Archive for May, 2009

Sunday

Just found I have a gallery feature, so if you’re subscribing via RSS, you may be annoyed by this… 

One thing I didn’t take a picture of yesterday was the assembling of the scaffolding boards for the raised bed.  Basically I left a small part of my plot to my friend to plant in.  Two months later, she’s just about broken the surface, but it needed a lot more work, ie double digging.

This meant a six hour digging marathon where I started by emptying about 2ft of soil onto a black pond liner I had lying about.  I then dug in soil improver and fresh manure (because that’s what was available) to try and break up the clay (see pics one and three – the clay was coming out in huuuuge lumps and the first pic shows the black soil improver)

The result was the beds volume was raised by the same height as the scaffolding boards – almost a foot.  Shows how compressed the clay way, now it’s broken up and I’ve dug in some drainage I hope to grow things other than weeds  in it this year.

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Saturday

 

Didn’t have much time today to do anything due to the camp I was on with my scout troop – we only really had time to get a cup of coffee on in the morning on my shiny kelly kettle (a must for allotments or perminant base camping! img_0670

 

 

 

 

First potatoes of the season – lovely in our stew

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Tomatoes with pipe water saving feature – just fill the pipe with water and you water the roots without letting the clay soil get to wet or too hard!

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Three sisters bed – planted with corn from realseeds.co.uk, climbing french beans, courgettes, pumpkins, buttercup squash and a mystery squash.  Also there’s a few marigolds there.  Not by design, I just needed somewhere to shove them after my mini green house fell to pieces.

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 A view of one of the sections on our ‘harlow carr 3×3’ immitation beds.  This is planted quite closely with sweetcorn and another variety of climbing beans.  You can also see the corner of our broad bean section, lollo rosa lettuce (I think that’s how you spell it) and brussel sprouts (yuk!)

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The missus to be (we’re getting married in far less than a month) with the chicken manure.  Lovely.  See how much weight she’s lost, very thin! (that should earn me some brownie points!)  You can also see the potato bed and the rhubarb I split this year behind her (near the bamboo poles)

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  First set of strawberries ripening on the plants.  They’re delicious.  So far I’ve had four, Hels has had two.

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  Some of the tomatoes I put in – I dug over a very small section which used to be a compost heap and put plant pots in – much like the pipes with the tomatoes above, the pots help feed the roots with water rather than letting the water run over the surface.  It means watering time is much reduced because I only water specific parts, I water less and the plants roots dig deeper.  Handy for feeding too!

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I ATEN’T DEAD

Almost recovered from my swine flu, though to be honest the bank holiday weekend really took it out of me.  I did a bit of planting at the local St John Ambulance station (They now have much prettier baskets outside) and made some wholemeal bread.  If you aren’t aware you can buy fresh yeast from your local supermarket (assuming they bake bread fresh and don’t just bake half baked bread like my local Somerfields).  It’s usually quite cheap and you can get more than you’d usually get in a fast bake pack.  I also used this to make wholemeal pizza.

Sunday/Monday is airshow and the weather really was good for it.  Fortunately my allotment is on the flightpath for the local airport and we got some really good views of the red arrows, as well as assorted other craft including what I believe was a spitfire.

Whilst down the lottie I also managed to completely clean out the pond which was full of dirt and relocated the fish to the now shaded waterbarrel.  Similarly I also fixed the other barrel, strimmed the grass, did a bit of weeding, dug a new bed for the tomatoes and then I did something I’ve been meaning to do for absolutely ages.  I installed some watersaving devices.

Now I don’t get a lot of time to tend my plot in the morning, seeing as I get to work for 8.  What I spend most my time doing is running around manically watering.  I do this because if you water late at night, you get slugs.  Water in the morning and the ground has a chance of drying before the invading armies make it over the beds to your delicious plants.  However when it gets dry, and on clay soil like mine it gets really dry, when you water, most of the time the water just drains off on the surface.

There are two ways to get the water where it is needed.  Both are dead simple and are very similar.  Way number one is to chop up an old drainpipe and push it into the soil around the plants roots.  About 1/3 in the soil, the rest sitting out.  You can use any length or diameter.  Similarly you can use plant pots – just dig a hole around the base of the plant, push in the pot and with both methods, you can then fill to the brim with water.  It’ll gradually soak away into the soil straight into the roots where it’s needed and not off to the sides where you’ll usually find oodles of weeds.

It’s reduced my watering already today by 100% – but that’s because it’s cats and dogs outside right now…

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Dying of something… probably swine flu

Not sure why I’m feeling so ill, probably something to do with burning the candle at both ends whilst using the middle to waterproof matches.  It’s either swine flu or more likely man flu.

Meantime the grass grows longer on the allotment and the weeds get bigger.

More worrying is the 37 days until my wedding, so I guess there’s plenty of time yet to die of swine flu.

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Minipost: Hop seeds arrived

I originally was going to buy a hop root (or rhizome) to save on the hassle of working out which was female and which was male.

Once I get a female, I can use the rhizomes to propigate more.  They’re a bit like raspberries.

Got the seeds of ebay – 40 for £1.  So if a few are male, I won’t mind.  Soon have my self sufficientish beer on the go!

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A walk about the plot

flowers

 

Yesterday evening I made it down the allotment, only originally intending to drop off the water butt connector I’d bought.  Clair was down for the first time in a while attempting to finish the digging she’d started a few weeks ago to prepare her mini-plot.

 

I did a bit of weeding in and around the plot.  The ‘harlow carr’ bed is starting to take shape now we’ve got some plants in it.  We’ve now got broad beans, lollo rosa lettuce, courgettes, sun flower, leeks, elephant garlic, red/white onions, strawberries, sweetcorn, herbs, tomatoes and chard.

 

harlow carr bed

 

Similarly I checked over the three sisters bed which is currently only sporting a couple of pumpkin and courgette plants.  I’ve lined this bed with a few marigolds as I had nowhere else to put them, and they seem to be doing quite well.  Similarly in the potato bed I’ve done the same, and between the rows we’ve planted basil (which didn’t survive) and a mild broad leaf lettuce.  The early potatoes are up nice and high now.

 

The rhubarb which I split has done exceedingly well.  It’s shading the beans I’ve planted and allowing them to climb the poles without being blown off.  The lack of light has also meant they’ve grown a lot quicker.  We’ll see if there is much difference in the amount of beans produced between the two.

 

clair and blackbird

 

The asparagus bed is pretty much been devastated by the wind.  The stems have fallen over or broken off, but I’m hoping for better next year.

 

The cold frame is full of chili plants ready for the mini greenhouse I’m planning to erect next to our shed and the sweet corn I’ve sown is just germinating now.

  

The mangetout we planted in our new bed are doing well and are climbing high.  Similarly the cabbages which were donated to us a while ago are looking quite good and are starting to firm up a bit.  The carrot bins are flush with carrot seedlings now and have put out their first set of feathery leaves.

 

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One of the pictures shows Clair with her new friend – a cheeky blackbird which was so tame it was only about a foot away whilst she was digging.  Didn’t mind me getting up close with my camera phone either. 

 

water butt leaking

Finally my water butt (the new one) when used sprung a leak.  It emptied in about three minutes much to my annoyance.  At least it’s one less I’ll need to drain when I fit the new hose this weekend.

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Honeymoon

Whilst I’ve made a few references in a couple of posts, I am getting married in the near future.

We originally wanted to go to Thailand, but with the current economic climate we are instead saving for a housing deposit – so Thailand was off the cards, we’re practicing saving not spending, regardless of our impact on the economy. 

It makes me feel a bit more comfortable because we’re having our honeymoon in the UK.  We’ve spent less than half of what it would cost for one of us to just get to Thailand on week in sunny Cornwall.  We’ve booked at a good time of year which should see us with good weather (or horrendous, it is Britain after all) and we can have a bit of eco tourism visiting local places whilst we’re there.

I’ll post a review of the place we goto afterwards, because there doesn’t seem to be any online at present that I can find.

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Plant sale & new water butt

Today was the plant sale down our allotment. Hosted by the committee it raised a fair bit of cash to put towards the constant admin, repairs to equipment etc.

I didn’t have any spare plants yet. But I contributed with 5 gallons of ale and 5.5 gallons of sweet ginger beer.

Mmm. The ginger beer was of course the most heavily drunk, it was after all 10am and the serious drinkers like myself were still nursing hangovers. Hopefully it’ll still hold out till next weekend when we have airshow.

I got a few new gooseberries (will still have an entire allotment of gooseberries), tomatoes, broccoli, mild chili and a few other bits and bobs. They also had a wonderful selection of cakes and by 11 I was washing it down with some of my aptly named ‘poisoned rat ale’.

My significant other turned up with parents who reminded us we’d offered to pick up a water butt from a close family friend. So we popped over with my friend Gary (one of my ushers at the big upcoming date…) to pick it up.

Gary levelling stand

When we returned, an insane idea gripped us – what about putting up on the other side of the shed so we could get water off the roof from there! This clever idea turned into a wonderful bodge ending up with me cutting my thumbnail with a rusty knife.

The bodge

It certainly bled out the rust however as it litterally pumped the blood up and out. Ouch. I used up all the spare medical gauze, tape and even a triangular bandage wrapped round to stem the flow! So the last pic shows me with the aforementioned bodge with a well wrapped thumb.

Tim with bandaged thumb

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Dig for room to plant stuff…

View of the coldframe

coldframe

May is very much upon us and if you’d not noticed, spring has very much sprung.  This has caught us by surprise again (like last year and the year before) because about now is the time to be planting everything out that you’ve carefully nurtured in your fabulous coldframe or greenhouse.  This year its caught us out with extra surprise because the stuff we planted a few months ago hasn’t been eaten by slugs.

By Jove, I think I’ve solved the problem using the coldframe, which at present seems fairly slug proof (But not maretail proof)

We have brussel sprouts (unheard of), cucumbers, peppers, beans, more beans, sunflowers, chard, lots of lettuce, tomatoes, chilies etc.  And oh so much more.  So the first thing I did today was dig three beds (one was a supersize one) to plant stuff out.  We’ve put in five cabbages, lots of mangetout (a supersize variety from realseeds), cucumbers, runner beans, chard, various herbs, leeks, the tomato that survived the lack of watering and then did yet more seed sowing.

Finally, apart from one small corner we seem to have actually reached capacity down the plot.  Every bit of bare earth has now got an owner, some are doubled up even and even now we’re starting to get some produce.  Today I’d eaten a bit of lettuce, tried some baby rhubarb (apparently you can eat the stems raw dipped in sugar, but I’ve never done it before today and to be honest, I won’t be trying it again.

Damien popped over and gave us some pond weed for our pond (which now supports a frog!) and some cabbages.  A guy I used to go to school with (Simon) popped over and sampled the homebrew which ought to be ready for next week and gave me the thumbs up – in gracious return I gave him the best part of twenty half cut bottles to use as mini pollypots to cover some of his more ambitiously planted crops.

I’m looking forward to this summer.  I know we’re supposed to be honeymooning in early July, but I hope some of that time off is going to be spent down the allotment enjoying a BBQ or two…

Before:

before
After:

after
With beans and a few sunflowers

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The pic below shows the new bed dug

new dug bed

And with plants!

new bed with plants

First frog of the year

frog

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BBQ weather, not likely

The weekend was quite nice weather wise, until of course the day we’d organized a BBQ which was cold and full of light post April showers. Infact I think we should rename them to may showers because there weren’t many at all in April anymore. certainly weren’t many last year or the year before…

Anyway, we did very little down the allotment and escaped with brutely cold parts of our bodies and had the BBQ in the ground floor flats garden. It was very nice, but quite expensive meatwise because I can’t really bring myself to buy anything other than free range when I’ve got the choice. So at least we’re still supporting chicken out…

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