Yearly Archives: 2010

Storage Problems

This year, like other years, I’ve stored our potato harvest in the garden shed. They were dried and sorted, and then put into cardboard boxes with ventilation holes (courtesy of Abel & Cole, mainly!), covered with an old bit of cut-off carpet for a bit more insulation, and tucked away until needed.

There’s never been an issue with that; last year we were eating potatoes from our garden well into spring (it’s fair to say that we don’t exactly eat loads and loads of potatoes). As you might have noticed if you’ve been just about anywhere in the Northern hemisphere lately, however, it’s been an incredibly cold start to the winter – cold enough for the frosts to get all the way in and do a good deal of damage to our stored crops.

I would estimate we’ve lost 30% of our potatoes to frost damage; the survivors now all sat (shivering) in our unheated conservatory, so at least they should be safe from further damage. It caught me rather unawares; I knew the frosts were severe, but it just didn’t cross my mind that they’d get hit so badly.

So, a word of advice – if you have anything sensitive to frosts stored in somewhere that’s usually frost-free over winter, check now to see if you have any similar nasty surprises!

Wet And Windy

The weather has been, well, rather November-like for the last couple of weeks. Practically, this means it’s been wet and windy, which isn’t very conducive to any real gardening efforts.

What little time I’ve spent at the plot has been focused on clearing the rubbish – not to mention the brambles and stinging nettles – from around the shed. We were warned at the start that the roof was a little leaky, and the evidence inside is easy enough to see. Now that I’ve cleared away enough to be able to get a ladder there, I’ve been able to have a decent look at the roof. While the brambles over the top probably haven’t helped, but by the looks of it the roof felt is generally pretty worn and is breaking apart in places.

Really, the whole thing needs replacing, but November probably isn’t the time to try and do that. I’ve managed to find some spray-on roof patching stuff (yes, really!) so I’m hoping that I get a dry day or two soon and I’ll use that to patch up the most obviously worn patches. With any luck that will keep things reasonably watertight over winter, and then come the spring I’ll strip it properly off and completely replace the felt (and possibly the roofing boards, which look to have bowed a little through regular soakings)

An Initial Weekend

This weekend saw a visit from my sister; she is, if truth be told, the one who has done (or at least driven) all the hard work of getting the garden cleared and usable because she enjoys that whole ground clearing, digging stuff – and because she wont let me stop after half an hour of work.

Happily, the allotment has plenty of work to be done; although the plot has been fairly well worked in recent times it has got overgrown over the last season and it can be hard to see just exactly what you’ve got when it’s covered with grass and weeds. I spent most of my time continuing my program of uncovering the paths, while my sister set to work clearing the first (and probably best kept) bed.

I say “uncovering the paths” because although it’s technically just mowing them with shears, it really is a much, much harder job than that sounds. The good news is that the paths are very clearly raised from the beds, and have good solid edges to them. The bad news is that they’re uneven and covered with wet, astoundingly tough and foot-long grass which makes it very heavy going. Not to mention the occasional stinging nettle mixed in there to catch you unawares.

The end result is that the path running all the way around the first bed is now clear and visible, and the bed itself is maybe 2/3rd of the way to being clear. Even with nothing but rubbish clearing happening on the rest of the plot, it manages to make the whole place more “kempt” and gives a sense of real progress.

The other task I got to was measuring out the plot, and marking up what’s where – the permanent fixtures like trees and fruit bushes, and the various paths I’ve uncovered. We also managed to name each “field” (ok, it’s not that big) and when I get the time (and the artistic flair) I shall draw up a proper map showing what I’ve got where. I can then use that as a basis for all my careful planning this winter!

Harvest Roundup

Well, it’s been a strange year for crops – a lot of badly timed dry periods, strong winds and general climatic confusion played havoc with things like our outdoor tomatoes, confused our raspberries (which, despite being autumn varieties, managed to produce a small crop in the summer as well!) and generally stopped me being sure from one moment to the next whether it was a good year or a bad one.

Our courgettes went well, as they always do, with a steady supply of delicious yellow balls. Our sweetcorn, on the other hand, was a total disaster – as soon as the corns had formed up, some creature discovered them and proceeded to eat pretty much every single one before I had a chance to put up some protection. The damage didn’t get any worse once I’d put some fencing around it, so next year with any luck I’ll be able to keep the rotten sods off my crop!

This weekend saw the final harvest of all our potatoes; we had varied success this year, with the differences in varieties more pronounced than I’ve ever known. The Home Guards (the first batch of earlies) were nice, if fairly low yielding – however they suffered from some sort of disease that resulted in half of them having brown lesions well inside the flesh. I’ve struggled to find a definite cause for this, but Google suggests it may have been a nutrient deficiency of some sort. The upshot is that on cooking you end up throwing half the tubers away, which is hardly ideal.

The other early variety, Red Duke of York, got left in the ground much longer and as a result are big, full size potatoes – however, they (along with the maincrops) appear to have escaped the lesions that afflicted the Home Guard. The yield has been a reasonable 6kg or so – not remarkable, but better than it could have been.

Both the main crops – Rooster and Pentland Dell – yielded better (around 10kg each) and are delicious.  Interestingly, the yields varied significantly from plant to plant – they were in rows of four, and the outer two plants were consistently better yielding. This suggests that I’ve been planting them too close, so next year I’ll be giving them some more room to breath (more on that later!)

Leeks and broccoli are our remaining crops now, and should see us into the new year.