Saturday, July 08, 2006

Couples that play together, stay together

An old wives tale – but so true.

At the weekends if Pat isn’t bowling, and if we do not have visitors, then he comes up the allotment with me. He does all the heavy stuff that I have been banned from doing and today was no different – but I usually get to do some of the heavy stuff too as one person can’t lift some things on their own.

We inherited with the plot amongst the 6ft weeds lots of junk, and amongst the junk were big plastic grids with metal edges.

At the time we dragged them from all over the plot and put them in a pile. They are too big and heavy to put in the car. Today, after thinking about them a lot, just piled up and bind weed finding them, we decided to do something with them, so we have made a path behind the fruit cage.

I laid plastic sheeting down a year or so ago, to keep the weeds down and to have somewhere to put more of the junk until we had time to sort it – out of sight out of mind syndrome. But when you have so much to do you have to prioritise – and my priority was to clear the weeds and plant things in their place!

Now though, there are no weeds behind the fruit cage and a nice pathway – great. We had one large one left over so that has gone right down by the hedge where I pulled up all the tall stinging nettles to allow me to get to the cultivated blackberry that I planted my first year up there – and now is full of flowers so hoping for enough for some apple and blackberry jam – and some puddings. I have a big elderberry tree, and the flowers are now finished and the berries are forming. Shame I don’t drink or I would be into all sorts of home made wines.

As usual the three chooks did their usual morning march around the estate. First stop the inspection of the flower borders, up and down the grass paths between them and in and under the flowers looking for goodies.

Next stop, a late breakfast of gooseberries for them, then through the gateway for blackcurrants and raspberries, and the odd jostaberry. I left them to it, as I had to be outside the enclosed area to harvest raspberries, blackcurrants and loganberries from in the fruit cage. As I was waylaid by Pat’s calls for advice or help, it took me most of the morning to pick the raspberries and loganberries, and I never even got to those further down the plot or the currant bushes that urgently need harvesting.

Whilst working behind the fruit cage we heard a tapping noise, a bit like the hammering of a woodpecker or several people knocking nails into wood. It was only later that Pat discovered that it was the girls. I obviously hadn’t put the front hatch on the compost bin properly and they had managed to somehow knock it off and were happily exploring its contents.

When I looked they were obviously full as KoKKo was lying on her side, legs crossed eyes closed dozing in the sunshine by the runner beans. Adelaide was doing the same but in the shade of the potato crop, and Ginger was having a dust bath in the gap between the rows. Such a lovely sight.

I went to see of there were any more courgettes to pick and there were lots – but on the way I got side tracked and went into the netted area to pick some mange tout, but most of them are filling out with peas, so I shall leave them to pod up. I did pick a couple of pounds of some of the later crop of mange tout though, but I am going to leave those to grow too. I also have some Kelvedon peas – we just need some rain to swell them.

I then examined the tomato plants and spent an hour tying them up higher up their stems as they have grown so much in a couple of weeks. I pulled off the lower leaves too, so that the little amount of water they do get can go straight up to the tomatoes now forming. There were lots of picking off the shoots at the leaf joints too. Still with around 70 plants up there it is bound to take so long. They are desperate for some rain. The little we had yesterday has not made the slightest impact.

By this time I was shattered, we had been up there for over four and a half hours, and did not get home until almost three this afternoon. Pat is always amazed that we rarely see anyone at the weekend up there – or any sign of any work having been done either. Guess it must be Wimbledon keeping them transfixed.

My harvest today was raspberries, and loganberries, mange tout and tennis ball size yellow and green courgettes, some long ‘white’ ones which are very pale green, and a black beauty.

It looked more colourful after it was cooked - and the lovely textures. Crunchy mange tout, smooth and creamy courgettes, soft onions, and wonderful tomatoes. I just love colour - as you no doubt have noticed. It really gets my taste buds going.
Lunch was a quick throw together meal, of new potatoes, fresh salmon, and a mix of mange tout, diced courgettes, onions, and tomatoes – and boy did we need it.

I just want to show you this as an example of the different ways of growing things.

It is not a criticism of a neighbouring plot, but this example was an eye-opener for me, and convinced me that I was going about things in the right way.

Here are rows of potatoes amongst the weeds, an example of how the men with machines plant theirs.

It looks very neat doesn't it from a distance. The weeds have grown more as I took this photo a few days ago. This plot has been ploughed several times this season, until it looked like dust. Trenches were made with machines, and potatoes were dropped in, (not chitted beforehand, and I was told that it wasn't necessary, as the farmers plant theirs the same way in fields.) I can see the logic in that, and conceeded that I had probably wasted lots of time doing things differently and would try this way next year......but later now they have grown....

There are three potato plants in this photo amongst the weeds - can you see them?

Once or twice a week between the rows it is rotorvated, and the rows of potatoes are left untouched. They are planted exactly in the same way and same place as last year and the year before. These potatoes were planted several weeks before mine.

Mine were planted in April at Easter, and this photo was taken on the same day at the same time as those photos above.

Over winter I barrowed lots of well rotted manure onto the area where I intended my potatoes to grow, and I had rotated my crops - last year I grew potatoes down the far end of the allotment. I kept my seed potatoes in my shed and let them chit for a couple of months before they were due for planting out. They had short strong stems, and I rubbed off any extra ones growing out of the bottom.

I dug the manure in around February and March, and in April, I got my friend to deeply rotorvate the bed which ensured that the manure was deep down, and evenly spread. He also made the trenches for me. I laid newspaper in them, then planted each potato by hand, chitted end upwards and filled in the trench as I went.

Since then I have earthed the potatoes each time they grew through until all the threat of frost had gone. Apart from that I have been hand weeding between them and in between the rows. Mine are the same distance apart as the rows in the top photos. The difference being that the foliage on my plants is now touching and shading the gaps, and keeping down almost all the weeds.

I am getting 2 ½ lb per plant of potatoes off my earlies 'Colleen' – the other plot holders have dug up a few plants and have not had enough for a meal, and all of them are not much bigger than marbles.

So if seeing is believing, I and Pat, have now seen the difference with our own eyes.

Incidentally I am the only person who grows their potatoes this way out of all the plots - and I am getting at least twice the yield from my rows than they are getting from their long rows. My potatoes are also very much bigger.

I expect that by the time the main crop is dug up though, the yields might well be the same as they all have a longer to grow.


  1. I plant my potatoes exactly as you do AL, except I don't line the trenches with newspaper. That is something I might try next year to help conserve moisture, like you we've been experiencing such dry weather. What a difference between your potatoes and the others, his look quite miserable by comparison. I expect the regular rotovating between the rows is drying the soil and robbing his crop of precious moisture.

  2. I would say the main difference in your potatoes and the other guy is the manure. of course you keep the weeds out and hill the potatoes as they grow. all these things go to gather to make a good potato patch. i alway grew potatoes when i had children at home and if you hill them up and keep the weeds out from the start they will produce large potatoes. good job.

  3. Hi,

    Thanks for the recipe - I'll be making that this afternoon.

    Poshneighbour is what my next door neighbour calls us - we're the posh ones she says! Which is quite funny - as we are definitely not posh!

    Our bantams are good, Penny is broody - has been for 8 weeks now - we've had one egg from her in 8 weeks. The others stopped laying too - apart from dhylis (star layer), but they've all started in the last 2 weeks.

    Best be off, thanks for an entertaining blog. I jsut wish I had the time to grow all my own veg like you,

  4. Oh I miss my allotment! I wonder what the onions and garlic are like that I planted?! My neighbour who has two plots at the back of the one I had, says the young man who has taken it on has filled every inch (bar the compost area) with crops and has had a bumper crop of the strawberries!Just how much muck did I put in that plot?LOL!
    You seem to have it spot on with your method of planting the potatoes! Don't people ever listen and take heed of things like de-forestation, ancient hedgerow removal and the over cultivation of the soil????! I bet the neighbouring plots lose a lot of their soil in high winds?

    Well, time for a little nap, getting up at 'dawn' is taking it's toll on me LOL! (On Day shifts now)

    happy preserving!

  5. chris9:33 pm

    They probably work on the time is money principle .
    I did my spuds like you and the earlies are a nice size too but I did earth them up religeously.
    Next door thought I was mad :)
    I've heard that the farmers dont chit them and so they take longer to show and avoid the frosts.

  6. Interesting. I started my potatoes a month earlier than everyone else around here in a square foot bed filled with a soil/manure mix. I've just started to dig some of the babies up so we'll see how well the harvest goes.

  7. You should get a good crop. Mine yielded two and a half pounds per plant - Colleen, first earlies. We haven't finished eating them yet. Next out of the bed will be Robinta I think.

    Let me know how yours do Angel - I am sure that they will be really good compared to those that did not manure the ground.


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