Monthly Archives: August 2010

Fenugreek – An Aromatic Culinary Ingredient and Green Manure

At the Allotment Plot at MERL on 19 August 2010 it was noted that some of the plants look a little yellow, particularly the Sweet Corn, Squashes and Tomatoes, this could be that they have been under watered or over watered, the former seems more likely than the latter. The plants have not been lacking sunlight so chlorophyll molecules photosynthesis work that give plants their green colour should not have been impeded. Although it had rained during the night, the soil looked fairly dry. The first row of Lettuce Marvel of the Four Seasons had finished producing and roots were extracted from the ground then left to decompose in to the soil. Meanwhile the Sunflowers glow radiated the cloudy day.

Squash and Sweet Corn

Sunflower with Bee

Ella Montt was preparing to film part of the Plot when two visitors came into the garden to sit at a bench nearby so that they could eat lunch and converse. The Museum’s garden is a public space. Ella Montt, at this moment, did not want to record private conversation, so worked on other areas of the Plot before sitting to consume lunch and then resumed the quest to film the Plot once the visitors were gone. Part of the Plot on that day, was to plant some green manure in any spaces available. The chosen green manure seeds from Tamar Organics was Fenugreek, it is quick growing and should be ready in to dig in ten weeks time, around mid October. The plant is a legume. The aromatic seeds and leaves of Fenugreek are both used extensively in cooking, particularly in curries.

A small green Squash is growing, the other Squash plants are still lacking in female flowers. A first harvest of Spring Onions White Lisbon became part of the day’s action. The Pot Marigold continue to flower producing quantities of seeds, those that had darkened and dried were harvested into an empty seed packet for distribution at a later stage. Thoughts turn to scattering the seeds in Guerrilla Gardening format or seed swaps. The Marigolds will perhaps self-seed as has both the Borage and Chamomile. Harvesting of other crops commenced with Herbs, Basil, Mint, Marjoram, and Chives. Harvesting of other crops commenced with Herbs, Basil, Mint, Marjoram, and Chives; followed by Rainbow Chard = 2oz = 60grams, Kale Pentland Brig = 3oz = 80grams, Tomatoes = 11oz = 320grams, French Climbing Beans ~ Blauhide 2oz = 60grams = and Blue Lake = 6oz = 20grams, and 1 Runner Bean = 1oz = 20grams.

Ella Montt has been considering the growth of the Climbing Beans up the four supporting bamboo pyramid structures. Some of the plants have climbed past the pyramid structures and are searching the sky for support. More bamboo canes were hunted out and collected from the shed across the garden then delivered to the Plot. Ella Montt attached the bamboo horizontally from one pyramid to the next; all of the pyramids are now linked at their zeniths so that the climbing and runner beans can continue to grow to optimize their plant constructions. Ella Montt wishes to enhance the Beans growth potential to compensate for Brassica failure. In any given season the harvest that a crop will produce can be unpredictable at the outset, because of weather conditions, disease, predators and unforeseen chance happenings, Ella Montt has to adopt a flexible working strategy to maintain the balance of available produce.

Climbing Beans

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