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 »

Carrots: Third time lucky

early Nantes carrotsIt breaks my heart to see the carrots so tiny at the end of June. They should be edible (if small) by now.

This is my third sowing – the first two failed because the soil was too cold. Normally I can get good germination in early April. This year I had to wait until late May.

Goodness, but things are behind this season. In one respect at least, we’re doing well: There’s no shortage of water. Er, definitely no shortage. It’s hammering down 24/7.

I got a letter from our allotment management reminding us that the hosepipe ban still applies: ‘Unfortunately, Veolia Water is unwilling to lift its restriction.’

Unfortunately? Nobody’s too gutted, pal.

first new potatoes of the seasonIn more heartening news: I dug the first new potatoes today. Perfect size, perfect taste, perfect crop: they’ve kept us waiting, but all this rain is apple mintmaking beautiful spuds. I’ll be eating them tonight boiled with apple mint and decadently buttered. It’s a small delight, but a perfect one: New potatoes, fresh out of the ground, are one of life’s little treasures.

Posted on 22nd June 2012
Under: Potatoes, Roots, Summer | 6 Comments »

At least the carrots are good

carrotsEr, gosh. Wow. Can it really be that long since I last updated this blog?

Dear, oh dear. I’ve not gone a month without posting since I started this nonsense four years ago. I guess circumstances must really be as difficult as they’ve felt. I won’t bore you with the details.

Anyway, I’ve actually been to the plot and dug up some veg. Carrots, my reliable standby, have been excellent this year. We’ve had buckets and buckets of ’em. A welcome consequence of the rain that otherwise ruined our summer (shame about the chickweed, which has run rampant in the wet).

Fountain in front of National Museum of Modern Art, RomeOne nice thing: I’m just back from Rome, one of my favourite places EVAH. Spent three days simply walking… and walking. Really the most wonderful city in the world: beautiful, exciting, stimulating, moving. I’m footsore, but delighted.

Just the one disappointment: couldn’t get into the Galleria Borghese, so missed the ticklesome statue of Pauline Bonaparte, posed from life as she reclined, Venus-like and semi-naked, on a divan. When asked how she could possibly have posed naked, she replied: “Oh it wasn’t cold. There was a stove in the room.”

Love it that she’s still embarrassing her wretched brother all these centuries later.

Posted on 3rd November 2011
Under: Roots, Uncategorized | 5 Comments »

Harvesting in the weeds

mixed allotment produceSo here’s a small selection of vegetables produced on the ‘unacceptably weedy’ Soilman allotment. And there’s a shit load more where they came from.

Weeds there may be, but I’m getting a bumper harvest. In fact, there’s usually a correlation between the amount of weed and the size of my harvest. In a good growing year, you get a lot of weed. Surprise!

I’m over the warning letter now. Have moved from irritation to resignation. If folks insist upon being cunts, there’s not much I can do about it.

huge onionInstead, I’m busy drying my monster onions and preparing for the big potato harvest tomorrow. It’s a month early because we’ve had a major attack of potato blight this year. My maincrop spuds lost the last of their foliage about a fortnight ago – so I’m not expecting a best-ever potato crop.

Still, I’m excited… because a preliminary dig in among the Golden Wonder mounds revealed some monsters. Looks like they’ve done OK, even with blight.

Posted on 20th August 2011
Under: Alliums, Cucurbits, Potatoes, Roots | 11 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 »

Last of the summer whines

Carrots, beetroot and dahliasThere’s a shitload more carrots where those came from, but the beetroot is all done for 2009. Ditto the dahlias. I picked the last ones this morning, and the frosts are on their way.

So summer’s definitely over, and you won’t hear me moan about weeds and lack of water for a while.

I’m not too sad. Too bloody busy, what with all the wretched digging.

Guess what I’ll be moaning about now?

Posted on 14th October 2009
Under: Flowers, Roots, Summer | 4 Comments »

What’s grown best for you this year?

Autumn King carrotsThese are coming along nicely. They’re my favourite Autumn King carrots, and they’ll be ready in just a week or two.

It’s been a good year for carrots. Actually, more like a blinding year; I’ve had more and better roots than ever before. Haven’t the faintest idea why.

What’s grown best for you this year? If you have any theories about why, do share them… I could do with the enlightenment. I just blunder around in a fog on my plot most of the time.

Posted on 9th September 2009
Under: Uncategorized | 13 Comments »

Back to a land of plenty

Week of growth

Say you missed me. Life was meaningless without me. You’ve white-knuckled your way through my absence, gagging for your hit of Soilman magic… right?


Hey-ho. Too bad, because I’m back from my Spanish holiday and I’m full of beans. Don’t give the tiniest shit what anyone thinks, and am ready to crow about my allotment successes. Sickening, innit?

Here’s the week’s worth of veg that grew while I was away. A few torpedo marrows, but lots of good ones. Plus some sensational corn, carrots and beet. It’s turning into a terrific allotment year.

Posted on 2nd August 2009
Under: Cucurbits, Flowers, Roots, Summer, Sweetcorn | 13 Comments »

Here comes the glut…

All the year round Caulifowers and Ratte potatoesThick and fast now, thick and fast. It’s all going crazy.

We have Ratte potatoes, Orla potatoes, All-the-year-round cauliflowers, Early Nantes carrots, Bolthardy beetroot and Russian courgette/squash hybrids (don’t know what these are called in English, but they’re known as ‘Kobachok’ in Russian).

The missus and I are stuffed to the gills with veg every night.

Posted on 1st July 2009
Under: Brassicas, Potatoes, Roots, Summer | 3 Comments »

Building sites, growbags and bent carrots

It’s here, folks: 2009’s most egregiously ignorant example of allotment bandwagon-jumping.

Laughed? I nearly shat. Growing vegetables on a brownfield building site – with or without bags, but definitely with industrial pollution heritage and a grandstand view of a builder’s arse crack – is just what I’ve always dreamed of.

But wait, there’s more. If you get past the first par without splitting a side, check this out:

The grow bags idea came from a music festival where she saw huge sandbags being moved around by fork-lift trucks. “I was thinking how flexible they could be. Grow bags would allow people to grow carrots and peas.”

Growbags on building site

Grow bags are – what? – 4-5″ deep. So the City of London has bred a carrot that grows sideways??

Honestly. I’ve spent 40 years hoovering the dustiest corners of Human Ignorance. I expect human beings to be wankers. But the profound dimness of Homo Stultissimus continues to blow my mind.

Anyone else spotted any good examples of allotment bullshit and bandwagon-ism? Please let me know. There’s a prize, for the best example, of something utterly irresistible (OK, so I’m lying about the ‘utterly’ part, and probably the ‘irresistible’ too. But you get the point).

PS Apologies to copyright holders of the pics I’ve bastardised here. Get in touch and I’ll apologise and pay in full (that’s if you accept payment in leek seeds).

Posted on 16th June 2009
Under: Rants, Roots | 15 Comments »