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The bad, the good and the tasty

Joe Swift | 16:45 UK time, Friday, 5 September 2008

Well at the weekend I went up to the allotment to assess the damage. At first my heart sank as the whole plot looked awful. There were plenty of weeds and my peas and beans had completely dried out and died off which I was surprised about as I had been told it did nothing but rain while I was away. I also had tomato blight (like the rest of the world it seems!). Poor Keith had put so much into his tomatoes this year and very few survived - he was pretty distraught.

I spent a long old day sorting everything out. Weeding throughout and cutting back some of the herbs, which have done very well. I dug out all my onions and shallots so I could dig over that area completely, and got a pretty good crop of them. By the end of the day I looked back at it and felt excited about the whole allotment again. The soil in some areas is getting really good. I certainly won't be rotavating again, but where I clear I'll be digging over by hand and getting as many roots out as possible. Some areas I'll plant up with new crops and some will be left till the spring. 

On my rounds I harvested whatever was ripe. I took home a nice box full of squash, potatoes, raspberries, a few strawberries, carrots and some (hugely) oversized courgettes. Some of my sweetcorn had been nibbled by birds, but I still came home with a cob each, which we had that night. Oh my Lord, did it taste amazing. I have to say it was by far the best sweetcorn I have ever tasted and it was so sweet and juicy it didn't need any seasoning whatsoever. It made it all worth while again. 


  • 1. At 1:13pm on 07 Sep 2008, tigerweed wrote:

    Just a word on tomatoes. Last year on our allotment I was told everybody lost their tomatoes to blight, so I researched it a bit on the net. I found a web page on the internet where a guy talked about how to prevent these things and get great tomatoes. On it he said prune all the the leaves off the plant, leaving about six leaves on it as soon as the flowers have formed. This he said would give better air circulation and more of the plants energy would go into forming the fruit rather than photosynthesis. I tried it myself much to the horror of the people on neighboring plots, but I have to say my tomatoes have been ok, no blight and no illness at all.

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  • 2. At 3:51pm on 11 Sep 2008, U13266828 wrote:

    Dear joe
    why did you let you allotment get out of hand. You should have gone more often at least once a week.
    You also should planted in more organized manner. We expect more from our national tv gardeners. You wasted an opportunity to
    provide enough food for your family without buying from shops. Maybe you will do better next season. You proved all those on the message boards right that you could not handle the task. WHY . You let those who said you detractors where wrong down.

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  • 3. At 5:42pm on 12 Sep 2008, joeswifty wrote:

    Well ytsaneno
    to answer your comments in turn:
    I had a well earned holiday. Hope that's OK with you? I planted in a pretty organised manner, and have got it all back into shape thankyou. You may have expectations from a TV gardener, but I really am a first time allotmenteer and it's similar to the experience many have starting a new plot- that's the whole point. I go as often as I can- I don't think there are any set rules are there? I have provided more than enough food for my family as we have had a box of veg a week for as long as I can remember (in fact we can't get through it all). I am not trying to prove anything to anybody, but just getting on with my allotment, enjoying the process and developing what will be an extremely productive plot. It is my first year remember. I'm afraid I don't understand your last sentence at all? Is it in English? Any other questions? Joe

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  • 4. At 7:48pm on 12 Sep 2008, poppypurplefi wrote:

    Hi Joe, have been reading with interest the blog and comments on having an allotment. i have recently acquired one, which is just full of couch grass. I have to say I'm struggling, it seems like a never ending job getting rid of it. Having 4 small children over the summer have made it slightly difficult. They were pleased to see you talk about their schools entry into the the quirky container competition at Tatton, Daisies day out. I do enjoy being at the allotment everyone there is really helpful, but all have different advice and it is very confusing. Someone suggested I just set fire to the lot! don't think my shed would like that! I have to say it's a bit like banging my head against a brick wall...the previous owner seemed to think burying metal would also add iron to the soil, so am digging up all sorts of metal work as well. hey ho .. any advice would be helpful.

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  • 5. At 2:55pm on 13 Sep 2008, duxforddave wrote:

    I really enjoyed your answers on the 12th, Joe. I think it makes much more entertaining TV to see you debating what will work and discussing things with neighbours.

    As a new allotmenteer (I like that word!) myself, I've had fun comparing produce with you. Bet my beans are even more prolific than yours!

    I, too, have had cougettes that would do well in the marrow section at a show, but I've also had innumerable beauties and had fed not only my family but half the village!

    I get the impression that you love what you've achieved and I can imagine you taking a last look as you leave for home with a chest swelling with pride. Great stuff, keep up the presentation style.

    On the question of couch grass, I can only give my experience. In April, when I took on my plot, it grew a grand selection of couch, mallow, dock, bindwind and sow thistle. I dug it over with a fork pulling out all the white roots I could. All species are still there but are isolated so I pull them out, loosening with a fork to get as much of the root as possible. It's going to be several seasons before I win, but at least I'm growing veegetables alongside my returning weeds.

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  • 6. At 11:51am on 16 Sep 2008, amazingbirdy1 wrote:

    I think the comment that U13266828 made was a bit harsh.
    Ive only been an allotmenteer since last June and have never grown anything before as i live in a flat with no garden, ive had some successes and lots of faliures, also some times when its been a couple of weeks between visits due to work/family commitments.
    I think you are showing folks what its like to grow your own stuff and with rising food prices thats the kind of tele we need.
    Although it is a (friendly)saying in our house "wheres Joes bindweed then!"

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  • 7. At 12:33pm on 18 Sep 2008, joeswifty wrote:

    Ah amazingbirdy1, my bindweed is currently climbing all over my compost heap! Yet another job on the list. Thanks for your kind words. Joe

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  • 8. At 08:00am on 20 Sep 2008, annelebas wrote:

    Tomato blight: Aargh! It was oddly comforting to see that you had it too on last night's GW. Take no notice of the critics (see further down) - this isn't a competition, and it is great to see someone just doing the ordinary gardening we all do, with the time constraints, human and family needs like holidays etc - and having the same problems as a result.

    Anyway, back to the blight...When I was in the Black Forest earlier in the summer - a place where it's often cool and rainy - I noticed that all the gardeners seemed to have built little roofs over their tomato plants. They built a framework of poles and fixed some rigid plastic, polycarbonate or ordinary plastic over the top. The sides were open - it wasn't a mini-greenhouse, but presumably the "roof" kept excess rain off. I assumed that this was a techniques to stave off blight, which I should think is probably a regular risk there. I'm going to try it next year - it can't do any harm and those Black Forest gardeners seemed to know a thing or two. Just thought I'd pass it on.

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  • 9. At 5:23pm on 25 Sep 2008, modernMavis wrote:

    I grow quite a lot of tomatoes on my allotment, and during the last five years, I've lost a lot of fruit through blight (it mostly shows itself as mottled/mouldy fruit and brown sections on the stalks. I've gradually reduced my choice to one variety which claims to be blight resistance. Lst year I lost just about the whole crop. This year is better, but still not as good as it should be.

    I no longer use manure: chicken manure pellets instead. My husbaned does sterling work trimming off larger leaves, and many shoots. Better, but not damage free. I read advice about watering the ground, not the leaves, and I'm considering putting some sort of barrier on the ground around the plants, to prevent water splashes. Or should I wrap the plants on fleece (a water-permeable sort, to prevent too much water. I do think that the late summer rains and cold encouraged the virus!

    Incidentally, my local 'composting club' says that it is acceptable to put blighted foliage onto the compost heap, as the virus can only survive on living tissue. Any comments?

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  • 10. At 4:19pm on 20 Oct 2008, youngallotmentgirl wrote:

    i loved your response to u13266828!!
    Your a very brave man to take on an allotment for the first time infront of half the world!!! (taking one on in front of half of hampshire is bad enough!)
    The comments made by some are enough to put people off gardening for good.
    At 25, a girl and a full time worker i too recieved a few not so encouraging comments from the other allotment holders on my site in hampshire, no one believed i could do it. (if they gave me a little more help and a little less scowls i too would become as good as them!!)
    So what i have a few weeds, my courgettes were out of control and i planted enough seeds to supply an army, but i enjoy ever minute of mucking about at the plot.
    i wish i was an expert on everything like some people claim to be, but wouldn't life be boring if we knew it all and everything was alway perfect!!!
    Stick with, but hey no more hoildays now the plot comes first!!! hee hee lol
    x x x

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  • 11. At 6:26pm on 12 Aug 2009, telitub wrote:

    Please can someone help me, I have just lost all my Tomatoes in both my greenhouses it started with the leaves turning brown and then black and crispy this then spread to the main stem and the Toms then rotted at the flower point. I have Cues in with them but they are not affected. Please can someone tell me whot to do next

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