Allotment Diary (November – Week 3)

We’ve just past the ‘£11,000 harvested and processed’ milestone for the allotments this week and even though we intentionally switched a lot of production to lower value staple products, we’ve still exceeded our £40/m2 tally for last year. Next year I’m doing a lot more creative interplanting, so I think we will be well above £40/m2.

I mention this only because some of our famous UK market gardeners harvest about £20/m2 with significantly more effort than we do, which is more due to differences in the way we do our accounting than our prowess as gardeners, but it’s still interesting. I don’t think we will get to £12,000 this year, but we will be very close.

The first harvest of this years oca looks very promising

Effort is an interesting metric to consider, my long term average continues to hover at about 14 hours a week, but that’s not work, at least 10 hours of that is pure joy and I’m usually hard pressed to think of anything I’d rather be doing for those 10 hours. The remaining 4 hours, could reasonably be considered work: harvesting in bad weather, cleaning/packing veg, clearing beds, watering in summer, chopping compost materials and turning piles. So factoring all that in I’m harvesting £57/hour of work. Now I don’t always fully track Debbie’s hours, but then I don’t track everything we grow either, for example in summer I eat a lot of snacks while gardening! Even so £57/hour is more than I earned as a IT and Business Strategist back in the day.

One of many salad beds, these are Flashy Trout interplanted with spring onions

I’ve done a lot more on the allotment this week, a full 10 hours and that’s because the weather has been a bit better and I’ve been keen to plant out as many veggies as I can before the cold weather hits. I’ve also had quite a few videos to shoot this week. I’ve also enjoyed a lot of time out walking and the beach has been rather stunning, as this is sunrise/sunset season here in the North West.

At this time of year we get a good view of the sunrise and sunset, this is a sunrise

I cleared the last New Zealand spinach bed this week and I planted out two trays of spinach, these are spare trays, but I decided to interplant them into the field bean beds. My theory is that the spinach won’t grow much now, it will just sit dormant until March. The field beans will essentially have the bed to themselves over winter, but come March they grow so fast we have too many of them, so we will start snipping them off (leaving the roots to rot down and release Nitrogen to the spinach) so the spinach has the bed to itself. From now until March we will be harvesting the spinach from the polytunnel and cold-frames, but these outdoor spinach beds should take over as we head into spring. That allows us to interplant beetroot, turnips, radish, brassicas etc into the spinach beds nice and early.

I also thinned out my main spring cabbage bed at home and that gave me enough spares to plant out the radicchio bed that I cleared a couple of days ago.

I’m particularly pleased with the spring cabbages this year, they are lovely strong plants and we have a lot of them because we like to harvest them early for loose leaf greens, that way we get less of a slug problem.

I’ve also pricked out quite a few seedlings and potted on the perennial kales. I also posted out a few cuttings to youtube viewers who are desperate to get hold of them.

One of the under-cover spinach beds, that we will clear in early spring

I have successional planting and/or interplanting schemes planned for most of the beds, another example is this bed of baby brassicas in one of my low tunnels, which is growing beautifully and should take over from the main winter kale bed in spring, again freeing that bed up for more spring goodies.

Half a dozen varieties of baby kales, thriving in a low tunnel, they would be close to death outside in the wind

We are really enjoying huge abundance right now and are struggling to find homes for everything we have available. We have: fresh apples, erba stella, salad rocket, 2 types of turnips, pac choi, tatsoi, savoy cabbage, cabbage greens, kalettes, kalette leaves, Brussels sprouts, sprout leaves, 6 different types of kale, leeks, salad carrots, mature carrots, oca, salad potatoes, main crop potatoes, golden and red beetroot, red and golden onions, shallots, spring onions, 6 types of lettuce, field bean tops, spinach, parsley, chard, garlic, green garlic, Jerusalem artichokes, baby calabrese, purple sprouting broccoli, a lot of mixed herbs and winter squash. Not to mention the food in the freezer and the huge array of dried and canned preserves.

Salads for Debbie and I with added fruit

Debbie normally does all of the cooking, but most weeks I make a batch of bread, most of the dough goes to makes rolls, but I save a bit for pizza bases too.

My favourite bread, simple but such a luxury

Finally, I’ve decided to write a book. It will be created 100% online and blend together a lot of new textual content, with videos and lots of views onto my databases, which are being greatly expanded. The first release will focus on documenting what we do: our philosophy, techniques, varieties, planting plans and season extending cold-frames etc. I’m planning to go way beyond growing veg, showing how self-sufficiency fits into my philosophy of life, how to figure out what you want to eat when most of it has to be seasonal and how to translate hundreds of seed packets into healthy meals, all year round.

I’ve resisted starting a book for a year or so now because it annoys me how people keep publishing gardening books every year, with nothing really new or interesting to say. I’ve finally convinced myself that I have enough new and useful content to make it worth the effort.

Here’s this weeks sowing log.

Sowed this week

As already mentioned I’m well on with the planting now, this is what I’ve planted this week.

Planted this week

I now have a public view onto my database that lists every seed packet I’ve used in the last few years, as well as those I have in stock.  You can find it here and embedded below.

It’s worth noting that these embedded views are very powerful, you can search, sort, filter and export from them.

Here’s our harvests for the year so far, with the most recent at the top.  We’ve now passed last year’s total harvest value and we still have a huge amount of food in the ground to harvest this year, so I’m expecting to harvest about £2,500 more than last year.  This is party as a result of spending £200 extending the growing area in the back garden, a very nice payback!

Here’s a list of the preserves for the year.

I always like to keep a track of or first harvest dates and you can find a summary of those here:

YouTube videos for the week can be found here:

Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

8 Responses

  1. joy says:

    Hi Steve – delighted to find your blog through Harvest Monday on Happy Acres. I will need to find a time to go through all your posts in more detail but not today as the sun is shining. I have a couple of allotments on the south coast ad we are very nearly self-sufficient but i just need to be a bit more organised to take that next step. I have a feeling I could learn a bit about that from you.

  2. Thanks Joy, we manage to be completely self-sufficient in veg, make all of our own preserves etc, but we are a long way away from being self-sufficient in fruit outside of the season, although we have plenty of dehydrated apples and pears year round. I do a lot on organisation because I’m disorganised by nature, so I need systems to help keep me on track, also I share all those systems freely.

  3. Will DAVISON says:

    Steve, I love the book idea and hope you will include a detailed chapter on your polytunnel planting and regime AND another on seed sowing – reference the lights you have set up recently.

    Many thanks, Will

  4. Thanks Will, that’s the plan : All the best – Steve

  5. The spinach looks so perfect in that bed! Best of luck with your book project. There is always room for one more gardening book on my shelf, and I suspect there are many others like me.

  6. Unfortunately it will only be online, I’m retired and determined not to get drawn into working again and getting a book published definitely counts as work!!

  7. I especially enjoyed the video of the kitchen garden. The plantings look so healthy. An interesting idea to plant the garlic in the large pots for green garlic. It always does feel good to tidy up the garden as the seasons change.

  8. I hate to see an empty pot Sue! I won’t need the pots until June, so by then the garlic that remains after harvesting most as green should be a good size : All the best – Steve

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