Friday, 20 October 2017

Planning My New Kingdom

So the paperwork arrived for the overgrown plot next to mine yesterday and I'm now the proud owner of Plot 1 as well as 1A. I need to measure the exact length of the new plot but proportionally what I've drawn up is this morning is very near.

Here is my existing Plot 1A

First stab at a layout for Plot 1

There is a step between plots 1A and 1 and I would like to have access straight onto the plots. At the moment I have to walk along the bottom of plot 1 and then along the foot path between plots 1 & 2. and this time of the year get soaking wet if I don't wear wellingtons

What I have drawn as paved is the main route into plot 1, up towards the shed and greenhouse area and then heading towards the end of the existing path on plot 1A. 

There is a ramp between plots 1 & 1A as there is a difference in level of around 150 - 200mm.

The L shape at the bottom and side is likely to be a mixture of trees grown as a living fence comfrey and wild flowers for the bees.

Paths will initially be woodchip with the exception of the main path, for which I have enough slabs on the Spencer Road plot 23B which I have paid for until October 2018 which gives me time to get the site cleared where the shed and greenhouse are planned to go. I will grow vegetables on Spencer Road that are low maintenance like potatoes, Marrows, Squash etc. which can basically be planted and left to it.    

So getting in everything above beds 17 - 24 and the main path is my objective for 2018 and everything below the main path in 2019 if I'm being realistic.

Combined Drawing of Plots 1 & 1A

This panorama does not extend right the way down to the corner of Plot 1 so I will get a better photo next time I'm down on the allotment. At least now I can attack at least the first 1.5m along the boundary between plots 1 &1A, its a shame that the nettles have all gone to seed and dropped them.

Thursday, 19 October 2017

Gross Mismanagement of Allotments

I finally have the figures from Idverde for the waiting lists and the vacant plots as of 13th October 2017. Bear in mind that there will be more vacant plots as a result of those that don't renew their tenancy this year. 

No       Waiting  Vacant                                
Plots    List        Plots       Allotment Name           

  15       04           02        Beddington Park        
135       26           05        Belmont                        
172       10           08        Benhill                           
101       17           20        Buckland Way               
  26       07             0        Bushy Meadow              
112       16           06        Bute Road                     
  55       05           03        Bute Road Orchard       
  12       29                    Central Road                  
  34       09             0        Chaucer Road               
  21       08           01        Cheam Court                  
  61       17           02        Cheam Park Nursery      
  19       10           06        Cheam Park Paddock    
    5       01           01        Clensham Lane              
  24       09           01        Culvers Avenue             
278       12           41        Demesne Road              
  35       05           02        Duke Street                    
    6       07             0        Forge Lane                     
  23       01             0        Fryston Avenue             
217       19           13        Gander Green Lane      
 63        09           02        Goose Green                 
106       21           04        Green Wrythe Lane       
  20       04             0        Lavender Road               
  21         4             0        Mill Green                       
  57       10           08        Perretts Field                
    6       19             0        Priory Crescent              
    2       07             0        Pylbrook Triangle            
  58       05           09        Ridge Road                     
106       10           14        Roundshaw                    
  57       11           01        Spencer Road                
276       14           04        Stanley Road                 
  15       39             0        The Warren                     
  32       04           06        Wandle Road                  
  12       01           01        Wandle Side                    
  27       02           02        Watson Avenue           
171       24           18        Westmead Road           
  14       07             0        Wrights Row                    

Vacant Plots figures as at 13th October 2017

Waiting List figures supplied 19th October 2017 these do not include existing tenants that are after particular normally adjacent plots of they ever become free

I find it incredible and it reinforces my view that an Allotment Site Rep Association is required to ensure that plots are effectively managed because neither the council before nor Idverde since have been doing so. The next thing you know the Local Authority will be wanting to sell off allotment land because there is not an interested and there are vacant plots, which is clearly not the case.   

138 Plots that could have been occupied and bringing in revenue

138 people some that have been on the waiting list since 2011 that could have been offered a plot and have not.

This an example of gross mismanagement of Allotments by the Local Authority and Idverde  


I've just received an email back from Idverde who have committed to "assist in establishing a site reps network, but that will be after processing all the payments and subsequent changes to plots etc. following the invoices, and will take some time".
Idverde described the situation they have inherited as fighting against the rising tide” and have requested that the council assist me to begin the site rep recruitment process? They state they are "happy to take over when the lady who is doing two peoples work time is freed up; but until then I feel it’s appropriate to ask for the councils support in rectifying this situation."

Apart from printing posters, laminating and placing on each allotment gate there is little else I can do. I have suggested that if they were to let Site Reps have their plot at half cost that may be an incentive to encourage plot holders to take on the role on allotments that currently don't have a Site Rep. With currently 138 plots that could be bring in rent it's a no brainer really.

Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Before You Buy Seeds

So it's the end of the year and if you are lucky you have finally made it to the top of the waiting list and you have your very own (normally with one previous neglectful owner) overgrown allotment that you are now working on to try and deal with the weeds and get ready for the growing season next year.

At some stage soon as it's the winter months and that when allotmenteers do this kind of thing, you will be thinking about what you are going to grow and the seedaholic in you will twitch and start to emerge and you will want to start buying packs of seeds.

First thing to do is have a family meeting and decide what it is you actually like and want to eat, what do you eat the most off. Ask your self are there things you would like to eat more off but are expensive like asparagus for example.

Now having had the family meeting and before you rush out to your local DIY store or Garden Centre and spend a fortune on seeds, here is a little information about seed suppliers and buying.

There are well known and long established seed companies out there like Marshalls, Suttons, Mr Fothergill's etc. So it's worth visiting their web sites and requesting either a paper seed catalogue which is equivalent to an allotment owners porn, of download the catalogues as Adobe or surf them on the interweb thingy.

Subscribe to their news letters and you will be bombarded with offers to save and spend your money, some are good some are not so good, it depends on what you want.

Be aware of who is part of whom

Unwins is part of Marshall's, apparently, Fothergill's comprises five main brands: Mr Fothergill's, DT Brown, Woolman's, The Sweet Pea Company and Johnsons. You will find that the same seed is being packaged in different quantities and for different prices between these companies. Suttons & Dobies are part of the same group

I know an allotment owner who always bought his seed from DT Brown, thinking they were a 'bit special'. Now he knows he may as well buy from his local DIY Shop.

If you have the fugal allotment mindset you may want to leave your seed acquisition until Wilko, Lidl and dare I say it the pound shops have their gardening stuff & seeds in stock. Lidl sell 3 small packs for a £1 and 4 Large packs for £2 normally and the pound shop selling 4 packs for a £1. but their range is obviously limited but ideal for a new plot holder starting out.

Below is an example of the cost of Leeks from the In My Seed Box review for 2018

Musselburgh (Seed Tape) - 180 Seeds - £1.99 - Thompson & Morgan
Musselburgh                      - 300 Seeds -     60p - Wilko  
Musselburgh                      - 500 Seeds - £1.89 - Mr Fothergill's 

You expect to get less seeds when buying seed tapes, and The T&M and Mr Fothergill's came via the Wyevale 50p seed sale. I have paid full RRP when wanting a particular seed that was only available from a specialist supplier and new to the UK but mainly I buy in the 50p seed sale.

I've done some searching on the internet and here are prices from suppliers listed on the left hand panel of my Diary / Blog

Musselburgh - 1700  Seeds - £1.99 - Premier Seeds Direct * Free Delivery
Musselburgh - 1400  Seeds - £7.56 - Suttons
Musselburgh -   800  Seeds -    99p - Premier Seeds Direct * Free Delivery
Musselburgh -   750  Seeds - £1.00 -
Musselburgh -   700  Seeds - £1.99 - Marshalls
Musselburgh -   500  Seeds - £1.39 - DT Brown 
Musselburgh -   500  Seeds - £2.10 - Johnsons
Musselburgh -   500  Seeds - £1.89 - Mr Fothergill's
Musselburgh -   425  Seeds - £1.15 - Kings Seeds
Musselburgh -   400  Seeds -    99p - Seed Parade
Musselburgh -   350  Seeds - £1.99 - Suttons
Musselburgh -   350  Seeds - £1.99 - Thompson & Morgan
Musselburgh -   350  Seeds - £1.99 - Unwins
Musselburgh -   300  Seeds - £1.30 - Nicky's Nursery 
Musselburgh -   300  Seeds - £1.29 - Dobies  
Musselburgh -   300  Seeds -    60p - Wilko 
Musselburgh -   250  Seeds - £1.60 - Simpsons Seeds & Plants
Musselburgh -   200  Seeds - £1.85 - Plantword Seeds
Musselburgh -   150  Seeds -    85p - Nicky's Nursery
Musselburgh -     50  Seeds -    50p - More Veg

Some of these you can buy from DIY stores and Garden Centres and unless they have a free delivery offer on you will need to add P&P.

Early August Wyevale will have a half price seed sale and at the August bank holiday Wyevale sell off all their remaining stock at 50p per pack which basically means with the average price of a pack of seeds between 4 -6 packs for the price one. They don't leave them on the racks they spread them out on tables or in trugs and sometimes yes you have to get on the floor

This year I was the first one at the tables and was joint by another couple who have an allotment, after about 10 minutes. I went to the Dorking branch because historically they have had twice as many tables as you see at Morden, but Wyevale appear to be buying less stock and have less left over at the end of the season in the last couple of years. The Morden branch only had a small table and a planting trug of seed packs and I didn't get around to visiting the Croydon Branch this year, I have far too many seeds as it is. 

Despite telling myself not to go overboard I ended up with £170 worth of seed for £25 and most of the sow by dates are 2019 and 2020 and there is even one pack with a sow by date of 2021, I rejected the 2018 packs out of hand, I still have plenty of 2016 & 2017 packs in my seed boxes that need to be used up first.

Other sources of seeds are off the front cover of magazines, I had a good few seeds from my six months subscription to Grow Your Own Magazine, but got to the point where the magazines were stacking up and most of what's in them is in the books I have. I now only buy the mag is it has seeds on it that I want, like parsnip when is best bought fresh each year.

You will find that once you get an allotment family and friends will buy you books for birthdays and Christmas and you will soon be over run with them.  

Normally on Sundays at the end of the January there are Potato Day & Seed Fair around the UK check out for events near your area.

Then there is Brightons Seedy Sunday which is the UKs largest Seed Swap which will be held on Sunday Feb 4th 2018 between 10:30 AM - 4 PM  at the Brighton Hove & Sussex Sixth Form College where you can swap seeds, buy seeds, listen to expert speakers, visit more than 50 stalls and enjoy Infinity Cafe's wonderful food

Check out your local Allotment Trading Huts For a small membership fee many large allotment sites have trading huts which enable you to purchase all your gardening needs at reasonable prices and are more convenient than going to your local garden centre as long as your happy to shop on a Sunday morning.

Most of these trading huts are not only open to the plot holders but some are also open to gardeners in the surrounding area. Most are no profit making and are staffed by volunteers any profits go back into the association or get donated to charity. So if you have taken on an Allotment or are growing vegetables from home check out your surrounding Allotments and find out where they are located.

Just read that Wilkos' are selling off their packs of seeds at 10p a pack and when you get to the till they go through at 1p per pack

Monday, 16 October 2017

In My Seed Box 2018 - Beans

Since 2013 I have grown a number of types & varieties of Beans, but this is what I have in my seed box for 2018 

Self Saved & Seed Circle

Blue Beans
Cara La Virgen de la Baneza Leon (Climbing French Bean)
Cherokee Trail of Tears (Climbing French Bean)
Crimson Flowered (Broad Bean)
Kew Blue
Major Cook's (Climbing French Bean)
Nun's Belly Button (Bush Bean)
Ryder's Blue CoCo (Climbing French Bean)
Scarlet Emperor (Runner Bean)
Vermont Cranberry (Bush Bean)

Review Of Seed Stocks in Packets

Elena (Soya Bean) - Glycine Max - 50 Seeds - Free with GYO Mag - Mr Fothergill's
Pickwick (Bush Bean)                   - 12 Seeds - £2.09 - Thompson & Morgan - Sow By Dec 2016
Scarlet (Runner Bean)                 - 50 Seeds - Free with GYO Mag - Mr Fothergill's
Stardust (Runner Bean)               - 45 Seeds - Free Trial                  - Marshalls          - Sow By 9/2020

Growing Selection for 2018

My annual runner is normally Scarlet Emperor as they normally provide a good yield and a single panel in the wall at Mill Green Allotment provides me with ample runners for my needs but also for passing on to my sister, sister -in-law, eldest daughter and our neighbour.

This year I will be growing Scarlet Emperor as normal but also having a bash at Marshalls new bean Stardust on the runner bean front. I will also be growing  Nun's Belly Button,  Vermont Cranberry & Pickwick on the French or Bush Bean front.

Should I still be on Spencer Road or should I be lucky enough to get the plot next to 1A then I will try some of the French climbing beans as well if I have cleared an area to grow them.

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Removals Day 1

Today my future son-in-law Andy supplied some welcome muscle and his van and we removed the decking and a large quantity of cardboard, weed membrane cut to path width size and paving slabs from Spencer Road Plot 23B and brought it over to Mill Green Plot 1A. The new incinerator that I bought for Spencer Road also made the trip back as I will need it in addition to the existing rusty one at Mill Green to burn the weeds once I start attacking Plot 1

As you can see in the photo above Plot 1 on the left of the picture above and in the background in the one below still has not received any attention, and I'm just waiting for the paperwork to arrive before I start attacking it.

The plastic strips that have been defining the edge of the beds were eased out of the ground and the timber decking bed edges were re assembled and put in their stead. The weeds along the paths were removed and cardboard already cut into 600mm wide strips were laid along the paths.

This was then covered in weed membrane and the slabs placed along the paths on a semi hit and miss basis to hold the weed membrane down. the tarp in the left is covering cardboard on the path until I can cut some membrane and then the paving slabs stacked by the incinerator in the top right of the photo above will go down on top.

Excess cardboard for the moment is now stacked in the greenhouse ready for more paths to be installed like the one between beds 7 & 8 in far left of the photo above, parallel to the sweet corn to be done, once the decking board edging has been re assembled and installed into beds 7 & 8 and I have cut more path width weed membrane.

The slabs will have the gaps infilled with woodchip when we arrange a drop in the new drop off and pick up area. 

The three paths between beds 2-3, 3-4 & 4-5 and the path parallel to the wall where the runner beans are grown have not yet been touched and are still very weathered woodchip that is degrading to nice compost and supporting weed growth. 

Weedy Path between beds 2 & 3 in the distance