Archive for June, 2010

Sod the weeds, feel the vegetables

weedsI did promise you some hot weed action. So, in keeping with this blog’s tradition of ruthless honesty – even (especially?) when it’s all going tits up – here’s a picture of the Dark Side of Soilman’s allotment.

Yes, my friends, I am human (“very fucking human” – Mrs Soilman). There is bindweed on my plot. There is couch. There are nettles, and thistles, and brambles, and Fat Hen, and a thousand others besides.

But you know what? I don’t give the tiniest shit. It’s not a beauty contest. It’s just about one thing: the veg. Provided I get enough to feed us from time to time (regularly would be a bonus), I’m a happy bunny.

Here endeth the lesson.

Posted on 29th June 2010
Under: Rants, Weeds | 11 Comments »

2010 cauliflowers: the obituary

young cauliflowersGardening’s a bit like corporate advertising: You know that 50% of it will be ineffective. You just don’t know which 50%.

Every year I try to grow and plant out the broadest range of vegetables I can, in the full and certain knowledge that some (many?) won’t ultimately produce much, if any, food. Some will be an utter write-off.

Why waste so much time and effort?

Because in the UK, the weather is so fucking unpredictable. It can be freezing cold and wet, freezing cold and dry, hot and wet, hot and dry, hot/cold/wet/windy/dry and Christ alone knows what else.

Result: there is no such thing as a season that suits every vegetable. So some thrive, and some die – you just don’t know, in April, which will be which.

Come June, though, the clues are mounting up. And I reckon these cauliflowers are doomed. I got them in late, they struggled to get going, and now we’re getting some seriously hot and dry weather – the conditions they loathe most.

RIP Soilman cauliflower crop 2010.

Posted on 26th June 2010
Under: Brassicas | 10 Comments »

Oh Lordy, it’s the…. courgette flowers

courgette flowerOh God. It’s here already.

I’m not prepared for the courgette glut. I never am. Within weeks, I’ll be chewing on the question all allotmenteers have to ponder come July and August:

At what point will the neighbours start refusing gifts of courgettes? The fifth time? The sixth?

Could I push it to a seventh or eighth??

Posted on 25th June 2010
Under: Cucurbits | 10 Comments »

Carrots and beetroot

carrots and beetroot rowsI’ve just about caught up with the weeding and got all the crops in… on midsummer’s day.

Hey. Better late than never.

This season isn’t going to be my finest hour. I’m late with everything, the weather’s been SHIT (dry, cold, miserable) and I’ve not had time to plant more than 60% of my plot.

Oh, and now we’re going to have a drought. Fucking great. Wake me up when it’s all over.

Posted on 21st June 2010
Under: Roots | 6 Comments »

The peony dilemma: To transplant or not to transplant

white peonies

This year’s peonies have been disgracefully beautiful. Must be something about the harsh winter. Peonies grow very well in Russia, so I assume a hard frost suits them.

This one is growing in my garden, and it’s gorgeous. So gorgeous that I’m toying with the idea of splitting the clump and planting half on the allotment.

Just one problem, as peony fans will know: this flower HATES being transplanted, and can sulk for up to 3 years before it flowers again.

Question: Have I got the patience to wait?

Posted on 17th June 2010
Under: Flowers | 9 Comments »

Fat bastard completes 10km run shocker

Blenheim Palace BHF 10km runCompleted the Blenheim Palace 10km earlier today. Joints are just starting to stiffen up nicely.

If you’ve not been to Blenheim before, I strongly recommend a visit. It’s the absurdly grand and pompous country pile built by the Duke of Marlborough in celebration of his 18th century victories in France. Designed and landscaped by ‘Capability’ Brown, it’s a home fit for Ozymandias – gorgeously epitomised by Vanbrugh’s outrageous bridge over the piffling little lake in front of the house. A triumph of over-engineering in the name of bombast and vainglory.

SoilmanIn short, it’s an egotistical monument to a monumental ego, and I love it. Tasteless, artificial, grandiose, shameless… and utterly beautiful. A pleasure to do the tour, even with rasping lungs and burning legs.

I finished in 1 hour 4 mins, which is a personal best. Might have gone faster had it not been for the evil hill in the middle – steep, and very long. But hey, I finished. Given that I couldn’t run for 3 mins in early January, I reckon that’s a result.

Posted on 13th June 2010
Under: running | 14 Comments »

Ripped out all the weeds… not

French beansFirst visit to the allotment in 9 days. I’m not proud.

Worked like a demon to pull out about 20% of the weeds (1 hour’s work), plant out the remaining sweetcorn seedlings (30 mins), plant and net the cauliflowers (90 mins) and stick in these beans (20 mins).

So, success. And yet…

The whole place is still swamped in bloody weed. I’m too ashamed to show you the pictures.

Ah, sod it. I’m not really. I have no shame any more. So you can look forward to explicit, unexpurgated and red hot pictures of weedy allotment hell in the next installment.

Don’t say I don’t spoil you.

Posted on 12th June 2010
Under: Peas and beans | 5 Comments »

Will the cauliflowers actually happen in 2010?

cauliflower seedlingsIncredible: June 9th and I’ve STILL not got my first tranche of cauliflowers out on the plot.

Honestly, this year’s been crap. I’ve had a difficult time lately for other reasons, but the running regime is one of the main culprits. Finding the time to cultivate a full allotment AND run 15 miles a week is proving challenging.

Anyone even further behind than me? Please, please say. You’ll make me feel so much better.

Posted on 9th June 2010
Under: Brassicas | 14 Comments »

Weeding, weeding, bloody weeding

I went to the plot tonight to water and ended up weeding for 45 mins. Again.

Which, given that I’ve done nothing but weed for weeks now, is remarkable. Thistles, in particular, blow my mind. One day, you have a batch of just-weeded, bare soil. Literally three days later, there’s a large thistle growing in it.

The worst bit is the sure and certain knowledge that by removing the thistle, you merely make space for its inevitable replacement. They come in battalions, and they never surrender.

Doubtless my gravestone will have a fucking great thistle engraved upon it. “RIP Soilman, you sad bastard: We got you in the end”.

Posted on 3rd June 2010
Under: Weeds | 20 Comments »

Running around Richmond Park

Ran this yesterday, and all I can say is that Richmond Park is a bloody long way round.

I’ve never seen all of it, and it’s very lovely. Deer, gorgeous vistas, spreading chestnuts, buzzing bees etc etc. BUT it’s also got some scary gradients.

Don’t know which is worse: the very steep, but mercifully short hill by Kingston gate, or the long, drawn-out agony of the slow climb from the cemetery to the top of Richmond Hill.

Whatever. I survived it – by dint of running pathetically slowly. Yesterday’s time was feeble, but at least I finished with some puff to spare. Next time I’ll knock at least 5 mins off it.

Posted on 1st June 2010
Under: running | 8 Comments »