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

Such a lot of weeding…

…for the beans and onions. On the way into the allotment on Sunday, I noticed the alpine strawberries had flowers out, so checked the summer-fruiting ones. Removed the mulch and weeded the bed, and found that all 10 plants are still going (some more than others). Mulched around them with chopped up comfrey and grass. The plot’s looking neater.


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.


  • The two B&Qs are closing and being amalgamated into a new one at Hermiston Gait
  • My two bean plants shrivelled up when I was on holiday (I should have expected that)
  • The Winter Spinach hasn’t germinated well

OTOH there’s some good stuff:

  • after digging in leafmould on top of one of the beds, the soil structure’s great. It’s been on there for a month or so, and there were loads of brandling worms when I put it on
  • err …
  • that’s it

Leafmould in the rain

It’s so wet … Was ordered down to the allotment on Sunday, but spent most of the time (1.5 hours) sheltering from the rain. A neighbour called me over for a cup of tea, which was very welcome, and I got to spend 15 minutes in her luxurious shed. It’s got a wee propane stove and a radio in it, carpet on the floor and the roof doesn’t leak.

Went to the communal leafmould bins. Saughton Mains allotment site has three big bunkers made from breeze blocks, perhaps 10m by 10m each, where the Allotments Officer arranges for council workers to drop plant remains. All the leaves from West Edinburgh parks are dumped here and turn into lovely leafmould. Now, not all of this is used so it collects at the back of the bunkers and various plants start to colonise it. And yesterday I noticed piles of grass cuttings in two of the bunkers and woodchippings in the third.

After all the rain, the leafmould and grass clippings have developed stagnant pools and the organic matter squelches ominously underfoot; it’s difficult to keep one’s feet. And since the leaves are collected from public parks, there’s all sorts of detritus: branches of various sizes, crisp wrappers and plastic drinks bottles, and even a discarded shoe. Reminds me of the trash compactor in Star Wars …

Monday: got another barrowful of leafmould. Three of them fills the area between the fence and rhubarb, so now I’ve got a 10′ x 3′ bed that I can plant next year. It’s very shaded (although I could change the fence form old pallets and boards to something that would let more light in, but that won’t change the fortifications net door). I could either put in something productive or use it as a living screen and tear down the crappy pallet fence.
Didn’t spend more than half an hour at the allotment as the rain was too bad.

Courgette flowers just starting to unfurl; blackcurrants still bitter