allotments fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Big Parsnips etc.

We are never very good at growing parsnips, but we have been getting better in recent years. With our allotment getting flooded six times this year we were not hopeful of success with our root crops. When the seedling carrots, beetroots and parsnips were just a centimetre or so tall and very delicate they found themselves underwater. When the water drained away the little seedlings just shrugged the experience off and carried on growing. The season carried on with the crops periodically under water. Imagine our surprise when we began harvesting healthy young roots of carrot and beetroot. Once frost had sweetened the parsnips and celeriac we began harvesting them too. By Christmas they were most impressive! I included my secateurs in the pictures to give an idea of scale.

SAMSUNG SAMSUNG We haven’t used excessive amounts of fertiliser to get them to this size just simple organic gardening techniques. Lots of manure dug into the ground, deep mulches of garden compost and feeding with comfrey feed made from our own comfrey plants. Not root crops these but they did delight and surprise us with their size and flavour. Elephant Garlic is not garlic at all but more closely related to leeks. We eat them roasted when they taste of sweet, delicate garlic.



Now we definitely have something to live up to next year. Perhaps the weather will be nearer normal next year and we might even avoid the floods. Mind you of course, the crops above might have excelled because of the floods rather than in spite of them.

allotments community gardening fruit and veg gardening grow your own

Time to Sow

The long-awaited and eagerly anticipated day arrives. First outdoor sowings on the lottie. A big flask of coffee, a bunch of bananas and half a dozen apples in the trug and we arrive at our plot with blue sky above and warmth of the sun making us feel good.

We began by tidying our paths, I mowed and Jude, “The Undergardener” trimmed the edges. Instantly the plot looked the business. We removed the cloches that had been warming the soil for a fortnight and discovered warm, moist soil below all raked to a fine tilth.

Cloches in place warming the soil ready for sowing.

The tools for the job collected from the shed, seed packets at the ready and the sun on our backs – ready for off! I use a range of tools by Wolf – three handles, short medium and long, and a range of inter-changeable heads. For today’s sowing I got ready a wide rake, narrow rake, cultivator, drill-maker, seed-sower and hoe.

Tools at the ready.

Where the soil had been warmed with a covering of cloches we sowed legumes, Broad Bean “Super Aqualdulce”, Pea “Sugar Ann” which we enjoy by eating the young pods whole, Pea “Oregon Sugarpod” a mange tout type. First job is to take out a 2 inch deep drill six inches wide with a draw hoe and then keep watering along it until the water stops draining away quickly. The seeds are then placed in the drills and covered with dry soil to keep in the moisture and a final topping of compost to act as mulch and to clearly mark where we have sown. Although we label our seeds as they are sown we take this second precaution against the Blackbirds who enjoy pulling our labels up and throwing them on the paths.

Waiting for the heavily watered drill to drain.
Two rows of Broad Bean seeds neatly set out.
The darker compost mulch marks the rows of peas and broad beans.

When we returned home we planted up our first batch of seed potatoes, Rocket and Kestrel. The Rocket will be ready first, hopefully within 11 weeks and the Kestrel a few weeks later. Kestrel looks good with its purple eyes and tastes good too.

Potatoes chitted ready to plant.
We grow our potatoes in potato bags, using old compost as the growing medium.
allotments fruit and veg garden photography gardening grow your own

Winter Solstice Harvest

What better thing for a gardener to do on the shortest day of the year than to harvest home-grown produce!! Today we harvested our Charlotte potatoes that we have been growing in potato bags, planted in early September and moved into the cool unheated end of the greenhouse when the temperatures dropped.

We also had the privilege of cutting the last of our chillies and capsicums also growing in the greenhouse following the same regime as for the potatoes. The capsicums were pretty small and still green but the chillies were large and brightly coloured. We have been using them straight from the plants for months now but night-time temperatures have made the plants look as if they are exhausted or fed up of the cold.

A couple of hours on the allotment harvesting and hoeing made the shortest day worthwhile. Just think from now on every day will be a little bit longer. Great!!!

The “Undergardener” got busy with the hoe before harvesting leeks, while I dug up mooli, parsnips, swede and two roots of purple sprouts. We pulled up some Florence Fennel, radicchio and chicory. The chicory will have its leaves trimmed off and the roots replanted into a deep pot with a matching pot on top for forcing.


One row of parsnips  produced a crop of reasonably sized roots whereas the second row we dug up produced just disappointment. Sad skinny little roots the size of my little finger! I think I shall blame the dry weather! No, I exaggerate, they are nowhere near as big as my little finger. We could start a new trend – bootlace parsnips!


Fennel foliage like feathery ferns treats us to a warm aniseed scent. The little “bulbs”, swollen stems really will add a warming flavour to veg soups.

Purple sprouts taste no different but their colour gives extra interest to a winter roast. but of course the real reason we grow them is because they look so good on the lottie.