So, about that plan…

I have one survivor from last year, after heavy rodent damage.

For various reasons (AKA rodents in the greenhouse) nothing was sown to overwinter.

A month or so ago I sowed both types (I shall call them Dutch and English according to their source) in small pots; nothing has happened yet.

Yesterday I sowed several rows of English and Dutch on the allotment, as it is no longer underwater but isn’t yet dried solid.

It… doesn’t look very exciting yet.

2015-05-15 20.10.10

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A plan

The seedlings have just begun showing their true form. Always reassuring to confirm you have the right plant!

2014-07-16 20.34.11

The Plan now is to sow as many seeds as I can fit in individual pots, in the unheated greenhouse over winter. I shan’t select for germination times at this point. Then in spring I’ll plant them out in a staggered grid pattern and away we go!

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Feet of clay

I plumped for the plastic mulch option while I fiddle with a small area to see what happens. Two months is not quite long enough to kill buttercups it turns out, as they are regrowing among my maize. A further illustration of soil type is this picture:


This is a lazy bed of unhappy oca. The raised planted bit has baked solid but the trenches become moats after one good storm.
I hope skirret likes wet feet!

Speaking of which, the homeless seedlings from this year have been planted out away from the allotment as a kind of living back-up/seed source. Something disagrees with my plans though and keeps carefully uprooting them!


Such is life!

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Clearing the plot

I thought I’d share a bit about the plot I’ll be working on, so we’ll be diverting from skirret to cultivation and maybe some Three Sisters in a few weeks.

So. This plot is 9m x 14m, south facing, pretty flat, bordered by other allotments and what seems to be pasture. According to Soilscapes it is “slightly acid, loamy-clayey, moderate to high fertility, impeded drainage”. The buttercups seem to back this up. It was ploughed two years ago, cultivated for one year, and neglected for the past year.

allotment 140520 looking west

There seems to be decent grass coverage, lots of creeping buttercup, occasional spear and creeping thistles, a handful of docks and the odd willowherb. I also eventually uncovered a raised bed with some impressive seed stalks – I suspect carrot?

Two hours with a sickle and rake gave me 9m x 4m of shorter vegetation. There are some odd lumps and bumps in the ground, and a couple of binbags of leaf mould. I also found a folding chair!

140520 looking south west after raking


Once the rest is trimmed, I have a few options. I can go for some lazy beds where there is enough grass cover (and if I rustle up some seed potatoes). I’ve been offered use of a rotavator, so could turn over the whole lot, sow densely with a green manure, and then start planting crops amongst that. Any digging risks spreading the buttercup roots. Another option would be to cover the lot in thick black plastic, though then I would lose a lot of water. I don’t have the means to bring in enough mulch to do a lasagna-style thing.

I have also sown in pots some maize, winter squash, and peas/beans to do a rough version of the three sisters, because why not? The squash foliage is also good for shading out weeds. If I did lazy beds, would the squash go on top and the maize/beans in the trenches? Or vice versa?

Another point to note – there are two triangular areas bordering the allotments that are currently mainly grass with some docks and buttercup. I’m seeing an unwanted seed source, but also a potential source of compost…


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Skirret (Sium sisarum) is an old type of root vegetable that has fallen out of favour in recent times. I am one of a few attempting to bring improved varieties or landraces to the table. Essentially, this means growing as many plants as possible, and keeping the seeds and roots from the best individuals.


Skirret is an umbellifer that can grow to around 1m tall, but we are interested in the sweet, white roots. After the second year of growth, these roots are – or should be – nice and chunky. In my experience, skirret is not fussy in growing or setting seed. This is excellent news for a breeding programme!

My aim is to get to a point where my seeds produce reliable, nice sized roots whilst keeping the flavour, under “minimal interference” conditions. In other words, the Yorkshire weather will be my partner in making selections.

Please also note that I am a complete amateur, and am making this up as I go along using a flexible approach depending on many different factors.

Now, I have only just got some land to begin with, so first I must clear and evaluate it. It is also not the best time for sowing seeds! Some people have had success with autumn sown seedlings, but I need to look into this further.

If you know any snippets of information, or even another person cultivating it, please let me know!

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