Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Neudorff Trial Samples Arrive

Following the Garden Press Event that took place during the Beast form the East Part 1 this morning I received a parcel of goodies to play with and review from Neudorff

There's more samples here than I was expecting, and I have to say there is nothing that I will not use or be glad of playing with, and would like to thank Neudorff for their generosity.

I'm always happy to trial new products and equipment or items I have not used before as long as those providing them understand that just because they are normally provided free doesn't mean that I'm not going give an honest review based on my experience and opinion on the product. I provide reviews on this blog of a lot of products that I do purchase, but free is my preferred price to play. 

Taking my interest first and what was the main item of interest for me at The Garden Press Event this year is Sluggo which is an alternative to Metaldehyde based products slug control pellets. Last year was particularly bad for slugs, as I was not as vigilant as previous years due to my time on site being reduced due to the wife being hospitalised, splitting my time between two plots on two different allotment sites and having an overgrown plot and haven for slugs and snails, complete with vegetation in the form of brambles, bindweed and nettles next door that kept trying to invade my plot.

I now have taken on the overgrown neighbouring plot so I'm hoping for a better year this year with regards slugs and snail although I suspect there are still 100 & 1000s of eggs hiding and waiting until spring comes and will be ready to hatch.  

I have to admit I hadn't really looked into Metaldehyde in any great depth, but from what I have been reading and have found out about it recently, it's something that I will stop using,  as soon as my stock of pellets have gone!.

I'm glad that I make the pop bottle slug traps to protect wild life, but I would rather not have to spend the time doing that, plus once full of damp pellet remains and slug bodies can't really be put in the plastic recycle bin. I have an impressive stock of pop bottle slug traps and again, I will use them up rather than waste them, I just hope the pellets and traps last the same amount of time.    

I'm hoping that Sluggo pellets which are rain resistant and swell when damp to make them even more attractive to slugs and snails, plus the fact they are biodegradable with unconsumed pellets convert into iron and phosphate in the soil, delivering added nutrients to the plants are as effective as the Metaldehyde pellets.

There is a part of me that would still like to see the bodies, but the condition of the vegetables will be the real indicator of how much better or not they are, only a trial and time will tell. 

Monday, 19 March 2018

Spring Green Seeds

Going through my extensive cabbage seed collection and looking for something that looks like it may provide the Spring Greens that SWMBO loves, I finally had a search and found a couple of varieties that are sold as Spring Greens. I purchased a pack of Spring Green Seeds - Greensleeves from Marshalls for £1.99 incl. P&P

Sow Outdoors: April-May or July-August. Sow thinly ½in (1cm) deep in a seed bed or clean module trays of firm pre watered compost. Keep soil moist at all times.

Plant Out: 6in (15cm) apart, in rows 12in (30cm) apart when plant has 3-4 true leaves.

Harvest: October-November or April-May

Protect from Cabbage White Butterfly with netting.

Looking at the sowing instructions in particular the spacing and rows, I thought about the planting membrane sheets that I already have and decided to create a new one specifically for the Spring Greens

So the idea is to give a 300mm exclusion zone around the perimeter so that hopefully it keeps the spring greens away from the netted hoops that will go over the bed. working on the basis of 150mm centres and 300mm between rows, I decided to stagger alternate rows so there is a little more space between plants but they are still dense enough to assist in growing as spring greens.   

I've also bought a pack of Cabbage Durham Early Spring Green Seeds for £1.39 incl. P&P from Premier Seeds Direct for an Autumn sowing.

This variety is a well-known and very reliable compact spring cabbage producing dark green pointed firm heads of medium size, good flavour and texture. Suited for high density growing for spring greens harvesting from Feb onwards and Apr for fully mature heads. Autumn sowing variety.

Cultivation Advice Cabbage Durham Early Spring Greens

  • Sow between Mid-July and Sep thinly in trays or directly to seed drills using 2-3 seeds every 12 in.
  • Planting depth 1/8 inch. When seedlings are 1 inch tall thin to one plant every 12-18 inches or plant out tray seedlings to growing location.
  • Best sown / located in full sun where no cabbage was grown the year before.
  • Keep weed free and protect against pests, especially pigeons over-winter.
  • Harvest alternative plants from Feb as spring greens and mature heads from early Apr.

I think that the Greensleeves Spring Geen seeds are the right candidates for trying out my AGRALAN Compact Plug Plant Trainer when they arrive.

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Sowing Sprouts

Yes I'm behind on my sowing for brassicas, but as its a Snow Day I'm working out and sowing my sprouts for this year. Last year I grew 
  • Bedford Darkmar
  • Cromwell
  • Evesham Special
  • Mongomery
  • Rubine Purple Sprout             
I now have nine varieties of sprouts in my seed box 
  • Bedford
  • Bedford Darkmar
  • Brest F1
  • Brodie
  • Cromwell
  • Evesham Special
  • Mongomery
  • Nelson
  • Rubine Purple Sprout   
The  Rubine Purple Sprout  really have not been good the last couple of years, and I have decided to ditch the seeds on this one. I have a three number 3 x 4 Module trays in the Ikea Mini Greenhouse , so I will sow four seeds of the following 
  • Bedford
  • Brest F1
  • Brodie
  • Evesham Special
  • Nelson                                    
So that's five varieties and I will need two of each to fill the 10 holes in the sprout weed membrane. 

A second sowing will take place in 14 days - 21 days, by which time hopefully I will see how well the germination is or isn't. If I manage to get a bed ready for the end of April I may even have an additional bed of sprouts on plot 1

Snow Stops Play Again!

It's one of those days that you knew was coming, but you hoped that they got it wrong!

Feeling somewhat like the little chap in the photo, as it's not worth going to the allotment this morning with the snow, low temperature and from the looks of it the bitter wind out there. I do have some seeds to sow indoors today so that will help.

The Terracotta candle heater is doing it's job and it's 0.9 - 1.1 in the Space Saver Greenhouse where as it was minus 0.9 - 1.9 when I lit the candle last night around 10 ish. Propagators and bubble wrap are on top of seedlings and cold sensitive plants.

Roll on the better weather!

Friday, 16 March 2018

AGRALAN Compact Plug Plant Trainer

I just had to get one of these to try out now it's sowing time. This innovative product from Agralan, designed in Sweden, allows you to grow professional ‘plug plants’ from seeds and cuttings on your windowsill or greenhouse.


 - Transparent multi-function top. Use with or without ventilation by turning the top 90˚ to give the perfect microclimate.

 - Space for 49 plants in a compact format. The compact plug plant trainer fits perfectly on a windowsill.

 - Stackable; secure when transporting.

 - Unique pop-up system makes it easy to remove plants automatically, with no root damage.

 - Easy watering – fill the bottom tray with water and capillary action keeps the compost moist.

 - Easy to clean, can even be washed and sterilised in the dishwasher. (Provided it is placed flat to avoid distortion due to the high temperature.)

 - Robustly manufactured and may be re-used many times over.

 - Height 14cm Base 22.5 x 20 cm.

 - 12 year warranty

I will let you know how well they work, if they pan out I can see me buying a few more to use in the grow stations where space is at a premium. Agralan Web Site 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Red Fen (Heat Prepared) Onions

Marshalls very kindly sent me some of their (Heat Prepared) Red Fen Onions to try, the pack contains Approx. 75 Onion Sets (250g)

When to sow onion sets

Marshalls advice on How to grow Onions and Shallots can be found Here there are also some video tutorials if you are new to onion growing. 

The best time to sow onion sets is mid March to mid April. If you are sowing red onion sets it's normally better to leave them until April as they are more prone to bolting and a later planting may help. Marshalls Red Fen and Heat Prepared so hopefully are less likely to bolt.

You can also plant sets in modular trays which can be kept in an unheated greenhouse or tunnel for planting out when the weather allows from mid March. I have never tried growing onions in modules first, however I've seen a lot of YouTube videos recently with gardeners doing this, and as I have room in my unheated greenhouse thought I would try a little experiment and plant half now in modules and then the rest straight into the ground in April. That way I have a form or sequential sowing going on with a month between sowing and can see if bothering with modules will actually make any real difference. 

On Mill Green allotment I suffer with White rot which is a disease that affects bulb vegetables like onion and shallots. Once you’re onion crop’s got it, it’s impossible to cure as such and you’ll need to stop growing onions in the same spot for at least eight years. You’ll recognise it at harvest time by fluffy white mould with black speckles that grows around the base of the bulbs.

I plan to grow onions in beds that have not been used to grow onions in before but when visiting the Marshalls web site was interested to read this:  

Prevent and Supress onion white rot

Have no fear there’s a great way you can prevent it getting to your onions in the first place!

Before planting your onions plant a crop of green manure called Caliente mustard. It’s a great organic means of creating a soil environment that’s uninviting to the disease.

Caliente mustard is a known as a bio-fumigant and once it’s chopped up and dug into the soil, it releases a natural gas that repels the pathogens that cause the rot along with many other soil diseases.

Just sow a pack from any time between March and October for a quick crop before your autumn-planting-crops or sow in November to overwinter for planting crops in spring. Just before it flowers, cut it down and dig well into the soil.

As I now have the additional plot my long term plan is to leave beds fallow, or grow green manure in them and feed the beds the year before they are planted in so that I can build up the nutrients in the beds and treat them for problems like Onion White Rot and Caliente mustard is now firmly on my radar and it looks like one pack will cover 60 square metres which is about 20 number 2.4x1.2m beds worth.

Garlic Extract & Equestrian Garlic Powder Cure.

Before I found out about Caliente Mustard the other methods of control I was considering using were the Garlic Extract Cure or Equestrian Garlic Powder. The basic idea is that these methods causes the sclerotia to sense allicin, the chemical that gives onion family plants their scent. This tricks the sclerotia into germinating and, finding no host plant to infect, they will starve and die. This may help reduce, if not completely eliminate, the disease.

To make garlic extract, take a bulb of clean, disease-free garlic and discard the papery wrappers and the basal plate. Crush the whole bulb into 10 litres (two gallons) of water. Water it onto areas of your garden that you’re not currently using for growing allium family crops. Don’t be shy – use a lot!

The whole 10 litres (two gallons) should be applied to two square metres (21 square feet). Do this when temperatures are between 15 and 18°C (59-64°F) (From the Met Office Data for my area below May - September) as this is the optimum germination temperature for the sclerotia. An easier option is to rake or water in garlic powder, which you can buy quite cheaply in large containers from equestrian suppliers.

Met Office Kenley (Nearest climate station to Sutton) Average Temperatures between 1981 - 2010

From the looks of all these methods, you really need to sow the mustard six months before or apply garlic water or powder and deal with the proposed area at least a year before you plant the onions.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Parsnip Experiment

And so the great Parsnip Experiment starts.

Kitchen rolls are about 20mm plus twice the height of a toilet roll or 220mm high, so my thinking is I will fill with compost, chit some parsnips on damp kitchen towel in a plastic Chinese Meal container and then sow in the top of the kitchen roll.

I have a Soil Auger and can drill holes in the allotment bed and place the parsnip and Kitchen roll in the hole and fill around with compost.  This time I'm going to use the top of a plastic milk bottle as a funnel for filling the kitchen rolls

It's nice to see the tomato seedlings popping their heads up after a few days in the grow station .

Washing out the vending machine cups that the Catawissa Onions were overwintered in ready for the sowing of onion sets. I use the trusty soldering iron to melt two holes in the cups and you can do 4 at a time. Vending machine cups last quite a long time if you can be bothered to wash them out and re use them, plus they sit nicely in a 4x5 tray module.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Beast From The East Part 2

Round one came to an end just over a week ago however round two could be here by the weekend!

After the Severe blizzards at the start of the month most areas have seen a return to near average temperatures but the onset of spring looks set to be delayed by a few more days.

This weekend will see a dramatic change with temperatures in London going from +15c to barely scraping above freezing by Sunday.

Widespread snowfall is also possible particularly in areas down the Eastern side of Britain with one or two areas seeing significant falls.

The snow will largely be in the form of showers so amounts will vary but many in the East will catch one or two between Sunday and Tuesday.

As the week progresses all of the UK will experience harsh frosts with temperatures as low as -10c over night before milder weather tries to push in on Friday.

Original Posting here on the Extreme Weather site

Looking at the forecast for the Allotment this Sunday 

At the moment it looks like it's not going to be too bad, just a tad cold and a good 83% chance of no snow. I can do cold what I can't do is wet! 

Monday, 12 March 2018

16 Hours Hard Labour

Nothing says "I love you" more than opening a 60th birthday card and finding a voucher giving you 16 hours of hard labour on your Allotment from your Daughter when she hates worms, earth and mother nature.

I'm looking forward to spending some quality Dad Daughter time and making some memories for us both to keep (well for as long as we can!)

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Catawissa Onion Bed Finished

Site Rep duties this morning showing the next person on the waiting list the three vacant plots on Mill Green, they are taking plot 4 and whilst showing them around the site I introduced them to other plot holders who were on site. 

Bed three was finally covered up today and the bamboo gallows bracket structure above the Catawissa Onion Bed was dismantled.  Pruning and training of the tree branches to the apple trees either side of the Catawissa onion bed was achieved by drilling and fixing eye bolts then using soft rubber / wire ties.  

The compost from Dalek three was dug out into the wheelbarrow and then used to top the onion bed to the top of the timber. The smaller bulbs I planted some time ago that been over wintering in the greenhouse, that I brought to site in two trays in a large gravel tray were enough to populate the first two rows of the planting stations, with a couple of extras encase of slug attack. The larger bulbs have only just started to sprout so I planted the larger bulbs along the front row.

I will need to make a fence up to go around the front and sides to assist in keeping the onions from falling over onto the paths as they grow and start wondering around. and to keep the blessed foxes off the bed.  I have loads of mushroom tray bottoms on Spencer Road so I will need to visit and recover what I can and knock something up.

The Beetroots and Carrots have had a day under the lights in the external grow station and it's been around 17C in there, it's cooling off this evening, but I've given the loo rolls another good watering. 

The tomatoes in the indoor portable grow stations should be OK, I will give them a water tomorrow to ensure they don't dry out. It's also nice spotting the first seeds to germinate.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Loo Rolls At The Ready!

Finally the pile of Loo Roll inners I have been saving have made their way into seed tray modules. I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed that the internal diameter of these rolls appears to have reduced over the last year. It means that I can use a 5 wide tray module rather than the normal 4 tray wide one.

A pop bottle top was used as a compost funnel and a tray of beetroots and a tray of carrots were sown. The carrots will be transplanted as soon as the foliage is large enough to be slug resistant or at least not as desirable to the darn things! The variety of carrots sown are relatively short so I'm hoping they don't turn too deformed for being started off in loo rolls

Thermometer with 3 Remote Sensors

Digital LED Weather Station Radio Controlled Clock Temperature 3 Remote Sensors

Precision Radio Controlled Weather Station Clock & 3 Sensor Units.
This is the perfect gift for him or her.
Product Specifications
  • Digital.
  • Day, date and time functions.
  • Fully automatic multi-temperature clock.
  • Accurate to 1 second in 10 million years.
  • 3 portable slave temperature sensor units.
  • Automatic time change in Spring and Autumn.
  • Alarm.
  • Snooze.
  • Light.
  • Radio controlled.
  • Main unit uses mains adaptor (included) or 3 x AAA batteries (not supplied)
  • Each slave unit requires 2 x AAA batteries (not supplied).
Main unit 15cm x 8cm x 20cm
Slave units (x 3) 9.5cm x 5.5cm x 2cm

It's not really a weather station but I will forgive the seller that because it allows me to monitor the top middle and bottom shelf of my Space Saver Greenhouse and will alert me when I need to go and open the door when the weather improves. 

Ebay Seller was 2fit_fitness _shop who has a 99.4% Positive Feedback Cost £15.70 with Free delivery. 

As the two single units I had like the photo above both decided to give up the ghost this year and the Precision Unit is the same cost as buying two replacement units, and has a third monitoring device and one base unit that shows all three channels.  

I'm now using the base units of the old ones just as regular thermometers in the greenhouse as they are small and still reading the temperature around them.