Archive for July, 2008

I for one, worship my new lizard overlords

Common Sand Lizard




The first of this years baby common sand lizards have made their fairly cute presence felt.  It may explain why foxes are digging in my raised beds.

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Potatoes in tyres – Fail

Last year I tried planing tomatoes in tyres.  This was an interesting experiment which involved me reusing a waste material (tyre) as a garden container.

First I dug over the ground, put a potato in, tyre on top.  Let it grow.

Then forgot about it and it didn’t come to anything.

This year I did a similar experiment making many new interesting mistakes.  The first was to let it grow for too long.  I then stuck my second tyre over the first and I’d heard you could use straw as a medium.  So I tried it.  Within a few days, the potato had grown up through the straw.  Great I thought, and added another tire and more straw. I repeated this again to my 4th tyre which apparently is the maximum and to my suprise after the heavy rains, it is now dead.

I kicked over the tyres today and found slugs had eaten through the main stem and there was no potatoes.


Tyres filled with straw only with an earth base do not work.  You heard it here folks…

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Of mice and carrots

I thought that perhaps I had rats last year – but I was wrong, I’ve now confirmed that it was mice.  This is for two reasons.  One I trod on one (don’t worry, I’m heavy, I’m sure it was immediately terminal for it and no, it was an accident) and secondly because when opening the shed something small and furry ran off to hide.

I’m fairly unconcerned if they want to reside in my shed, the seeds are all in tins and unless they nest in my kettle or widdle on my beer I shall generally be at peace with them.  If they eat my cherry tomatoes however…

Also I thought I had carrots.  It turns out the carrot seeds I planted at the start of this year have not formed carrots as was popularly thought, but has infact spawned soapy sticks of evil.  The first two I tried would have made broom handles look soft and so soapy I could have added them to my washing machine and made my whites whiter than white.

Some of the more baby carrots however were well formed and quite delicious, but more than a hint of soapyness which makes me wonder whether I’ll bother with them again next year.

I had a good havest last night – a couple of kilos of new potatoes (and a couple of baking size ones too!), four courgettes, loads of salad including some baby little gems, the tinest radish you’ve ever seen from the guttering, handful of sugar snap peas and about fifteen small garlics.

I’m always a bit confused about garlic as mine never reaches a decent size – I suspect it’s because I don’t overwinter it.  This set was planted out in march, it promptly got rust and has suffered ever since never reaching a decent size.  Last year Was rubbish too.  This year though I intend to sow a couple different varieties to get a decent result.

Spent most my evening checking on the cherry tomatoes, restaking them and ‘pricking’ the little gems (unfortunately they were a bit too big to be doing that to, but hopefully they’ll be OK).

Pumpkin photo is now up as promised.

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Eco friendly radios and phones

Cheap Phone charger (windup)









I just though I’d brag about two new purchases I made today whilst out and about in my work-town of Chelmsford.  The first was an absolute stonker of a bargain from the £1 shop.  Without going into the world of child labour (lets face it, how can an electrical device cost £1 with an element of profit and be shipped all the way from china or somesuch place!) it does however charge my mobile phone via a wind up handle.  £1! And most importantly, it is small and blue with a blue LED.


Following on from the wind up era, I also bought a £39.99 Devo Freeplay DAB radio.  This is a complete bargain as I currently have two radios, one down the allotment and one plugged into the mains at home.  The mains version is a v1 DAB radio – probably the first on the market which litterally bathes on electricity.  It’s also not mine, but ‘borrowed’ from my parents.  The devo however is hand cranked and doesn’t take up any electrical power with the exception of its initial 24hr charge.

Devo Freeplay DAB radio (windup)









Obviously if I already owned a DAB radio and its sole purpose was to sit on my fridge like the current one does it would be a waste of money and would be depleating world resources unnecessarily.  But since I need something that’ll work in the middle of nowhere in two weeks – it’s a bargain.  I hope to take my old DAB back and use this one around the home – I can transport it anywhere and give it a quick wind when it starts to cool down.  You can also plug it in for a top up, or even wind it whilst it is playing.

I have been promised around an hour of FM play on an hour cranking and between 2-5 minutes of DAB play.  Not a lot, but I’m camping with scouts, so I’ll get them to crank whilst I do the cooking.

It’s a fairly hefty device, well built and feels like it’ll last for ever – it even comes with a 2year warranty.

So tonight I’ll start the charging process and see how I get on Wednesday.

DAB radio – images copyright 2008.

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Pumpkin ahoy!










Popped down the allotment this morning as I am want to do on a daily basis before work and made a bit of a havest for lunch.  I picked two little gem lettuce, a couple of ripe tomatoes, the remainder of the strawberry crop which was about 30 little alpine strawberries and 4 final remainders of my maincrop and a cucumber!

I also found that my other pumpkin plant in my three sisters bed has brought to bear a huge pumpkin already – about 6-8″ diameter already and I’m sure it wasn’t there last week… (pics to follow)

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Second tomato

I won’t bore you with a second pick – the 2nd tomato (200% as many tomatoes than last year) has just been plucked!

Also last night we got two new courgettes and I’m sure there’s another cucumber on its way!  Hurrah.

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First Tomato!












Should I be this excited about my first chunk of gold?  Well, sungold tomatoes (I think..)

Yes my very first edible (and it was so, so edible) tomato from my allotment, grown in enviromentally unfriendly peat because I didn’t realise till I got home what I’d bought.  So delicious mmm…

(yes it’s supposed to be that colour!)

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Failed Sweetcorn

Unfortunately my sweetcorn seems to have failed this year.  The general opinon on the downsizer forums is that they have been somewhat mistreated.  They do have their feet mainly in rotted manure which is probably too rich for them.  Only a foot high they’ve just sprouted their silks.  It could also be a lack of water.  It has been fairly dry and I’ve not really watered the raised beds because they always feel damp to me.  It could also of course be too much water.  Anyway, it looks like my most successful crop of 2007 hasn’t repeated this year, so roll on 2009.

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Toxic Horse Manure

The allotmenteering world has been rocked recently by the news that a certain herbicide has somehow made it into livestock feed and bedding – the result is that many manure sources (and straw) including some certified as organic are now veggie killers.  Whilst it is noted that some vegetables are hardy enough not to be visibly affected the suspected culprit (aminopyralid) has a long soil life and the veg may be unsafe to eat (I stress the may).

Whilst the above guardian link suggests the company Dow agro have not confirmed vegetables are unsafe I can only find an article on their site suggesting back in November that farmers should not sow potatoes on contaminated land.

Regardless, the general advice from forums is to lay the affected manure as thin as possible to allow the chemicals to leach out and not to grow anything for a year.  At least it’ll keep the weeds down I suppose…


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For those who check up occasionally on the site the photos are up.

Went down the plot today, rain had ceased for a bit and I closed up the greenhouse, wandered round the plot when I realised it was suddenly getting darker.  Then in the distance I heard the distinct sound of hissing.  Checking my asthma pump I realised the immediate danger wasn’t an empty inhailer but the several tons of water about to ruin my suit.



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