Sunday, 11 June 2017

Stainless Steel Dibber - Potato/Bulb Planter - Weeder - Soil Sampler

I had two trays of beetroots in vending machine cups to get in bed three this morning.  

Normally I would use a sprung bulb planter, but I have just received a Stainless Steel Dibber,Potato/Bulb Planter,Weeder,Soil Sampler that is manufactured in the UK and sold from a guy called Den Warren on ebay for £8.50

I had not seen and auger like this one before and was interested to see how it performed against a standard bulb planter. The answer is a lot better, it produces a nice tight hole and if you wiggle it around a little it matched the taper on the vending machine cup.

The only thing that lets it down is that there are no graduations or measurements on the side of the tube for you to gauge the depth, but that was quickly solved by placing some rubber bands on the outside of the tube to the height or depth of the vending machine cup.

The Soilfixer SF60 test buckets are doing well and it's hard to see any real difference at the moment. The sprouts in the bed behind are doing well and I will let them get a little taller before I stake them.

The spuds are in flower

The runner beans that have not been nobbled by the slugs and snails are starting their way up the bamboo.

I put a few more in front of those already in and an additional bamboo at a slope The new bulb planter is the ideal diameter for toilet rolls

Friday, 9 June 2017

In My Seed Box - Cucumbers

Review Of Seed Stocks in Zippy Bags 

Achocha Fat Baby - three packs from seed circles
Akito F1 - two packs from lidl
Burpless Tasty Green - single pack from King Seeds
Chicargo Pickling - from seed circle
Cucamelon - Single pack from Premier Seeds
Marketmore - five packs one from GYO Magazine
Miniature White - pack from seed circle 

Review Of Seed Stocks in Packets Sow By 2016/ 2017 - None in packets

I have historically grown Marketmore & Burpless and they both did really well, however 2016 really was not as good as previous years for Marketmore, but the Burpless went Bonkers and I had too many. These two are my yearly standards

This year I have also sown Achocha Fat Baby, Akito F1, Burpless Tasty Green, Chicargo Pickling & Marketmore 

The pickling variety is for my sister who loves them, the Achocha Fat Baby, Akito and Minature White because I have the seeds and have never grown or eaten them before, so why not grow some and see what they are like.  

The Greenhouse did get erected in time to try out the Cucamelon this year, so perhaps next year?

Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Onion Harvest & Hanging Rack

A two hour visit in which I found another covered area for the cardboard so that I could trim and hang the onions that I harvested yesterday and I pulled the rest of the onions from Bed 5 then covered it over to kill off the weeds as I didn't have time to dug them all out.

The photo above is mainly from Bed 5 with a few red onions from Bed 3, so if I can find a way of growing around the white rot or just grow an excess so that I end up with a reasonable amount it looks like I may need another shelf made up for the extension to the shed.  

Bed 3 was weeded and a few onions had lost their stalks, a few more were harvested to check for signs of white rot, but for the moment thing are looking good in bed 3, so I will leave them to fatten up a little.

The battery on the strimmer died more or less straight away, so I used the push lawn mower to clear the path behind me and my neighbour so I can get to the tap if I need too. The weeds coming up around the perimeter of the site on the boundary path with my neighbour were given a spray with weed killer, just before coming home.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Air Onions & Onion White Rot

The air onions bulbs are starting to appear at the top of the onions.

I weeded the onion beds 5 & 3 on the 11th May and I've been waiting for some mulch from Marshalls to arrive to test, but when it does it will be too late for the onion beds. With the rain and sunny mild weather the weeds have gone mad in the last three weeks as can be seen in the photographs above.

I started to weed and accidently pulled an onion and found that it had white rot!   That's why the left side of bed 5 in the photo has no onions in it, about 30% had white rot!

Those that appear OK are now laying in the extension to the shed, I can't hang them as I would like as the cardboard below the shelf will not allow it. Next dry day I need to get down to the plot and lay some of the cardboard out and harvest the rest of the onions in bed 5 and place them in the drying rack before they all get white rot.

Monday, 5 June 2017

Mr Sam the Allotment Man Builds A Comfrey Pipe

Mr Sam the allotment man and his Dad have built a Comfrey Pipe based on mine, however the solar powered oxygen aerator on mine is used in the plastic dustbin / water butt that I use for comfrey on draft not in the concentrate.

You don't get the smell off the concentrate to the extent of when creating comfrey tea in a bucket using leaves, unless you are silly enough to sniff the container containing the concentrate like Sams Dad!  

I have to say I love watching these guys no script and both naturally very funny and bounce off each other, they have a great father son relationship.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

SoilFixer Potato Experiment & Runner Beans

The runner beans that I sowed a little over a week ago were getting to the point where they would start to wind around each other so they needed to go in today

I didn't have time to lower and fix the fames directly to the wall so I ended up hanging the new gallows brackets off the existing hanging basket brackets.

This means they are higher that they should be and that the cantilevering bamboo now aligns with the strut rather than the top member but it will do for this year.

I may tweak the brackets and fix at a lower level over the winter months, if I think it will be better lower down.

When I dropped off some compost on Friday buckets 1 3 and 5 of the SoilFixer Experiment were displaying the potato haulms, but this morning all the buckets are showing. 

Despite the forecast of showers, I did give them all a drink. I'm looking forward to seeing what the difference is between them in terms of numbers and weights of the harvest.

Note to self, get a luggage scales and some plastic bags ready for harvest time.

I also had some Grip Bond left over from the DIY I have been doing and silicone up the split in the lid to the large compost bin     

Saturday, 3 June 2017

Beetroot & Sweetcorn Sowing Time

Due to my wifes ill health resulting in a couple of stays in hospital, some bedrest and recovery at home and then having to decorate before the installation of a stair lift (more on that one later!), I have not been as pro active as I should have been on the gardening front.

I was keeping to the sowing schedule, but I'm so far off now there is no real possibility of getting back on track. My eldest daughter has just used the last of the beetroots that I pickled last year so I've had a bit of a blitz and have sown

30 vending machine cups or two trays of Bettollo Beetroots
30 vending machine cups or two trays of Detroit 6 Beetroots
30 vending machine cups or two trays of Cardeal F1 Beetroots

These are now in the Space Saver greenhouse in the back garden.

The sweetcorn germination is really poor so I tried an experiment, two plastic Chinese meal containers with kitchen towel in the bottom wet and sweetcorn laid out on the towel. One container when on the shelf in the greenhouse in sunlight/ daylight and the other in the dark in the cupboard under the stairs.

The winner and best and fastest results of germination came from the container in the dark under the stairs. I have sown the sweetcorn into the pots that didn't produce and into a tray module of 15 vending machine cups.

There is however a little toe rag of a snail of a slug eating the tender shoots in the greenhouse somewhere and when I find him he will be dispatched to snail or sluggy heaven.

Friday, 2 June 2017

Feeding Dalek 6

Another large sack of grass cuttings picked up from my sisters house and taken to the large Dalek 6 on Mill  Green plot 1A with a bucket of paper shredding's.

It's amazing how quickly this bin rots the grass down, once again after being filled to the top twice it's once again down to the top of the removal door at the bottom of the Dalek.  

Again I placed in layers with cut up comfrey and watered as we fill him up.  

Thursday, 1 June 2017

Planning & Reviewing June in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last four years for June

2013 - Potting up tomatoes & peppers, potatoes, cabbages, sprouts and sweet corn, dug beds 7 & 8  
2014Watering system installed on Mill Green plot 1A, Potted up Tomatoes into buckets, installed bed 12, Marrows in manure covered in cardboard. Beetroots, Harvested the first bunch of Spring onions. Harvested first early potatoes from buckets. End of the month bed 13 completed, second bed of runner beans sown.         

2015 -  Not many posts in the blog for this month in this year, it was however my first Vlog from the plot. first year trying French beans the family didn't like them and it they have not been grown again since. Potted tomatoes from vending machine cups into pots that were taken to the grow house on the plot. First year growing Marketmore cucumbers. Sweetcorn planted on Fathers day, First year for successfully growing a whole bed of Parsnips. First year for peas. Cherries on the cherry trees. Sent two Crimson Crush tomato plants.   

2016 - Very cold June. Grow House heaving with plants, Burpless Cucumber transplanted into pots, Tomatoes potted on from vending machine cups, Sprouts failed and I had to buy some. Third sowing of beetroots, First year for celery. Flooding at Wallington Railway Bridge
Second sowing of sweetcorn due to slow germination then the first sowing germinated after the first ! Drying Coffee Grounds

Mill Green - Runner beans planted out, sweetcorn planted out into beds mulched with cut comfrey, Sprouts planted out,    

Spencer Road - Onions, Potatoes, Beetroots and infrastructure works. 

Home - Tomatoes finally get transplanted into flower buckets.  

As one expects there are items that are common to the month, it's interesting looking back at the work on my first plot and comparing that with the second. Most certainly having a plot to deal with has meant that the progress on the second plot has not been so swift.

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in May and what has slipped

Spencer Road
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow - Ongoing
  • Raise the paving for the greenhouse- Ongoing
  • Erect the greenhouse - Still waiting for the base to be completed
  • Make Air Onion raised bed frame.- stalled so they have been put into Bed 3
  • Make a decision about if to have permanent beds behind the fruit cages - Yes Behind  
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - currently in flower buckets awaiting a permanent home 
  • Sow Potatoes - some more have gone in but it's getting too late
Mill Green

  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing
  • Hoop Cages and Netting for Onions from Mill Green to Spencer Road - Not Yet but blue pipe obtained and just found white rot on the onions
  • Install hoop eyes and training wires for trees - TBD
  • Plant Cauliflower Beds - TBD
  • Sow Carrot Bed - TBD
  • Trim the grapevine Back - TBD
  • Sow Potatoes in Buckets - Done
  • Sow Potatoes in the ground - TBD 
  • New Runner Bean Gallows Bracket installed - Done
  • Clear the crap out of the sheds - Started one done
  • Sow all the seeds Listed Here
  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet 

Monday, 29 May 2017

Push Lawn Mower From Freecycle

I came back from an overnight stay as we attended our old neighbours daughters wedding and found that I had managed to get a Push Lawn Mower on Freecycle for the Allotment,  it's virtually new and works like a dream I'm well chuffed.

Andy had cut the grass front and back and asked if I wanted the large sack of cutting, so I collected them when I dropped off my daughter and took them to the allotment for composting.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

My Comfrey Cup Runneth Over

It's been 16 days since my last visit when there was about 5mm of comfrey in the bottom of my milk bottle under the comfrey pipe, but on my visit this morning I found that my milk bottle of comfrey had literally runneth over!

The weight in the pipe was no longer protruding from the top of the pipe and looking at how much I had to pull it back up the comfrey level was about halfway down the pipe.

The milk bottle was swapped out for an empty one and the full one capped and moved to one side. Then two square flower buckets of comfrey was cut up and thrust down the pipe until once again half of the weight was protruding from the top of the pipe.

The concrete blocks and the paving slab for the comfrey water butt need to be transported from Mill Green Allotment to Spencer Road at the earliest opportunity so I can have comfrey on draft.  

I could wait no longer to put the air onions in, so they have gone into the end of the bed three along with 15 bunches of spring onions as I have not had time to dug the air onion bed 2 or fabricate the raised bed out of the scaffold boards.  

One would not believe that I cleared the weeds from the onion beds 3 & 5 about a fortnight ago, the little rain we've had along with the sunny warm days and the weeds have really gone for it. I didn't have time to weed both the onion beds again, only half of bed 3. I have been promised so mulch from Marshalls to trial that may help keep the weeds at bay.

I did however manage to plant the last 10 Estima potatoes into bed 4 leaving 9 locations for some other potatoes so that's priority next visit.  

Monday, 22 May 2017

Sprouts & SoilFixer SF60 Potato Test

The year I have managed not to kill off the sprouts and have 3 of 5 different varieties and I selected the best two and planted them in the bed  Cromwell, Montgomery, Eveham Special, Bedford Darkmar 21 & Rubine.

The spares will remain in the coldframe as reserve. For more information on the varieties see Sowing Brussel Sprouts Blog Post
The SoilFixer SF60 Super Soil Improver biochar/colloidal humus matrix acts as ‘sponge’ for water and essential nutrients – storing them ready for use. The ‘sponge’ matrix supports increased levels of soil microbes. The microbes (notably mycorrhizal fungi) can access the stored nutrients. They form symbiotic relationships with plant roots and supply nutrients to the roots. This mechanism is sometimes described as ‘improved soil health leading to improved plant growth’. (More detail around SF60, the role as an improver versus fertiliser, versus compost can be found in the SoilFixer SF60 FAQ blog post)

The test mixes on Mill Green Allotment in front of Bed 12 Brussel Sprouts are from left to right:-  

1) My Own Compost & Coir 50:50 
2) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 5% by volume
3) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 10% by volume
4) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 20% by volume
5) My Own Compost & Coir with Potato Fertiliser
6) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 5% by volume with Potato Fertilizer

This is a bit of an adjustment to what I had planed to test, but I'm running late this year due circumstances outside my control and normally these would have been started early in the greenhouse at the end of March, but as I never really got the greenhouse clear enough I've waited for the last frost plus a couple of weeks.

In about 13 weeks when the foliage begins to turn yellow and die back I will harvest all six buckets and compare the weight and number of spuds from each bucket, As I'm using the Marshalls PotatoPots I may have a sneak peek at 5 & 10 weeks in before harvesting.   

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

The Gate Returns & Wicks 3 for 2 Offer.

Well it actually looks like Idverde who have won the Parks Contract with the local Authority can perform faster than the Local Authority and the gate is back up in record time.

I've started potting up the Tomatoes, and hardening off the ones inside the waiting buckets as I have run out of compost.

A visit to Wicks and I have managed to pick up a 3 for 2 offer on Westland Multipurpose Compost 100L with my 10% Discount app on my phone 300 Litres for around £15 is a good deal.

I normally use B&Q Verve but the 125L packs are just too heavy and large to handle easily. And buying 3 x 70L for a £10 is just not value for money.

B&Q could do with taking a leaf out of Westland book and reduce the size and weight to make them more manual handling safe.

One has to ask the question have B&Q never heard of the Manual Handling regulations?

For the moment my time is booked for decorating in advance of new carpet being laid before the stair lift is fitted, so once that's done I will be able to open the Westland MPC and see how it compares with the Verve. I do always use the Westland seedling compost but I have not tried their MPC before. I hoping the quality is as good as their seedling compost, I have never been disappointed with their products yet but we will see.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Where Has The Gate Gone !

My Sister-In-Law offered another giant sack and a half of cut grass that was collected and taken to Mill Green Allotment, but when I got there the gate and fence had been removed. I had reported that a lorry had driven into the post and had pushed it over resulting in the breaking of two of the three hinges on the gate. My brother -in-law had managed to prop it up temporally.

I fitted the Mosquito Net to protect fruit on Cherry tree  

At £3.99 each from ebay It's a no brainer and it covers the tree really well.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Update Comfrey Compost and Onions

Here is an update on the comfrey on Spencer Road allotment Plot 23B

There is only 29 days between the top two photographs

There are 16 more days between the second and third making 45 days between the top and bottom photograph.

Such is the rate of growth of comfrey in its second year

I have cut it back and placed two layers of comfrey in Dalek 2 either side of a layer of grass and watered it in as it was placed.

The 2 litre pop bottle full of sand weight has dropped further into the pipe telling me that the consolidation and rotting process is on its way.

In the bottom of the milk bottle is some nice dark semi pure comfrey, a very small amount of water was added originally to wet the comfrey to assist in kicking off the rotting down process.

Once the weight can no longer be seen the pipe will be topped up with more cut comfrey

The Estima Spuds in bed 2 have recovered from the frost scorching and are starting to find their way through the holes in the weed membrane. Bed 4 in the background was uncovered and due to the lack of rain the leaves have not degraded as much as I hoped for and as I didn't have time to plant the remainder of the spuds I cut the comfrey and covered then added more leaves to the bed and gave it a good drowning.

The Japanese and Radar onions are doing well in bed 6 but were in desperate need of a good drowning.

The spring onions were added to the Red Onion Bed 3 and watered in

I'm a little disappointed in the lack of progress of the tree onions to grow, by now I had thought they would have been much higher than they are.

I started setting up the top half of the watering system around the beds that are already in place basically because it was all so dry and needed watering badly.

Two hours goes much too fast, there is so much still to do and so little time to get it done in

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Protecting Fruit Trees

A big thank you to Sam Williams who posted on the Facebook Allotment Growers UK forum, the idea of using Mosquito Nets to protect fruit on trees. At £3.99 each from ebay I now have an easy way of making sure I actually get some of the Cherries off my Cherry trees this year.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

It's World Naked Gardening Day Today

So I will not be visiting the allotment today! for more information about World Naked Gardening Day see here

Thursday, 4 May 2017

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Watering System For Spencer Road

On the weekend whilst shopping I picked up some three way male hose connectors and some female and female stop connectors as they were being sold at 50p each at TESCO.

The female stop connectors stop the water from flowing when there isn't something installed and after the problems I have had with the spray guns this year leaking on Mill Green after getting them out of storage and re fitting them. I have decided to install a stop connector at the end of each hose, so I can move the head from pipe to pipe rather than buy an end for each pipe.

Like Mill Green the intention is to limit the amount of dragging the hose around the plot by installing a system of hoses from left to right in the diagram above, one hose covers the Greenhouse, the next Beds 1-4, then 5 - 8, 9 -12 the fruit cages & Air Walking Onions then the Daleks and Comfrey Beds.

Monday, 1 May 2017

Planning and Reviewing May in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last four years for May

2013 - Spring was the coldest for 50 years, I had the first six beds and the comfrey bed in place. Beds 5 & 6 were Sprouts and Cabbages, as expected lots of sowing and potting on happened.
2014Frost warnings and seedlings grown in the grow house inside the green house on Mill Green. Potato Halums were a little frost damaged, Slabs at home laid for the Space Saver Greenhouse, Erected the Space Saver Greenhouse at home and the Double grow House at Mill Green.        

2015 -  Potatoes in Buckets, transplanting Tomato plants, High Winds and damage on the plots, Cherry Trees have Cherries on them, Planting out Spring Onions, Harvesting Over wintered spring onions, Planting Cabbages and Cauliflowers and the Crimson Crush plants arrive, three more bed frames made 

2016 - Spencer Road - Second sowing of sweetcorn due to slow germination then the first sowing germinated after the first !, Beds 1-3 completed, Potatoes in bed 3. Comfrey bed 2 completed.

Mill Green - overwintered onions in greenhouse planted to replace those that were nobbled by slugs in the beds, Sowing frenzy of beetroots, Spring Onions, Cucumber, Celery, second sowing or brassica's as first sowing died. Frost second week of May. Bean frame maintenance.   

As one expects there are items that are common to the month, it's interesting looking back at the work on my first plot and comparing that with the second. Most certainly having a plot to deal with has meant that the progress on the second plot has not been so swift.

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in April and what has slipped

Spencer Road
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow - Ongoing
  • Raise the paving for the greenhouse- Ongoing
  • Erect the greenhouse - Still waiting for the base to be completed
  • Weed the area and create Bed 8 for Spring Onions - Done
  • Make Walking Onion raised bed frames.- Still One to complete
  • Make a decision about if to have permanent beds behind the fruit cages - Yes Behind  
  • Dig up Rhubarb from Maggie's plot - Done
  • Sow Potatoes - Half done one additional bed to go in
Mill Green
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing
  • Clear The Greenhouse - Done
  • Hoop Cages and Netting for Onions from Mill Green to Spencer Road - Not Yet but blue pipe obtained .
  • Drain and Move Nettle Water Butt to Spencer Road - Done
  • Install hoop eyes and training wires for trees - TBD
  • Prepare Cauliflower Beds - Done
  • Warm Up Carrot Bed - Done
  • Trim the grapevine Back - Way overdue
  • Sow Potatoes in Buckets - Delayed due to weather
  • Sow Potatoes in the ground - 2 and a hlf beds to be sown
  • Bean Frame to be fixed back to the Wall - Built new gallows brackets to be erected 
  • Clear the crap out of the sheds - Started one done
  • Sow all the seeds Listed Here
  • Already stocked up with coir for 2017, but I will need to replenish for 2018 - Started
  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet