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, 22 February 2010

The Grape Dilemma: resolved

Having the opportunity to grow things which can be turned into alcohol greatly influenced my decision to sign up for the allotment. This was after my previous wine-making activity was interrupted when the 7 year old vine in my back garden failed to come into bud after the very cold Winter of 2008/9. The old vine went out in a blaze of glory having produced 100lbs of grapes in the previous year from which I had made 10 gallons of wine, a bottle of which won 2nd prize at the local agricultural show.

Vines will form a central part of my plot but over the last few weeks I have been dithering about which variety would best suit my location. I had settled on buying Dornfelder vines. Everything I read seemed to indicate that Dornfelder would be hardy enough for North Lincolnshire and would produce a heavy early crop of deep red grapes suitable for wine making but I had some nagging doubts and never got round to placing an order.

I drove through a very snowy Holmfirth today and remembered seeing a tv programme a year or so ago about a couple who had set up a vineyard on a hillside nearby. I thought that if there was a vine variety which could survive the Arctic-like West Yorkshire Pennine climate it would thrive on my plot which is almost tropical by comparison.

The Holmfirth Vineyard has a website from which it can be seen that their red grape varieties are Rondo, Regent and Acolon and Rondo is their strongest vine.

Despite this massive clue I stubbornly stuck to my decision to order Dornfelder vines. I emailed my order to Derek Pritchard at Winegrowers Supplies in Somerset I mentioned that I would accept Rondo if Dornfelder was not available and I asked Derek to let me know if he thought I was making a big mistake with my choice. Derek knows what he is talking about what with having imported 840,000 vines in the last 25 years and having his own vineyard and winery.

Derek soon put me straight, "Rondo would be by far the best variety for you". It ripens earlier than Dornfelder, is more disease resistant and may require a couple of sprays against mildew compared to the 8 or so that Dornfelder would need.

So, Rondo it is. I have ordered 10 grafted vines and they will arrive in early April. I will put three rows of three vertically trained vines on the plot and the 10th will go against my south facing garden wall at home.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


It felt like spring had sprung this week. I have been setting off to work in daylight and we have even had a bit of sunshine. The snowdrops are out in the garden and other spring bulbs are pushing through. With the exception of the chillies all the seeds which I sowed in the propagators last weekend are emerging and my Duke of York first early potatoes are chitting away nicely.

Today we are back into Winter. I woke up to a covering of snow and more is forecast later.

I called round at the allotment site this afternoon on my way to the Farm Shop for potatoes for Sunday dinner. Hopefully in a few months time the Farm Shop will be missing my potato purchases.

The contractor has not yet delivered the topsoil and raised beds which are due to arrive anytime this month. I did notice that David on half-plot 6 has rotivated and that Alan on plot 23 has had a large delivery of farmyard muck which was steaming in the snow. The new shed has been delivered to Chris on plot 14 (pic above) and he was fitting gutters to the shed and a fall pipe into his water-butt. Rachel (Mrs Plot 14) has suggested that we have a shed warming party. Any excuse for a party! Count me in.


I have received some kind words of encouragement (see comments on previous blog post) from fellow allotmenteers/bloggers this week and a Blog Award too from Jo at the Good Life Blog. Thank you Jo. Jo at Good life and Damo at Two Chances Veg Plot Blog have some good quality advice on their blogs and I'll be a regular visitor to both sites as I continue in my quest for allotment knowledge. The Idiot Gardener's Blog is just hilarious and makes compelling reading and his advice about the vodka is the best I've received to date. Check out all three sites on the links below:-

Monday, 15 February 2010

Sack o' Spuds

There was a sack of seed potatoes from Kings Seeds waiting for me when I got home from work tonight.

I had missed the catalogue deadline for ordering seed potatoes and was forewarned to expect some substitutes in place of my chosen varieties but as it happens they have delivered everything I asked for; 3kg of each of the following:-

First earlies - Duke of York
Second earlies - Estima
Early maincrop - King Edward
Late maincrop - Golden Wonder.

I now need store them in a cool airy frost-free place and read-up on planting times and chitting theories and work out what to do with them for best results.

The only things outstanding from the Kings seed order now are the 12 asparagus crowns and 3 rhubarb crowns which will be coming in March. I did pick up a couple of asparagus crowns and rhubarbs in Morrisons a couple of weeks ago. Couldn't resist at £1 a go. I also got some onion sets at same price; 40 red onions and 40 yellow. Still need to order the grapevines.

I popped into Wilkinson at lunchtime today. They had a few allotment related bargains and I came away with a fleece tunnel, an armful of 8ft canes for the runner beans and french beans and some 10 inch clear plastic bell-shaped cloches with pegs . Saved myself about £20 on what it would have cost at the local garden centre. Would have saved a bit more if I'd waited and bought my propagators from there instead of from the garden centre this weekend.

I will go back to Wilkinson when I have made a list of things I'm likely to need on the plot this year. Things that spring to mind at the moment are a watering can, netting to keep birds, butterflies and slugs off the fruit and veg, gardening gloves and some fertiliser.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Activity on other plots

After setting a few chilli pepper seeds off in the propagator this afternoon I went out for a stroll. Naturally this took me to the allotments. No sign of the topsoil and raised beds yet but there was some activity taking place on a couple of the plots. Nick (Plot 15) was glazing his new greenhouse, Chris and family (Plots 13 & 14) were laying a paved base for a shed and Rick's 14 tonnes of farmyard manure was simmering away gently on Plot 11.

Saturday, 13 February 2010


Today I have started to propagate my first batch of seeds. I have sown french beans, spring onions, maincrop onions, dianthus and marigolds into a couple of propagators in the spare bedroom. Fern has also sown some strawberry seeds. I have also put a batch of onion seeds in the coldframe outside and will compare their progress with the onions in the propagator.

The dianthus and marigolds are intended to be used as "companion planting". The idea is, I think, that if I plant them in my veg beds they will repel insect pests. Either that or they will attract the pests to their flowers and in doing so keep the pests off my crops. Or are they supposed to attract the good insects? I'm not sure. If the theory doesn't work at least the flowers will add a bit of colour to the plot.

Plot 25. Patience.

Still nothing much happening on the plot at the moment but it will be all systems go once the topsoil and raised beds arrive. All this waiting is probably not a bad thing as it means that I have no choice other than to resist the urge to get things in the ground now, which really is too early, I know, but I'm impatient to get started.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


If my wife and eldest daughter spend as long working on the allotment as they do on their Face Book Farmville farms I'll have nothing to do but sit back and enjoy the produce.

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The butt of jokes

I have collected the 220 litre water butt from Nick (plot 15). A cracking bargain at £15 including stand, taps, diverter and childproof lockable lid. Once the girls had finished making jokes about seeing my butt and the size of my butt etc. they said it would make an excellent plunge pool or hot tub. Now there's an idea for a Summer evening after a day of graft on the plot!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Muck on my mind

My farmer friend Richard (or rather farmer's wife Janice) from the next village has kindly offered me a load of farmyard manure. I can have it as soon as I'm ready for it.

I was going to leave it until after all the topsoil and raised bed work has been completed by the site contractor later this month but I have been having second thoughts and wondering if it would be better to get the manure spread now so that the contractor can lay the topsoil over it and then rotivate. I have noticed that a few plot-holders have already had some enormous steaming heaps delivered ready to be worked-in by the contractor.

On reflection I think I will wait. My reasons for this:-

1. I can make sure the manure is really well rotted before digging it in. I have heard that if it is too fresh it can raise the acidity of the soil and cause damage to seedlings.
2. I can put it where it will be most needed rather than having it spread over all of the plot, paths and all.
3. I have read somewhere that some root-crops do not perform well in newly manured beds, so I can leave bed rotation options open until I have worked out where everything is going.
4. The new topsoil will hopefully be good enough to produce decent crops in any event.
5. Once the raised beds and other structures are in place I can keep the manure in the compost bins or on a corner of the plot until I need it.
6. I don't think I'll have time to organise delivery before the contractor arrives back on site.