Tag Archives: MERL

Raindrops fell to Earth

20th July 2011 – Allotment Plot 326 – Harvest: 4 x Courgettes = 1lb 13oz = 640g; Shallots Red Sun = 1lb 7oz = 640g; Peas = Ezeta’s Krombek Blauwschokker = 10.5oz = 290g, Oregon Sugar Pod II = 2oz = 40g, a mix of Kelvedon Wonder, Ambassador and Meteor = 3oz = 80g.

21st July 2011 – Allotment Plot at MERL – As Ella Montt arrived at the Plot, menacing black clouds over-head, opened and vertical raindrops fell to Earth in profusion. Ella Montt went to the Library Reading Room to ponder rock phosphate, which is used as plant fertilizer, and is also a “non-renewable” resource that is in danger of running out (like oil), because of human consumption. Earth as a planet is a living thing, and it is possible that it can regenerate its self and produce more oil and rock phosphate, but how many thousands or millions of years is needed to break down and compress enough vibrant matter to renew these resources that have been depleted so recently?

Ella Montt looked out of the window across the garden towards the Plot. It was still raining. The pollen on the plants flowers was wet. The Bees were hiding trying to keep their wings dry. Humans who use non organic methods of cultivation can contribute to the decline in Bee populations by using common household insecticides that contain ingredients that are toxic to Bees. The rain continued to fall.

Harvest: mix of the first Climbing Beans = 40z = 120g.

24th July 2011 – Allotment Plot 326 – Harvest: 1 x Courgette = 7oz = 200g; Potatoes Madeleine = 2lb 14oz = 1.31kg; 2 x Plum Victoria = 3oz = 80g.

28th July 2011 – At Allotment Plot at MERL, it was pleasantly warm. The Companion Planting, particularly the orange Pot Marigolds were flowering vibrantly. Sunflowers co-existed next to Cosmos. Mint and Strawberry runners were making their way across the Plot, establishing new plants at punctuated points of root construction. The Plot was in need of water, so Ella Montt fetched the watering can. Tomato, Squash and Climbing Bean plants were also opening their petals to receive winged visitors interested in taking part in their sexual reproduction process that will lead to the Plants becoming bearers of fruit. Although it was summer, the nights were still sometimes very cold for the time of year. Cold temperatures at night can be a plant growth inhibitor. Ella Montt scattered Rocket and Wild Rocket seeds near the Celery. Two Jays and a Magpie attempted to visit the Mulberry tree. Ella Montt made a signal to EB, (who was leaning out of the window), that the Potatoes would soon be ready for harvesting. EB nodded in return.

Harvest: a mixture of Climbing Beans = 7oz = 200g; Rainbow Chard = 2oz 50g, Mint and Sage.

29th July 2011 – Allotment Plot 326 – Ella Montt pulled up most of the Pea plants and placed them in the compost. On the soil, where the Peas had been growing, was empty Pea pod shells, left by other Beings that liked to eat Peas.

Harvest: a mix of Peas = Ezeta’s Krombek Blauwschokker = 1oz = 40g, Oregon Sugar Pod II = 3oz = 80g, a mix of Kelvedon Wonder,  Ambassador and Meteor = 3.5oz – 290g; Dwarf Beans Royalty = 1oz = 40g; 5 x Courgette = 4lb 6oz = 2kg.

31st July 2011 – Allotment Plot at MERL – Harvest: French Bean (Climbing) Blue Lake = 0.5oz = 10g, Blauhide = 0.5oz = 10g, Neckarqueen 1oz = 20g; Runner Bean Enorma = 1.5oz = 35g.

31st July 2011 – Allotment Plot 326 – Harvest: 4 x Courgette = 2lb 2oz = 900g.

MERL Allotment and Plot 326

At the Allotment Plot on 27th August 2010, after a few days of consistent rain, Ella Montt observed that the Climbing Beans had not yet taken full advantage of the horizontal bamboo canes that were erected on a previous visit. The Beans continued to reach for the sky in the style of a Jack and the Beanstalk action. The Fenugreek seeds have sprouted and are growing.

Beans Reaching for the Sky

Fenugreek Seedlings

The day was a historic for Ella Montt in terms of the Allotment Plot and Allotment history. A new part of the Plot revealed itself. Earlier in the week, an electronic notification in the form of email had declared to Ella Montt that Allotment Plot tenancy was imminent at one of Reading town’s Allotment sites. On the 27th August before arriving at the Plot at MERL the tenancy agreement had arrived in the mail, along with the new Allotment key for Plot 326. At the time of signing up to the Allotment waiting list in November 2009, there were at least 38 individuals on the list for this particular Allotment site; in early August the numbers on that list for that site had risen to 75. The numeric nature of the list suggests that Allotment holders come and go, some have the same plot for years, others are in transit and the Allotment is a fleeting part of their reality. Allotment history is written into the tenancy agreement the dates of Acts passed in 1908 and 1950 it seems are still relevant today. The Allotment Plot and the work of Ella Montt will expand to work both the MERL Allotment and Plot 326.

Ella Montt adjusts the focus of the Plot to examine the growing activity on the Plot at MERL. Small Sweetcorn ears are forming. The Pepper plant looks like it was a one Pepper wonder, the weather conditions are defeating the plant, it is perhaps to cool now at night to allow the plant to flourish and produce more flowers for fertilization, the Aubergine is also not succeeding to produce fruit even though it flowered a few weeks a go. All other vegetable plants are achieving produce, but not at an accelerated rate. A surprise Cucumber is discovered. Cucumbers can be a resilient and pro active in their growing procedures. A Blue Lake Climbing Bean has decided to grow using a Sunflower as a physical support. Beneficial insects are actively enjoying the Pot Marigolds and the Sunflowers.

Pot Marigold and Insect Sunflower and Insects

Harvesting commenced: French Climbing Beans Blue Lake 14oz = 400grams; Blauhide = 3oz = 90grams; Rainbow Chard = 2oz = 60grams; Tomatoes = 13oz = 370grams; Courgette 1.5oz = 40grams; Kale Pentland Brig 1.5oz = 40grams; Pot Marigold seeds = 1oz = 20grams.

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

Tolhurst Stockfree Organic Vegetables – March 2007 to February 2008

Kate Corder’s film Tolhurst Stockfree Organic Vegetables – March 2007 to February 2008 is currently on view at the Museum of English Rural Life until July 16th 2010. The film documents the growing seasons and biodiversity of the Tolhurst vegetable business over a twelve month period. Running time 124mins.  MERL’s opening hours are:

  • 9am to 5pm, Tuesday to Friday
  • 2pm to 4.30pm, Saturday and Sunday Tolhurst Film Flyer

Another Planting Performance

The Allotment Plot thickens with another Planting Performance in the Garden at MERL (18/03/2010). The weather conditions were good for planting again. The day was pleasantly warm with the Spring equinox approaching. Rain was in the forecast and needed, but that did not occur until the evening when darkness fell.

Ella Montt selected seed packets, some tools, gardening gloves, a small bell, a thermos and a measuring stick and placed the objects next to Allotment Plot. Then with a hoe and small hand fork proceeded to remove some grass plants growing on the Plot. Shallow drills were constructed with the hoe, these were ground incisions for seed accumulation in the planting process. The first seeds were delivered to their destinations. The bell was rung along the line of seeds to awaken them from dormancy to germination state. The hoe was then utilized to cover the seeds with the soil to complete the planting process. More seeds were chosen and the process of planting began again.

Allotment Performance Again

As the Allotment Plot thickens, Ella Montt pauses to observe the notes written about the seeds that had previously been planted. Ella Montt drinks a cup of tea from the thermos, a normal activity for a person or persons working on their allotments and part of the Performance. Pondering on the size of the Plot, and the space limitation, Ella Montt decides that an optimum number of seeds should be planted. This would maximize the Plot and may retain more water through ground coverage rather than water evaporation process taking place in a drought situation. Irrigation would be ideal and a water butt close to hand, but this is not a current option. Ella Montt is conscious that intensive farming can destroy the fertility of the soil.

The notion of what to grow and how to grow it, can be calculated and assisted. Ella Montt chooses to grow organically without the assistance of animal by products, but with the assistance of biodiversity present within the Garden, a veganic method.  A ladybird (ladybug) arrives on the scene at the Allotment Plot, a very welcome guest, who will assist in pest control. One perhaps could wonder if a vegan (who eats plant based foods), should choose the biodiversity of wildlife as a form of natural pest control in the growing method of plant based food products. A genetically modified seed could grow without the use of natural wildlife pest control, no insects or animals would be harmed in the growth of the food product. However, genetically modified food production results in the loss of biodiversity, it breaks the food chain for insects and animals, resulting in the loss of species on the whole planet. Using the immediate gratification of growing genetically modified crops as an answer to world need for food production becomes its own fictional myth and as a consequence produces its own catastrophe not just through the loss of species, but also through crop failure and the ingestion of genetics that are in themselves harmful to the being that eat them. Veganic growing uses no animal by products to fertilise the soil, it instead relies on green manures and composting to make the soil fertile and it encourages biodiversity of insects and animals to act as agents in pest control, and the use of companion planting which is also very important in the growing process.


Seeds that were planted during the Planting Performance were as follows:

Leek Almera, Kale Red Russian Curled, Spinach Matador (Atlanta), Leaf Beat Rainbow Chard, Beetroot Bolivar, Cabbage Savoy (Vertus), Rocket Wild, Lettuce Lollo Rosso, Spring Onion White Lisbon, and Lettuce Marvel of Four Seasons. What will germinate and grow for now remains a mystery, but hope for a good harvest will be constant.

The coldest winter in thirty years awaits the coming of warmer weather. Later that day, a bee was seen, a frog hopped by in search of a pond and a snail arrived to eat the vegetable crop. The growing cycle continues.

Allotment Aesthetics

After a week when the allotment plot at MERL was covered in snow, the vegetable plants are still surviving, but some are suffering frost and snow damage. It would seem frost burn is the condition, a few of the Broadbeans are slightly effected, as is the Garlic and the Peas more so, but there are no outright casualties. The Sprint Garlic is growing (sprinting), much more quickly than the Thermidrome Garlic, which is only just appearing out of the soil. The Onion sets growths are very slow. Can the aesthetic condition of a vegetable reflect the state of the world through political consensus? Or is the political to blind to see the aesthetic?allotment32Broadbeans Frost BurnPeas Frost Burn


Allotment Plot

The plot thickens. A uniform is most sort after for the Community Gardener and will be under construction sometime soon…..

Herbs were planted at the Allotment Plot at MERL; sage, garlic chives, mint, roots scavenged from the somewhat altered Herb Garden at the Fine Art Department.


Digital images were taken of peas, broad beans, onions, garlic, and spinach pushing through the soil as the plot thickens. The weather is most Autumnal, Winter is approaching, it is close to December. Much rain and wind, now frost perhaps on its way, what will happen to the peas? They are not clothed in horticultural fleece, how long will they survive without protection?

Still no slugs in sight, this pleases the Community Gardener.

BroadbeanBeans and Peas

Plotting the space

Allotment MeasureLast week I measured out a space approximately 3×5 meters at the Museum of English Rural Life (MERL) on Redwood Road, Reading. The space was marked with sticks and strings. This week the turf will be removed to reveal the plot I will be using for my allotment. The plot will function as an artwork, a practice based research area on which I shall work, as an actual vegetable allotment.