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, 30 August 2010

It's Showtime

Today I entered some of my allotment produce into the local agricultural society show. I wasn't going to bother. I have been away on holiday and have also been very busy at work. On top of that, on a trip to Hampton Court Palace, a rampaging Saga-lout lost control of her car, smashed into my parked car and caused £4012.24 worth of damage to my car (not to mention the damage to the 2 year old Audi parked next to me and the 400 year old wall in front, which she shunted my car into). Consequently, apart from essential watering and a bit of weeding the plot has been largely neglected for the last two or three weeks (it's a while since I updated the blog too. Sorry!).

Until last year I had never displayed anything at a show. Since we moved to this area about eight years ago we have always gone, as a family, to have a look at the August Bank Holiday Show and we have always had a good day out.  The kids and grandparents alike all enjoy it. There is something there for everyone and I usually manage to slip away for a couple of pints in the beer tent with my father-in-law which is a fine way to spend a bank-holiday afternoon.

These shows only happen if there are people willing to participate and it would be a shame to see this kind of event disappear from the local calendar for the lack of willing participants. The Epworth and District Agricultural Show seems to be flourishing. Today there were over 800 entries to the various show competition categories. Last year I entered a bottle of home-made wine, made from home-grown grapes, into the competition and won a second prize. Encouraged by this I decided to enter produce into a few more categories if I had anything half decent on the allotment this year.

I dug up a row of potatoes yesterday. I love digging up potatoes. I never quite know what to expect and can't quite believe that there will be anything there. When you raise the earth with a fork they seem to tumble out of the ground looking like gold nuggets against the dark soil. From that moment onwards they never seem to look quite so good to me.

I have got hundreds of potatoes stored in sacks in the garage. I dipped into the sacks and pulled a few out but couldn't find any that I thought would be worth taking to the show. I can't quite see the beauty in a spud and I didn't know what the show judges would be looking for so I decided not to "show" any potatoes. Maybe next year I'll have a go now that I've seen the entries from this year and I have a bit more confidence in my own efforts.

The show rules for onions stipulated that they be "dressed". I didn't know what that meant. I considered borrowing one of Barbie's outfits from my daughter but then thought better of it and decided not to show my onions. Anyway, now I've seen a dressed onion I know what is required for next year.

I have been taking some absolutely magnificent cucumbers from my greenhouse for several weeks now (even if I say so myself). There have been loads of them. My wife has been giving them away to friends, family and neighbours. Very few visitors leave our house without a complimentary cucumber tucked under their arm. I have had my eye on three large ones hanging perfectly straight in the greenhouse. I had left them growing on the vine to keep them fresh for the show but last week noticed that they were turning yellow. I thought this must either be because they were getting too much sunlight or, perhaps, not enough, or maybe they had not had enough water what with the disruptions of recent weeks. I did a bit of research and found that cucumbers turn yellow when they are over-ripe. They also start to taste bitter when they reach the yellow stage. So, three large yellow cucumbers found themselves on the compost heap this morning and a slightly bent slightly scarred but nicely green specimen found itself called off the 2nd reserves subs-bench to make an appearance at the Epworth Show.

I have also neglected my french beans and runner beans over recent weeks. The runners are now quite large, probably too large, and long straight ones are few and far between. The French beans are beyond their best and many of them now seem to be podding.

My pumpkins are doing well. One needed cutting off so that growth can be concentrated on the others. That meant that I would have at least one decent item to take to the show.

In the end I managed to scrape together show entries for the following catagories:-

1. Three carrots (leaves cut to 3 inches)
2. Three peppers (any variety)
3. One Cucumber
4. Six runner beans
5. Three tomatoes (cherry type)
6. Selection of up to six varieties of veg or fruit - judged on quality. My six varieties were Pumpkin, Courgette, French Beans, Chillies, Spring Onions and Carrots.

I also entered the wine competition with a bottle of rose wine made from home-grown grapes and a bottle of white wine made from plums taken from my father-in-law's garden.

The results? I got second prize for my home-grown grape wine (again) and third prize for the selection of six veg varieties.


  1. Congratulations, Phil. Can you give me some tips on plum wine?

  2. Well done, from the look of the Dahlias it's a pretty good standard show. Sorry to hear about your car, what a nightmare!

  3. Thanks ITW,
    For the plum wine I took about 9 or 10 lbs of victoria plums,stoned and crushed them, put them in a fermenting bucket and poured 2 gallons of boiling water over them. When cool I added pectic enzyme, covered it and left it for 6 days. I then strained it over 8 lbs of sugar into another bucket and added yeast and nutrient. About 10 days later I syphoned into 2 demi-johns and added 8oz of sugar to each. I then fitted air-locks and left them in the back bedroom for about a year and then bottled it the day before the show.

    It was my first go at plum wine. I think it has turned out ok even though it didn't win a prize. My effort is bottle 787 in the photo above and my grape wine is bottle 788.

    If you are new to winemaking it might be worth having a read of CJJ Berry's "First Steps in Winemaking" if you can find a copy. It is perhaps a bit dated now but still has some very sound advice and lots of wine recipes.

    Damo, some of the dahlias were very impressive. The competition was for The Humberside Championship. There were 11 classes judged to National Dahlia Society Rules - it is all a bit too advanced for a novice like me.

  4. Ah, so you've gone over to the dark side, eh?

  5. Haha IG. You got it. I am being measured for my blazer and tweed tie as I type. Help me!