summer fading to autumn

The days are definitely getting shorter and the mornings colder. The mellowing sun lower in the sky.
There is a cold damp morning mist clinging to Hamstead Heath, wrapped around the trees. The first falling golden leaves of autumn lay on the pavement outside my studio (which I pick up and photograph).
The allotment is looking healthy enough for this time of year, one of our late sown sunflowers lighting up the plot like an angle poise lamp.
There’s plenty of winter salad, taking advantage of the last warmth of the sun, they will soon need thinning and transplanting.
Despite the slowing of growth, there’s still life here. Party dress Dahlias on neighbouring plots, clear orange of calendula and nasturtium glow like bright embers in the ash.
I love this time of year, a calm moment of equilibrium, before the pendulum swings back toward the darkness of winter.

Howard Sooley
25 September 2014

bean soup

Cooked a bean soup on the plot. We hoping to roast the sweet corn (which we did anyway) but it hadn’t been a good corn year for us , as was last year and the one before… we don’t seem to be good at corn.
The day was still and warm and the allotments curiously unpopulated. Conkers plummeted from the trees, ricocheting like pistol fire from the branches as they fell.


The bees, aware of the spent embers of hollyhock, hurriedly made the most of the last splashes of late summer colour. We sowed (late) some winter leaf hoping the autumn would be kind to us.
The bean soup was delicious.

Howard Sooley
07 September 2014

11 potatoes

I was at the plot just before 7am this morning, met by a fine misty drizzle. The pigeons were busy taking breakfast amongst the half chewed remnants of our mizuna. My approach sent them bursting up into the high branches. I wish they’d stay there.



On sunday we had cleared a space for the potatoes, by moving the remaining chard to the opposite side of the plot. It is a remarkably full plot, but we now have a clear run of 11’ x  2’, which progressed with the digging of a trench (Allan now in need of an osteopath…)

We seem to be drawn towards growing potatoes, it’s not like we really have the space. Last year with the lack of sun the they marauded over half the plot, and  then repaid us frugally with a few unimpressive tubers. But we persevere every year, somehow reassured by their presence. They make it feel like a ‘real’ allotment, give dimension. We grow very few root crops, but somehow they seem necessary.



Today was a root day so in went the 11 potatoes..

in order from left to right they were..



Belle de Fontenay

Sharpes Express

Sharpes Express

Belle de Fontenay

Arran pilot

Arran pilot





Howard Sooley

a few days later..

Sowed four rows of spring salads and rocket yesterday, two rows of spanish peas today.


All in blissful warm sunshine. The winter mustards all bolting into yellow flower. The deep mahogany chicories slowly reverting back to summer green.



The pond now choked with frogs spawn, with little or no space between the lumps of wobbly translucent jelly.



Howard Sooley

tiny gold eyes.

Just now I watched the television news, showing images of the country blanketed in snow on this day last March. But today, it’s a very different story, warm and sunny, spring sunshine breaking through the naked branches of the trees surrounding the allotments. Its rays warm and welcome, I turned towards it’s yellow glow, closed my eyes and felt it’s warmth.

Earlier we had eaten sandwiches on Hampstead Heath, on a picnic blanket under a birch tree upon lush green grass. Unimaginable a few weeks ago, in all the dark, the cold and relentless rain. But the clouds have passed for now and spring is here.


Nancy and I left the picnic, walked over the heath to meet Allan.

The plot somehow looked like it had shrunk over winter, smaller than it seemed on my last visit. Maybe that’s because there isn’t much planting space available. Our winter crops are still there. The winter salads were failed to reach any sort of size before winter was upon them. Only now are they starting to look healthy and strong. The same could be said of the chicories, another year when they were either in too late or not given enough space. Now they are looking beautiful, still (for a while) in their winter plumage.

Nancy called from the ponds. They were alive with interlinked frogs, pushing between mounds frogspawn, hundreds tiny circular gold eyes watching our every move, to a chorus of froggy croaks.


Allan dug up an oversized radish planted last year and left. It looked more like a turnip, kept for it’s foliage as much as anything else. He sliced it very thinly with a pocket knife, it was surprisingly delicious.

The allotments were busy, lots of plot holders were there, digging, weeding, and sowing. It was an industrious place. Apart from plot 29 (us), where it was a biodynamic ‘non-doing’ sort of day. So it became a planning day, and a day to enjoy spring.

White frothing blossom on the blackthorn and plum trees, a bubblegum pink Magnolia flowering against the cloudless blue sky, birds singing for all they were worth (whilst gathering nesting materials) and the hawthorns spraying out acid green from all their spiny branches.


Howard Sooley

last leaves..


Howard Sooley