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.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Annual Review

I suppose that I should take the word "novice" out of this blog's sub-title now that year three on the plot is well under way but I still feel that I have got so much to learn that I will have to leave it in there for the time being.

I started this year with the intention of keeping things simple on the plot. I resolved that I would not attempt to grow so many different types of vegetable as I have done in the past and that I would concentrate mainly on the handful of crops which I have had the most success with in the previous two years. Having now reviewed the contents of numerous seed trays which I have, at various stages of propagation, positioned on windows sills at home and out in the cold-frame and greenhouse, it seems to me that I am failing in my resolution to keep things simple.

I will set out below the first part of my assessment of the crops which I grew last year. I will review the items in the order of a walk-through from the front of the plot to the back but first here's a photo, taken at the end of June 2011 when most things were thriving, which should help me to remember what I was growing and where.
Flower Bed:  8 out of 10
My 9 year old daughter planted a flower bed in front of the compost boxes with some good results from lupins, dianthus, nasturtiums, rudbeckia and a few others. She eventually lost enthusiasm and the weeds moved in. She will get the flower bed blooming again this year.

Potatoes: 4 out of 10
I had some very tasty new potatoes early on and the volunteers which grew unexpectedly from kitchen waste peelings were also very good but after that my spuds were a disappointment. They were all generally on the small side and if you boiled them for a fraction of a second too long they would disintegrate into mush in the saucepan. Potatoes harvested later on tended to be a bit scabby.

This year I have planted just one variety (Romano). I have planted them at the far end of the plot where the soil seems to retain more moisture. I have planted them in a bed into which I have dug in a few back-breaking barrow loads of well rotted cow manure. I lined the trenches with a mixture of manure, powdered fish blood and bone and home made compost and I sat each seed potato in a trench in a little nest of compost before raking a high mound of soil over them.

I have spread some horse manure with a high straw content into the furrows between each mound. I don't know if anyone has tried this before but my theory is that the layer of strawy manure will suppress weeds and help retain moisture in the soil below whilst at the same time enriching the soil with its pooey goodness.

Leeks: 8 out of 10
I planted leeks in the potato bed once all the potatoes had been harvested. Most of them have done well over the Winter requiring very little care or attention from me. The ones which we had with our Easter Sunday dinner were delicious.

Broccoli (calabrese): 0 out of 10
My broccoli seeds failed to germinate but a local farmer donated some of his surplus seedlings to me and other allotment holders. Unfortunately his seedlings turned out to be cabbages not broccoli. This year I have a few broccoli seedlings already growing and so I hope for better things this year.

Cabbage: 6 out of 10
The cabbages (which should have been broccoli) were perfectly formed with tightly packed hearts but they were very small. In fact my neighbour's cabbages, which came from the same source, were more than twice the size of mine. Unfortunately my children,who would happily devour broccoli by the bucket load, seem to have an aversion to cabbage. I can take it or leave it. The result was that we only ate about half of the cabbages and the rest were added to the compost bin.

Sprouts: 6 out of 10
This is another green crop which the girls avoid. I don't mind that because I mainly grow them with the intention of having some home-grown sprouts to eat with my Christmas dinner. To that extent the sprouts were a success but like the cabbages, which were grown in the same raised bed, they were small but perfectly formed. The raised bed which I will use for sprouts this year has been well manured and the soil is much improved and I hope that this will lead to something more substantial than the little green pellets which accompanied last year's Christmas dinner.

Lettuce/salad: 7 out of 10
The cut and come again salad leaves did well whilst we kept on cutting and coming again but soon went to seed when we didn't cut or come again. Mrs PlotNotes would prefer the convenience of having the salad leaves grown in the garden at home so that is what she will get this year.

Radishes: 7 out of 10
I had intended to plant successive rows of radishes at seven day intervals to guarantee a regular supply for the entire Summer. I found that I didn't have time to do this and so the sowing was a bit sporadic, as was the harvesting. The ones which I picked in time were tasty with a hot kick to them. Others, which I neglected to pick in time, became large and woody and were gnawed at by some unidentified insect or rodent.

Asparagus: 8 out of 10
A few early spindly shoots were followed by some decent spears which were delicious and which were probably as good as I could have expected for second year plants. The asparagus bed is still in the early years of a long term project and so, with some strong-willed self-restraint I was careful not to over harvest the plants. Over the Winter I have dressed the bed with a mix of bonemeal and compost. I now have a couple of small spears pushing up through the layer of compost but they seem to be a good few weeks behind the spears which are shooting up on other plots. I hope I have not damaged my asparagus bed by burying it under a fresh layer of compost. I am a little bit concerned that only two out of fourteen plants are showing any sign of life.

All being well, my next blog update will pick up this review at the strawberry bed.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like you had a good year. I remember from GW last week that Monty Don had similar criticism of his spuds last year - can't remember exactly why possibly too dry at a crucial stage in their growth. Manure and spuds are always good bedfellows and good luck with the calabrese this year, our kids love them. Hoping to start an asparagus bed myself this year. All the best for the new season.