Archive for May, 2009

Garlic rust: the early symptoms…

Onions and garlic

Onions have done well. This warm weather we’ve been having is making them grow super fast.

Unfortunately, the garlic (very kindly donated by Patrick at Bifurcated Carrots)  is showing early signs of garlic rust. See the yellowing leaf tips of the plants (on the right). Patrick’s a mine of information about rust, but he too says he’s seeing warning signs of the disease.

Can’t say it’s any great surprise – I get rust every year – but I never get used to the disappointment. Just once I’d love to raise a pure, clean crop of fat garlic bulbs untainted (and unstunted) by rust.


Posted on 31st May 2009
Under: Alliums, Peas and beans | 10 Comments »

Asparagus beetle eggs

Asparagus beetle eggsYuck, yuck, yuck. Asparagus beetle eggs laid on the tips of the spears.

I don’t get much grief from asparagus beetle. They get squashed, with maximum prejudice, when I spot them. But it’s rare, and they do very little damage to my plants.

They do, however, lay their eggs on my supper. I’m sure they’re fine to eat, but I do find myself assiduously scraping them off. It’s the thought, you see: creepy-crawly eggs. Yikes. I’m a non-celebrity allotmenteer – get me out of here!

Posted on 28th May 2009
Under: Asparagus, Pests | 3 Comments »

Pictures of the plot. And sundry thoughts…

View of my vegetable plotProbably time to go public with a bigger-picture view of the plot. There’s a ton more at the back (about which more anon), but here’s half my ‘land’.

Verdict: OK. I guess.

What’s good: asparagus, carrots, peas.

What’s not: Potatoes. Slow growth this year, for reasons unknown. No spuds before mid-June, I fear.

I could bore for Britain on ‘what I’m growing at the plot’. God knows, dear Reader, the temptation to bludgeon you with plot-related trivia into a dribbling, catatonic stupor is a powerful one. I’ve only met a handful of you, so you’re mostly faceless victims of my Compulsive-Confession Allotment Disorder. It’s easy to abuse you.

But I know I mustn’t. You have lives and families. They need your sanity. And anyway, if I’m going to bore for Britain, I should really be boring about the toilet of bullshit, lies, greed, venality and hypocrisy that UK public life has become.

But relax: I won’t. At least, not today.

Posted on 27th May 2009
Under: Rants | 4 Comments »

Summer comes early…?

First year asparagus

If this is a taste of what’s to come, I’m all for it.

Today was sensational. Sunny, warm, barely a breath of wind. And the vegetables are loving it.

This is the asparagus I planted in early April. The fronds are a bit feeble, but that’s to be expected in their first year. They’ll thicken up well next season.

Sadly, I can’t attack ’em even then; you shouldn’t cut asparagus until its third year. Just as well I’ve got another established bed, which is still producing enough spears for dinner four times a week.

We’ll be SO sick of it by mid June.

Posted on 24th May 2009
Under: Asparagus, Summer | 8 Comments »

It’s the taste

Sweetcorn planted outWhat do you grow vegetables for? Taste, economy or pleasure? Or perhaps a bit of all three?

I ask because of this interesting post about allotment costs. They say growing your own saves money, but of course this is largely bollocks. Add in everything you shell out for (and I mean everything relevant, including share of greenhouse purchase amortised over a few years) and it all adds up.

Take this corn, for instance. To my shame, it’s not an open-pollinated variety… so I had to buy it because I couldn’t save my own seed (which I generally do). Then there’s the peat pots I raised it in, the (bought) compost I filled them with, plus the few bags of manure I bought for the soil (too time-poor to collect all my manure ‘free’ from local stables).

And that’s not all. There’s all the tools I buy and replace when they break or wear out, plus sharpeners and maintenance and the odd drop of petrol/diesel for driving to the plot with a boot-load of crap. Plus netting and fleece for crops that need them. Plus books about gardening (which never feature on anybody’s costs list, but should). If I was into fertiliser and chemicals, they’d cost too.

In short, I grow the most expensive sweetcorn in the world. Even if I cut my costs to the bone, I couldn’t possibly compete with a supermarket cob on price.

So why do it? Well, as they say in the PG Tips advert, “it’s the taste“. Innit.

Oh, and the exercise too – which, perversely, I enjoy. Anyone reckon they actually save money on their plot… if they’re really, really honest?

Posted on 19th May 2009
Under: Sweetcorn | 23 Comments »

OK, enough rain already

Ophelia roseI must have been crazy to write that last post. First rule of gardening: NEVER pray for rain. Sunshine, yes – whatever you say, it won’t happen in the UK – but asking for rain hereabouts is like asking for the pox in a whorehouse.

So, predictably, I’m now living in a swamp. Only my roses seem to be enjoying the deluge. Everything else has its head down, hunched up against the horizontal rain.

Worst of all is the wind, which blows perpetually, as sharp as a guillotine blade. It’s been cutting through me for five days now. Much more of it and I’ll go crazy. Clearly I could never live on one of those western isles up in Scotland. The wind would put me in the funny farm in no time.

Dear reader: If YOU live in the western isles, do tell how you cope with the wind. I need the full ‘Gale Survival Guide’.

Posted on 17th May 2009
Under: Flowers, Rants | 8 Comments »

Waiting for rain

Courgette in potPhew. Had a few days to cool off and come to my senses. Back to normality.

This lack of rain thing is becoming a problem, isn’t it? I know you guys Oop North have had a lot, but down in the SE of the UK it’s dry as a bone. My allotment’s like a desert. Don’t usually see this until July.

Absurdly, I’m writing this under a Met Office weather warning. By the time you read it, I’ll either be ranting anew about inaccurate weather forecasts, or building an Ark in the attic. See you on the high seas.

Posted on 14th May 2009
Under: Cucurbits | 9 Comments »

Why the RHS Chelsea Flower Show is shit

Have been pondering Matt Appleby’s excellent post about the Chelsea Flower Show.

Now as you know I don’t ‘do’ personal, ad hominem attacks. This is an allotment blog, not a fish market.

So what follows is out of character. But I’m moved to say it, because I’m… well, moved. The RHS Chelsea Flower Show is an annual wanker-fest that sums up everything that’s wrong with the RHS. In my humble opinion.


I’m sick of the bandwagon-jumping, expenses-claiming, braying, Bolly-gobbling, name-dropping, royalty-fawning, sleb-spotting, arselickan bullshit of the jeunesse (and vieillesse) dorée who frequent this annual wank tank horror show.

It’s a parvenu’s dungheap. A social collective enema masquerading as a horticultural event. To ‘get it’, you need a Babel-fish ear translator with ‘Universal Translation’ turned off, and ‘Pure Tosser-ese’ selected.

Gibbet on the lawn

Lest you think the Flower Show has any kind of appeal to anyone under the age of 40 with a normal working cerebellum, consider that this is an event that rates Diarmuid Gavin an ‘enfant terrible’.

Er, hello? This is not Geiseric the Vandal we’re talking about. Gavin’s a mildly paunchy, chirpy, middle-aged bloke who happens to like a sequinned gibbet on his patio. If this is dangerous and ‘risqué’, I’m Russell Brand.

Look, I want to love the RHS. I really do. I’m a serious and committed gardener. I massively admire the RHS’s gorgeous gardens and respect its staggering and incomparable wealth of expertise. We should have much in common.


But my name isn’t Apricots, Godfrey or Kenneth. I don’t live in a thatched house outside Tonbridge Wells, a footballer’s mansion in Cheshire, an über-chic Soho studio or a converted beach hut in Brighton. I hate Werther’s Originals. I don’t require regular, clandestine whippings to get off. And even if I could afford the several hundred quid required for a Chelsea ticket, I wouldn’t buy one.

Why? Because I may be 40 – but I’m not (yet) a mindless suburban drone, a Bufton Tufton fuckwit, a too-cool-for-school TV sleb, a merchant wanker or Paris Hilton’s London proctologist.

And I know most other RHS admirers/members aren’t, either. We’re just gardeners, who want to hear about growing shit. So RHS: Please reduce the price, get rid of the ponces and Ponzis, and give us back our London Flower Show.

PS: If you’re going to the show next week (and don’t know what you’ve let yourself in for), take a note of any prices that send shivers up your spine – refreshments, flowers, whatever. I may be moved to post about this next week so folks can log on here and let everyone know how badly they were ripped off.

Posted on 11th May 2009
Under: Rants | 25 Comments »

French beans, desperate for planting out

Young French bean seedlingEverything’s bursting at the seams, desperate to get out on the plot. I’ve got sweetcorn, French beans, courgettes, squashes, pumpkins and gherkins all jostling for space in my crappy mini-greenhouse.

But I daren’t put any of them out. Too dangerous; we often have late frosts in the second half of May. Last year a -3C frost blasted everyone’s early potatoes on May 21st.

So I’m stuck with everything until June 1st. I have pots in every nook and cranny of the house and garden, and am considering which body orifices could be pressed into service to provide more space…

Posted on 10th May 2009
Under: Peas and beans | 6 Comments »

Keeping birds off peas

Peas under net tunnels I’ve got a theme going here: Vegetables Under Tunnels. Seems a shame to stop just when I’m getting into the swing of it.

These peas are getting a head start under nets because birds always eat my young seedlings. Which is very odd, because I’ve yet to read a gardening book that mentions this problem.

Slugs and snails? Yup – known issue. Pea and bean weevil? Definitely. Mice eating seeds? Absolutely.

Birds eating seedlings? Say, what?

Apparently this a problem only suffered by Soilman. And yet it’s a serious, regular, annual issue – not a one-off freak event. Birds scoff my young peas if I don’t cover them. ALL THE TIME.

Does this make me an utter weirdo/freak/sadster/born victim?

Posted on 7th May 2009
Under: Peas and beans | 11 Comments »