Plot Notes

A personal journal, open for the world to read, recording the progress of a novice allotmenteer on his allotment.

Weed it and reap.

Monday, 23 September 2013


Last year my grape harvest was sunk without trace. Lots of grapes formed but when they needed sunshine all they got was rain and the brief, late, dry spell at the end of the summer was too little too late. They ripened but were on the small side. I set an afternoon aside to go and harvest them but when I arrived with my scissors and large plastic tub I found that the birds had beaten me to it and the vines were bare. 2012 was not a vintage year, unless you were a bird.

Apart from losing one of my vines in the standing water which did not drain away over the winter, this year has been very much better. We avoided the late frost which has set me back in previous years and we have had a decent amount of the right sort of weather at the right times, albeit everything has been running a couple of weeks late. Saturday was a very warm and sunny September day and so I decided to let the grapes bask in the sun for one more day before picking them on Sunday.
On Sunday afternoon I set about picking the grapes. There were plenty of large, fat, juicy bunches. As I Snipped away and pondered The Meaning of Life the immortal words of Monty Python's Mr Creosote came to mind, "Better get a (bigger) bucket".
I spent Sunday evening pressing grapes by hand. I need to add a fruit-press to my wish-list before next autumn. After about three hours I had hand-squeezed four and a half gallons of juice from the grapes. I have been left with two purple-stained hands. I have scrubbed and scrubbed them but, 24 hours later, they remain claret-tinged.

I sprinkled some crushed campden tablets into the grape juice and then left the must overnight. Tonight I have measured the specific gravity and added 2kg of sugar. I then added a sachet of wine yeast to the mix along with some yeast nutrient and now I'm waiting for the sugar to turn to alcohol. Next weekend, or maybe next week I will transfer the must into air-locked demi-johns. There are still plenty of bunches of grapes still on the vines. If I get chance I will pick them and set off a second batch of wine.
By the way, please let me know if you want to use any of my photos. I have noticed that my earlier "bud-burst" photo has turned up on a number of`commercial websites around the world, copied without my permission and not credited to me.

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Still here

I can't believe that it is so long since I updated this blog. I am still here and still allotmenting. The weather made last year a very difficult year on the plot. I never really caught up after the set-backs caused by frost and floods in the late Spring and early Summer. This year has been much better in terms of both weather and produce. Here's a sample of the harvest from yesterday.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Enormous beetroot spotted on allotment

Today has been a glorious sunny day with temperatures well above 25 degrees centigrade. I have spent the afternoon lugging barrow loads of topsoil, manure and compost to go into some raised beds which I have made as part of my plan to avoid a repeat of the flooding which I suffered earlier this year. The theory is that the growing area will be raised a few inches above the likely water level and the paths between the beds will channel excess rain water away. It has been hot and strenuous work under the scorching sun. I even took my shirt off. I now look like an enormous bright red beetroot.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


You may have seen here and also here that for the last two or three weeks I have had my vines wrapped in fleece in an attempt to protect them from the risk of damage from the cruel frost which has visited the plot a few times in early May.

To the casual observer the vines may have appeared lifeless as they have hung there draped in white fleece death shrouds and I must admit that in the dark, when I have gone to light the greenhouse heater, they have looked like nine frozen contorted ghosts. However, I think they have had an appearance which is more like huge white pupae hanging from the vine wires. Inside each chrysalis metamorphosis has been taking place as buds have burst, leaves have formed and new growth has started to reach up towards the sun.

Last weekend I felt it safe to declare that there will be no more frost this season and so on Sunday afternoon I carefully opened and removed the fleece chrysalis from each vine and, to continue the metaphor, the new green leaves unfurled and started to soak up the bright and warming sunshine like newly emerged butterflies. And so, the vines have entered the next stage of their life cycle.