Sunday, 5 January 2014

Unusually sober notes from the plot

What's all this then?
I'm not normally given to taking part in well-branded mass participation larks, especially where they've shoe-horned the name of the month into it. You know the sort of thing: "Stoptober", "Movember" etc. The contrarian in me wants to smoke even more, or shave even closer than normal during such months, in protest at the depths to which, in an increasingly atomised world, supposedly shared experiences have plumbed. Anyway, for all that, Kasia is doing a dry January and I thought it only polite I should do likewise, the upshot being that it was with an unusually clear head and very little malice in my soul that I cycled down to the plot yesterday morning, the first such visit in a number of weeks.

Under the normal (hungover) run of things, the discovery of some weird down-like fluff (see pic above) all over our recently planted apple tree would have led to dark thoughts about the interminable pointlessness of all existence. Yesterday I took it much more in my stride and rang the excellent Cowells garden centre, from where the thing was procured, for advice. Apparently it is either some sort of lichen, which would be a good thing, powdery midew, a fungal infection or the fluff which some kind of aphid produces to protect itself, the latter three of which being not so good. Anyone feel confident to diagnose? The more important issue, given the ferocious winds we've had, is that it's still standing. Whatever's wrong with it should be treatable.

On a grey but relatively mild day - we've had very few hard frosts up here this winter - I got on with a bit of weeding, composting and assessed the performance of our few autumn-planted crops. No sign of the broad beans we planted back in November, but I reckon I was too late with them so fair enough. More annoying is the almost total failure of all the yellow onion sets we planted in good conditions, and on two separate parts of the plot, back at the start of October. I quickly dug over one of these patches and bunged in some garlic cloves from a bought bulb that I'd almost forgotten about. Perhaps too late, but on the other hand we've had so little of the frosts they require to split so far, so we'll see if they work out.

In better news, red onions and shallot sets are well established.

Red onions
Never grown shallots before, so I'll be interested to see how they come out

I dug up some more parsnips and jerusalem artichokes. We've only a few plants worth of each of these left in the ground, after which only some knackered kale and some red cabbages, due for harvest in the spring, remain as viaable food until the new season swings fully into view. The parsnips that came up spanned the full spectrum; decent, single rooted efforts on one side, cankered muti-rooters on the other. All edible though. Regarding jerusalem artichokes; I may have asked this before, but if anyone's got a sure-fire way of preventing their explosive capability for producing wind I'd love to hear it. The taste of these things is superb, all depth and smokiness. Whether they are worth eating owes, sadly, much to whether you have to appear in public in the near future.

All shapes of parsnip
In case you're wondering, it's currently Sunday night and I'm still very much on the wagon, even having been at friends for dinner and board games last night. If, by the end of the month, I have noticed any wondrous benefits to mood, personal productivity or gardening skills, I'll be sure to let you know. If not, see you in the pub on February the first.


  1. Well at least you are getting some crops still and your shallots are certainly looking happy. I still haven't got my garlic in the ground and wonder weather I will now before spring. I think winter planted garlic gives you a far better crop but with such a bumper crop received this year maybe it won't matter if I have a smaller crop next year....

  2. Yep, we're never going to make it to self-sufficiency but it's good to have at least something you grew yourself at this time of year.

  3. Looking at your apple tree and with a bit of guesswork as it's hard to be certain from the photo.

    It isn't lichen but it could be powdery mildew on the stems. Near the bud I;d say that is either a spider egg case or covering for woolly aphid or mealy bug. If it's the later if you remove it you should see the bugs. Google them to find a photo.


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