The best blogs for vegetable growers

It has been a wet and windy December which means that I haven't been down to my plot as often as I would usually go. I did get down this morning and it looked like a gale had blown through with the asparagus ferns all over the place and one half empty water butt blown over.  This is my favourite time to catch up on fruit and vegetable blogs and to plan the big projects for next year.  On the plot I want to move a small tunnel frame, cover it and use it to grow a peach or nectarine in as they need winter protection against peach leaf curl.  At home I am removing 22 pittosporum trees that had been used as a hedge on a west facing boundary so that I can plant a range of fruit trees instead. It's a lot of digging!

Anyway, what about the blogs? Below I have listed the those that I most like to read that are about growing fruit and vegetables. They are not in any particular order, but I hope that there is something here that is worth sitting by a fire and reading whilst the wind and rain batter the windows and plants.

Town Council Grant for Course and Polytunnel Project

One of the four objectives of the EDAA constitution is to ‘arrange for instruction in horticulture’ and, to this end, we have been working on developing a Beginners’ Vegetable Growing Course, modelled on the RHS course at Rosemoor. This involves providing an inside growing space and some mini-allotments, one rod in size, for the course participants. The course will start in February.

Making your plot sustainable

There are so many different things to think about nowadays on an allotment: using less or no plastic, planting for bees, climate change, using water efficiently and the erosion of soil quality.  I wake early and often listen to Farming Today where they discuss the soil and the loss of soil quite a lot. It has even become one of the story lines on The Archers. I was shocked to hear that we were only 30 to 40 years away from having soil with no fertility with only 100 harvests left. 

Making and using compost is one of the key ways in which we can keep our soil healthy and the allotments are helping by offering compost bins at an excellent cost but there are many ways of keeping your plot soil healthy and productive so this post focuses on one couple who are developing sustainable methods of running their plot.

Making your own compost


Go-to contacts for composting:
On Pound Lane chat to Tony (PL37).
On Hamilton Lane chat to Joy (HL11), Bill (HL60), John (HL71), Anne (HL133), Dave (HL169) and John (HL250).

The first aim of the compost heap is to enable allotment waste to be removed from the growing area without the need for bonfires or trips to the tip.  The second aim is to make a wonderful soil conditioner.

You will soon be able to can now order a pallet compost bin kit (a brand new version of the bin shown) from the HL shop or you may prefer to make your own wooden bin or use a ‘Dalek’ bin.

Daleks and Pallets - How do you compost?

compost binWe are being encouraged to make compost from veg waste from our plots to reduce the need for bonfires and journeys to the tip and to provide a wonderful soil conditioner.  Some commercial bins can be expensive but the committee is in the process of sourcing pallets and lengths of strong rope, all that is needed to make a simple single or double bin.

Heating my greenhouse for free

grass in a boxI start most seed off in my greenhouse. I seem to get better germination and less slug and snail damage if I do this but I would really like a bit more heat in it to start things off even earlier. I don't have access to electricity in the greenhouse and nor do I want to pay a lot of money so what follows are a few things that I have tried and the solutions I have settled on.

Forcing Rhubarb with Weed Control Fabric

Rhubarb is early this year but it can be even earlier by covering with weed control fabric, as sold by the shop, for a few weeks.

Top Tips for Making Leaf Mould

This time of year is almost as busy a time as the spring.  One of the main jobs that I start is to mulch the beds ready for next year. I always have an issue with creating enough mulch for the plots and so use a wide range of things: compost, seaweed, manure and leaf mould.  The compost can be used for anything and sometimes I put it on top of the seaweed or leaf mould so that I get a depth of about 5 - 10 cm. The seaweed is very good for the asparagus, and potatoes do really well in it. The leaf mould doesn't really contain nutrients but is a soil improver and any of the beds would benefit from it. However, it does  take some time to make.

So how can we make the best leaf mould in the quickest possible manner?

Brassica Massacre: Cabbage Whitefly

This hot and dry year has meant that slugs and snails and the damage they cause has been far less than usual but there is always something that will enjoy the conditions.  It seems that whitefly are the pest of the year and my brassicas are covered in the things, whether they are netted or not.  As I walk past them or disturb the plants by picking off the old leaves, clouds of them fly up and settle over the surroundings. They don't kill the plants but they are the very devil to wash off, particularly when they are on kale, as is the sooty mould that goes with them.

I have been doing a little research to find out what I can do next year to try and reduce their numbers. Sadly, all the images below come from my very own plot.

Thinking Ahead

2019 catalogue

One of the things about vegetable growing is the need to think and plan ahead and nothing says this more than the arrival of the seed catalogues.  It requires us to think about what has grown well and what hasn't, what we want more of and what we want less of (please don't make me eat any more cucumbers). And most excitingly of all, what we want to grow that is new to us. As I write this, the gales are blowing and the rain is falling so a perfect time to sit back and think of next year.

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