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, 27 December 2010


I have spent most of the last two days eating and boozing. Between feasts I have been nodding-off in an armchair catching up with the sleep I have lost in late night sessions following The Ashes cricket downunder. Today I managed to break the cycle of behaviour which had consisted of an afternoon nap with a glass in one hand and a tin of toffees in the other while the kids played on the wii or a film played to itself on the telly. It took considerable effort but I managed to get off my backside and make the short journey to the allotment site.

The ground is still frozen hard and a thin layer of snow lingers on. More snow is forecast for tonight. The ground has been frozen solid since the end of November. There is no possibility of doing any digging unless you have a pneumatic drill. The ground was well and truly frozen when I paid a short visit to the plot on Christmas Eve to pick sprouts for Christmas dinner, which were delicious by the way. There were some other plot-holders struggling with pick-axes and metal spikes to break up the ground so that they could extract their parsnips from the tundra. I hope they were worth the effort.

In theory, I still have some potatoes in the ground. In reality, I don't know if there will be anything still there. I should have harvested them weeks ago but didn't get round to it and when I have had chance to get onto the plot the ground has been so hard that my garden-fork has rung like a tuning-fork when I have tried to prise the ground open with it. I must wait for the thaw before I will find what has become of the remaining spuds. I suspect they will be mush.

The purpose of my visit today was to prune the vines. By the end of the Summer most of the vines had reached the top support wire, about 6 feet high. I have now cut them all back to about 2 feet to where the stems are about as thick as a pencil. All the advice I have received is to do this task when the vines are dormant. In view of some of the temperatures we have suffered over the past few weeks I have no doubt that that the vines are dormant; my concern is that they may be permanently dormant. After pruning I spread a mulch layer of well rotted horse-manure around the vines. I still don't expect much of a crop of grapes next year but hopefully by this time in 2012 I'll have a few demi-johns of home-grown home-brew bubbling away in the spare bedroom.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Life in the freezer

Brrrr! It's cold. In fact it's bloody freezing. After spending two days shovelling snow off the road outside my house and excavating my car from the glacier that had formed on my drive I attempted to drive to work on Friday morning. I managed to move just four inches (sideways). The rear brakes on the car had frozen fast and I was going nowhere fast. According to the car's thermometer the outside temperature was minus 12 degrees centigrade. I have never known it ever get so cold previously. The temperature hardly got above freezing point over the weekend but I did eventually manage to get the car moving again. This morning, when I set off to work, at 7.27am, the temperature was, as you may be able to see from the photograph below, minus 17.5 degrees centigrade and it was only 4 degrees warmer when I arrived home tonight.

I am seriously worried that this prolonged exceptionally cold spell will be fatal to my grapevines. I did carefully select the Rondo variety of vine for its proven winter hardiness but I never thought that in their first year these young vines would be exposed to such cold temperatures. In fact, I never thought that I would experience such cold without making a trip to the Arctic.

I can only hope that the deep layer of snow which covers the vines has provided them with some insulation against the harsh cold. Only time will tell and it will be an anxious wait until next April to discover whether or not any of the vines have survived the Winter.


Wednesday, 1 December 2010

This time it's knee deep!

Sorry to go on about the snow. I know everybody seems to have a snow story to share but I am absolutely amazed at the amount of snow that has been dumped on us in the last 24 hours. I've never seen anything like it. There was no way that I could dig the car out and make the 120 mile round trip to work and back today, so I've had a "snow day". That's the first time ever that the weather has prevented me from getting to work.

I had a walk up to the plot today. The main purpose of my visit was to retrieve my spade from the greenhouse so that I could join my neighbours who were having a few beers and clearing snow from our cul-de-sac. I was also worried that the weight of the snow would be too much for the greenhouse roof so I was anxious to check that it was ok. Fortunately the greenhouse was still standing so I cleared the snow off the roof, took a few photos and returned home with my spade ready to enlist with the community snow shifters.