Category Archives: Growing


03 May 2012 – At Allotment Plot at MERL the Soil was wet. Ella Montt earthed-up the Potatoes as EB watched from the reading room window. Frost was still a danger and could be for a while. Last growing year (2011) frost came late. The soil was a necessary protection for the Potato plants and any forming tubers.

Ella Mott replanted some of the Peas, because wild life was feasting on the tender germinating shoots as they emerged from the soil. Ella Mott continued to construct a support system for the Pea plants that will succeed in growth beyond seedling state. Whilst Peas grow they extend tendrils to grab on to what they can, if there is no object to support the plants they collapse. If the Pea plants have collapsed in to a mass of plant material, it makes it harder for insect life to gain easy access to Pea flowers for fertilization. This results in less Pea pods. The plants at the bottom of the mass closer to the soil are more likely to rot in wet weather. Peas are easier to harvest if the plant has a support system.

Next to the Peas the replanted Broad Beans were growing healthily. Rocket Esmee was flowering and going to seed. A slug or snail had stripped the leaves of the Comfrey that was trying to grow in the Brick Composter; only the skeletal remains of the plant were left. At that moment the temperature and conditions felt right for the time of year. Active bird life could be heard in the trees and bushes surrounding the garden.

6th May 2012, in the morning at the fixed up Green House Ella Montt planted more Squash and Tomato seeds. It was late in the year to be planting Tomato seeds, but other seedlings had died in the extremes of hot and cold weather, so replacements were needed.

On the same day, at Allotment Plot 326, Ella Montt dug a section of soil. The soil was moist and heavy. Ella Montt planted vegetable seeds. The Garlic was growing well, the Onions not so much so. Some Potato foliage was emerging out of the soil.

Seeds planted: Parsnip Halblange White; Leek Giant Winter; Carrot Rothschild; Turnip Golden Ball; Spinach Perpetual Leaf Beet.

Harvest: A mixture of Chard and Spinach = 4oz = 120g.

10th May 2012, torrential rain stopped Ella Montt from going to the Plot. On 11th May at Allotment Plot at MERL, Ella Montt removed some of the self-seeded companion planting Pot Marigolds, because there was an abundance of them.  The removed seedlings were to be taken to another location and replanted. May 11th was day of beauty, a breeze moved the clouds around the blue sky and sunlight warmed the soil.

The Broad Beans growth continued to look green and healthy. The Peas growth was more sporadic. Last night Ella Montt had witnessed the legendary authority on vegan organic growing (Tolhurst) speak on biodiversity and under-sewing crops with green manure plants; the act of which helps to suppress weeds whilst improving the quality of the soil.

Harvest: Rocket Wild and Esmee = 4oz = 120g.

24th May 2012 – It was a warm day. The soil was drying in to a concrete like structure. The Vegetables were growing. The Peas, the Broad Beans, the Potatoes, the Onions and the Garlic, they were all growing. An uncertainty drifted and hung in the air, the danger of frost had surly passed? The replanted Broad Beans were starting to flower. A few black fly were on the plants, but it did not seem like it would be a problem.

Planting Harvesting Drought Rain

25th May 2011 – At Allotment Plot 326, the first Garlic harvest of the year (2011) happened, (more to follow).  Garlic Harvest = 5oz = 120g.

Plants were transplanted from the fixed up greenhouse to Plot 326. Plants were: Tomato Gardeners Delight x 18; Courgette Patriot F1 x 2 and Cocozelle x 2; Beans (French Dwarf) Royalty x 6; Climbing Beans Barlotta Di Fuoco x 5; Squash Buttercup x 3, Green Hokkaido x 3, Marina Di Chioggia x 3, and (Pumpkin) Cinderella x 2.

Drought continues.

Thursday 26th May 2011 – and as if by magic there was a sudden rain shower! Ella Montt, who had been holding her breath (metaphorically speaking), wondered whom it was that had done the rain dance? She thought perhaps the action had been done in a more easterly direction, because she had heard on the previous day that the wheat growth was small and the plum trees leaves were turning brown and falling. Who had done the rain dance, was it Bob? Or could the dance have been more local? Tolly perhaps? The lack of rain was causing havoc with the growing process, if it did rain, the ground was so dry, the moisture barely touched the soil before the wind blew and any dampness evaporated. This happening was too quick for the rain to do any good within the vegetable creation system.

Ella Montt stood in the shed preparing to go out and get wet in MERL’s garden where she would examine the Plot. Ella Montt exited the shed and walked towards the Plot. The Climbing Beans that had already been planted were not looking very healthy. The weather conditions although excellent for general human well being were not allowing the Climbing Beans as yet to achieve healthy growth. Some of the Climbing Beans looked like they were suffering from frost bite or the drought. The day light hours were for sometime now were normally warm and sunny, but at night the temperature was dipping down low. The spring almost felt like summer so in actuality summer was early which meant that some plant growth was premature. Last year it had been cold for a very long time and plant growth was late. This year was the reverse, but neither year seemed an ideal state to stimulate stability in vegetable materiality.

Ella Montt restructured some of the Plot. Peas were supported, weeds and some green manure were removed to the Brick Composter. More Sweet Corn seeds were planted to fill in the row. Six more of each of the beans were planted, French Bean (Climbing) Barlotto Lingua Di Fuoco, Blauhide, Blue Lake, and Neckarqueen and Runner Bean Enorma.

Harvest commenced at Allotment Plot at MERL: Peas Meteor 3oz = 80g; Broad Beans 6oz = 160g.

31st May 2011 – Harvest at Allotment Plot 326

Broad Beans 1lb 8oz = 780g; Spinach 10oz = 300g.

June 2nd 2011 – Ella Montt acquired some giant canes of Bamboo; this reality was part of a reoccurring dream state that Ella Montt had lived in for more than a year. How to incorporate the giant Bamboo in to the Plot was a different matter that involved shifting and negotiation. Meanwhile the Bamboo was suspended in the holding area bubble just outside the Plot.

At Allotment Plot at MERL Ella Montt redefined and neatened the edges of the Plot, placing all grass trimmings and plant residue in to the Brick Composter.

The Climbing Beans were still not growing healthily, Lady Eve leaned out of the Reading Room window and projected across the garden a reminder to Ella Montt and to anyone else who was tuned in to the frequency that it was still early in the growing season and not the height of summer! The Peas on the other hand were in physical state of flowering. Some of the Squash were starting to appear established in their positions on the Plot. Watering of the Plot was intensive, after the rain shower of last week drought had continued. Any rain that fell evaporated soon after it touched the soil leaving no evidence that it had fallen in the first place. Ella Montt gazed in to her crystal ball searching for signs of rain, but saw no rain was in the predicted forecast for the next ten days.

Harvest: Broad Beans = 8oz = 250g.

June 3rd 2011 – Allotment Plot 326

Transplant: Sunflower Jerusalem Gold F1 x 5; Artichoke Arad x 2; French Bean (Climbing) Barlotto Lingua Di Fuoco x 12, Blauhide x 14, Blue Lake x 9 and Neckarqueen x 9, Runner Bean Enorma x 6; Squash Fictor F1 x 3 and Red Turban x 3; Cucumber Tanja x 1 and Marketmore x 1; Melon Sivan F1 x 1.

Harvest: Blackcurrants Sarek (1st harvest from bush planted in January) = 2oz = 40g. Broad Beans = 2lb 2oz = 980g.

June 4th 2011 – Ella Montt interfered with plant growth at Allotment Plot at MERL during MERL’s Fete, which was a social event. Ella Montt dug up excessive companion planting self-seeded Pot Marigold seedlings and fractured some of the Mint Rhizomes, removing these Mint roots from the Plot. The ecosystem of the Plot was only mildly adjusted. Ella Montt handed these plants to participants to plant in their own Plots in whatever form that might be, a number of plants were donated to a local Guerrilla Gardening project.

On June 5th 2011 it rained steadily through the night.

Sun Drought Frost Rain

18th April 2011 – In the studio the rooting Sweet Potato was observed sitting in its glass jam jar of water on the table in front of the window. The Sweet Potato was absorbing the sun light. A tiny dark reddish/ purple leafy sprout (slip) had emerged from the tuber. Ella Montt stared at the Sweet Potato, it was the first time she had witnessed so close the emergence of life from a Sweet Potato tuber. The root formations were of interest and also the initial growth of the leaf bud which will lead at a later stage to the vine structure.

Later in the day, at Allotment Plot 326 an area was cleared of sticks and branches that had been cut from the original Apple Tree and lain on the ground for sometime, (the original Apple Tree existed on the Plot when possession was granted last August). This area of the Plot had been used by the previous tenant and was some how despite the drought still workable with the assistance of the fork and spade tools.

19th April – Water was applied with a watering can to Allotment Plot 326’s planted areas. Drought was still in occupation. Ella Montt planted five rows of Peas in the soil that she had been able to dig on the previous day. The Peas were the same types of seeds that were planted at Allotment Plot at MERL on 24th March; Pea Kelvedon Wonder, Pea Ambassador, Pea (Edible Podded) Ezetha’s Krombek Blauschokker, and Pea (Mange-tout) Oregon Sugar Pod. Ella Montt then pushed some of the Apple Tree sticks into the soil next to each row of Peas. The strategy of utilizing the sticks was to exploit a two-fold defense mechanism, potentially the first fold being an attempt to prevent Magpies and other wildlife from eating the Pea seeds and secondly to act as supports for the Pea plants as they grow. (Pea plants have tendrils that reach out to attach themselves to a supporting medium). A barrier net fence will also be needed to deter wandering wildlife from eating the plants.

26th April – Ella Montt erected a net fence around the area planted with Peas at Allotment Plot 326. Then water was applied to all planted areas of the Plot. Drought conditions persisted. Weeds were cut to decrease their power.

27th April – Cardboard that had been covering an area of Allotment Plot 326 was removed and placed close by on another area of the plot to assist in weed control. The uncovered area of soil was dug over. Seeds were then planted; these were Scorsonère Géante Noire De Russie, Leek Blue Green Winter and Kale Halbholter Grun Krauser. Once more water was applied to the planted areas of the Plot. The ground was forming cracks as moisture continued to evaporate and evade the soil. The lack of rain was becoming desperate. A sense of the Sahara spreading, edging nearer, drifted across the sky.

28th April – Allotment Plot at MERL had not been visited for two weeks, because of Spring time feasting. Ella Montt noted that certain vegetables plants had grown, but others had failed as yet to germinate. The green manure seeds Phacelia Tanacetifolia that had been planted last Autumn were now taking a positive hold in the Plot. Phacelia should be dug in with some plants left to attract bees, but Ella Montt decided to leave all the plants to flower (for now). The Garlic on the Plot had not as yet grown to be as big as the Garlic on Allotment Plot 326.

Ella Montt had brought Sunflower and Cosmos seedlings to the Plot. These seedlings that had been growing in the fixed up greenhouse at another location were becoming to tall and needed to be planted out. With intrepidation Ella Montt chipped away at the concreted soil to break holes for the seedlings to root themselves into the ground. The seedlings were then planted and watered as they connected to the earth. Two Globe Artichoke plants were also planted out. Seedlings planted; 5 Cosmos Cosmea, 19 assorted Sunflowers, 2 Artichokes = 1 x Arad and 1 x Imperial Star. Will they survive the drought?

It was still April and Ella Montt pondered the dangers of frost and other extreme weather conditions including the aforementioned drought. The Kale and Chard seeds had so far failed to germinate. Both the months of March and April had been exceptionally dry. The Sahara Dessert was spreading closer.

There was evidence of slug or snail damage on some of the plants, which seemed strange considering how dry the soil was. Perhaps the Brick Composter harboured these creatures. There appeared to be no bird damage affecting the plants. water was applied by watering can to the Plot. Both Carrot and Parsnip seeds were germinating.

Ella Montt left Allotment Plot at MERL and cycled to the studio. The Sweet Potato was continuing to grow roots and shoots (slips).

2nd May – Brassica seeds were planted in the fixed up greenhouse. The weather was playing havoc with Ella Montt’s timing of the cultivation process. Meanwhile the Squash and Bean plants were growing well, and waiting to be transplanted.

Ella Montt went to dig at Allotment Plot 326. Digging there was a never ending task and will be on going. The Potatoes foliage growth had accelerated. The ground was cracking with the lack of rain. Ella Montt dug an area that had been covered by cardboard and then planted some Cauliflower Snowball seeds, and also some Parsnip Halblange White, and Kohl Rabi Azur Star. It was hard to judge given the current weather conditions whether or not planting these seeds was a waste of time, but only the course of time will reveal this information. The sun continued to shine. The weather was for most humans, (apart from perhaps farmers, growers and firefighters) beautiful. The Garlic continued to thrust its foliage towards the sky.

5th May – At Allotment Plot at MERL there was no evidence of frost damage, although the temperature had dropped the previous night and the night before. There had been a frost warning for rural areas. However the Sunflower seedlings that had been planted last week looked dead, because they had received no moisture since the day they were planted out. Ella Montt soaked the Plot with water in the hope to revive the Sunflowers. She then erected a fifth bamboo pyramid. Then five types of Bean plants from the fixed up greenhouse were transplanted into the ground. The Bean plants were; French Bean (Climbing) Barlotto Lingua di Fuoco, Blauhide, Blue Lake, and Neckarqueen, and Runner Bean Enorma.

Saved Squash seeds were placed into the soil within the Brick Composter as an experiment in the field of germination. The Comfrey plant that had planted on the 14th April was still in its place as part of the Plot, but it had been eaten by slime creatures. Comfrey as a plant has exceptional growth capacity and can be harvested several times at least a year, but creatures also find it a good food source. Allotment Plot 326 has revealed several Comfrey plants already established as part of that Plot.

6th May – The Sweet Potato continues to transform its self, whilst a Comfrey cutting, taken from The Herb Garden (Kate Corder, 2006), generates new growth.

9th May – There was some relief for the plants as it rained at night on the 6th and 7th May ending the drought! A visit to Allotment Plot 326 revealed that frost had inflicted its cruel pain last week on the 3rd or 4th of May. Plot 326 is on higher ground than Allotment Plot at MERL and exists in a more rural area, which is where the weather person had indicated that frost might fall, and it had. Luckily only the foliage of the Potato plants were damaged and not the core plant. The Potato foliage should be able to regenerate, because the frost was not severe. The Peas somehow were unaffected and growing steadily.

Ella Montt had become aware that a campaign against government interference with Allotment History was being fought across the land. It had been revealed of late that government is seeking to destroy and condem Section 23 of the Allotments Act of 1908, which binds local councils to provide land for allotments if more than six humans desire Allotments in a local area. Ella Montt, Captain Swing, Thorpe and William Morris were most displeased by the governments reckless behaviour.

A council worker operated a large green tractor in the plot next to 326, the vehicle was tuned to remove the rampant wildness that had taken over this particular plot, as a result of an allotment holder’s failed utopian dream. The previous allotment holder worked long hours and had to give up their plot so the plot will soon belong to the next person on the extensive waiting list. Ella Montt watched the tractor turn the soil and narrowly miss the Cherry Tree.

After more digging in an area that had been covered by newspaper and compost Ella Montt planted some seeds; Broccoli Purple Sprouting Early, Calabrese Green Sprouting, Brussels Sprouts Darkmar 21, and Cabbage Marner Lagerweiss. External forces will decide if these seeds will grow into vibrant green vital matter.

Sweet Potato Root

A solitary white root has appeared on the one remaining (the third) Sweet Potato that sits in a glass jar of water on the table in the studio. The Sweet Potato will need to grow more roots and then it should grow Slips, which are the leafy shoots of the vine. They can be cut off and planted separately and more Slips should grow once the Sweet Potato is in full production. Ella Montt has no previous experience of successfully growing Sweet Potatoes so the prospect of progression is tentatively awaited. D&G were seen peering through the studio window discussing the single root.

Raining on the Plot

On 23rd September 2010 autumnal weather had taken a firm grip and it was raining on the Plot at MERL. The Sweetcorn still looked healthy, but it will need to stay put on the Plot for a few more weeks if it is to be of any substance. Sadly the previous months of consistent dry weather had taken their toll on the Kale Red Russian Curled plants. The plants no longer had the ability to produce leafy foliage so they were uprooted from the soil. The displaced plants were left to compost themselves back to the soil from whence they came. The Courgettes Soleil F1 were still growing slowly without visible harassment and so were left to continue their life span as part of the Plot. A Squash that was formed a few weeks ago is suspended in the air, its plumping action in full force, it sits beside the fruitless flowering Aubergine, fruitless in two ways the first because it has not born fruit and the second underlining its fruitlessness (unsuccessful). The new carrots are germinating.

Squash & Sqaush Flower

A flurry of activity happened when Ella Montt decided to uproot the blighting Tomatoes from the Plot. The plants, which considering the length of time they endured before they could be planted out because of the cold spring, have up until now produced well. A sense of relief was felt as the plants were allowed to relax into the compost box across the garden. Some say that blighted tomato plants should never enter a compost system, but these plants were not inflicted to a worst degree and will not affect future plantings in the garden. Next the Onions Red Baron were dug out from the Plot, their growth had not been successful again attributed to lack of water in drought like conditions. They will however be saved to be replanted next year on Plot 326 in a further experiment in growing. Space is slowly opening up to plant the over wintering vegetables.

Space on the Plot

Harvesting commenced: Climbing Beans French Beans Blauhide =1oz = 20g and Blue Lake = 6.5oz = 180g; Tomatoes = 2lb7oz = 1.5kg; Runner Beans = 13oz = 400g.

A New Allotment Site and The Plot

12 August 2010 – Two weeks had passed since the Ella Montt had visited the Allotment Plot. The Plot had not become chaotic, but was growing steadily. Ella Montt had visited a new Allotment site in rural South West England. The Allotment site had started cultivation in March this year after a village had decided to search out a field that could be converted into Allotment growing space. A village can have the advantage of negotiating new Allotment growing space from a landowner, if the village is in closer proximity to land as opposed to a city or town, however the negotiation always depends on the location of the village and the situation of the land, what it is already used for and who “owns” the land.

New Allotment Site

Back at Ella Montt’s growing Plot at MERL, there was more research to be done. Ella Montt kneels on the ground and carefully digs the earth to uncover any remains of the buried Sweet Potato. The disturbance of the earth reveals a hardened lump that is barely distinguishable as the original tuber, it would seem that it was still composting, but producing very fine shoots or roots in the process. However the roots could be in themselves part of decomposition, a breakdown of nutrients absorbing themselves into the soil. The remains of the Sweet Potato are gently recovered and will not be disturbed again, but the area will be monitored for any signs of shoot growth. The Sweet Potato experiment will resume at the start of the growing season in 2011 as mentioned previously.

The day’s weather is overcast; warm, but not overly so and somewhat humid. Ella Montt’s attention turns to other details of the Plot through an assessment of vegetation growth activity. Both Kales, Pentland Brig and Red Russian Curled, are not appreciating this summers weather conditions, harvesting of both will commence without further delay. The Aubergine Black Beauty has two flowers. One small Squash has formed on a plant, but all of the Squash plants are being slow to grow and not producing the needed female flowers in order to form Squashes. Squashes are a good source of food for the winter, because they can be stored. The Sweet Corn plants are starting to flower, but they are not tall enough to produce good ears. More Cosmos plants are growing.

Aubergine FlowersTomatoes

Harvesting commenced: Lettuce Marvel of the Four Seasons = 4oz = 100grams; Rainbow Chard = 4.5oz = 115grams; Kale Pentland Brig = 7.5oz = 200grams; Kale Red Russian Curled = 4oz = 110grams; 1 Runner Bean; 1 green Pepper = 1oz = 20grams; 1 Courgette Patriot F1 1oz = 20grams; 1 Courgette Soleil F1 = 7oz = 200grams; Dwarf Beans Royalty = 1oz = 20grams; 7 Tomatoes 2.5oz = 65grams; French Climbing Beans Blauhide = 6oz = 175grams and Blue Lake = 5oz = 145grams.

In an effort to work towards achieving vegetable growing self-sufficiency through the Plot some more seeds were planted close to Sweet Corn. Seeds planted were Oriental Saladini, Borecole Nero Di Toscana, and more Carrot Amsterdam Forcing.

Ella Montt sits next to Allotment Plot reading The Living Soil by author Eve Balfour. This book, first published in 1943 by Faber and Faber, was an informative research text that assisted in the initial formation of the Soil Association. An original copy of Lady Eve’s book sits across the garden in MERL’s reading library archive. Chapter III HUMUS is being read again today. Whilst reading, a woman and her child is silently observed removing seed heads from the prolific Pot Marigolds, she places the collected seeds in a paper bag. Earlier the woman had been seen to be amused by the Heavy Metal CD pigeon deterrents.

Pot Marigolds

In search of the Rhizomatic

Sunflower on the Allotment Plot

16 July 2010 – A light weeding of the Allotment Plot is performed. The Marigolds are in full bloom. A question hangs in the air – whether or not to harvest any Kale Red Russian? Or to leave the leaves until they grow larger? The cut and come again method can prolong the harvest time. Perhaps the Carrots should also be thinned? Or not? They can be left to plump up perhaps, as part of the on going growing experiment? The same questions hang over the Leeks and Parsnips; to thin or not to thin? Ella Montt ponders the Plot. There is currently not much room to plant new seeds. There are no signs of madness staring into the face of a Sunflower.

Rainbow Chard harvested 6oz = 160 grams.

Red Russian Kale Sunflower

22 July 2010 – (Writing this at the Allotment Plot). Rain showers fell this morning; sun is now shining. At the Allotment Plot everything is growing slowly. The red-tinged Lettuce Marvel of the Four Seasons is bolting, so harvesting will commence. Brassicas are growing under the influence of Heavy Metal. In searching for the rhizomatic vegetable an experiment was attempted to sprout shoots known as slips from Sweet Potatoes. The Sweet Potatoes had been suspended in water for one week, but no shoots had appeared from the vegetable. At the Allotment Plot, a hole was dug for a Sweet Potato, which was then buried under the soil to see if that would result in the growth of slips. The Sweet Potato would be unearthed in a week’s time to check on any developments. Sweet Potatoes are a vegetable that grow in a vine like format which is a rhizomatic construction. The leaves of the plant grow above the soil and the shoots grow tubers under the soil whilst growing more slips in different directions which then grow more tubers. A Sweet Potato plant with the right temperature and growing conditions can grow to cover an entire area, which in a sense is truly rhizomatic.

Sweet Potato

Black Fly on the companion planting Pot Marigolds had Ladybirds in attendance. Cabbage White Butterflies fluttered by, fortunately and as yet, there are no signs of their Caterpillars. The season will follow soon. The hungry Caterpillars can be removed from Brassicas to companion planting to avoid total crop devastation. A few Fennel plants are appearing. Weeding action was suspended this week in order to attract more biodiversity. Rainbow Chard harvested = 4oz = 110grams. Marvel of the Four Seasons Lettuce harvested = 6oz = 160grams.

Blackfly and Ladybird

29 July 2010 – On arrival at the Allotment Plot there seemed to be no signs of any rhizomatic growth action by the Sweet Potato, in order to verify this claim, the buried Sweet Potato was unearthed. The Sweet Potato was starting to decompose under the soil, composting itself and not growing any slips. The Sweet Potato was covered again with soil; it will be checked again in a week or two’s time to confirm any results. In search of the rhizomatic, if the Sweet Potato fails to produce the desired slips, the experiment will continue in 2011 at the start of the growing season.

Weather conditions of the day were warm, humid and still very dry. The artist, acting as grower initiated weeding action. Different types of bees and insects were visiting the Plot. Cabbage White Butterflies were not deterred by the fading words on the Pigeon defense mechanisms Heavy Metal CDs. The words will need to reapplied. The Brassicas are growing, but could be attacked at any time by the hatching Caterpillars. Ella Montt continues weeding.

Green Tomatoes are forming and a Pepper. The Pot Marigolds continue to grow prolifically, enjoying the weather. Plants can prefer different types of soil, amounts of water, temperatures and weather conditions. Ella Montt acting as a grower planted more plants as potential rhizomes. Creeping Thyme and Strawberries plants that send out runners in different direction to form new sections of the extend plant.

Strawberry Plant


Both Kales Pentland Brig and Red Russian Curled are almost ready for cut and come again harvesting. A few purple Dwarf Beans Royalty 1.5oz = 40grams and climbing Blauhide Beans 2oz = 60grams were harvested, also some Marvel of the Four Seasons Lettuce 2oz = 60grams, some Rainbow Chard 5oz = 140grams and a yellow Courgette Soleil F1 2oz = 60grams. There are only male flowers on the other squashes so far.


Ella Montt dug two holes in order to plant the wooden legs of a sign carved a few days before in the studio. The sign is made from old wood the is recycled from the fixed up greenhouse. The letters of Ella Montt’s blog address were carved into the wood. The sign was planted and is now part of Ella Montt’s Allotment Plot.

Allotment Plot Sign

Garlic Harvest a Performance

Allotment (1) took place on 8 July 2010 at Allotment Plot @MERLReading; the Garlic and Radar Onions were harvested. Please note this action was filmed as a Performance and will be shown in exhibition format at a later date.

Onion Radar

Before the performance Ella Montt was sitting in the shade of the Mulberry tree and made the following observations about the Allotment Plot. The day started off slightly damp and cooler to the previous high temperature, but by 11am on arrival at the Plot, the clouds had started to drift apart a little to let the sun break through. The humidity in the Garden at MERL had rocketed and the atmosphere was sweating. Borage and Pot Marigolds continue to flower and bees are visiting. Cosmos and Nasturtium flowers have also blossomed, but the plants growth seems somewhat stunted as does much of the vegetables, presumably because lack of moisture in the soil. All plants are steadily yet slowly growing. Brassicas are recovering under the influence of the heavy metal CDs, which have deterred or maybe thwarted the Pigeons appetites. Tomatoes are beginning to flower and fruits form, the side shoots will not be removed from the plants, they will be allowed to bush out in all directions.

Squash Flower allotment107

During the Garlic and Onion harvesting Performance sentences from Deluzes & Guattari book A Thousand Plateaus – Rhizome were recited pertaining to the Rhizome and plant life. The book became buried under the Garlic and Onion bulbs. The recorded results for the harvest were as follows:

Onions Radar originally planted 36 sets. Onions Radar harvested 20 bulbs with stalks = 1lb 8oz = 680grams once stalks were removed bulbs weighed 1lb 5oz = 600grams

Garlic Thermidrome, 14 cloves were originally planted. Garlic Thermidrome harvested 13 cloves which weighed 12oz = 320grams.

Garlic Sprint, originally planted 15 cloves, harvested 14 cloves which weighed 13oz = 360grams. Garlic Sprint 14 Scapes harvested which weighed 4oz = 100grams.

Some Rainbow Chard was also harvested which weighed 6 oz = 180grams.

Garlic Harvest

This week Detroit featured in an interesting article on urban regeneration through food growing in empty spaces. The decline of the car industry in the town has made way for food cultivation. Any where that can grow plants that can be harvested as free food for local people is shaping how we can live outside of business consumed society.

Allotment July2Allotment July

Broadbeans and Peas uprooted

On the 18/06/2010 at the Allotment Plot the Broadbeans and Peas were over and out. The remaining produce was harvested. The plants were uprooted. The last Pea pods harvested weighed 60grams = 2oz once shelled = 1oz Peas = 20grams. The last Broadbean pods harvested weighed 9oz = 250grams once shelled = 2oz = 60grams. Harvesting is an event. The total harvest produced was far less than anticipated.

Broadbeans & Peas up rooted

It is hard to know with a new allotment plot what production to expect in the first year. Vegetable growing businesses such as Tolhurst Organic have years of experience in knowing what to grow and how to grow it. The work is labour intensive and produce amounts vary from year to year determined by random factors and weather conditions. Growing all kinds of plants for market consumption takes a good deal of expert knowledge. If the business is to grow one crop per growing cycle year then all thought processes surround that one crop, but if the business is to grow multiple crops all year round for a vegetable box delivery scheme or for shop consumption then tangible thought processes of multiplicity surround the crops. That is not to say that the thought process for a single crop is not complicated, but it is more rooted in one crop. The thought process for growing multiple crops must in a sense be more rhizomatic, the attention moving from one crop to another. The thoughts graft on to the radicle-system not just a principle root system; the crop rotation layers are folded onto one another. “The rhizome itself assumes very diverse forms, from ramified surface extension in all directions to concretion into bulbs and tubers. […] The rhizome includes the best and the worst: potato and couchgrass, or the weed.” (Deluzes & Guattari Rhizome – A Thousand Plateaus). A rhizome grown underground is that of Tumeric or Ginseng, therefore is not a rhizome grown above ground that extends in all directions a Squash plant or plants such as Nasturium, Tomato, Pea, or climbing Bean?

In the space that appeared from the Broadbean and Pea removal Sweetcorn seedlings that had been reared in the fixed up greenhouse were planted. The summer Spinach that had gone to seed was pulled out of dry ground and all the uprooted plants were gathered for transportation to the compost bin across the garden amongst the trees. The Pot Marigolds were beginning to form buds. Seaweed concentrate was mixed with water in a watering can and applied to the plot soaking it with intensity. Lack of rain continues the soil is parched desperately thirsty for any moisture.

Brassica defence against Pigeon invasion was applied in the form of CDs scripted with the words; “HEAVY METAL!” tied with blue plastic string to bamboo support canes. This is an experiment to see whether or not Pigeons are fans of Heavy Metal, if they are not they should stay away from the Brassica plants. How this will be tested since there is no surveillance system is by noting if the vegetable plants thrive and grow. Heavy Metal is unable to be played aloud within MERL’s garden so the Pigeons need to be sensitive to the suggestion of Heavy Metal as a complete genre.

Heavy Metal Pigeon Defence

Allotment Archives

On 03/06/2010 the Allotment Plot was experiencing another bright sunny day the temperature was significantly warm. The ground was desperately dry. Ella Montt who is the grower on this particular Allotment, sits next to the Plot and eats lunch in the shade of the Mulberry tree; the gaze drifts from the vegetable plot to cross the grass, resting on the Museum building, which houses the archives. The shelves of the Library within the Museum have many texts written about growing processes to be employed by growers. The contemplation of the books that contain texts is acted out on the Allotment Plot. Much is there within the archives to be discovered about the historic process of farming, land usage, plants, crops, the effects of industrialization and science.

Allotment history in the British Isles has slowly evolved and punctuates dates of social change. Before industrialized farming methods land to grow food was essential for individual and family survival, (as remains so now in many parts of the world). The medieval systems that was common through out Europe, enabled peasants, or the rural poor, to work portions of ground belonging to the Landowners in exchange for labouring for the landowner. The head of state of the particular country ultimately owned all land.

The enclosures acts, (formerly know as ‘Inclosure’) that started in Britain during the twelfth century, accelerated between the eighteenth and nineteenth century to gradually remove land access from the general population so that most workable land was owned by a limited number of people. Many cottagers or small holders lost their homes, because they could not retain their rights to their properties, poverty and famine followed. Common land that had been previously used by rural dwellers for fuel gathering and food cultivation, was lost. Landowners did not want the workers to have access to land to grow their own food because self-sufficiency meant that they would not need to work for the landowner. Because people no longer had ways to support themselves, there was a movement of the rural poor to the towns, here they were able to become workers in the factories. The rural moved to the urban, yet the urban needed the rural in order to cultivate food. Allotment Acts were passed to insure growing land for the poor working classes to try to provide land to supplement or give income through cultivation. Urban areas became ringed by allotments for the new town dwellers, but as the size of the urban area expanded more of the rural allotment landscape disappeared as it was built on through the advance of capitalism. In the twentieth century what was land allotted originally to the labouring poor has since become allotments for a wide demographic. This was the result of the social changes of the First World War and the depression that followed. Allotment land was needed to grow food and cultivated by everyone not just the poor and unemployed.

Now housing can be built with out access to growing space in both urban and rural areas. The desire to have an Allotment is a common right and of individual free will. Obtaining an Allotment can be a different story; because land is still limited by land ownership and local authority Allotment waiting lists are often very long in any given area. Food self-sufficiency is hard to achieve without space, but human activity can be inventive if self grown food is desired. There are many inner city areas who have growing groups that use all kinds of space to plant whatever they are able to. Many individuals grow using window boxes and balconies. Previously Ella Montt had some experience of growing herbs in window boxes of a 5th floor apartment in New York.

Ella Montt’s thoughts returned to the Allotment Plot and the working activity of this particular grower. An assessment of what is growing on the Plot is recorded. Many of the plants seem to be small in size, because of the lack of rain. This includes the Parsley, and the Onion sets. The Sweetcorn seeds were starting to germinate; their tender shoots could easily be eaten.  The Red Kale was growing well, but petite in height. If rain falls the growth may be significant. Broadbeans and Peas were ready for harvesting. The squash plants had survived their first week on the Plot, they were wilting under the hot sun. Two dwarf beans seedlings were pushing up out of the soil. The Brassicas were trying to grow back and recover from their predator damage; the survival rate will be watched carefully. The Sprint Garlic continues to twist its’ Scapes. The Thermidrome Garlic’s growth is slower and is not yet twisting. Five sunflowers were growing; four from seeds planted directly into the soil and one a seedling that was grown in the fixed up greenhouse. The Tomatoes look yellow around their lower leaves, this could be an indication that they are already blighted, damaged by extreme temperatures of the weather. The mulberry tree provides shade from the hot sun.

The Rainbow Chard needs water to accelerate the growth of the plants. A line of seeds planted last week are appearing through the soil, the leaves have a purple tinge, so perhaps slugs may leave them alone, but pigeons may not be that discerning. The young Spinach is already going to seed, because of the dry weather. Carrots foliage was healthy and growing, but small as yet. The tiny leaves of the Beetroots are difficult to imagine growing substantial edible roots. The Parsnips continue to have excellent foliage and seem to hold great promise for the autumn and winter months. The Herbs planted last week have survived. The Companion Planting was not growing as expected, however the Chives and Chamomile were flowering.

Young plants that had been grown in the fixed up greenhouse were then planted. They were three new Squashes plants, squashed into the row of various Squashes. Two types of Climbing Bean seedlings, which were 5 x French Bean (Climbing) Blue Lake and 4 x French Bean (Climbing) Blauhide and finally one more Tomato plant. The bell was rung to announce the arrival to the Plot.

Squashes Squashed

Tomato Planted

The harvesting commenced. The harvest was as follows:

Broadbeans Supersimonia 18 pods = 13oz = 380grams. Shelled Broadbeans to be consumed = 4oz = 100grams.

Pea Meteor harvested 48 = 4oz = 120grams. Shelled peas weight to be consumed = 2oz = 60grams.

The Peas were sampled and were found to be very sweet, tasty and perfect for raw consumption. The results from weighing the harvested vegetables indicate that the waste material accumulated is much higher for the Broadbeans. The Peas produced more produce from their pods. All the pod waste was returned to a compost bin to breakdown into new soil.

What maybe more efficient is the climbing and Dwarf Beans, because almost all of the bean can be eaten.

More water was applied via a watering can to the Plot.

Broadbeans & Onions