Archive for June, 2011

Allotment staycationing

allotment pictureIt’s the time of year when everything’s a-bloomin’ and a-fruitin’. Some nice raspberries, and the early spuds are at last producing.

Sadly, so are the weeds. But that’s life.

In other news, Mrs S has determined that for our holidays this year we’re going… nowhere. Instead, we’re having a ‘staycation’ and remaining firmly at home.

I could kiss her (and will, actually). Jaded as I am by the traditional Soilman holiday, I was getting very antsy at the prospect of an aeroplane trip – any aeroplane trip.

Knowing I don’t have to do it fills me with exquisite relief. No puce-faced child. No screaming blue murder in my ear. No ill-fitting nappies (diapers) leaking their contents on to my trouser leg. No need to spend half my salary at the osteopath on return.

Instead I’ll have a fortnight on the allotment – weather permitting. And how bloody marvellous will that be?

Posted on 29th June 2011
Under: Rants, Summer | 8 Comments »

Big head, small feet?

Desiree potato flowersI totally see why our forebears thought potatoes were ornamental. Planted en masse, they’re very beautiful. Especially the ones with pink and violet flowers.

I’m growing some old maincrop favourites this season – Desirée, Vitelotte – but also some new ones: Golden Wonder (I have a weakness for chips) and a weird one called Mr Yetholm’s Little Gypsy. The latter will probably be shit. It’s clearly special interest (and therefore special needs), and the plants have not exactly thrived thus far.

The Golden Wonder, on the other hand, have produced the tallest and bushiest potato haulms I ever saw. They’re massive.

Does this mean I’ll get a massive crop? Or – as my jaundiced/experienced/cynical heart tells me – lots on top and fuck-all underneath?

Posted on 26th June 2011
Under: Potatoes | 3 Comments »

Artichoke leaves dipped in butter and lemon juice

globe artichokesYum, yum. My favourite summer tipple, timed to perfection for my birthday.

Globe artichokes take up a lot of space, and you don’t get much food from them. BUT what you do get is rather delicious: I love the smell of artichokes boiling in the kitchen. They have a mealy, earthy, aromatic tang that fills the whole house and makes me drool with hunger.

They are best consumed cooled, dipping each leaf in a mixture of melted butter, pepper and lemon juice.

Heaven on a plate.

Posted on 19th June 2011
Under: Globe artichokes | 8 Comments »

Soilman: As boring as you suspected

Given the news today – SECOND lesbian blogger turns out to be middle-aged American man (following on from the first, yesterday) – I thought I should just take a moment to reassure readers of my identity.

For the record: I am NOT a lesbian living a secret gay life in Syria or a lesbian activist running a feminist website.

I AM an allotment holder lamenting shitty crops and whingeing about lack of rainfall. I AM, furthermore, a boring, middle-aged man living in London’s suburbia and trying not to succumb to a midlife crisis by pretending to be a person of the opposite gender campaigning for things I don’t fully understand.

For total clarity: I will NOT be coming out any time soon as a high-rise, homosexual apartment dweller trying to set up a branch of the Terence Higgins Trust in Riyadh. I will not be leaving my faithful followers feeling betrayed, wondering whether they can trust any of my detailed onion planting advice, or whether it was all the figment of a foetid metrosexual imagination.

This, I hope, will put your concerns to rest.

Posted on 14th June 2011
Under: Uncategorized | 8 Comments »

One potato, two potato… oh

new potatoes "Orla"So I thought my new potatoes might be ready. So I dug up one plant to see.

This is the result: one egg-sized potato and one pissy rabbit turd. This represents a return on my planting investment of a half potato.

Some return.

There are no words up to the task of adequately describing my disappointment. Digging the first new potatoes is usually one of the highlights of my vegetable growing year.

Obviously not this year. The only consolation is that it’s now pissing with rain pretty much 24/7, so after the drought we’ve had I might at last see things catching up a bit.

Posted on 12th June 2011
Under: Potatoes | 5 Comments »


If you’re unlucky enough to have caught my rantings on Twitter, you’ll know we’ve had rain in south-eastern England.

A fair bit, I’m relieved to report: more than an inch on Sunday night and some good, strong, prolonged showers since.

But you won’t be surprised to hear that I’m not hanging out the bunting… yet. After four months of almost total drought, even the 3-4cm of rain we’ve had in the last few days is a piffling drop in the ocean.

I did a bit of digging on my vegetable plot last night, and the ground is still utterly dry below half a spade’s depth.

We need a LOT more rain where that lot came from.

PS One very good thing about the rain is that it’s arrived just in time to bulk up the early new potatoes. A heartfelt ‘thank you’, then, to the Higher Power.

Posted on 9th June 2011
Under: Rain, Summer | 5 Comments »

The in-laws cometh… to save my arse

20110604-090635.jpgFrench beans are go today. About the only thing I’m bang up to date with. Most everything else is behind schedule.

I won’t whinge about the weather again. Ok, I will. It’s been bloody awful. Ants are destroying everything on the plot because the soil’s so dry. God knows if these beans will survive.

On the plus side, my in-laws are coming to stay in a few weeks. I’m looking forward to this. Counter-intuitive, I know, but bear with me: they’re keen vegetable growers. Thus I’ll shortly be benefitting from much-needed help from clued-up gardeners. And I’ll be working them hard for their supper.

*cackles evilly*

Almost as welcome as rain.

Posted on 4th June 2011
Under: Peas and beans | 3 Comments »