Top allotment questions asked during 2016

It’s been a year of blogging here at Carrot Tops and over the last 12 months, I’ve had a few questions come my way – so here’s the top questions from by allotment goers and gardeners from across the web.

1. What household items can you use on the allotment?

With a little bit of imagination, you can re-use anything. I’m all for re-using things as it reduces waste and this in turn helps the environment. Click here for a run down of the top 10 items that you can re-use at your allotment.

2. What to compost and what not to compost?

You can compost anything bio-degradable, even paper these days can be added once it’s been shredded. It’s good to get a good mix of both brown items and green items as these will give you a good mix of nitrogen against carbon. Click here to read more composting tips.

3. Why is weeding important?

Weeding is probably the most common thing that gardeners and allotment goers have in common. Weeds take up space, nutrients and oxygen from other, more desired plants in your garden. They also re-seed each year and take up twice as much space the following season. Click here for some common ways in which you can shift those pesky weeds.

4. How to grow gardeners delight tomatoes?

Ah, my favorite variety of tomatoes. These are so easy to grow and well worth the effort, here is a series from seed to harvest that you can follow when growing your own Gardener’s Delight Tomatoes.

5. Why are runner beans so expensive to buy?

This year has seen a whopping 29% increase in the price of runner beans at your local supermarket. In June 2016 of this year the average price per kilo was valued at £5.51 (click here for more reading). The official line from supermarkets is that the price of produce fluctuates to due to higher operating costs and costs by suppliers.  Runner beans are easy to grow and store, so I would recommend doing these yourself if you can. Shop bought runner beans, in my opinion are noway as good as homegrown.

6. What tools do you/I need for an allotment

Wellies, a spade, a fork and and a trowel. Over the years you’ve accumulate many a tool that will do different things for you. Click here for my top 10 tools needed at the allotment.

7. Why seeds don’t germinate | my carrot seeds on my allotment aren’t germinating

It’s not unheard of for seeds to fail and this could be for a number of reasons listed below.

  • The seed had passed its use by date
  • The ground held too much or too little moisture
  • Seeds were sown too deep or too shallow
  • Seeds require specialist treatment or conditions
  • The seeds were eaten by a pest

Thompson & Morgan have this great run through as to why this could be. Click here to see if any of these sound familiar?

8. Best thing to do with spare allotment plot

You can use your plot for anything! You can use it as a leisure garden or to stay self sufficient – the fact of the matter is, the world is your oyster and these days you have to use or lose your allotment.

9. If potatoes have sprouts do you bury them

Potatoes are a great plant to help you break the ground up.  You can plant pretty much anything into that particular space, to encourage crop rotation, but I like to double dig the earth over and revive the ground for the following season.

10. Is Casablanca garlic a hard neck?

Casablanca garlic is a hard neck. This means that that this particular variety will produce flower stalks, where as soft neck garlic won’t (unless treated under special conditions). Most of the bulbs of garlic you get in the shops are soft neck because they store better. However, I bet my hat that chefs and foodies everywhere would rather use a hard neck in kitchen because they have a reputation for carrying a more intense flavour and aroma. Elephant garlic is something else entirely and something I hope to grow in 2017.

Merry Christmas and a big thank you!

Merry Christmas and a big thank you!

This blog of mine, has always been a bit of an on and off kind of thing and something that I tackle in fits and spurts. More often than not I’ll start to keep things updated with hayfire excitement – which as the condition suggests burns out very quickly.

At the beginning of the year I made a promise to myself that I would be more proactive with my blog, keep it updated for at least a year and really let you know how I’m getting on, no matter how disastrous it may turn out.

I’ll have to admit, it’s not all been plain sailing. I’ve wound up with tiny onions, the structure I built for my rhubarb got obliterated and I’m fairly sure I’ve been keeping a family of field mice well fed – with seeds in the spring and now with the potatoes I’m storing in the shed.  However, I didn’t do bad with the courgettes, rhubarb, new potatoes, runner beans, French beans, carrots, blackberries and shallots.

All said and done we’re nearly at the end of year and I can safely say that I’ve kept my promise. Each year I appreciate more and more the benefits of green space and what it can offer in is this busy world we live in.  If you’re thinking of getting a plot at your local allotment, then do it, but please bare in mind that it’s alot of hard work and patience – that pays off eventually. Eventually being the key word.

In the kitchen I’ve made jam successfully for the first time and I’ve mastered the very easy art of freezing and storing my produce.

So what does the future hold? Well, throughout the course of the year I’ve had two great ideas, each evolve around creating a garden that has a theme.

My first idea was a Christmas Garden, whereby you grow your Christmas dinner from scratch, excluding the Turkey of course!

The second idea I had was to grow a Victory Garden from the 1940’s, whereby the end result is that you live off the land as much as possible to survive.

What would you like to see me grow? Let me know 🙂

The more I think about it, the more I’m leaning toward building a victory garden – there’s quite a bit history involved and I’d love to know what techniques I can unearth and pass on.

If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve probably noticed a change in design – to something a little bit more elegant. What do you think? I’d love to know your thoughts.

Well that’s it from me for a couple days so let me take this opportunity to wish you a very Merry Christmas and the very best for the festive season. Thank you for reading and commenting, commenting and reading and I really look forward to showing you my allotment as it grows and develops in 2017!

10 Really last minute Christmas gift ideas for gardeners and allotment holders

It’s that time of year, we’re just a few days away from Christmas and there’s always that one person, who happens to have an allotment, who you need to get a present for. Well, fear not, below are a few stocking fillers for that special someone.

1. Funky Veg Kit by Plant Theatre

  • Everything you need to grow these 5 funky vegetables in one box
  • Purple Carrots, Red Brussells Sprouts, Stripy Tomatoes, Yellow Courgettes & Multi Coloured Swiss Chard
  • 5 Seed Varieties, 5 Growing pots, 5 Peat blocks and 5 Plant Markers
  • Sowing & Growing Tips included

2. Grow Me Coffee Lover

  • Do you crave a cappuccino or long for a latté?
  • This gift box includes everything needed to grow your own coffee plants!
  • The ideal little extra and suitable for any occasion, Coffee Lover is the perfect gift for every fan of the roasted bean!

3. 50 Ways to Kill a Slug

Are you being bullied by a mollusc that slimes all over your garden and munches through your favourite delphinium? Are you worried about using slug pellets for fear of endangering local wildlife? Take a stand against slugs with 50 alternative, organic, natural, chemical and humane solutions to slug problems. Trick, flick and frighten slugs out of your garden, leaving you with pest-free plants. Stop slugs in their tracks and make slimy trails a thing of the past.

4. Tobar Grow Your Own Christmas Tree

  • Miniature plant set for growing a traditional Christmas tree
  • The set includes a small terracotta plant pot, compost pellet and the seeds needed to grow the plant
  • Christmas tree growing kit
  • Includes compost pellet, seeds and terracotta pot
  • Pot 5cm

5. Cutting Globe Plant Propagator 11 Piece Set

Cutting globes are round hollow balls which you attach to a plant you would like to propagate and new roots grow inside. You then cut the branch from the plant and you have a new, free clone of that plant!

6. High Gloss White Self Watering Houseplant & Herb Windowsill Planter

  • Water system puts the plant in control for best results
  • Visual indicator takes the guesswork out of watering
  • Lightweight, recyclable & with a stylish ceramic look
  • Removable plant liner makes planting clean & easy
  • Perfect for Orchids, indoor plants, foliage and herbs
  • Great windowsill growing trough

7. Allotment Gardening For Dummies

Allotment Gardening For Dummies is a lively, hands–on guide to getting the most out of your allotment. Whether you′re interested in eating fresh, saving money, getting exercise or enjoying wholesome family fun, this is the guide for you.

8. Paper Potter – Make your own pots from newspaper

9. The Grumpy Gardener’s Handbook

Following in the curmudgeonly footsteps of The Grumpy Driver’s and Golfer’s Handbooks, this is a compilation of all things frustrating about maintaining the average domestic garden. Grump’s attempts to improve his “extra room outdoors” are thwarted at every turn.

10. Grow Your Own Curry Flowers Mini Plant Kit

  • Easy to grow
  • Fun To Grow
  • Great Gift
  • All you need in the box
  • Fun & Different

Mounding up Brussels Sprouts

It’s taken me all year to grow this sprouts and if I’m honest, other than the odd weeding session here and there I haven’t really given my sprouts much tender loving care.

We’re having quite a mild winter so far so I thought I’d mound up the base of the plants with mulch to help with water retention and tie the plants up to try and keep them steady which will preserve energy levels. You may remember I collected some leaf mold at the beginning of the year and this has broken down nicely over the last 12 months. I’ve used a couple of barrows of this, even though it’s not completely broken down as it will decompose in the ground later on in the spring.

On closer inspection of my sprouts, I have to say that I was a little disheartened to find that the crop consisted of sprouts that were only slightly bigger than a marble. The plants have been subject to a flea beetle attack throughout the year and know that this has stunted growth slightly. Small holes have appeared on the plants along with bite marks around the edge of the leaves over the last few months. Flea beetle larvae tend to feed on roots of germinating plants.

I’ve also done some research and I’ve found that the size of your sprouts tend to be down to the soil conditions. The bed in which I’am growing my sprouts may be too rich in phosphorus or nitrogen. Next year I’ll be sure to add compost to my sprout patch, at least twice a year in the hope that I get decent sized sprouts.

Love them or hate them, sprouts are rich in iron and are incredibly good you – so think of that next time you decide to tuck into a bowl on Christmas day.