Friday, 24 August 2012

From a Worcester Allotment relocates

The From a Worcester Allotment blog has now relocated to its own server at
There will be no new postings on this site, but it will remain live as an archive of our old posts, which have also been imported into our new site.
Why not visit our new site and subscribe for post updates?
Look forward to seeing you at our new web site.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Some good news for Worcester allotment holders, I hear from Dan Robb the Site Rep of  Droitwich Rd, Allotment site that the council have come to their senses and dropped all charges for tunnels and sheds, something which he has fought vigorously against.

Well done Dan, we paid for 2 poly-tunnels this year and I was seriously thinking about taking them down altogether, and I know that others in Worcester were thinking the same way as well.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Genetically Modified Foods

Genetically Modified Organisms have been in our food chain for about 20 years, but most people aren’t aware, or for that matter, don’t know, what GMO foods are. Foods that are genetically modified are created in a laboratory by splicing genes from one organism into another.

For instance, splicing a gene from a pesticide, namely BT toxin (bacillus thuringiensis), with corn gives the plant a built-in component to kill insects that would eat the corn. But what does that do to the person who eats the corn or food made from the corn?

The corporations that engineer these foods would like you to think they’re harmless. Studies to the contrary have recently been published showing traces of BT toxin in the bloodstream of 93 percent of pregnant women and 80 percent of their umbilical cord and fetal blood.

Other independent studies concluded that testing done on laboratory animals fed GMO foods showed organ damage, low birth weights, infertility, and in some cases, death.

So that has to be one of our main incentives to get out in the fresh air, get healthy exercise and grow your own food, safe in the knowledge that giant US corporations are not poisoning your foods.

Wake up World

Wednesday, 29 February 2012

March Jobs on the Allotment

Sow under cold frames
Beetroot, broad beans, Brussels sprouts, early carrots, lettuce, radish, spring onions, spinach, turnips, parsnips, early peas and salad leaves.

Sow indoors
Cauliflowers, celery, leeks, onions, summer cabbage and early tomatoes for the greenhouse.

March jobs
  • Plant out autumn sown onions.
  • Last chance to order seed potatoes this month.
  • Hoe frequently for weed control & soil aeration.
  • Clean & weed asparagus bed.
  • Add manure or fertiliser in final soil preparation.

  • Finish all pruning & planting.
  • Feed & mulch young trees & cane fruits.
  • Plant strawberry runners.
  • If you have one, use your fleece net for frost protection on early blooms on fruit trees.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Seed discounts for allotment societies

Allotment societies wishing to save some money could do far worse than take a look at the web site of Vegetable

Seed we purchased from them had a high rate of germination, unlike some seed from the "big-names" which was also much more expensive. So, our recommendation is based on personal experience.

We have no financial links with this seed company, but with times getting harder many of us are becoming conscious of costs.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Growing cucumber

Cucumbers growing up a climbing frame made from bamboo canes
  • Cucumbers are straight forward to grow and grow up they will as they are a climbing vine. 
  • They are a member of the cucurbitaceae family which includes melons and squashes and so like a warm well drained soil.
  • Cucumbers can be eaten fresh or they can be pickled.
    Cucumbers that are eaten fresh are known as Slicing varieties and cucumbers that are pickled are known as pickling varieties.
  • Cucumbers contain nutrients that are especially beneficial to our skin, hair and nails.

How to grow Cucumber - Crop Rotation

  • Cucumber is a member of the Melon Family, and it is recommended that it should not be grown in the same soil as other family members for at least three years.
  • Ideally, if they are following a crop from the Pea and Bean Family, then they should not need further nitrogen at the time of planting.

How to grow Cucumber - Soil Preparation

  • Dig a fair amount of organic compost into the soil. 
  • The soil should be turned over down to about a spades depth.
  • Growing cucumbers are best in a pH range of 6.0-7.0 and do enjoy moderate amounts of nitrogen and high amounts of phosphorus and potassium. 
  • They grow better in fertile clay soils with a lot of humus.
  • Do not to plant your cucumbers in a constantly wet area as they dislike the roots being constantly soaked in extreme amounts of water.
  • At this point you can decide which method to use to grow your cucumbers: grow up a climbing frame or leave to sprawl on the ground.

Grow up a climbing frame

  • Grow up a climbing frame, trellis, netting or wigwam of canes. 
    • This allows a large number of plants to grow in a small area. 
    • Cucumbers grown on some type of trellis produce two-three times more cucumbers. 
    • Cucumbers grown on a trellis have the tendancy to be healthier and more uniform in size and also in shape. 
    • They are also cleaner at picking time and the air circulation certainly assists in the prevention of many diseases associated with growing cucumbers. 
    • The trellising actually makes room for planting other crops that require shade such as lettuce under the trellis.

Grow direct in the soil

  • Grow direct in the soil or make a small mound and grow on top of that, allowing the plants to sprawl along the ground in your garden. 
    • This is a sound technique, because secondary roots will develop along the vine at the junction between the vine and the leaf. 
    • Secondary roots are a source of additional nutrients for your plant and fruits' growth.
    • At picking time the cucumbers will have the dirt of the garden attached.

Other growing techniques

  • In addition, thought can be given to two other techniques that have been proven to be successful:
    1. Grow the cucumber plants plants through a plastic or non-woven membrane mulch.
    2. Water the cucumbers by drip irrigation, using a porous pipe on a low-pressure watering system. 

How to grow Cucumber - Sowing Seed

  • You can start your plants off indoors by sowing in biodegradable seedling pots that will ensure the seedlings roots are not damaged when you plant out the plants. 
  • Sow the seeds in a good quality general purpose peat compost.
  • Water daily, and do not allow the seedlings to dry out, but do not drown them, just keep them damp.
  • Do not plant out before the last frost. 

How to grow Cucumber - Planting Out

  • Leave a gap of around 40cm between seedlings. 
  • If growing direct from seed you can group sow 3 seeds in each hole to increase chances of germination success. Seeds should be planted 2.5cm deep.
  • If you are planting more than one row then rows should be spaced at around 90cm.

How to grow Cucumber - Care & Cultivation

Cucuumber growing as a sprawling vine on the ground
  • After the plants germinate, add a thick layer of mulch to conserve moisture. Be careful to keep the mulch away from the stems of the plants so they do not rot. 
  • Feed the young cucumber plants every two weeks with liquid fertilizer. 
  • It’s is important to maintain sufficient moisture throughout the growing period. The cucumber fruit itself has a very high water content.
  • Weed regularly but be careful not to go below a couple of cm's with your hoe as you may damage the root system which will slow down plant growth.
  • The plant has both male and female flowers and the female flowers give rise to the cucumbers. 
    • With some old varieties, you can aid pollination and increase the fruit count by using a cotton bud to transfer pollen from the male flowers onto the centre of the female flowers. 
    • The female flowers distinguished from the male flowers as the females have a tiny cucumber at their base.

How to grow Cucumber - Harvesting

  • You can harvest the cucumbers when they are a suitable size, this is normally around 50-60 days after planting. 
  • The skin should be dark green in colour, do now wait until the cucumbers have turned yellow as this indicates that they are over ripe and their quality of flavour will decline.
  • Twist the cucumbers off the plant or cut the stalk just above the cucumber tip.

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Storing vegetables for the winter

Storing Vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, parsnip and beetroot can be a bit of a headache if, like us, you have grown far too many.

  • Hessian sacks are useful, hung from hooks in the garden shed, they even smell good and traditional.
  • Generations of gardeners have layered harvested roots in sand or compost in small dustbins.
  • We have acquired a large number of tomato crates over the years, and these can be stacked and covered in fleece to guard against frost. 
  • Indeed, all stored vegetables should be protected from freezing. 
  • It's a question of balance: neither too warm nor too cold. 
  • Winter squash can be laid on a shelf but hardy vegetables such as swedes and leeks are best left in the ground and dug as required.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Growing Welsh Onion

  • A member of the Onion family, Welsh onion are well worth cultivating in the vegetable and flower garden. 
  • They take up very little space, and the whole plant can be eaten from top to bottom.
  • Welsh onion are cultivated both for their culinary uses and their ornamental value; the violet flowers are often used in ornamental dry bouquets.
  • Welsh onion are perennial evergreen plants, and keep their leaves in most winters. 
  • In colder winters, the leaves may die back completely, but don't despair - their roots are still alive and they will begin new growth next spring.

How to grow Welsh onion - Crop rotation

  • Welsh onion is a member of the onion family, and it is suggested that it should not be planted in soil that has grown a family member in at least the last three years.

How to grow Welsh onion - Position and Soil

  • Welsh onion thrive in well drained soil, rich in organic matter, with a pH of 6-7 and full sun. 
  • However, Welsh onion will grow in almost all soils. 
  • Work in a handful or two of bonemeal per square metre (yard). 
  • Full sun or partial shade suit them equally well.
  • Although they are fairly tolerant of drought, don't plant them in very dry places. 

How to grow Welsh onion - Propagation

How to grow Welsh onion - Sowing seed

  • Welsh onion can be grown from seed and mature in summer, or early the following spring. 
  • Sow the seeds indoors using normal potting compost in March time (or directly outside in April) . 
  • Typically, Welsh onion need to be germinated at a temperature of 15°C to 20°C and kept moist. 
  • The seedlings will appear a week to ten days later. 
  • Transfer them outside a month after sowing with 10cm (8in) between each plant.

How to grow Welsh onion - Propagating by Division

  • Welsh onion are very similar to other onions, in that they have a bulbous root and green leaves. 
  • The bulbs multiply quickly over a few years and this bounty of new bulbs provides the easiest method of propagation. 
  • Simply dig up the clump of bulbs in March or October, carefully separate them into individual bulbs and replant with the tips of the bulbs level with the soil surface. 
  • They thrive on this method of propagation, because it relieves the congestion in the bulb clumps.

How to grow Welsh onion - Care & Cultivation

  • Welsh onion are not greedy feeders, so it is not necessary to feed throughout the year if the soil has been prepared as described. 
  • In cold regions, Welsh onion die back to the underground bulbs in winter, with the new leaves appearing in early spring.
  • Welsh onion starting to look old can be cut back to about 2–5 cm. 

How to grow Welsh onion - Harvesting

  • Either lift the whole onion, as above, or just use the leaves.
  • Cut the chive leaves with scissors when required, starting with the outside leaves (those nearest the edge of the pot) and working your way inwards. 
  • When harvesting, the needed number of stalks should be cut to the base.
  • The leaves rapidly grow back and can be cut several times in the growing season, so giving a continuous harvest. 
  • Plants grown from seed should be left alone (although remove the emerging flower heads) until July in the first year to allow a good root system to establish itself. 

How to grow Welsh onion - Kitchen Notes

  • Welsh onion should be used fresh and uncooked, otherwise they loose almost all their flavour. 
  • When used with cooked foods, add them after cooking. 
  • Welsh onion can be used to add flavour to a huge range of food, probably best known for adding to baked potatoes with butter. 
  • Foods it goes well with include mixed vegetables, egg dishes, salads and dressings, broiled poultry, stews, casseroles and baked fish.

How to grow Welsh onion - Storage & Preserving

  • They can be dried, but their is little point because they then have no flavour. 
  • One way to store them is to chop the leaves into 1cm (half inch) lengths and place them in ice cube containers with some water. 
  • Freeze them, and then defrost an ice cube or two when need to use them. 

How to grow Welsh onion - Pests and Disease

  • They are almost completely free of disease, but they occasionally suffer from onion fly, however this is almost always because they have been planted near onions which have been attacked - the solution is not to plant Welsh onion near onions.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Growing shallots

  • Although it is possible to acquire shallot seeds, they are normally grown from sets. 
  • They grow into a small clump of bulbs joined at the base.
  • Traditionally shallots are planted, like garlic, on the shortest day to harvest on the longest but in reality they can go in as late as the end of March and still produce a respectable crop.
  • In subtropical areas March - April is a better planting time. 
  • In cooler areas the recommended planting time is late winter or early spring. 

How to grow Shallots - Crop rotation

  • Shallots are susceptible to bacterial diseases, pink root, white rot, downy mildew, purple blotch, onion maggot and thrips. 
  • To avoid or minimize these problems, it is suggested that you do not plant shallots in the same soil where other members of the Onion Family have been grown in at least the last three years

How to grow Shallots - Site and Soil

  • Plant in a sunny, well-drained position. 
  • For a good crop, shallots require a rich, loam soil. 
  • Check the pH and add lime to correct acidity. 
  • The pH should be at least 6.5. 

How to grow Shallots - Soil Preparation

  • Soil is best prepared a few months before planting. 
  • Avoid using manure, as too high a nitrogen content will reduce the keeping quality of the shallots.  

How to grow Shallots - Planting out Sets

  • Separate multiple bulbs and plant each individual bulb, root end down. 
  • Do not plant the bulbs too deeply, push them into the soil roots side down, so the tops are still visible. 
  • Space the bulbs 15-20 cm (6-8") apart and space rows 30cm (1 foot) apart.
  • Shallots will form a cluster of 5-12 bulbs around the original bulb. 
  • This cluster will spread out more than a garlic bulb and therefore requires more space between plants. 

How to grow Shallots - Care and Cultivation

  • Do not use mulch as it may rot bulbs, which are not strong enough to push through mulch. 
  • After planting shallots, water well or lightly in heavy soils, and only water again when the soil is dry. 
  • Remember, shallots love water and food, but they must have good drainage or the bulbs will rot. 
  • In the spring, feed the shallots with either composted manure or a well-balanced fertilizer before the bulbs begin to enlarge. 
  • Keep the bulbs well watered and weeded; they grow best with at least 1" of water per week. 
  • Remove any seed stalks that form to focus the shallots' energy into forming bulbs. 
  • Shallots should be spring planted in very cold areas. 

How to grow Shallots - Harvesting

  • Harvest the shallots when the tops are drying. 
  • You can tell the bulbs are mature when the tops yellow and die (most plants can be harvested after 3 months).
  • Pull up the clusters and cure in a warm but shady place with ventilation. 
  • Regardless of what you read elsewhere, do not leave your shallots in the sun to cure, because they might sunburn and rot. 

How to grow Shallots - Storage

  • Store your shallots in mesh bags (like onion sacks) in a cool dry area.
  • You should let the bulbs dry for about a month. 
  • They can be stored for up to 12 months if kept at their optimum storage temperature of 35°-45°F.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

How to grow broad beans

  • Broad bean plants comprise square sectioned hollow stems with leaves divided into 2-7 leaflets. 
  • These leaves are bluish-grey or green in colour. 
  • The plants usually stand 90-120cm (3 to 4ft) tall.
  • Leathery bean pods are produced once the white-and-black coloured flowers are spent. 
  • The 15 to 20cm (6 to 8 inch) long pods can be expected to contain upwards of four slightly kidney-shaped beans, light green in colour.
  • Broad beans are nitrogen fixing plants that enrich the soil in which they are planted.

How to grow Broad Beans - Varieties

  • Commonly cultivated broad beans mainly fall into two classes. 
  • Longpod broad beans feature eight beans per pod and are more durable to different climatic conditions. 
  • Windsor broad bean varieties have four or five beans per pod and are considered by some to have a finer flavour.

How to grow Broad Beans - Crop Rotation

  • Broad beans are a member of the Bean Family, and it is wise not to grow a new crop in soil that has grown a family member in the last three years.
  • Potatoes, cucumbers, corn, strawberries, celery, and summer savory all make good companion plantings. 
  • Do not plant broad beans with onions or garlic.

How to grow Broad Beans - Site and Soil

  • Broad beans grow best in a sunny spot.
  • Shelter is also beneficial. 
  • Avoid soil that waterlogs or conversely dries out rapidly
  • Broad beans don’t grow very well in a strongly acid soil preferring instead neutral to slightly alkaline soils (6.0 - 7.5 approx). 
  • If the pH (relative acidity or alkalinity) of your soil is not suited to the vegetable, then soil nutrients such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus, Potassium, iron, boron, copper, manganese and zinc start to become unavailable, leading to poor crops.
  • You can use a home soil test available in most garden centres to determine your soils ph. By taking account of the test results you can then decide how much if any amendments are required to bring the to pH of your vegetable garden soil in line.
  • The application of ground lime will be helpful in countering the acidity. Consult the pack for the application rates, as that varies between commercial products.

How to grow Broad Beans - Soil Preparation

  • For long term feeding of your crop, every 10m2 of growing area should have one wheelbarrow load of well-rotted homemade compost or farmyard animal manure spread over its surface sometime during the autumn/early winter before planting/sowing. 
  • Dig this in to a spades depth all over the proposed growing area to enrich it for your crop. 
  • Whilst digging, remove any stones and other obstacles that might obstruct roots.
  • As a rule of thumb, well-rotted manure/compost will be over six months old, and tend to be dark brown will little if any smell. You should not be able to distinguish individual pieces of straw, hay, vegetable peelings, grass etc., as it will all be rotted down.
  • A week or so before sowing the seed add a nitrogen feed to the soil. Although Broad Beans produce their own nitrogen in little nodules along the roots, this does not happen until the plants begin to grow strongly. So a little extra nitrogen at the beginning will get them off to a good start.

How to grow Broad Beans - Sowing Seed

Sowing broad bean seed directly in the soil

  • Broad beans are very frost hardy and will germinate in a soil temperature as low as 2°C (35°F). 
  • Sowing time is around late March in England. 
  • However if your soil is free draining they can also sow in early autumn when the weather is cooling down. This will give a crop about three weeks earlier than a spring sowing, but a winter-hardy variety must be used.
  • Dig out a drill in the soil to a depth of 6cm (2in) and 20cm (8in) wide. 
  • Sow the seed in two rows, one row down one side of the drill, the other row down the other side. 
  • Each bean in a row should be spaced 25cm (10in) apart from the next bean.
  • Close the drill with soil, then water well and label.
  • Create as many double rows as you like at 24in (60cm) intervals. 
  • If you haven’t much space you can always sow single rows if you like, but the double rows do provide each other with support and also improve germination. 
  • A helpful tip is to sow a few extra bean seeds at the end of some rows to be used as transplants if gaps appear.
  • Another tip to prevent gaps is to discard all seeds which display small, round holes, as these seldom germinate of if they do they produce weak plants. The small, round holes are created by seed beetle grubs
  • The expected seed germination time approx is 7-14 days. 
  • Any seed not required for sowing that year should be kept dry as it has a life expectancy of 2 years.

Sowing broad bean seed indoors

  • The other alternative is to sow the seeds in peat pots and initially grow them in a greenhouse, polytunnel or on the windowsill until all danger of frost has passed.
  • Then plant them, peat pots and all, directly into the ground, using the same spacings as described above.
  • Remember to soak the peat pots in water prior to planting so that they will quickly break down in the soil.
  • Before planting out, ensure that the soil is warm, and this is best done by covering the growing site with a sheet of clear polythene at the same time as sowing the seeds in their pots.
  • Starting the plants into growth before the frosts have finished will provide a crop earlier than sowing direct outdoors.

How to grow Broad Beans - Care and Cultivation

  • Keep the soil around the broad bean plant weed-free. Take care when weeding because the roots are easily damaged.
  • During a prolonged spell without rain (week or more) you should water gently but deeply once a week. As a rough rule of thumb apply approx 10 litres per metre squared of soil area. Carry out this watering in the morning and try to avoid splashing the leaves, watering the soil instead. Water reserves must be adequate once the bean pods start to form, or else they may end up empty.
  • At about the sixth or seventh week after seed germination and while plants are growing strongly you can apply a second application of a well balanced fertilizer. Although not essential, a further scattering of Growmore or fish blood and bone can increase the vegetables vigour and make the less susceptible to plant ills. Once scattered the fertiliser should be lightly scratched into the soils surface followed by gentle but deep watering of the soil.
  • As soon as young beans appear at the base of the plant it's time to 'pinch out' the growing tips. Go to the very top of the plant and remove the tip with two leaves attached, you can compost these or steam them as a leaf vegetable.
  • Spacing shouldn't be compromised as good airflow is essential for combating fungal disease.
  • As the plants grow you will need to stake them to prevent the fragile stems from bending or breaking and pods being damaged. 
  • Stake after the seedlings are up and use anything from pea sticks to bamboo with string to support the plant.
  • Dwarf varieties will need less space and less staking and are well worth considering especially on windy or small sites.

How to grow Broad Beans - Pests and Diseases

A bad attack of black aphids down the stem of a plant
  • Black bean aphids and green aphids are the main pests of broad beans. 
  • They are mainly attracted to the soft and succulent tips of the shoots, but will eventually roam all over the plant sucking sap and stunting growth.
  • To discourage them simply pinch off the growing tip of each plant by one inch as soon as the first aphids are spotted. Reducing this attractiveness reduces the number of green and black bean aphids that show up. Any stragglers remaining can be sprayed with the following soapy water solution….
    • 8ml of plain washing up liquid mixed into 1 litre of water.
    • Do not use detergent or any soap containing detergent as it will burn the plants and possibly leave a residue in the soil.
    • Apply liberally to the pest using a plant mister or spray bottle.
    • It is best to use a fresh soapy mix of this each time you spray.

How to grow Broad Beans - Harvesting

  • Pick broad beans for fresh use like snap beans when seeds are about the size of a pea. 
  • Commonly broad beans are grown to maturity and used as shelled beans. 
  • Time from spring planting to harvest is from 10 to 12 weeks. 
  • Pods are ready for picking once they have reached about 15-20cm (6-8in) in length. 
  • You can let them grow longer but realise the larger the pod the less palatable the swelled beans inside will be. 
  • Once the shape of the beans starts to show through the pod then you can harvest.
  • To harvest the pods, give them a sharp twist in a downward direction away from the plant. 
  • Check back and harvest every couple of days, as regular picking will force your plants to keep up production for about 6 weeks.
  • Pick from the bottom up when ripe and continue to harvest frequently. 
  • Finger-thick beans can be eaten whole or wait until the pod bursts open to harvest the fully ripe beans inside.
  • When finished, cut off stems for compost and dig roots back into the soil to make use of captured nitrogen.

How to grow Broad Beans - Storage and Preservation

  • For short-term storage (one week), place unshelled beans in the salad crisper compartment of your refrigerator.
  • Broad beans are great for storing. You can dry or freeze the beans, when they will keep for twelve months.
  • To freeze, pick fresh, pod, place in a plastic bag and freeze. 
  • To dry, pick, pod and lay out the beans in a dry place. Leave beans to completely dry and store in an air tight container. These can be sown next year or rehydrated for use in cooking.