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The rent on No. 16 has gone up by a shocking 70-odd percent above the RPI. But since it’s gone from £4 to £7 a year I think we can stomach that. Looking at the price of fruit and veg in the Co-op this evening I think we’ll save that on our first crop of the year.

No so lucky are the residents of nearby Middlesbrough where the (presumably cash-strapped) Council tried to raise rents from £32 to £104 a year. Cue outrage. Mayor Ray Mallon has agreed to look at the rents afresh. Story here.

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‘Triceratops poo’. So far we have used horse and organic cow manure but of anyone has a pile of Triceratops horridus manure, we’d be happy to give it a go on No. 16/

My Allotment Heaven.

Today we have

planted 12 sweetcorn seeds (it went dark, and planting sweetcorn in the dark probably violates several health and safety directives). More will be dibbed in tomorrow.

Last year’s sweetcorn efforts looked like I had ‘tended’ them by hitting them with a spade twice daily and three times on Sundays. Turns out that sweetcorn are delicate things and must be handled with care – these ones have been started in fibre pots which will be planted directly into the soil when the seedlings are established and hardened – the pots will rot away allowing the roots into the soil without my paws mangling them. My next allotment neighbours also say that sweetcorn like partial shelter so the sweetcorn patch will be close to the hawthorn hedge and neighbours’ Taj Mahal sized polytunnel.

OK. Let’s hope for better sweetcorn results this year.

And we have polytunnel envy.

I want one.

There hasn’t been much point in posting because the past five months hereabouts have been snow, snow, snow, hard frost and rain respectively. We did venture up to the allotment a couple of times, but there was damn all even the most determined gardener could do. When No. 16 emerged from winter it was a depressing weedy sight but three days of manic digging and two burst blisters  later something resembling usable beds emerged…

No 16 after a few days of graft.

In the foreground early new potatoes and red onions, the bed behind has two more rows of spuds (maincrop Maris piper) then a row of rocket, lollo rosso, purple sprouting broccoli and fruit canes. The long row to the right has had vast amounts of compost and manure dug in over the past two year, so is ripe for pea and bean planting – experimental borlotti beans went in last night, peas will follow and French beans are being sprouted. After two stuttering years when No 16 showed only a fraction of its potential we are on track for bringing all the opened beds into production for 2010.

Has made it into the Financial Times Westminster blog.  They are not impressed.

“The new food review by Defra promises much but offers little*. As far as I can make out, there is a lot of widescreen chin-stroking (sorry, moral leadership) about future food shortages and the need to get green but nothing remotely concrete – unless you count a new website “Food 2030″ for the public to write in with suggestions.

Instead we are left with loads of vague platitudes and some worthy suggestions.”

The article links to DEFRA’s document, which I’ll have a glance at.  Allotments and gardening made it onto Radio 5 Live’s Richard Bacon programme on Monday night (from 10 PM) which you can listen to on BBC iplayer.  Presenter Matthew Bannister got rather tiresome on the subject of sheds.  We allotmenting blokes only do it to hide into sheds to escape our womenfolk you see.  A line which may have been funny the first time it was used, but not the way Bannister flogged it.

UPDATE: I have read DEFRA’s document ‘One Year On’.  Possibly I missed it, but it appears that Britons who grow their own appear to have no role to play in future food security.  Possibly a cross-cutting stakeholdergroup is being considered, but nowhere did I see a line enouraging garden veg-growing and stating that allotment may have a modest role to play in providing food.

UPDATE2: the document has vanished. Your tax £s at work.