Planting the first lot of carrots 🥕 in semi-lockdown 🔒 allotment

Good Friday, the 2nd of April 2021, the country is slowly coming out of lockdown which we’ve been in for most of this year. Today I’m on holiday from work and it is the most beautiful sunny blue sky day we’ve seen this year!

What a day to come down to the allotment and plant all of my carrots (I’ve been planning this since last week).

I’ve been at the plot for nearly 4 hours, but it’s Sunday seem like it!

Three large tubs full of carrots, and two long lines

There are now three large tubs which are full of carrots. The soil has been filtered on top to remove the stones, and I intend to take very good care of these carrots! They are are the first carrots I will have planted (that I can remember).

On the ground next to them in two long lines are the remainder of the carrots which did not fit in the three large tubs. These ground-based carrots will be my control group. Although I will look after them in the same way, they are on the ground and I did not filter the soil to remove the stones. Both will be looked after equally, but we will see whether raising the carrots of the ground level into tubs makes any difference at all to the final crop. I am suspecting carrot fly…

A few more spuds went in, these were large baking potatoes which had been sprouting in the kitchen at home. They now have a new home in the ground at the allotment. Best place for them!

That’s it for today. I had a bit of a sit down after I’d cleared up and had a cup of tea. In the sunshine! Underneath the apple tree!

There are quite a few people around today. As expected really, it’s a bank holiday weekend and people have time and the weather is lovely. What’s the excuse for not visiting the plot on a day like this?! Surely there can’t be any?!

Most of the people weren’t really digging the plants over though, they were mostly sat around in the sunshine enjoying being outside. Who can blame them?

I picked up some of the hard plastics on the way out of the allotment. We have a recycle point now, although it seems to be more of a dumping ground at the moment. I ordered all the groups of materials into piles: metal, hard-plastics and plastic sheeting. I picked up a crate of hard plastics on the way out and I’ll stick it with the rest of the recycle things in the garage and organise a trip to the tip eventually. At least it won’t be dug out of one hole and dropped into another (land-fill) hole! The stuff will get recycled.

The weather report for the next few days says that it will go cold. Possibly snowing, maybe by Sunday or Monday. I need to call in at the garden centre on the way home to pick up some fleece material to use as a blanket on the carrots in the tubs. I already have something for the long lines, I just need to make sure the frost doesn’t come and hit them. Special care this year! I need the allotment to be a good place for 2021.

Goodbye horseradish! (I hope so)

It’s Sunday, the 7th of March 2021. The time is now about, well, just after 3 o’clock in the afternoon and I’ve been down at the Abbey Gardens lockdown allotment for about 2 1/2 hours. I’ve just packed up, finished sitting under the apple tree with my cup of tea and I’m about to drive home. Today’s job was to dig out the remaining parts of the horseradish plant.

Production line for the horseradish

Even though I had spent a good few hours yesterday digging out the majority and large pieces of horseradish plant, and even though I had contained it in a plastic bin, as I dug down even further there were still large pieces of horseradish root. These pieces had grown out of the bottom of the bin! It looks like they went down quite a long way.

Probably it would continue to go around 5 or 6 feet deep, but I gave up at 4 feet. I expect that even chunks of horseradish thicker than my thumb will not be able to survive underground further than 4 feet! That is my hope anyway.

I set up a production line. Two wheelbarrows with a riddler filter grid, a plastic bag for stones and rocks, and my trug for the leftover pieces of horseradish. If I did my job well, there would be no horseradish left!

As I dug out spade-fulls of soil containing the last of the horseradish, I filtered them through my riddle. The soil was pushed through the grill and the stones were filtered into a plastic bag. The tiny pieces of horseradish were hand-picked out and dropped into the trug.

As far as it’s going. No further!

Even though I had dug-down at least 3 1/2 feet yesterday and I had thought to myself the majority was done, the last half foot of soil contained a significant amount of horseradish root left over. And quite large pieces at that! It took about two hours of filtering the soil, and two wheelbarrows full of filtered soil.

When I decided enough was enough, (which coincided with me starting to have difficulty climbing out of the hole) I tipped the filtered soil out of the wheelbarrow and back into the bottom of the hole. I returned the wheelbarrows to where I’d borrowed them, then I started to pack-up.

Other people were around the allotment plots. There were some new people starting their new plot and visiting with their children; the usual crew who are always there (members of the committee); and a few other people dotted around on the far side of the allotment. It was quite quiet.

Riddling the soil back onto the plot …

It’s Saturday, the 18th of July 2020 and just about 6:30 am in the morning when I start at the adornment. Nice and early, I arrive at the allotment on a fairly cloudy day with nobody around (as expected), I make my way through the main gate, past the main house and then left towards the walled garden allotment area. I’m carrying my electric strimmer and my backpack as usual. Although I want to cut the grass around the border, the main job for today is already set up. I want to sieve the soil I’ve laid out on the blue tarpaulin. That soil needs to be returned to the main plot.

Soil riddling process

I grab two wheelbarrows, then the sieve which I knocked up together with a few pieces of wood. I built it so it would fit into the wheelbarrow I intended to filter the soil into.

Happily, The sieve fits perfectly and makes my job a lot easier. The process is as follows. Dig out the soil from the blue tarpaulin, put two or possibly three spade fulls into the sieve and rub it through the grill. This leaves no more than half a handful of small stones left on top of the riddle, the rest of the soil going directly into the wheelbarrow underneath. Even the worms make it through!

Bye then empty the stones into the second wheelbarrow and repeat the process.

After about an hour of doing this, I find myself easily getting into a rhythm. This really isn’t very hard work, apart from needing to bend over the soil riddle on the wheelbarrow which is beginning to make my back ache slightly. But not very much. I decide that I’m probably going to be able to finish the whole job today, this morning, all in one go.

This is not a job that is very easily split up into smaller pieces, and there are several reasons why I want to finish it all today anyway. The soil has been lying on top of blue tarpaulin for a few weeks now and this tarpaulin layer is waterproof which means my main plot has been covered by this for the same amount of time. Also the weather is going to turn and rain tomorrow which means soil will be soaked. I’m finding it easier to send dry soil through the riddle.

Left to right grades

The soil stats with the stones in it on the left, goes through my sieve next, the small stones are removed and finally I’m left with nice smooth soil on the right.

The smoothness doesn’t really come from removing the stones though, because the stones only made up a tiny small percentage of the whole content. The act of sending the soil through a small grill smoothed out any clumps.

Plot view

Finally the soil is spread-out across the plot. The surface of my main plot is smoothed and I fill in the bumps and troughs that have been left from while it has been under the tarpaulin. This is just a surface layer and not digging my main plot. It’s only designed to spread out the soil over the top surface of my plot. This whole process has taken five and a half hours, but it doesn’t seem to be that long.

Elvis having a soil bath

While I’ve been down at my plot today I’ve had a couple of visitors. Elvis and Martin. The garden cat, Elvis of course, she came to visit and to roll around in the soil on the long plot against the wall. I had the last of the cat nibbles my bag, so Elvis has some early lunch, then in true fashion the cat did a disappearing act on me.

Martin is another plot holder, his plot is further across the far side of the allotment. Years ago he had gave me the tayberry plant, which has turned out so well this year. He brought over a medium marrow and asked if I wanted it? He said, “I am inundated with these things this year, but if you cut one down the middle scoop out the seeds and fill it with minced beef …”

Definitely! Thanks Martin! I’ll definitely be using that recipe for my dinner tonight.

Barrow full of stones

Finally has and clearing up it’s just one more thing. What to do with the stones I’ve riddled out of the soil? So far they are sitting in the wheelbarrow near the communal compost heap waiting for me to decide …

I didn’t really think about the amount of stones I would get out of the process. I thought maybe I would get a couple of small bags out of it. I wasn’t expecting a full wheel barrow. I need to re-read the allotment association rules before going any further, I don’t want to break any rules by taking items off the site when I shouldn’t. I know that turf is not allowed to be removed from the plots, so I need to check before going any further.