Monday, 21 May 2018

Composting Visit

Last night we got a telephone call that my sister-in-law had another two giant sacks of grass for me to collect. The plan was to pick them up first thing this morning, but the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that, it didn't happen.

I actually picked them up after lunch and took them down to the allotment to refill the Dalek that had already consumed and processed the last two sacks from my sister-in-law.

I'm not a half full or half empty kind of guy, as an engineer lets just say it was once again at 50% capacity. I managed to fill up that Dalek again and with the rest of the grass and layering it with shredded paper, coffee grounds and a layer of comfrey managed to fill another Dalek to just a little over 50% capacity. 

Not knowing we were going to have a thunderstorm and a downpour of rain, I did water the Cucumbers and the spuds in buckets again whilst I was down there. 

Looking at the plants in the Space Saver Greenhouse 

Three days ago there were only two runner beans showing, now there is only one left to poke its head above the soil, I'm guessing these will be long enough to go in next Sunday.

Checking on the parsnips there were another three that had germinated and started to grow so these have gone into toilet rolls with the first three so currently I have six parsnips that I know are viable.

The lid has been placed back on the container and it has gone back under the stairs in the dark and I will check for more growth in another couple of days.

Finally more growth on the butternut squash front, but still nothing from the marrows

I'm guessing at least two weeks before the sweetcorn can go in so I will get the beds ready for it next Sunday and it can go in the following Sunday 

The second sowing of beetroots are germinating and the new pack appears to be providing better results than the older seed did. I'm guessing a couple of weeks before these will be ready to go in at the allotment. I think a third sowing needs to be done in the next few days.

I have to say I'm very disappointed with the germination rate of the marigolds, I don't hold out much hope that others will germinate any time soon and I may just pot on what's there over the weekend. 

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Clearance Works

Today was another very early start and a mixture of visiting Spencer Road to get the Greenhouse frame and other miscellaneous items reducing the stuff in the shed so that ultimately it can be dismantled and brought to Mill Green. I also got an hours extension the other end of the morning and worked up to 1:30 as Sunday Dinner was about an hour late as the wife and daughter had a lay in.

It appears that the local foxes had taken it upon themselves to dig out most of the woodchip that surround the paving stabs and on all the paths the woodchips were over the paving slabs. Next time I see one of those solar powered ultrasonic pest devices at Lidl I'm going to invest in a couple. 

Here are the potatoes in buckets that when I arrived looked practically dead, as they had dried out. My fault as I have been too busy with work and taking her ladyship to hospital appointments to get down and water them. After topping up the soil and giving them a drowning they looked a lot healthier.  

John came in and popped up for a catch up, and asked if I would like some cucumbers and Courgettes. So I walked with him to his greenhouse and picked up four long cucumbers, I can't recall the variety at the moment, and two Courgettes because lets face it who can eat the huge amount you get from a plant. 

That's one of the things I love about allotmenteers is that if one has an excess of seedlings they offer them to their neighbours rather than compost. I do have Cucumbers growing but they have been slow and germination has been really poor. 

I have no problem also growing the two additional varieties I have on the go and hopefully I may even get and extended growing and harvesting season as they look to be about a month apart in growth from the mature plants supplied by John.   

The struts bracing the climbing frame are the poles from two uplighters we used to have and I could not help but think they may be useful for something on the allotment, I didn't know what, but I had a eureka moment.  I cleared the area behind the bed and later when re visiting to water in the evening re wood chipped that area and along the Daleks whist leaving the hose to saturate the potato beds.

I know its late to be trimming the plum tree but it was taking over the path and needed trimming back and I am trying to train it along to become a living fence eventually. 

For the moment the back part can remain more natural tree like especially as I have a number of small green plums on there already 

The cabbages are doing extremely well and so far have not been attacked very much by snails and slugs 

Again very happy with the progress of the red and white onions

The two beds of spud are doing extremely well and its nice to see a number of beds in production.

What is supposed to be the Rhubarb bed has a beer slug trap in the middle and I will be making sure that as many of the blighters have been dealt with before removing the netting which is there to keep the weed seeds out as there were weeds with seeds along the path until my neighbour strimmed and effectively released them all into the air.

U gave the whole plot a sprinkle of the wildlife safe variety of blue pellets of death before leaving and I also used weed killer again on the bindweed that is crawling out from the edges of the weed membrane in the area where the shed and greenhouse will finally go.

The one disappointment has been the carrot bed as it appears that the seedling have died or have been munched by slugs and snails probably because they were in distress due to lack of watering during the last week. So next visit I will try the more traditional approach or direct sowing. 

I also made a load of soft bricks with the dried sand, and set up the next trays of sand in the greenhouse to dry off and had another tidy and brought home yet another sack of rubbish. gradually Plot 1A is returning to it's former glory and then I can crack on with clearing and installing the infrastructure in Plot 1

For next Sunday I need to sort out the planting membrane for the spring greens and get them planted and also get the beetroot bed cleared and kill off as many slugs and snails and get the beetroots in the Space Saver in the ground and direct sow the rest of the bed and time is moving on fast and if I blink I will miss the opportunity.

I finally heard back from the plot holder from plot 11 who has admitted the bit off more than they could chew and I can now offer the plot to the next person on the list. The shame is that the plot is covered in brambles and they can't have a fire until October so they are going to have to cart all the brambles away from the plot.

Friday, 18 May 2018

Hardening Off The Toms plus

A brighter and warmer day than yesterday so the windows/ lids to the Cold Frame are off today 

The White Lisbon Onions are showing but there is still no sign of the Lilia Onions 

No Tiny Tim but a couple of Maskotka Tomato seedlings showing (lids removed for Photo)

 Runner Beans are on the move 

Nearly all the sweetcorn are now showing 

Spring Greens look to be at a stage where they need potting on or putting in the ground 

Finally at least one butternut squash has germinated but still no sign of a Marrow!
(Pop bottle lid removed for photo)

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Onion Jig Mk II

Tonight I made up a second sowing Onion Jig. The original on the left gives me a grid of 10 x11 number 10mm spaced holes giving me 110 sowing stations per flower bucket tray and if I use every other hole then its a 20mm x 20mm grid based on a 5 x 6 giving me 30 planting locations which is what I used for the Leeks experiment.

What was really needed was a grid somewhere in between, so using the casting pattern on the inside of the bucket as a guide I've ended up with a 7 x 9 grid giving 63 locations which are a little more open and will hopefully promote larger onions forming. 

As with all things gardening it's all about trial and error and finding out what works for you. Due to the white rot on the allotment until I can treat the beds with garlic water I need a way to grow as many as possible of the vast amount of spring onions we eat annually.

Overwintered SoilFixer SF60 Spring Onion Experiment 

The next 110 White Lisbon Spring Onions are on their way 

Monday, 14 May 2018

View From The Greenhouse Door

Venting the Cold Frame

Tomatoes in the Bottom of the Space Saver

The sweetcorn are starting to show 

Toms awaiting potting up when I can get hold of more 12.7cm pots

Toms awaiting potting up when I can get hold of more 12.7cm pots 

Finally a third Burpless Cucumber germinates 

I went shopping at Tesco and they had 5 number 12.7cm pots for a £1 so I took the opportunity to stack up on them and then later in the evening 

Potted on another fourteen tomato plant making template hole before insertion of root ball, minimum of root disturbance and transplanting shock.

I've been quite happy with the root structure of the plants, these ones are a little less vigorous that the first 12 as they are small container type varieties. I placed a scoop of sieved mpc with vermiculite in the bottom the placed a full vending machine cup in the pot and created a hole the same size as the plug and then insert, lightly firm and fill around the stem with sieved MPC & vermiculite then topped it off with some sieved MPC. 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Clearing & Potting Up

The rain stopped over night and although wet it was not raining, so I went to Spencer Road which felt really strange as I have not been there in some time. A but of a tidy up and I collected the onion and beetroot planting membrane and a blank sheet off the beds, plus the watering system as I'm going to have to either extend the existing system I have or bring a new system in from the other end of the plot, which actually could be a better idea as we have a water hog and a splitter at the top end of the plot.

Actually if I plan it right I may be able to connect both systems together and increase the pressure a bit, to make watering faster, especially when the hog has the water running for hours on end. There is supposed to be a 30 minute rule and you are not supposed to water with a hose unattended, there again rules don't apply to this guy.   

I cleared one of the pop bottle cloche frames and the 1.2m x 1.2m bed that the Rhubarb is going to go into and had a general tidy up. In addition I made a whole bunch of sand and milk bottle soft bricks, and re loaded the trays with damp sand to dry off in the greenhouse. 

I came away with three sacks of rubbish and it's nice to finally see the back of one of the pop bottle frames, great idea when I built it but pain in the arse to dispose off when you are done with it. 

In the afternoon I cleared the cold frame and potted on another 18 tomatoes with the 8 in the space saver greenhouse that enough for the 22 square flower buckets along the pathway plus a couple to be grown on the allotment out in the open. 

I can't recall where I bought the 12.7cm Richard Sankey terracotta plastic plant pots from, but I need some more, I did some surfing on the internet and it always amazes me how vast the price range can be for exactly the same item. Needless to say I found the best deal I could and have 30 more pots coming via ebay at a very reasonable cost with free delivery.

Saturday, 12 May 2018

What To Do When Its Raining?

The answer is washing mini plant pots

Washing Vending Machine Cups for reuse 

Yes I'm allowed to do this in the kitchen but I have an old bowl and washing brush and cleaning pad specifically for cleaning pots 

Feed Me Now

Just like the plant in the Little Shop of Horrors my Dalek needs feeding 

Two very large sacks of grass were picked up from my Sister-In-Laws front garden this morning and taken to the allotment and were decanted in alternate layers with shredded paper that has been living in the food bins with lids waiting for the arrival of grass cuttings.

Finally a layer of comfrey has been added to the top layer of grass of the alternating sandwich construction of greens and browns and watered in.

I've been trimming the top of the hedge between us and my neighbours and clearing the debris that builds up at the base of the hedge on my side of the fence, and working my way up to the cold frame that is need of a little renovation.

There is a sacrificial timber picture frame that the cold frame sits on so that it will decay before the cold frame walls do. Guess what, it had decayed and fell apart so I cut four new timbers from my wood pile and painted the timbers before going to the allotment and assembled the picture frame using L brackets when I came back from the allotment. 

The plan was to lay the gravel trays in the bottom and transplant a number of tomato plants up from vending machine cups into larger pots and put them in the cold frame, however the rain forecast for about 10 tonight decided to arrive as I was just finishing my lunch and there was a mad dash to get stuff under cover, so rather that sort out everything that came out of the cold frame a lot of stuff has gone back inside until the rain stops.

Friday, 11 May 2018

Mr Fothergills Cairngorm Optigrow® Leeks Update

Day One 17/04/2018

02/05/2018 - 15 Days 

There was no real difference in the speed of germination they both appeared at the same time, but I would say that the Optigrow seed were fatter and easier to handle than the untreated seeds   

03/05/2018 - 16 Days 

07/05/2018 - 20 Days

11/5/2018 - 24 Days

The Optigrow Leek experiment is proceeding but they appear to be developing at more or less the same speed as each other and if anything the standard seed on the right are more uniform and straighter that the treated Opitgrow seeds on the left. I will keep photographing the progress and updating this post as they grow.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

Loo Roll Towers

The job last night was to turn round loo rolls square and snip off the corners so that they fitted nicely into the modules. I cut the trays in half so that they can be handled easier, they also stack pretty good as well. One of these will be parsnips and the other two will be the second wave of beetroots in an attempt to get them beyond tender slug attractive status as there are still too many slugs on my plot.    

The Mr Fothergill's Student Parsnips are now laying in a take-a-way tray lined with damp kitchen roll to promote growth. The lid was placed on and the container placed under the stairs in the dark.

In best Blue Peter tradition here are two containers I did three days ago with sweetcorn 

Just three days ago they looked like this 

So the best developed corns have now been sown into the flexi pots that I use each year, these are made of recycled plastic and I really wish I could find them on sale again because they are so useful for sweetcorn. 

The remaining sweetcorn that is only just chitting or have not germinated quite yet have been put together in one container the lid sealed and put back under the stairs for an additional days growth, and they will be put into a tray of flexi plots tomorrow. 

The second wave of beetroots have been sown but as the last lot were a little hit and miss I opened a new pack of Mr Fothergill's Beetroots Perfect 3 that have a sow by date of 2018 

The Optigrow Leek experiment is proceeding but they appear to be developing at the same speed as each other and if anything the standard seed on the right are more uniform and straighter that the treated seeds.

Still no further signs of life from the six seeds sown of each variety, I think I'm going to have to sow some more to get what I need for the allotment, the Burpless is new seed and that's quite disappointing germination rate.  The Marketmore I can forgive as the seed is a little old now. And still no signs of life from the marrow seeds at all !!!.

Finally I potted on one of each variety of the larger tomatoes that I have room for on the floor of the Space Saver Greenhouse, I really could do with getting rid of the cold frame and getting another Space Saver Greenhouse, I so wish that I could fit a huge greenhouse in the back garden.  

So it looks like the cold  frame that ends up being used for storage of pots and trays over winter needs to be cleared tomorrow to make way for more growing tomatoes to be potted on and protected until after the last frost date which for me is the end of this month.