July 2019 | Allotment Trials Results

July 2019 | Allotment Trials Results


At the Allotment |

Trial 1 – Sowing Onions from Seed?

Welcome back to the blog. I have the results of some allotment trials I’ve done, and I’ve enjoyed garden visits to Wisley and Open Gardens Squares Weekend.  Is all in your garden rosy?  All in mine is windswept.  Bucketloads of rainwater that provided the less than welcome background to my recent day at Wisley (banner heading picture taken there) were very acceptable indeed at the allotment where strong winds have dried the soil out to well below one spade length down. The odd deluge helps a bit but if the winds keep blowing – help! This has been going on for about three months in this south east corner of the country. Do make contact with any gardening problems or successes. Look forward to your comments, always love to hear from you.

Allotment plot showing flowers, wigwams for climbers and chairs for relaxing - sometimes.I have been planting incessantly since my last post – onions grown from seed, Cavolo Nero, Yellow French beans, Purple French beans, Runner beans, sweet corn, courgette, marrow, Butternut squash and Crown Prince.  Some flowers, cucumbers and cabbages still to go in.

We have eaten great tasting strawberries and broccoli. Most of my leaf vegetables like Chard and Spinach Beet went to seed unusually early due to a blast of early heat and now need to be resown.

Vegetable section. Various structures waiting for beans and squashes to take off and start climbing. Bottle cloches protect from incessant strong winds this season.
Vegetable section. Various structures waiting for beans and squashes to take off and start climbing. Bottle cloches protect from incessant strong winds this season.

Some people may

remember in my post of November 2018  http://rosannathegardener.co.uk/2018/10/31/november-2018-the-big-sleep-top-tips/

I had been talking to other plotholders and many of us were finding onion growing from sets less than successful. Then I read in Gardening Which that they now recommended growing onions from seed. So I gave it a try and my goodness – these are sturdy and vigorous fellows compared to the puny items issuing from onion sets in recent years.  No comparison, for me decidedly the way to go in future.

I grew the onions, both white and red, sowing the seeds indoors from January/February and then planting them out when they were of suitable size. At the same time as planting out the seedlings I sowed next to them the remainders of the packets so as to stagger the harvest. When sowing these seeds outside they are supposed to go first into a seed bed. I don’t have room for one so I sowed directly into the onion bed.

Sturdy looking seed grown onions.
Sturdy fellows . . .

Mmmm. Shan’t repeat that. They were quickly overcome with weeds twice their size. Even so, the onions (they’re supposed to be particularly threatened by weeds) have survived in pretty vigorous fashion as many of them are doing fine despite having been beset by enormous weeds. I weeded each day for an hour until I cleared all weeds. In future all onions will go in at seedling stage, sowing successionally at home first and planting out with a couple of weeks in between plantings.

All in all a very successful experiment and I’ll be sowing onions from seed from now on.

Allium heads getting ready to flower
On the subject of onions I loved the shapes of all these Alliums (onion family) sitting in this bed waiting to come into flower at Wisley.

Trial 2 – Agretti trial

I am a “foodie” and having heard that Agretti were delicious, and served in fashionable restaurants, I thought I’d give the seeds a trial as one of my two new things to try on the plot each year (watch this space for the second newbie in future posts). From the pictures I’ve seen Agretti look rather like a huge chive plant. The taste, apparently, is akin to Samphire.

Sweet corn
Sweet corn.

Undaunted by the alarming amount of special instructions and disclaimers on the seed packet I started in February, soaked the seeds as instructed, took on board the natural low germination rate warning and put them into the electric propagator for a heat boost. Of the 20 seeds sown I was delighted to find three had germinated. They put forth some strands about 5cm long that lay flat on the soil and there they still are, unchanged many weeks later, neither growing nor dying. I suspect they need more heat to prosper since they grow in Italy but I limit propagator use to one week only. I tried watering them with salt water, as per instructions, but suspect this plant requires specialized conditions difficult to replicate. Unsurprisingly I understand Agretti are not grown commercially.

Not a successful trial.

Strawberry bed doing well - runners will produce at least 10 new plants.
Strawberry bed doing well – runners will produce at least 10 new plants.

Trial 3 – Pests and Diseases – what ails my plant?

Almost leafless Crinodendron.
One sad Crinodendron almost without leaves but the growing points look healthy so hopefully in time . . . more anon.

Not, strictly speaking an allotment trial because this concerns a beautiful ornamental plant hailing from Chile. As you probably know if your plant is unwell it is pretty important to find out exactly what ails it. Sadly, the small Crinodendron I bought at the Kent Garden Show suddenly dropped all its leaves – not known as a healthy sign in a plant. It was still indoors as I had not yet made a permanent place for it. I took it outside immediately to help with whatever ailed it and although not much more than a leafless stick I thought there might still be hope.

I had a lot of different types of plants destined for the allotment starting off in the house and some of them did not look too healthy either while others were absolutely fine. I couldn’t see what was wrong so I watched and waited and even examined the Crinodendron with a magnifying glass and light. After a while I spotted webbing – Aaaagh! the scourge of the “growing room” – spider mite.

To treat it organically I used my home-made garlic spray – other organic sprays are better for spider mite but I had it handy. If plant health doesn’t improve I will use others on the following list. Link below useful if spider-mite is also your problem.


RHS Wisley

Lake at RHS Wisley
RHS Wisley.

Early June trip to RHS Wisley. Rained all day! The new education centre not yet opened at that time – clearly a lot of work has been going on and the entire gardens have been brought up to date and look very good indeed. A lot statuery has been added and, although not usually a great fan of statuery in gardens, I was impressed by how those I saw blended in beautifully and I can honestly say added to the scene.

The rain, incessant thought it was, didn’t actually ruin the day for me. I usually browse around without a plan when I go to Wisley but this time since the updating, for the first time I went with a list of what to see and I got to see nearly all of it. Rain gave me a good opportunity to make a dash for the Glasshouse and take my time going around, looking more carefully than usual at the exotic plants – some amazing flowers.

The Rose Garden.
The Rose Garden.

The rose garden looked very inviting even though rain battering roses does nothing for their individual appearance. However I was able to see this garden now has a modern layout with the roses displayed amongst perennials. This not only makes for a better display but also helps to allay rose disease.

All plants are, of course, well displayed at Wisley (you’ll find the exotics above in the Glasshouse) – immaculately tended and always labelled which is an absolute gift for the visitor. I will suddenly stumble on a colour or shape that I particularly want for the garden and there is inevitably a clear notice of the plant’s name I can jot down to use. I am very keen on “blue” (in reality lilac/purple) roses but some colours are difficult to place in the garden and I am looking to make gradations from blue through to orange and at Wisley this time I found a perfect colour to help this sequence along.

I am less keen on the fact that I inevitably get lost trying to get from one section to another at Wisley even with their map – could be me?

Water lily on pond in Glasshouse

Dumb animals?

Inside the Wisley Glasshouse there were a few birds flying around their beaks stuffed with worms. Then I spotted a notice saying that the robins and wagtails had learned how to operate the automatic doors and now came and went as they pleased.


– Solitary bees

Regular readers will remember me saying in my post of August 2018 http://rosannathegardener.co.uk/2018/08/01/august-2018-midsummer-heat-top-tips/ that when I was training I was recommended by one of the gardeners to make a tea of the lime flowers from the trees we had in the garden but with a warning to take care not to make it too strong as it was very sophorific. This turned out to be completely true.

One day this June en route to the allotment I spotted a host of large solitary bee bodies dotting the pavement. I saw about ten, enough to make me wonder what had happened to them. Returning home some hours later in the early evening there were lots of solitary bees buzzing around the newly opened flowers of the lime trees that line part of my route between home and the allotment exactly where all the little corpses had been earlier. Judging by their wobbly and uncertain trajectories as they flew from flower to flower I think they had succumbed to the power of the lime tree flowers. They were drunk!

I continued for a while to see the odd yellow and black furry corpse under the Lime trees but, fortunately, never as many as that one particular day.

Open Garden Squares Weekend

After being a patron a few times over the years this year I volunteered for Open Garden Squares Weekend and had a very enjoyable day asking questions of the garden visitors to find out how they were enjoying the event. There was a good mix of visitors, some tourists, some Londoners and some from various regions of the UK and they all appeared to be enjoying the event enormously.

I chose two gardens in the Inner Temple for my stint, the Vestry House garden and the Master’s garden both of which were delightfully informal gardens that really stood out against the contrasting highly formal architecture – can recommend a visit to these.  Both gardens were immaculately tended and very much appreciated by the visitors – who were in their hundreds and I also got to meet the two head gardeners who were on hand to answer visitors’ questions. Both gardens were inspiring examples of what can be created in a garden in the built environment.

The weather was kind and there was that same happy atmosphere that I always notice in the London parks – people out to enjoy the day doing something they want to do.

The Open Garden Squares Weekend event is run by London Parks & Gardens Trust. Their mission statement is something I am very keen on [they] –

aim to cultivate knowledge and appreciation of parks, squares, community gardens, cemeteries, churchyards – all those spaces that form London’s open space network.


Bye for now and happy gardening.  Until next time . . .

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