Sunday, 19 August 2018

It's That Time of Year Again

There are currently 16 of us on this years Grow Your Own Grapevine Tomato Seed Circle 

So I have started fermenting the seeds from Red Robin, Balconi Red, Micro Tom, Rapunzel, and will submit two of these, to the seed circle. The seed circle concept is very simple, you save seeds and with tomatoes, the fermenting method results in the cleanest seed with high germination rates but is not the only way to save seeds. 

Then 16 of you (this year) send in two varieties with a return stamp or envelope and you get back 31 packs of different varieties of seed to add to your collection and try next year.  

One of the two varieties I'm sending in has to be the Micro Tom which is a very small and can be grown in a pot on the kitchen window cill, I was really impressed that such a small plant can yield so many tomatoes. I will see what others are sending in and will select one of the other three based on what's not already on the list. 

Not for the seed circle but I'm also saving the next generation of Non F1 Crimson Crush from the original plant which grow so prolifically every year, and so far appear to have kept the Blight Resistance.

I'm also saving next generation of a TESCO Tomato called Vitarino that again has performed a lot better than some of the other toms I have grown.

My brother-In-Law doesn't understand why I save seeds and try different varieties each year, but he is a Gardeners Delight and Moneymaker kid of guy and grows the same varieties every year. Gardening is very much like that, you do it the way you like too and still get the enjoyment of growing from seed

Next year I should have the two greenhouses on the allotment both erected and empty ready for a load of small mini and micro type of plants as well as Crimson Crush and Rapunzel out in some new beds on plot 1.

Saturday, 18 August 2018

Rear Extension

Today I fixed the sides to the rear extension to the back of the shed supporting them off upturned flower buckets and offcuts of timber to get the top of the extension nicely tucked over the shed roof overhang. Two timber roofing battens were then fixed between the cheeks at the front and back and the polycarbonate sheeting was screwed in place. 

If I can find some more offcuts to fit I may extend the cheeks down to just off the ground, if not a timber leg will go in once the paving has been laid behind the shed. 3 number 600x600mm slabs will do it. The covered area to the rear will allow me to keep stuff like the Hawthorne that I'm cutting up dry until October when we are once again officially allowed to have fires on the plot.

As you can see the onion rack shelfing has been placed in the upright position as the onions are now dry and have been top and tailed and the dry skins removed.

After six years of sitting in the other shed the gas stove was finally used today for the first time with the camping kettle I bought from Wilko in the sale to make a couple of cups of coffee. 

Much better than taking a flask to the plot, and now finally when my Brother-In-Law and his wife are on the plot I can make them a coffee rather than them always making me one.

Another mushroom tray of large Crimson Crush and Rapunzel tomatoes have come home together with another two cauliflowers. 

I took four food buckets worth of apples to go into the Dalek, but it had not sunk enough to get them into the double width Dalek no 5 so I set a new Dalek up on plot 1 sitting on cardboard on top of the membrane and added a layer of woodchip mulch grade to the bottom, then the four buckets of apples and topped it off with another layer of mulch grade woodchip, then the onion trimmings and the leaf's off the cauliflower, and dampened down each layer as it was added to the Dalek.    

Monday, 13 August 2018


So after all the wishing for rain, we have had it. the grass is starting to green up again and the weeds have gone wild. Rain stopping play has given me the time to cook off 2/3 of a bed of beetroots, slice and for some dice then preserve in vinegar. Lack of some surgical gloves did delay the process a day, but this year I used the Pyrex dish with lid, 13mm of water and the microwave to cook them off.    

A visit to Wilko on Sunday as rain stopped play resulted in a purchase of  Wilko PVC Coated Green Garden Fencing which is made from a triple strength, heavy duty wire that's ideal for border or low boundary fencing. Highly durable, this fencing is made from heavy duty steel wire, hot dip galvanised and then plastic coated. The wires are welded together forming a very rigid sheet. This precludes the need for support wires or concrete-set posts necessary for more traditional forms of fencing. 

This versatile fencing can also be used as a plant support or garden arch. 50mm x 100mm mesh approx. Overall size: H 900mm x L 10m approx.

Reduced to £4-50 a roll I picked up one roll as difficult to carry back to the car with the two bags of shopping, to make some sloping climbing A frames for the cucumbers next year and some circular support frames for the tomatoes grown on the allotment.

I picked up 4 packs of "Cylindra" Beetroot seeds as 25p each for 150 seeds so that's a pack a bed for next year, but they are good until 2021. A single pack of Ramrod Spring Onions and three packs of seed tray modules at 50p a pack. 

It appears that not all Wilkos are selling off seeds at 10p a pack as has been said on a number of forums and asking the guy at the service desk it appears that there are different size of store and it's also a regional thing and they don't all do the same thing at the same time. At 25p a pack I'm happy to pay full price for the Beetroots.

Monday evening a swift visit to the allotment and with the rain comes growth of yet more cucumbers & courgettes that believe they are marrows, and what I believe will be the first and the last crop of runner beans, the hot weather really screwed up their growing potential this year.

What was good to see what that there is a Beetroot seedling in nearly every planting location in Bed 1 

There is a similar level of germination in Beetroot Bed 10, this initially brought joy to my heart, and then dread to my mind at the thought of two beds worth of beetroots to cook off and preserve, but I'm telling myself that these will be smaller and easier and faster to cook.

I will ensure that next year I sow in batches and harvest in batches of 35 beetroots every 3 weeks, and that I start them off earlier under cover and extend the planting and harvesting season and reduce and spread the load of processing the harvest. No point getting older if you don't get wiser based on experience. 

I screwed some tool hooks again curtesy and cheaper than the £1 Shop from Wilko's (75p) on the door to the shed and now have my hand tools ready and accessible on Plot 1 as well as Plot 1A

The brambles had enjoyed the rain and had taken off over the paving and had started making headway under the shed, so they were cut back and I think that I need to remove the rest of the Hawthorne and brambles during what's left of August and September ready for burning in October. 

The perfect weather for me for working on the  plot is semi overcast and dry, I have done snow, I don't mind cold but I don't do wet, well not until I can get into and potter around in the greenhouses once the first one is finally clear and the second one is actually erected.       

Friday, 10 August 2018

Pickling Beetroots

Pickling the beetroot and this year I'm using the microwave again. It's not much faster but it's cheaper and less stream is produced and less energy used to cook them.

Get one Pyrex dish with a lid that just fits in the microwave
Prick the Beetroot so they don't explode!
Add 13mm or 1/2" of water and place the beets in the dish, put lid on.
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes 
Rest for 10 minutes

Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 10 minutes

Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 20 minutes

Test to see how easy the skins come off and if necessary
Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on 
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes 
Rest for 10 minutes

Peel off the skin, slice and dice as required

Tuesday, 7 August 2018

Feed Me Seymour!

I cant help it I look at the Cabbage and I can hear "Feed me Seymour!" my head

Picked during an early visit to the allotment this morning to water and harvest what's ready and do what ever else I can before 9am when It's time to make my way home to work.

Cheeks to a possible extension to the rear of the shed to create a covered storage area for flower buckets and other items or a self standing unit to go up against the wall to the rear of the shed for growing tomatoes under cover and hardening off plants, I can't make my mind up at the moment which one would be more useful, perhaps I will build both

 Started to treat the timber for the raised beds 

Sunday, 5 August 2018

Another Scorching Sunday

Here is a Video Update made on the allotment this morning 

Once you get too hot working on the allotment there is nothing quite like sitting in the shade with your back against the shed looking down the plot at the beds you have sown, weeded, harvested from and eating one of your juicy apples freshly picked off one of your three apple trees, enjoying the quiet and tranquility of a Sunday morning on the plot.   

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Construction Stupidity!

We have been living with the construction site next to us for three years, and having been in the construction game for 44 years, as a product research & development engineer, temporary works engineer, structural engineer and land and building surveyor I've seen some really stupid things in my time, but this takes the biscuit. 

This is the view from our drop off and pick up area that was formed for us by Redrow, for which we are very grateful, even if they didn't complete the job and take the hard standing right up to the edges and left a margin that the weeds can and have grown back in.

Notice that there are two concrete deep gravel boards to the left of the tree, the yellow dotted line is the line of the backfill and grass on the other side of the fence.

There is point A and the top of the concrete gravel boards, so you can see that the contractor is using the timber fence as a retaining structure to hold up the back fill to the margin on the road that I assume they will want the council to adopt.

There are rules under Section 38 of the Highways Act 1980 provides that when planning consent has been granted for a new development, developers may ask the highways authority to "adopt" new roads that have been constructed as part of the development, along with the associated infrastructure such as drains lighting and supporting structures.

I brought this to the Senior Site Managers attention way back at  the end of January this year, and he was supposed to be taking it up the chain of command to get something done about it. The photo above is what I marked up and was what the Senior Site Manager said he thought was likely to be constructed. I did point out at the time that no one is likely to actually build a sloping margin and that Highways would not accept it, plus it would become a rubbish trap etc. 

I also warned the local authority in January of the above that the fence was not of adequate height for security to the allotment site, as it was their fence along the boundary but they are allowing the contractor to install a new one but they take on the responsibility for it's maintenance and up keep. 

I find it incredible that a Senior Construction Professional can state that he is "only building what's on the drawings" and appears to have no common sense at all with regards using a timber fence as a retaining wall. It has to make one wonder what other things that don't make sense that were on the drawings or go against basic construction knowledge have been built on this development ?

I've brought it once again to Redrows and the Councils attention, let's hope the Council actually do something about it this time.

I also brought to Senior Site Managers attention again that the composting WC they have provided has never been completed, it's facing the wrong way and need to be turned a 180 degrees, as the waste material will have the sun on it all day, so once it starts to be used it's going to smell lovely, the solar panel is fixed in the wrong location and it appears the roof was damaged when the sparks fitted the panel.

Parts are still missing and the job is not complete. Each time I bring it to his attention he tells me he will look into it...…   did you see that tumble weed roll by ?   

It Took Six Years

It's been in it's carry case sitting in the shed on Plot 1A for the last six years and has never been used, but finally it has been unearthed, unpacked and set up on the shelf on the bright newly painted shed that I erected on Plot 1 which I'm resisting filling with crap (as my Brother-In-Law calls it) but I'm spreading the gardening stuff like weed killer, slug pellets, planting membrane, long handled tools etc between the two shed's with the unique idea that;

1) I may actually be able to get into a shed should a rain shower comes (possibly in a couple of months time looking at the forecast) 

2) I can actually lay my hand on and fined the tools and equipment I need when I need them!

I know a crazy idea isn't it, but I'm going to try to do it and then maintain it. 

The other main job that got done this morning between watering was the sowing of another 105 beetroot seeds in bed 7 and covering each little seed with a layer of multipurpose compost and watering them in. 

I also took another two buckets of fallen apples with me down to the plot and have filled up the double wide Dalek to the brim, the wasps know there are rotting apples in there so I have covered each bucket worth with some spent potato in bucket used compost to fill the gaps and to act as a brown layer.  

Friday, 3 August 2018

Pound Stretcher Seeds

Everyone like a seed sale, this morning after a couple of hours on the plot, I took the wife to Pound stretcher to find that they are selling off their seeds at 20p a pack except for beans and peas which are 50p a pack.  

I ignored the comments from my little Triffid about not needing anymore seeds ever, and I did hold back and only purchased two packs of beetroots and French marigolds, and one pack of the others in the photo. 

Lets face it I need to leave some room in the three seed boxes for the Wilko and Wyevale seeds when they are reduce and have their sales at the end of the month. 

Second Beetroot Bed

So another early morning visit for a couple of hours to water, weed and do some infrastructure work before 9am and the sun getting to harsh, well that's the theory anyway.

It started getting noticeably hotter late yesterday evening and looking at the forecast it's back in the 30's today, a couple of degrees cooler Saturday and Sunday and then ramping up again next week. 

The new shed was in the shade when I arrived, so I sorted out the shelving and have fixed three of the four down. I've fitted the solar panel for the shed light and have the wiring going into the shed. I have hooks and supports for tools fitted and have started to decant the bits and bobs that were in storage into the shed so that they are visible and accessible .

I feel really sorry for the Raspberries in pots they don't look good at all and they really need to get put in the ground at some stage. The trees also in pots looked limp and were given a good watering as was the beetroots that were sown a couple of days ago.

I cleared Bed 7 and placed the 105 hole planting membrane on the bed and on the next visit I will sow another bed of beetroots. It's been a poor year re harvest if you don't count courgettes and Cucumbers which have been fantastic, 

Winding down of the Spencer Road plot and the clearing and covering of the new plot, getting back in control of plot 1A that I thought I was giving up together with the extremes of weather have all had an influence on vegetable and fruit growing this year. 

But applying the true Gardener mentality there is always next year, well until I get to the point where I can no longer garden or I pop my clogs! which ever comes first. 

I have already decided next year is to be the year or the roots, Parsnip, Carrots and Beetroots and I will be getting lots in the ground as early as possible, especially as I will have additional beds to fill throughout the growing season

I'm also going to have a bash at spring onions on the new plot and hope that the white rot isn't a problem on Plot 1, I do have to say there was no problem on Plot 1A this year with the onions and I'm putting that down to how warm it has been. 

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Morning Harvest & Weed Clearance

An early morning visit between 7:15 - 9:00 and I picked all the massive cucumbers and then because I had taken my eyes off them and it had rained three very large Courgettes

Yes I know they should be picked when they are much smaller. The cucumbers will be distributed around family and friends and the excess & the Courgettes will be taken by my sister for her chums at work.  

After the disaster that is the 22 tomato plants at home in the back garden that have Blossom End Rot or are splitting and knowing that blight is likely to arrive at anytime now, I picked the largest of the Crimson Crush off the two plants I have on the plot and the red Rapunzels.

I have left about the same quantity of the smaller crimson crush on the plants and will take another harvest of large green tomatoes on the weekend. These green tomatoes are going into the greenhouse to ripen off.  

One of the spud beds is covered in bind weed, it must have been there in between the spuds vegetation but now that's gone it's just a mass of weeds, so I set about clearing it before coming home at 9 to get on with some work.

I also found that I had placed the shelfs in the shed in the wrong places, so that needs to be sorted next visit and then I can screw them into place. 

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Tomato Woes

Some of my tomatoes are displaying signs of blossom-end rot. This relatively common garden problem is not a disease, but rather a physiological disorder caused by a calcium imbalance within the plant. It can occur in pepper, squash, cucumber, and melon fruits as well as tomatoes. I 

have never had problems with blossom-end rot and I didn’t notice anything until after the two month drought and the rain that finally came. 

I’ve read that Blossom-end rot is most common when the growing season starts out wet and then becomes dry when fruit is setting. Damage first appears when fruits are approximately half their full size. The water-soaked areas enlarge and turn dark brown and leathery. These areas will eventually begin to rot, so the fruit should be picked and discarded. 

So that is exactly what I’m doing I’m also making a note or which varieties have it so that I can avoid them in the future

Then I noticed some varieties splitting

And then I noticed the early signs of blight on the 100s & 1000s so I harvested the two plants and removed them from the others and hopefully the green toms will ripen in the greenhouse  .

Planning and Reviewing August in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last five years for August

2013 - Built my first Comfrey Pipe after making it in buckets and experiencing the stench, harvesting spring onions, radishes, Wyevale seeds at 50%, trouble getting a fork in the ground used a pick axe. Central path of paving slabs from front garden went in on Mill Green. Wyevale 50p seed sale

2014Growing Marrows for the first time, harvesting, Onions, Spring Onions, Carrots, Wyevale 50p seed sale end of August.  

2015 -  Onion End Rot on Mill Green allotment, harvesting month, Digging up paths for compost bins, First Red Tomato 6th August, Sowing Beetroots, whitlow appeared on my finger just as I got my second plot at Spencer Road.   

2016End July/Early Aug end of season gardening sale at Wilko, First and last time trying to grow Celery and butternut squash, Pickling Beetroot, 17th August first ripe tomato, end of season Coir top up for next year.  

2017 Harvesting and Pickling Beetroots, Spring Onions in cut down Flower Buckets, SF60 Potato In Buckets Harvested, Self Seeding Pumpkins, Comfrey Pipe Upgrade, Overwintering SF60 Spring Onion Experiment,  Agreed the Drop off and Pick Up area with Redrow and the Council,  August Bank Holiday - Wyevale Seed Sale 

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in July and what has slipped. Way too much has slipped.

Spencer Road
  • Shed Removed and Transported to Mill Green - Done and Spencer Road Plot now given up  
Mill Green - Plot 1
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow - Ongoing, way too warm in July to dig beds, hoping for some cloudy less warm weather in August 
  • Water Butts - Fix taps and fill with water before hose pipe ban 
  • Base for Shed - Done 
  • Erect Shed - Done 
  • Paint Shed - Done 
  • Guttering to Shed - TBD
  • Extension to Shed - side - Done
  • Extension to shed - rear - To be built  
  • Cut Roof Joists to bed sizes - Ongoing   
  • Lay the paving for the greenhouse - TBD 
  • Erect the greenhouse - Still waiting for the base to be completed 
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time
  • Remove Hawthorne bushes from the wall - TBD
  • Install Kerb Edging all around the plot - TBD
  • Stockpile Timber ready for burning in October - TBD
  • Deal with Wasp nest - Done 

Mill Green - Plot 1A
  • Weeding - Never ending job   
  • Clear the storage area behind the shed  - TBD 
  • Clear the greenhouse - Now the second shed is in place this is happening ready for overwintering plants  
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - clearance if weeds in current location and move when ready
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time 
  • Clear area behind the Greenhouse - TBD
  • Plant Raspberries against the Wall - TBD


  • Harvest Tomatoes - As they turn red
  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet 

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Beetroot Bed

An evening visit to clear the onion bed, of weeds and sow 105 Beetroot seeds in the planting membrane completed within an hour, each seed and planting hole covered with a layer of compost to feed the soil and the seedling once they start coming up. 

Monday, 30 July 2018

Ryobi R18CS-L40S Circular Saw

After borrowing Keiths' (my brother-in-law) Ryobi Circular Saw to cut some of the floor and roof joist that I were given to me by the Contractor on the building site behind the boundary wall to my plot, I've looked into the different circular saw options from Ryobi. 

Having determined from that trial with Keith's equipment that I needs a heavy duty powerful battery, the viable option was a no brainer really I had to go for the R18CS-L40S Starter Kit that comes with the Circular Saw, 4.0Ah Battery and Charger plus a carrying case and spare blade. 

At the time of purchase it had been reduced to £152 but what I didn't realise was that now I'm over 60 I can get a white B&Q Over 60 card and on a Wednesday get an additional 10% off. Now I know, that is what I will be doing when I want to add any more Ryobi tools to my collection or buying anything from B&Q.

At the moment the 4Ah Battery are on offer at B&Q at £70 down £10 from the RRP of £80 but they are £58.99 at CBS Power Tools

There are six batteries of different capacities and thus longer durations, B&Q appear to only currently stock 3 sizes but all are available from CBS Power Tools and are cheaper and delivery is Free on order over £100, plus they sell twin battery packs that are further discounted. So if I need additional batteries I know where I shall be looking.  

The battery has a four stage fuel/ charge gauge that displays the remaining power at 100,75,50 & 25% at a press of the button, so you know when it's time to recharge. 

The 18V +One Fast Charger which is compatible with all ONE+ 18V Lithium ion batteries normally retails at £50 but B&Q are selling at £48 at the moment and CBS Power Tools at £44.95 

The carry case is £9.95 so that means your actually paying around £24 for the circular saw, plus your getting a spare blade. 

I do have to say that I was a little disappointed that the carry case was not big enough to accommodate the batter charger as well as the power tool, the clue is in the name "Starter Kit" and it would be nice to keep everything together, as not everyone is going to mount the charger on the wall or on a bench or add to a huge collection of Ryobi tools they already have. The larger case is £27 and I'm guessing it's just keeping the cost down that stops Ryobi supplying an ample case for the job. 

If you visit the Ryobi One + web site for the UK and search for information on Ryobi batteries you find that Ryobi tools can be purchased from four outlets in the UK 

What's sad is that the same search facility to find out where you can buy and who has the item you want in stock does not operate on all product pages.  

By visiting the four outlets web sites I found that not all outlets sell all the range of products CBS Power Tools and Amazon don't appear to stock the R18CS-L40S, however Amazon did sell other similar and I'm guessing older version LCS1801 which only cuts to a depth of 45mm and appears to be supplies with a low capacity battery, as there is feedback that the battery only lasted 30 minutes. 

Looking at the shape of the bag supplied with this version this appears to be the one my brother-in-law purchased but he was lucky enough too have a few Ryobi batteries of various strengths and durations for me to try before I buy.

When I unpacked the box I nearly missed the fact that an Edge Guide is supplied with the saw as it does not appear on any of the images on the box or the web sites, and is so well packed in the cardboard packing that you could throw it away once you have unpacked and placed the Circular Saw in its supplied canvas bag, if you are not careful.

I have charged the battery and once I have visited my allotment and cut up as many joists into bed lengths as possible I will update this post and let you know just exactly how many cuts I managed to get before the battery could do no more, or how much power was still left in the battery by time I had finished. 

Starter Kits are the way to go to get your foot on the Ryobi ladder and you can add further starter kits or purchase when the company has bundles they are selling at Christmas to build your collection.

Ryobi ONE+ One Battery fits all over 50 different tools for the home and garden with the same Lithium + battery. As you may recall I recently replaced the trimmer I used on the allotment with a B&Q Own brand 18V Li ion product for £35.

I looked on the B&Q website and no ONE+ Trimmers were to be found at all, however the One battery Fits All brochure I picked up from there shows three trimmers and a bush cutter, which are just the kind of tools that Allotment Plot Holders and Gardeners look for.

I did however find the One+ Line Trimmers on the CBS Power Tools web site

I think I may just contact Ryobi and CBS Power Tools to see if they would like to send me these and perhaps some other tools for evaluation and review? Let's face it if you don't ask you don't get!