Sunday, 31 December 2017

Plot 1A Review of the Year

It's time for a review of 2017 and to look at what was planned, what actually happened and why and what lessons can be learnt as a result.




ASPARAGUS

I have been wanting an Asparagus Bed for some time, and I have a pack of seeds for Martha Washington Asparagus, 50 seeds To be sown April to May.

Reading the back of the pack they need to be spaced 450mm apart in both directions. If I'm going to have a permanent bed I'm guessing bed 16 or a row against the wall in one of the Runner Bean beds would be the best option. As I have another allotment I could always grow beans there as well. Something to think about over the Winter months.

I never got around to growing from seed, I did buy some asparagus but didn't have the bed ready on Spencer Road so gave them away. I still want to grow Asparagus but the plan will be to get the bed ready in 2018 and put crowns in on plot 1 in 2019

BEETROOT

We eat and pickle a lot of beetroot, Currently on the plan Bed 3 is shown but as Bed 4 has become available as I'm now growing the Butternut squash around the base of the sweetcorn and I don't yet have a bed available at Spencer Road for beetroot, Bed 4 will also be beetroot in 2017.

Varieties 2016 Seed - Detroit 6 Rubidus, Wodan F1 Hybrid, Detroit 2, Pablo F1 Hybrid, Cardeal F1 Hybrid.

Varieties 2017 Seed - 4 x Thompson & Morgan Boltardy Seed Tapes, Boltardy, Alto F1 Hybrid

I normally start the beetroots off in the greenhouse in vending machine cups, this year will be a two pronged attack as I have four packs of seed tapes. 2016 seed will go into the green house and the 2017 seed tapes directly into the beds.  Successional sowing will take place every in a third of a bed length every 3 - 4 weeks so that they can be harvested and pickled in batches.  

Sow from March 2-4 weeks before the last frost when the ground is warm.

We did well for beetroots they were grown at both Mill Green and Spencer Road and enough was pickled for the immediate family, plus sister & sister-in-law to last out the year. The plan for 2018 is sequential sowing and thus pickling. We are also saving Doritos dip jars as they provide a wide neck and we use enough of them during the year that we can throw all the different size jars away and have one common size and cap type so that come pickling we are not playing a game of match the lid.       


BRUSSELS SPROUT

These were a disaster growing from seed last year and I had to buy plants which really goes against the grain. This year I bought what I initially thought was a really good idea which was the Thompson & Morgan All Season Brussels Sprouts seed pack  How wrong can you be who in there right mind offers three varieties in a pack and then packs them all in a single packet see post here for more details.


Moving on from the Thompson & Morgan Fiasco, I have purchased Evesham Special from Premier Seeds Direct  & Bedford Darkmar 21 from Just seeds both for 99p a pack. My third variety is Brest F1 which I got from the Wyevale seed sale for 50p so that is three varieties for less than Thompson & Morgan were selling their All Season Brussels Sprout pack for so Up Yours T&M

Give up on purple sprouts, crap two years running don't intend to waste my time in 2018. A small harvest that had black fly so once skinned to a layer where the fly had not got too were small. I must look into what can be done to prevent this, they are covered in debris netting but obviously keeps out cabbage whites but not black fly. 

BUTTERNUT SQUASH

Currently on the plan butternut squash is shown as occupying Bed 4 but I have now decided to allow them to spread around the base of the Sweetcorn. The variety "Waltham" will be grown here and   "Butterfly" on the other plot


These went in far too late due to events outside my control, and we didn't end up with any in 2017, but with the new plot, and with wanting to get a whole load of manure, I have more than enough room to let them wonder around the area of plot 1 that I will not be getting too in 2018

CABBAGE

I'm really undecided about cabbage, as I had such a disaster with it during 2016 mainly due to the vast amount of slugs, I have been contemplating Kale, one to ponder I think. Ideally small spring green type cabbages are what I'm after.

Slugs won in 2017 and we ended up with nothing, hoping for better results on slug killing and cabbage growing in 2018

CARROTS - Do best in beds that have not been recently manured

Not that many carrots grown in 2016, In fact I need to harvest them. I want to grow many more in 2017 and want to grow big "bugs bunny type" if possible. I have acquired a number of different variety seeds, four different types from Lidl, and I must say that the back of the packs are really not all that informative as the have vague instructions in four languages, so off to Google search for some better guidance, which I have typed up below:-

Rote Riesien 2 - is a large tasty good winter keeper. The German name translates to Red Giant.Sow: April – July outdoors Harvest: September – November

Keeps well; has an excellent flavor. Heat stimulates the carotene content. Versatile – an absolute must for any garden (vegetables, juices, raw).
Carrots need very fertile, well-loosened soil. Avoid fresh manure. Keep evenly moist both during and after germination! Ensure sufficient space for each carrot!
Carrots may be planted in the same bed no earlier than every 3 years.
Sow in March/April and June/July to protect against carrot flies!

Nantaise 2 - Medium late variety valued for its especially high carotene content (14.6mg %). Ready for harvest in 110 days. Forms long, cylindrical, bright orange colour fruits with blunt end medium length roots of about 15cm (6") long. This virtually coreless variety has a rich orange colour and sweet crunchy taste.

Height: 30cm (12"). Spread: 15cm (6") Seeds germinate at +3-4C. Grows best in well cultivated, fertile, light sandy or clay loam and warm, bright location.ideal for early sowings under glass in late winter for your first crop of the year. Sowing Months February, March, April, May, June, July

Berlikumer 2 - Sowing period March - April. Harvest September. Germination 18 - 24 days

Karnavit - Sowing early under glass, fleece or plastic and later sowing in early summer. Germination 18 - 24 days

Cosmic Purple I'm growing this because it's a novity and my younger daughter does not like carrot so lets see what she makes of a purple carrot - Sowing period March - April. Harvest 110 days from planting September. Germination 18 - 24 days  Length 180mm or 7"

Nigel F1 -  A main crop variety, store well in Winter, suitable for successional sowing  Sowing March - June Harvest July - December Sow thinly 10mm deep in drills 300mm apart, thin seedlings when large enough to handle allowing 20mm between roots


Scarlet Horn -  Early crop variety ideal for heavy soil, stony or shallow as a short stumped rooted carrot Sow February - June thinly in pre-watered shallow rows and cover with a little soil. Allow 250mm (10") between rows. Thin seedlings to about 20mm, keep soil moist until seedlings are established. This variety is better suited for Spencer Road and the soil is very stony  

The Wyevale seed sail is responsible for the Cosmic Purple, Nigel F1 and Scarlet Horn packs as I can't resist a bargain.

Due to the wife being admitted into hospital carrots just didn't happen in 2017, but they will happen in 2018 !  

CAULIFLOWER

The best cauliflower I have ever grown was during my first year, and I'm thinking it was beginners luck as I have yet to repeat the success, but I have to try at least one bed. I still have some Jamie Oliver Cheesy F1 seeds and All The Year Round Cauliflower seed Suttons 2016 and Mr Fothergills 2017 Sow indoors Jan - March / Sow Outdoors March - June Plant Out March - August and Harvest June - Oct so some successional sowing needed here me thinks to extend the harvesting season.   

Due to the wife being admitted into hospital carrots just didn't happen in 2017, but they will happen in 2018 !  


CUCUMBER

I have historically grown Marketmore & Burpless on this plot and they both did really well, however 2016 really was not as good as previous years for cucumber on this plot for some reason. I will try Marketmore again in 2017


Due to the wife being admitted into hospital carrots in 2017 they went in late, and still managed to supply us with our own cucumbers, planning two sowings in 2018 to extend the harvest period.  

GHERKIN - Piccolo Di Parigi - First year for growing Gherkins and only because my sister loves them so I'm having a bash at growing and pickling them for her

Went in late but produced enough to supply my sister and sister in law with picked Gherkins, will be grown again in 2018 

GREENHOUSE

The greenhouse got limited use in 2016 as too much rubbish had / has accumulated in it. The plan is to empty, clean and reduce the staging in it such that I can use it for what it's meant for. The access problems in 2016 contributed to the lack of use , but I'm hoping the contractor will stop sitting on their hands with their thumbs up their backsides and put in the pick up and drop area they said they would for us. - Note to self chase the bloody site agent again.


Finally Redrow did start on the drop off and pick up area & the composting WC, but then stopped and have been chased. Obviously for them it's a back burner job when they are between tasks on their development and I fully understand that coming from a construction background. We have something that is useable but just needs to be completed which hopefully will happen before the growing season in 2018 
INFRASTRUCTURE

Over winter the objectives were

  • Clear the greenhouse completely - Nearly but now full of weed membrane for plot 1 
  • Build a replacement for the Tomato Grow House - Nope a job for 2018
  • Clear and Tidy the storage Area - Nope a job for 2018
  • Decant Nettle tea into Comfrey Tea Water Butt
  • Ship Nettle Tea Butt to Spencer Road - Now had to come back " 
MARROW

Long Green Striped   - To be used by Dec 2018 Sow April - May Harvest July Onwards
Long Green Trailing Exhibition Marrow - from Jungle seeds no use by date on the pack or sowing and harvesting information other than sow in peaty sterile seed compost 7mm deep at 25-30C Germination  2 - 3 weeks. Once germinated these grow rapidly and will need good light. Plant out after all frost have passed in a rich manured compost.   

Didn't happen in 2017 - now scheduled for 2018

MELON

This is something new that I want to try and grow in the greenhouses at both allotments in 2017. I have three different varieties to try, Rugoso di Cosenza giallo, Ogen & Sugar Baby.

The packs appear to say Sow from March to May, Plant out May June and Harvest August to September / Early October.   

Didn't happen in 2017 - now scheduled for 2018

ONIONS

Bed 13 currently shows Over Wintering Onions, however no onions will now be grown on this allotment due to the white rot problems on the site, so all onions to be grown on Spencer Road this year. So that means I need to find something else for bed 13.

Grown on Spencer Road but also had White Rot problems - going to try plot 1 in 2018

PARSNIPS

My parsnips were allowed to go to seed on this plot last year. They were given to me by Edita another plot holder and after three sowings of bought seed that did nothing, the ones from the allotment seed took and I ended up with a wonderful bed of Parsnips. I have so many seed that I will be growing a bed worth here and on the other allotment. 



Didn't happen in 2017 must happen in 2018

POTATOES

Rotation so beds 5,7, 8 & 9 used this year, and first early spuds possibly subject to an experiment for SoilFixer in 2017 or 2018. Looking at also the possibility of building a Potato tower above ground if I can get hold of a few more Daleks   

In Buckets - See SoilFixer Experiment result Here

Swift - First Early - Among the fastest maturing of the first early varieties, being the quickest to produce heavy crops of round, smooth, white-fleshed baby new potatoes

Lady Christi - First Early - Lady Christl potatoes are an excellent first early variety that bulks up early in the season and can be harvested after just 8 weeks of sowing. Derek on the allotment had too many potatoes and offered me his excess last year and they were excellent and are defiantly on the list this year.


Second Early- Estima & Sarpo Kifli Spuds to be grown on Spencer Road Allotment



Sarpo Mira - Main Crop - last year 2 went manky and had to be thrown away before they got in the ground, and actually the ones in Wyevale look healthier and better sized and more consistent than those I received directly from the Sarpo people. The original blight buster developed for hard living and recommended by Dan on YouTube after seeing his reveals and as there was an offer I had to try them last year. A definite for this year just not sure if to purchase direct again or not.. 

Sarpo Axona Main Crop - Blight resistant, red skinned main crop.  Floury potato idea for chipping, mashing and baking -

Sarpo Blue DanubeMain Crop -  Unusual blue skinned variety with strong resistance to tuber blight.  The perfect roastie!

Desire - Main Crop - They grow well on my allotment

King Edwards - Main Crop - Fluffy Texture Ideal for Baking or Roasting, the kids disagree about the baking as they prefer the Estima -  2kg sack bought from Wyevale last year  


Not all varieties made it into the ground due to events outside my control - will review for 2018 and repeat SoilFixer experiment in 2018. Sarpo Spud were poor and lot a lot to wire worm in 2017

RHUBARB

Something that I have wanted to grow for some time and have not really got around to it as it needs a static location, however now I have the other plot I will have room. I managed to get the seed for Glaskins Perpetual Rhubarb off the Grapevine seed circle so the plan is to grow from seed in 2017 still not decided if it should live here or at Spencer Road or perhaps both locations?  

Donated Rhubarb in buckets in 2017 going to be brought from Spencer Road Site to Mill Green. There is also Rhubarb on plot 1 which will be split and relocated and I have been promised some Rhubarb by one of the seed suppliers to trial in 2018

RUNNER BEANS

Last year only one bed of runner beans were grown, in 2017 both beds will be grown - Scarlet Emperor seeds from 2016 will be used.

Good as usual and will be grown again in 2018

SWEETCORN

Two beds of sweetcorn planned for this allotment variety Lark F1 and two beds of Swift on the Spencer Road. Butternut squash to be gown in the same beds as the sweetcorn to maximise the growing area. I'm happy for them to wonder over the path between the two adjacent beds.


Only two beds on Mill Green grown and they were stunted and late and were not as good or prolific as previous years, but everyone I have spoken too has said the same and put it down to the crazy weather conditions early on in the year. 

TOMATOES

The F2 Crimson Crush did really well on the allotments over the last two year, I will grown some outside again or in Flower Buckets if beds are not ready for them as well as the Rapunzel out in the open. I will also grow some small bush varieties in the Greenhouse as it's only 1.8m x 1.2m of 6ft x 4ft. The covered grow house skin has finally failed and if repaired in time, tomatoes will be grown there as well as in the Little House on the Allotment extension to the shed.


22 Tomato plants grown at home in 2017, hoping to try and grow some on the allotment in 2018 .

WILDFLOWERS For Bees

I have received two packs of wildflower seed for bees from two different sources this year. Historically I have not grown flowers on the allotment apart from the Daffs and Bluebells that come up early in the comfrey beds and the Poached Egg Plants that are grown to attract aphid eating ladybirds. This year I will plant a minimum of 4 - 6 flower buckets of wild flowers per allotment and move then around to encourage the pollinators in.  

Planned but didn't happen, hopefully it will in 2018

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Wind Challenge

The plan for today was to cut the remaining two 3m x 2m sheets into 666mm wide strips 3m long, but with the wind being high there was no way that was going to happen, outside using the washing line to hold up the sheet. The saw horses are buried deep in the sheds and are not accessible. Lets face it both shed are so full of stuff that I can't get to anything and that's going to have to change in 2018. I'm going to have to become a little ruthless and actually throw things away in 2018, and yes I say the same every year, but this year it must happen.

The solution was to use two fold out tables that we use indoors occasionally and the scaffold board which is stored in the brick shed which I can get at and work in the kitchen and cut the sheets with the soldering iron in the traditional way.

It really didn't take too long and I ended up with another six path width rolls 3m long to add to the six that I cut the other day which is 36m of path weed membrane in all.



Looking at the plan I'm going to need 7 rolls to cover the paths between bed 1 - 6 and the path parallel to the North wall on plot 1A.    

Friday, 29 December 2017

Necessity Is The Mother Of Invention

A few weeks ago I cut 2m wide weed membrane into 4 number 3m lengths and marked out three 666mm wide strips to be used for the 600mm wide paths that need to be weeded and covered on plot 1A.

The weather has not helped as usual December has been cold icy and wet. That combined with Christmas, the wife's continuing health problems and a weekend away not a lot of physical allotment related work has taken place. I have been doing more web building, Facebook group building,  review and amendments to the Allotment Gardening Guide used by the borough and Idverde and things relating to getting the LBS Site Rep Association up and flying.    

We no longer have the timber table in the back garden as this was replaced and was taken down to the allotment and turned into a potting bench in September, thus I'm having to be a bit creative to find something to cut upon, or another means of cutting the sheets.

I then had a Eureka moment and decided to hang the sheet on the washing line and use the soldering iron shaft rather than the tip and cut the sheets. Yes I had to hold the sheet away from it other half and against the wind, and the cut is a lot more ragged than when using the tip on a scaffold board that I used to lay on the garden table, but it works and I now have six number of path width sheets in the boot of the car, ready to go down to the allotment on the next visit.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

My Leaf Collection Groweth


A swift visit to take down two buckets of shredded paper and a couple of sacks of leafs from the front and back garden plus about another 15 sacks from my daughters place which they brought down to the allotment in her partners small van.

For the moment they are being stacked on bed 9, but will be moved into the bread basket cage somewhere on plot 1 once I have done a little more clearing and have covered it with weed membrane, which hopefully will be during January next year.

Friday, 22 December 2017

I Won Chilli Pepper Seeds !


The Chilli Seeds that I won in a recent Mr Fothergill's Facebook competition arrived complete with a neat fridge (filing cabinet in my case) magnet that I'm going to have fun playing with. Looks like I will be having a bash at hot peppers this year in addition to the others.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Sprouts For Christmas


A swift visit to the allotment Sunday to harvest sprouts for Christmas Dinner, some were past there sell by date because I didn't get around to harvesting when they were ready other were fine but when you start peeling them and find the bugs or bug eggs inside and you get to a level where you believe there aren't any more, there is not a lot of sprout left !

Two small bags worth from 8 plants and a lot of effort, but a bucket with lid worth of material for the compost heap. I will not be growing the purple sprouts anymore, I've tried then two years running and they have not amounted to anything worth having.

Nice to see our new young couple on the site busy attacking the brambles and burning what they have been clearing, if they carry on like this they will be ready to get some stuff in early next year.

There were five of us there Sunday morning which isn't bad seeing as we are such a small site.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Has He Dropped Off The Planet ?

In a word no, I'm aware I have not posted anything for over three weeks. I've just been really busy with family health matters, I've had a weekend away with the family, the weather has been awful and I have been dealing with setting up a Facebook Group and a Web site for London Borough of Sutton Site Reps, which is why the page has gone from this blog which was its temporary home, as it now has a nice new home of its own.

I have been shredding paper and compressing it in buckets with lids and collect leaves and dropping them down to the allotment in preparation for making compost in 2018. It was during one of those drop off visits that Redrow & Natta Construction were again working on clearing the area for the composting toilet that they are donating and installing.

The guy on the digger was waiting for a skip to arrive so that they could ship out the debris, so I asked him if he would like to assist me in digging out the hump of composting weeds that the previous owner had stacked in the internal corner formed by the boundary wall, and levelling and filling the holes left by the foxes den and the Hawthorne tree roots that have been dug out.


It took him less than five minutes to do what would have taken me a good day to dig out by hand, and was worth a small drink as a thank you. Yes I still need to dig and remove weeds but he has leveled the area where the shed and greenhouse is planned to go.


Thus I didn't feel bad about the fact that I had missed two Sundays due to inclement weather and having a life outside of the allotment.

I should have asked the guy with the digger to remove the trees along the return wall, but I had to get off the site before the skip lorry arrived and only thought about how easy that would have been when I was halfway home. Never mind I'm happy for the help and what he did do for me

So on the next visit, harvest the sprouts ready for Christmas Lunch, trim up the foliage and trees along the return wall and dig them out. If I can get some weed membrane cut for the paths then sort out the area in front of the beans so that all the paths on Plot 1A will be covered and completely weed free again.