Posts Tagged ‘William Fowler Allotments’

Our prize-winning allotment and holidays

September 20, 2011

The lack of our allotment blog activity is a result of a family visit and a long-awaited summer holiday.  So now I’m going to make up for lost time and update you on our allotment activity.

Allotment competition 'Commended' certificate

Our prize-winning allotment certificate

The hottest piece of news is … Plot 66a on the William Fowler Allotments in Chipping Norton is a prize winner and that’s official!  We came home from holiday to find a letter telling us of our ‘Commended’ award in the annual allotment competition.  Last night we proudly went to the Chipping Norton Town Council meeting to be awarded with our prize.

Needless to say, we were thrilled to have all our hard work recognised.  But also a little amused as winning competitions isn’t what our allotment is about.  Our motivation is getting away from the house and our desks, (being a home-based copywriting company, this is very important), enjoying the fresh air and, having a plentiful supply of home-grown vegetables throughout the year.

Wind damage on the allotment

Our poor clematis and honeysuckle arch!

We knew you’d ‘enjoyed’ a spell of bad weather during our absence, so we wondered how the allotment had fared while we were away.  The high winds had done some minor damage to our bean poles, the sweet corn is now listing a bit, but tragedy!  Our glorious clematis and honeysuckle arch is now a sorry heap.  A damp weekend meant we have not yet been able to repair the damage, so I just hope the allotment judges don’t pop back for another look!  Our prize-winning allotment is looking a bit the worse for wear.

We must give a mention to our chum and local business networking buddy, Ken Norman.  Ken kindly agreed to ‘allotment’ sit while we were away and pick some of the surplus produce to ensure it continued to crop.  In our absence, he was allocated his own plot,  so in future years, we’ll be able to return the favour!

I mentioned our family visit earlier in the post.  Our little town-dwelling granddaughter (2½ yrs), with her Mummy and Daddy naturally, came up for a long weekend.  ‘Baby Bear’ was on a promise … she was to help dig up the potatoes she helped to plant earlier in the year.  Needless to say she was very excited at the prospect and eagerly set to work.  ‘Daddy Bear’ was in charge of the digging, supervised by yours truly, of course.

Helping dig up potatoes

Baby Bear helping Daddy dig up potatoes

Miss Baby Bear diligently carried the potatoes, one by one, from ground to trug.  This was a scene worthy of the Good Life episode where Margo helps pick the runner beans!  But she enjoyed every minute and went home chattering about her potatoes and playing at planting more.

So with the 2011 summer season coming to a close, supplies are dwindling on the allotment.  The beans are at an end, earlier than usual this year, and the courgettes’ days are numbered.  But if the weather is kind, the late peas might give us a bonus crop and we still have all the winter harvest to look forward to … not to mention some overdue weeding!

A bit of a stink at the allotments this weekend!

July 6, 2011

Hands up who thought I meant trouble was brewing at the William Fowler Allotments in Chipping Norton?  Sorry to disappoint, but the ‘stink’ was of our own making.  With the cabbage white butterflies starting to appear and look longingly at our brassicas, it was time to spray with the noxious rhubarb jollop.  

We’ve made ‘comfrey cordial’ this year for the first time and we were warned it ponged at bit.  Well it is positively aromatic by comparison to the rhubarb leaf solution.  Needless to say it’s a job we do just before leaving, but it is gratifying to see the butterflies circling and quickly changing their minds!

Our allotment experience this weekend was low-key.  The weeds were under control, there was nothing to plant, so we enjoyed some leisurely R & R while pottering in the sunshine.

Onward peas

An abundance of peas

It was a red-letter day on the picking front when we harvested the first of our peas.  I love peas! It’s a family thing as my daughters and granddaughters share my passion.  But this year our peas look good enough and plentiful enough to grace the front of a seed packet.  I’m not sure what we can attribute the results to. Could it be they were planted straight in the ground?  Are the Onward variety more suited to our soil, or are they benefiting from the lashings of organic chicken poo pellets?  I don’t know, but whatever the reason, we have the best crop of peas ever.

When we used to grow a few veggies in our back garden, we never realised what a constant battle growing your own really is.  I don’t know how commercial growers, particularly the organic ones, make a living.  Each time we foil one pest or problem, another comes along to take its place.

This week was the turn of the broccoli (calabrese to be precise).  We have never been successful with broccoli, normally getting one tiny flower which opens and goes to seed before getting any bigger.  In accordance with my zero tolerance policy this year (if it doesn’t work we don’t grow it), it was the broccoli’s last chance.

mouse damage to broccoli

Best broccoli and nibbled broccoli!

Perhaps like the peas, it has enjoyed the poo pellets, but this year we have proper broccoli!  At least we did until something started eating it.  We ruled out birds – even using the netting as a trampoline wouldn’t give them access.  The only answer we can come with is mice and / or voles.  We know they are there in abundance, but for the past three years we’ve rubbed along together.  But perhaps we will need to think about some measure of control … or pick all the broccoli when it’s still too small to matter! On the plus side, we did manage to get at least one decent head which escaped the rodent attack.

To end this week’s log – another success story.  Our Autumn Gold raspberries, which don’t know one season from another, are going mad.  Having picked a good couple of pounds of them, it was time for the first jam making of the season.  Now we don’t actually eat jam, but the family are always willing to help us out.

Golden raspberry jam really is delicious, but it’s a bit of a culture shock.  Raspberry jam is of course traditionally red – so having raspberry flavour from something which resembles apricot really doesn’t add up!  I’ve added our seedless raspberry jam recipe to our blog here, so you can try it for yourself.  Enjoy!

A belt and braces sort of day

May 23, 2011

We were the first up on the allotments on Saturday.  This deliberate move meant we could be first in line for the water tap before the hoards arrived.  Strangely, they didn’t … arrive that is, and we had the tap to ourselves for the 5 hours it took to fill our 1,000ltr tank.  Needless to say the water pressure isn’t great on the William Fowler allotments in Chipping Norton!

Parsnip seedlings

Few & far betwen parsnips

We learned a lot from last year’s drought.  Having spent weeks gazing at empty beds hoping seedlings would magically appear, we decided to hedge our bets this year.  Once the weedlings were separated from the seedlings, we found very little evidence of our parsnip crop.  While I can live with a lack of carrots, a parsnip famine is a major catastrophe.

So … belt and braces it was!  I set to and planted new rows of parsnip seeds between the existing rows.  Of course, if they all germinate it will be the root vegetable equivalent of the Black Hole of Calcutta, but you can never have  too many parsnips.

And the Chantenay carrots’ time was up!  After weeks of waiting there was not a carrot to be seen.  So in line with our new ruthless attitude … it was off with their heads!  The carrot pen has gone, the bed hoed, and the carrot seeds replaced with beetroot.  Well … they can’t say they weren’t warned!  Of course having gone to such an extreme, I fully expect to find a tangle of carrot and beets as they pop up merrily in tandem.

You might recall our 2011 onion experiment.  Back in April we planted onion seedlings, which resembled little more than blades of grass.  Two months on only half have survived, and they still look like little blades of grass!  Meanwhile back at the ranch, the remaining onions are still in the modules.  Even though they have reached a reasonable size and are soon destined for the ground, I can’t believe they will ever reach onion-proportions!  The onion sets, on the other hand, are the best we’ve ever grown.

Growing onions

Left to right: onion sets, onion seedlings planted early April, growing onions in modules

This weekend was a rare treat … two whole days spent either on the allotment or in the garden.  The allotment is looking good, the garden is looking splendid … just a shame we never got round to doing any housework!

A new season – a new resolution

April 3, 2011

After a year of tardiness in updating our allotment blog, I have resolved to do better this year!  No more putting it off and conveniently forgetting about our allotment diary – instead I will be making regular updates about this year’s progress.

Cloches on the allotment

Warming the soil

This is our 4th season up on plot 66A on Chipping Norton’s William Fowler Allotments.  It still seems like yesterday  we were facing the mammoth task of clearing the wilderness.

We still approach the new season with some trepidation, wondering how much work it will take to prepare the ground.  In reality, it is quite an easy task now.  All the hand weeding pays dividends and having individual beds reduces the workload considerably.

So what have we planned for 2011?  Well … we’re hoping to actually produce some carrots and parsnips after last year’s dismal failure.  On the plus side, none of our 12 carrots suffered from carrot fly, so at least we seem to have perfected our anti-fly screening technique.  Now if we can just get the blessed things to grow …

Carrot fly screen

The carrot 'play pen'

We’re going to have more French beans and less runners and lots more delicious sweetcorn.  We’re also attempting to grow our own onions from seeds this year, although we’ve hedged our bets and planted some sets too … just in case.

We had a visit from the family this weekend and took full advantage of our son-in-law’s energy and enthusiasm!  He happily got on with digging the last bed while I supervised our (almost) 2 year old Baby Bear.  She was fascinated by the allotment, thrilled to plant some seeds (potatoes) and very knowledgeable about the ‘compo’ (compost) – courtesy of Mr Bloom’s Nursery programme on children’s TV!

Potatoes planted by Baby Bear

Potatoes planted by Baby Bear

I must share this little boast with you … Jon, our son-in-law, is a bit of a ‘twitcher’ and has a bird song identification app on his iPhone.  He and Baby Bear have been learning to identify their birds over the past few weeks.  Imagine our amazement when our tiny tot stopped digging with her new baby-sized trowel, cocked her head, listened intently and announced … “It’s a chaffinch”.  We looked up and chirping away in the hedgerow was indeed a chaffinch … do we have a child prodigy on our hands?

So more news next week from the Copywriter’s Allotment.  We’re ahead of the game with everything ready to go.  Back at allotment central, the plant-house is full of seedlings and it won’t be long until we’re planting like crazy.

Perpetual spinach and 5 ft peas

April 19, 2010

What a glorious weekend we had, and what better way than to spend a few hours of it up on the allotment.  Needless to say, the William Fowler Allotments were a hive of activity, with everyone busy on their plots and enjoying the sunshine.  It seems like only yesterday we were surveying the barren wastes of the snow-covered landscape!

Perpetual spinach

2009's Perpetual Spinach - still going strong!

The highlight of the weekend was picking the first of our perpetual spinach since November.  We discovered perpetual spinach quite by accident when we got a job lot of seeds from eBay in 2008.  I’d tried to grow ‘proper’ spinach in the past with no success, so was a bit dubious.  But to our delight, we found Perpetual spinach (leaf beet) is amazing stuff.  The baby leaves are delicious in salad and when bigger, the flavour of the cooked leaves is spectacular.  It is easy to grow and, unlike spinach, doesn’t bolt or need huge amounts of water.  What’s more, it has a productive lifespan of around a year!

This year’s perpetual spinach seedlings are currently growing in newspaper tubes in plant houses.  Although we’ve tried planting them straight in the ground, we’ve not had a lot of success.  Last year we planted them in modules, but they were incredibly delicate and hard to transplant.  So we’re back to our old tried

Newspaper plant modules

Homemade newspaper modules for PS

and tested newspaper method, and looking forward to getting them in the ground in the next couple of weeks.

If you’ve never grown ‘PS’ before, we can thoroughly recommend it!  Planted in early April, you can expect to pick the leaves from late May until early winter, when it goes into a dormant phase.  By the beginning of March it starts to grow again, and can be harvested until the end of May or beginning of June when it goes to seed.

Planting and sowing were on this weekend’s agenda.  With low night-time temperatures forecast this week, we’ve had to take a few precautions.  The swede seeds have been sown and watered, and covered with cloches for a bit of added protection.  The first beetroot are in, again covered with a cloche. Last year we lost everyone of our early beets, and were unsure if they’d been eaten by the birds or rotted in the ground.

Alderman peas

'Peatopia' for Alderman Peas

We grow our peas and mangetout at home in half pop bottles – a more manageable version of the guttering trick.  Despite being in the plant houses, many of the seeds failed, but it does get very cold here in Chipping Norton!  However, the survivors were planted out this weekend and we have some interesting ‘Peatopia’ structures gracing the beds.  As well as the ‘climbing frames’, we’ve taken the precaution of rigging up some net cages to protect the young pea plants this year.  The pigeons took a great fancy to them last spring, so we’re not taking any chances.

I’m easily seduced by seed catalogues and gardening books!  When I saw pictures last year of a little man picking peas from plants which were as tall as he was, I decided these were a ‘must have’.  So this year’s varieties are Alderman (5ft tall, if the seed packet can be believed) and Early Onward.

Meanwhile back at the ranch, there was much more sowing to be done.  The plant houses are back to full capacity again and the runner beans and sweetcorn are underway.  We’ve got more plants than usual this year, as we’ve grown extra to be donated to Team Attitude at Altitude’s charity fundraising plant sale on May 3rd.

I’m not sure we’ve got a lot to do next weekend on the allotment! But no doubt we’ll find  something to occupy us for a few hours, even if it’s just sitting on the ‘patio’ enjoying a cuppa and admiring the fruits of our labours.


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