Tuesday, 7 February 2023

Afternoon On The Plot


More clearance of the Hawthorne bushes took place today and a tug and two large bags of cuttings were made and placed in the shed to keep them dry so I can burn them over the weekend. 

Timber roof joist from the demolished building that were lost in one of the two over grown empty plots have been uncovered, a number of plot holders have taken the boards to use for path edging and raised beds already. 

The few stacked on top of my raised beds will be turned into additional raised planters to finish off the beds to the border of plot 1.  

Jane the Allotment officer came to see how well John and Wally had done at clearing the two plots of trees and removal of all the metal that they then let a scrap metal man in to collect. 

Jane is still awaiting conformation that I will be allowed to have the potting shed on the plots in addition to the two sheds I already have as the sheds are half the area that one is allowed on a single plot. I'm hoping the council will obey their own rules and allow as I'm clearly going to be growing in it. 

I started to dig in the green manure that had been chopped and dropped but didn't quite make it to completing the task today. This will be continued on a future visit, as I broke the handle to my fork and will need to get a replacement. 

John and I managed to extract some scaffold tubes from the two plots that are being cleared, two will be going into my 4th Raspberry bed and the other shorter ones will be going in the raised beds to the front of the plot for guide strings to be added for yellow raspberries that will be planted in them.

The two long scaffold tubes need cutting back to 2.4 m and then driven into the end of the 4th bed as I have in the other 3 beds.  

I will finally have a use for my Ryobi angle grinder and steel cutting disks.

Monday, 6 February 2023

Checking Out Crossways!


Today I made a visit to Crossways Nursery Purley to check out the price of their compost and horse manure.

Thatcher's Super Mix Organic Multipurpose Compost £6 each or 3 for £15
J.W.March Ericaceous Compost £4 each
Growmore Multipurpose 50 litre £6 each
Marsh's Multipurpose growbag £2.50 each
Growise Tub and Basket Compost £6 each 
Growmore Multipurpose Compost 60 litre £7 each   
Growmore Organic Farmyard Manure £5 each
Happy Rose Tree & Shrub Compost £6 each
Growmore More Gro All Purpose Compost £7each 
Woodside Minichip Bark 75 Litre £10 a bag 3 for £27
Growmore  Ericaceous Compost 40 litre £4 each
Growmore John Innes No. 3 - 25 litre £5 each
Tunstall John Innes No. 1 - £5each 
Topsoil  £5 each or 3 for £12
Growmore Grow Start 4 plant Grow bag  £3 each 
Thatcher's Organic Multipurpose Compost 40 litre £3.50 

Sunday, 5 February 2023

The Boundary Beds

With the weather getting better, I was on the allotment way too long today, I should have taken a packed lunch with me or some snacks, but once I started building the beds from the old scaffold boards and roof joists I didn't want to stop until I had finished them. I arrived at just gone 9am and left at 2:30pm.  

I started the morning off clearing more of the area where the potting shed is going and moving all the square flower buckets of soil and stones out of the way and behind where the first two beds were placed, all that soil and stones will go into the raised beds which at the moment I have earmarked for Yellow Raspberries. 

I didn't want to use my power tools until 11am as it's a Sunday morning. 

Saturday, 4 February 2023

Clearing The Area For The Potting Shed !

I have to say, I'm very excited, I have been informed that I'm getting a Forest Garden 2.4m x1.8m (8ft x 6ft) Potting Shed and thus my plans have altered. I was having a solar tunnel between my main path and the wall at the entrance, and I started clearing the Hawthorne yesterday, but today now I know the Potting Shed is becoming a reality, I spent this afternoon sorting and clearing the materials I had stored in that area. 

A cut and paste of where the potting shed is going to go 

A cut and paste of where the potting shed is going to go, the angle is not quite right and the door will be on the other end of the potting shed but you get the general idea. One can see to the left of the door where I have worked my way into the Hawthorne as you can see the rendered wall. 

I like this image I found of the inside, it gave me food for thought. 

The Potting Shed is a shiplap Tongue and Groove construction and has a practical design. All Forest Garden structures are built to last, this one comes with a 10 year guarantee and I've moved it away from the wall in the plan for ease of construction and future maintenance. 

This garden building will help keep your garden or allotment clutter free and offers a secure space for you to store garden equipment. Far more than just a storage space, this potting shed has been carefully designed to maximise the elements that are prime for planting, seeding and potting.

I can see the enclosed end having shelving racks for seed trays, pots etc, and my hand tools on hooks along the 8ft back panel at the top. All the potting equipment that is currently shoe horned into the two 1.8m x 1.2m (6ft x 4ft) greenhouses will go into the potting shed and will allow me more growing room in both greenhouses.   

With 10 fixed windows the potting shed lets in extra light. Two opening windows enable you to help keep the temperature and air flow at an appropriate level. I may however construct a couple of curved grills to go under the opening vent to stop the squirrels coming in and nicking tomatoes and plants. I may also install a couple of solar powered fans in the gable ends, depending on the heat gain during the summer. With all those windows I will not need a solar light in there.  

The potting shed comes in smaller sections, making it easier to handle and to assemble, which will be beneficial for walking it all into the allotment from the drop off area. 

The shed is supplied with two sets of two-tier modular plant staging that can be positioned in a row in front of the window as in the photo above or in the corner. I'm thinking maximise the growing area and have them in front of the window. 

The windows are made from shatterproof PET glazing, which will not become yellow or brittle over time. The Potting Shed is modular in its design, allowing you to choose whether to hang the door to the left or the right of the window panel and which way it opens, which is ideal as I want it the other end in the photos. 

The Potting Shed is built using interlocking Shiplap Tongue & Groove boards which make it robust and weather resistant. The smooth-planed barge boards and felted roof give it an attractive finish. All the timber in this Potting Shed is Dip Treated and it is guaranteed against rot for 10 years, with annual retreatment required.

I will be fitting guttering and capturing the rainwater. Adding guttering around the fascia of the potting shed will redirect rain water away from the potting shed’s foundation.

I have to say my father-in-law would have loved one of these, but would have used mesh in the windows for his aviary.


left: Where the pile of timber was stacked.
Middle: The timber restacked on the edge of the plot boundary with plot 2
Right: Same stack looking straight on from Plot 2. 

Most people who work with lumber already know what the spacers (stickers) are that you see spaced between each slab 

These timbers will become bearers that will go under the potting shed off paving slabs laid on the leveled earth, and one isn't allowed to concrete allotments, as the next owner may have radically different ideas how they want to arrange the plot  

I collected all the scaffolding boards from the piles of timber around the plot and marked them up ready for cutting, if I can find the powerful Ryobi batteries, that is!

Friday, 3 February 2023

Spring Cleaning "Avalon"

Now that I have some time on my hands, and the fact I need a lot of Allotment Therapy at the moment, I've been playing catch up. Jobs that I have been building up on the To Be Done list are finally happening, and hopefully I will be ready for kick off this year and more on top of things allotment wise. 

The storage areas behind both of the sheds and to the side and behind the greenhouse have been blitzed, and I have been forced to put my squirrel tendencies to one side, and have given up on saving items that may be useful one day. 

The cast iron and timber seats have been taken apart and the timber put in the burn Dalek to keep it dry ready for burning. The timber on the bench has had its day and I will be de-constructing that, but I will keep the cast iron table, I may replace the timber around the outside edge. This garden furniture was originally my parents and I did replace most of the timber 10 years ago.

My daughters, have said that the patio and table on plot 1A would be a nice spot to have a BBQ during the summer, and I have to agree and would love that, especially if they have come to help me on the Sunday which they do from time to time.

The Storage area to the left of the shed and behind the shed has been spring cleaned, as has the pallet store in the photo below. 

I have a dump run Booked for 9am this morning, and for the moment all the sacks of rubbish and dross are in the plot 1A greenhouse so that they are dry for putting in the car. There are a couple of other bags covered up and there are also 2 Daleks of weeds that can't be composted, that I'm also going to try and get to the dump, this morning.

The rear of the plot 1 shed is now clear and so spacious, and I will be installing some hooks into the wall to support the blue and black water pipe hoops, when not in use. 

Plot 1 Layout for 2023 

The three beds 12, 13 & 16 that had green manure growing have all been turned in and covered in the Winter black weed membrane, so that the green manure now decays and the worms and critters in the soil take the vegetation into the soil.

The two blue, debris netted beds 14 & 15 need clearing of weeds, the one to the front 14 was a beetroot bed following the onions last year, and this year is going to grow sweetcorn. The blue hopped bed in the back of the picture is the asparagus bed 15, and I need to weed and mulch this bed and then keep it clear from weeds as they grow this year.   

The sweetcorn needs pulling out of bed 16 and given some TLC, and then being covered so the sun can warm up the soil.   

The bag of farmyard manure that was laying on the path between beds 17 & H2 had degraded due to the exposure to the elements, so I had to shovel it up into a flower bucket and take it to the three Rhubarb beds. They will be hungry this year, and being their third year, I will be able to harvest much more from each plant.  

It's nice to start getting the bricks off the pathways and back on top of the blank weed membrane bed sheets. Less chance of me falling arse over elbow!

The beds in plot 1A all need some TLC and getting prepped ready for the season. 

Bed 1 still has buckets of potatoes on it, and I have no idea what they may be like now after the extreme weather and minus temperatures we have had. The spent compost from the potatoes in buckets will go into this bed as carrots are planned for this bed this year. 

Beds 2,3 & 4 are going to be onion beds this year, so the Debris netting and large hoops need to be removed and the shallow black hoops and narrow debris netting will be used to stop the birds from plucking out the onion sets. 

Bed 5 is going to be Celery so a larger Hoop and debris netting will be used there  

Bed 7 - 10 will be Brassicas this year so they, will all have large hoops and wide netting on them  

Bed 10 had green manure on it, over winter, this needs digging in and the 3 bags of soil conditioner need to be added to the bed before it is covered so the worms can do their magic.  

Bed 11 is to be Swede and Turnips, and just appears to need de-cluttering

The car got filled to capacity and then some!  

Thursday, 2 February 2023

Greenhouse Loft Extension Erection Day

For those that have been following the loss of my opening vent to the plot 1 Greenhouse, during a storm in December will know that I came up with a novel way to replace it and to ensure that the greenhouse gets ventilated when it gets hot. 

Left: The temporary fix
Middle: The hole left by the missing window
Right: with the dormer fitted.

Yesterday I visited the plot and took the prefabricated dormer extension and fitted it into the hole left by the mangled opening vent. 

I'm one very chuffed person, the prefabricated dormer fitted straight in and was glued into place, and the fans operate even when it's overcast, they speed up when the sun is shining and you can't see the blades.

Now I just want to get the second one built for the other greenhouse and fitted. I've assembled the shelving system and cleaned out the inside of the greenhouse, and have two large sacks of coffee grounds drying, my greenhouse smells great!

Here is the prefabricated dormer extension on our dining room table, after I completed assembling the parts Tuesday night. 
The connections for the fans are under the panel and will get shielded from the rain, they are water proof but better safe than sorry. And yes they are mounted to catch the sun all day.

I pre-fabricated the support for the solar panel making the slope 35 degrees which is the best angle for Summer in the UK

Tack welding with the Ryobi glue gun then infilling on both sides of the polycarbonate. 

Give a man a Ryobi Glue Gun and there is no stopping him

Wednesday, 1 February 2023

Planning and Reviewing February in Previous Years

 Reviewing the diary over the last TEN years for February

2013 - Infrastructure works, drying weeds for burning, burning weeds, Rain start of the month, dry towards the end, delivery of woodchip to plot, built a coldframe  
2014 - Infrastructure works, transplanting bluebells and daffs in comfrey bed, bought and planted fruit trees, Constructed Greenhouse Sub Frame, Seeds from Lidl I could not resist at 29p a pack or 5 for a £1   

2015 -  Allotment Winter Tidy Up, Spent tomato compost & coir dressing added to beds, Sprouts, Cabbage, Chitting Potatoes, Timber base for the greenhouse created, Onions from Seeds   

2016 - Infrastructure works, kerb stones off freecycle, Base for the shed on Spencer Road. Erecting the Shed, Trimming shaggy weed membrane, gathering compost paper & Coffee Grounds.

2017 Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs at Spencer Road in the Greenhouse area , Portable Grow Station created and Sprouts sown, Grow Station 2 created, Chitting potatoes in Grow Station 2,  

2018 Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs on Plot 1A, Installing the bed edging that had been brought from Spencer Road Allotment, Warming Up Beds with solar tunnels and obtaining Timber Roof Joists from the building site next door.

2019 Infrastructure works, Frost and a couple or raining Allotment days this year. Andy brought leaves from home for my leaf pile. Burning rotted timber and dry vegetation. Painting timber joists on the plot. Attacking the Hawthorne along the wall. Purchased potatoes from Wilko and set up chitting potatoes in Space saver Greenhouse. Attended the Garden Press Event and came home with lots of  packs of seeds and other goodies.

2020 Infrastructure works, picked up a stack of free slabs off Freecycle, Showed vacant plots and they took plot 4. Cleaned the Space Saver Greenhouse ready for the season and for chitting spuds in. The contractor converting the industrial unit to residential behind Plot 1 & 1A decided in the infinite wisdom to remove the trees that were holding the unstable wall in place and destabilise the wall directly behind my shed on plot 1A. They cut and dropped the branches directly on my shed! Not happy and informed them and the council.       

Showing Chris the vacant plots available, he decided to take on plot 14. Storm Ciara blows many polytunnels off the plots and destroys them and light weight greenhouses on plots. Mentioned In Despatches by Waltons, National Nestbox Week 

Lots of Rain during the early part of the month Storm Dennis with many photographs of flooded allotment plots, especially in Wales and then suddenly at the end of the month, dry weather bluebells and daffs showing and Fools Spring has arrived. Won Mr Fothergills Facebook competition of Swing F1 Cucumber seeds

Picked up another free Dalek to add to Dalek Army II. Attended the Garden Press Event and came home with not so many packs of seeds but lots of other goodies, and promises of equipment to trial. The Covid -19 Virus starts sweeping around the globe, and people start to think twice about shaking hands at the Event. Still cataloguing what's in my Seed Box, need to get this done a lot earlier next year, if not by the end of 2020 

2021 Making Warm Mushroon Trays. Chitting Potatoes, covered in the Norfolk Space Saver Greenhouse . The beast from the East II and snow. The Paved path was installed and so were the scaffold tubes to the first 3 Raspberry beds. The first SFG bed frame was installed in February 2021.

2022 - Sowing Grow With Me tomatoes, Sowing Brassicas and planting seedless grape vines against the wall. Storm Dudley came and went and then Storm Eunice removed greenhouse panels and took items on a journey around the allotment site. Laying slabs around the Plot 1 greenhouse. Grow With Me 2022 with Joe Mills Basil. Spuds in the Space Saver Greenhouse chitting. Making a new store on plot 1A at the location of the old potting table and adding the bench with roof to the new potting table behind the greenhouse on plot 1. 

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in January and what has slipped. We had lots of rain in December and sub zero temperatures and rain in January and then my wife was taken into hospital, so no real progress has been made on site over the last couple of months.  

The plan is now to get as much infrastructure on Plot 1 in place as possible and get both plots and greenhouses ready for March/April and the sowing season. 

To Do List   

Mill Green - Plot 1A
  • Re Add additional supporting timbers to the roof of the shed - TBD
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing but getting so much better 
  • Weeding - Complete the weeding of plot 1A
  • Greenhouse 1A - Get ready for early spring sowings and perhaps some hydroponics
  • Greenhouse 1A - Construct a dormer window with twin solar fans to replace the vent like the one on Plot 1.

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • Beds and Paths - Third Square Foot Gardening and Solar Tent Bed to be formed.   
  • Install the kerb edging along the bottom of Plot 1 - TBD over Winter months. 
  • Potatoes in Buckets - See what state the last four buckets of spuds are in. 
  • Greenhouse 1 - construct a dormer window with twin solar fans to replace the vent that has been damaged by the defective automatic vent opener. - Construction completed and being installed today!  
  • Planning - Ongoing
  • Cut Planting Membrane - Make more full bed blanks
  • Space Saver Greenhouse - Clear and Clean then Sow some winter crops.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Tomato Seeds Swaps Only GB

I have to say I love this Facebook Group, if you are a sad individual who likes to grow different types of tomatoes each year then this is the group for you. 

I exchanged a couple of messages with Col and sent her a SAE with some of my excess tomato seeds and today I received these 12 packs of seeds in the post:-

Delta Dawn (Dwarf) bi-colour 
Orange bush - medium size fruit 
The only one that I have grown previously is Garden Pearl, I'm looking forward researching and finding photos of these varieties and choosing which ones I will grow this year. 

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Greenhouse Loft Extension

Over the last couple of days, I've sealed up the twin-wall polycarbonate with clear silicon on the ends and around the hole, and white frame sealant along the Dormer Cheeks to stop water getting into them as rain flows down the roof.

I brought home another sheet of Twin-Wall Polycarbonate sheeting and have used the elements of the first loft conversion to make a second one for the greenhouse on Plot 1A as that vented window also has slid and twisted this year, it's just not blown off like the one on plot 1
I mounted the louvers grills over the holes and the fans internally tonight. Tomorrow I will add a strut at the rear and get the roof sorted as I've made the support for the solar panels which will be mounted on the roof.

I love it when a plan comes together!

Louver panels glued over the holes to stop any water ingress.

Fans glued in the corners then top and sides. but bottom left so any water can drip away. Tape only temporary, to be removed before the roof goes on the extension.

Dormer cheeks fixed to front panel with the Ryobi glue gun. Fans fitted, wires tapped and tack fixed to the polycarb with glue gun.

Tomorrow I sort out the roof and the mounting of the solar panels on it. 

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Drying Coffee Grounds

My sister treats herself to a Starbucks coffee in the morning and has asked them if she can pick up some Coffee Grounds for her brother, as he can use it as fertiliser, in the production of compost and to build little walls of grounds around plants to ward off those nasty slugs and snails!

The first batch is now sitting in the plot 1A greenhouse drying and it will be added too each week as she is picking it up for me 3 times a week. The last time I did this I ended up with a Dalek full of coffee, which lasted me ages once dried. 

Friday, 27 January 2023

Backyard Forest Garden


I read this book whilst sitting next to my wife when she was sleeping most of the day in hospital at the start of her stay. It's well written, informative and highlights a lot of what I have been doing right, but also pointed me in directions I had not contemplated before. It explained and demystified the permaculture design process. 

One tends to think more of larger scale permaculture and food forests, like the Weedy Gardener has on his videos, but for me this shows how one can apply the concepts and make a small-scale Multi-layered Forest Garden in your own back yard or for me at my allotment.   

Pippa Chapman is an RHS trained gardener who designs, plants and maintains abundant, biodiverse, edible and beautiful forest gardens. In this book she shares her practical tips for realistically transforming your own plot, whatever its size, and with limited time, money and resources. 

She explains that a forest garden doesn’t have to be big; you can grow a productive edible paradise in pots and containers too. Pippa explains how to create multiple layers on a small-scale to maximise your growing area, using polycultures and guilds for healthy, low-maintenance food. 

She shares how to use perennials for structure and for year-round food, and how to incorporate flowers for beauty, wildlife and for the kitchen. 

Chapters on permaculture design and forest gardening give practical advice on how to plan and plant your own garden, with guilds and plant profiles to give real-life examples to help you get started. 

The book also includes useful tips on propagation and seed saving help keep plant costs low and a handy chapter on the soil-food web will help you understand your own soil and how to keep it healthy.

It's full of illustrations and photographs and was such a joy to read

£16 from Amazon but only £14.40 direct from Permanent Publications 

I really can't recommend this book enough it gets a 5 star rating from me!