Sunday, 17 September 2017

Bench To Potting Bench

Another Sunday morning on Mill Green Allotment. This morning I re assembled the bench but as I already have a bench for sitting on this one is going to be used as a covered storage area and an onion drying rack located the back of the potting bench. 

I screwed on a couple of timber uprights to the front of the bench, then added a horizontal roofing batten between to support the sheet of twin wall polycarbonate sheeting that has been sitting next to the shed for the last couple of years looking to be used somewhere. I added a similar horizontal batten to the back of the bench.

I drilled and screwed the polycarbonate to the battens with cup washers so as not to split the polycarbonate and to spread the load in case of wind uplift. There is enough of a slope for the rain to run off, and to keep anything stored on the bench or below it dry. More by chance than design the taller flower buckets just fit under the front batten so whatever I store in there should remain dry and rain free.

At the moment the buckets are full of empty milk bottles awaiting sand. The broken brittle soft bricks (milk bottles full of sand) that were made in 2012 & 2013 have finally gone brittle and have started to degrade so as they split or break they been stacked in the greenhouse.

The sand has now been emptied into steel trays so the sand can continue dry out in the greenhouse. So the plan is to decant the dry sand into the new milk bottles on the next visit to the plot to refresh and increase the amount of soft bricks I have to hold down weed membrane and netting over hoops

The red container on the table under the bench holds empty pop bottle slug traps.

Bed membrane sheets left to dry in the greenhouse were brushed off folded and stored in the shed, and gradually the greenhouse is becoming less full and before next season will be ready to take the overwintering spring onions and walking onions that are currently housed in the Space saver greenhouse at home. 

Friday, 15 September 2017

It's All About Onions!

The day time & night time temperatures are on the decline, overnight temperatures in the greenhouse are 7degrees C with about 1 - 1.5 degrees lower outside the greenhouse, dew is on the cars, grass and about anything left out over night.

The only thing I have left in the greenhouse is the SF60 Over Wintering Spring Onion Experiment and the Catawissa Walking Onions 

 Catawissa Walking Onions looking right

They are growing really fast these were only sown eight days ago, and all leaning towards the front of the Space Saver Greenhouse, I will turn the trays 180 degrees once a week to try and straighten the onions up. 

 Catawissa Walking Onions looking right

The two trays on the left were sown seven days ago, and the largest of the bulbs can be seen on the wooden shelf, looking at the germination rates off the micro bulbs from the secondary clusters, I think I will be eating the larger bulbs rather than planting them, especially as I have some 120 in total. I could possibly do an SF60 trial with some of these bulbs I suppose, Ummm something to think about.

It look as if I may have some to share with other plot holders if they survive the overwintering process. I lost very few last year from the 18 bulbs I originally purchased.   

SoilFixer Experiment - Eiffel Spring Onions (SF60 used on the right)

It's very difficult to see any real difference at the moment, I try and rotate the pots so as to straighten the onions as they all want to lean in the direction of the sun. It's an attempt to try and straighten them if at all possible

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Wilkingsons Sale - ROUNDUP

I nearly missed the Wilkingson's Sale but I managed to get there when there were still a few items that had not been replaced with Christmas item!

Christmas items in September I kid you not (What a crazy mixed up world we live in)

Note to self, when you hear that Wilkingson's sale is on next year drop everything and get there straight away.

Anyway back to the plot, I managed to pick up four 100ml Gel Sticks of Super Strength Roundup for the price of one.

Now before anyone jumps on me and the bandwagon, yes I've heard the hype, and yes I have read all the warnings and yes this stuff works.

It's supposed to kill things, it's going to be toxic but at least with the Gel stick I can be very selective and the risk of exposure to me is minimal and I can use it on the stick or wand that I have.

This will primarily be used to attack the weed that are encroaching from the plot next to mine that is four to five feet of nettles and brambles, and I want to use something that is going to work and I know this stuff does.

I also picked a couple of packs of Long White Ishikura Spring Onions with a sow date of 2020. Three packs of White Lisbon Winter Hardy Spring Onions with sow by date of 2020. Two packs of Solist Beetroots sow by date 2019 and I pack Boltardy Beetroot so by date 2019. One pack of Cucumber la diva which can be sown indoors between February - May and planted out in January with harvest from July to October, with a sow by of 2021.

There were a few more allotment and grow your own items that made the trip to Wilkingsons worth while.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Growhouse Clearance

This Sunday was dedicated to clearing all the dross that had accumulated in and in front of the old grow house.

As we have some new garden furniture I've taken the old stuff down the allotment and have installed it where the old grow house was to use as a potting table.

Rain and time stopped play but a bench will stand on top of the table. The plan is to extend the height of the bench so that I can fix a roof on it, like the extension to the shed in the photograph at the top of the page. I should then be able to use it for drying off onions and hardening off plants early in the season.

There is enough room under the bench / potting table for 30 of the food buckets that I store Coffee, Coir, Composting Materials and Shredded paper in so that the grow house extension to the shed can once again be used for growing tomatoes in next year.   

Up until a couple of weeks ago when it was confirmed that we would be getting the drop off and pick up area, I had thought that I would have to give up my little kingdom at Mill Green, and for the last two years I have been working on making my plot at Spencer Road as a replacement for Mill Green.

But now I will not have to give it up and in fact I will only keep Spencer Road on for another year, which will give me time to bring all of the slabs that I have accumulated over the last two years from Spencer Road to Mill Green and then I will not have to worry about weeds in the paths so much.

I now have a renewed interest in getting Plot 1A back to its former glory for next year, hell I may even get to empty the greenhouse of rubbish and use it for growing as I will be able to access the plot on a more regular basis, especially once the construction works comes to an end near the entrance next year. I have had my name down for the overgrown plot next to mine for the last four years, and if the current tenant gives it up, I will be able to extend plot 1A

I took grapes home and the conclusion was they didn't taste good enough and they have too many pips, I don't make wine and I'm not looking for a seedless variety to replace it with, so I shall cut back and remove the vine and replace it with Raspberries that my daughter and my wife will eat or perhaps try the polar berries that Marshalls are sending me in there. 

Friday, 8 September 2017

Catawissa Walking Onions - More Sowing

I sowed the remainder of the onions in the left had container, 15 vending machine cups per module in another 3 trays so that's another 45 Catawissa Walking Onions making 120 sown and in the greenhouse ready to over winter. Had a couple of the larger ones with my lunch and they are very strong and tasty!

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Sowing Catawissa Walking Onions.

I've sown 15 vending machine cups per module in 5 trays so that's 75 Catawissa Walking Onions.

I planted many the smaller ones in the left container that had already started to sprout and I still have not used them all

I'm going to sow the rest of them over the weekend.

I may just have to eat the larger one in the container on the right

Wednesday, 6 September 2017

Catawissa Walking Onions

Looked at the Catawissa Walking Onions today and some of the secondary clusters of mini bulbs are already sprouting so I have harvested the lot and will plant them in some vending machine cups and over winter like I did the original bulbs I purchased last year.

In addition to producing top-sets, the parent plant divides at the base producing an abundant supply of green scallions for salads, gazpacho and other soups or casseroles. When harvesting, always be sure to leave at least one onion in the ground so the plant will continue to multiply and keep you supplied with onions for a lifetime.

I pulled one onion station as they are still green and lush just to look and they have split and appear to have created another bulb but they have a massive root system, not quite sure how I'm going to get them out and manage to leave the one in the ground at each station?

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Harvest Time & Fighting Fires

Today was spent harvesting a bed or Sarpo Spuds and I have to say they did really well. I managed to get three buckets of spuds out of a 2.4 x 1.2m bed planted with 18 seed potatoes.

The seed potatoes were egg sized spud that I had saved from last years crop. Saving my own seed potatoes is not something that I will do every year but it was an experiment and it worked fine and dandy.

I did take time to brush off as much soil as I could and as we have not had a great deal of rain recently the soil was moist but not claggy. Bed 9 was decommissioned and covered for the winter months to prevent future weed growth. I need to plan what's going where next year before I start adding manure to the beds.  

The runner beans keep coming but I did notice a lot of snails on the plants, so I'm not expecting a whole lot more, the excess has been distributed to in laws and my eldest daughter.

There are two nice sized marketmore cucumbers on the vine and a number of small slow starters and I'm hoping they will be ready in a week or so when we run out of other allotment holders excess that I have been given as they know I was late getting stuff in because my wife was in hospital twice early in the growing season.

I love the way that when you do have an excess there are always family and friends and those include your plot neighbours who have not been growing that particular vegetable or have had a problem with that vegetable this year. 

Whilst digging up the spuds I noticed that something, mouse, rat or squirrel, yes all three are on and around the allotment had taken a fancy to my sweetcorn. It has not been a very good year for sweetcorn, I don't know what it is but fellow Allotmenteers on Mill Green and Spencer Road have notice that the plants appear shorter and the corns smaller than usual.

I looked what remained of the cob and they were ready for harvesting so I picked the lot. I do have another bed of corn but they have not even developed cobs and I'm doubtful I will get a crop from them. Look like I have been growing compost on that bed.

Wally has more marrows than he can deal with and offered me one of his excess marrows.

My plant died early on and I didn't get any planted this year. I have seed from the Wyevale 50p seed sale ready for next year, and if I do manage to get the half plot next door, these are the kind of things that can be allowed to grow and take over the areas I will not be able to weed and cultivate

A swift visit the Spencer Road plot on the way home resulted in me discovering that the self seeded pumpkins that were green and covered with foliage last visit have nearly turned colour and the vines have died right back.

Looks Like my daughters will not have to buy carving pumpkins this year for Halloween if they last that long their was a small one but it appears to have imploded and just melted away

The Burpless cucumbers are doing well, and I have the obligatory cucumber that has decided to grow through the mesh netting meaning it will have to be cut in order to harvest, I may get 3-4 cucumbers if the weather holds and we don't have an early frost.

I harvested the last of the spring onions and bagged up the last of the red and white onions off the growing rack and made my way home for lunch

After Sunday lunch I wash and trimmed the spring onions. Skinned and cut up the sweet corn and put in the freezer, the beans can wait until tomorrow.

I also had the excitement of trying the help the neighbour put out a fire that was consuming his boundary fence and hedging whilst we waited for the fire brigade to come and finish the job. Silly sod had decided to burn his hedge cuttings next too the fence and the wind took some burning embers and the fence went up as if it had been covered in petrol. 

Friday, 1 September 2017

Allotment Work Party

Redrow and Natta are going to remove the post and wire fence, clear the vegetation, lay crushed risings and compact and erect a close board fence to the perimeter plus replace the entrance gates and fence either side. They are also going to provide a composting wc for us. 

I agreed with Redrow that the allotment holders would will arrange for a demarcation line to be trimmed in the existing overgrown vegetation largely brambles alongside the bees. Thus a work party of four was quickly formed comprising of my brother-in-law Keith, John, Wally and myself.

When we met up this morning John and Wally had already trimmed the few branches from existing trees that would get in the way of the works and john had already made headway into the overgrown brambles earlier in the week. I must stay it lifted my spirit to see that we would not be starting from absolute zero and headway had already been made into the area.

We worked like little beavers from 8:00 - 12:30 with a couple of tea and coffee breaks and cleared quite a margin, actually about four to five times wider than the Redrows site Manger thought we were going too create. We had a good time and enjoyed each others company and we are all looking forward to having this beneficial resource on our allotment site

I would like to publically thank Keith, John and Wally for their help 

The works are due to start sometime towards the end of September / early October, but at least we have completed our tasks whist the weather is still sunny and dry.

Once completed we will be able to arrange deliveries of woodchips to be dropped off and renew the paths on our plots as it's been a long time since they were created and they have turned into material that will now support weed growth and need renewing.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Comfrey From Seed - DO NOT DO IT

During my visit to the Wyevale 50p seed sale I saw and picked up a packet of Comfrey seeds from Thompson & Morgan

I have no intention of growing these seed, I bought the pack to see what warnings if any were on it about how invasive this particular plant is, there are none.

I visited the Thompson and Morgan web site and did a search for Comfrey under more information there is a warning that Comfrey is harmful if eaten and that contact with the foliage may irritate the skin and eyes, with a suggestion to use gloves when harvesting. But there is no warning on how invasive this plant can be.

I then thought I would see how many other seed suppliers, provide comfrey seeds and if they actually warn the purchaser about it's invasive nature. Out of all the seed suppliers listed on the left panel of my blog only D.T.Brown, Just Seeds, Premier Seeds Direct, Nicky's Nursery and supply comfrey seeds.

Of those companies Just Seeds are selling packs from Thompson and Morgan none of them give a warning about how invasive Comfrey is apart from that state under the cultivation heading "Take root cuttings (about 2 inches long) and away you go again. Be careful as the bits left over will happily root wherever they fall". However they completely fail to mention that the plant grown from seed is not sterile and if allowed to flower and go to seed, will spread like wild fire.

The plot next to mine has comfrey all over it, inside the greenhouse and the polytunnel, and is not Bocking 14, the current tenant had no idea what Comfrey was they thought it was just an annoying weed they could not get rid off, until I educated them, what it could be used for and the need to keep it cut and not let it flower and go to seed and spread anymore, as what they have on their plot is quite obviously not sterile.

I feel that providers of comfrey seed have a moral obligation to warn their customers about just how invasive this plant can be. I find it completely irresponsible of any company selling Comfrey seeds not to explain how invasive this plant can be, if grown from seed and not properly and carefully managed.

I salute all the seed companies that don't sell comfrey seeds.

So Bottom line, whatever you do DON'T GROW COMFREY FROM A PACK OF SEEDS

So what is the alternative?  "Bocking 14" is a cultivar of Russian Comfrey, this strain was developed during the 1950s by Lawrence D Hills, and is the preferred type as it is sterile and can only be grown from root cuttings so it's not going to take over your plot from seeds spreading.

Sources for Bocking 14 root cuttings in the UK are

Sources for Bocking 14 root cuttings in the USA

More Reading

Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Clearing a New Allotment

The question of how to clear a new allotment comes up on forums all the time and I normally chip in on the threads, but I thought it’s about time I produced a comprehensive answer and some personal guidance based on my experience that I can just put a link to it in the future so here it is!

Hurray I have an Allotment, now what do I do?

Normally if you have acquired a new plot the likelihood is that it’s going to be covered in crap and weeds up to four feet tall or if you are really unlucky eight feet of brambles that are hiding a six by eight foot shed at the back of the plot that you didn’t know was there! Yes true storey that happened to a plot neighbour who took a plot on I had rejected because it looked like too much work.

The condition of the plot really depends how long it has not been used and if there has been an active waiting list or not. Go back five years and there were long waiting lists for most allotments due to all the grow it and cook it programs that were on the television. Recently however in some areas there are less people enthusiastic about taking on an overgrown monstrosity, however if it’s that bad ask you can always ask if you can have it rent free for the first year, I didn’t get my first allotment plot rent free for the first year, but I did the second plot.

So where do you begin? First thing to remember is that Rome was not built in a day, and neither will your allotment be formed within in a few hours or a couple of days, it takes a lot of work and work takes time and effort.

Working on the plot little and often is the key and make sure that you enjoy the process and experience, don’t let it ever become a chore otherwise you will be one of those that give up within the first 3 months of ownership

First Day
Before you touch the plot, I suggest that you get the camera out and photograph the plot all around from locations you can go back to so that you can take regular photos of your progress and look back and see what progress you have made, because I guarantee you will get to a point where you “hit the wall” as runners say and you will feel like you aren’t making the progress you should be and may feel a little down and despondent, that’s the time to look at the photographs to remind yourself just how much you have actually done.

Plot 1A on Plan

Here was my first plot when I took it over in October 2012 

This was the view from the West Looking East

Take a walk around the plot and look in and see what you’re going to have to deal with if you can, you may be very surprised at what is actually lurking under all the weeds somethings may be useful others will just need to be bagged up and taken to the dump.

Health & Safety

It’s about now you should really be thinking about if your tetanus jabs are up to date, especially with bramble covered plots, as you will get scratched, pricked and cut doing this work no matter how careful you are.

Wearing gloves also keeps the grime out of your fingers because if you get an infection then fingers like to have a bit of a puss party and the solution is lancing and washing out, wrapping up and a couple of courses of anti-biotics. I managed to do this the same week I got my second allotment.

Getting Started

Put on a pair of sturdy gloves and clear an area in one corner of the plot and lay a plastic sheet or tarp down, then start retrieving the debris and sort it into two piles one of stuff that may be useful to keep and the other stuff to go to the dump.

You may be able to do this straight away if the plot is not too weedy or covered in brambles, but if the plot is really overgrown then you may have to start eating your way into the plot and build the piles as you expose the ground and discover what lies beneath.

I kept the terracotta pots in the photo above but all the glass and there was a lot of it some sheets buried under carpet was boxed up and taken to the dump.

If you’ve a lot of tall weeds, then it may be worth borrowing or hiring a petrol strimmer with a brush-cutter blade and taking them down to about 15cm above the ground, leave brambles a little longer – anything up to 60cm.

To clear the plot below I used a combination of normal shears and long handle shears, Secateurs, long handles Secateurs, and a hand scythe

Clearance Progress from October 2012 – January 2013

Clearing & Covering

Some books suggest composting weeds, but not all weeds are suitable for cold composting.

A lot of council run allotments will not allow fires between April and September, but if you are going to stack weeds to let them dry then stack them on pallets to keep them off the ground and allow air flow under the pile, and cover them to keep them dry, but take the covers off when you are working on the plot to allow the heap to breath and dry out more.

I burnt all the weeds using a couple if metal incinerators but if dry enough you could just have a bonfire, making sure there are no hedgehogs or slow worms in residence.

View from the South East corner looking North West Before & After

The carpet in the photo above was there already but has been covered with bindweed; most allotments will no longer allow the use of carpet to be used on allotments due to the risk of chemicals/glues leaching into the soil.

Now that you have been on the allotment for a while you will have looked at other plots and seen how they are managed, these loosely fall into two groups
  • Dig the whole thing over including paths every year
  • Formal structure with an infrastructure of beds and paths
I fall into the formal structure with beds and paths group, and my reasons are, I could not do with clearing the whole plot of weeds every year, battling nature on taking over a plot is quite enough for me thank you very much.

Mentally I can deal with the management of a 1.2m x 2.4m area of land and once cleared I can manure it. Breaking the plot up into areas helps me with crop rotation, I just move everything on four beds each year. I can grow green manure or just cover the beds over with a sheet of weed membrane to deny the weed seed light so they don't grow once they have finished for their year.  

By putting in paths in you effectively reduce the area that will need weeding if your paths are weed membrane, cardboard, covered with gravel, paving slabs or woodchips.

Make beds just wide enough 1.0 to 1.2m so they can be worked on from both sides without the need to stand on and compress and consolidate the soil so that digging in the future becomes easier.

Make the paths wide enough between the beds so that you can get the bottoms of your legs (knee to foot) in comfort for planting and hand weeding, I originally planned for 45mm wide but rethought and made them 600mm wide which for me is just enough. 

Once the weeds are cleared it’s a good idea to cover the ground so that the weeds die off. You can do this with cardboard and tarps, just tarps, or damp proof membrane, or weed membrane. The objective is to cut off light to the weeds so they die and you are not fighting on all fronts to keep the weeds at bay.

You will soon learn that if there is a drop of rain in the summer and you come back after two weeks you will have a lot of weeding to do in your growing beds.

Damp-Proof Membrane 1200ga Black 4m x 25m (47163) from Screwfix is around £60

The key to making headway on a plot is to not to try and get it all done at once, give yourself a small goal and then you feel a sense of achievement when you've reached it, then set the next goal etc.  Also when you are digging start from a corner and work your way back and get in your infrastructure and beds, it may sound silly but work so that when you look up you see what you have done not what’s still to be done.

Before you know it (six to seven months in from getting the plot) the first six beds and the paths around them are in and you have planted your first crops. In my case I went for potatoes in the first four beds, one bed of earlies. One of seconds and two of main crop potatoes, as the timing was right and they are great at helping in breaking up the soil, and you have to dig those beds again in the same year to harvest them. The other two beds were cabbages and sprouts.

You may recall that the North East end of the plot had been covered in carpet and had been overgrown with weeds.  When the carpet was removed the clay was shiny and looked polished and was set like concrete. It could not be dug with a fork; in fact I broke a fork and had to buy a better and stronger one. I had to take a pickaxe to it in the first instance just to break it up so that I could dig it.

Do Not Rotavate

Whatever you do Do Not Rotavate, yes you can hire a machine and cut all the roots of the existing couch grass into two to three inch lengths, but each one of those cut roots is going to want to continue to live and grow and within a month the whole plot is coved with more weeds than you started with.

With a bramble patch, it’s tough work digging out the roots. Leaving some cane above ground level enough to give you something to pull at!

I don’t recommend digging the plot over in the first instance with a spade or mattock, especially if you have couch grass and brambles. Its best to dig using a fork if possible and easing the couch grass up through the ground like an alien beast being exposed and easing the tentacles that extend in all directions, lifting and vibrating the earth on the fork so that the roots loosen their grip and what’s on top of the fork gets easier to handle, and starts coming to the surface faster, until the mat of weeds that resembles an alien is there for you to lift and you can hold it high in the air like a conquered alien.

OK it all sounds a bit dramatic but that the feeling you experience, when you finally ease a large network of couch grass, or bramble roots out of the ground.

Remember the objective is to remove all the couch grass and brambles that you find whilst digging, there is going to be some you have missed and it will come back but when it does dig around it expose the root system and extract as much as you can.

Digging The Paths

There are books that suggest that you don’t have to dig the paths and that it’s a waste of effort. I can’t agree with that as how can you expect to keep beds weed free when there are weeds in the paths that surround them?  Paths deserve to be cleared the same as the beds to help give you a fighting chance at keeping the weeds under control.

What Kind Of Paths To Use?

The options are down to personal taste and may also depend on what you can lay your hands on and are Soil, Cardboard Grass, Weed Membrane, Timber, Woodchip, Paving Slabs, Pea Shingle.

Bed Edging

The material and form of bed edging is down to personal choice and dependent upon how much you want to spend and what materials you have on hand. You may decide that you want grass paths with an edge and dug bed with no difference in level or you may want to define and maintain an edge, all well and good if you have a way of cutting the grass.

I knew that I wanted to use woodchip for the paths but I needed an edging, so initially I bought some plastic lawn edging and the path and beds were level. I used a portable hoop frame that I had made to use as a jig when using a spade to form the slot to push the edging into. Surrounded the bed with weed membrane and covered in wood chip

I recall a great sense of achievement when the first bed was completed, which spurred me on to get the following ones installed. The plastic lawn edging lasted about two years before it became brittle and I found other materials to take its place.

The industrial estate behind the allotment was being sold off and a window replacement company had loads of plastic trim they were going to skip so I saved it and used it to replace the green corrugated lawn edging.

Next I acquired some timber joist from a demolition job and started replacing the plastic with timber which helps keep the soil in the bed and you can add compost and raise the level slightly.

In the photo above I also acquired some paving slabs which I used on the central main path down the plot. Freecycle is a great resource for all manner of materials and items that are useful on an allotment i.e. Sheds, Greenhouses, You normally have to dismantle and take away,. Compost Bins (Daleks), Water Butts, Blow Away Growhouses, Seed Trays, Module liners, pots and containers, Fruit bushes etc.

On my second plot I went straight in for decking to define the beds and it also allows for me to gradually improve the soil and add compost to the beds. The path in the bottom right corner is for disabled access to my neighbours plot. The slabs for the area next to the shed and the path down the middle were all obtained off freecycle. Weed membrane is cut with a soldering iron to stop it fraying (See Here) and used under the slabs and to keep the weeds down.

I have seen roof tiles come up on Freecycle in the past but had never thought of them for creating bed edging.

The photo on the left is from a thread called Scrapheap Challenge written by Snadger which is a diary or journal about his scrapheap plot that he took over and is developing which I enjoy following on the Grow Your Own forum Grapevine.

I  trust that this article give you enough to get going with your new plot, I will try to expand upon it and flesh it out a little more but for the mean time you can read my dairy from 2012 and work your way through my changing plans and development of my allotment and hopefully learn from some of my mistakes.

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Wyevale 50p Seed sale

The Wyevale 50p seed sale is on I arrived at the Dorking branch at just gone 10am and found out that they don't open until 10:30am on a Sunday, so I had a chocolate from the Costa attached to the building which did open its doors at 10:00

Ummmm Chocolate  

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 here, 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.  

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.

Friday, 25 August 2017

Drop Off and Pick Up Area Update

I was on site early this morning as there was a meeting with Redrow and the Allotments Council Officer and I regarding the formation of the drop off and pick up area.

It looks like we are not only back on track but in fact have ended up with a better specification of works than we originally had agreed, largely due I'm informed by the generosity of Natta Building Company Limited the groundworks subcontractor on the Redrow scheme, who I would like to thank for their generosity, it is much appreciated by all the plot holders especially the special needs allotmenteers who work plots 13, 13A & 14 and come to their plots via minivan and car with their carers and who will now be able to be dropped off in the entrance to the allotment. 

The growth and debris in the area is to be removed and arising's from the demolition are to be laid and compacted and a new timber fence to match that erected between the development is to be erected between the bees on plot 14A and the new area.

A small work party has been arranged to cut a way into the overgrown area create a path and define a line for the contractor to work too when using earth moving equipment to clear and level the area before laying and compacting the risings.  

Friday, 18 August 2017

SoilFixer SF60 OWSOE2 Update

Update on the SoilFixer SF60 Overwintering Spring Onions Experiment 2 - 9 Days from sowing

SF60 @ 20% added to the MPC in the bucket on the left and plain MPC (Multi Purpose Compost ) on the right

Both Buckets germinated at the same time, both buckets have 110 Mr Fothergills Evergreen Bunching sown on the left and 110 Suttons White Winter Hardy Lisbon on the right. 

In both buckets the Evergreen Bunching were the first to show on Day 6 with the White Lisbon starting a day later on day 7 but are appearing at a much slower rate of germination than the Evergreen Bunching.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Comfrey Pipe Upgrade & Pumpkins

Well you may recall that more than half of the rope from my comfrey pipe weight appeared to have been cut off and removed. I was speculating if it was vandalism or a plot holder?

Last visit there was practically no rope left and this time one could see where two attempts had been made to cut the rope, and the answer appears to be not vandalism but Rats !

So a visit to the old fashioned hardware store, thank god there is still one local, I pick up some bits, got out the trusty soldering iron and made holes in the pop bottle cap for and the plant saucer lid for the ring bolts attached a length of metal chain and I have now replaced the rope well the 100mm that was left still attached to the weight with this;

No more string for the rats to chew off the weight
Hopefully metal is not a tasty as nylon rope!

The self seeded pumpkin is growing at an alarming rate

It appears he is not on his own ! as I spotted this little fellow inside the foliage

In fact I found another three at varying degrees of development under those giant leafs 

Environmental Fair 2017

Sunday, 13 August 2017

SoilFixer SF60 Potatoes in Buckets Results

The SoilFixer SF60 Potatoes in Buckets Experiment was planned way back at the end of 2016 when Tony Callaghan the Managing Director of SoilFixer asked me if I would be interested and like to trial some. 

Now if someone wants to provide me with free products to trial, it would be rude to refuse wouldn't it? As long as they understand that you will be impartial and give an honest review and opinion of the product when you blog about it then I'm happy to give anything gardening and allotment related a try. I especially like this kind of trial because the facts and results will speak for themselves. 

The SoilFixer SF60 Super Soil Improver arrived in a plastic bucket with a lid.


I really wanted to start this test off early in the year but due to events outside my control I didn't manage to get the spuds in the Potato Pots until May

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



In order to weigh the produce produced from two seed potatoes from each variation of the mix, I purchased a 40KG Digital Travel Portable Handheld Weighing Luggage Scales Suitcase Bag LCD for the princely sum of £3.58 inclusive of Postage off ebay so that I can weigh the spuds from the different buckets.   

40KG/10G Model - Max weight:40Kg/88Lb/1410oz
Automatically lock in readings when the data is stable.
Main body use ABS engineering plastic as main materials.
Stainless steel hanging hook. High strength compact firm hand strap KG / LB / OZ / Unit

I managed to pick up six of the Tesco “single use” 5p carrier bags as they are light and will all be the same weight, lucky the small local store still had some as Tesco stop selling them at the end of the month.

My Own Compost & Coir 50:50 CONTROL Mix

My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 5% by volume

My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 10% by volume

My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 20% by volume

My Own Compost & Coir with Potato Fertiliser

My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 5% by volume with Potato Fertilizer

Schedule of results by weight 

0.410kg - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 10% by volume
0.465kg - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 5% by volume with Potato Fertilizer
0.480kg - My Own Compost & Coir 50:50 CONTROL Mix
0.490kg - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 5% by volume (2.08% increase over Control)
0.520kg - My Own Compost & Coir with Potato Fertiliser (8.33% Increase over Control)
0.665kg - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 20% by volume (38.5% Increase Over Control)

I had expected that the running order at the top of the page would have been the order of results based on weight, I was so wrong. I'm surprised that the 10% by volume and the 5% by volume with fertilizer results are less than the control mix. It looks as if 5% by volume with Fertiliser is better than 10% by volume, however It does not make sense when the Control Mix with Fertiliser produced the second heaviest yield.

What can be said this that there is a 38.5% increase in Yield between the Control Mix and adding SoilFixer SF60@20% by volume   

Schedule of results by Number of edible potatoes 
15 - My Own Compost & Coir 50:50 
18 - My Own Compost & Coir with Potato Fertiliser (including the green one! )
23 - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 10% by volume
24 - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 5% by volume
27 - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 5% by volume with Potato Fertilizer
30 - My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 @ 20% by volume

In terms of quantity of spuds there has been a 100% Increase between the Control Mix and adding Soilfixer SF60@20% by volume

Last year when SoilFixer did their own potato trials they found the extra leaf weight above ground was equal to extra potato weight below,. Where they had 20% more leaf also had 20% more potato crop weight. I didn't weigh the above ground leaf, but I did notice that bucket 4 with SF60 added at 20% by Volume did not dry out as fast as the first three buckets, and that if you inspect the photos above the foliage was higher and more lush and actually lasted longer than the first three buckets.

I could have let Buckets 4 - 6 go a little longer, but I wanted to give all the buckets the same amount of growing time so that the comparison as fair. 

These results are using my own compost without the assistance of the SoilFixer compost humification activator, next year I'm hoping to undertake the same experiment with compost made using the SoilFixer CHA and see what difference that makes when used in conjunction with SF60

I would like to thank Marshalls for providing the Potato Pots and spuds for the experiment / trial.

In the mean time I have some overwintering spring onion in flower buckets trials underway again this time comparing bought compost Vs the same compost with SF60@ 20% with three different varieties on onions.