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Milestone Passed, Swedes, Beetroot & Strawberries

A milestone passed!

When I wrote Vegetable Growing Month by Month, I really had no idea how it would be received. After all, I’ve had no formal gardening training and never taken a writing course either. I was pretty convinced the publisher would send a polite ‘no thank you’ back but, happy to say, I was wrong.

When it finally hit the shops, I had this fear people would be demanding their money back and threatening to compost me but I’m really happy to say I was wrong again.

So, what’s this milestone? Well, I’ve sold over a thousand copies off the website. Amazing for 6 months. I keep expecting it to stop, but so far, touch wood, the orders keep coming in.

Of course, sales don’t just go through my website. The online booksellers like Amazon, Play.com have them and they’re in the shops as well. It’s been in the Amazon top 100 for 3 months and twice it’s been the Play.com editor’s choice.

My publishers tell me I can’t reveal the actual sales figures and I’m just to say ‘it’s doing well’. So – it is doing very well. I think the reason is that it is honest. It’s great to quote theory and suggest the latest fad – there are fads in gardening, but don’t get me started on goji berries, you can enjoy strawberries, but them goji berries.. (6 page rant about TV gardeners deleted)

Honesty is important, if you don’t take the fact that sometimes the weather is against you or a plague of slugs / caterpillars / blight can ruin your efforts even if you’ve done everything right, then people blame themselves and give up.

In growing you need to keep positive and concentrate on your success. So this year, we’ll gloss over the onions and remember the garlic. We’ll forget the caterpillar munched cauliflowers and enjoy some of the best carrots I’ve ever grown.

Last year the climbing and French beans were a disaster. A few runners and about two meals worth of French beans was the lot. This year we’ve stocked the freezer with both and the Borlotti beans look about enough to fill a sack. Not bad.

Saturday on the Plot

Down to the plot for a gorgeous Saturday. The sun was bright but not scorching and I’d almost forgotten how lovely a blue sky is. I was amazed how few people were on the site, being such a day I thought it would be crowded out but for most of the time I was almost on my own.

The first thing I did notice was the chap who has taken over the late Alan’s plot was busy building paths and raised beds. It was hard to miss, as he’d come in a Massey Ferguson 365 tractor. Now I’m not too competitive. I don’t really care if your car is a Ferrari or a banger but rotovators are a different matter. How can my Merry Tiller compete with a hulking great tractor? Grrrr.

Anyway, seething with jealousy, I went over to plot 29 to carry on with the autumn tidy-up and harvest. The swedes were not bad, they’re actually a harder crop to grow than you might expect. Mine were reasonable size but the blessed caterpillars had struck, turning the leaves to ribs sticking out looking more like a succulent than a brassicas.

On the same bed, I’d a row of beetroot so they went into the bag. They’re quite nice looking but I don’t like beetroot so it’s hard to be too enthusiastic. Val like them though, so I grow them for her.

The small raised bed by the path was down to a few spring onions, so they came up as well and both beds were cleared of weeds.

I avoided the dreaded red ants and managed to get a few nettles into the green bag to shift to the bin without getting stung. Then I absent-mindedly put my hand in the bag and got really stung. I think I’ve got some super nettles, as my hand was still irritating when I went to bed!

Back over to the sweetcorn patch, where some of the plants still had small cobs on, which are now ready. This year I grew less plants but we’ve had 2 cobs at least of all of them and 3 or 4 off some. So much for not over-growing this year.

The strawberry barrel was next but a short break to give Paul some comfrey plants. I’d taken a cut of the comfrey to lay between the rows of Sarpo potatoes and provide some organic fertiliser. Amazingly some had rooted so they needed to come out quickly. Once established with really deep roots they are hard to get rid of, even with chemicals.

We also spent a few minutes playing ‘hunt the butterfly’ that had got into his netted brassicas. How do they do it? Then back to the strawberries. When I filled the barrel, I had enough plants for the sides but not the top. Some of the runners had set into the path so they were transplanted to the top and added a bit more of the compost/vermiculite/osmacote mix.. I also trimmed off all the runners that were there. Once established, each strawberry plant will make 3 or 4 plants a year, easily.

Sunday and next week look promising, what a shame we didn’t get the summer in summer. Still, make the most of it.

Massey Ferguson Tractor

Massey Ferguson Tractor

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
8 comments on “Milestone Passed, Swedes, Beetroot & Strawberries
  1. Julia Lawson says:

    Hi John,
    Oh the caterpillars what can I do apart from flicking every one into a pot and doing what they deserve? They have trashed my sprouts and seem to be munching thier way through everything with a green leaf.
    I love to recycle and the netting that goes around the big round bales you see in the fields is a cheap (free) alternative for netting fuit and brassicas.
    Love to read your diary often makes me chortle to myself especially when a head cold is getting me down like today. Cheers John.

  2. jacqueline and alan says:

    Dear John,
    It is a nice RED tractor though, don’t you think?
    JW

  3. button1 says:

    Dear John, Hi just to let you know I purchased a copy of your book (through your site)a couple of weeks ago and it’s fair throbbing with knowledge and practical common-sense advice. I’ve just got the key to my allotement today – Hoorah! Your book will now be my constant companion…and yes I must agree it is a nice red tractor…

  4. MrsNibs says:

    So, are you re-doing your barrel then? This is my year 1, do I need to repot the strawberries for year 2? I have them in a sack but might get something prettier for year 2.

  5. Tony says:

    Hi John,
    Nice to hear not only me has failures on the allotment.
    My failures this year have been as follows
    Carrots – Don’t know what went wrong but had 6 carrots!!
    Peas – reasonable crop but nothing to right home about
    Potatoes – wire worm in three varieties

    successes —
    Borlotti beans –WOW!!!
    ‘Trail of tears’ beans from the Cherokee indians – buckets and still picking.
    Onions – no complaints.
    Sweet corn – Just goin to pick ’em
    Shallots – three types – n three successes
    We got some pumkins growin – but still a little small ( Shallots might be bigger) Oh well beter luck withem next year!!

  6. Phil says:

    One thing I was hoping for in the book, but didn’t get, was an indication of what you might grow, when you’d sow it etc, and how much of it you’d grow, to feed a family of four all year round.

    Now, I appreciate that one man’s broccoli is another man’s goji berry, but I’ve yet to find any book or site that does this other than a reproduction of 1944’s Dig for Victory leaflets. Once I had an idea of a perfect year on the allotment, I could then tweak it to suit my tastes.

    However – it’s still a great book and I’m glad you’re doing well.

  7. John says:

    Jacqueline – yes it is.. my Merry Tiller is red as well!

    Tony – Trail of Tears – heard of those, what are they like?

  8. John says:

    Phil – well I see what you’re asking but I can’t see a way to really give you what you want. For a start, it depends what you like and will eat. I dislike beetroot – but you might love it.
    Even then, what yields will you get? Oh there are theoretical yields but everything from weather to pestilence and plague not to mention variety affects yield.
    You do get a feel for what is probably right for you and I’m addressing your question to a small degree in book 2 in a general way.
    Julia – answering your question in my next entry 🙂

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