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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Allotments Anonymous' LiveJournal:

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Wednesday, August 19th, 2009
5:04 pm
Pictures of my garden veg patch

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009
2:50 pm
Rust on Raspberries
My raspberry leaves have orange spots (which look slightly furry when they get bigger)

I'm assuming that this is rust.

Is it damaging to the plants?

What can I do about it?

At present, I'm cutting off infected leaves and putting them in my (non-compost) bin.

Is this doing the plants more good or harm?
Wednesday, April 1st, 2009
2:57 pm
I'm back
Just wanted to say that I'm rather excited to be growing fruit and veg again.

I've got a little raised bed in the new house that I moved into in January and I'll be planting some salad crops over the next few weeks. I've already invested in one of those little plastic 3 tier greenhouse things and have got some spinach, little gem and other green salad stuff growing in that.

The bed will be planted up with spring and pickling onions and my flatmate wants to put in radish and beetroot.

I've also got 6 tubs of soft fruit, 2 gooseberry, 2 blackcurrant and 2 rhubarb.

Looks like it'll be a good year.
Wednesday, February 25th, 2009
8:57 am
Spring coming...
Broad beans first sowing in pots in the cold frame from December sowing, sowing two (bigger one) direct in ground last weekend.

Winter digging nearly done.

Jerusalem artichokes planted (specimens straight out of last years patch).

Seed potatoes arrived, shallots arrived.

Over wintering onions and garlic looking good.

Cuttings from various ribes not looking dead.

Sweet potato slips prepared from one of last years sweet potatoes, sitting in a glass of water and rooting now.

Sweet peas sowed in loo roll innards in seed trays outside.

Still harvesting carrots, beetroot, salsify, scorzonera, Jerusalem artichokes, parsnips, kale, broccoli, cabbage, leaf beet and chard, Alexanders, chick weed, three cornered leek, leeks, crow garlic, wild celery, celeriac and of course assorted winter herbs.

Still got potatoes, winter squashes, garlic and shallots in store. Ran out of our own onions though (a few red onions left).

Its the 'big wait' till its time for proper sowings now. Its almost Spring, but its still way too cold out to do much.
Thursday, July 10th, 2008
10:55 am
Herbicide residue in manure
In case any of you missed the report on Gardeners' Question Time, there's a serious problem with herbicide contamination in a lot of manure this year.  It's causing serious problems with plants growing on manured areas.

For more details, read this article.

It can be in hay fed to horses, go right through the horse, and deform your plants after being rotted and dug into your soil.
10:07 am
Garden progress...
Last night we ate a vegetable curry which used brocolli and coriander from our own garden, and it was delicious :)

The rest of the brocolli probably need cutting, blanching and freezing before too much longer. One of them's gone to seed, I think, which is a bit of a shame but never mind. I'll need to find out if it's an F1 or not (if it's an F1, any seeds it produces probably won't germinate, or might not be any good, so I'd be better off hacking off the top to encourage side growth).

The beans are doing quite well, the scarlet emperors are growing nicely and are starting to climb up or garden arch, and the nearby kidney bean plant has put out a vine across about a foot of empty space in order to climb up the arch (how does it know??)

The leaf miners which were plaguing my chard seems to have gone away for now, so I'm looking forward to using some of this in meals, too.

Finally, my pumpkin plants are putting out lovely big yellow flowers but I'm not seeing any fruit yet. Is there anything special I have to do to these in order to get them fruiting? I would have assumed they were insect-pollinated, is this right?
Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008
10:12 am
Dealing with phosphorus shortages in the future
I was browsing a copy of the Times on the way back from Conrunner on Monday, and found this article on the rising demand for the world's limited supply of phosphorus.

In essence, it's essential for agriculture, and wasteful usage and limited supplies are pushing prices up dramatically.  In a few decades, we may be looking at 'peak phosphorus'.

One of the possible solutions involves recycling the phosphorus that we throw away every day - urine.

I recently read Liquid Gold, an entertaining (It's full of anecdotes on how urine has been used throughout history) and informative book on how to use urine in your garden.  Urine is sterile (as long as it isn't contaminated by faeces) and contains nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium in almost the exact ratio needed by plants.  Dilute between three and eight times with water (the more woody material/mulch/compost you have in the soil, the stronger you can make the mixture) and you can feed your plants up to three times a week.

I tried this a couple of weeks ago on my courgette plants - the leaves were turning yellow and the plants were putting on very little growth.

Result?  Green leaves within a week and healthy new growth. 

Tried again with the sorry-looking French beans - they're now, finally, making decent growth up their poles.

I'm now encouraging the family to fill empty plastic milk bottles as fast as they can - there's a load more plants that I want to try this on!

It's supposed to be particularly good for spinach.
Monday, June 23rd, 2008
7:56 pm
Some bastard nicked our strawberries!
We've been having a crop of the most fantastic flavoured, fully organic, fresh from the plot, strawberries.

I went down to pick some more today and they were almost all gone.  At first glance, I couldn't see any at all - only those well hidden under leaves had survived.  I picked a grand total of six. Even the partially ripe ones were gone. 

This was more than someone having a quick snack. I'd say the equivalent of at least a couple of punnets was taken.  Someone took those to sell - why else take all the half-green ones as well?  (they'll ripen away from the plant, though they will never taste quite as good as ones picked when they're fully ripe)

Has anyone else had a theft of this kind?  I wonder if the rising price of food is behind it.
Friday, May 30th, 2008
10:32 pm
Plot update and thoughts on slugs
We've just about caught up on all the major tasks.  Phew!

The strawberries now have pigeon netting (just in time as the fruits are forming nicely).  I've put straw under them, but probably need to add a little more.

I've weeded all round the onions (we've a lot of onions and they're too close, so I spread this job over a week or two).

Richard has planted out the courgettes and some of the squashes (under fleece at present to help them get a good start).  Last year, our squashes never really got going.  We worked out eventually that this was because it was too cold when they were first put out.  This year, we'll probably keep them under fleece for quite a while until we're really certain that they're comfortable.  This applies doubly as they're in the most shaded corner of the plot (the crop rotation has them in bed three, and the strawberries have the sunniest spot in that bed).

The beetroot are all coming up pretty well.  We're getting a lot better at making seed beds, and it's improving the germination rate.  We haven't got it licked totally yet, but small seeds really do need fine crumbly soil and a really level surface.  It makes a lot more difference than you might think.

Big seeds like runner beans don't need nearly so much TLC - apart from getting the soil right, of course.

When we grew runner beans at home, we ended up with spindly little plants that mostly got eaten by slugs.  Those that did survive were likely to get blackfly and generally only produced enough beans for a few meals.  Last year on the plot, we harvested enough beans to be giving them away all summer.

So what did we do different?

We fed the poor things.  Instead of just sticking the seeds in the ground, we read a book (horror of horrors) and followed the instructions...
Runner beans are greedy.  They like  a LOT of organic matter in the soil.  They like a trench full of compost and anything else you can lay your hands on and soil on top of that.  Once they get their greedy little roots down into that lot, they'll grow faster than the slugs can eat them, and even the blackfly won't make much of an impact.  We've lost a couple to the slugs this year, but most of the plants are several inches tall already and look as though they're going to make a successful break for it.  (and it's noticeable that the slugs mostly got the ones in the part of the row that I hadn't got around to weeding.)

In short, when growing veg, don't just read what it says on the seed packet (which is brief and misses out lots of good tips), get a really good book like this one.  It could do with a bit more on pests and diseases, but it's very good on how to prepare the ground and what conditions different plants like and what you should do as they grow.

We were amazed how little we lost to the slugs so far this year.  We didn't feel rich enough to buy nematodes as we did last year, so we've been using beer traps.  As far as slugs are concerned, we'll back the advert, "Carlsberg, probably the best lager in the world"!

Make sure plants are hardened off well before you plant them out.  Remove weeds and rotten wood and anything that will give slugs cover.  Make sure the soil has lots of manure/compost so that the plants are tougher.  Put out beer traps (but DON'T empty them on the soil afterwards as alcohol is bad for plants).  If you do all of these things, you won't eliminate the slugs, but you'll certainly make a non-trivial dent in the damage they do.  (Of course, now I've written this, they'll probably hoover the entire plot just to prove me wrong...)
Friday, May 23rd, 2008
8:13 am
Busy time of year
So, what are we doing at present?

Richard's just dug over and manured the area where we've harvested the last of the purple sprouting brocolli (wonderful stuff, resistant to club root and produces veg at a time of year when almost nothing else is cropping) and has put a pyramid of poles for the French beans.  Nicking an idea from one of the other plot-holders (whose beans grew very well last year), he's tied fleece around the base of the poles.  This should protect the young beans and help them get off to a good start.

I've been doing a lot of weeding.  My new onion hoe is very handing for working between things like onions that are set close together.  It has been explained to Richard, in no uncertain terms, that when planting crops of any kind, it is a good idea to stick to the recommended spacings.  Because we had so much to plant this year, he's been trying to fit more in by putting the rows too close.  This has had two side effects.  Firstly, I can't weed the onions without treading on some of them (I'm working barefoot on sunny days to try and improve the odds, but there's no room for me to turn round or find my balance).  Secondly, if you plant too close, you *reduce* the overall crop.  This is especially noticeable with the broad beans.  The two double rows are far too close to each other.   I can't get between the two pairs to weed easily, and there's far less flowers than we had for a similar number of plants last year.  It's quite noticeable that plants at the end of the row (where they have more light and space) are doing much better.  (And I'm just waiting to see if we get chocolate spot again - last year, it infected the mid-row plants far worse than the ones with more air around them)

The sweetcorn seem to be okay.  We hardened them off  before planting them out and I'm glad we did.  Looking at the plot next door, I see some terribly sad, yellow and shrivelled sweet corn.  I'm guessing that they were planted straight out from a greenhouse or windowsill without any hardening off.  We start ours in our planthouse (very very mini greenhouse) and then, when they're nearly ready to go out, take them out during the day and put them back at night to help them get used to the outside world.  (and they can stay out on nights when the weather is predicted to be mild)
Thursday, May 8th, 2008
10:31 am
Slugs! Help needed
Hi - I'm growing some broccoli and sprouts in a patch in my garden, and slugs are proving a problem. They've been nibbling my plants and have already killed one of them by eating right the way through the stem at the base.

What approaches have you all taken to stop slugs eating your plants, and what works best?
Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008
1:05 pm
caffeine_fairy is looking for nice vegetable recipes to go in a cook book that will raise money for a very good cause (The Sutton Mencap Allotment project see http://caffeine-fairy.livejournal.com/299349.html and http://caffeine-fairy.livejournal.com/299971.html)

I figured that folks in this community are likely to have some good recipes for using up their crops - and quite probably feel that it's a cause so worth supporting, so if you can help please let her know

Ta muchly
Sunday, February 17th, 2008
10:09 am
Urine as fertilizer
I've been wondering about this for many years, ever since visiting the Centre for Alternative Technology in Wales where they had collection bottles in the gent's loos.

I've just found a report of a study done in Finland that says it works every bit as well as conventional fertilizers and that urine is virtually sterile and thus there is no health risk.

This link also makes interesting reading (it appears to be about growing canabis, but the comments would apply to any plants).  It basically says that you can use urine directly to water plants, but it is best to dilute it by a factor of 10 or 20 to avoid scorching the roots.

I may well try this on the allotment.

And a post of mine from just over a year ago which refers to the fact that vegans who eat plants fertilised with human faeces do not suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency (gut bacteria produce it too far down the gut for us to absorb it when it's in the body).  I'm not sure I'll try that one right now, but maybe someday.
Friday, September 21st, 2007
10:45 am
Chilli pepper question
Morning all -

I've got something of a glut of chilli peppers at the moment, sadly they're about the only thing which really did well this year. There are far more than I could concievably use straight away, does anyone know if they'll freeze ok? Or can anyone suggest other methods for preserving them?

I don't want to pickle them or anything, as I will want to use them for cooking later and want them to taste the same as they do now, obviously.
Friday, September 7th, 2007
2:10 pm
All male butternut squashes
Can anyone help?

My butternut squash plants (all five of them) are growing vigourously after a slow start.

However, every single flower is male. 

does anyone know what could cause this?
Saturday, July 28th, 2007
9:04 am
Three Sisters
My son[info]micavity took some photos a couple of weeks ago, but I only recently managed to understand LJ's scrapbook well enough to actually upload them.  Here they are.

If you're at all interested in sweetcorn growing, take a close look at the sweetcorn photo.  We've been experimenting with something called the Three Sisters method which involves growing sweetcorn on mounds and interplanting with beans and squashes.

For various reasons, we didn't do too well with the beans and squashes (well, it is our first year, and we're still learning), but the mounds made an amazing difference to the sweetcorn as you'll see from the photos.  Don't yet know what the final crop will be like, but I'm betting it will be a lot higher on the mounds.

I don't know why the mounds make such a difference.  My best guess is that the soil warms up faster.
Wednesday, June 20th, 2007
8:46 pm
Broad beans and chocolate spot
I've got something on the broad beans that I assume is chocolate spot.  Not all of them have it, but the ones in the middle of the row are worst affected.

Apparantly the causes are too much nitrogen (we used up some old Gromore and it was all caked, so the dose was probably wrong - and we shouldn't have been using a fertiliser with nitrogen on broad beans in any case...) and poor air circulation.

I've removed the worst affected plants as it didn't look as though they'd produce any beans anyway.  I've left those that have at least one pod forming.

The good news is that we are getting some beans and they tasted really good when we ate them a couple of days ago.  I'm looking forward to picking some more shortly.

The most curious thing about the chocolate spot is that the affected plants seem to have had a major die-off of blackfly.  I can see lots of places where blackfly were and no longer are.  Anyone care to guess why that should be?

Does anyone know if I should be removing the other diseased plants, or is it okay to leave them and hope to get beans from them?
Sunday, May 6th, 2007
10:17 pm
I've now had the allotment nearly two months...

Life with the allotment is a mixed bag.  I thought I'd post a running total so that people can see that we neither have perfect green fingers, nor any total disasters.  (There's nothing more depressing than people who never make any mistakes, except perhaps people who never have anything go right)
Saturday, April 28th, 2007
11:32 am
Rescue Mission
Although I've made the rent for my plot this year the council said they wouldn't give me a refund despite me having to give it up.

It was for this reason that I've been down to my old plot to liberate my soft fruit bushes and 2 rhubarb roots.

I hope it doesn't get me into trouble, the plot has already been taken over by a new tenant, but I hope they won't complain considering they still get a crop of spuds, onions, peas, strawberries and apples out of me.
Saturday, April 21st, 2007
10:03 pm
Pea and bean weevils
I had some broad beans with scalloped edges that we thought were being nibbled by pigeons.  Put up bird netting - no improvement.

Did some research - definitely "pea and bean weevils" - the damage looks exactly right.   The little scallops out of the edges of the leaves are a perfect match.  Unfortunately, they are easier to prevent than to eradicate.  Fleece over the beans as soon as you plant them will do the trick as it stops the adults from arriving, and hoeing around the plants will disrupt the lifecycle.  It looks like hoeing to salvage as much as we can and using fleece to protect later beans that we plant out.  Older plants don't suffer as much damage, but young plants can sometimes be killed by them.

Looking around the other plots, I'd say that nearly everyone with beans has the problem to some degree.

Have other people here had problems with them?

What did you do and did it help?
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