Solstice state of the allotment report

As we pass the Winter Solstice, I’m taking stock of what produce I have left from this growing season: one and a half jars of jam; 500g frozen blackcurrants; a kilo of frozen rhubarb; some frozen beans; and 3 small heads of garlic. That’s a crap shopping basket for Can’t cook won’t cook (cheers, Stephen)

Not much is going on down the allotment at the moment:

allotment in approximately 2 centimetres of snow

and the no-dig herb bed is looking sparse:

Herb bed with oregano, hyssop and sage looking worse for wear

Some success from last year: a layered blackcurrant that’s now growing strongly and will be transplanted next Autumn.

Blackcurrant, layered in Autumn 2008 and now growing strongly

Many of the other allotment holders have leeks and cabbage growing through to the New Year, and Winter onions and broad beans for early Summer. But rather than moan about what could have been, I should count my blessings: I still have an allotment, so many thanks to my neighbours and friends for helping out over the year. The daughter has also had a good time, and I’ve found out what peas look like when they’re growing.

Jethro Tull’s Solstice Bells seems an appropriate song for the season


Last of the broad beans

Two quick visits to the plot today. I took the daughter on the first one, and she was fantastic. Second one I got bitten to death by the midges…

Picked the last 250 grammes of broad beans (that weight is when they’re podded but not yet shelled). The daughter picked some blackcurrants and redcurrants and I’ve bought some strawberries, so it’s Summer pudding tomorrow. That’ll be after a main course of egg fried rice with spring onions, peas, broad beans, mushrooms and carrots. The onions, peas and beans are from the plot.

I also have a glut of turnips, but suspect they’d not work well in the stir fry :) They’ll go with a massive haggis that she who knits bought from costco.

Managed to blanch 175 grammes of the beans for freezing, but worried about the amount of energy that it’s taken to prepare them. Next year I’ll sow beans every two weeks for eating fresh and have a patch from which I can pick and freeze a significant quantity.

Recieved two courgette plants from a neighbour.

Sage and hyssop seem to have settled in OK: the sage is standing proud; the hyssop has started to flower.

Wildlife count: 1 teeny-tiny frog, 1 grasshopper, plenty of spiders, way too many midges.

Currently have 1 empty bed, 3 empty half-beds, and 2 empty 1/3 beds. I’ve also got spaces where I have to build 2 new beds.

Oh yeah … and Go Bradley!.

First rhubarb of the year

Quite chuffed about the beans, but I do need to get a slug trap set up. Last year I lost a lot to slugs, and the nibble marks on these tiny bean plants are goading me into action. It also means I need to get some more beer for the plot …

Two horsetails from Hell have appeared by my blue shed, and I spotted the first standard horsetail. Made up for this by pulling my first rhubarb. Still small and awfy green, but tasty.

Was called an holistic gardener by a neighbour … kinda nice but also a bit sarky. Anyway, I’ve taken down the crappy chicken wire fence and added some subtle boundary markers: a small raised bed (30cm x 40cm), some red and white bricks to emphasise the corner and a few pieces of wood that’ll be made into the edges of a longer raised bed. Planted two rows of coriander (variety for leaf) in the small raised bed, and in the nascent one some parsley close to the lavender, and transplanted several crocus (?) bulbs.

Have decided where I’ll put one of the French Bean tepees: where the larger raised bed is languishing. Just need to dig the area and make a bean trenche. The comfrey’s coming along well and a few nettles are poking their heads up, so I’ll dig a hole, put down some newspaper then some comfrey and nettles, and cover it up. Still need to think of where to put the second tepee, and am in two minds about putting it between the blackcurrants and comfrey, as it’ll cast some shade on the blackcurrants.

the back room is a nursery/sonic youth

The flat has been quiet over the last few days, and I’ve had some time to change things round. Worked ’til midnight last night moving the back room round. Eventually it’ll be the daughter’s bedroom but it’s been a clothes drying room and general junk room for over a year now, so I’ve created an interim configuration and cleared some trash. With the cabinet by the window, I can propagate seeds:



On the left are 28 broad bean seeds (Bunyards Exhibition) to go where the first lot of Aqualdulce Claudia failed to germinate (outdoors sowing is more tricky). I’ve fashioned a bubblewrap cover and use a bent coathanger to keep it off the modules. On the right is a tray of parsley (plain leaved 2) and a tray of leek (bandit). Still got lots of seed left: 27 broad beans; 2/3 of the parsley; 1/2 the leeks.

Enjoyed myself thoroughly this evening sowing the seeds, playing Daydream Nation by Sonic Youth on the hifi. It’s probably my all time favourite album…

Everybody’s talking about the stormy weather, what’s a man to do but work out whether it’s true?

Shame I couldn’t find a decent video of Hey Joni on youtube:

In this broken town, can you still jack in and know what to do?

Ambitions for the year

Last year was pretty crap on the plot. This year will be better. Better organised, for sure, and hopefully better produce. Today I received my seeds from Garden Organic: climbing French beans (Neckar Queen), broad beans (Super aquadulce), calabrese (green sprouting), leeks (bandit), turnips (purple top milan) and coriander leaf. And a sieve, which my daughter models with aplomb:

here’s the sieve

Cost: £17.32


It’s quiet … there are 2 French Bean plants still to crop and a row of turnips have just germinated, but here’s not much else on the plot. I guess the knack of managing and allotment is ensuring that it’s not boom and bust. I spent an evening last week planning and now have a rough scheme for the Winter and into the next season. It’s quite a guddle, trying to get the rotation and timings in sync. Maybe I’ll be able to do catch crops if I keep an eye on the plot, but that seems a bit advanced.


  • planted 6 small lavender bushes I got from B&Q for a fiver. This is part of the plan to replacethe ugly chick-wire fence on the South side of the plot with a row of herbs, and it’s coming along OK. There’s chives and mint and huge amount of oregano already, and I’ve still to transplant a rosemary from the garden to the allotment. Just gotta think of something to plant in between a couple of the lavenders and it’s done; leave the lavender to bed in, remove the chicken wire, tidy up (and remove a bramble and comfrey), then put own a bit of brick and block edging that I’ve reclaimed from the plot. Simple!
  • Planted half a bed of Winter Spinach. Had to dig down through the leafmould to get to the soil. The soil is moist and weed-free, which is good news since the water has been off on the site for a fortnight…
  • Weeded the nascent turnips

Mostly weeding and mulching

Been to the allotment twice today. Got there at noon and has a mooch around, planted a second row of spinach, attended to the French beans, and got a barrowful of leafmould, but it was too hot and I had forgotten to bring any water. So at 1pm I headed home, had some lunch and headed out to Redhall walled garden, met A+J at the Water of Leith visitor centre and then pottered around the allotment again, mainly to plant a tiny lavender that I bought from Redhall.
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rhubarb gone wild

Took the daughter down the allotment in the buggy. Most of the time I carry her in a Mei Tei sling, although the folks from Redhall suggested I bring her down in a buggy so I can leave her safe while getting on with work. Not a bad idea, but the devil’s in the details…

In the last week Spring has sprung and the plants have grown like topsy so with her low to the ground and being pushed through the narrow allotment paths, the site has taken on a more sinister aspect. Nettles and sticky william grab at her legs, toxic rhubarb leaves poke through neighbours fences to within her reach: the allotment’s a death trap!

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Hello world!

When I posted about rhubarb from my allotment on another blog I got loads of comments, so maybe a blog dedicated to the allotment is the thing …

After two years on the waiting list for Saughton Mains Allotments in Edinburgh, I heard in February that I’d been allocated plot 18. The key arrived on 1 March and I’ve been a few times since then. The allotment is second from the right, 4 from the top

Highlights so far

Friday 6 April: single-dug a bed in the allotment — damn hard work for a 4′ x 8′ bed. Met the neighbours and was given some garlic and 2 redcurrant bushes. They also pointed out what was left in the allotment from previous holders: comfrey, chives, blackcurrants.

Monday 23 April: pulled the first rhubarb. Didn’t have to do much work as it was already established in the plot. In March, as the crowns were just starting to waken, I weeded around the sets, watered liberally, and then mulched with some compost from Redhall Walled Garden. Cut back the stems with inflorescences today — perhaps a little late for this though.

My books say I shouldn’t pull any stalks after midsummer or mid-July, so I’ve got to have rhubarb every week. Am also experimenting with freezing it.