making hay

We’re stuck in a time warp and the World is moving on around us. A covenant, agreed when Lord Zetland handed over the land to the people of Redcar, appears now, to be a little outdated. A set of rules, forbidding any structure above 4′ high, no lighting of fires …

brimming with broccoli

We’ve been at the allotment again on Saturday – clearing the last of the weeds left from 3yrs of neglect. We didn’t do this clearing the easy way – with a strimmer; oh no, muggins here had to do it by hand with a pair of shears and secateurs and …

cold frames – a poor man’s greenhouse

A quick look at the diary and we can see that we’re 18 weeks in, in our journey on Plot 36. It doesn’t seem so long to be honest, given the volume of the weeds removed and compost and manure brought onto site. I mustn’t forget the pallets either. The site resembles …

extreme composting – turning up the heat

Those of you interested in the concept of no-dig gardening, will have no doubt read, or at least heard of the work of Charles Dowding. Charles has written a number of extremely informative books on the subject and has a website which is an absolute mine of information, for those interested …

Recent Articles:

full circle

August 12, 2013 Gotalottie Comments Off

well, that’s us more than halfway through the year. Is that optimistic of us? Autumn appears sometimes to be just around the corner – despite the late start to the Summer.

Copious amounts of fresh horse manure have been put to use and is paying us back now. The long bed, piled high with over a metre of manure, has sunk to less than 50% of its original volume. We’ll put that down to the weight of ripening tomatoes and squashes forcing down upon it.

Tomato manure bed

Tomato manure bed

Ripening Toms (moneymaker)

Ripening Toms (moneymaker)

Cerise and Pear Franchi - all packing on weight now

Cerise and Pear Franchi – all packing on weight now


The squash are still flowering with Butternut and Autumn Crown setting every day. The Bees are loving the flowers and appear to be getting quite intoxicated on the pollen.

3 sleeping beauties

3 sleeping beauties


We haven’t beaten the Horsetail. All of the plans and strategies for pushing it back with allelopathy have failed, but the beds are looking clean and it’s now a pleasure - compared with what the plot looked like a year ago.

order out of chaos

order out of chaos


Tanya is so pleased (so am I of course) with the rear of the plot. Raised beds filled with herbs and Tomatoes are flourishing. The Woodblocx raised bed looks smart and striking amongst the traditional.

a cosy corner

a cosy corner

Toms scrambling amongst Chives and Rosemary

Toms scrambling amongst Chives and Rosemary


Early lettuce and salads have long gone but are now replaced with Autumn crops of Radicchio and ‘Freckles’ and the Bulb Fennel is looking strong.




Fennel - sown after the Solstice

Fennel – sown after the Solstice

Autumn salads - Freckles

Autumn salads – Freckles


 There’s a feeling of having come full circle. Whilst the Summer isn’t finished, we’re starting to think of Autumn and Winter – of plot revisions and our next epic journey into our battle with the Horsetail. That will probably be raised beds filled with manures – hotbedding. We can think of this later!

Enjoy the rest of your Summer.






no-dig, drought and our over-loved carrots

July 28, 2013 Gotalottie Comments Off

Having had a rather luxurious top growth to the Parsnips despite any attempts to water them; we’ve had a reverse reaction with our carrots. Sown late March, they were a little slow to get started and foliage has been quite small.

The recent drought started up here way back in May and while we don’t keep a record of rainfall, we sensed that they were in need of additional water. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to overwater deep-rooted veg as the roots aren’t encouraged to go force their way down and results can be rather top heavy – all greens, little orange!

Our beds have been suffering of late and we’ve opted to hand water the carrots twice a week, in order to keep some moisture available for them. We’ve watered approximately 15cms away from the centre of the carrots in an attempt to get water down to the base of the roots, rather than around the stems.

We pulled a few plants at the weekend and the results were good. The side roots have swollen though at 10-15cms depth indicating that water was present at this depth and we can’t help but thinking that we shouldn’t have watered at all.


aesthetically challenged

aesthetically challenged


Never mind the quality though – feel the width!. There might be some strange looking veg in another 6 weeks time – co-inciding with our local allotment association competition..

googling raindances

July 22, 2013 Gotalottie Comments Off

it only seemed like 3 weeks ago, that everything was so green, so lush. We hadn’t had a lot of rain but the beds were holding out well with water retention very high.

1st July - sweet peas away

1st July – sweet peas away

The sweet peas were romping up the frames with regular pickings on long stems.

The salad veg was well underway with weekly staggered pickings of a few leaves each and the mangetout were in constant flower with regular crops of healthy pods.

salads, mangetout - all healthy. Poached egg falling away and nasturtiums rallying.

salads, mangetout – all healthy. Poached egg falling away and nasturtiums rallying

The pollinating plants were starting to attract a lot of insect life.

more sweetpeas

more sweetpeas

dwarf nasturtiums set in the french beans

dwarf nasturtiums set in the french beans

which is of course – all good for our veg.

mini cukes enjoying the insect life

mini cukes enjoying the insect life

Squashes - easily pollenated

Squashes – easily pollenated


But, as you now know, we’ve been having a heatwave. I truly cant recall the last time that it rained to be honest, maybe it was for an hour and five weeks or so ago?

Even our thick no-dig beds are struggling. The top 3 inches are very dry and the worms have moved a long way down. It’s necessary to water of course and this is something that we don’t like having to do. The beans have been getting the most attention but even with their daily watering rituals, the beds are failing. We need rain!

mangetout have failed - lacklustre

mangetout have failed – lacklustre

At the weekend, we pulled another hefty crop of mangetout, but it was worthless and it will all be shredded and go back on the compost heap. They’re too dry, stringy and pale. Three of the four frames can be lifted now. The fourth is stuggling. Thankfully we have another sowing waiting in the shade and this will go in one of the hotbeds where things are moist and fertile.

We have some encouraging crops coming from the plot now - which only 12 months ago, was derelict and moribund.

healthy harvests

healthy harvests


But we, as are many plotholders up and down the country, are struggling without water. It’s necessary to have a respite from this weather, so that we can get our beds back on track.

The 5a.m. water butt filling is tiresome and the head-butting and eye-gouging at the taps – unpleasant.

Rain please!


































turnips anyone?

June 24, 2013 Gotalottie 2 Comments

Those of you who have previously ventured onto this site will recall our undaunted fight with Equisitum Arvense, the lowly – but effectively stubborn – Horsetail.

In a previous post, we described our latest cunning plan - the use of chemistry, allelopathy to be precise, to counter this dastardly little weed. We’d read on the interweb, that there are a couple of plants that are really loathed by Horsetail and we made the decision to give this a try. If successful, all would be well on plot 36 and if not, then we could disprove the idea as an old wives tale. In one long and especially boring evening, we sowed 350 French Marigolds and 500 turnips into modules and threw the trays onto our hotbeds to do their stuff.

That stuff was quickly done and 5 weeks ago, we planted the turnips, in groups of 2 or 3, alongside our paths and in various corners. Mother nature has obliged and now we fight through swathes of Purple Top Milan…

 Unfortunately, we are also still fighting with Horsetail.

they look ok at the moment, but we'll regret it later methinks

they look ok at the moment, but we’ll regret it later methinks


It doesn’t work, cries I.

If there was an allelopathic reaction, I missed it and now the Horsetail happily grows up through the turnip plants. A failure, but it dispels the myth. One day, in the future, allotment folks will be googling out of despair and thank us for this experiment.

At the weekend, Tanya planted out the Marigolds, most of them anyway and all will be revealed in a future instalment.

Of interest, the Horsetail grows very weakly amongst Broad beans and we have a lot of them too. We like our broadies but alas, not enough to turn the whole plot over to them.


On a positive note, the poached egg plants have attracted rather a lot of bees.

our gay companions

our gay companions



allotmentor – knowledgeable allotment neighbour

May 22, 2013 Tools Comments Off

A couple of years ago, two friends, Damion Young  and Simon Haynes, were talking about their allotments and their passion for grow your own. In their day jobs, the web is a key part of their work – Damion in web development for technology enhanced learning at Oxford University and Simon on the more creative side in web design.


Looking around the web, they were surprised and frustrated by the lack of effective tools to help them plan and keep track of their growing online, so they decided to set about developing what they needed themselves.

Allotmentor was born.


Allotmentor is your friendly and knowledgeable virtual ‘allotment neighbour’, offering advice on when and where to grow and is configured precisely to your plot and growing preferences and preferred planting layout.

The application is quite straightforward to use, you recreate your plot using the software application, using google maps if required, mark out your paths, sheds, waterbutts etc and create your preferred bed layouts. It’s then a simple task to add crops; there’s more than 50 of the most common fruit and veg pre-installed on the system with more than 900 varieties to choose from and if that’s not enough – then it’s a simple task to add your own. The planner application notes when each crop was added and plans your layout in subsequent years, so that adequate crop rotation is adhered to.

zooming in on the allotment planner

One of Allotmentor’s dedicated users – Mike Dighton of Greater Manchester – has allowed us access to his plot plan to demonstrate the power of the planner application. Please feel free to view this by clicking here

Other features

The notebook allows you to add notes to your plan, helping you to keep track of what you have done this year so that you can recall this information next year.

The calendar provides you with information and reminders on what needs to be done on your plot during this week or month and even allows you to create a personal crop calendar from your plot plan.

The crop guides provide access to everything you need to know about sowing, planting, caring for and harvesting your crops including: different approaches to growing; common problems; likes and dislikes

running the app on a mobile


There’s a very useful pest and disease troubleshooter helping you to identify the cause of problems and how to deal with them.



If all of this wasn’t enough, there’s also an online community, to share your plot ideas and top tips with the rest of the green-fingered community.


Allotmentor is available via an app currently developed for the Android platform, giving you access to many of the online tools while on your plot via your mobile phone. Damion and Simon are planning to extend this to the iPhone during the coming months.


If you fancy trying the Allotmentor plot planner, visit their website and register, we understand that the application is completely free of charge – you really can’t get any better than that.





I saw ‘Cutworm’ mentioned on the pest and disease section, I’m off to have a look. 


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