Thursday, 13 May 2010


When visiting Petersham nurseries last week I picked up some black salsify seeds. When I subscribed to a boxed vegetable delivery company, before discovering my local farmers market, I used to occasionally get salsify and really enjoyed it although it was a bit of a faff to prepare. It's also known as oyster plant which I find a tad off putting as I hate seafood. The thought of chucking down oysters make me want to chuck up. Anyway, the vegetable is lovely with a delicate flavour so I thought I'd grown some.

The seeds are packaged by the Italian seed company Franchi. There are directions on the back in basic diagrammatic form but I wanted to know a bit more. A quick google search revealed this readable and informative blog with lots of info. I've been keeping an eye out for things which will keep us fed in the colder months and salsify seems perfect.

My allotment neighbour mentioned growing it too so 'll give him some of our seeds. I might also swap some with the knitting for Medecins Sans Frontieres group I'm involved with, The knitting project is called p/hop (pennies per hours of pleasure) but we've started a new section called pea/hop for swapping seeds.

Seeds details
Black Salsify
Variety: geante noire de russie
Botanical name: Scorzonera hispanica L.
Cost £1.70 Not sure how many seeds there are but they weigh 5g
Expire 12/2013

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Election Potty

We didn't visit the allotment today but did make some newspaper seedling pots using these easy instructions. My creative side took over and I made sure I had pictures on the outside of mine. You can tell we've just had an election.


Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Day 2

What a difference a day makes. This afternoon we headed up to the allotment under the threat of rain to plant our spuds, onions, garlic, Jerusalem artichokes and shallots. There were already a couple of people working on their plots and the Kurdish/Turkish/Iwillfindoutwheresheisfrom lady had almost finished her planting resulting in a beautifully ordered plot.

Not my plot

In less than 24 hours the addition of bean canes and plants has made the place look more like an Urban allotment and less like a prison yard.

Day 2

We settled down to our work with offers of borrowing tools and kit from our fellow Allotmentiers. I'm really impressed with how friendly everyone is. It's lovely and there's a good mix of ages, races and sexes working on the site. A couple of people brought their kids along so I showed a six year old our seed potatoes which have grown roots after I put them in tubs a few weeks ago and lent a five year old and her dad our spare trowel so they could do a bit of digging even though they'd just come to look at their new plot. Love it.

Straight onions

It did rain a little while we were planting though we could use a good shower overnight. At first I thought our strip would be too small but even after putting in the spuds (1st, 2nd and main crop), red onions, white onions,shallots and garlic we'd only used about a third of the strip. Mind you I have fantasies of growing things like gooseberries, and squash which take up a lot of room.

Spuds are in!

I've been browsing seed supplier websites this evening and have found all sorts of things such as melon plants which will fruit in our climate and red pak choi. I must not get carried away though I am in search of Cavolo de Nero seeds. I'll let you know how I get on...

Monday, 10 May 2010

Day 1

Today was the first time we could get access to our allotment. As I've mentioned before the site is a reclaimed car park which the local council have turned into an allotment.

I've been pondering what the allotment will be like. I know our strip is 2m by 10m but which way would it face, would there be a path along the side or just mud and what is the soil like? I know from the previous soil analysis that it's an alkaline sand/loam mix but there's nothing like sticking your hand in and giving it a good rub.

So at 4:45pm we headed up to the site which is a 15min walk up a very busy urban Holloway Road, down a small alley, not far from Holloway tube station. On arrival at the site we had the first glimpse of our fellow allotmentiers (what is the word for someone who allotments?) as well as the site manager who has been instrumental in setting the site up. At first glance it looked very sparse but orderly with neat rows of plots with paving between them. Well that was one of my questions answered.

The view from our plot

We had a brief introduction from the site manager. At the moment we can only access the site at weekends or after 4pm on weekdays as the builders are still making the compostable toilet (I find this very exciting), the compost bins, and the storage shed. At present there isn't a water supply due to Thames Water being an arse but when the site is connected there are water "banks" spaced along the main path supplied by a solar powered pump. There's also a run off system which collects rain water from local housing blocks.

There's also a raised bed section at the entrance to the site which a disability group are going to use. I was hoping the allotment would appease my middle class do-gooder dreams of an urban utopia and so far it hasn't let me down. As well as there being several middle class people like me there are a couple from, well we're not sure where yet but I guessed they were Kurdish, maybe Turkish or Albanian who got stuck in planting some beautiful broad bean plants.

The site is surrounded by a brick wall and fencing and has barbed wire on the top which does give it the feel of a prison exercise yard. I might have to crochet some flowers to decorate the fence while we're waiting for the plants to grow.

New plot!

We went to have a closer look at our plot and met a family who had come prepared, planting raspberry canes and spuds. I would love to grow fruit but can't decide on what to grow or where to buy it from. One of the problems of living where we do is that not many garden centres are within walking distance and it can be tricky lugging things around on the tube or buses. I do have a fellow knitter friend who gardens and has a car so I may go on outings with her to garden centres. I have looked at online garden shops so may try that too.

Under gardener hoeing

We weeded our plot, there were just a few annual seeds, and borrowed our neighbours hoe to turn over half the bed. The soil feels quite claggy further down but has a hard crust on top at the moment which is easily broken down by hoeing. We're planning to go back tomorrow to get the spuds, onions and garlic started. I can't wait.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Dig In!

Our free Dig In seeds arrived today. Dig In is a BBC gardening campaign which sends out seeds and promotes food gardening around the UK.

Dig In

It's aimed at beginners and is kid friendly, including a sticker sheet. There's loads of info over on the BBC Dig in website as well as the more general BBC Gardening site.

I'm pleased as the courgettes are a different variety to the ones I've bought as are the carrots. I'm keeping a shop bough Basil plant going in my lounge so will use the Basil seeds to top it up. I'll let you know how I get on with them...

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Planting day

We won't get access to our plot until May 10th. I need to work out how to get my potatoes, Jerusalem artichokes, onions and garlic started today but in away that they will be easy to transport and plant in our brand new allotment.

I have a few containers I can use and I'm trying to estimate the size of pot I can get away with planting in without restricting growth.

I also have several seeds to start off. While we have a small garden space many seeds need to be started in constant warm conditions. The only room in our flat which is warm most of the time is our bathroom. This could be fun.

First I need to do a bit of swotting up on how to grow each of the plants.