Tales from the Plot November

I visit my allotment every day if I can during this time of year, it’s mainly just to check that my hens are ok, collect any eggs and check they have plenty of food and water. I always try and clear the last of any summer crops as they can rot and harbour overwintering pests and diseases. I throw most things leftover in with the chickens then what’s left can be cleared up and thrown in the compost bin ….. the chicken poop helps whatever’s left to compost more quickly.
As the clocks have now gone back we are allowed to have a bonfire on the allotments. I try to have mine around bonfire night, we have to be mindful as the allotments are surrounded by private dwellings – I try and encourage other plot holders to have theirs around bonfire night as hopefully it won’t cause any problems, the last thing we want is surrounding residents complaining to the council ….. obviously never leave a fire unattended and please check before lighting that there’s no hedgehogs or wildlife nesting within the bonfire.
My grandson Sidney is always a little more keen to come down the allotment with me if I tell him we’re going to have a bonfire, I guess poking at a fire with a stick is a pleasure none of us ever grow out of.
Place a potato in foil in the middle of your bonfire then when the flames die down retrieve the potato, it’s usually a bit black and crispy on the outside but when broken open and a knob of butter added they’re rather excellent and accompanied with a mug of warm soup is a very pleasurable thing to do under a night sky.
It’s a great way to try and hopefully make lasting memories with youngsters, hopefully young Sid will remember these times after I’m long gone.
There’s still plenty to harvest: the parsnips, providing we’ve had a good frost – parsnips are always sweeter after a frost, I’m told the frost helps them to keep in the sugars. Swede, cabbages, winter kale, carrots and the two most important winter crops for me; the leeks and brussels sprouts should be getting ready now
Pick the brussels sprouts working from the bottom of the stalk upwards to make sure that all of the sprouts get a chance to swell, I also clear any of the lower leaves as this helps minimise pests.
I’ve had a bit of a disaster with the leeks this year as there is yet another pest that has found its way to our shores……the onion leaf miner (or allium leaf miner) is a fly native to parts of Europe that attacks plants in the Allium genus, which includes onions, garlic, leeks, chives, and more. The larvae chew the leaf tissue in a long trail down the plant, eventually forming a pupa at the end of the trail. Adults also will puncture holes in a plant to feed on the sap that comes out. Infested plants curl and become distorted. My onions and leeks have suffered this year, they just look like they’re in pain.
In late September I cut my leeks down to almost ground level – have they re-grown? We will see. We need a cure for this horrible pest. Next year I will try covering with Micro-mesh, sadly the list of vegetables that need to be covered to protect them forever grows. Some start broad beans off now but I’m not going to this year as I usually lose about 50% of them through the winter. I’ll start mine off towards the end of February.
I always put a couple of dozen lettuce plants in at this time, these winter varieties are tough enough to withstand most British winters and I’ve been quite successful in the past, however it is always best to have some protection on hand ready to use if needs be. 
Wet growing conditions can wreak as much damage as the cold, any tubs of potatoes I have left for Christmas must be covered with straw or in my case leaves which hopefully will stop them from getting frosted.
Richard Thorpe 15 B