Allotment Diary

Cutting Grass

Is there anything more satisfying than seeing some grass being cut?

Well – sit back and enjoy!

Allotment Diary Main Crop Potatoes Maris Piper

Dig vs. No Dig: Potatoes

It’s potato planting season and this year, I’ve decided to have a little bit of an experiment to help satisfy my own curiosity.

I’m yet to go full on No Dig, but I have been doing a lot reading and for the most part it’s making total sense to do so.

The No Dig habits I have picked up have been paying dividends the most notable is keeping the beds covered to help keep the weeds down. The second being to hoe little and often, again to keep the weeds at bay.

Now I’m dipping my toes into the No Dig method for real and I thought I’d have some fun by pitting No Dig potatoes against potatoes grown in a more traditional method.

I’m not just looking at returns, I’m also looking at how convenient it is too.

The potatoes I’m growing are Maris Piper potatoes, which are a good all round potato, and are a main crop.

The first thing I did was split my potato bed into two – one side being for dig, and the other for no dig.

Growing No dig potatoes

Finally, keeping all of that cardboard from all of those online deliveries paid of.

For the no dig side, I laid down some cardboard, of which we had accumulated quite a lot over the last few weeks, and emptied a few cans of water onto the cardboard to stop it from flapping around, and to flatten it even more.

Then started to empty the compost bin on top of the cardboard. There’s no technical ability required – and it was good to get stuck in and burn some calories. I was sure to leave a border of cardboard as well to stop weeds coming through.

I then spaced out the potatoes about a trowels depth apart, and planted them about a trowels depth into the mound.

I took a lot of cues from Charles Dowding’s “How to grow potatoes without digging?” video below. It’s a fairly straight forward method to be fair and it’ll be great to see if they turn out the same (or similar). I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

Growing Dig potatoes

I’m not too sure if “dig potatoes” is even a term, but we’ll just use it for the sake of this post. 🙂

I first dug a couple of deep trenches, which were about a spits depth (a spits depth is a fancy term meaning a spade deep), making mounds either side of the trenches.

Much like the no dig potatoes, I spaced them around a trowels depth apart.

I then dug a hole for each potato and planted it into the trench. I then watered each of the sides of the bed generously.

As they grow, for the no dig bed, I’ll add soil from the compost bin, and for the dig bed I’ll move earth from the sides of the mounds into the trench – and this is really to help protect the shoots from any frost damage that may occur.

The weather is still a bit on the cool side, so the likelihood of the frost causing damage is still a possibility.

And now we wait. I’ll keep you posted on developments, but in the meantime, I’d love to know if you’ve grown potatoes in different ways and how you’ve got on with them in the comments below. 🙂

Allotment Diary

Age UK Mobility: Simple gardening tips for those with limited mobility

I’m delighted to have taken part in an article with Age UK Mobility offering some gardening tips on how those with limited mobility can get the most out of their gardens and green spaces.

The article can be found in the link below and it’s packed full of advice. Be sure to check it out 🙂

Allotment Diary

Bringing a Banana plant back to life

Toward the beginning of March I had a knock on the door from a chap down the road asking if I wanted to try and bring a banana plant back to life.

Like most plants, there was some sentiment attached, and so I took up the challenge to see if I can put ones botany skills to the test.

I’ve documented what happened just to quench my own curiosity.

March 12th 2021

The plant was in a less than desirable state. There were a lot of dead leaves, there were dead parts of the stem, where outside leaves had started to rot, and this has stunted growth and stopped a new set of leaves from opening up and photosynthesising.

I cut off the the dead leaves and stripped back three or four layers of the plant, getting back to the healthy un-rotted stems. Granted this does look quite brutal, but it was really to open up the plant and cut back to where there are signs of life.

March 21st 2021

Over the course of the week, the plant (I think) was getting over it’s amputation and making use of the room for growth.

At this point, I watered every other day and kept a close eye on what would happen next.

The plant was a pale green, and I was encouraged that there was growth coming up out of the middle of the plant.

March 29th 2021

I noticed that the plant was turning kind of yellow-ish, which is a sign of too much water and/or poor drainage. Therefore, I held off watering every other day and let it do it’s thing.

The middle of the plant grew faster than I’ve expected at this point, and I couldn’t wait to see it open up with fresh leaves. Rather significant as these were the first fresh set of leaves.

11th April 2021

The first leaf was well and truly opened up, and the plant as a whole was a nice deep green colour. This means the watering routine (approx. 3-4 pints every 2-3 weeks – and or looking dry) was paying off.

That said I did notice the banana plant was leaking fluid. The stem at the base and the end of leaves had droplets, which is a sign of slightly too much water.

18th April 2021

Freaky looking mushrooms have grown at the base of the post in the last week or so..

Have removed these as I’m not keen on mushrooms in places on where they shouldn’t be.

Mushrooms will give off spores, with can lead to mouldy plants. I actually don’t know these types of mushrooms – if you recognise them, let me know in the comments below.

18th April 2021

My work here is done…

The watering became a bit more stringent in these last few days and it certainly paid off.

The plant was a deep green and the second set of leaves were a lovely and broad and deep green in colour.

The stem was also just as green with no dead or rotting in sight.

Before and After

I think the results speak for themselves, and it only took a month and a half!

Do you have any plant saving stories? I’d love to hear them in the comment below 🙂

Allotment Diary

The day I met Joe Swift

The other day, I found another absolute gem in the hard drive from the old radio days, which I’m hoping you’ll enjoy.

A bit of background…

Back in 2012, I was a roving reporter for my local radio station, (the great Radio Jackie) and around that time I had the pleasure of interviewing Joe Swift at the Royal Marsden Hospital in Sutton about gardening and his first entry in the Chelsea Flower Show 2012.

The garden designer and Gardener’s World presenter and had joined forces with Homebase to produce the Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden.

To raise awareness and in support of the trust, Joe Swift held a closed gardening workshop for previous patients at the hospital to come along and learn how to plant a variety of seeds, plants, bulbs and vegetables and learn about the benefits of gardening.

Date:20/04/2012 Rep:Sophia Sleigh Ref:SU65881 Contact Name/Number:Sophia Address:Royal Marsden Cancer Hospital, Downs Road, Sutton, Surrey SM2 5PT Job Details:Title: gardening marsden gardening at royal marsden for past patient –

This is the discussion we had and the edited audio – I can’t believe that this was nearly ten years ago now! How time flies.



Joe: I’m going to be talking to some of the cancer patients for the Teenage Cancer Trust, about gardening really, how wonderful it is to plant some seeds, watch them grow, get a bit colour into your life, and how easy a lot of gardening is really, and here, we’re just going to be planting a few tomato seeds and planting a few bedding plants and creating a bit of colour.

Adam: Now, I’m 22 and I have my own allotment, now why do you think it’s so important for young people to get out there and get stuck in?

Joe: You know, I just think so many kids and young people like yourself are sitting around, playing video games and watching TV and stuff – and it’s really up to us to create the opportunity to get kids out there, get younger people into gardening, it’s great for the environment, but as you know yourself the rewards can’t really be gained by anything else, in a funny sort of way. There are no down sides to gardening, none that I’ve found yet, and I’ve been doing it for years. Everything is so positive about it.

Adam: How is the garden doing at Chelsea, has it got a long way to go?

Joe: Well yeah, we started the build on May 1st, so I’ve different parts of the garden all over the country at the moment. I’ve got these huge timber frames which are down in Kent, I’ve got my boulders which are up in Yorkshire, I’ve got my plants which are in Hampshire – I desperately want to get them all together and get building because the process before is great, it’s exciting but now I just want to get on with it.

Adam: This is your first garden you said earlier – you must be nervous, I mean you’re going up against people that have been there for years – not that I’m trying to put you off or anything.

Joe: I know, I know…I know them all pretty well, I’m right next door to Cleve West who is one of my best mates and basically won best in show last year. He won a gold and best in show and has got six golds at Chelsea and I’m right next door to him. I have set myself off having slagged of many peoples gardens on TV, so I’m waiting for it all to come back on me, but I’m really enjoying it so far, and you know, it’s a dream garden – you don’t get to do these sorts of gardens for clients.

Adam: What would say to young people who want to get an allotment but feel it’s not really cool, it’s not very trendy…

Joe: Hang on, hang on – Allotments are cool. They are cool! Honestly! I live in Hackney, just up the road from Dalston, which apparently is the coolest place on earth and everyone is growing their own down there in any little space, balcony, roof garden, if they can get part of an allotment or even get an allotment and divide it up between four or five of you. A big allotment is quite a responsibility, I mean there’s nothing more fun than four or five of you going down there, growing a bit, getting a BBQ, getting some salads and getting some beers out. In the summer, it’s just a wonderful space, you can kind of do whatever you want and that’s what gardening is about. If you’ve got your garden then great, but if you haven’t then get somewhere you can grow together.

Homebase Teenage Cancer Trust Garden 2012

Pictures of Joe’s first garden at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2012, can be found here.

He won gold and was presented with the award by none other than Roger Daltrey, Who you may have heard of from a well known four piece. The Who front man is a patron of the trust.

How time flies. Allotments were cool and still are (in my opinion). Do you think the number of young people getting into gardening has increased over the last ten years? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Allotment Diary

Celebrating the gardening books! #WorldBookDay

Another year and there’s a new batch of gardening books on the shelf to celebrate. Put the kettle on, sit back and take a look at these.

This the third year I’ve taken a look at the books acquired in a 12 month period, and you can see the others here and here.

Grow Food For Free
– Huw Richards

The easy, sustainable, zero-cost way to a plentiful harvest

Huw Richards goes into the ins and outs of growing fruit and veg for free for a whole year.

This book will make you look at the food already in the pantry, pallets and would be recycled materials completely differently, and provides some fantastic ideas that will make you think much more sustainability.

Huw also has a YouTube channel which is packed full of more know how.

Take a look inside here.

Giving up too soon is the one thing that will prevent you enjoying free food in abundance.

Huw Richards

Charles Dowding’s Veg Course
– Charles Dowding

Beginners and experienced growers alike find that his refreshingly different ideas highly effective methods open their minds to new possibilities.

This book distills 35 years of Charles Dowding’s gardening experience from Lower Farm in Somerset into just over 200 pages. No Dig is now one of the most popular methods of growing your own – especially with those with busy lifestyles.

This book is illustrated with images directly from the farm and has been (no pun intended) ground breaking when it comes to changing garden practices for the better. Charles too has a website here you can also dive into.

Take a look inside here.

The usual recommendation is to dig or even double dig the soil for growing vegetables. Because this is repeated so many times, most gardeners accept the task without wondering if it is really necessary.

Charles Dowding

The Almanac 2021
– Lia Leendertz

A seasonal guide to 2021

This is the first year I’ve had the pleasure of an Lia’s Almanac and I have to say, what a breath of fresh air this is. This book doesn’t just go into gardening, but also takes into account the seasons, lunar patterns, migrations and traditions.

Illustrations are provided by Helen Cann, the little pocket is something different and is a number one best seller for good reason.

Take a look inside here.

The Almanac is about celebrating the unfolding year

Lia Leendertz

The Pocket Book of Garden Experiments
– Helen Pilcher

80 fun activities for families

The summer holidays are literally just around the corner and this is just what the doctor ordered to help keep the little ones occupied. Helen Pilcher has packed this book full of interesting, fun and educational activities that, I think, is bound to keep adults and little ones alike occupied.

This is the go to book to pry you and your loved ones away from the screen and into something a bit more fun.

Take a look inside here.

If you’ve ever asked a question or wondered why something is the way it is, then you’re a scientist.

Helen Pilcher

I’d love to know your recommended reads in the comments below! 🙂