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Account of my 2012 Allotment Failings, Misjudgements and Lessons Learned


OK I have to get a few things into print to ram some lessons learned into my head several times so I know for the future. Will be useful for others too. Better I make the mistakes. My head is full of excuses which I could use but I’m not going to. Perhaps a little permitted excuse can be that 2012 has been the first year of cropping at the allotment so there was no way of knowing what to expect from the soil and location. Not much good trying to judge from other plots as most are either abandoned or look like they are. Acquired in August 2011, all I got done last summer and autumn on the allotment was the clearing and double digging in preparation for this year.

It might surprise some people that I get anything wrong. It might surprise people even more so that I admit it. Well! to be honest I do not get very much wrong and what I do get wrong are hardly massive big blunders but here are the few things which didn’t go to plan or were overtaken by events. I had the same bad weather as everyone else in that I had continual rain from the second week of April until the middle of May with one fine day, a Sunday in late April when I knocked together the frame. Then after a brief fine spell in the second half of May it was back to wet for most of June. It is honest to say the allotment could not be worked or even walked on for most of that period. I did walk on the ground one day in April to do some planting when very wet and I wish I hadn’t because I compacted the soil so much the structure is damaged even now.

I am not using the wet spring as an excuse like most other people are because I got round the problem by potting plants on into bigger pots and sowing what would have been direct drilled seeds into modules. The wet weather didn’t prevent the plants from growing, far from it! It was getting onto the ground that was the problem. I adapted and overcome. No!! the failings are not weather related but a combination of growing too much for the size of allotment and at times biting off more than I could chew when the rush was on to catch up once the ground did dry out. I have been 3 steps behind and never even one step in front this year. Very few crops got planted out at the optimum time and very often were in pots for a week or two longer than they should have been. The Runner Beans spring to mind for being desperately late getting planted out and so do the Tomatoes because I was 2 months late getting the new tunnel up. My planting out was taking too long and the tunnel area needed levelling and firming. The Tunnel erection got put back and put back. It really was put up just in time and not a day too soon. So why the failing on that one? The failing was the assumption that we were going to have a spring like the last one and time would be on my side. Never assume anything as far as the weather is concerned. Time was never on my side this year. Only now am I feeling the winding down time is about to commence.

Other failings have been a life long gardening failing of mine of taking a chance, a gamble by leaving crops unprotected from birds, cats, foxes amongst others and hoping the birds and the rest wont touch them. It would have been an added task to fit in to rig up netting and I took the gamble. The Earliest Cauli’s and Cabbage were pecked to the ground by pidgeons and never recovered. The pidgeons were not so keen on the Brussels Sprouts and Calabrese and they got only moderately pecked and didn’t suffer too much. Cats and Foxes and the rest have not been a problem unless we include insects but that is another story further down.

Similarly, eventually I might learn that to grow really excellent Chrysanthemums it is not possible to do so without giving them covers to keep the rain off. Yes I have grown really excellent Chrysanthemums this year and far better than I expected up until yesterday when we had a thunder and lighting storm with heavy rain and hail. The blooms don’t look so excellent today I can confirm. Is it laziness or lack of time or lack of energy or lack of funds to blame because I know damn well it is essential to cover them and yet I didn’t. Some are still in bud or just partly open and they are OK.

Another failing is me imagining the allotment is twice as big as it actually is and therefore ending up with lots of plants but with no room at the allotment to put them out.

I also skimped on the insecticide spray when spraying the caterpillars rather than go and buy some more and now I have brassicas full of holes and hundreds of healthy looking caterpillars everywhere. Not devestated crops and they will still crop alright but they would look a whole lot better without holes all over them, and still I am going to have to go and buy some more insecticide spray so it would have been sensible to have done sooner rather than later.

There haven’t been any other failing which spring to mind right now but I will add any more over time. True to say most things have exceeded expectations and for a first year from a wild over grown plot things have done very well and I don’t mind blowing my own trumpet and saying it is all down to me and only me. I never have help on the allotment. I don’t want help. I allow my Dad to come over to do picking of Sweet Peas and Runner Beans but strictly no gardening. I believe too many cooks spoil the broth on an allotment. An allotment has to be a one man show or one woman show to avoid a fiasco. The more people who get involved the more a fiasco it becomes.

Failed crops have been Onion Sets (too late planting them), Leeks (too late planting them out from seedbed) Swedes (devoured by Flea Beetles) Early Caulis and Cabbage (chomped by Pidgeons) Bush Tomatoes (collapsed to mush from late Blight), Potatoes also went down with late Blight but too late to matter.

Feel tired at this time of year from it all and a little subdued, even depressed. I always do at the end of summer. Being a Nurseryman I am much happier working with the children and babies in Spring and not so happy working with the old dying folk in Autumn if I can put it that way. I am more like a Nursery Nurse or a Midwife, not a Funeral Director so the clearing and the slinging of the dying onto the compost heap is not me.

Will add more failings if any more come to mind. The sucesses post will follow in the near future. I thought it noble of me to do the failings post first.

More blog posts by sunnyhill

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Looks OK to me, just shows you can't win 'em all, don't worry, none of us has the perfect results we wish for.

18 Sep, 2012


Too much of a perfectionist I am. A few failings where I should have known better but like you say it has not exactly been an easy year. I'm in the East so I've been luckier than some. It has been quite dry here since the end of July. Before then it had hardly stopped raining since early April. Thanks for your comment Lizzie. I have been on this site for about 3 years but it had been so long since the last time I logged in I could not remember or retrieve my log in details so I started a new profile.

18 Sep, 2012


Don,t be too hard on yourself.....look at it another way this year there are not many butterflies. So! Well I know they are cabbage whites.....
Think of all the insects for the birds as well, and your beans look really healthy.......

18 Sep, 2012


Pam... Yes not many butterflies except cabbage whites. I have never seen so many caterpillars all at the same time. My brassicas were thick with them. I wish there was plenty of the colourful butterflies about but I don't see them anymore. Hardly saw a bee or a wasp this year aswell. Beans did well but the cropping period was short. A dry August here brought them to an early finish. My photo shows them in late July when the row looked at its best.

18 Sep, 2012


Well, at the end of the day no-one can achieve perfection and seems like you have had alot of success considering the weather this year, well done : )

18 Sep, 2012


You know what.....I really enjoyed that blog. I don't grow veg or any food plant for that matter and usually just skim through those blogs. I have to admit - you had me hooked!!
This will be a good reference for you next year. I'm no good at imagining either - I always plant too many plants and end up having to move things the following year - then the year after that throwing them out because I have no room!!
Those pictures don't look much like failure to me - so well done Sunnyhill......
I've been telling myself since June ''there's always next year''

18 Sep, 2012


Hi Scottish.... Really pleased you liked it. My feelings for the season just gone poured out and I feel better for admitting mistakes. I'm a notorious Ranter by nature but determined to tame myself in polite company. True that most things did very well and much better than expected. Thankfully the Summer improved towards the end.

Stevie...thanks. Thought it was all heading for disater back in April/May, the allotment was a bog.

18 Sep, 2012


I know just how you feel Sunnyhill. Friends in Canada say they have had a prolonged drought all year, and wonder what they can do to prepare for another one next year. Expecting vegetables to be very expensive.

re - the insects. Malva Moschata Alba plants self-seed.
Plant some next year amongst your Brassicas. On summer evenings the Hover flies come to them. Then they fly over and feed on Caterpillar larvae. If you are down the field late evenings you can watch them do this. It goes on until the 2nd week in September when the weather turns cold. Thats the only time I had to spray in previous years.
Great blog anyway.

19 Sep, 2012


Snoopdog... I knock myself when I know I should have known better. Having worked in the trade for many years there is no excuse. I don't go easy on anyone else with critisicms, so I believe I should practice what I preach. It did turn out to be a very successful allotment this year even though we had such bad weather earlier on. The successes far outweighed any failures.

Diane... Interesting tip of yours which I didn't know about. Have never made much of an effort with companion planting in the past remaining unconvinced about its effectiveness but I will try your solution and see how it goes. This year the caterpillars got so bad my Brussels were becoming skeletons so in the end I bought some Vitax PY Spray (pyrethrum) and zapped them.

19 Sep, 2012


I have seen other colours of Moschata plants. Dont know whether they are equally as effective, as it was in the afternoon when I saw them.
The White variety always worked well for me, until the Hover flies go into winter hibernation 1st week in Sept.
Thats why I dont Rotovate.
Just dig, allowing the Moschata plants to die down naturally, and the seeds to lie in the ground in the Autumn.
Then watch for the plants to grow again in the Spring.
Have learned this year that planting Nasturtians alongside Broad Beans keeps the Black Fly off. Must remember to get a packet of seed to try this one next year.
The Lemon Balm in a container buried alongside my Runner Bean row definitely kept the Black Fly off the flowers, so thats another one that works well. The birds didnt go for the insects and knock the flowers off. I got Beans 3 weeks earlier than I would have if I had left them.
All good fun.

20 Sep, 2012


Well Diane it is always worth trying a new method out. And like you say its all good fun. I think a lot of these preventions work by one smell masking another. Strong smelling companion plants literally throw the insects off the scent. I have an allotment neighbour who has nastursiums for the same reason as you are going to try them. If she is not careful she will end up with all nastursiums and nothing else. They self seed like there is no tomorrow. I do all my gardening with hand tools. I hate power tools for gardening and especially rotovators. A spade followed by a 3 pronged cultivator does a much better job of it. I do have a petrol rotary mower but that is all.

20 Sep, 2012


Me too. Job to get the spade in just now, our Cornbrake soil is very hard. Am using my Border Fork.

21 Sep, 2012

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