Sunday 29 August 2021

Allotment Update - late August 2021


Guess what I have spent a fair bit of time doing in the allotment?! We've been eating home grown potatoes for the past month or so but a couple of weeks ago, the haulms of the many remaining potato plants got the first signs of blight, so I chopped off the leaves, with just stalks remaining above ground to mark where the plants were. I've given the skins of the potatoes a little time to harden off under the ground and then set about lifting them in earnest over the past few days. 

Luckily most of the tubers are in good condition for storing and any that aren't, either with one or two holes from slugs (or by my slicing through them!), get eaten up quickly. I use an old cloth to rub the soil off the tubers, ensure they are dry and then pack them into cardboard boxes with cardboard dividers between each tuber, that way if one does go off, it is not in contact with others in the same box. Looking at the haul so far, we will have our own potatoes until at least Christmas and maybe a little while into the New Year. They make great chips!

This is a snapshot of the harvest about a week ago. Courgettes, too many courgettes! However, the turnip was quite substantial and was used to accompany pies from our local butchers and in a curry. 

One of the perhaps fifty or so onions we have got hanging up in our store, though again we have been eating them since the start of July direct from the plot. Our porch (more a utility room to be honest) is the coldest place in the house and is good for storing potatoes, onions, garlic, apples and pears though the available space was reduced a few years ago when we have converted part of the room into a downstairs toilet (the benefits of this outweigh the reduction in storage in a family of five!)

Won't be long before we have home grown carrots. In between the stacks are some cosmos replacing the earlier wallflowers and behind the cosmos are minarette pear trees and the grapevine which has been productive this year.

The sunflowers are at least eight feet tall! Positioned in between two pyramids of borlotti beans for storing, they are competing with each other for light and so all are growing really tall. The allotment is east-west so they all get sunshine at various points during the day and it doesn't seem to be having any detrimental effect. 

At the top end of the allotment this year are mini sweetcorn and brassicas. The green net has been a very useful purchase over the years and seems to have kept the cabbage white butterflies out. The nasturtiums are useful for many reasons, not only for pollinators but as a distraction plant for blackfly and good ground cover into the winter until they die off with the first frost. 

This Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) was sunbathing midweek in the allotment on one of the carrot stacks and was unperturbed by my pointing a camera at it! We have one also coming to the buddleia bush in the garden along with numerous small tortoiseshell butterflies. 

Sunday 22 August 2021

Gymnastics in the Wasp Olympics!

This wasp was busy performing gymnasics on a piece of fruit as it cleaned itself in the composting bag in the yard!


Sunday 1 August 2021


Over the past few months, we've been spending a bit of time trying to identify wildflowers. In fact, this has opened our eyes to quite a number of plants that we probably overlooked before and indeed some that we don't recall seeing. 

There's a new cycle route opened recently along the long-retired railway line from Tadcaster to Wetherby. Some of the route, from the Thorp Arch Trading Estate to Wetherby, has been open for a while now (and recently resurfaced which is a much needed respite for my back, bones and bike!) but the link from the Tadcaster to Boston Spa road to Thorp Arch over the River Wharfe is a recent addition to the route. On my first (and previously only) cycle ride up this route, I saw a grey wagtail and there's plenty of other bird life as it is well wooded and plenty of scrub land which is ideal habitat for many species. 

Thorp Arch Trading Estate is on the site of a former wartime Army munitions factory and some of the retail outlets and other businesses are in converted bunkers and wartime buildings. When we first took on our allotment, about eighteen years ago, an old chap who had taken over his allotment from his father in 1946 was using parts of railway carriages from Thorp Arch, dismanted after the war, as sheds. Given that the carriages will have probably have been old, redundant ones used as storage or premises during the war I expect they were probably dating from Victorian times! 

Near the trading estate there's quite a large area of tall, yellow flowers, standing to above five feet (150cm). These we identified as Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) and they were teeming with hoverflies, bees and other insects. However, the Mullein Moth is an early season flying moth and so it was unlikely there would have been caterpillars on these plants 

One of the plants was going to seed, so we have saved some and will try and grow it at home. It is a biennial, like foxgloves, so it will be in two years time that we can hopefully enjoy these lovely plants in our garden or allotment.