Archive for June, 2013

Of cabbages and Autumn Kings

young carrotsHad a fabulous day on Tuesday. A full six hours at my allotment without interruptions, additions, chores, tasks or interference. AND the sun was shining.

I realised later that this was the first time in more than four years that I’ve been able to enjoy my vegetable gardening at leisure: no clock-watching, no frantic weed tugging in a tightly-defined 10-min window between other pressing engagements. It was bliss.

The bad news, of course, is that it got me thinking about my life in general. The most appropriate question arising: What life?

All I do, essentially, is work. When I’m not working (unusual) I’m trying to fit into the few pathetic remaining hours of the week all the tedious chores and domestic tasks I can’t do at work. Gardening is forced into a very lowly position on my list of priorities.

young beetroot plantsI know whingeing is unattractive. I also know lots of you reading this will be recognising your own lives in this rant and thinking “Get over it, Soilman. Grow a pair.”

I have no answer to that. But I promise you: If I figure out a way to work less and garden more, I’ll be sharing it with you here.

Posted on 28th June 2013
Under: Rants, Roots | 4 Comments »

UK weather forecast: we’re all doomed

The portentous and self-important group of meteorologists and climatologists have delivered their verdict: it may rain for the next 10 years.

Or, er, it may not. Perhaps.

This is such tremendous horseshit. Meteorologists in the UK struggle – by their own admission – to forecast the weather accurately more than three days ahead. This very week, I have watched as their 48-hour forecasts have changed almost hourly… without ever being correct, even then.

There is not a snowball’s hope in hell of their calling this one right. The last few years of crap summers may be no indicator whatsoever of anything. Purely random, unpredictable, inexplicable. After all, as I’ve written on this blog, it’s happened before (1310-1330).

But that doesn’t stop them issuing their pointless edicts and predictions. People just can’t resist trying to foretell the future.

UPDATE, 10th July: In light of the current weather – forecast to continue for the whole of July – it’s clear that the meteorologists were indeed talking utter bollocks.

Posted on 19th June 2013
Under: Weather | 3 Comments »

When to stop cutting asparagus?

asparagusHad our last cut of asparagus three days ago. So there goes another year… and probably just as well. We’d eaten it every other night for 5 weeks. Sick of the stuff.

Technically, you can keep cutting until June 21st. But I never do. If you cut all the way to mid-summer, you weaken the plants and they don’t last as long.

So how do I decide when to stop? Well, this may sound a bit surreal… but I just, kind of, know when. You sense it. The spears produced by your asparagus bed start getting that little bit thinner than they were at first. Plus they slow down. You can almost feel the roots taking a huge breather, trying to gather their strength to keep putting up shoots.

I never put them to the test. The longer the roots get to grow unchecked this year, the thicker and juicier the spears next spring. And the plants will last at least 20 years.

Posted on 13th June 2013
Under: Asparagus | 5 Comments »

The iceman cometh?

I’ve been thinking about sunspots.

Now, cool your jets. I’m not going to start banging on about Maunder Minima and little ice ages versus global warming, CO2 and all the rest of it.

Reasons: a) I’m bored by all the arguments that generate more heat than light, and b) I’m not qualified (you might reasonably ask: on the basis of a piffling few hundred years of unreliable weather data… who really is?).

No, this blog entry merely asks a hypothetical and rather narrow question, viz:

If solar activity does hugely affect climate, and if we are the verge of a new ‘Maunder Minimum’ period that will bring much colder winters (all theoretical and unproven)… what would that be like on my vegetable plot?

Well, I guess it would mean more years like the last three.

Which, I gotta say, is bad news. Because 2011-2013 have brought average vegetable yields at least 20% lower than before – even worse in certain crops (potatoes are more like 40% down). Lots of rain and no sun, allied with longer winters, has been fairly crappy for me. Yet more rain and/snow plus even longer winters would presumably be disastrous.

And I’m just a humble one-man vegetable grower. Extrapolate these figures to northern hemisphere farming, as a whole, and they add up to a hell of a lot less food.

I don’t pretend to know how this would play out. Especially if lasted – like the 17th century ‘little ice age’ – for 70 years.

But I’m doubting humanity would feel it was an improvement on what’s gone before.

Posted on 7th June 2013
Under: Rants, Winter | 4 Comments »

2013: Through the looking glass

early and maincrop potatoesThis is the view of my vegetable plot today. All nice and familiar – if a little backward – for the time of year. Early potatoes in the background, maincrop in the foreground. Lovely.

Except that it’s the other way round.

Yup: the maincrops are the ones at the back. The tiny haulms getting their first earthing up are my ‘first early’ (ha ha) Rocket spuds.

I put the earlies in the ground in March – on St Patrick’s day, as usual. Then they disappeared. Too damn cold. Now they’re tragically retarded, due for cropping probably as late as mid July.

It’s all a bit of a clusterfuck.

Posted on 1st June 2013
Under: Potatoes | 2 Comments »