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 A covenant, agreed when Lord Zetland handed over the land to the people of Redcar, appears now, to be a little outdated.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 …

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allelopathy and stew

April 23, 2013 Gotalottie Comments Off

Everything is alive, that’s for sure.

We inherited a plot filled with Horsetail (Equisitum Arvense). The plot location was the deciding factor and we knew that we would have a fight on our hands with this stubborn perennial weed. There was the nagging doubt that we would never win the battle.

Our decision to utilise raised beds of various mulches sitting on top of the plot was as a result of the Horsetail. The option to cultivate was not ours to make. It’s been a learning curve. We originally used a double thickness of card, in the hope that this would inhibit the weed and the first half season was successful. We then proceeded to pull every scrap of weed from the paths and there was a rapid decline; it should also be noted that it was also Autumn and that a decline would have been expected.



Horsetail grows a brown fruiting stalk in the Spring and this is loaded with spores, it looks similar to Asparagus. We had a few on the paths this Spring and we have deleted them. The empty plot next door is loaded with them and is of great concern to be honest – that’s another story.













We have had to import vast amounts of mulches onto the plot and this became very difficult this Winter, so we took the decision to use some of the original soil, dug up and turned and broken up, this was then topped and mixed with mature horse manure which had been cooked on the plot. We knew we would have some active Horsetail in the beds as a result and this has turned out to be correct. The young shoots are easily removed as they are sitting on top of beds which have had additional cardboard added.

The cardboard under the first four beds was quite thin and has not inhibited the Horsetail as well as expected; there is weed in each. We have now sifted through each of these beds and have removed what seems to be the majority of the weed. We shall wait and watch and delete as required. It will re-occur for certain.

The paths however have exploded with new weed, soft brown tips are emerging and quickly trying to open to photosynthesise. This is happening where the path meets the bed for a width of 10cms approximately. Each visit to the plot has required us to spend 15-20 minutes removing these growing tips. In all honesty, we do not have time for this; there is too much else to do.

So much is written about Horsetail and yet, there is little in the way of success story. The weed is notoriously invasive and yet if measures are taken to constantly remove, this seems to be successful by some degree. There is some mention of the allelopathic properties of Turnip and that the planting of this will inhibit the weed. Yet, of surprise, there is little written about this and no evidence anywhere of anyone having tried it, or whether it was successful or not.

So, rather than accepting that we must constantly delete growing tips from approximately 250m of borders, we have taken the decision to plant 250m of Turnips along those borders. We calculate one plant every 50cms and therefore that is 500 Turnip plants, in the hope that weed will be seriously inhibited. We shall also plant copious amounts of Tagetes (French Marigold for example) amongst these and these may have a marked impact; we shall of course monitor this and provide evidence in due course.

Stew anyone?

nearly there

April 16, 2013 Gotalottie Comments Off

Everything is awake at last.

Unfortunately, that includes the Horsetail which seems to be erupting at various (unwanted points). More vigorous now – than during the second half of the year. It takes up 15-30 minutes of diligent root removal at each visit at the moment. The trick will be not to let it photosynthesise and it’s going to be an uphill struggle at least for a couple of years.

Our earlies are in, the seconds should have gone in last weekend and the mains are waiting in the wings.

Thanks to Chase Organics for a lovely collection of ‘Mondeo F1′ asparagus crowns, which arrived in beautiful condition. They’re in now - in a very sunny bed and we begin this exciting wait.

The plot’s been resembling a building site for the last 6 months but we’re nearly there now. The humble pallet has been put to much use. Various boxes have been built to contain manure, hot beds and raised herb beds. The hot beds have deep sumps which have been filled with fresh manure and these are heating nicely. Its a good environment for the seed trays which appear to be enjoying the warmth.


Hot beds have 2′ deep submerged sumps filled with fresh manure


Our sowing too is at full speed, beetroot, onions, leeks, tomato in 5 varieties. The sweetcorn is on the way, mange tout, summer cabbage, etc. Far too much to list here.

The pallets were put to use again to shore up some very deep beds for squash along the south-facing fence. These beds are filled with pure fresh manure and should start to put on some serious heat during the next 2 weeks. Then they’ll be filled with pockets of deep compost for planting. We’re intending to put plenty of tomatoes in there also. More of that in a later post.


The manure will generate a lot of heat for squashes and will be a strong feed source


As forecast, the cold weather broke and we’re been battered by strong Southerly winds. Its warmer, 16-18C, but the wind is dry and we so badly need some rain now. We’ve had 1-2mm during the last month or more and there’s a need to water now – even if only to stop the parsnip seeds blowing away!

It’s started, I am so pleased to report. At last – the Spring.

Enjoy your gardening.

Spring is coming, because

March 27, 2013 Seeds 8 Comments

London Herb Garden has launched a Spring Kitchen Garden Seed Pack containing vegetable and herb seeds to help allotment holders kick start their spring.

The seeds have been selected to introduce gardeners to some new varieties they may not have grown before.

The seed packs contain: yellow pear tomato, Paris market carrots, asparagus pea, lettuce catalogna, Genovese basil and giganta parsley.

Yellow Pear tomato: This heritage variety actually hails from American shores. It was developed on the East Coast and grown in Vermont since the early 19th century. The yellow, pear-shaped cherry tomatoes are exceptionally sweet, and make a fantastic addition to any tomato collection.

Paris market carrots: These small, gobstopper-sized carrots are great for growing quickly and in stony or heavy soils. They are also super sweet, and great for eating and cooking whole.

Asparagus pea: A legume, this plant produces crinkled pods which can be steamed whole. They have a slight asparagus flavour, hence the name. It is also a very beautiful plant with bright red flowers, and the plant can be grown up supports to make a fantastic display.


Asparagus Pea

Asparagus Pea


Lettuce Catalogna: This handsome plant has tall, spiked leaves and a strong flavour. Also known as raddichetta, the leaves’ slight bitter tang add a roundness to any salad.

Genovese basil: Very few kitchen gardeners won’t have tried making their own pesto out of home grown basil, but improve it by using the correct variety. This Italian variety is grown specifically for use in pesto and has large, lush leaves with a faint cinnamon scent. Great for adding to many, many dishes from the kitchen garden.

Giganta parsley: The curled parsley varieties in your garden are probably already back up again, despite the cold weather, but consider adding this flat-leaved parsley to your collection. It is great in salads, and is used as a salad-like leaf in many cultures, being found in tabbouleh as well as many Italian dishes.

Despite the cold start to the spring season, growers shouldn’t be discouraged. There is still plenty of time to sow the seeds and plants sown later will catch up with those sown earlier.


London Herb Garden has recently updated its packaging in response to customer comments. The packets now come boxed, and with instructions for sowing. To order click HERE

To help kitchen gardeners and allotment owners, particularly those new to growing their own, growing guides and gardening tips can be found on LHG’s website

New season, new plot, new ways

March 7, 2013 Website 1 Comment

My name is Jamie Milton and I am 41 years old, I have had an allotment since 2009 - the year I married my Wife Anna. I took up growing veg when I gave up drinking in 2008 starting in our back garden, having been addicted to booze for years and also using recreational drugs for over 20 years.

Gardening was a way I could keep my mind occupied, I enjoyed it and I surprised myself how green fingered I was. Anna takes a back seat when it comes to the allotment, but she is mean with the hoe and weeds do not stand a chance when she is around. We see the allotment as our little space and spend a lot of our spare time there enjoying sitting and watching nature at its best.

We have never grown in rows and have different approaches on different parts of plot from dug beds to no dig beds to new no dig plot. We enjoy growing lots of different vegetables, fruits and flowers, the latter being crucial for beneficial insects and bees.



We have 2 plots (3A and 3B) at Stapleton allotments, Bristol. Our allotment site has a country feel as we are surrounded by small holdings on the north east boundary of the city.




Firstly I would like to give a summary of the 2012 allotment year. Dry with drought up until April praying for rain and then as follows-

April rain and floods
May rain and floods
June rain and floods
July rain and floods
August rain and floods
September rain and floods and so on and so forth…………

Crops that did alright last year were runner beans, tomatoes and brassicas especially sprouts.





 Enough about last year, as this year I have high hopes and have taken on another half plot, it is the one I have wanted since I arrived back in 2009. The plot has 3 very old Victoria plum trees on it and the last owners did nothing in the 3 years that they were there.

The new plot will be a whole new adventure as I plan to have it completely no-dig, this is a method of gardening where as it says on the tin - you do no digging. The digging is done for you by nature itself i.e. worms, the way you do it is mulch and add organic matter. Due to this plot being plagued with couch grass, I have laid a double, sometimes treble layer of corrugated cardboard and then covered in a very thick layer of manure as you can see in the pictures below.


I will keep people updated through twitter and hopefully my blog as to how well the no-dig method works compared to other methods, one big advantage is you save your back from the pain of digging.





  I have to say though no-dig does not mean no-work, so don’t think you are getting off lightly if you adopt this method. Horse and cow manure still has to be forked in to wheelbarrow and wheeled to said area!

The other big winter project was acquiring a summerhouse as Anna and I had nowhere to sit and relax while at the plot. After much deliberation I opted for beach hut style summerhouse which I bought from Waltons garden buildings. The construction was straight forward and barring another lick of paint and interior design being finished we are there. Here are some photos of progress so far.


see you soon, thanks for dropping by. Jamie and Anna.



Wordless Wednesday – Oddle Poddle

February 12, 2013 Wordless Wednesday Comments Off

 Babap ickle Weed… Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed

 and I think the little house knew something about it! Don’t you?



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