Byelaw Men's Field

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  • Clearing up the site 14th June 2014

    Some photographs from our site clearup day on Saturday 14th June 2014.

    For several years now I have involved my grandchildren in my allotment but as two live in Sheffield and two live in Newcastle this has not been easy. Nonetheless they have a few raised beds in their gardens. I have one 9 year old grandson living in Leeds who sometimes helps especially when the strawberries, raspberries and peas are ready for picking. This year I came across the concept of ‘square foot gardening’ by Mel Bartholomew and decided to try it out although I had to call it ’30 centimetre gardening’ so my grandchildren could understand the idea. On my allotment plot I divided a six foot by four foot bed into twentyfour and my Leeds grandson planted these up with lettuce, radish, carrots, beetroot, a cabbage, a cauliflower, a broccoli, a tomato, a cucumber[this will grow up a frame rather than run along the ground], French beans, a sunflower, parsley and runner beans. My grandchildren in Sheffield and Newcastle have done something similar. Usually a bed is four feet square and to  maintain a steady supply of produce more than one bed will be required but a regular contribution of salad is already proving worthwhile. To find out more about this method visit: I intend to add my comments during the growing season, my first observation is that to grow at these spacing and to grow organically the ground should be very fertile. I will be comparing the produce with produce planted elsewhere on the allotment at the same time. My initial impression is that it is useful to grow in this way when space is limited and it is particularly helpful in engaging children in growing vegetables. I have been gardening almost 60 years and the pleasure of hearing a grandson say to his mother ‘here you are mum lettuce and radish I have grown’ is beyond measure. Perhaps as they grow older they might leave gardening behind for a while but hopefully it will be there for them as adults. For me coming along are my two youngest grandchildren, a baby and a two year old whose introduction to ‘granddad’s allotment’ has been to eat peas and raspberries.     Autumn 2011. This has proved to be an excellent method of introducing children to gardening. Apart from the French beans which really required several blocks for a worthwhile crop everything grew amazingly well and would have fared better if I had been diligent with the watering. For those with a small garden but space for a few beds it would work very well especially with salad crops which, with a bit of planning should provide salad almost all year.
  • Recent sowings

    Sowed Tomato,sweetcorn, courgettess, squash and sunflowers. All these placed on a windowsill to germinate.
  • Recent planting

    Two beds of potatoes planted,Red Duke of York and Lady Chrystal. I am taking a chance because last year we had a heavy frost, on the 16th May and this cut back the growth resulting in the crop being later. I have now planted a bed of onion sets and spaced them six inches apart in staggered rows to try and minimise the threat of white rot even though this particular bed has not had onions in it for at least 12 years.Onions from seed which was sowed on the 24th December are now growing on in a coldframe but will not be planted out until late April.
  • Planting By The Moon

    The notion of planting by the moon goes back to ancient civilisations. You may be familiar with how the movement of the moon influences the rising and the falling of the tides. This influence is not restricted to tides only but actually affects plants and the soil they grow in.

    My attempts to grow root crops by sowing seed in the open ground have either failed or germination has been erratic. Also, I think slugs and snails have eaten the seedlings as they emerge from the ground. Yet plot holders on each side of me seem to have no problems! It must be my sowing technique.
  • Carrots. Success at last.

    After minimal success in previous years with growing carrots, I decided to go down the designated carrot bed to be covered from sowing to harvest with Environmental netting.
  • Newsletters

    Byelaw Men's Field Newsletters
  • Growing onions.

    Growing onions from seed and sets.
  • Cabbage Root Fly

    A Tried and Tested Way to Prevent Attacks By Cabbage Root Fly.
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Growing onions.

 - click for full size image

Growing onions from seed and sets.

From seed.

As a rule I sow onion seed Alsia Craig and Kelsae between Christmas and the New Year. These produce large onions which can be entered in shows but I usually give them to family and friends to impress them. Sowing this early in the year fills an urge to start sowing again. I have no heat in my greenhouse so I start them off on the kitchen windowsill in 40 module trays. Once germinated I move then to the greenhouse placing them in polystyrene boxes [ex fish boxes] and covering them at night to provide more protection. Around mid March when there is pressure for greenhouse space I move the boxes to a cold frame on the allotment; if necessary I will transplant them into 7cm pots gradually hardening them off ready to plant out at the end of April. If hoping to achieve large onions I plant at 20cm [8 inch] spacing, staggering the rows. I find they usually keep growing until mid/late August, these large onions do not keep very well although I find they keep until October; by then they have either been eaten or given away.

From sets.

Onion sets are easy to grow you just place the onion in the ground sometime in March and harvest in late July/early August. Yet they are pitfalls, if the weather is cold and wet at the time of planting there is a risk that they will, as a consequence, bolt and run to seed especially if the cold wet weather continues after planting out. Looking over my records of the past ten years I have planted sets outside as early as 20th February and as late as 14th March. To get onions growing and to benefit from a longer growing season I now plant a large batch in either 7cm pots or 24 module trays in late January/early February in the greenhouse. These are moved to a coldframes when the space is required, normally in mid March, gradually hardened off and planted out in mid-April spacing at 10/12cms in staggered rows. This spacing results in medium sized bulbs which seem to store better than large onions and keep, in the right conditions, until late April/early May. Depending on the summer they stop growing by mid July when the tops keel over and they become ready for harvesting. If the weather is fine and sunny I leave them outside on trays to dry and ripen. If the weather is inclement I complete the ripening process in the greenhouse.

Winter Onions.

I always grow these from sets planting them around the middle of September at 12/15cm spacing in staggered rows. At the same time I plant a batch at 2.5cm spacing to use as spring onions as and when ready. The winter onions are normally ready by the end of May but once the previous summer onions are finished in early May then I start using the winter onions when they reach the size of a golf ball.

Storing Onions.

I store my onions in a cellar but garages and garden sheds are suitable too. For my ‘onion rope’ I thread the ripened onions through the blue rope you find on building sites Another method is to tie three lengths of stout string together and thread the onions through these. I find that whilst the onions are still ripening, with the stems still slightly moist, is a good time to string them. They can then be left to the ripening process. Years ago I gave up trying to weave the stems together to make a ‘French’ onion rope.

Growing onions.

Growing onions from seed and sets.

 - click for full size image