The results are in!

So! That competition I entered – The annual event organised by the Leeds & District Allotment Gardener’s Federation to find the best allotments in the city…….

A letter came through the post today with the results………

How do you think I did? The criteria was based on crop quality, range of crops, cultivation skills, successional sowing, use of space and discretionary points for anything else positive that was worth noting.

I've worked my little socks off to reach this point..... ;)

I’ve worked my little socks off to reach this point….. πŸ˜‰

Well, I came 2nd in the Newcomer’s class and had the 8th highest scoring plot in the whole of the competition. I’m in the top ten best plots throughout Leeds and the surrounding area and I’ve only had the plot for nine months: I’m rather thrilled about that if I’m honest……… Not so happy at only coming 2nd in the Newcomer’s class but I suppose beggars can’t be choosers. Guess I’m too much of a perfectionist at heart πŸ˜‰

Here’s a breakdown of the marks I got – Something to refer to and work on to improve for next year (I’ve already set my sights on a place in the top 5!):

Crop Quality (40% maximum): My score was 34% – I blame caterpillars, pigeons and slugs for blighting the brassicas – Next year I’m going to work harder to keep everything under cover so that the little monsters can’t get at ’em! And my fruit crop is pathetic this year – Even though we had tons of blossom on the fruit trees There’s actually only 1 apple clinging on for dear life! Maybe I need to concentrate on ways of Β bringing more pollinators on to Plot 29 next year…

Range of Crops (20% maximum): My score was 15.2% I thought I’d done well this year with ‘a little bit of everything’ as well as a few exotics like soya beans, sweet potatoes, globe artichokes and Jerusalem artichokes. I’ll have to wait until the club secretary receives a more detailed mark breakdown before I decide on a plan of action for the next season…

Cultivation Skills (25% maximum): My score was 23%. What can I say? Most of this allotmenteering lark been completely new to me – A huge learning curve! I’m delighted with this score πŸ™‚

Successional Sowing (5% maximum): My score was 3.5%. I’m still planting by the moon: I’m still getting to grips with trying to avoid gluts of ripe produce. Everyone around me seems to be doing the same. Is this something that I’ll continue to battle with forever?

Use of Space (5% maximum): My score was 5%. Yahooooooooooooh!

Discretionary points (5% maximum): My score was 2.8%. Again, until the secretary comes back with a more detailed breakdown of the marking allocations I’m not sure what this is for. I’m guessing I got brownie points for things like water conservation (I still could improve in this area) and provision for wildlife. I’ve also got two compost bins, a leaf mould pile and a vile smelling bucket of comfrey fertiliser on the go. There might also have been an allowance for health & safety issues and general appearance – Everything was immaculate when the judges turned up as I’d spent the entire week before on my hands and knees pulling up every little microdot of weedlife, chopping off every ailing leaf and tidying anything and everything away! Who knows? I’m looking forward to seeing a bit of detailed feedback very soon πŸ™‚

And overall 8th in the competition? Can’t knock it really πŸ˜‰

July Update: Bountiful harvests, beautiful weather and my first entry into a competition…

The weather has been brilliant!!!!!! Lots of sunshine and just enough rain has meant that everything on Plot 29 has burst forth in rude health; It’s all very exciting!

Lots of stuff is growing!

Lots of stuff is growing!

The sweetcorn is now taller than me!

The sweetcorn is now taller than me!

Even the Brassica bed is behaving itself :)

Even the Brassica bed is behaving itself πŸ™‚

The sweet potato vines are slowly but surely making their way around the greenhouse...

The sweet potato vines are slowly but surely making their way around the greenhouse…

Stunning flowers punctuate the green stuff - These are Thunbergia (Black Eyed Susan).

Stunning flowers punctuate the green stuff – These are Thunbergia (Black Eyed Susan).

Lilac pompom poppies - The bees love 'em!

Lilac pompom poppies – The bees love ’em!

Calendula (Pot Marigolds) and French Marigolds - Really easy to grow from seed and brilliant companions for a whole host of other plants.

Calendula (Pot Marigolds) and French Marigolds – Really easy to grow from seed and brilliant companions for a whole host of other plants.

Green Globe Artichoke - The promise of a flower yet to enjoy. These have also been grown from seed and as it's their first year I'm going to let them flower rather than harvest them so that the plants can build up their energy reserves for next year...

Green Globe Artichoke – The promise of a flower yet to enjoy. These have also been grown from seed and as it’s their first year I’m going to let them flower rather than harvest them so that the plants can build up their energy reserves for next year…

Besides all this general growing business we’re starting to reap the benefits……. Crops are being harvested on a daily basis and there’s a pleasing queue of goodies waiting to ripen in the background…

A trug full of freshly dug, first early potatoes (Arran Pilot), Calabrese, Mooli Radish, Beetroot, Pak Choi, Broad Beans ...... and a few chillies hidden away in the general bounty :)

A trug full of freshly dug, first early potatoes (Arran Pilot), Calabrese, Mooli Radish, Beetroot, Pak Choi, Broad Beans …… and a few chillies hidden away in the general bounty πŸ™‚

Sweet Peppers - Tiny at the moment........ But given a few more weeks growth........

Sweet Peppers – California Wonder

Yellow Plum Tomatoes - Ildi

Yellow Plum Tomatoes – Ildi

A baby melon.

A baby melon.

Yummy tomatoes - Ferline, Moneymaker and Red Pear.

Yummy tomatoes – Ferline, Moneymaker and Red Pear.

The Rhubarb just keeps on coming!

The Rhubarb just keeps on coming!

Our first proper 'Allotment' meal from a few weeks ago - A smoked mackerel salad with our own broad beans, peas, onions and assorted 'leaves' including chard, spinach, lollo rosso, little gem and coriander. Delicious!!!!!!

Our first proper ‘Allotment’ meal from a few weeks ago – A smoked mackerel salad with our own broad beans, peas, onions and assorted ‘leaves’ including chard, spinach, lollo rosso, little gem lettuce and coriander. We also made a vinaigrette dressing using our own herbs. Delicious!!!!!!

It’s all going rather well if I’m honest πŸ™‚ I think it looks great – Certainly a lot better than that fateful day back in October 2013 when I picked the keys up and first took up the ‘challenge’ of Plot 29…

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder - I had to look very hard to spot it!

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder – I had to look very hard to spot it!

We've come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good......

We’ve come a long, long way together, through the hard times and the good……

On Friday 18th July the judges came to have a look round as I’ve entered into the annual allotments competition run by the Leeds & District Allotment Gardener’s Federation. Incidentally, if you click on the link to their website that little picture on the homepage is none other than Plot 29 a good few years ago (But what on earth could have happened for it to go to such rack and ruin before being passed down to me in such a state? And look at that brick path – Almost identical to the one that graces the plot now!!!!!).

Anywhoo! Coincidences aside, Plot 29 is in the ‘Newcomers’ category and hopefully I’ve done enough to meet all the criteria necessary…..Β good crop quality and variety, succession, weed & pest control, composting and conservation, use of space and innovation….. Fingers crossed that I get a good placing (apparently you’re given a ranking for your position within the district) and that I at least get some good feedback.

We shall see…… πŸ˜‰

 

 

Sweet potato propagation in the UK – The FREE stuff!!!!

I LIKE sweet potaoes!

In the UK, if you want to grow them yourself there seems to be a bit of a price attached; I don’t like this quite so much!!!!

A short while back I took a trip down the road to lessening the cost with a DIY version of growing your own sweet potato slips…….. and whilst it’s a tad bit time intensive…… it’s not without it’s PLUS points…..

What briefly follows might best be bookmarked and saved for next year; February to the beginning of March may be the best time – It takes ages!

Ipomoea Batatas - The sweet potato.

Ipomoea Batatas – The sweet potato.

You start with a sweet potato bought in any UK supermarket or local, independent vendor and place your trust firmly in the fact that the powers that be that haven’t yet chosen to spray the food we eat with growth inhibiting hormones etc to mess this whole thing up!!!!! Scrub that spud anyway – Just in case!!!!!

Then take three cocktail sticks – Spear that fecker to within an inch of it’s life around the sides (the length) so that it looks like some mid century modern take on a veggie Sputnik….

I KNOW what you're about to say...... DON'T!!!!

I KNOW what you’re about to say…… DON’T!!!!

Submerge the beast in a glass, jar, bucket etc of your choice making sure that it’s butt is sitting in water……Place it in a light and airy windowsill and WAIT……..WAIT….WAIT….WAIT ….. Top it up if the water line drops……. WAIT, WAIT and WAIT a little bit more…..

Eventually, roots may appear…. or a shoot. One. the other , or BOTH!

Here’s my attempt ……

My little sweet potato Sputnik all'a grow!!!!!

My little sweet potato Sputnik all’a grow!!!!

Lifted from the jar and ready to pot on…………

Be very brave and pull the shoots off.......

Be very brave and pull the shoots off…….

If you haven’t got a shoot and roots attached just stick the shoot in to some water and wait until roots appear (I was lucky enough to have a few shoots with attached roots first time but apparently water propagation works really well when those first few leaves have appeared).

Hey Presto! A sweet potato slip ready to pot up....

Hey Presto! A sweet potato slip ready to pot up….

 

After a few weeks of healthy growth, shove those babies into a larger growing space of either a large pot , growing bag, bucket or compost filled sack (my personal choice) and watch them grow…….

One of my sweet potato vines - But don't treat it like a potato - It ISN'T!!!!!

One of my sweet potato vines – But don’t treat it like a potato – It ISN’T!!!!!

Here’s the official linky thing to advice on growing sweet potatoes in the UK……. I know…….. If you don’t want to buy; They don’t really want to know….. but it’s mean if you don’t share!

http://www.thompson-morgan.com/how-to-grow-sweet-potatoes

Ho Hum!

I’ll keep you posted Β on the DIY version – So far; So good! I kept two and gave the other three away in the name of Karma…

Happy Growing Folks!

 

 

And so it begins……

I have my first tomatoes!!!!!! Whooopppppeeeeeeee!!!!

Tomato #1 :)

Tomato #1 πŸ™‚

I’ve grown tomatoes oodles of times before…… but this is a celebration of my first ever tomato grown on Plot 29, in the first ever greenhouse I’ve owned etc etc…

Just thought I’d share πŸ˜‰

Happy growing folks!

Catch-up Time!!!!

Many apologies are in order – I’m hopeless when it comes to keeping up to regular weekly blogging – The truth is that I can always find loads of stuff to do that sees me staying away from the keyboard for days on end……. Like working on Plot 29 and continuing my adventures in allotmenteering for instance……. πŸ˜‰

I know! It's a shock to me too and I get to see it nearly every day!

I know! It’s a shock to me too and I get to see it nearly every day!

And look at it now – Rather a striking transformation methinks!

Much has happened; Lots more work has taken place. The plot definitely looks a bit more productive since I last posted in (gulp!) March…

So what’s been going on?

Well! I suppose the one thing that really sticks out is the fact that the greenhouse is up and running….. and currently clad in camouflage netting to act as shading from the intense sunshine we can get (so I’m told) during the summer months.

How much do I love my greenhouse?

How much do I love my greenhouse?

Rather a lot if I'm honest!

Rather a lot if I’m honest!

The Peter Gunby Glasshouse - A magnificent thing!!!!!

The Peter Gunby Glasshouse – A magnificent thing!!!!!

Spring finally sprung – That brought about the biggest change. Lots of flowers started to appear in my wild orchard/secret garden area…

Gorgeous tulips!!!!

Gorgeous tulips!!!!

Bugle -  Or Ajuga Reptans (now that I'm getting a bit more confident with all this horticultural mallarkey!)

Bugle – Or Ajuga Reptans (now that I’m getting a bit more confident with all this horticultural mallarkey!)

Mr Other Half made regular visits up to the plot with me to add his ‘technical expertise’ and build stuff…

Mr OH added a 'feature' to the Zen Den - He said it was a porch type thing...... I call it 'Grandma's Teeth'!

Mr OH added a ‘feature’ to the Zen Den – He said it was a porch type thing…… I call it ‘Grandma’s Teeth’!

The potatoes started to put in an appearance….

The first EVER of my first earlies - Arran Pilot.

The first EVER of my first earlies – Arran Pilot.

The fruit trees stopped looking like dead twigs!

If nothing else we should at least see a modest crop of apples - Fingers crossed!!!!

If nothing else we should at least see a modest crop of apples – Fingers crossed!!!!

Even the asparagus has started to burst forth!

Asparagus!!!! Which we're apparently not allowed to eat for the next few years until the stand becomes fully established....

Asparagus!!!! Which we’re apparently not allowed to eat for the next few years until the stand becomes fully established….

And there’s lots of weeds…. Lots, and lots and LOTS!!!! They’ve proved to be the cause of the number one battle that I wage on a daily basis…., besides the countless ravenous slugs that seem to make a beeline for everything green that’s hopefully heading for my dinnerplate at some point in the future. I’m resolved to the fact that NEITHER will get the better of me!!!!!!

The chance of frost has passed; Assorted rows of seeds have been sown and the tender plug plants I raised indoors have been hardened off and are happily romping away……

Spuds galore!

Spuds galore!

Root's and shoots ;)

Root’s and shoots πŸ˜‰

And the tunnel is up and running again – But not so much a polytunnel at the moment as we decided to just use netting to cover it this year and grow extra brassicas etc in there…… next year we’ll spend time on boxing off both ends and adding a door…and finally cladding it in polythene to extend the growing season in what’s actually quite a large area…

The ill fated tunnel - strenghtened and ressurrected and currently in the process of being filled with goodies!

The ill fated tunnel – strengthened and ressurrected and currently in the process of being filled with goodies!

In six weeks time there’s a competition to find the best allotment plot in the whole of Leeds; There’s even a newcomer’s section. I’ve ummmed and aaaaahed about it for quite a while and laughed it off when other plot owners suggested that I could take part, but now I’ve finally conceded to adding my name to the list of entrants; Let battle commence with those dratted weeds and fingers crossed that everything else grows big and strong !!!!! πŸ˜‰

So much work to do – Aaaarrrrrgh!

Time to step back and admire a bit more stuff before grabbing the gloves and the hoe and waging war on the weeds in Plot 29!

Time to step back and admire a bit more stuff before grabbing the gloves and the hoe and waging war on the weeds in Plot 29!

Monkey Flowers (Mimulus) grace the grand entrance. What a magnificent welcome!

Monkey Flowers (Mimulus) grace the grand entrance. What a magnificent welcome!

Plot 29 - May 2014

Plot 29 – May 2014

 

Middle Diddle Moon Planting

My eldest son thinks I’m loopy! It’s possibly true……….

He’s had a right royal giggle at my new found enthusiasm for planting by the moon. What with him and his brother I think I must be blessed with two of the most sceptical individuals on the planet! And it doesn’t help that the long suffering Mr Other Half is almost always willing to back them up – They’re ganging up on me I’m sure!

But I’m going to change their minds and make them think twice; I think there’s definitely something in this horticultural heebie geebie approach to growing stuff πŸ˜‰

This root bed looks innocent enough - But it's the scene of much recent activity ruled solely by the moon....

This root bed looks innocent enough – But it’s the scene of much recent activity ruled solely by the moon….

I can’t profess to understanding it much; And what I do grasp is possibly very basic…… But I’m willing to give it a go and see what happens regardless. My knowledge of it, such as it is, is that the moon has an effect on plant growth – Just as it determines the tides, influences people’s mood and affects women’s menstrual cycles it can also boost or inhibit plant growth during the different phases it passes through each month. I’m happy to go along with that if I’m honest; It’s as much a I need to know. I’m sold with the whole idea.

I remember when I was little my great grandmother used to purchase an Old Moore’s Almanac every year which she’d consult at regular intervals when assorted jobs needed doing in the garden – I didn’t realise it at the time but she was planting by the moon – Something her parents and grandparents had taught her to do when she was young….. She had a magnificent garden; I feel it’s only right to take up the whole lunar gardening baton once more and try and follow in her footsteps.

But I’m not going to be consulting the almanac, nor will I be buying one of the many glossy colour charts or books that are available once you start searching for more information on the internet. Instead I’ll be using the UK based ‘Gardener’s Calendar‘ site which outlines three different moon planting methods: The Synodic, Biodynamic and Sidereal cycles. I’ve opted to go straight down the middle and use the biodynamic approach; Middle Diddle Moon Planting!

At first glance, the different methods often seem to contradict each other but lunar gardening is not an exact science and the information for each day is intended to be used as a guide to what could be planted and when rather than a set of rules and instructions that must be strictly adhered to.

So, all seeds etc that I’ve sown and a vast majority of plants that have been planted thus far have been treated according to the position of the moon in relation to the twelve signs of the Zodiac. And I’ve already seen evidence of germination time being significantly quicker than those indicated on the assorted seed packet instructions……….. The resultant seedlings/plantlets are all in very rude health!

Could I be grasping at straws, delusional, or just making it all up? Well I’m not conducting a proper scientific trial – I’m just having a go and trying stuff out. It’s hurting no-one. It may well be that my assorted pots and propagators are all optimally placed to receive just the right amount of heat and light to set the seeds on their way to a good start anyway; It may be beginner’s luck. Who knows?

The world is full of sceptics; I’m sure there’s plenty of room for at least one trusting individual that’s ready to place their greater faith in the cosmos and reconnect with the rhythms of the moon, sun and beyond (Hark at me – I’ll be knitting yoghurt next!) ……….. Maybe there’s room for a small army of us………

Today my eldest son helped me up at the allotment and set out our first early potatoes as the moon is in Capricorn and it’s a ‘root’ day – As he was working he asked when would be the next best time to sow some more peas to ensure a succession of cropping……….. He’s already got 2nd April in his diary…….

Yes! I’m thinking there’s DEFINITELY much more to these horticultural heebie geebies than possibly meets the eye! The army of one may well have doubled it’s numbers! πŸ˜‰

 

Behind every cloud…….

There’s ALWAYS a silver lining!

Progress at Plot 29 carries on regardless of catastrophic weather conditions and ripped up, spat out polytunnels!

One ton of the finest horse poo ready to be spread far and wide.....

One ton of the finest horse poo ready to be spread far and wide…..

A few weeks back I splashed out on a ton of the finest well rotted manure that money could buy…….. then spent a few days loading up wheelbarrow after wheelbarrow of the stuff to spread here, there and EVERYWHERE! This week’s job is to dig it all in πŸ˜‰

DSC_0151

My potatoes are sat chitting away in an unheated porch. Every available bit of windowsill space back at home has been filled with a steady stream of assorted seeds sown in an army of propagators – There’s 6 different varieties of tomatoes (thanks to magazine freebies), aubergines, peppers, chillies (Five different types), celeriac, peas (‘Early Onwards’ and ‘Douce Provence’), broad beans (Bunyard’s Exhibition’ and Aguadulce’), comfrey, mint, sweet basil, sweet marjoram, dill, garlic chives, leeks, savoy cabbage, parsley, green globe artichokes, turnips and beetroot. If I’m going to follow this moon planting thing that I’ve latched on to, then today is a good day for root vegetables – I’ve got some Jerusalem artichoke tubers to plant in the next few hours or so……

On the plot itself there’s two lots of broadbeans growing away merrily, alongside onions, shallots and enough garlic to fend off an entire population of vampires! A little line of radish seeds I sowed inside the doomed polytunnel have survived their ordeal and look surprisingly healthy despite now being ‘outside’ and exposed to the elements. The rhubarb is bursting forth, buds are swelling on assorted fruit trees and I’ve already got shoots appearing in a little asparagus stand that I planted last week……..When the sun comes out to shine for a few hours the setback with the polytunnel doesn’t seem half so bad!

There’s also been more path building……

The brick path finally joins up to the 'patio'.

The brick path finally joins up to the ‘patio’.

DSC_0150

Bean teepees have been constructed…….

DSC_0126

And I’ve acquired a greenhouse! It’s in pieces at the moment and needs a bit of tlc to clean it up and sort it all out – But it’s an unexpected addition to the plot that’s going to be most welcome!Β It comes with a bit of impressive historical provenance (impressive to us at any rate) in that it used to belong to Peter Gunby, an ex manager of Leeds UnitedΒ and someone who’s still involved with the coaching of the team – My youngest son, a keen supporter of the (not so mighty at the moment) Whites, is most impressed, if not also a little sceptical…….. His prediction is that apparently it should do OK for the start of the season but then quickly fall apart (Football related humour) πŸ˜‰ – My hopes for it are a little more optimistic!

Anywhoo! It’s time to pull on the wellies and head up to the plot for today’s session and the aforesaid Jerusalem artichoke planting…. and maybe time to take a few photographs of Plot 29 now that it’s ready to burst with new growth. I think that with this post I’m pretty much up to date with most of the things that have happened since getting those keys back in October – Time to really start looking forwards now – Hope there’s no more setbacks!