Tag Archives: Planting

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.


Allotment Plot 326 sits in the great field with many other allotment plots. It is part of a social system that gave humans a right to an allotment of land. Desire for an allotment plot can be a utopian dream. Reality of working an allotment or making the allotment succeed involves much hard effort. In order to make the allotment function it needs ground preparation. With any garden there can be much labour involved, but this individually depends on the nature of the garden and how it has been designed. Some gardens need very little work, for other gardens the work is a never ending cycle. Gardens can bring pleasure to the humans that work them, but gardens can also bring sorrow, frustration and despair, (when plants are overwhelmed by conditions in the natural world). The ugliness of digging is in a sense an act of placing order on the natural world. That is not to say the natural world is one of chaos, but one that has its own order outside the human domain.

Ella Montt was standing in the studio amongst the chitting Charlotte Second Early Seed Potatoes that were spread in 30cm intervals across corrugated cardboard that simulated the Allotment Plot laid out across the floor. Ella Montt was wearing her metallic blue 4″ heeled shoes, she bent to pick up the Potatoes and gathered them in to a knitted plastic sack. A similar sack of Sante Main Crop Seed Potatoes had been planted on the previous day (29 March 2011). Each sack contained 40 Potatoes. Ella Montt removed her blue shoes and stepped in to her muddy earth trainers and then headed towards the Allotment to resume digging.

Ella Montt found the idea that an “Allotment” is classified in the UK as a Leisure Garden slightly misleading. Digging ground that was filled with bramble roots and hardening to concrete through lack of rain was not what Ella Montt would describe as “Leisure”. Thorpe’s report had endorsed this taxonomy. Digging vibrant soil that turns easily can be joyous but at that moment it was ugly work and hard labour. Perhaps Ella Montt lacked the muscle power, but it was nothing to do with her gender. The art of digging is not gender specific. Digging had been easier when the soil was more moist a few weeks ago. To lighten Ella Montt’s mood, to break the tension of the act of digging, she employed the act of spontaneous dancing, (see the video evidence). Would Thorpe approve of dancing whilst digging to instigate Leisure? A slight rain shower earlier in the day had hardly penetrated the surface. Below the surface soil it was almost rock solid. The Charlotte Potatoes were eventually planted.

Meanwhile the fruit trees were starting to unfurl tight leaf buds.

Ella Montt felt the feelings of panic setting in again, because the fence around Allotment Plot 326 is still not erected. The need for the fence was becoming more imperative. Not a need to protect the Potatoes from the hungry rabbits, but a need to protect any other plantings to follow from the hungry rabbits. The Potatoes worst enemies could be frost, drought, flooding and blight, but not rabbits. With the Potatoes planted, Ella Montt’s focus can now shift to the creation of the fence. A magpie landed on a nearby plot and steadily walked across newly planted soil, searching for, finding and then eating hidden seeds.

Bricks and Potatoes

Ella Montt was at Allotment Plot at MERL on 3 March. She had not visited this aspect of the Plot since January, because she had been occupied with other aspects elsewhere. The previous day there had been sun, but the day was bitterly cold, and the sky was grey. Ella Montt examined the state of the Allotment Plot, some of the bricks that formed the Brick Composter were out of position, chaotically fallen out of place. Last years remaining Brassicas were now stripped skeletons punctuating the Plot. The overwintered Broad Beans and Peas showed evidence of predator attack and the harshness of winter. Most of the Onions seemed to have survived. The Garlic was perhaps predictably looking the most productive of the overwintered vegetables.

It was time to remove weeds to the Composter, redefine the Plot and neaten the edges. Ella Montt collected gardening tools from the shed. Green Manure plants Phacelia that had been sown back in Autumn 2010 were left growing scattered across the Plot. A solitary Crocus was in bloom. Stinging Nettles seedlings existed within the Plot, but were transported to the Composter with the notion that they might establish themselves within its boundaries as a welcome addition in pest control. It was noted that Mint rhizomes were extending in different directions beyond their previous area. Further evidence of this activity will be carefully monitored.

The Brick Composter was already composed of 91 bricks so Ella Montt utilized a wheelbarrow to collect a further 29 bricks from an amount that sits stacked beside the shed. The additional bricks were piled to complete the Brick Composter, a total of 120 bricks, (the same number of bricks used by Carl Andre in Equivalent VIII).

The earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11th 2011, devastated and obliterated the lives of human and non human species. The water of the tsunami washed away towns, bodies, organised mechanics of the human condition, such as transport vehicles, (land or water-based), business, cultivated growth of plant life and the everyday aspect of life into non life. The shock of this realization turned into further panic due to the failing cooling systems of nuclear power plants that were affected by the power of the planet’s own vital energy system that had caused the catastrophe.

Some of the human species remained convinced that nuclear energy was essential to human ways of life on Earth, while others wished that the nuclear industry should be dismantled in favour of safer ecological systems to generate energy. Ella Montt had never liked the nuclear industry and was most concerned for those in Japan, those that had lost their lives and those that had survived, both had their lives altered in the time span of minuets or seconds as the ground shock and later as the waves swept over the land. Planet Earth is a living organism, but this can be forgotten. Everything returns to the materials of the planet from which it has animated. Atoms drift, form and flux in the atmosphere surrounding the astronomical object.

On March 17th 2011, six thousand miles away in Japan there was still a state of panic and emergency, because of the on going conditions at the nuclear power plants. (Nuclear power no thanks!) Thousands of lives were lost in the tsunami. Bodies had been washed out to sea or covered by the wreckage of the flood. The mess and mass of residue remains piled for miles along the coastline. Some of the coastline had dropped at the time of the earthquake which allowed the tsunami to then sweep further in land. The conditions of global warming v the conditions of catastrophe from nuclear energy, if the world is contaminated with radiation what good is it to anyone anyway? Energy systems can be established through other means that are more sustainable solutions and not built on fossil fuels or nuclear power.

Ella Montt mused on why humans need catastrophe in order to realize thought processes that enable change. Progress is often not a linear process. Science develops systems and systems can generate progress, but power can generate a system that is blind to the future. The future is hidden tread carefully.

The sun broke through the misty cloud haze. Ella Montt prepared to plant 15 Lady Balfour Main Crop seed Potatoes, EM adjusted the tripod and digital video camera. Eve Balfour stepped out of MERL’s library archive and walked across the garden to join Ella Montt at the Plot. EM handed EB a fork and EB started to prepare the soil. Ella Montt went to the shed to fetch a wheelbarrow and then pushed it up the path amongst the trees towards the garden’s composting area. EM shovelled some of last year’s compost in to the wheelbarrow and headed back down the wooded bank to EB. Together they carefully dug a row of eight holes and then Ella Montt placed a Potato in each earth cavity with the Potato Chits facing upwards. EB covered the Potatoes and added extra compost from the wheelbarrow making Mole Hill type mounds over each one. Ella Montt placed a seed label by each mound to mark the position. EB and EM then dug another row of seven holes and Ella Montt placed the last seven Potatoes in their respective holes. Bob Flowerdew had advised to dig holes as big as a saucepan and Ella Montt remembered this. A note was made to acquire Comfrey roots for the Plot. Comfrey is an excellent plant food for Potatoes, Tomatoes and compost. EM and EB shared Ella Montt’s thermos of plant-based tea whilst they discussed the Plot.

When EB went back to the rest in the library archive Ella Montt planted 4 x 3 sticks of dried Bamboo at each corner of the Plot in triangular formations. It was somewhat early in the year to be assembling Climbing Bean supports, but Ella Montt had decided that the Heavy Metal CDs needed to be reinstated to the Plot to try to ward of predators. Ella Montt attached the CDs with last years blue plastic string to the Bamboo supports. The Heavy Metal CDs will swing with the breeze and create a slight disturbance around the Plot that may interfere with pigeons feeding, but will not deter any slugs. Ella Montt then applied pieces of Fragile Handle With Care packaging tape that had been saved from an incoming package.

Ella Montt was in the studio, it was March 24th 2011, two days before another March in London against government spending cuts. This March was due to be as large as the Anti War March in 2003. Ella Montt hoped it would remain peaceful. What would be the point of violence breaking out between police and protestors when police are also being cut? The police should also be marching. Ella Montt was in no mood to pussyfoot around; she slipped off her 4″ heel gold dance shoes and left them standing amongst the field of chitting Potatoes on the studio floor. EM put on her muddy earth footwear, reached for her bike helmet and reflective visibility vest and then strode down the corridor. Once outside she unlocked her bike and cycled off across the campus to go to the Allotment Plot at MERL. It was almost two weeks after the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, and still there was an on going nuclear crisis at Fukushima.

The weather in the South East of the UK was above normal average temperatures for the time of year. A weatherman said that the 24th March in the UK was warmer than South of Spain, but there was no suggestion that the warmth was to do with any kind of radiation cloud that had drifted 6000 miles around the planet, unlike the radiation cloud that travelled across Europe from Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The Japanese have so far been able to avoid a meltdown, but the situation may not be contained for months, meanwhile radiation continues to leak and the reactor sits dangerously close to a fault line as do others dotted around the Earth’s surface. In 1986 humans had stood outside the public house on Charlotte Road in London enjoying the exceptionally warm weather whilst sheep on Welsh mountains absorbed the radiation.

Ella Montt had arrived at the Allotment Plot at MERL, collected tools from the shed and was now forking over some unseeded parts of the Plot. EM piled more soil on to the Lady Balfour Potatoes earthing them up as a preventative against frost. There had been virtually no rain all month and the weather forecast implied rain was unlikely for almost another week. The temperature felt like May or June, but in reality it was not.

The plants that had managed to survive the winter (some had not) were starting to grow again. The Garlic was looking very good. Ella Montt prepared to plant some more Peas and Broad Beans to fill in the gaps where plants had perished or been eaten. Other seeds were in the process of germinating in pots at the fixed up greenhouse at another location.

As a bumblebee flew by Ella Montt proceeded to plant more seeds. First the overwintered row of Pea Meteor was filled in again. Followed closely by rows of Pea Kelvedon Wonder, Pea Ambassador, Pea (Edible Podded) Ezetha’s Krombek Blauschokker, and Pea (Mange-tout) Oregon Sugar Pod. Then Ella Montt planted some more Broad Bean seeds to try to fill out the broken rows of overwintered Broad Bean Supersimonia and Superaquadulce. Between the two rows of Broad Beans Ella Montt planted a row of Carrots Rothild and Autumn King, then a row of Parsnip Halblange White and a row of Leek Blue Green Winter. Beyond the Garlic, close to the Brick Composter, Ella Montt planted a mixed row of Leaf Beet Rainbow Chard and Kale Halbhoher Grun Krauser. Next to the Herbs at the other end of the Plot, Ella Montt planted a mixture of Onion Ramrod, Dill, Flat Leaved Parsley, and Coriander Santos. The final planting of the day around the Plot was a mixture of Companion Planting flowering seeds, Cosmos Cosmea, Cosmos Orange Cosmea, Borage, Pot Marigold Calendula Officinalis and Nasturtium Organic Mix. Ella Montt knew that Allotment Plot at MERL is small comparatively in size to Allotment Plot 326, but was very conscious of the need for crop rotation whilst she planted. Crop rotation means that no like for like plant should be planted in the same place as the previous year, in order to minimize disease and fertility of the soil.

Whilst Ella Montt was planting she noticed the Mint rhizome had extended out of the Plot and in to the grass of the lawn. This was somewhat of a surprise and an unintentionally thought process. Perhaps on the next visit an attempt will be made to revert this rhizome back in to the boundaries of the Plot. Ella Montt was aware that Mint rhizomes were growing within the Plot, but would need to consult Deleuze and Guattari about removing plant structures that drifted outside of the Plot to see if they needed to be reinstated within the Plot.

At Allotment 326 on Tuesday 22nd, earlier in the week, Ella Montt had planted 15 Madeleine First Early Potatoes that had been chitted in the studio and then EM had carried on digging. Ella Montt had much to do at Allotment Plot 326; there was a never-ending task to try to destroy the rhizomatic growth of the brambles at the Plot. There was also a constant urgency looming over Ella Montt that if a fence was not applied to Allotment Plot 326, rabbits would eat any other vegetable that would be planted at the Plot. Luckily at the moment the rabbits were keeping the encroaching grass well trimmed. Ella Montt was not aware of rabbits existing in the garden at MERL.

Fruit Trees

At Allotment Plot 326 on January 14th 2011, Ella Montt planted some fruit bushes and trees. The temperature on that day was almost balmy. In the designated planting area the ground was dug to try to remove any bramble roots. Holes were then excavated and the roots of the trees and bushes were grounded and firmly covered with soil. The trees planted were Apple Cevaal, Cherry Summer Sun, and Plum Victoria, all on small root stock. The bushes planted were 2 Jostaberry, 1 Gooseberry Pax and 1 Blackcurrant Ben Sarek. Also re-planted was a Strawberry Plant and some Raspberry Canes that had been found on the Plot.

After several hours of labour, Ella Montt was hurrying to finish her work. The sky was darkening and a clap of thunder sounded over head. Then the rain came, falling heavily on the young trees, the newly cultivated soil and the worker Ella Montt.

On the 25th January, Ella Montt returned to the Plot to find bark had been eaten from trees. When the trees arrived they came with a warning that Rabbits may attack them by eating their bark. Ella had been too busy to return to the Plot before now and was sorry that she had neglected the trees. A bag of old netting sat in the Shed, Ella collected it and searched the Plot for anything she could use to prop the net up with. She found some old bamboo canes, sticks from the old Apple tree and pieces of wooden bed frame. With this assemblage of material Ella Montt created a barrier that she hoped the Rabbits could not invade. Ella wrapped biodegradable plastic around the damaged bark on the trees to protect them.

Ella Montt returned to the Plot on 28th January to check on the trees. It seemed so far there had been no new invaders. The rest of the Plot still needs to be dug over, brambles roots removed and fences put into place to try to protect the plants that Ella Montt wants to try to grow there as part of the Plot. It is very much an experimental growing area.

Planting to Overwinter

At Ella Montt’s Allotment Plot at MERL on the 15th October 2010 it was a perfect Autumn day, the leaves were gently falling from the trees in the garden (and along the foot/cycle path journey route). The Mulberry tree leaves, next to the Allotment Plot, had mostly turned to yellow. The Cosmos Cosmea‘s pink petals seemed like patches of faded summer colour amongst the Autumn rusting hues. It has not rained significantly in so many days, the soil looked dry, but moisture exists below the surface. More flower seeds were collected. Ella Montt harvested the Climbing Beans that were ready to be picked and removed some more of the plants that had finished producing. Carrots were dug. The Beetroot never grew to their potential. Digging with a garden fork commenced to redefine some of the Plots edges and also to dig in lightly some of the Fenugreek as a green manure. Any unwanted plant residue from the Plot was added to the brick lined compost area.

Cosmos CosmeaNext to the Cosmos Cosmea

In the spaces that had opened up on the Plot Ella Montt planted an amount of seeds to overwinter. Next to the recently germinated Carrots which are close to the compost area four types of Garlic were planted; 2 cloves x Elephant Garlic (1), followed by 8 cloves x Dukat Garlic (2), then 16 cloves x Sprint Garlic (3) and then 14 cloves x Thermidrome Garlic (4). Next two rows of Onions Swift were planted, 2 x 13 = 26 sets. Broad Bean (1) Supersimonia x 16 beans were planted near to the Brassicas and then an adjacent row of Broadbean (2) Super Aquadulce x 16 beans. Where the Carrots had been dug Pea Meteor were planted in a concentrated amount (50 approximately), as the rest of the carrots are dug more Peas will be planted.

Planting GarlicPlanting Elephant Garlic Clove

The days harvest: Lettuce Marvel of the Four Seasons = 2oz = 60g; Carrots Amsterdam Forcing = 1lb 2oz = 500g; Climbing Beans = 3oz = 80g; Runner Beans Blue Lake 7oz = 200g; Runner Beans Painted Lady = 7oz = 200g.

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

Planting and Harvest an Experiment

Ella Montt’s experiment of planting and harvesting at the Allotment Plot at MERL is on going. The first harvest (on 20/05/2010), which was over wintered Spinach, was inedible. The Spinach should have produced leaves that would have been harvestable through out the months of winter. The Spinach suffered crop failure and was regrettably dug up on 27/05/2010 to make way for new plants. The fork used to extract the Spinach had great difficulty in root excavation, because the soil was so dry and compact. The discarded plants were placed in a wheelbarrow to be delivered later to a compost bin in order for the molecular break down into soil.

The Brassicas look like they are also doomed to crop failure, but as part of the experiment in planting and harvesting, the striped seedlings will be left for a duration of weeks in order to monitor their progression and as a Monument to crop failure. The experiment here is to test the plants will and determination for growth and survival. Replanting of these particular Brassica seeds is not really an option, because their planting window was March to April and it is now the end of May. The summer Spinach that was planted in March is also going to seed.

On 26/05/2010 it had rained during the night. The rainwater had wet the surface soil, but not penetrated further into the ground. More rain is needed. The ground is desperately dry. However, the evidence of other plant proliferation diffuses a sense of desperation regarding specific elemental conditions that have resulted in particular crops failure.

A handful of Peas (2oz or 40grams) was harvested. More will be ready soon. The Broadbeans are forming and some will probably be ready for harvesting next week, providing no hungry predators attack the young pods.


The next action on the Allotment Plot involved planting. The area that had held the over wintered Spinach between the Peas and the Garlic, was commandeered for the Squashes. Ten holes were dug with a trowel in readiness for the new plants. Various Squashes had been germinated and grown on as seedlings in the fixed up greenhouse at another location. The seeds that had had been planted weeks before in the greenhouse included Cucumber Tanja, Courgette Patriot F1, Courgette Soliel F1, Squash Black Futsu, Squash Green Hokkaido, Squash Uchiki Kuri, Squash Blue Ballet, and Squash Butternut. On moving the plants to MERL a breakdown occurred in Ella Montt’s transcribing communication structure resulting in confusion by Ella Montt as to which plant was which variety. Therefore an assortment of Squashes was planted on the Plot, ten plants initially, but depending on the success or failure of the planting, these may be followed by others. After the plants arrived in their growing destination and their roots were covered a bell was rang to announce their arrival. The plants were shocked and wilting after their travel from the greenhouse to the Plot. They were given water, poured from the watering can, to aid their recovery.

Squash 1Squash 2

Next holes were dug in the Brassica area near to Sunflowers and Garlic, six Tomato plants; one Pepper and one Aubergine were planted. a bell was rung to announce the new plant arrivals and the plants were watered. Sticks are forced into the ground to act as support for the plants as they grow. String was tied around the sticks and each plant.


Another planting action then took place, in the herb border next to the Sage and Chives. Young herb seedlings were planted including Marjoram, Camomille and Basil.

herbs & parsnipsRed Kale

A report on the other crops not previously mentioned on the Plot is as follows: Parsnips, Carrots, Onions, Red Onions, Red Kale are all growing. Leeks, Rainbow Chard and Beetroot are growing, but very small. Sunflower plant is growing and Sunflower seeds are germinating, (predators please stay away from the area).

The Garlic plants are developing central looping stalks know as Scape, these can be snipped off and eaten after they have made one or two loops. Or they can be cut before the loop progresses to try to insure a larger bulb. The Scape can be left until harvest time; the flower will produce Bulbils that is Garlic seed, which can be used to plant to grow more Garlic next year. The Garlic Scapes will be left to grow as an experimental part of the Plot. The Scapes will be cut at different times and the Garlic bulbs monitored as part of the harvesting.

Garlic Scape 1

A final planting for the day occurred almost as an after thought. Shallow drills containing a scattering of seeds Cabbage Red Drumhead, Cabeza, Brooccoli Purple Sprouting Early, Kohl Rabi Azur Star, Florence Fennel Romanesco, and five Artichoke Imperial Star completed the process. Further watering with the watering can was then required.

First Harvest, Weeding and Watering

The over wintered Spinach planted back in the Autumn has gone to seed. On 20/05/2010 the first harvest was cut, producing one bag of flowering Spinach weighing 10oz or 260 grams. The Spinach on the Plot will be left for a week or so to see if more can be harvested or if the plants need to be dug up to reclaim the area for further planting. Spinach Harvest

Weeding can be an intricate and time-consuming activity. Rows of wanted vegetable seedlings can grow surround by an assortment of unwanted weed plants. Weeds are generally unwanted plants growing in a cultivated area. In an organic vegetable growing situation hand weeding is a very important thing and the easiest way to get rid of the weeds. There is a big difference in green manures used to fertilize the soil for growing vegetables to unwanted weeds growing with the vegetables. Having too many weeds amongst the vegetables is generally not a good thing. Weeds compete for nutrients and moisture, they can also over run a plot. When it comes to harvesting, in the vegetable business world, weeds showing up amongst the crop are normally removed to appease the consumer. However there is a place for weeds in relation to the growing environment, unweeded areas that will not interfere with crops can also attract all kinds of biodiversity that can assist in the growing process. Stinging nettles are particularly useful. Many weeds may have all kinds of beneficial properties to the human diet, however some weeds can be harmful if digested or an irritant to the skin, identifying what plant properties are and knowledge is the key.

On the Allotment Plot removing the weeds from around the seedlings revealed the young and tender plants. The shield of protection that the weeds may have given to the seedlings will be observed on further visits to the Plot. The vegetable seedlings that emerged were Parsnips, Carrots, Beetroots, Chard, Leeks and Red Onions. A hesitation was apparent when it came to remove the weeds around the Brassica seedlings, which had already been damaged by hungry predators. The hesitation lasted about 22 hours and then on returning to the Plot the weeds were removed. If the Brassicas can survive is an unknown factor. The Kale Red Russian Curled seedlings and Lettuce Marvel of the Four Seasons are both naturally red pigmented and seem to be growing better perhaps for that reason, this suggests that it may not be pigeons that are feeding on the Brassicas, so perhaps slugs and snails could be the assailants.

After weeding activity, the Plot progresses to watering, in order to alleviate the drought conditions. Water was gathered into the watering can from the tap, carried to the Allotment Plot and poured onto the parched soil. At least six full watering cans were used in drought alleviation.

A triangle of bamboo canes was forced into the ground and tied with string to produce some stability. Near each bamboo cane was planted two organic French Bean (Climbing) Blauhide seeds and two French Bean (Climbing) Blue Lake seeds. A row of twelve Sweetcorn Golden Bantam seeds were planted near the over wintered Onion sets and a row of twelve French Bean (Dwarf) Royalty seeds was also planted. There is no sign as yet of the Wild Rocket seedlings, the Lettuce Lollo Rosso or the White Lisbon Spring Onions.

Carrot Beetroot & Parsnips

Watered 2

Watered 1

Planting and Weeding

Planting Performance (4) occurred on 13/05/2010. The weather conditions were warm and sunny. For several days prior to the Planting event, it had looked like it may rain, the previous evening dark storm clouds had gathered, but no rain fell. Temperatures were dipping down at night causing frost damage to some plants, but luckily not on the Allotment Plot.

The state of the Plot reports as follows; the Broadbeans had almost finished flowering, the dying flowers that have turned black, will form their bean pods over the next few weeks. The Peas, now very much recovered from the cold winter, are flowering so the first Pea pods will arrive soon. The garlic continues to grow as does the onion sets, although the Garlic has always seemed to be growing far more rapidly than the Onions. The over wintered Spinach that was supposed to provide food through out the winter, is now going to seed and the leaves are still small.

The Brassicas have been attacked and eaten by predators, possibly pigeons, leaving the skeletal frames of the seedlings. Will the Brassicas recover or are they doomed to crop failure? Is this high or low drama on the Plot? What may seem comparatively insignificant in the scheme of the Plot, could in months to come, when the greens are most needed for nutritional requirements, mean that there is a substantial deficit in food production, producing a hungry gap that should not be there at that time. Covering the Brassicas may assist in their recovery, but it may not, because the damage could be too great. The situation will be carefully monitored.


Planted at the Plot on that day in honour of Guerrilla Gardeners everywhere was a sunflower seeding and sunflower seeds. Weeding then prevailed. Using a hoe and also by hand many weeds were removed from the plot. Weeding will be an on going activity on the Plot.

Is the viewer aware that this Allotment Plot is a live Art situation? It is an on going event that can be visited in Museum opening times. The Plot is growing its own aesthetic. Ella Montt will not always be there, but the Allotment Plot is. Does this particular Plot differ from the two other vegetable plots in the garden and what makes it Art? Weeding 1

Weeding 2