Another year over

… and a new one just begun.

John Lennon was singing about Christmas, but for us gardeners the new year begins now, in late October.

Ok, there may still be sprouts to pick, but already next year’s garlic and onions are in the ground.

I’ve still got lots of clearing up to do on the allotment, but if I can get the year’s debris cleared before Christmas then the year will be off to a great start.

Here’s how it’s looking this week:


So, how did 2016 turn out, I hear you ask?

A bit of a mixed bag, really. Things got off to a good start in the spring, but suddenly around midsummer I unaccountably lost interest. The watering and weeding slipped and the pests started to make inroads. Still, I had some good successes:

The biggest disappointments were maincrop onions – which struggled with the weather and pests – and especially fruit. The apples didn’t set any large crops; the pears grew well but were taken by an unknown agency before we could eat any. The strawberries got botrytis from the cold and damp. The raspberries suffered from lack of water in the summer and the blackberries just got ignored.

If you’re interested in more detail, there’s always the links embedded above or the full index on my 2016 Plot By Plot page.

Now let’s just hope my newfound enthusiasm lasts for an entire season!

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Since my last allotment update I’ve been on holiday. More on that in due course, but after getting back I’ve spent some more time on the plot.

It’s potato planting season and I’ve noticed that there seem to be as many different ways of planting them as there are gardeners. My way is the best, obviously, so I’d like to educate you on the winning method:

1. Dig a trench with your spade.

2. Space the chitted seed potatoes along the trench, a foot or so apart. Like this:

03 20160412_120122

3. Using a trowel, plant the seed potatoes in the bottom of the trench.

4. Chuck a small handful of potato food on top of each seed.

5. Gently cover the potatoes with soil.

6. Leave a shallow trench where the potatoes are, with ridges between the rows. Like this:

02 20160410_124824

That picture is of beds 02 and 03. I plant two rows per bed and the beds are 54 inches wide, so the rows are roughly two feet apart.

As the potatoes start to grow, you can use the soil in the ridges to earth up the plants, so the trenches end up as ridges. Spudtastic!

As well as planting potatoes, I’ve been preparing the ground for my cabbages and Brussels sprouts. It’s simple enough: Rake the ground nice and level, give the beds a generous sprinking of lime and erect the plastic pipe hoops that will hold the netting. Here are beds 11 and 12 ready to go:

11 20160417_145715 lime

It won’t be long before I plant up these beds, the young plants are coming along quickly in the greenhouse at home. Meanwhile there’s plenty more to do!

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Happy New Allotment Year!

Yesterday I planted my first 2016 crop: a bed of first early potatoes (Pentland Javelin). It feels like the start of a new allotment year.

So that means it’s also the start of garden blogging for the year too!

I’ve put up a plan of where stuff will go on my 2016 Plot By Plot page, which will contain links to each of the 26 beds as and when they get planted up.

I’ve made some resolutions for this year:

  • I’m not going to grow anything I don’t like eating or looking at
  • I’m going to calculate quantities a bit more carefully so that I don’t get gluts like last year’s cabbage mountain
  • I’m going to maintain vigilance against the slugs that make guerrilla raids from neighbouring plots
  • I’m going to harvest stuff when it’s ready rather than let it go to waste
  • Also I’m going to schedule my time better and make sure I have enough gardening-free days to go and do other stuff.

    You’ll notice I’ve made no resolutions about updating this blog. That’s deliberate. But for now, here’s yesterday’s picture of half of the plot (beds 1 to 12a) all pristine and ready for final raking and planting, empty apart from some daffodils (bed 4), some spring cabbage (10), and some perennial flowers in the foreground (12a):

    20160322_151552 beds 1-12

    The other half of the allotment has some way to go yet before it’s presentable. You can catch a glimpse on the left side of the picture!

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It’s Party time again!

Back in October 2014, I whinged that Party Poker charged a 3% fee on cash-outs. Given that all other main sites didn’t do this, I resolved not to play there again.

But well done them, they’ve recognised the problem and as of last week the fees have been abolished.

Just in time, really … I’ve been playing there for a couple of months. They gave away some free tournament tickets in December and I’ve been spinning up the winnings ever since. Free money, what’s a guy to do!

So today I cashed out $400 ready to spend in Vegas next month.

Way to go, Bwin.Party Digital Entertainment plc!


While I’m here, I’d better record my 2015 online poker results. They were a bit rubbish which is why I’ve been lax, but anyway…

Here’s the monthly profit chart:

2015 monthly profits

Not very happy reading is it! My only excuse is that I wasn’t at full physical fitness last year.

Putting 2015 into context, here’s my annual record:

2015 annual profits

Frankly, I’ve been slipping behind. The standard of online play has continued to improve, while I haven’t put any work into my game.

Here’s a profit breakdown by game type:

2015 profit breakdown

It’s pretty obvious that I should stay away from cash games until I fix some of those leaks. I won’t, of course; I’ll keep blaming it on bad luck.

Finally, here’s a breakdown by gaming site:

2015 site ranking

It definitely looks like I should stay away from Pokerstars and play on Party instead. No question. Although Stars software is miles better than any of the others, it’s also where all the best players are.

Note that two more of the poker sites I’ve used were closed in 2015. Times are obviously hard for online poker. Not only that, most of the online forums that I hung out in have now gone. Only PokerPlayersPlace are still going, although that’s pretty quiet too. Still, as long as there are games to play I’m happy.

See you at the tables!

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Remembering Malta

Last spring, Pam and I took a holiday in Malta. As usual, I took quite a few pictures, but as usual I didn’t get around to doing anything with them.

Until now, that is.

So now you can read about our hotel, the European Poker Tour experience, our trips round Malta and Gozo and lots of other stuff just by clicking this picture:

20150320 IMG_2162 st julians fisherman statue

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Autumn lawn care

That little lawn that I sowed in April has knitted together pretty well now. But it’s time to spoil its appearance with some Autumn lawn care treatment.

This is what it looked like before I started on it this morning:

20150929_110542 lawn

But then I

  • weeded out the odd patch of Poa that has found its way in to the Fescue mix
  • spiked all over with a garden fork
  • mixed up some top dressing: 50% John Innes no.1, 25% sharp sand, 25% spent multipurpose compost, a good handful of Fescue seed per bucketful
  • spread the top dressing all over, with a bit extra in the odd minor hollow, and brushed it in
  • gave it a nice sprinkling of water to wash the top dressing into the holes and to start the seed off.

Quite frankly it looks a right mess now I’ve finished. But it’ll soon grow through again and hopefully by Spring I can work on bringing the cutting height right down and making it into a nice little putting green.

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September Allotment Update

It’s been a month since my last Allotment update, so this is to bring you up to speed.

Autumn has set in now, a time of transition in the gardening year, when the harvest is in full swing yet plans for the following year need to be made. You can see evidence of this – along with signs of neglect! – in the pictures below. I’ve put the September ones alongside those from my 17th August update for comparison.

Looking up the plot from the bottom, everything looks a bit more overgrown and tatty. The potatoes in the right foreground are going over and ready to harvest, the sweetcorn has gone, the broccoli is pushing up its netting:

20150921_102158 plot east 20150815_131454 plot east

Looking up the plot from half way, the sweetcorn is nearly over but there are still lots of flowers to pick for the house:

20150921_102325 plot east middle 20150815_131420 plot east middle

Looking down from the top of the plot, the view is obscured by those massive sunflowers. But there’s a nice crop of apples coming.

20150921_102450 plot west 20150815_131338 plot west

Looking down the plot from the middle, you can see that some spring cabbages have appeared back left next to the rhubarb, while across the path the leeks are coming along nicely next to a box cage of winter cabbages that I set up a few weeks back.
In the right foreground, the carrot bed has done well and we are lifting these when needed.

20150921_102314 plot west middle 20150815_131408 plot west middle

Only one new crop harvested since my last update: a good number of Conference Pears. Apart from that it has been more of the same things we had in August.

If you want more detail, you can see the current state of each allotment bed by following Gardening –> Hornchurch Allotment –> 2015 Plot By Plot from the blog menu.

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