Growing in the Uk

Growing

How are other experimenters in the UK getting on? We are growing on a half lottie plot in central England 52.398441 -1.539872 and are experiencing a very dry May. The forecast holds a low possibility of rain on Friday followed by more dry weather. I anticipate a very wet summer to compensate but there really is no point in planting anything in that area at the moment.

I have sown 36 spinach in modules yesterday - first quarter, astronomical cancer. I plan the second half sowing at full moon. I will sow the cobra in modules on Wednesday - second quarter, astronomical Leo Cherry belle in an old packet got sown on the organic plot on the 18th in gemini for the seed heads but I really do not know what to do about sowing radish for the experiment. I was planning to sow some in virgo on the 25th and obviously most on the wane with a plan to do some on perigee and apogee.

We are clay but this plot was uncultivated for many years before we took it on in 2016. The radish is to the south and within the area covered by a 16x48ft polytunnel for over 10 years. The rest of the experimental bed is outside. There is not much we can do about that as we have not finished tackling the bindweed bryony and docks at the top of the plot yet and due to committee problems are not inclined to do so. The paths run South to North. Does anyone know how to datestamp google maps? We reckon that pic must be early 2017.

Although we are organic and crops are finding moisture on the area without committee problems we ended up tilling that left hand bed. As a result the soil is totally arid and sandy. Being clay there is moisture in the soil below the range of the tiller but a weed survey carried out by the local university in May 2016 explains why we are not inclined to excavate if anyone is interested in the impressive variety of weeds we have. I do not know how to use the information on weed types to understand the soil myself.

Please do not suggest watering as we are watering the solaniums and cucurbets on the organic plots with the water collected on that area. There was 1800litres collected on the experimenting plot but we have set that aside for the crops on the right hand side of the path -alliums, new fruit planting and compost. The Jerusalems can look after themselves.

20 comments

Hi Carol, this is really interesting, thank you. Sounds like you have a really clear plan of action.

Don't worry about the radishes being in a slightly different place. We do the best we can with what we have. We're adding in some open-ended options in the experiment data submission places so that you can tell us about things like this alongside your data.

Normally, I would suggest a living mulch (ground cover) to help keep your soil surface damper and prevent water-loss from the soil through evapotranspiration. However, that would interfere with the experiment. Perhaps a non-living mulch (e.g. finely chopped leaves, sawdust, or wood chip) would help? Do the same to all plots (same mulch type, same depth).

On watering - It will be important that you water before and after planting seeds, and when seedlings are emerging as their roots will only be in the surface layers and therefore they are very susceptible to drying out. Similarly, when you transplant from pots, ensure the soil gets a really good soaking before you put the seedlings in and water them for a few days afterwards.

Roots grow in response to water (they will grow more on the side where they sense water). I water mine only at the start (first week after emergence if it's dry weather) and then let them develop roots downwards to find water in the deeper soil layers that are less prone to drying out. Continuing to water your plants everyday encourages them to develop more roots in the very surface layers of soil and means they remain vulnerable to drought. Do check the state of your plants though - if you see wilting, it's best to water them. If water is scarce, watering in the evening gives more opportunity for water to penetrate the soils rather than being lost in the warm air.

You can also create shade to help prevent water-loss through evaporation and reduce the evapotranspiration demand. In traditionally very hot countries, seed beds are often covered with boxes / cages of fine netting. (some pics here to help show what I mean). The mesh casts shade and can potentially help water to precipitate from the air and then drop back down to the plants (it needs to be fairly low to the ground do to this), whilst allowing some light in and good air flow. I wouldn't necessarily recommend this for the experiment plots, unless you have significant water shortages, though.

Best wishes, Naomi

Thanks for the tips Naomi. We find the marked difference in the quality of the soil pre and post tilling and in comparison to our other plots (different lane = different committee mentor) are proof positive of everything your course said about nurturing the soil.

After the committee complained about the colour of the sacks we stacked the weeds in we mulched the experimental area with compost made from couch and ground elder. Before that we green manures in but tares = vetch = weed and had to go.

We were satisfied with the results from having the bed under a piece of greenhouse shading aquired from a friend who works in commercial greenhouses. Given the ongoing committee and our health issues (hubby lipidemia and I had a new hip in Feb) we decided hand weeding was too much. I still cannot use a spade or fork. We moved the fabric to till and the site secretary sent us an email to thank us for tidying up the plot!!!!! I know three other organic gardeners on this site are having similar committee challenges so I am sure you can see the direction we have to go. Our only option seems to wait for the ground to get a deep drink from the traditional British summer weather. It will arrive. We have 3 cubic metre tanks that can help water that area but two of them plus our 12 blue butts also have the rest of the plots to look after.

We do plan sweetcorn for the south side of the experimental bed but even that is now uncovered following the tillng and loss of green manure. It will be interesting to see what we are left with by the time we plant but for now I fear it is easier and more economical with the water to keep everything in trays while we wait for the rain.

I usually plant sweetcorn amongst the broad beans but the tilled soil was so dry despite the October manure mulch I ended up putting the beans on the lovely soil full of life on the other plots. We have been organic since the 1970's and have to report that the tilled soil is the worst we have ever had to deal with.

Hello Carol , Dr Naomi and all .

Sounds like you have a difficult committee . Around our allotments most do as they please .

My poly vs mono experiment is doing good so far .

I’ve risked and got beans in the ground early and so far it’s alright .

Some got nibbles on the leaves but still surviving .

Some of the radishes might be ready starting from next week .

Since sowing I’ve watered the plots regularly .

Best wishes .

Thats great Ionut. Well done. Sun is forecast here for the rest of this week with the promise of thunder and cooler weather in a week. I shall just have to wait.

The committee do not understand organic and consider organic plots to be neglected. They have an ideal template of what our plots should look like based on someone whose back garden adjoins his plot. He employed a landscape gardener to put in raised beds, wide pathways etc. It looks very nice but imho more garden than lottie. The committee have no idea why he failed to win best plot in the CDAGC (our area lottie management committee) best plot competition.

Unfortunately it is the committees ambition to win the CDAGC best site competition. I have no idea what the CDAGC think of organc but Coventry does not have the best record in supporting it. Someone told me the council even use glypho to clear the ground before sowing wild flower/meadow seeds so I do not have much hope of the lottie committee rethinking their policies.

Hi Carol .

Thank you , it’s all nature’s hard work , we just give a hand .

That sounds pretty surprising , ideally allotments should be better than ‘organic’ .

I personally find our allotments very untidy ( trying to best to make it look better ) but very healthy .

All sorts of insects , birds and amphibians and slow worms are in there .

Some use slug pellets and other ‘pest control ‘ but I don’t want too , the food we buy has all the unknown dangers like glyphosate so no need to add more .

Hopefully soon your committee would find better ways to win the award :) .

Good luck !

Hi Carol .

Thank you , it’s all nature’s hard work , we just give a hand .

That sounds pretty surprising , ideally allotments should be better than ‘organic’ .

I personally find our allotments very untidy ( trying to best to make it look better ) but very healthy .

All sorts of insects , birds and amphibians and slow worms are in there .

Some use slug pellets and other ‘pest control ‘ but I don’t want too , the food we buy has all the unknown dangers like glyphosate so no need to add more .

Hopefully soon your committee would find better ways to win the award :) .

Good luck !

Thanks for the advice on watering, Naomi.

Carol, I’ve been there with an allotment committee that had very different views from me. Well done for battling on - I left after six months.

I understand why you gave up Helen. It seems a thankless task but I discovered organic princilpes as a student in the 70's and it feels as f it has always been a battle. Every so often there is a milestone decision and I think "at last, people will see sense and choose natural instead of spending £billions on artificials" only to have my hopes dashed again and again. Recently the moves on restricting neoncotinoids and the American court case against Monsanto claiming they repressed reports on glypho increasing cancer risk give me hope someone on the committee will change their newspaper. On the other hand I understand DDT is still considered safe in some parts of the world. C'est la vie.

Hi Ionut: Lotties are certainly used for a lot of activities and many plots are a wilderness. There is untidy and left wild and different places require different techniques. Personally I never have enough room to grow the crops I want but we do not eat enough of the ornamental crops to make something like 20ft runs of runner beans worth growing. I cannot recall ever seeing a large "wow" factor from onions and cabbages growing in places like the National Trust veg gardens so it is something of a B. I have just put a dozen types of pea and bean to soak so we shall see how that goes. Only the canadian wonder (french) are short (going to try interplanting them in the sweetcorn) so the plot will certainly have height this year. I have room for 5 clambering squash if someone can suggest something suitably "ornamental" obtainable now.

Sounds like you have a wonderful plot full of life. I have not used slug pellets for years either. I firmly believe one hedgehog eats more slugs per annum than all the pellets I can throw at my crops in a decade. I do things like keep the compostables away from the crops. If I do get a problem I put a dampened plank of wood or an armful of damp green organics down for a few days. Just the bottom of a well watered plant pot will collect the beasties.

I also deploy sawdust and pine needle barriers. The tree fellers are usually happy to deliver their "waste" to allotments and I sometimes find they have donated pine needles which I stash in a council dalek compost bin until required.

I wish I had a hedgehog in my garden (not because of slugs - my garden is too dry for them and I do have lots of bird visitors). Unfortunately, they can’t get in because of all the fences (not my doing). So, I’m thinking of making a hole to give them access.

Re DDT, I was told when I lived in China that they still used it there. Fortunately, my daughter (born afterwards) doesn’t seem to have been affected!

I have started using pine round my fruit and can definitely vouch for their effectiveness as a mulch. It’s great to see the soil damp under them :-)

Hi Helen , Carol and all .

We don’t have hedgehogs around our allotments unfortunately but we have rats !

When I took our first plot nearly 3 years ago there use to be a fox in the wild side of the allotments , right at the back .

Now it’s gone , we seen a few killed by cars unfortunately .

It’s a shame to see wildlife loosing habitat ..

Also I’ve noticed less pollinators months ago , just about now picking up numbers , great to see !

Best wishes to all !

I've just marked out and sowed the seeds on the various plots as instructed. I have a feeling I am meant to record that I have done this somewhere on the website but I am at a loss as to where this should be! Please could someone send me a link or otherwise help out. It's very dry here in Musselburgh at the moment so fingers crossed that everything will germinate.

Rats ugh. They creep me out. Make sure you do not give them harborage by using <1/2in mesh under sheds, around exposed composting bins and such like. The local allotment management committee sent some members, including my hubby on a rodent control course a couple of years ago so he makes sure their runs head away from us. They are looking for food, water and shelter so it is just a matter of making sure there is nothing to attract them. Luckily none of our plot neighbours throw bird food around.

China must have been an amazing experience. So pleased DDT did not affect your family. It was a TV programme about a village in Italy that suffered a Bhopal type disaster because of DDT that made me go organic in the 70's. At that time I think every plotholder on my dad's lottie site had a cabinet full of chemical compounds for waging war on nature. I understand DDT was still being manufactured in India around 5 years ago. Think they started to phase it out. I hope so.

I have seen a link to a form for filling in details of our planting for the experiment but I think that will all become clear in a few weeks. I know there will be a form for us to submit photographs of the different stages of the experiment at the end of the season too. There is a recent thread about the stages they would like pictures of. I just hope I do not lose my crib sheet before I have to submit the details.

It has started raining here in Cov. Yay. The ground has had a good soak and the couch is springing out all over. Grrr. Full moon is at 15:20 on the 29th. We should be able to get to the plot by 17:00 so we will sow then. I plan hubby will do the monoculture and I the poly so both sets of seeds will be sown at precisely the same time. I have already sown some seeds of each type on the appropriate astrological day on the wax. Not sure about doing another sowing on the wane. I doubt the street can consume that much radish. All being well tomorrow I will take a pretty please to a friend in the hope I can get a trailer load of grass clippings.

Jenny:- you will find the info you need in the second post on a thread datestamped 15 May entitled photographs of experiment. The first post (me - I talk non stop don't I - Lol) was actually a response to a similar question to yours. Do not know what happened to that first post. C'est la vie. Hope that helps

Hello Carol and all .

Sorry for the late reply .

It’s a bit tricky around our allotments with the rats , there’s a few birds feeding places .

What I’ve noticed is that rats like especially the raised beds made from reclaimed wood .

So in the future I’ll try to use less of them . Also maybe raise the question about what should we do about them .

Personally if I manage to get any ..well they should find another place .

I haven’t read anything about DTT but heard of it many years ago , I might ever recognise the smell from our little hometown orchards .

You seem to know a lot about moon and very precise planting .

I just try to plant things and kind forget about them sometimes :) .

Some people pay attention to moon cycles and stuff when harvesting herbal remedies .

What do you mean by planting them on the wax ?

I started to pull radishes and yesterday had 20 , quite spicy but satisfying .

Don’t worry I talk too much most of the time :)

Best wishes to all and a great harvest !

Hi all. Carol thanks for starting this post! It's great to hear of everyone's efforts and experiences on the allotment.

My allotment officer is a bit useless really and there's not much of a community spirit there. Everything gets communicated by word of mouth so if you're not retired and there everyday you miss out on vital information! I chat with my neighbours and would love to have more opportunities to share knowledge / swap crops with others. I'd also really like to share what I've been learning from the Grow Observatory and experiments as well. I have been trying to find out whether my allotment was ever tested for contamination due to all the coal and molten metal I've been finding there so am now worried I'll be considered a trouble maker....

In the last year or two I've mainly been experimenting to see what crops grow well on my half plot. I don't bother sowing large areas of veg e.g. potatoes or onions but am trying intercropping / polycultures of the following; cabbage, broc, kale (in a netted tent which creates a fabulous microclimate), jerusalem artichokes (remnant tubers which keep sprouting all over the place), globe artichokes (only 1 survived), sweetcorn, oca, tomatoes, sweet potatoes (no idea if they'll grow outdoors), shallots, chard, spinach, fennel, leeks, spring onions, rocket, mange tout, broad beans, borlotti beans, chickpeas (sowed far too later last year, trying again this year but doubt I'll get a harvest) and scorzonera. Also got a fig (newly planted), cherry tree (first year of fruiting), currants, gooseberries and raspberries along the side border.

It's a real mish mash up there and I've still got some spare bits that I haven't done anything with that are rapidly being taken over by wildflowers and bindweed. Everytime the allotment committee rep pops her head round she keeps telling me how nice the previous owner used to keep it (i.e. I'm making a mess!)

Ambitions for next year are to grow more pollinating plants, get a polytunnel and build a pond for the frogs. :)

Hello wonderful experimenters and growers!

It's great to hear that you're sharing GROW info with your fellow allotmenteers and gardeners. In July, the GROW App will be launched which has some great info about regenerative growing that might help too. All of this is based on our reviews of published scientific information.

I've been giving this question of, shall we say "outdated," allotment rules a lot of thought. I'm wondering if there's anything else that we can collectively do to help others through GROW.... What do you think would make the most difference to your allotment officers and changing allotment policies in favour of regenerative practices?

Any and all thoughts welcome!

:) Naomi

Looking forward to the GROW app.

I don’t have an allotment anymore but one rule I would change regards ‘weeds’. For example, in my own garden I have nettles and hairy bittercress, both of which I eat - and of course, nettles are so good for wildlife. Why shouldn’t people be able to grow these valuable plants?

Hi everyone. Sorry I have not participated for so long. There are so many so many aspects it quite makes my head whirl. Grow can be the best resource for sharing, discussing and changing mindsets. My stock response to so many issues has been "follow the money" for so long it will be a relief to say "hey, there is a great information resource, check out grow observatory".

Insofar as outdated allotment mindsets are concerned I think the fundamental problem on sites like mine is that the committee is browbeated by a few members that have a narrow perspective on "good" practice. For them organic plots equates to badly managed. If TV programmes such has gardeners world portrayed less 90degree angles and raised beds has an ideal and favoured the benefits of less regimented planting plans more they would be more accepting of different styles. As it is too many "lazy" gardeners have excused themselves by saying they are "organic". Examples of good organic plots are not easy to access.

Maybe an understanding of regenerative practices can only be regained by persistance in the same way has the medical profession knew smoking kills in 1952 but they had to fight the "money interests" until the public stopped purposely blowing smoke in peoples faces and no smoking areas became enforceable.

At the moment there does not seem to be an "expert" "one stop shop" where issues such as the importance of the micro organisms in the soil in healthy crop growth; regenerative practices tilling v mulch; glypho use v mulch are available in an accessible manner. So many people automatically equate mulch with slugs when really it is dry v damp conditions that are key to attracting them. err and having a dry area around the compost bins where slugs should be.

C. osborn. Know what you mean about the secret society lottie incrowd. I am more of a chat in the lane sort of person myself as I have not spotted fellow cuppas and after the yardarm winos on our site. Not into the herbal smokes and tinnies myself. Lol. What a wonderful list of crops you have. Oca are so pretty in summer and make a tasty winter treat. I do not even have to clear the bed as they are happy to regrow for following years. I grow my jerusalems in areas for 4 years and plant the new bed in year 3. I do not worry about the volunteers has they make an useful addition to the compost heap. Just cut them down regularly and they exhaust themselves.

Ionut. Had to smirk when I read your observations of rats and raised beds. Other than growing carrots and parsnips I miss the point of those beds unless the objective really is wider paths. That said I got 5 aussie style corrugated metal ones 710mm high in the homebase xmas sale and so far was very pleased with them. I now realise they are making dry harbourage = nice home for rats. Aargh!

When the moon waxes it moves from new to full. The first week is good for leafy crops and the second for seeds, fruit and flowers. When the moon wanes it moves from full to new. The first week good for transplanting and the second for planting roots, mowing, cutting hedges and tidying. Many people get into constellations but cannot agree on a baseline starting point so I use the astrological site heavensabove. I like the discipline of tackling each task during a month and having a task for the week. It helps limit the amount of seeds and tools I need to carry. The routine was more relevant when I was working but I am used to the cadence now.

Weather:- We are very lucky in that we have an excellent local weather service http://www.bablakeweather.co.uk/todays-forecast . The forecast is dry for at least 10 days. Hot next week. I fear for the experimental plot along with the corn on the tilled side. It has been reasonably humid over the last week so at the time of typing there is no appreciable difference between the corn on the tilled and untilled sides of the path. We cannot use the screening idea as we have plot inspections coming up. Drat.

Good growing everyone.

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Hi Naomi I have been pondering your comment - I've been giving this question of, shall we say "outdated," allotment rules a lot of thought. I'm wondering if there's anything else that we can collectively do to help others through GROW.

We do have problems with the committee and have to face the fact that they have a template for the perfect plot. See googlemaps 52.398498 -1.539124. How can we ever fight that? It does look fantastic but I would never enjoy having a plot like that.

Like C. Osbourn the verbal members of our committee expect an attendance on plot compatible only with a retired, lottie obsessive lifestyle. To me a lottie is a hobby and a hobby requires commitment not obsession. A retired obsessive gardener should acquire a piece of land they can work on free from the everyday risks faced by the allotmenter ie interference with or loss of plot/site,

I realise that to achieve my nirvana a lot of hearts and minds have to change and I have no idea of how to achieve it other than every journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. Grow observatory could be the way. I hope so.