Monday, 16 April 2012

A big weekend

A great weekend for edinburgh - the main crop spuds got planted! I mean, both Edinburgh teams got through to the Scottish Cup for the first time since 1896... On saturday I was all set to spend the afternoon, listening to the Dons trump the Hibees. Colin from The Fruitmarket installation team had called earlier in the day asking if I wanted any wood as they were taking down a wall - I never need to be asked twice...  By 1pm I had a stash of batons, and some 10 roller trays which were also outside in the skip - so I'm settling down, turn the radio on to find it was a 12.15 kick off, and that the Dons were already out.  Maybe it was best not to have listened!

Instead I go to work building some strawberry beds.  I've always found strawberries to take up a lot of room, for fairly limited returns, but a special request from Maggie and the boys, a load of spare plants for Goad next door and the challenge to build up meant that by five I'd engineered a truly allotment response... wasn't even thought of at daybreak!

planting the spuds
Good to also welcome Salah to help with planting.  Salah's a fellow dad from Leith Primary and had done a lot of growing in Sudan, but is interested in getting back into it here... so I took him to the Lochend Growing Project to see about getting a bed, having spent the morning planting out

  • the spuds(Main crops, earlies in sat 7th april)
  • beetroot (Cioggia and Bolthardy)
  • lots of flowers and under cover:
  • the leeks (Musselburgh)
  • courgettes
  • calabrase
  • cauliflower
Planting flowers
Had a great morning together  with Salah getting to know some of the northern crops - not sure what he made of the Welsh prog rock, which provided the soundtrack.  Perfect for growing...The carrots definately 'dug' it - here's them poking their head above the ground straining to hear...

Can you dig it?

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Fabulous forsythia, fabulous foreground

Was that the clocks changing or did someone turn summer on?

No plot plan just yet, but instead getting stuck into the shed - earlier in the year the winter storms damamged lots of the lean-to and sheds on the site, including my taking the roof off the greenhouse - so spent all day sunday establishing run-off angles and torcs with my dad as we built the new roof of the greenhouse, and now that that has been done, it was to mix my metaphors, like the gardening floodgates opened...

Spent yesterday evening engaged in some heavy tillage and prepping the soil to a folk and blues comp featuring Donovan.  When we and my twin were claiming singers in our teens (we couldn't share - we were brothers!) Donovan was part of my artillery attack on the hippies - fey, boring and not Dylan ( here's his cruel and insecure dismissal of an over-eager Donovan with a stinging tongue in cheek rebuke that 'its all over now baby blue') So it was good to find a live LP from 68 which is making me think again -  featured this gorgeous song -  and good to find the early summer evening to enjoy it...

So I  had to water the ground as its been two weeks with no rain, in order to break up the compacted soil, and then give it another soak - always best to do this at night so the water goes deep rather than evaporating off the surface... which is a nice corresponding opposite to the rule that says to sow early - as the first two hours are most important and therefore its best if its warm... which is what I did this morning...

Got the onions in, intercropped with carrots...

... as well as the Early Onward peas, broad beans (meteor), lettuces (various), cabbages (Hispi, Red Rookie and Primo) as well as the Olympia calabrase.  Pruned the blackcurrants, probably a little too late, but the stivcks will provide cover for the peas... and mulched the gooseberries...

Wednesday, 29 February 2012


The season starts in earnest with the classic chittin pic!  Although really just a chance to get the date on the blog - a one in every four years chance... This year the spuds are coming into the studio (although shhh don't tell my studiomate haleh) to chit.  After last year's bronze medal, this year I picked up the following varieties from the Bridgend Allotments Potato Day:

The coloured one (good for variety on Judgement Day): Red Duke of York (1st earlies)
The favourites: Maris Peer (2nd earlies)
The Scottish One: Arran Victory (Mains)
The one recommended by Alys Fowler in January, and apparently slug repellant: Sárpo Miro (Main)

The Sárpo story is quite an interesting one (albeit if you like potatoes, but then I'm presuming you have some interest if you're here...).  Firstly - Sárpo is pronounced Sharpo, so that it rhymes with Harpo...

The Sárvári family from the Lake Balaton region in Hungary have been breeding potatoes for high resistance to late blight for over 40 years.  Breeding started when Dr Sárvári Snr was director of Keszthely Research Institute (now University of Pannonia Georgikon Faculty of Agriculture, Potato Research Centre).  His Soviet bosses wanted a hardy strain of potatoes for growing across the USSR which would survive the ravages of climate and disease...

Left to right: Adam Anderson, Dr István Sárvári, Zoltan Sárvári  and William Wedderspoon
The Scottish connection: 

 While visiting potato trials in Romania, Scottish seed potato grower, Adam Anderson observed some plants surviving in a devastated field of blighted potatoes.  The hunt was on and Adam tracked the plants down in 1994 to the Sárvári family.  A company was soon formed to support the breeders, with Adam and other partners, including Scottish potato businessman, William Wedderspoon and the Danish Seed potato group, Danespo.  The company built a small breeding station near the Sárvári family home in the village of Zirc, near Veszprém.  The laboratory, greenhouse, potato store and experimental kitchen is surrounded by trial fields.  
Lots more info at the Savari Research Trust

I quite like to know more about how Adam hunted down the plants, and the commitment that required to go all the way to Hungary...

Sunday, 1 January 2012

Next door neighbours

The growing year started with a visit from wee Pat and his pals, our neighbours from the local nursery down the hill, who enjoyed both seeing the tadpoles in the pond and scoffing the contents of the biscuit tin.

The biscuit tin was replenished in time for the Lochend Growing Project's visit in November - some pics above. Lochend Community Growing Project is a local project encouraging people to grow vegetables.  I have so far been involved as a local in the group at the planning stage.  The group have got a great site down the road in Lochend, which they are currently reclaiming - putting in raised beds, fruit trees and in the long run a polytunnel. Do get in touch with them if you would like to get a raised bed this coming season, and get involved.  On our visit they were particularly interested in the composting toilet - which may or not bode well!

The final visit was like royalty visiting - the green carpet was well and truly laid out for @gardenergareth's visit in December.  Gareth is a gardener from Edinburgh, well Ratho, living in Donegal.  Not only that but it turns out he's on the radio! I'm a gardener from Ireland (folks live in Donegal) living in Edinburgh, who's not on the radio...

Having met and made pals on Twitter over the past year, when he said he was visiting home for christmas, it was too good not an opportunity to see if his wit was as quickfire in real-life, show him some sites and have a nice hogmanay pint of stout.  Gareth braved coming down to Leith, gave me some tips on a guerilla gardening site I got my eye on, visit the Lochend site and show him the allotment.  Jeez, that guy's #naemonty but he's sure is a professional when it came to the photos - he was like Zoolander!

Unfortunately he couldn't stay for a pint of the panda juice, but next time I'm travelling through Derry, passing Harry's in Burt, to visit mum and dad I'll pop in.  Rumours that Gareth forgot to shut the door when he and Leanne visited the Royal Yacht Britannia earlier that day are just that.  Meanwhile plans are already afoot to twin the growing cities of Leith with Derry, united in our love for good sustenance... Happy New Year all and best wishes for 2012!