29 January 2012

Woodwork day

Been a cold day on lotty so help another plot holder shift some fresh horse muck. I also spent much of the time building a pot / plant stand and refurbished my potting bench. Have run out of green wood stain, so need to get some more. Felt good to get my pots organised for the big spring sowing session.

Pot store and somewhere to harden off plants

Refurbished potting bench

28 January 2012

Cold, clear, sunny and busy Saturday

Winter Lettuce

Dug beds for Brassicas with fleece frame

Re-stained the compost bay

Stained the boards

Fleece frames

Dug trench and filled for carrots (bottom)

Getting ready for Spring

Potted Horseradish and Rhubard

Winter Lettuce

Winter sown Peas and Cauliflowers

Leeks and Spring Onions

26 January 2012

Seeds anonymous

Although I already have loads of seeds, 102 varieties (packets), I can't seem to stop buying more. Anyway I will have to live with my compulsion, LOL!

My online seed database

Went to the garden centre this week and bought:

  • Rhubarb Red Champagne
  • Garlic
  • Horse Radish
  • Celery
  • Lemon Yellow Calendula
  • Purple Mange Tout (to match my Purple Podded Peas)

There is a really good video on the Thompson & Morgan website of the Purple Mange Tout (Shiraz)

Am on annual leave, so will be planting up the Garlic, Rhubarb and Horse Radish tomorrow. Think I will grow them on in large pots first and then transfer them into the plot.

In respect to all the other seeds, well I will grow them all so no great blocks of the same variety of plants. Means a lot more work for me, but I love sowing and cultivating different varieties, it makes the plot look more interesting! Think there is something a bit dull when faced with a great expanse of one type of veg or plant.

Tomorrow I will also start sowing my Tomatoes and Chilli seeds, they will be indoors so have the propagator ready for that and they will live on the table in the front room, next to the Early Potatoes (Maris Bard) that are busy chitting.

TIP: Oh - have bought loads of labels and a marker pen, so will not forget what I have sown or am growing on the plot!

Nearly spring!!!!!

22 January 2012

Project new bed completed!

UPDATE: I have been asked about the design of the compost bay - so I will share:

  • I am no carpenter so the basic design is use what you have, fiddle and go with the flow.
  • Tools: hammer, nails, screws, tape measure, saw, angled brackets, mallet, stain, brush...
  • I have lots of spare wood knocking about - usually scavenged from skips. People throw away good stuff when renovating, so look out for builders skips! 
  • The main wood is from pallets - this is good because usually the planks will be of the same length, so little measuring is done and if you base you design on the width of a pallet - all good!.
  • The base of the bay is some hardboard I found, which I put on a base of rubble.
  • I got 2 good square-ended posts which I thumped into the ground for the back corners of the bay, which I attached the sides and back panel to.
  • The back is an old shed panel - slightly wider than the bay but no problem.
  • The left side is a very solid hardboard pallet base.
  • The right side is a mixture of an old pallet and some pallet planks nailed on.
  • To attach the 3 sides to the posts in the ground I screwed angle brackets (bought these) to them.
  • The front of the bay I put a square-ended post (like a hearth) and used angle brackets to attach this to the sides. I made sure the width of the front (hearth) is only slightly wider than the length of a pallet plank.
  • For the front of the bay I nailed 2 pieces of wood (either side) with a gap wide enough so a pallet plank can slide up and down. These are free to be removed when digging the bay out - much easier!
  • As the width of the opening of the bay is a pallet planks' length - no cutting of planks is required!
  • I put some extra bit of wood around the top and edge to make it look a bit smarter.
  • Gave everything a good stain - and hey presto!

Midway through constructing the compost bay

All done

Manured the newest bit

Strawberries planted in membrane

9 strawberry plants

Another 9 strawberry plants

New compost bin with retractable front

More space!

21 January 2012

Remodelling an old plot: how many bricks?

Been a very blustery day today with the odd shower, never-the-less I was on the plot at 09:30 and left at 15:00. I did get some warm sunny spells so it was not all bad, However, my main mission for the day was a physical workout shifting concrete, brick and soil in an effort to make a bit of wasted space usable. Now I thought there was a lot of materials to shift but when I started digging I got loads of bricks. Was tweeting all day, so check out the pile I got. I used these bricks for paths and edging.

Loads of bricks

Loads of concrete

Got most of it done, just needs a good levelling off, digging in some manure and the compost bin finishing off. Very please though! Back is a bit stiff so having a beer!

Take a look at the results - before:

Old small beds

Concrete paths

Not much growing space

And now after (not quite finished though!)

New slimline paths

A whole bed 

Compost bay on right to finish

Recycled bricks

16 January 2012

Vegetable Seed Germination

Getting germination right is a good goal for any allotmenteer, as sowing too early can mean wasted effort.

I have tried to collect as much info as I can about what you can sow at different temps. The weather can be fickle, but typically if you look at the average charts for Central England you see a pattern (see black line):


Obviously, sowing under glass can give you a month head start!

Resources (will update on occasion):

  1. http://www.heirloomseeds.com/germination.html
  2. http://ag.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/mg/vegetable/temperature.html
  3. Soil Temperature Conditions for Vegetable Soil Conditions [PDF]
  4. http://www.omniseedsearch.com/homevegetablegardening/images/ch8-6.jpg
  5. Germination colour chart [PDF]

Source: http://www.omniseedsearch.com/homevegetablegardening/images/ch8-6.jpg

35°C = 2°C = e.g. Lettuce, Onion, Parsnip, Spinach
40°C = 4.5°C = e.g. Beetroot, Cabbage, Carrot, Cauliflower, Chard, Pea, Radish, Turnip
45°C = 7°C = e.g.
50°F = 10°C = e.g. Sweetcorn, Tomato
55°F = 13°C = e.g.
60°F = 15.5°C = e.g. Bean, Cucumber, Pepper, Pumpkin, Squash
65°F = 18°C = e.g.
70°C = 21°C = e.g.
75°C = 24°C = e.g.

15 January 2012

A busy frosty weekend

Been a very busy and productive weekend - complete with a start to a new project; clearing the old greenhouse area.

Clearing old greenhouse are to make bigger

Manure in car

A frosty plot

Manure safely stored

Brassica frame for fleece

14 January 2012

Black gold: Feed the soil feed the plants!

Had an excellent day bagging and moving well rotted horse manure (26 bags). Am lucky to have some good family friends with a horse, so they have a very large pile of well rotted manure mixed with leaf litter. This as you can imagine is like black gold, so digging this into the plot is going to give my veggies a real boost.

A large pile of poo

Was a very cold night with temps well below zero, so am a bit concern about the fruit trees starting to bud. With this in mind have fleeced them for some protection as the next few days it will be very cold.

Winter lettuce

Cold minus 2

Cold frozen plot

Frosty winter chard

Frost covered onions

Ice patterns on greenhouse glass

4.6 degrees in the polycarbonate greenhouse

9 January 2012

Difficult allotment crops and getting advice

This time of year I always tell myself to follow as much advice as possible, but invariably I always miss something. So this year, I vow to pay attention!

My areas of difficulty or concern:
  • Carrots - always get carrot fly!
  • Brassicas - never get very good cauliflowers or get club root problems
  • Pumpkins - never grow beyond a tennis ball and plants are too small
  • Sweetcorn - success last year but more fluke I think
  • Celery - love it but ahhhh nothing doing total fail each year, may try this year
  • Fruit trees - planted new ones (Cherry, Pear and Apple) last year so pruning is a mystery!

Good sources of advice:

8 January 2012

Tips from allotment#65

Great thing about modern communication is the wealth of knowledge out there and the tips from fellow bloggers. Have been reading #allotment65's excellent blog for tips:

Some takeaway tips I will be using this year:
  • Plant strawberries in weed suppressant fabric
  • Use cardboard in wigwams for beans to suppress weeds
  • Plant squashes in old compost bags
  • Cover manure / compost pile with weed suppressant fabric and use it to grow squashes

Pruning, training and planting

Had a fun morning building a wire fence for my new Kiwi fruit. Had some old poles and thick wire so used it to build a training fence. Also planted the Passion flower against the border fence.

The Loganberry hedge was looking a bit untidy so cut back loads and trained only a few leaders, they will bare the fruit for this year.

Trimmed and trained Loganberry

Warm January day

New wire fence for Kiwi fruit

Kiwi fruit

7 January 2012

Exotic allotment: Kiwi fruit, Fig and Guava

Been out today to buy some Mange Tout seeds and happened upon a Kiwi fruit, so I bought it. The man in the shop also suggested I purchased a Fig tree and a Guava bush in the spring, which I am likely to do. Never grown Kiwi, Fig or Guava before so it should be fun and add a touch of exotic glamour to my plot!

Kiwi fruit tips (from RHS: Kiwi Fruit)

  • Kiwi fruits are vigorous plants that need plenty of space
  • Height and spread: up to 9m (28ft)
  • Kiwi fruits require a sheltered sunny position, preferably a south- or west-facing wall, although they can be grown in the open in milder areas
  • Young shoots are extremely vulnerable to frost damage in the spring and may require protection
  • They grow best in a fertile, well-drained slightly acid soil which is rich in organic matter

Kiwi pruning tips (from RHS: Kiwi Fruit)

  • After planting, cut back to 30cm (1ft). Tie in the new leading shoot to a cane attached vertically to the wires
  • Train in a pair of shoots to grow along each horizontal wire. Pinch out the tips when they fill the allotted space
  • Allow lateral shoots to develop at 50cm (20in) intervals
  • Pinch out the tips of these shoots after they have developed five leaves – these will produce fruit the following year

Winter pruning 

  • Cut existing laterals back to three or four buds beyond the last fruited stems 
  • Each year cut back about one-quarter to one-third of the oldest laterals to a bud around 5cm (2in) from the main stem. 
  • New growth will be produced from this stub in the growing season 

Summer pruning 

  • Summer pruning is important to keep these vigorous plants in check 
  • During the growing season, pinch out any sideshoots that have developed from the laterals and any further shoots arising from the main arms. 
  • These short shoots will also produce fruit in the following season
  • Once the fruit has set, pinch back the side shoots leaving four or five leaves beyond the maturing fruit 
  • Any non-fruiting laterals can be cut back to five leaves from June onwards

Greenhouse repaired

Well it was relatively easy to cut the polycarbonate panels although a little fiddly to install. Managed to do it in 1 1/2 hours.

Inside view of new panels

Outside view of new panels