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Spud Grubber's Blog

Guy Barter

  • Date Joined: 15 Jan 2007

Recent Comments

  • Double cropping

    Guy Barter on 25 Jun 2008 at 10:46 PM

    The very best land, much in demand by commercial growers of vegetables, fruit and salads, is sometimes called ‘double cropping’ land because it is supposed to grow two crops a year.  Allotments are very seldom to be found on double-cropping land; they are almost always on land no one else wants.  

    However, by spending money on manure, fertiliser and lime, allotment holders transform their plots into double-cropping land.   

    Over-wintered broad beans are an essential part of my double-cropping.  These are now over and have been pulled up through the holes in the black plastic mulch that has kept them weed-free since the autumn and consigned to the compost pit.  A tottering 2m pile of rotting vegetation stands over the 1m deep pit – all will rot down to fill the pit with rich compost by September.

    Through the black plastic, plants of winter squash are set out using a bulb-planter to plant each transplant raised in a 5cm degradable pots.  The soil is firmed round the pot and it is puddled in with several soaking of liquid fertiliser solution. It is a little on the late side to be setting out squash plants but the plants are strong, there is little damage to the roots by this method of transplanting and liquid fertiliser will get them off to a good start.  Some nitrogen will remain from the beans and some of the preceding potatoes’ heavy manuring and feeding will also remain.  I have high hopes.

    The over-wintered ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ peas are long-gone now and their place taken by a row of ‘Crown Prince’ squashes, and the subsequent March-sown ‘Misty’ has given three pickings and is now consigned to the compost.  ‘Misty’ might not be the heaviest cropping pea but by sowing two packets I have had a good crop of very tasty peas and it has proved impressively tolerant of wet soil and rain.  In its place has been sown a row of runner beans ‘Polestar’ for the simple reason that deer ate the first sowing of ‘Enorma’ and ‘Polestar’ was one of the few packets left in Wisley plant centre.

    More opportunities for double-cropping are imminent; garlic and shallots are drying off and will soon be ready to lift, a succession of broad beans and peas are scheduled to be harvested before August and the early potatoes will all be gone by mid July.

    Waiting in the standing area are celltrays of leeks, basil, coriander, parsley and other herbs.  More biodegradable pots have been sown with courgettes and cucumbers, while celltrays have been sown with Florence fennel, calabrese, cauliflowers, Chinese cabbage, kohl rabi and lettuces.  Packets of beetroot, French beans, dwarf runner beans, radish, rocket, turnips and finger carrots have been held back for the double cropping areas.  All these should go in before mid-July to get a double crop for the autumn.


  • Last plantings

    Guy Barter on 17 Jun 2008 at 06:24 PM

    Planting-out is nearly done with celery, celeriac and tomatoes going out last night.  This followed planting of summer and early autumn cabbages, cauliflowers and calabrese as an intercrop in between where the winter cabbages, sprouting broccoli and kales will be planted at the end of the month. The cool, moist weather is helping plants get going.

    True, leeks and some cabbages, cauliflowers and broccoli remain, but these are easy to plant in comparison. 


  • Dodgy muck

    Guy Barter on 13 Jun 2008 at 01:59 PM

    With record numbers of enquiries to the RHS gardening advisers about weedkiller damage to potatoes that often appear to be linked to manure contaminated with the pasture weedkiller aminopyralid, my heart has been in my mouth that I too might have bought dodgy muck.  But so far so good – all looks well and the spuds in particular are bold strong plants that appear to have benefited from the manure far more than from the lavish fertiliser usually used.  If you have had the misfortune to inadvertantly buy in contaminated manure, we would very much like to hear about it - when and where you bought it, what crops are affected and if you have been able to trace the contamination to the source - please email us at and put 'dodgy muck' in the subject line.

    Of the early potatoes, ‘Accent’, my long-standing favourite, is the most advanced and can be dug and is as ever delicious.  ‘Vanessa’ is not far behind but ‘Premiere’ is still recovering from frost damage and won’t be ready until next week.  It is amazing how things creep up on you – I went off to work at BBC Gardeners' World Live at Birmingham on Saturday after having to scratch round to find a few lettuces for my tea, and returned to find spuds ready to dig, broad beans in full crop, the first of the spring sown peas ready and the over-wintered peas nearly over.  Baby turnips, spinach and hybrid summer cabbages are also ready to gather


  • Most Excellent Rain

    Guy Barter on 04 Jun 2008 at 06:59 PM

    Heavy rain has restored the allotment soil to full moisture.  Winkling out spent winter crops revealed bone-dry powdery sand beneath, so it is certain that flowering broad beans and peas were suffering and would set fewer pods and potatoes would not initiate their full cropping potential.  All that has now been remedied by some most excellent rain.

    Brussels sprouts, autumn and winter cabbages and other brassica transplants, raised in small pots to get a head start on clubroot disease, were set out in the perfect planting weather.  The last of the root crops were sown in the newly moist soil; swedes, long beetroot for winter use and a very few (who needs more?) scorzonera and Belgian chicory.  Both, roots and brassicas are potentially very heavy yielding indeed so relatively small areas are needed.  What with adding plenty of lime to planting holes to keep down clubroot disease and placing mats to exclude cabbage root fly around each plant, it is slow work setting out brassica plants.  At least heavy watering has not been needed