Ask Seller a Question. Publisher: Summersdale Publishers. Anyone who's ever spent their weekends, evenings and even lunchtimes at the allotment will delight in Kay Sexton's stories of life at the Voodoo Plot and the entertaining characters that keep her amused throughout the year. As the plot thickens and the growers thrive or struggle to flourish, there's an abundance of year-round horticultural advice for any kitchen gardener, with month by - month sections on sowing and growing, crop care and allotment tasks, what to harvest and tried and tested seasonal recipes.
Along with numerous helpful tip boxes, Kay's diary takes you through a year in the life of an allotment site, from mulching to munching and everything in between. Kay Sexton is based in Brighton and teaches allotment skills. Visit Seller's Storefront. If you are not satisfied with your book, just send it back to us and we will refund your purchase in full. Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions or concerns.
Abebooks will provide you with our contact information after you place your order. Looking through my diaries, snow isn't that likely for a prolonged period but you never know. February, being the last of the winter months , often has a sting and ends up being the coldest month. So, more than any other month, this one you need to play according to local conditions. It's best to hold off than try to sow in waterlogged, near frozen March is the month when things really start to move in the growing season.
In fact the start of the year used to be Lady Day, The Feast of the Annunciation, 25th March until in Britain when we adopted the Gregorian calendar and started our year on By April spring should be well and truly underway, the soil warming up nicely and everything growing away. Don't be complacent though, it's been known for a cold snap with snow to strike even in the sunny south of England. Keep an eye on the weather forecasts The soil is warm and the plants growing well. But watch out for a sneaky late frost Flaming June should bring us a hot sunshine filled month with the risk of frost passed and those in more northerly parts should be able to catch up with those in the south.
We're also moving towards the longest day, June 21st being the summer solstice It looked like it had been dug from below, with no spoil around it, so I'm hoping it was the rabbits' escape route and that by filling it in I have prevented them returning, but we will see. If I have blocked them in they will easily dig a new exit - I just hope my efforts persuade them that somewhere else would be a more pleasant home. A big pile of cow manure appeared in the car park once again.
It is substantially better rotted than the stuff last year, but still it is not what I really like. Too fresh and the ammonia in it causes more harm than good. I decided to not use it this year again. The structure of our soil is pretty good, we can feed the soil in the spring where the crops need it so I think we will be OK without it. The small hedge next to the car park was planted with buckthorn I think and now the berries are splendid.
Saturday, 22 October Next year's garlic. A couple of days ago we planted the garlic for next year. It can be a bit awkward planting stuff at this time of year, because it is usually in the ground the following year when you are ready for planting more stuff. In previous years I've had a plan to work to, though the plan rarely survives long before something changes.
This year's garlic planting has used a bit of the plot we have ignored before, next to the asparagus, so it shouldn't get in the way. I will think about a plan soon. That involves looking back at what worked and what needs to change. I do enjoy reflecting on the goodies we have had and looking forward to what we can grow next year. More leeks, carrots and parsnips came home with us. Parsnips are very good this year. We will be blanching and freezing some more before the ground freezes.
Thursday, 13 October Thanks to the French beans. The French beans have given given us their last crop. The leaves had begun to shrivel so we dug them up. We took some carrots and some more leeks too. The parsnips looked good so we dug a couple. They looked particularly good, clean with no canker, a good size and shape. We ended up digging some more and blanching and freezing them for later. The idea of keeping them in the ground until you're ready for them has not worked too well in the past.
If the ground freezes digging them up intact is difficult and as they sit, largely leafless, the rot and canker sets in. So this year we're going to steadily dig them up and freeze the ones we don't need right away. Frozen ones work well for roasting, in soup and in stews so it is a good option, if you have the freezer space. Sunday, 2 October Warm relief. Freshly sprouted winter wheat as a green haze A very warm spell has wafted over us. The plot had already wound down, but the remaining French beans might just give us another crop thanks to the warmth.
The courgettes just missed it, the sweet corn is almost over any way, carrots are fat and probably won't notice, the leeks should fatten up a bit more. The warm spell might still do us a big favour. The field behind our plot had oil seed rape earlier this year. That is harvested very early and so the field has stood largely empty for a long time, but recently the field has been ploughed, harrowed and planted. This empty spell may be part of the reason we have been visited by rabbits. The warm weather may have come to the rescue, because the winter wheat in the field has sprouted, so rabbits will have plenty to graze on.
No more rabbit holes I blocked up the rabbit hole with stones, pushing them as far down as I could reach. The rabbits, or something, moved some of the stones, but not enough to uncover the hole beyond. I keep checking the state of the bank to find new scratchings, but no new holes. I hope the rabbits like young wheat, but I expect Martin, the farmer, won't be so pleased as I am if they chose his crop over mine. Any more incursions and I will buy enough wire netting to cover the bank. If I put that on over the winter, the growth in the spring will embed the netting into the bank properly.
Thursday, 29 September Planning and the end of allotments. I have been listening to the arguments about the planning system for years and years. It has been loaded heavily in favour of developers and large companies for as long as I can remember. When an application is made to build a group of new homes or a new super store it can be turned down with local politicians making a big fuss about how they have protected the local area from the blight of development, knowing that the applicant will appeal to the central planning appeal who often approve the application, but with some modifications.
There is no appeal for the locals to prevent an application that has been granted by either process. There has long been the cosy process where some large company and a local council cooperate to allow some improvement, such as a new road using an unused part of the company's land who miraculously get granted planning permission either to extend their site or build lucrative housing on other land they own. The current planning guidelines insist that most new houses are tiny boxes with no gardens because they must meet a criteria to cram a certain number of homes into each hectare.
They have stupid restrictions that minimise the size of driveways so second cars end up being parked on the roads, blocking the footpaths and cycleways the council insisted on. All of this, and much more, is badly in need of change, so when I heard the Government was reforming the planning laws I was hopeful. In addition they trailed it by saying that local people would gain more control over the process.
As soon as I saw the minister in charge was Mr Pickles my heart sank. I don't believe he is fit to lead a dog for a walk and certainly not lead a Government department and the fiasco he has produced confirms my belief. Actually I don't believe Mr Pickles did write the document, but he is the front man for it. The essence of the proposed reform is that planning applications in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding natural Beauty and existing green belt will be resisted, but everywhere, everywhere else the presumption will be to approve development of any kind except for coal mines.
ALLOTMENT DIARY AND POTTED BOOK REVIEWS
There will be no option for locals to appeal so developers will have a free-for-all. The worst is that these changes are supposed to promote growth. Lets chase growth by smothering the country with concrete. Green field sites are an obvious target, but that requires services, like water, gas etc to be extended to the new area. This makes allotments look very vulnerable. Plots of land inside villages, towns and cities, like allotments, are already close to facilities and services so building on them would be easy and cheaper.
Cash-strapped councils would make a tidy sum from selling the land for development. You don't think it will happen? Well I want to be sure and the only way is to ensure these outrageous plans are scrapped. I want the planning laws reformed, but not scrapped. Please write to your MP to object to a free-for-all for developers and to encourage real reform, allowing local plans to determine the local priorities and to remove the opportunities for corrupt and disingenuous practices. If you want any and every piece of green space concreted over don't bother.
Thursday, 22 September Final beetroot.
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Yesterday we dug up the last of the beetroot. I thought it would be a small harvest, but actually it was loads. Jean boiled it, sliced it, bagged it and froze it so we will have beetroot for some weeks to come. Another batch of French beans have been added to the freezer. As the days get shorter and cooler I'm not sure we'll have any more, but they have been a success and I'd grow them again. We've been taking more sweetcorn and it's lovely, but one of the cobs today has not got many kernels on it, so the fertilisation has failed again this year, at least to some extent.
I have tried to take pollen-bearing flowers and dust them onto the female flowers, but clearly I missed that one. The rabbit trouble continues, with a small hole in the bank next to our plot. I have filled it in with stones picked from the freshly ploughed field next to the bank - the farmer will be happy to have fewer stones and I'm happy to block up the rabbit hole, not so sure about the rabbits though. They have abandoned the hole for now. I don't know if it was me or the fox that left its tracks in the freshly ploughed soil. I'm going to find a way to put wire netting over the bank to deter the rabbits from digging there.
There is another rabbit hole near to Jim's plot. There may be a hole under someone's shed too. It seems we need to deal with them quickly to persuade them to move on before our crops are eaten or Jim gets his gun out. Friday, 9 September The delight that is fresh sweet corn. There are highlights of the year on the allotment, particularly when each crop is ready for the first harvest of the year.
The first asparagus and the first rhubarb herald the spring, the first beans and the first salad crops the start of the summer season. All of these I look forward to, but none as eagerly as the first sweet corn.
The Allotment Diaries: A Year of Potting, Plotting and Feasting
Today it arrived. Our first cob was ready, with brown tassels and a fat cob so I opened the leafy parcel to reveal the little corn kernels which produced a milky ooze when squeezed with a thumb nail. That means it was ready to eat. I took one cob to try and it was wonderful. We have many more to look forward to.
Once you have tried really, really fresh kernels you will always be disappointed by the ones shops sell - they can never be fresh enough. We also took some carrots, beetroot, French beans, courgettes and Jim gave us a cucumber which was also very much tastier than a shop-bought one, just because it was so fresh. Jim does know a thing or two about growing good stuff too. Saturday, 3 September More rabbit trouble. The fence around the plot was patchy, with some of it from before we took the plot over.
Last winter some of it collapsed under the weight of snow and rabbits invaded by clambering over the mound of snow with a collapsed fence under it. When the snow had melted we still had a problem with a warren that had an entrance into the plot and a hole in the fence that had gone unnoticed. All of this we dealt with, including replacing parts of the fence with a new one. Part of the plan was to move some of the fruit bushes to a space outside of the fence near the hedge between the plot and the fields. This turns out to be a mistake. Rasps stripped by rabbits The unfenced raspberry canes have been eaten by rabbits.
This is a serious loss, because next year's fruit would have grown on the canes the rabbits have eaten, so we will get much less fruit, if any, next year. Fortunately I had only moved the raspberries, I was going to move the gooseberries and blackcurrants too, but I hadn't decided the best way to do it.
Now I need to fence the fruit space first, which is a nuisance because I used the unfenced space as a way onto the back of the plot without needing a gate. Now I need to think again. We have dug the remaining onions, taken some lovely carrots and more beetroot is boiling in the kitchen. We planted out some broccoli along with some spring cabbage Rob gave us - I have covered the young plants to keep the birds off. The sweet corn is forming more cobs, but none are ready yet. Leeks are swelling nicely.
We sowed some spinach to grow in the cooler autumn days which it seems to like. Thursday, 18 August More produce and a chewed door. Today we took a break from building work at home and went to harvest some more produce. Jim gave us another of his lovely cucumbers and we pulled some carrots, courgettes of course , beetroot, French beans and spring onions.
Some the onions we dug last time have dried gently in the greenhouse and are ready for use. A few are slightly softer than others so we took these to use first, hoping the others will store for longer. All of the onions look good, with the average size much bigger than last year. Friday, 12 August End of the peas. The mange touts have been pretty good, after a sticky start with partridges helping themselves, but now they have finished.
I pulled them up while Jean did some much needed weeding. I checked our hazel nuts, which are ripening nicely and have not been found by squirrels or jays. The sweetcorn is producing more cobs. They are beginning to get tassels and the male flowers are beginning to open. I've been trying to shake the pollen onto the cob tassels. There were some french beans to take. They have not turned out to be as prolific as people told us they would be, but they are very good to eat and they freeze well too.
There were some more carrots, which are a good success this year, after a couple of failed years. Naturally there were courgettes. The neighbours are beginning to hint that they can't keep up with the supply. Next year we must grow fewer plants. The onions are laying down, so I pulled about half of them and laid them out in the shelves in the greenhouse to dry. I would have pulled more but the shelves are full.
They smell fantastic. Our leeks are fattening up now the ground has been soaked. One thing I noticed is that Tony has just planted out a bed of very small leeks.
The allotment diaries : a year of potting, plotting and feasting, Kay Sexton
I think these are intended to be picked in the spring, which sounds a really good idea. It's too late to grow them now, but we might try that next year. Friday, 5 August Rain, produce and weeds. The latest dry spell broke with very heavy rain showers. The plot has benefited from the rain, which does so much more good than we can ever do with a watering can. Over the last week we have had some beetroot, which is very sweet and succulent. We have had lots of mange touts and a few good harvests of French beans. The courgettes have been prolific, one harvest produced 8 good sized courgettes and then more a couple of days later.
Our spring onions have been delivering well.
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Carrots have begun to produce very good roots which are sweet and so crunchy. Sweet corn is showing the male flowers on some stalks and the beginnings of a few cobs are forming too. The rain should help them. The rain will also swell the leeks which look good, but the need the water to swell while the days are still long. The onions are looking very good. Some of their tops are laying down, but they are not shrivelling yet so we will leave them in the ground until they do. Jean has sown some broccoli, which is growing very fast.
It was sown a bit late but it is experimental winter crop this year. Wednesday, 20 July Going nuts. Monday, 11 July Dwarf french beans. We spent some time watering the plot this morning. Promised rain came to very little and no more rain is forecast this week, so it was needed. The good news is that the dwarf french beans have produced a crop. When we looked closely it was more substantial that I had thought. We took a few spring onions too. A few of the beetroot are swelling so we might have some of those soon too.
Saturday, 9 July Hungry army. A very useful visit to the plot this morning gave us half a kilo of broad beans out of their pods , another half kilo of gooseberries, some mange touts, a big bunch of sweet peas, our first spring onion, two courgettes and the army arrived but too late.
Saturday, 2 July Mange touts. The summer is really upon us, with warm, sometimes hot, days.
The long days have pushed everything into growth spurts and so lots of water is needed. We still haven't had plentiful rain, but June was a bit wetter than the previous three months. Today we paid two visits, the second in the afternoon was after we saw how much work was needed from a brief visit in the morning.
There was a lot of weeding with a hoe and by hand, a lot of watering and the reward was our first mange touts. Not many yet but the plants, suitably watered, weeded and protected from partridges and pigeons, now look strong with flowers and a few more small pods.
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The time from flower to edible pod is quite short so we should have some more to eat later in the week. We took another batch of sweet peas. They just go from strength to strength - the more you cut the more grow to take their place. Wednesday, 22 June Hmmmmm. One of the things I look forward to each year is the first crop of broad beans. We have just pulled a few pods that are just about ripe.
This year I'm experimenting with taking the pods a bit earlier to, hopefully, get beans that are more tender and sweeter. We'll see how that turns out when we eat them this evening. We took more fruit too today, about a kilo of blackcurrants and g of strawberries.
I feed the courgettes with tomato food to encourage the flowers they are just producing to turn into fruit. Sunday, 19 June Useful things. I made a few frames in the past because I thought they might be useful. They are simple things, wooden rectangles with reinforced corners covered either with plastic mesh or chicken wire. They have short plastic legs screwed the ends so that when the frames are stood on their edge they are resting on the plastic legs, which can be pushed into the ground to help support the frame.
The plastic doesn't rot. When two frames are stood either side of a few rows netting can be spread across the top and the ends to keep the plants safe inside. Clothes pegs are very useful for holding the netting or fleece strung over these frames. Two of the frames have the legs at right angles to the frame so the frame is supported 15cm above the ground by the legs so crops can grow under them.
The netting on that wraps over the edge to reach the ground. When I made them I thought they would be useful and I was right. Of course they were not my idea - I copied the frames other people were using. I added the legs as my contribution to the evolution of the idea. Currently the two flat ones are covering the strawberries and some of the beetroot, the biggest two are protecting some leeks that would otherwise be outside if the fence and likely to become rabbit food.
The remaining two were being used to protect the French beans, but they are now big enough to not need defending, so I moved them to protect the carrots.