tidying up the plot

The warning letter says I’ve got to get the plot tidy before 26 March, so I’ve been down to the plot twice this weekend.

Yesterday: mended the broad bean supports; dug over the bed for leeks; rooted up the bramble on the side of the plot; cut back the oregano; and cut the grass on the paths. Made it back home in time to watch the Scotland-Ireland match, ordered take-away curry, had a bath and was in bed by 9:30.

Today: finished digging the bed by the compost bins (it’ll probably get peas), and dug in a barrowful of manure; answered a master composter question; cut back another bramble; weeded the rhubarb and put manure around the crowns, which are just starting to poke out off the ground.

That’s 5 hours of work this weekend, and I suspect I’ll sleep like a log again tonight. But for now, I’m going to brew some coffee and listen to the Food Programme on Cuba and Urban Gardening.


know your onions

Evidently I don’t know my onions, since most of them have rotted in the bed. Last year they were fantastic but this year I’ll have four if I’m lucky. The other 56 have either rotted away completely or the skins lie withered and empty on the soil.

One metre from the ruined onions, my garlic is in rude good health. Every single bulb has come through, including the 2 backup bulbs! I just do not understand…

chesnok wight garlic - in rude good health

chesnok wight garlic - in rude good health

I was really down at the plot to sort out the broad beans. Having planted the first 15 Super Aquadulce beans in November, I’m now putting the remaining 20 beans in the ground. I’ve still got another variety (Bunyards exhibition?) for next month to give succession. Did I say that I love broad beans? I just can’t wait!

This bed was also an experiment using Phacelia Tanacetifolia as a green manure. I didn’t sow it densely enough — after the Winter there was perhaps a handful of Phacelia in the bed compared to a trug full of grass roots and horsetail rhizomes.

phacelia tanacetifolia losing the fight against grass

phacelia tanacetifolia losing the fight against grass

I’ve also learned what people mean by planting your beans in double rows. It makes it way easier to stake and allows for easier weeding. There might even be enough room between the double rows for a catch crop.

double rows of broad beans, with stakes and twine

double rows of broad beans, with stakes and twine

The blackcurrant hardwood cuttings seem to be doing OK. One of the cuttings has a bud that is starting to uncurl – it’s not as far on as the established plants at the end of the plot, but I’m pleased to see some life. The established plants smell faintly of blackcurrant leaf and are starting to bud.

Starting a no-dig bed

First time at the allotment this year on Sunday, and it was very cold. Too cold to dig (thankfully) but there were some signs of life: birdsong, and small shoots of the onions and garlic. Nothing from the broad beans yet.

Started to build a no-dig bed with the cardboard left over from presents. Took a full load on the bike…

Bike with trailer full of carboard

Bike with trailer full of carboard

Cardboard left over from presents

Cardboard left over from presents

… but that didn’t actually make a very large bed. Ironically, the evening after I did this, my partner decides to get rid of 2 square metres of cardboard, and today I notice that a local shop put a load of cardboard out for recycling.

First, the cardboard from family and friends; then a layer of manure from Gorgie City Farm; finally a liberal covering of leamould that the council drop in the Saughton Mains site. Now to wait for it to cook, and decide what I want to put in there.

Cardboard, manure and leafmould

Cardboard, manure and leafmould

The start of a no-dig bed

The start of a no-dig bed

a kilo of windfall potatoes

Two years on the plot and I’ve never planted potatoes, but they still come up! I was digging over a bed for the last of the garlic and Winter onions, and got a few pink fir spuds and about a kilo of white ones. Tonight’s tea is going to be the last of Wednesday’s stew, mashed potatoes and steamed cabbage.

Spent this morning’s annual leave planting a dozen broad beans — an experiement with overwintering them — and preparing ground for manuring. Also transplanted 3 runaway strawberry plants close to the redcurrant bush, and am already dreaming of next year’s Summer Pudding.

It was cold with bouts of rain and a light fall of snow, and getting perennial weeds out of the beds (mostly grass roots and equisetum) was cold and dirty work. It’s not the middle of Winter yer and there’s still life on the plot: the weeds are still growing, A robin kept me company once I’d started to unearth worms and other minibeasts, and a tit was calling from the blackcurrants.

Quick visit = quick update

I’ve got 13 bags of manure coming on Tuesday, so I went down to the plot to clear the access to my plot and then to the new compost bin in the plot.

Lovely weather; just right for attacking brambles and pruning the blackcurrant. Am nervous about those brambles because when they touch the ground, they root. Far faster than my blackcurrants, for example.

Dug over some of the bed that’ll have some overwintering beans in (referred to as 2-North in my grand plan). Phacelia not looking so weedy at the other end of the plot.

Also: was given a stalk of Brussels sprouts by my neighbour. Am tempted to simply boil them and make bubble and squeak with the leftovers, but might find a recipe to use them up.

Transplanted a redcurrant

The two redcurrants were getting overrun by grass, so I pruned the healthier one and left the other in the long grass. Today I dug out the beetroot half bed, moved the frame and transplanted a redcurrant. It seems that most cultivars are self-fertile, so I’ll junk the straggly one.

Beetroots were a lot of work, and I only got one meal from the half bed full. I didn’t thin them soon enogh and the most of the remainder got eaten by slugs when we were on holiday :( However the daughter loved them, so they’ll be planted next year.

I now have identified areas for 3 news beds. I need to order in sufficient manure from Gorgie City Farm relatively soon. (Wait until after half term)

High hopes for my blackcurrants

Lovely day down the allotment. Sunny and dry, and the first day this year ith birdsong. Pulled down the second old, old compost bin. Weeded under the blackcurrants, pulling up grass and moss and getting the ivy off the stools. Then put down approx. 1/2 of the manure around them as mulch.

Once you’ve got your eye in pruning blackcurrants, it’s not too difficult to see which branches to prune: first take off the diseased and broken ones; then cut back those which stop you getting into the bush. Most of the branches grow in the expected way — generally upwards — but a few of them go off at crazy angles: these are the ones to take off.

The way blackcurrants grow is so interesting. Branches that touch the ground, root, and then a new bush grows. I think there were only two bushes put in originally, but there’s about 7 distinct stools now I’ve cut back a few of these self-layers. It’s not as scary as cutting the umbilical cord that seperated my daughter from her mum, although I’m glad I’ve been studying the RBGE practical certificate in horticulture to know what’s happening. And I can recommend the Panton Street community midwives, too

left blackcurrant just manured right blackcurrant just manured

The plot looks much better today than the first time I saw it, one year ago


manure and rent

Monday … took possession of 10 bags of manure from Gorgie City Farm. Lovely rotted-down stuff and plenty of worms in there. It’s enough to fill my empty compost bin and should go across a few of the beds.


I had wanted to spread it on Tuesday, but the weather was crap: heavy rain and wind. It’s probably worse today. I need to dig it in pretty soon and get on with other stuff.

And last night I got home to find an invoice for the year’s rent of the plot. Very happy to see this after all the hassles last year. This year, I promise to spend more time down the plot … no, really!

Manure: £30. 10 bags at £3/bag (min order for delivery; £2/bag if self-collected)
Rent for the plot: £48/year

Next up:

  • break down very old compost bins
  • prune off any broken and diseased bits off the blackcurrants
  • weed under and around blackcurrants
  • put manure under the blackcurrants
  • weed around rhubarb
  • add manure to the rhubarb
  • decide which beds are going to have which plants in, and manure where neccesary.


Can’t recall why I started getting interested in seaweed as a green manure, although it came up in conversation on Monday night. One of my colleagues was talking about taking a cycle ride along the seafront from Edinburgh out to Seaton Sands, which opens up the possibility for doing a run out to collect a trailerful of the stuff.

Seaweeds and their uses, Chapman and Chapman. CEC Central Lending Library, shelfmark QK567. Technical book; reporting and links to research; graphs and tables; relatively old.

Mostly brown algae, wracks and oarweed has been used as manure. Driftweed or cut rockweed. It’s mainly used close to the coast as seaweed is approx. 90 percent water. High potash content (K) so good for plants that require high K: roots and fruit, esp. blackcurrants. Low in phosphate so must add it if seaweed used exclusively for long time.

N Phosphoric acid K Salt
wet weed 11 2 27 35
manure 11 6 15

Advantage of being free from weeds and fungi.

Seasonal variation: research shows higher content of minerals around March; lowest around October.

So … it’s actually seaweed as a brown manure. Quite different from getting well-rotted manure from Gorgie City Farm at £2 per bag. Telephone 0131 337 4202.

Organic Gardening; Plant life of Edinburgh and the Lothians; A Scot’s Herbal; Joy Larkom: all these references seem to indicate that seaweed is full of trace elements and so is useful for poor soil but doesn’t make much difference on good soil.