The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

So I haven’t blogged for a while and I was thinking of a way to post an update you on what’s been happening at the allotment over the last month or two in an interesting way.

With that in mind I decided to write an update with a Sergio Leone theme whereby I can highlight The Good, The Bad and The Ugly over the last month or so.

The good

Potatoes

This year I planted Charlotte Potatoes first and Desiree potatoes and judging from the tops they’ve gone from strength to strength and have really flourished with the weather changes.

If you’re starting an allotment I would fully recommend growing potatoes, they can be very low maintenance and rewarding at the same time.

I also think the flowers you get on your crop can often be overlooked and are overrated.

Potatoes

Garlic

I’ve started to harvest the garlic that I planted last year. I decided to grow lots of them because garlic is something that we use a lot of in the kitchen and so far I’ve been greeted with wonderful bulbs of white and purple cloves.

The patch is a bit overgrown with weeds and the dreaded horsetail so I’m getting rid of this as well.

Garlic.jpg

Red Onions

My red winter onions have been a pleasure to dig up. They’re lovely and round and I’m going to enjoy cooking with them in the kitchen. They haven’t needed much maintenance over the last few weeks except for a weed and a hoe hear and there.

I was a bit stingy with how many I planted last year and so I will aim to plant more next year.

Onions Courgettes Garlic

Courgettes

Wow! Simple wow. My courgettes have taken on a life of their own and are showing lovely wide, leaves, being a source of ground cover at the same time.

As is always the case with courgettes – I’ve left a few on there for too long and so I’ve ended up with few marrows. I’ll need to think of new and interesting ways to try and use them up.

Best start collecting those jars for some chutney…

Blackberries

The wild blackberries growing at the allotment are always a reliable delight. If ever things get a little bit slack here or there, I can always count on them to come up trumps.

That said they do have a tendency to grow bigger and take over quicker than you think. So pruning and chopping little and often can really help keep them in check.

Not only that, but regularly pruning encourages the plant to put it’s energy into the fruit.

Blackberries

Peas

I had these curved poles hanging around in the shed for a long period of time and I decided to something with them and I ended up creating this rather elegant structure for my peas to grow up against – and if I say so myself, it doesn’t look half bad.

I’ve been periodically watering the plants and now I’ve generated a respectful number of pods.

I love fresh peas so next year I’m going to try and grow more of them.

I think that’s the trick with peas, grow lots of them so that they feel worth while to grow.

Strawberriesย 

We did have a good glut of strawberries which was a lovely surprise baring in mind that I haven’t tended them to at all over the last 12 months. I’m growing Elsenta strawberries and they’re the most common type of strawberry that you’ll find in the your local garden centre.

Next year I’m going to expand the strawberry patch and grow some more. I’m yet to make strawberry jam, so that’s my goal for next year ๐Ÿ™‚

Strawberries

The Bad

Tomatoes

I was excited to grow lots of different types of tomato plants, because I haven’t properly focused my efforts into growing tomatoes for a good couple of years. I said at the beginning of the year that this has to change – which it did for a while.

We’ve had two mini heatwaves here in the UK and my seedlings were completely wiped out by the heat during the first one. I was so discouraged that anything that did come up I just left to the slugs.

Lesson learned. From now on, I’m starting tomato plants in my flat where I can keep a close eye on them. I did say to myself that I should resow, but in the end I never got round to it.

Tomatoes

Runner beans

Same thing with the runner beans. They got wiped out by the heat and then decimated by the slugs.

What’s more – I built a pretty nifty structure for them as well, which is sadly going to waste.

Calibrese

Sadly, the calibrese were the third victim of the heat and slugs. Which is a shame because they came on so quickly and so were so healthy looking at one point.ย  Again I thought about resowing them – but seriously ran of out of time, so I’m left with no calibrese.

Maybe next year I’ll have more luck.

I have learnt something from the above however, and that’s to sow the plants I want to see succeed at home, because by doing this I can keep an eye on the seedlings and watch them grow.

Calibrese

White onions

Now, I’m not sure if this would sit in the bad category or the the ugly category as technically – they did germinate, but they didn’t grow as well as I’d hoped – not like the red onions.

The reason being is because I sowed them next to a place where I had some mint, lemon balm and some chives, which I think was too much competition for the onion sets, hence why they didn’t swell as well as I’d hoped.

Another lesson learned for next time!

The Ugly

Bindweed

Something that has done incredibly well (annoyingly) is the bindweed. A truly prolific weed which seems to take over at an unprecedented rate.ย  It’s long wiry leaders spread far and wide and seem to last longer than you would ever expect to last.

If you have bind weed – avoid putting it on your compost bin – you’ll regret it later on as it will, without doubt still survive and spring up wherever you spread your compost bin.

My advice with dealing with bindweed is to leave it out in a wheelbarrow to dry and then once it’s dry, burn it.

Horsetail

Seems quite apt to end a Sergio Leone – allotment-update-ish type of post with a horse related reference… Can you see what I did there? Anyway, Horsetail (often called Marestail) is another prolific weed that takes over and will outlive us all.

Horsetail is a prehistoric plant that really takes some hard graft to get rid of. I’ve written a post here on how to to deal horsetail.

So there we have it! That’s what’s happening!

GDPR and blogging

GDPR and blogging is a topic definitely worth visiting this year because GDPR is coming into force.

It could have an impact in the way that you blog or conduct your blogging activities. Its a topic that’s coming up more regularly at work and it’s something that I, myself need to address at one point or another.ย  I suspect that there are some other bloggers out there that should probably address GDPR as well, so I hope you find the info below useful at least as a starting point.

OK – so before I go any further about GDPR and blogging can I remind you that I am by no means a lawyer, and if you are concerned about GDPR and the running of your website, you should seek advice from a legal professional.

I’m simply outlining how I’m choosing to tackle GDPR with some of the technology that I use for Carrot Tops.

What is GDPR

Theย General Data Protection Regulationย (GDPR) is a piece of EU legislation that comes into force at the end of May 2018 and is aimed at bringing the UK’s Data Protection Act into the 21st Century, addressing data consent and transparency on the web.

GDPR is a vast piece of legislation entailing how users’ give their consent when interacting with your website/app in terms of supplying data (sensitive information, location, cookies…etc) and how that data is protected. This piece of legislation covers a lot of ground – and puts the responsibility of managing and processing data onto the website owner or manager.

Essential it covers consent and transparency when it comes to handling your users’ data whether you control data or process data.

I know what you’re thinking… We’re in the midst of Brexit… GDPR won’t apply. Well, it will, the Queen announced that this legislation will replace UK Data Protection law after Brexit.

Does GDPR and blogging relate to me?

If you’re thinking about GDPR and blogging then chances are – Yes. GDPR applies if users’ can…

  • Leave comments
  • Contact you via form
  • Subscribe to a newsletter
  • Subscribe to latest posts
  • Purchase from an online shop
  • Filling out a poll or a survey
  • Interacting with any form for any purpose

I’m guessing as a blogger, the top two are pretty important…

How GDPR applies to my blog and yours too

When it comes to website, I’m asking the following questions…ย 

  1. Where are the servers of my website hosted?
  2. Do I have a reputable hosting provider?
  3. Is all of the software I use (WordPress) up to date?
  4. Are there any holes in security or risks? (You can probably liaise with your hosting provider for this information if you’re at a loss)

When it comes to my users’ data I’m asking these questions…

  1. Have you got explicit permission from a user to obtain their information? For example, have they ticked a box stating something along the lines ofย “I consent to my submitted data being collected and stored”.
  2. Am I sharing information with third parties, do they know and have they given permission? The above could then change to the following –ย “I consent to my submitted data being collected, stored and (can/cannot) be shared”.
  3. What are the risks involved in storing that data (hacking, unauthorised email access…etc)?
  4. How long am I storing that data for, and why do I need it for that long?
  5. What measures are in place should the storage of that data become compromised?

GDPR and MailChimp

If you’re using MailChimp’s own sign up form then MailChimp willย store permission data in case you need it in the future. That said, for belts and braces sake you may choose to turn on the double opt-in feature.

If you’re using any other integrations to supply your MailChimp lists, you need to review the terms and conditions of those integrations. You may need to add a required field that asks for permission to process and store the information you’re asking for.

Here’s MailChimp’s take on GDPR and what they’re doing ahead of the change.

GDPR and Gravity Forms

Some bloggers (self included) may be using Gravity Forms to collect contact form entries or newsletter sign ups. By default, Gravity Forms will store these entries in the back end of your website as well as email you those entries – this means that your users’ data is technically being stored in two places, which doubles the risk.

If you choose to store those entries in the back end of your website, you should ask yourself how long you intend to keep those entries for and why. Should your website get hacked, and the data is then compromised, you need to have a reason as to why you were storing that data. If you’ve no reason for that data then it should be deleted.

Along with providing permission to collect data, GDPR requires that users are able to request access to their data and have it removed if requested.

Here’s Gravity Forms take on GDPR.

GDPR and WordPress

If you’re hosting a WordPress installation yourself, catering for GDPR is down to you. I’ve started using this WP GDPR plugin to help me tick as many boxes as possible. It’s actually really easy to configure and it address your comments section at the click of a button. If you’re using WordPress.com – it’s best to bookmark this link and follow the updates as they’re posted.

GDPR and Blogger / Blogspot

There’s not alot online about how GDPR will impact bloggers who use blogger.com – but I did find this official GDPR statement from Google (the people who own blogger) on what they’re going to do about GDPR. It’s worth a read.

GDPR and Google Analytics

As of January 2018 personal data is classed as any piece ofย  data that you could use to identify or re-identify an individual. The cookies that Google Analytics use for tracking are anonymous, and you’re not allowed to store personal date inside of Google Analytics anyway.

This means at the time of writing this article, no one knows how GDPR will impact how you track your users via Google Analytics.

It’s unlikely that bloggers will ever have to address what I’m about to say, but just so that you know usernames, passwords, post/zip codes, phone numbers and email addresses or anything identifiable should not be present in any of your URL’s as these will be picked up by Google Analytics.

Remember, anything identifiable should not be appearing in your stats.

What if I’m non-GDPR compliant

Non-compliance with the GDPR can result in enormous financial penalties. Sanctions for non-compliance can be as high as 20 Million Euros or 4% of global annual turnover, whichever is higher.

OK, that’s the frightening bit when it comes to GDPR and blogging over. It’s my own personal opinion that GDPR inspectors will be going for the big fish when it comes to GDPR compliance.

That concludes tonight’s lesson on GDPR and blogging that I think it will be relevant as we go through 2018. I’ll keep this article as up to date as I can as the year goes on.

If there’s any questions about GDPR and blogging or anything you would like to add – please comment below… And don’t forget to hit that consent button ๐Ÿ˜‰

GDPR and blogging

My New Years Resolutions for 2018

My New Years Resolutions for 2018

Generally speaking I’m all for New Years resolutions – it’s a really good way to take a step back and think about ways to improve one’s self and it’s always good to remember last year’s resolutions and see if you have achieved them. Last year, I sat in the same position that I am in now and said – “I’m going to read more! I spend too much time on my phone and that has to stop.” Have I achieved this? No.

I don’t know why I haven’t achieved such a feet – perhaps it’s a sign of a deeper social media addiction? I’ll be the first to admit that I spend way too much time on my phone. Do I add last year’s failure to this year’s resolution? No, I’ve done this two times before now and it doesn’t make any difference. Instead I’m going to go with a whole new set of resolutions.

Getting fit and losing weight are all things that kind of go without saying in this day and age, so I’ll be doing these as well. If we’re truly honest, we all feel a little bit on the porky side straight after the festive season, so cutting back won’t do any harm I’m sure.

OK, so new year’s resolutions… Here we go!

Use my local butchers and green grocers

This is something I’ve been meaning to do for a while now. Sadly, I can’t remember the last time a butchers or a green grocer opened up near where I live, which isn’t a good sign for your local (often, family) retailers. The reason why I want to use my local butchers and green grocers, is to a. support my local community b. try and source a better quality product and c. to open my eyes up to new culinary horizons. The last one sounds so weird when you read it out loud, but I am of the generation who visits the supermarket for the things that he needs. It get’s boring after a while and the choice you’re presented with hasn’t changed that much in my life time. The thought of conversing with a local shop keeper excites me a bit! I’ve also frequented the meat counter in my local supermarket and I’ve been a bit disappointed. Shop local.

Get to the allotment earlier in the morning(s)

OK, I do enjoy a lazy Sunday or Saturday as much as the next person – but as good lazy Sundays and Saturdays sound, they’re not very productive when you have an allotment. The theory behind this is that I can leave at the same time and keep my weekend routine, but an extra hour here or there will allow me to get much more done. Get up earlier.

Try and eradicate single use plastics from my life

Single use plastic is the buzzword of today and if I can’t help but feel that the amount of plastic waste that get dumped into the sea is criminal – I am as guilty as the next person when it comes to using plastic so it’s time to change. No more plastics for me unless it’s biodegradable or can be easily recycled. Waste less.

Improve my grammar

If you’re an avid reader, this will be of no surprise. But… Ironically – reading more would help with this. Comment all of the mistakes in this post below and posts in the future please – a bit of humiliation will help with this particular resolution! OK I guess I’ll try again when it comes to reading more…

Don’t be afraid to build structure for crops

I’m really lazy when it comes to protecting my brassicas and other plants that get attacked by pests. I often lack the confidence when it comes to building frames and leave everything to the elements. As a result this year I lost a crop of broccoli and cauliflower to pigeons, butterflies and other hungry pests all because I simply didn’t bother. Must be bothered.

For bonus points – Try and drink less

I do love a pint, I’m not going to lie. However, the combination of a lack of exercise and the approach to 30 means my metabolism is slowly dwindling to nothing. I’ve got a two year headstart on trying to rebuild my metabolism so I must make the most of it. Drink less.

So there we have it… Keep your fingers crossed for me and let’s see how I get on. If you have any resolutions I’d love to know what they are. Or, if you don’t believe in new year’s resolutions I’d love to know why ๐Ÿ™‚ .