt it ourselves on paving slabs bought cheaply from ? We then repainted it with ? to protect it and attached cheap roofing from Homebase, all at a cost of ?

Another shed, a robust tin-shed, was scrounged from my neighbour who was throwing it out to replace with a new one. We transported this to plot 99 at a cost of £30 but slowly realised that the aesthetics of plot 99 were better suited to wooden sheds, that a tin shed the size of this one may attract robbers. (A perennial problem on allotment sites) This tin shed was sold to another allotment holder for £60 to cover our original transport costs and the proceeds used to repair and renovate our other wooden shed. This other shed of twenty five years standing had an asbestos roof but in the winter of 2017 we finally got rid of the asbestos at a cost of £75. (The council, who own the site, declined to help except by taking it away when fully wrapped in plastic)

The repairs took a a number of weeks and involved reinforcing the old sheds roof and sides before a plastic sheet roof could be attached, for this we bought two 8ft x 2inch square wooden beams from Homebase at a cost of £16

We bought fixing screws and plastic tops to fix the plastic sheeting roof from Homebase at a cost of £10

We were given six sheets of plastic sheeting by a friendly landlord and walked them up to the plot ourselves.

We were advised to buy the regulation foam underlay for the roof as it prevents crack and breakages, unfortunately it cost £100 so we decided to do without and use old bubble wrap instead.

The shed will now be used for storing vegetables and as a nursery for new young plants.

Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Monday the 29th of October 2018

Global Warming

I don’t know about you but today, here in Moseley Birmingham, we have today had our first frost. Its remarkable, almost November and our first frost. Plot 99 is looking good but I am convinced that the following are all evidence of global-man made-warming.

Its a really late autumn, the grass is still growing, I could cut it again today, the nasturtiums and sweet pea are still blooming, I am still picking broad beans, the flowers in hanging baskets are still in bloom, garden herbs are still healthy and very few trees have lost, or look as though they are about to lose their leaves and temperatures continue to be above the norm for this time of year.

Its clear that global warming has already and will continue to impact upon gardening and allotments. This year we had a very hot summer and a drought, there were no hosepipe bans but we came close, more summers like that and we will have hosepipe bans. We only use hosepipes to fill our water butts but a hosepipe ban would limit even this. In addition, our allotment is not nearby, it is a three mile cycle and in hot summers we have to water every other day, a big commitment. In addition to heatwaves we now have to contend with flash floods, inches of rain in a very short time that dislodges plants and takes away the topsoil. We had one such event last summer when the whole of the site was flooded and in some pars six feet under water, swamping some plots whose owners in recognition that this will happen again have left.

Global warming also raises issues of plants and their susceptibility to dry weather, clearly some plants can thrive with less water than others, we will need to research to establish a growing plan that matches plants with the climate.


Bringing It All Back Home

Brought home half a dozen freshly dug swede, beautiful green kale, (The Kale this year has been fantastic with very little whitefly) beetroot, cabbage and apples.


Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Thursday the 11th of October 2018

Cow Dung.

Had a half a ton of (organic?) cow dung mixed with straw at a cost of £80 delivered by Bill Finnegan, a west coast irishman with an accent as broad as the plains of Kildare, and a farmer now in Kings Norton.

As a result of modern farming methods, their cruelty to animals, the use of fertilisers and chemicals and my being a vegan, I do have doubts about cow dung and issue in growing vegetables. Never the less, we bought some and will use it to enrich the soil for next year. We have thought of alternatives, horse manure is said to be better but contains the seeds of more weeds. (I didn’t know horses ate weeds? There is also green manure, planting and working into the soil when its grown green manures such as sorrel or mustard, will need to explore this further.

Prior to bills arrival we had scrounged some old palettes to build frames to house the dung and covered them with tarpaulin to keep it dry and fresh for as long as possible, it takes a lot of time and energy to get it into the ground.

Climate Destruction.

I was very encouraged to learn recently of a group called “Climate Action Network West Midlands”. An open and inclusive group with the task of actively combatting climate destruction locally and nationally. I have consequently made arrangements to go to their next two meetings. The 31st of October is a meeting summarising their work and on the 14th of November they have their AGM. Hopefully they are a group I can get involved with.

Ps: Pictures of me are curtesy of Colin Monk. f22 photographic.



Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 7th of October 2018.

Pickled onions

Had quite a few small onions left in the bed so rather than waste them decided to pickle them after hanging them up to dry out a little. I like a pickled onion with a variety of foods, cold stuffing and cold roast potatoes being my particular favourite.

Bringing it all back home

Ingredients: A Kilner jar. Malt vinegarBunch of small onions. Ten peppercorns. Salt. Bay leaves. Mustard seeds. Coriander powder.Wash & peel the onions then cover with a small amount of salt. Put all other ingredients in a saucepan and bring to the boil, leave soaking overnight.

Put onions in a jar and cover with the vinegar and spices and leave for 6 weeks.


Bringing It All Back Home. Allotment Chronicles.

Allotment tales and art.

Sunday the 30th of September 2018.

British Apples.

I often wondered about the garden of Eden, God, the snake, Eve and Adam. It obviously had a bloody good apple tree in it and Adam, encouraged by Eve, who knew what a bloody good apple when she saw it, was expelled for taking a bite and the rest is history.

I think the apple in question is an “Arthur Turner“, we have several apple trees on our own little garden of Eden, one of which is an “Arthur Turner”, and it has to be the best apple on the planet. We also have a “Worcester Pomagne” (A good cider apple) and a close 2nd to the Turner. Other trees include an Adams and a Bramley, we know these trees for they were planted in our time, the others that we don’t recognise were planted before our arrival.

Bringing it all back home:

There is a glut of apples this year, not sure why, prolonged hot weather, a good pruning last year. We have so many and its such a shame to waste them. I give many away to my neighbours, regularly make apple crumbles and thinking now of apple chutney. Maybe we should buy an apple press? We have also thought of contacting local stores to see if they would sell them? Its unlikely the big stores will as their locked into contracts and trade deals. If I had a corner store I would jump at these apples for you can pay fifty pence for an apple that is, lets face it, shite.


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