Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Autopilot Plot, And A Polytunnel Out Of The Blue

We've been a bit rubbish lately, not having been down the allotment as often as we might have done.  My excuse is having had a turbo-powered dose of man flu.  Happily enough, a lot of things are quite content to grow in your absence.

Things looking nice in the sunshine

Potatoes fall squarely into this category.  We've probably dug up about half our first earlies (Arran Pilot) now.  It's interesting to see how much variation there has been in the amount of potatoes produced between plants, seemingly depending on how claggy the soil is.  Talking of which, it's amazing how much variation in "clagginess" there is in such a small patch of the allotment.  When we started digging up these potatoes exactly a month ago they were pretty tiddly but had a really great waxy texture when boiled.  Digging them up now, they still taste pretty good, but they're far more floury.  Is this normal for spuds to change through the season?

Our second earlies are a variety called Marfona.  After a rootle around showed that at least one had grown to nearly jacket-spud size we dug up a couple of plants worth.  These seem to have done really well, despite being in soil that has never seen any manure or fertiliser.  I'd read that they were good for mashing or baking, so decided to see how they roasted.  Brilliantly, is the answer; crisp exterior with perfect fluffy insides and really good flavour.  If you want to grow spuds for roasting I can well recommend these.  Looking forward to trying them out as jacket spuds soon.

Not being down the plot for a while, it's great how some things really take off when your back is turned.  I'd never even tasted sorrel before we got our plot.  I read about how easy it was to grow in this really nice book.  I sowed some seeds next to our spuds, but they did nowt.  I started some more off in modules and then transplanted it next to our cabbages and it's going great.

The taste of this stuff is fantastic; it's really acidic, almost like a lemon juice flavored leaf.  In salads it's brilliant, especially contrasted with peppery nasturtium leaves and flowers.  Why the hell can't you buy it in shops?!  It seems pretty easy to cultivate, and it's about a zillion times more interesting than half the dud lettuces that clog up supermarket shelves.

What looked like being our only viable courgette plant has finally got itself together and has produced a couple of dinky fruit.  Hopefully the first of many.  And, excitingly, it's looking like we may get some cabbages this year.  These were a total wash out last year, clubroot all round.  After a serious manuring and then liming of the patch we planted them in it looks like we're going to get a result.

Our champion cougette plant, Will.  Will's younger cousin in the foreground.

Cabbage in the post!

Our broad beans have really been hit by what according to Titchmarsh is "chocolate spot", a fungal disease in the the botrytis family.  Mmm, botrytis.  We pulled up a few of the truly knackered specimens and composted them.  Hope that isn't a mistake?  On the subject of composting, where do people stand on composting potato plants?  Having read some people for and some against, we've gone for it.

The plants at the corner of the patch don't seem to have suffered too much, maybe because more air can get around them?  Definitely going to grow a load of broad beans next year, they've been fantastic and the taste is amazing.  I keep meaning to make a dip or something out of them, but it just seems criminal to do anything other than boil them and then introduce them to some butter, salt and pepper.

Peas.  Ah, peas.  These just haven't worked out and our plants are starting to yellow and die before they ever really gave us much action.  Damn shame, we both love peas, especially Kasia.  Judging by how expensive they've been in the shops I reckon that this must've been a stinker of a year for peas.  We're going to have to come up with a way of getting them going before the slugs/ snails/ pigeons knack them next year.
Sad peas.  Sweetcorn struggles on to the rear.
Finally, we were admiring one of our fellow allotmenteers polytunnels when they mentioned that they had bought two, and did we want the other for a reasonable price.  Yes, indeed we did.  So, we've now got one of these!  Pretty exciting stuff.  Gonna try and assemble the sucker next weekend which, me never exactly been the most practical of souls, will be interesting I'm sure!

I left the plot on Saturday with enough bits and bobs to put a meal together; boiled new spuds, steamed broad beans and a salad of  sorrel, nasturtium leaves and chard, with some tiny red onions and peas through it.  For pud, some raspberries and this year's crop of strawberries so far, all two of them (they were new plants this year ok?!)- good times.


  1. You sound as though you had a vert productive visit to the plot.

    We haven't made as many visits this year but this has mainly been down to the weather.

    There's always something that does well and something that could do better each year.

  2. I was discussing this with a fellow plot-holder the other day. There seems to be some voodoo at work which dictates that some crops will take off, while others fail completely. The fact that you can never know all the reasons for success or failure keeps you humble, and appreciative of when things do work!

  3. Well it sounds like you are enjoying your allotment. A lot of the time we can grumble too much about what goes wrong and your post has really out me in my place to remember for all that hasn't grown I do have some wonderful crops this year...we just have to make the most of what we've got and be grateful for it.

    I have never grown sorrel but if it's that easy then it's something I may look into next year!!

    1. Hi Tanya, I'd strongly recommend giving sorrel a go; it tastes quite unlike any other leaf I've had, so citric and sharp. At the moment it's great in salads as the leafs are still quite tender. My girlfriend's Polish family have talked lots about sorrel soup, I'll need to look up a recipe for that once the leaves get bigger and tougher. It was super-easy to grow, just started in modules then put them in the ground and away they went. Slugs and snails don't seem to keen on it either, maybe because of how acidic it is?


All comments gratefully received. Sorry about the word verification thing, but I've started getting bombed by spam.

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