Saturday, 16 January 2021

Frozen Padlocks

Last Sunday the padlock on the outer gate was frozen solid, a plot holder who lives behind the site got me in by pouring some hot water on the side of the padlock to warm it up. My sister in law could not get in yesterday morning the key would go in but not turn. I have reported it to the boroughs allotments maintenance company as they have a silicone based WD40 type stuff specifically for locks and will treat it. In the mean time here is a suggestion if you you have frozen padlocks on your plot or shed.

Buy a gel handwarmers that you click the disk and can boil to use again. They are ideal for activating and holding against the padlock to warm it up and melt the ice inside so the key can go in and rotate freely.

Friday, 15 January 2021

Processing Parsnips


Yesterday I spent some time washing and brushing up and then attacking with a couple of different knifes freezing on trays and then ultimately decanting into family portion sized bags.

There will be enough for sharing with my daughters, my sister and my neighbour, to keep us all going for a little while, but if you are a regular reader you will see I have bigger parsnip plans for 2021. 

I have sorted out how I'm going to sow and transplant six or possibly seven varieties of parsnips over four months for harvesting over six months, I should have a good selection of varieties to eat fresh and to freeze for later consumption, that should hopefully last me and those that I extend the gardening love too for a year from September 2021.

Thursday, 14 January 2021

Gardening Porn Arrives

It's been raining for days and from the looks of the weather forecast it's not going to change for some time so two items of gardening porn arriving in my mailbox this morning was most welcome.   

Click here to go to the D.T.Brown web site then click on the request a FREE Catalogue 

Click Here to Request the Mr Fothergill's Spring 2021 Big Green Book 

Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Potatoes from Mr Fothergill's Arrive

Knock at the door this morning and it's the postie with a box of New! First and Second Early Potatoes from Mr Fothergill's. I was a little surprised as the dispatched & delivered date was supposed to be from the 29th January 2021.

Inside the box with the very informative four page A5 leaflet entitled Growing Instructions for Seed Potatoes, Onions and Shallot Sets and Garlic was a note which may explain the early delivery.

Dear Customer 
Thank you for placing your seed potato order with us this year. 

Please note a few of our varieties of seed potatoes are already starting to chit (shoot). Please rest assured this is totally fine, whilst it is unusual for this to happen this early in the season. 
We have noted quite a bit of this happening this season, the issue has been the warm temperatures at harvest time and then the mild autumn that followed. Several varieties are also notorious for early sprouting, so despite our best efforts and that of our growers, they are off to a very quick start. These shoots are easily knocked off when handles and packed. The tubers will benefit when that early shoot is knocked off, so please do so once you receive them as it encourages all the eyes to open, many strong chits to form and makes for a better crop when planted. 

Many thanks for your order once more and we wish you every success with your garden in 2021

They will not go in the seed boxes, but will be chitted in the Space Saver greenhouse in the back garden or one of the greenhouses on the allotment plots.  

New! Potato Premiere - First Early - Mr Fothergill's 

The perfect early variety for making chips and roast potatoes, and one that is endorsed and used by McCain; the famous chip company so don't just take our word for it! An appropriate name for this delicious variety with a waxy, creamy texture. Expect a huge yield of oval, pale gold and thin-skinned potatoes which have a yellow flesh. Good disease resistance to many of the common potato diseases including blight.

Potatoes are one of the most rewarding vegetables to grow. There’s the nurturing process of chitting, planting and earthing-up, the anticipation of a good harvest as you dig through the soil and, of course, the unbeatable taste of fresh, home-grown, potatoes.

All potatoes (except for maincrops) will benefit from ‘chitting’ prior to planting out. The chitting process encourages the seed to sprout, which then when planted, helps them to establish more readily, leading to bigger crops. Simply place them, blunt end up, in an old egg box until the shoots are approximately 1½ to 2½cm (½ to 1in).

Potatoes are delivered in 1.5kg bags, each pack containing approx. 15-20 tubers.

Sowing/Planting and Flowering/Harvesting Guide


Key       Sow Indoors       Sow/Plant Outside       Flowers/Harvest

I'm thinking these will go into Buckets but in a bed to they can take up water when I can't get down there to water. I have not worked out exactly where on the two plots they will go as it's like starting from scratch now I have some additional infrastructure in place. 


New! Acoustic - Second Early - Mr Fothergill's

This new variety has shown to have a very strong resistance to blight – a problem many of us gardeners will have experienced over the years. Lifted as a second early, its texture is a bit waxier and perfect for salads and boiling. It becomes a little flourier if left to mature and lifted later in the season, making it suitable for chips, baking, mashing and roasting. Expect high yields of round potatoes with a pale-yellow flesh and a superb taste. With good disease resistance we’ve found Acoustic to be a superb all-rounder.

All potatoes (except for maincrops) will benefit from ‘chitting’ prior to planting out. The chitting process encourages the seed to sprout, which then when planted, helps them to establish more readily, leading to bigger crops. Simply place them, blunt end up, in an old egg box until the shoots are approximately 1½ to 2½cm (½ to 1in).

Potatoes are delivered in 1.5kg bags, each pack containing approx. 15-20 tubers

Sowing/Planting and Flowering/Harvesting Guide


Key       Sow Indoors       Sow/Plant Outside       Flowers/Harvest

So in the ground the same time, but harvested a month later than the Premier First Early, Now I'm not sure if I will put these in the ground or in Buckets. I'm leaning towards into the ground.  

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

More Thinking Re Parsnips

I'm working on my Sowing and Planting Plant and with the huge parsnips I grow this year I'm thinking more about sequential sowing and harvesting  so I have decided to look at the back of each pack or the websites for the sow dates and harvest dates for each variety as I have  6 different varieties of parsnips and I was looking at growing 9 rows of 7 plants. 

2 rows  (14) x Best Of All            - 750 Seeds - Mag - Mr Fothergill's - Sow By 2021
1 row    ( 7) x Invitation              - 100 Seeds - 25p - Carters (Poundland) - Sow by 7/2021
2 rows (14) x Purple Top Milan  - 1750 Seeds - Magazine Free - Mr Fothergill's - Sow By 2021
1 row   ( 7) x Snowball               -    50 Seeds - Some multipack in the past - Sow by Christ knows!
1 row   ( 7) x Student                  - 200 Seeds - Mag    - Mr Fothergill's - Sow By 2021 
1 row   ( 7) x Palace F1              - 200 Seeds - £2.45 - Mr Fothergill's - Sow By 2021
2 rows (14) x Tender and True   - 350 Seeds - £2.09 - Johnsons        - Sow By 2022
1 row    ( 7) x White Gem            - 300 Seeds - £1.00 - Wilko               - Sow By 2022 
2 rows (14) x New! Picador F1  - 200 Seeds - £2.10 - Mr Fothergill's - Sow By Dec 2023
2 rows (14) x New! TZ 9045 F1 - 200 Seeds - £1.99 - D.T.Brown       - Sow By Dec 2022

Sowing and Harvesting Dates 

Variety                     Sow                   Harvest  

New! TZ 9045 F1   Feb - Apr          Oct - Mar
New! Picador F1    Feb - May         Oct - Feb    
Tender and True     Feb - May        Sep - Mar 
Palace F1               Feb - May         Oct - Feb 
White Gem          mid Feb - April     Oct - mid Feb
Student                  Apr - May          Sep - Feb     (Heritage Variety)
Gladiator F1           Apr - May          Sep - Feb    (sow by Dec 2019 try and germinate)           

Sowing and Harvesting schedule 

Tender and True        Harvest - September
New! TZ 9045 F1      Harvest - October 

New! Picador F1       Harvest - October  
Tender and True        Harvest - November  
Palace F1                  Harvest - February

New! TZ 9045 F1       Harvest - December - After frost 
New! Picador F1        Harvest - December - After frost 
White Gem                 Harvest - January 
Student                    Harvest - January 2022
Gladiator F1             Harvest - February 

Monday, 11 January 2021

Potatoes from Dobies Arrive

For 2021 I decided to try some New! Varieties from Mr Fothergill's, D.T.Brown and Dobies 

Three New Varieties from Dobies arrived today in a nice little box   

New! Home Guard - First Early - Dobies

Home Guard is a traditional favourite, introduced during the Second World War. It's one of the earliest cropping potato varieties, producing good yields of even, round potatoes. It's best eaten early in the summer so is ideal for boiling and salads.

Planting January - April      Harvesting June July 

Potatoes are delivered in 1kg bags, 18 nice egg sized Seed Potatoes.

New! Stemster - Main Crop - Dobies

Stemster is a tasty, red-skinned variety that produces lots of large potatoes. It grows very well in soils that dry out quickly, as it has good drought resistance. Stemster is also suitable for long term storage and will keep until the following Spring, in the right conditions. It's delicious boiled, mashed, baked and roasted.

Planting January - April      Harvesting June July 

Potatoes are delivered in 1kg bags, Only 10 seed potatoes as they are significantly larger that the other varieties which are more egg sized which is what one expects of seed potatoes.

New! McCain Shepody - Early Main Crop - Dobies

Potatoes are long and oval in shape with a cream skin and cream flesh. Good resistance to common scab and blackleg. All-rounder from potato gratin to roast potatoes. Ideal for bake, mash, jacket, roast, chips. Early Maincrop variety.

Yes, you can now grow the same tasty variety that make some of the nation's favourite chips at home! Just wait until you eat them.

McCain demands the best of their potatoes and these new varieties are each selected for their great taste and texture, and resistance to bruising, splitting and disease.

Planting March - April      Harvesting June July 

Potatoes are delivered in 1kg bags, 16 egg sized Seed Potatoes 

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Parsnips Excavation & SFG Bed Frames


View up the plot at the timber for more beds

Last night was extremely foggy very pea soup like, but this morning most of it was clear, but with the overnight temperatures being -2 and the daytime temperatures on 2 or 3 it was not surprising that the padlock was frozen and I could only get the key in half way.  A fellow plot holder Adamouse who lives in the flats behind my plot came to the rescue with a flask of hot water that was poured over the side of the padlock to warm it up so that the key would go in and turn.

I took in a bucket of cut up cardboard and placed in the composting store ready for future use. 

An archaeological excavation of the right side of the Parsnip bed took place and there was a mixture of girths of parsnip heads found and the bulb planter was used to extract cores around the parsnips to a depth lower than the bottom of the pit excavated in the photo above. 

These were pushed down, eased in all directions and finally the smaller girth parsnips were pulled out, the a fork was used to remove the the larger one. and here they are above in all their glory with trowels and glove to give some size reference. 

Extending the trial pit up the plot three more parsnip tops were discovered and the same process followed and they were extracted, I didn't think the trowels did justice to just how large these two brutes are so here is a photo of me holding the larger of the two 

It was now 10:45 am, and a reasonable time to move the timbers around a little, mark them up and cut them to make the sides of the square foot gardening beds  

View down Plot 1 

I managed to get the timbers for two square foot gardening beds cut to length and one side for the third bed. The timber has some screws, nails, toothed connection plates and even joist hangers and trimmers to be removed and then it needs painting before the three square foot gardening beds can be assembled

Hopefully staking the timbers like this will allow them to dry out faster and if we get some dry weather I can cut the remaining lengths to 50 inches so that they will produce truly four foot square gardening beds once assembled. 

It feels good that I managed to make progress with the timber bed joist and in the process have exposed and used some of the timbers that were near the wall and fencing panel making that area a little more tidy in the process.

Just how cold has it been? 

Which one is the bottom of the pop bottle used to space the buckets and stop them sticking together, and which one is the ice mould made by the plastic?

Wednesday, 6 January 2021

There Is No Case for HS2 in 2021

Thank you Chris for continuing to campaign for what is right for our planet. There is no case for HS2 in 2021 . Costs have more than doubled since it was voted on in Parliament & it won't be carbon neutral until well beyond 2050 , our target for achieving #NetZero .
Sign here to put a stop to this ridiculous vanity project →

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

Another Lockdown - Can I Visit My Allotment?

In a national address on Monday 5th January 2021 Boris Johnson announced another lockdown to try and control the spread of the new variant of COVID-19 and reduce the swiftly rising numbers that are needing hospital treatment. We all saw it coming and once again the government are weeks behind what any rational person could see needed to be done. 

How Boris can have any credibility when he was pushing for kids to go back to a safe place that is "schools" one day and putting us into lockdown the following day is beyond any sane person.

Of course there was a flood of "can I go to my allotment? " questions asked on a lot of forums and the answer as the last lockdown is YES. Below is the NAS Covid 19 Emergency Measures Guidance and to see updates use this Link 

 Covid 19 Emergency Measures

Reviewed 5 January 2021

What the NAS is doing to help members during the National Lockdown

The National Allotment Society is working to support plot-holders and associations so that they can continue to work their plots and manage sites in a safe and secure manner during the pandemic. We are all living through a crisis, the likes of which the country has not experienced since war time. The community spirit that exists on allotment sites is now vitally important. Please remember to look out for one another during these very difficult times. This is a constantly changing situation and we will review this page on a regular basis.

Please remember to carry on using social distancing and taking hygiene precautions when visiting the site and touching communal surfaces. Plot-holders over 70 years of age, regardless of general health are particularly vulnerable. It may feel safe on an allotment site but there are still risks.

During the current lockdown you can continue to exercise alone, with one other person or with your household or support bubble. This should be limited to once per day, and you should not travel outside your local area.

If you break the rules The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

HANDS: FACE: SPACE and only leave home for essential purposes

Plot-holders in Wales must follow Wales Assembly coronavirus restrictions

NAS Q & A  On Allotments and Social Distancing

Protect yourself and your family

Covid -19 - The virus that causes COVID 19 is mainly transmitted through droplets generated when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks.  Some droplets are too heavy to hang in the air and they quickly fall and contaminate floors and surfaces. Other smaller airborne particles can remain in the air for some time. You can be infected by breathing in the virus if you are within close proximity of a person who has Convid-19- hence the 2m social distancing requirement, or by touching a contaminated surface and then touching your eyes, nose or mouth before washing your hands.

Can I still work my allotment during the Covid19 lockdown?

Yes, allotments are a great way of both getting exercise and obtaining food during this crisis. However, social activities on site must cease and you can only visit once a day; unless you need to visit more to care for livestock.

Can I visit the allotment with my family and friends?

You can use your plot to exercise once a day along with members of your household, your support bubble or one other person- subject to any additional rules for your particular site.

If you do wish to bring someone to assist with work on the plot, please ensure that that this is notified either to the Secretary or Site Manager so that they can authorise and are aware of who is on site. It is essential that no un-authorised people are allowed onto the plots for the duration of this emergency. Careful consideration should be given to introducing anyone over 70, those with underlying illness or pregnant women.

Can I drive to my plot? Yes, it is permissible to travel to access local green space to exercise.

How can I ensure my family’s and everyone else’s safety at the plot?

Do not attend the plot if you have coronavirus symptoms or a family member is self-isolating, this includes people who need to isolate after returning from holidays abroad.

Take a flask of hot water, soap and paper towels to the plot with you (cold water will work too).

Use hand sanitiser (should be at least 60% alcohol content) before entering the site and opening any gate locks

Wash hands for at least 20 seconds after closing the lock, dry with a paper towel

The most effective part of hand washing is the drying using preferably paper towel to remove the layer of dead skin scales - on which virus and bacteria sit. Paper towel to compost heap.

DO NOT touch your face after using anything that has been touched by other people- use an elbow to work the push taps.

Wash your hands again for 20 seconds, dry with a paper towel before opening and closing the lock to leave the site

Use hand sanitiser after closing the lock

Wash hands when you get home

Observe “Social Distancing” with each other 2 metres

If you take your children to the plot, ensure that they stay within its confines and do not run around on communal paths and spaces.

Do not share tools

Do not wash your hands in water troughs

I am self-isolating  or shielding and cannot go to the allotment and worried about losing my plot, what should I do?

Please make sure that you inform your Council Allotment Officer or Allotment Association that you are unable to visit the site, preferably in writing, so that they can make allowances for your situation.

What changes should Allotment Associations make to site management?

Pin up information about social distancing and hygiene on a notice board or the gate, there is a QR code at the bottom of this page that links to our updating page.

Risk undertake risk assessments and take appropriate action to reduce hazards around any areas of the site that could cause contagion e.g. communal water troughs, equipment, taps, and gate locks. Click Here for government advice around cleaning in non-healthcare settings.

The NAS does have further detailed information on risk assessments and the duty of care for Self-Managed Associations please email  if this is required.

Gatherings. Communal activities should cease for the duration of the lockdown.

Communal facilities. Communal rooms should remain closed. Toilets could possibly open, if the Association feel that they are able to fulfill a cleaning regime that reduces risk of transmission for users and volunteers. A full risk assessment must be carried out, for further advice contact

Communal Water Points many sites will have communal taps and water troughs, the use of which could potentially spread the disease. The water supply itself is chlorinated  Associations may want to consider a system whereby volunteers fill up plot-holder’s water butts from the taps. The volunteers would wear single use gloves (click here for de-gloving advice) and follow good practice around social distancing and hygiene.

AGMs should be postponed or held virtually. AGMs are right at the heart of member democratic control in co-ops and community businesses. We also know that because of COVID-19 and social distancing, our members have faced a number of dilemmas regarding how and when to hold their AGMs.

The Government has confirmed that co-operative and community benefit societies, in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, are covered by legislation that provides businesses with greater flexibility in how and when they hold their Annual General Meetings (AGMs), or any other General Meetings (GMs) until the end of March 2021.

Back in March the government announced it would be legislating to give companies greater flexibility in how they approach AGMs and GMs in 2020. Co-op UK worked with government to ensure legislation was extended to societies in a useful way.

The legislation gives societies legal certainty and comfort if they need to breach their rules, and usual good co-operative practice, by:

Holding their AGMs and GMs in ways that restrict in-person participation

Holding their AGMs and GMs with online participation

Delaying their AGMs and GMs

The legislation initially provided this period of legal certainty and comfort up to the end of September 2020. Government has now confirmed that legislation has been extended to the end of March 2021, for societies in Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and may be reviewed again. The legislation will also apply retrospectively from 26 March, so any AGMs and GMs societies held from that date onwards are covered.

Contact for further information and support.

Shops - it is now compulsory to wear a mask when inside a shop.  The Society considers that unless you are able to comply with the stringent conditions within the Horticultural Trades Association guidance for Garden Centres (CLICK HERE to view) that Allotment shops should remain physically closed with an online/remote system in place.

Shared Machinery- please contact for detailed advice

Bonfires Please check with your Local Authority before authorising bonfires on the site. Garden bonfires contribute to air pollution, especially when green material is burnt. Air Quality can be checked at this link - CLICK HERE

Plot inspections - should be paused for the duration of the lockdown

Plot allocation should be paused for the duration of the lockdown

Public Footpaths through allotment sites - if you have a footpath running through the site that is used by large numbers of people associations could consider taking the following steps.

Tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.

There is no power under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 for landowners to close or obstruct a public right of way, however associations could put up a polite notice asking walkers to respect  plot-holders by following social distancing guidelines and consider using alternative routes that do not pass through the allotment gardens.

Offering a permissive alternative route around gardens only where it is safe to do so (permission must be obtained from relevant landowners and steps must be taken to make sure the route is safe for users and livestock) provided that the original right of way is maintained. It is also necessary to check the insurance position before doing this to ensure that appropriate cover is in place.

Please see further advice from Natural England - Using Green Spaces and also guidance on the Countryside Code.  NAS recommend that this issue is discussed further with the landowner, prior to any action been taken.

Click on the link to read about self isolating

Click on the link to read about social distancing

Click on the link to read some useful advice about hygiene Germ Defence

Government advice about the Coronavirus is updated on a regular basis at these links.

Wales Assembly coronavirus restrictions