I’ve been doing my impression of a headless chicken again, rushing around (mentally, rather than physically) trying to catch up with things. Given that I have over 70 unread emails, I’m not doing terribly well, but I am gradually working my way through them, catching up on blogs, finding plumbers, choosing tiles…

Anyway, one of the things I have got behind on is blogging myself. I’ve been taking photos and not getting around to writing the posts. They appear in my head but somehow I never get around to putting finger to keyboard – or not for that, anyway. Too distracted by finding a new outside light and someone to fit it. But enough! It is high time I posted about the allotment, I have come to rely on the blog as a record of what works and what doesn’t.

Yesterday I ventured up to the allotment and picked beans, mangetout and raspberries under grey skies. Since it was also blowing a near-gale, I am using photos from an earlier, sunnier, windless day, last week, when I could still sit outside with a mug of tea pondering. A day with clear blue skies to set off the almost-changing leaves on the trees.

winter crop in field

A day when I could enjoy the sun on silky thistles and the daisies that are stubbornly growing in the middle of the winter crops.

shiny thistle
silky thistle

The “beast” of the post title is Carrot Fly. I experimented with my carrots – as with pretty much everything else. I protected some with fleece, initially in tent form and then as a 40cm high barrier around the patch. The rest I left au naturel, but accompanied by garlic chives, spring onions and marigolds. I prefer the “no protection” look, but having enjoyed meal after meal of tasty and perfect carrots from the protected patch, I then picked these:

autumn king carrots with root fly damage

So much for my plan for carrots through the autumn, I had to pull the lot just in case I could stop it spreading to them all. I got one meal from them. So, next year all my carrots will be protected with mesh, all year.

My sprouts aren’t exactly beastly, but they are worryingly short. I had dreams of home grown purple sprouts for Christmas Day dinner. I suppose they might suddenly put on a growth spurt, but really, it doesn’t look good.

short sprouts

They are pretty, healthy, but short. Particularly when compared to the ones next door:

tall sprouts

On the other hand, the beans have been great, and only yesterday I picked so many ‘Cherokee Trail of Tears’ beans that I had to blanch and freeze them. I’ll definitely be growing them again next year. I’ll also be growing these:

oregon sugar pod

‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ mangetout. Delicious, and heavy-cropping too. I did an early sowing in Spring and then another “chance my arm” sowing in late summer, and this year at least it paid off. I’ll hope to do successional sowing of these next year, if I can get organised enough, assuming I am not too busy packing boxes or looking for a new house!

We are also getting a really good crop from the ‘Cupidon’ dwarf French beans, which can get really long (over 10cm) and are delicious from tiny (and eaten raw in salads) to long and still slender (gently steamed).

cupidon beans

The only downside that I can see is that they are hard to pick, as the beans are exactly the same colour as the leaves and stalks. So, I will probably sow more next year, but I will also go back to the yellow dwarf beans, which are so much easier to find!

The biggest surprise has been the raspberries. I planted a dozen new plants in the Spring, as soon as I had cleared enough ground to get them in, nothing fancy, just ‘Autumn Bliss’, assuming that we would only get a minimal crop with this being their first year. Instead we have been picking them steadily since late July, up to three times a week, and they have been delicious.


Now that we are moving in to Autumn, I am busy sowing more green manure, trying to decide where I can put my nursery bed, and wondering how soon I could see if the Jerusalem Artichokes are any good. At least they are finally flowering, which adds a welcome splash of colour.

flowering jerusalem artichokes

Not that colour has been exactly lacking on the plot this year. When I originally got the plot I had great plans for a cutting garden. More accurately, I planned to have three borders filled with flowers, which I would cut and bring back to the house. Plans changed and I ended up with just two thin beds and flowers crammed in amongst the veges, but it has been really successful.


I’ve still got dahlias and marigolds brightening up the beetroot patch, the cosmos that took over from the sweet peas are still going strong, and the snap dragons have been flowering their colourful socks off for months now.

orange wonder snaps

The only real failure has been my lack of consistency in cutting them and taking them home for the house. I can’t bring myself to. Even though I know most of them will flower even better if I do. So I will leave you with pictures of the sunflowers, which have been late but wonderful, and willgo and give myself another talking to about remembering to cut at least some for the house before they are over…

ladybird in sunflower
bronze-beauty sunflower
smiley flower
velvety sunflower

51 thoughts on “Beauty and the Beast

  1. Hi Janet, Sounds like lots of great bounty from your plot. Love the autumn colours of your sunflowers. I sympathise about cutting flowers for the house, it’s so hard even when they’re plentiful and you know they’ll indeed be happier for it too. I could manage to take a few sweet peas, but my husband is very allergic to their strong scent so they are banned from indoors – though I do sneak the odd one or two onto the front windowsill in the porch..

    1. Hi Sara, I’m glad I am not the only one! We did manage to pick quite a few sweet peas, though even then they went to seed too early.

  2. Hi Janet,

    Nice to see you’re still getting so many different veggies/fruits. I’ve been rather lazy with the veggies and fruits this year – mainly due to Uni work earlier on in the year.
    I’ve been trying to get lots of jobs done but the rain for a few days has made it very difficult and the soil and grass is very wet – I have wet feet now after cutting the lawn edges… The front garden is quite boggy because it’s north facing but also the border I was edging practically has nothing growing in it all year except spring when the bulbs and primula are out (as a result, grass was taking over from the lawn). So I need to sort that out and put more shade lovers in there to brighten it up a bit.

    1. Hi Liz, I have a simple solution for you – get rid of the grass and grow more plants! No edging, no muddy wet feet, no mowing, and lots and lots of space for more plants… Just saying…

      I love growing beans, I love growing anything that produces loads and loads from just a single seed. I love carrots too, but they are way less generous, just one carrot per seed, and so much more demanding.

      1. Hi Janet,

        My Beans were a disaster this year and I assume the result of old seed – so I need to get some fresh. I tried so many times to get some French Beans and in the end only one managed to sprout, then it just stopped in its tracks at about 10cm for ages. It then finally began to grow very late in the season and maxed out at around 30cm lol. It wasn’t even a dwarf French bean!!!

        Yep I’d considered getting rid of the front lawn when we first moved here; but I’ve been concentrating on getting the back garden sorted over the past 4 years that now my attention can be turned towards the front and down the side of the house.
        And I will be extending the border where it gets boggy, if anything just to try to stop the moss growing that seems to be taking hold – I also chopped back the Buddleja which was blocking out a lot of the precious light. I have some Ferns and a Lady’s Mantle that can be planted as well as planning on moving a Lilyturf which has struggled since I planted it when I first moved (I thought it’d be shady but this spot of the garden gets full sun in summer as the sun comes round the houses) and dividing up a Geranium.
        As for the rest of the lawn, well, we’ll see. I may extend borders little by little but I’m not sure I want it just to be plants; even if it is an annoyance to mow.

  3. Wow, some really beautiful photographs. Half of my allotment has been devoted to cut flowers and I haven’t minded cutting them expect when I find wildlife enjoying them. I was cutting some asters the other day and found one plant covered in bees so I had to leave them. It felt a bit selfish taking away their food even if they have done rather well out of my plot this summer.

    1. Hi, thanks for dropping by – I love your blog name! I’m sure the bees appreciated you leaving them some lunch. Maybe I would do better and cutting flowers if I grew more, maybe it is because there are comparatively few. On the other hand, maybe if I had lots of space and did a “proper” cutting garden I would still fail to see them as another crop and would still struggle to cut them. I hope I get to find out some day…

  4. Hi Janet – I’ve missed reasding your posts but am glad you’re back on the case. Sounds like you’ve been doing alright with late harvests and raspberries – they are such good value aren’t they. Lovely sunflower pics.

    1. Hi Elaine, how lovely to be missed! It feels good to be back in the blogging world.

  5. Janet, I can almost warm my hands on these autumn colours. And you’ve got a lady bird! I have only seen one this year!
    The first time I grew carrots in Orkney they were magnificent and I was rather smug. Not a carrot root fly in sight. The second year they were riddled with the beast. I don’t really like covering everything so it’s just luck if we get any carrots at all.

    1. Hi Janet, I saw loads of ladybirds early this year, and then none for months, so it was rather lovely to spot that one sunning itself. I keep remembering the vege garden on Anglesey that got me hooked on the whole edibles thing (growing them, that is, I have always been a fan of eating…). Nothing was covered, and there were no problems. Maybe the sea air? The regular howling gales? No idea, but I might be tempted to try the uncovered thing again if I wind up with a veg patch I can see from the house.

  6. Janet – Thanks for helping me identify snapdragons. I’ve got three grown from mixed seeds growing horizontally looking for sunlight. Those “autumn bliss” raspberries caught my eye especially. I love raspberries, but they are quite expensive to buy in the supermarket.

    1. Hi b-a-g, I love snap dragons, I used to play with them in my Nan’s garden when I was a child, pinching the sides of the flowers to make them “talk”. I also love raspberries, and growing them was all about being able to eat them, as I can’t afford to buy them. So worth it, I wish I had planted raspberries in my back garden years ago.

    1. It gets a bit out of hand at times, doesn’t it! Hope things calm down for you soon.

  7. I’m interested in the Cherokee beans: when you say you froze them, do you mean the pods or just the beans (seeds) inside? I also have Autumn Bliss raspberries and I love them – great taste and a long harvest season.

    1. Hi Mark, we eat the beans when young and still mostly green just as French Beans, so I blanched them and froze them whole to eat later when the plants finally stop producing.

  8. I have the same issue with photos. I’ve taken so many this summer but never seem to write the posts. Those rusty sunflowers are so beautiful. I wondered what mangetout was but thank goodness for pictures. I see it’s peas, snap peas I think. That is a shame about the carrots, I wonder if that’s something that stays in the plot from year to year?

    1. Hi Marguerite, I get very confused by all the different names for peas. We seem to use sugarsnap to mean the slightly puffier peas you eat whole, I grew some of those too but they finished ages ago, which was a shame as they were amazingly tasty. Mangetout seems to apply to the completely flat “eat them whole” peas. I’ve read that carrot fly eggs lie in the soil over winter, so you are supposed to fork over the ground when it is about to get frosty to hopefully kill them off. Maybe the next bed I grow carrots in won’t have any.

  9. That is a lot to care for, but it looks like you reaped the benefits. My peas did terribly this year with out heat and I did not plant them for the cooler weather now and regret it. I love your ladybird capture . That is a pretty shot.

    1. Hi Donna, I was so happy to get the ladybird picture, I’ve not seen many since the Spring. I think I have been very lucky with the beans and peas this year, the cool summer and then warm early autumn has kept them going much longer than is normal.

  10. Jerusalem artichokes are one of my favorites, just because they’re so satisfying to dig up on a grim winter day when everything else is dreary. Those lovely autumn blooms and their giant size don’t hurt, either… Out here they’re a favorite dinner of potato leaf hoppers, so I’ve had to let mine die out. I agree with Donna–I love the sunflower/ladybird photo, especially with all the green curly bits (to use the technical term) in the foreground.

    1. Hi Stacy, that is exactly why I am trying to stay patient, I like the idea of wandering up to the plot in December and being able to dig some up to make soup for lunch. Potato leaf hoppers? I hope I don’t find any of those here… I don’t know what the green curly bits are called either, I should ask Donna, she did a great post on sunflowers recently.

  11. Wow, it still does sound like you got a great harvest! And it makes me want to plant some raspberry plants! My veggie garden did not do well this year, sadly. Next year I will be moving it to a sunnier location.
    Your pictures of the sunflowers are gorgeous!

    1. Good luck for next year Indie. One of the great things about raspberries – apart from the taste – is that they will grow in partial shade quite happily, so maybe when you move the rest of your veggie garden you could plant some there?

  12. I am so full of admiration for what you have achieved on your allotment during the first year. I’ve never had any success with carrots, next year I’m going to try them in pots – a pain to keep watered, but hopefully I will get a crop. I have to admit my ignorance in that I didn’t know until last weekend that the masses of tall, yellow flowers growing on various sites were the flowers of Jeruselem artichokes! I’ve heard they are very invasive so I’m not sure I’ll be growing them even thought my husband is very fond of them. Christina

    1. Hi Christina, I have heard that once you have Jerusalem Artichokes you are never rid of them because they will regenerate from a single tuber, but I don’t know, being new to them. I think that they and my one and only celeriac are the veg I am most excited about, they tick the box of being expensive/hard to find in the supermarkets but delicious and possible to grow yourself. Good luck with your carrots, I think growing in containers is a good way to go, although a friend of mine invested in one of those raised beds on legs, something like this I think. I imagine it would be fairly straightforward to make something along these lines, and run irrigation to it to help on the watering front… Alternatively, Mark@Mark’s Veg Patch has had a lot of success growing in small but deep plastic containers sat on a table, much cheaper.

  13. Hi Janet, good to see you back, and so much foodie stuff,great. If we do move there will be a veggie garden in the new place.

    1. Hi Alistair, thank you, it is good to be back! Almost worth moving just for that Alistair! But only almost, such an upheaval.

  14. Everything in your allotment looks wonderful, Janet! The beans, the mangetout–I assume a kind of snap pea?–the sunflowers…everything looks delicious and lovely. And I had no idea you could harvest so many raspberries their first year. Even the thistle and daisies, which I know you don’t want in the middle of veggies, look pretty. Looks like a very successful year in the allotment!

    1. Thank you Rose, I must admit I am very happy with my first year, it hasn’t put me off at all, far from it, though it is a lot of work. I have no idea when a pea is a mangetout and when it is a snap. I think in the supermarkets mangetout are always flat where as sugar snap peas are fat and juicy. I grew both this year, and “normal” peas. All delicious.

  15. It’s great having fresh berries so late in the season isn’t it? I wonder for how much longer?

    1. Hi Sue, I am torn between wanting a good hard frost so that I can clear the dahlias and plant bulbs and wallflowers, and wanting a good long spell of still almost warm weather to keep the beans and raspberries going…

  16. I hesitate to add a comment, Janet, as it must take you so long to respond to all the ones you receive. Just a quickie then: I love Cherokee Vale of Tears and got it from the brilliant Real Seeds – http://www.realseeds.co.uk/ – wondered whether you did too as I didn’t think it was ‘commercially’ available. (Sorry you may have already covered this in an earlier post). I love the way that they (the company) encourage you to save seed each year rather than buy fresh. If you don’t use them, I can’t recommend them enough.


    1. Hi Dave, please don’t ever hesitate to leave a comment – its what I love most about blogging, the informal almost-chatting through comments. And yes, I bought my seed from “Real Seeds”, like you I love their approach, their ethos, and buy a lot of my seed from them. I’m hoping to save seed from my Trail of Tears but I know that they are unlikely to come true. Real Seeds gave a quite scary recommendation for spacing between different bean types to ensure seed purity!!

  17. What a lovely little update on the allotment. Never mind the sprouts and the carrots, just look at those raspberries and beans, success me thinks :)

    And lovely flowers too, especially the sunflowers radiates warmth and looks so summery!

    1. I’m with you, accentuate the positive, enjoy the beans and raspberries. Sign me up! I was up there in sunshine and a T shirt this morning, which is a little disturbing given that it’s mid October already. Not that I’m complaining…

  18. I have never heard of carrot fly before you mentioning it. Sorry they got to your carrots, though they are bigger than any carrot I have grown!
    Love the sunflowers …especially the one with the ladybug.
    Am super jealous of your raspberries.

    1. Hi Janet. Carrot fly is a horrid little pest, but at least the protected carrots were really tasty. Sorry to have instilled raspberry jealousy…

  19. I enjoyed reading your post Janet which made me laugh at the thought of your challenge of picking such well camouflaged beans. Autumn fruiting raspberries have been a real revelation to me. I have found them not only bigger but so much tastier than their summer counterparts and I am planted to get more canes in. I think that the purple sprouts are not as vigorous as green. I grew some a couple of years ago which only got to the size of chocolate buttons by Christmas. I would make sure that you have an alternative supply on standby when it comes to planning your festive meal :)

    1. Hi Anna, I do think it is unfair of the beans to camouflage themselves so well! Thanks for the info about the purple sprouts, I think I had better view them as decorative rather than edible, then I might be pleasantly surprised… Oh, and I now have the disturbing image of purple sprouts dipped in chocolate, so thanks for that ;-)

  20. Beautiful -well, except for the carrot fly victims, that is… and glad you’re back again!

    I’ve given up on dwarf beans myself, partly because of the difficulty of picking and partly because of the fact that they end up filthy. But I may rethink – the slugs and snails definitely shared my preference for climbers this year, including my Cherokees. I think I had about six. Hrumpf…

    1. Hi Kate, I know what you mean about dwarf beans getting dirty. Sorry all your climbing beans got munched. I thought I had lost most of my “Trail of tears” to slugs early on but they rallied. I wonder if mulching dwarf beans with straw like with strawberries would work – though it would probably just create an even better environment for the slugs to conveniently hide before pouncing on the crop…

  21. I am in catch up mode as well, not so much for posting, but for responding. I do love your sunflowers.

    1. I’m glad they finally put in an appearance, they were so late compared to other people’s but it is rather wonderful to get the benefit at this end of the year. Catching up can get a little overwhelming, can’t it…

  22. Oh my goodness, Janet! I don’t even know where to start…the silky thistle…I don’t know that I would have been able to walk away! Easily could spend hours photographing it in the beautiful autumn light. The lady bug tucked into the foliage of the sunflower stopped me in my tracks. And the thought of being able to harvest fresh raspberries! Ha, not here in Central Texas! Sorry to hear about your carrots and happy you had at least one meal from them. How fortunate that you’ll have many happy stir-fries this winter with your fresh beans though!

    1. Hi Cat, you are definitely a photographer! I know what you mean about the thistle. I think if I hadn’t know I had so much work to do at the plot I would have just wandered “of piste” with my camera and searched out more! I really must take my camera for a walk one fine Autumn day, without the distractions of plants to clear and seed to sow.

  23. Our allotment site suffers from carrot fly so even when I do manage to grow half decent ones they often end up like that, even so I shall try again next year.
    I really like raspberries so I’m a touch envious that you’re still picking them!
    I thought that was one of my Jerusalem artichoke flower photos for a moment! Terrific sunflower photos, which are a favourite of mine as you probably know by now! xx

    1. Hi Flighty, I think the only way is mesh, and lots of it, if you want perfect carrots up at our allotment site. Your sunflowers were a source of both inspiration and exasperation to me this year, but at least with ours flowering at such different times we get to enjoy one another’s. Enjoy your artichokes!

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