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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



Horsetail – more or less

May 20, 2013 Gotalottie 1 Comment

We receive quite a few emails asking for information about Horsetail (Equisitum Arvense). Inaccurately called ‘Mares Tail’ by many people on allotment sites; it’s a stubborn weed and virtually impossible to eradicate.

Here’s a photo from our plot (to the left) and the empty plot next door (to the right). It would be a brave person to take that on.

it’s pretty daunting seeing this next door

We’ve just received an email from Hayley:

‘Hello.  Just read your article about horsetail.  We bought our house in September and the borders in the back garden were very overgrown …. no sign of HT.  So a couple of weeks ago when the weather started to improve, my husband and I dug over the borders, feeing them up of grape hyacinth and grass and planted some nice new bulbs and flowers.  We now have Horsetail growing around our rose tree (already established) and amongst all our other flowers.  Any suggestions?’

Our reply:

‘Hi, thanks for your enquiry about this nasty little weed.

The reason that you didn’t spot this in September is that it was probably in decline by that time of year and other weeds had moved in to fill the space.

In March it would have probably thrown up some brown spears a bit like asparagus and these would attempt to send spores all over the garden. Always best to delete these with a knife and dispose of in the rubbish.

April/May – it comes with a vengeance and this is what you are seeing. It reaches full growth by July and a height of 40cms.


Assuming that you’ve cultivated the soil already to remove all other weeds, etc. Don’t cultivate any more this year. If you haven’t cultivated – then don’t.

Forget weedkillers, covering with plastic, etc – nothing will kill it. Weedkillers ‘may’ kill off some top growth but it will come back harder next year and you will feel like moving house. You can’t kill it but what you can do is to convince it to go next door.

When light brown spears show – leave them until they’re minimum 7cms tall and try to ease them out with as much root as possible, certainly before they get to 10cms tall. The trick is to let them use as much energy as possible getting to the point where they’re about to photosynthesise and then delete them. This will serious weaken the rhizome underneath. The trouble is when a shoot is pulled it triggers another rhizome to make another shoot, but it does inhibit it a little. 

Meanwhile and you should do this as soon as possible – buy some agricultural lime and start to sweeten the soil. The HT is there because the soil is alkaline probably 6.3 or less and you need to gently get it back to about 6.8 and that will take 3 years. The HT will start to move on at 6.5+.

First liming is now at 300-350gms per sq metre. Work this into the soil a few cms and water in. Don’t use any more this summer else you’ll kill your other plants. Add a mulch of grass clippings this summer (5-7cms). In October add another 400gms per sq metre and work in a little deeper. No fertiliser this year else that will lower the pH again. Plant lots of French marigolds this year if you can. Also increase your planting if possible to reduce the amount of light getting to the shoots – make them work harder to get to the light, all of this weakens the rhizomes.

Fertilise in early spring with Fish Blood Bone and a month later add another 200gms per sq metre of lime. More grass clippings as mulch in the summer. In the October - lime as before. Fertilise in early spring. Etc..

Keep pulling the HT shoots as above, but don’t pull them when they’re too small, it’s better to be patient and leave them to grow to 10cms.

It will eventually go completely but remains of the roots will be there still 50cms down. If you add small amount of lime each October (50-100gms per sq metre) the soil will stay sweet and the HT won’t ever show again. Mulch with grass clippings every summer.

Don’t forget the beds in the front of the house, else it will possibly move there instead. ’

We’re not Horsetail free yet, but it’s improving.

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