Monday 3 April 2023

Sometimes The Universe Sends You A Curve Ball

Posted on the 31st October 2023

OK when I uploaded the last post my intention was to catch up with updating the blog, within a month to six weeks, but the universe had other ideas and took me on a journey that I was not expecting and really didn't want to go on! 

As John Lennon said "Life is what happens whilst your busy making other plans" 

I have a lot to post and catch up with, but as I'm in the last few days of Radiotherapy for a growth in my jaw at the Royal Marsden in Sutton and I'm fairly knackered and sleeping a whole lot, it's still going to be a little while, until I can manage to get Man V Slug back on track and up to date. 

So if you have been visiting and waiting for me to catch up, it will happen but it's going to take a little time yet. 

Life is a rollercoaster and for a little while its been one hell of a ride, and I really needed my allotment for my mental well being but could not physically get to it on my own. I will explain in greater detail, as I start updating from the start of April.

For a couple of months I was in a really dark place, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and I even have over winter plants in the potting shed, a huge list of things that I need to achieve on the allotment over the Winter months once the side effects of the radiotherapy and my other mobility issues have reduced. 

I'm planning for next year and optimistic about the future and buying even more seeds to make next year a bumper year on the allotment to catch up for this year.  

1 in 2 of us will get cancer that's 50% and those figures and percentage were much less when I was a kid. The Big C needs to be talked about and acknowledged for how prevalent it is these days.    

Sunday 2 April 2023

Not fallen off the Edge of the Planet

Posted on the 10th April 2023. 

Its been non stop work on the allotment since Sunday 2nd April and the day I started erecting the potting shed and getting the Greenhouse Climbing Frame in the corner dug and weeded because after the wettest March for many years, we have finally had some decent weather. Thus I have not had time to document what I have been doing on the blog. 

I have all the photos and the records for what happened when and will update the Journal / Blog when it rains and I have time. 

A little taster of what's to come... 

Saturday 1 April 2023

Planning and Reviewing April in Previous Years

 Reviewing the diary over the last Ten years for April 

2013 - After Burning everything that could be burnt in March, I finally started digging and weeding the first four beds on Mill Green Allotment, installing the woodchip paths and establishing the comfrey bed.

2014 - Potatoes in buckets, Potatoes in the ground, Sowing Tomatoes, Beetroots, Spring Onions, weeding and fertilising beds, potting on tomatoes into vending machine cups. a cold snap and fleece over the spuds.

2015 -  New edging to beds, Planting potatoes in buckets, Potatoes in the ground, Brassicas into vending machine cups, Sowing Tomatoes,  

2016 - Daffs in Comfrey bed 1, Digging and weeding new beds, Freecycle Slabs, planting Potatoes

2017 Infrastructure works, paths desperately need replacing Neglecting Mill Green in favour of Spencer Road site as access is just so difficult due to construction traffic and no where to park. Jen in hospital with pneumonia so huge reduction in anything associated with the allotment, finally discharged and turns into Hell boy and re admitted. Constructed runner bean cantilever brackets and the extension to the shed at Spencer Road. Construction and erection of the comfrey pipe at Spencer Road. Kerb edgings and a double Dalek picked up from Freecycle. 

2018 - Plot 1 covered with weed membrane, Still on Spencer Road allotment at this stage, Plant Spuds in Buckets, Sacks of grass from Ron, Tomatoes potted on into vending machine cups, Allium Trays and planted onions, Spuds planted in the ground, Bought new B&Q Strimmer, Sowing Cucumbers, Butternut Squash and Marrows, Apple Trees in Blossom, Bluebells flowering in the Comfrey Bed, Cabbages and cauliflowers planted donated by Keith & Pauline, Onions in modules planted out,   

2019 - A lot of time was spent going backwards and forwards to the hospital due to the injury I had at the end of March and the Cellulitis that had flared up on my leg. Because of the pain and the infection gardening was really out of the question. My daughter and future son-in-law did what they could to help me get plants in the ground on the plot and I was only allowed to attend in a purely supervising role. I did make onion bed planting membrane and I was allowed to visit on my own to fill up the compost Dalek. First Early spuds in buckets, Obtained Tumbling Composter off Freecycle.  

2020 - April 2020 was the sunniest on record according to the met office, rain finally came on the 28th April. Due to lockdown many people started taking more care of their gardens, and National Gardening Week was 27th April - 3rd May. As shielding my wife most of my growing activities were confined to the back garden although those with allotments were allowed to visit for exercise purposes. The normal amount of tomatoes in buckets was reduced and I had the Bio Green City Jungle and the Quadgrow on the decking to grow tomatoes in. My WORK Hydroshot arrived but I could not trial it on the allotment. Growing Tomatoes and Radishes in the Space Saver Greenhouse. Cutting more path weed membrane for plot 1. Reviewed the City Jungle and made unboxing and assembly video. Won a couple of competitions, for a Compost Caddy and a hanging basket gadget.

2021 - Green Manure Cut and dropped then dug in. Paving blocks taken from the back garden down to the allotment to replace the milk bottle soft bricks. First Early potatoes in buckets planted. Onion sets put in the ground. 2 Plastic Dustbins off Freecycle, Cutting blue water pipe to length. Freecycle rubber matting and black pipe for hoops. Watering System Extended. Picked up Freecycle water butt for the plot 1 greenhouse. 12th Snow in the morning gone by the afternoon. Clearing behind the plot 1 greenhouse and erecting the timber table. Cleaning and Jet Washing the Plot 1A Greenhouse. Jet Washing the paving slabs and setting up and teak oil the table behind the Plot 1 Greenhouse. Sowing Beetroots and Sweetcorn in modules. First year trying to grow Aubergines, I didn't manage to get the area for them to live on the plot and the plants took an age to grow. I gave up on them this year. 

2022 - Major work this month getting the asparagus beds ready. Sowing and potting on brassicas and tomatoes. My Daughter caught Covid and moved out to protect my wife, Asparagus beds made and when crowns arrive they were planted. Grow With Me 2022 Tomatoes into pots. Sowing Melons and Spring Onions. Sowing Moonshine Sweetcorn that had really poor germination rates. Sowing Little Gem Cos Lettuce & French Dwarf Beans.

To Do List   

March has been a complete wash out, with my wife passing away in January and the funeral in February I've had the time to do work on the allotment but not the weather and now I'm behind on where I was hoping to be at the end of March when I reviewed and planned in February. I still need a whole lot of allotment therapy for my mental wellbeing, I'm just hoping April is kinder with the weather, than March has been.   

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 - Completed the weeding of plot 1A
  • Greenhouse 1A - Get ready for early spring sowings and perhaps some hydroponics
  • Greenhouse 1A - Constructed a dormer window with twin solar fans to replace the vent like the one on Plot 1 Fans arrived and fitted in March.

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • Potting Shed  - Finally arrived and is stacked up against the wall and covered in a tarp, plan is to get it erected at the first good weather opportunity when Andy and my girls can help me erect it. 
  • Potatoes in Buckets - Were a dead duck, spuds removed and soil used as soil conditioned on beds 
  • Greenhouse Cage - The plan has been for some time to build a greenhouse frame in the corner of Plot 1 on the main path and secondary path with plot 2. The frame will be lined with mesh panels so that climbing plants can be grown over it and I can enter the greenhouse and just pick vegetables that are hanging.
  • Beds and Paths - The area that the greenhouse cage in the corner needs to be turned over weeded and beds and paths installed during April.
  • Water - System needs modifying water tuned on 30th March.

  • Planning - Ongoing
  • Cut Planting Membrane - Made more full bed blanks some will be turned into planting membrane
  • Space Saver Greenhouse - Clear and Cleaned and ready for action as thw weather improves.

Friday 31 March 2023

ASDA Pick Ups


I went shopping with my girls tonight to ASDA and treated myself to a very nice looking Mechanical Thermometer for £3.50 and a couple of mini garden scoops at £1.25 each for my new potting shed. Yes I'm the last of the big spenders.

I really like the Mechanical Thermometer, it looks good and is a nice size, and easy to read and will not fade like the LCD display ones I have do in direct sunlight. I have planted some seeds by suggesting that another couple of them for my greenhouses might make a nice Fathers Day gift.

Thursday 30 March 2023

Bed 16 & Climbing Greenhouse

The weather looked OK ish for this morning so I visited the allotment on the basis of even if it was an hour and a half I would get stuff done and move forward. Little and often is the mantra. Bed 16 was cleared of its planting membrane and it was cleaned and put by ready for relocating to the Sweetcorn bed for 2023.

Bed 16 after turning the soil with the blue claw in the top photograph. Lots of mares tail roots are in the bed that need to be weeded out at a future visit. 

Beetroots are going into this bed this year, so 105 hole planting membrane required and shallow netting hoops just to keep the wildlife off the bed.

The soil looks good even before the mares tail root extraction has taken place. I
t started to rain a little so I put the tools away ready to exit stage left and then as I was about to leave, the sun came out again and the rain stopped.

I decided that rather than get into weeding bed 16, I would sort out what was in the Greenhouse Frame Box 1.

I bought the two greenhouse frames from B&Q when they were getting rid of all their old stock a few years ago. Sold as seen and no guarantee that it was all there. I think I paid £5 each for them on the basis I could make a fruit cage or something out of them to support netting.

Turns out there there are bracket missing from the first box, so on a future visit I will look to see if the missing parts are in box 2.

The greenhouses aren't 1.8m x 1.8m (6ft x 6ft) they are 2.4m x 1.8m (8ft x 6 ft) and only just fits in the space I left for it. I placed two base frame sections down just to get the feel for how much space they will occupy.

I'm thinking I could just use the metal fencing panels as the walls and not as cladding fixed back to the greenhouse frame.

All the roof members are there, and in fact I have probably got twice as many roof joist when I take them out of Box 2, so I could infill between the joist I have shown above in yellow. 

Me being me I will find a use for the rest of the aluminium members, I do after all need to construct something to keep the squirrels off my sweetcorn.

The idea of this structure is to be able to grow climbing vegetables up the mesh panels and into the roof so that whatever I grow hangs down and I can just enter and harvest what's hanging easily.

Wednesday 29 March 2023

Potting Shed Arrives!


My Forest Garden 2.4m x 1.8m (8ft x 6ft) Potting Shed came today. My four hour delivery slot that I got yesterday in a text message, was narrowed to a two hour delivery slot for today via email and a tracker provided so I could follow progress of my shed as it was on its journey coming to me.

Our allotment is tucked away such that back gardens from domestic housing are around it on 3 sides and a four story block of flats is on the remaining side. Until they put in a drive to our timber gates, you would not have realise they were gates, you would think it's just a timber fence. I did send a "how to find Mill Green Allotment" document that I created that has plans and photos of the entrance to Forest Garden to give to their driver Brad. I was given Brads name in the email sent to me this morning from Forest Garden.

When I arrived at the Allotment I found an empty squad car parked on the drive in front of the allotment entrance and
drop off and pick up area (we are not allowed to call it a car park as other Allotments in the borough would also want one if we did)

So as you can see in the photograph above, even trained observers missed the point that it's actually an access point. I honked my cars horn a few times hoping to draw PC Plods attention that they were blocking the drive.

With the modified four story tower block and the new development on two sides there were loads of empty parking spaces, that PC Plod could have parked his car in. It could be that even they will get a ticket for parking without a residence badge displayed or registered, and they just didn't want the paperwork, or they were just plain stupid!

Despite keep beeping the horn, no bugger comes to see why I was honking. In the end you have to ring the police and ask them to track down the officers on their talking broaches and ask them to come and move it!

After about ten minutes two very young looking coppers came strolling up the road from Mill Green and smiled at me and said " We know we could have parked in one of the parking bays!" I just smiled and nodded as he had admitted his stupidity!

With the panic of the entrance being blocked over I parked my car, opened the inner gate and set about trimming the Hawthorne bush back so if the driver Brad wanted to back down to my plot, he could do so without damage to his lorry.

Wally had just arrived before Brad did in his 3.5 tonne open flatbed that I had requested rather than the 7.5 tonne lorry which about the size of a refuse collection truck.

Brad decided to unload the lorry in the car park as there were three of us and the distance to the plot which thankfully is the first one from the gate on the main path, So we just walked in the shed parts to my plot. The shed comes in easy to handle small sections so getting them around the base I have created was very quick and easy.
Once we had dealt with the shed, Brad asked if I was expecting anything else as he had two more items for me? I informed him that the potting shed comes with two sets of two-tier modular plant staging that can be positioned in a row in front of the window. 

The Potting Shed is a new item that he had not delivered before, and he was not aware that it is included in the purchase price of the shed, but thankfully they were marked up and listed to be dropped off with me.  

The floor comes in two parts and we laid that on the prepared base and it fitted like a glove. We then stacked the walls and windows & two staging's up against the wall and the gables and front windows against the hoops on square foot gardening bed 2.

As advised in the text message yesterday from Forest Garden I put the roofing felt away under cover. I put the polycarbonate windows and the opening windows and their frames in my greenhouse so they would not get damaged or taken/ blown away. I also put the bag of steel plate connections, nuts, bolts and screws and assemble instruction in my shed for safe keeping and to keep them dry.

Later in the day Forest Garden telephoned me to make sure that I had the elements that were not on display in the photograph their driver took, which I thought was a really nice touch, and customer service.

Brad backed out of the drop off and pick up area, and I shut and locked the gates.

Up to now we had been very lucky with the weather as the probability of rain was very high, but it had held off. We stacked all the parts up against the wall. Again advice was given in the text message in the form of a Top Tip:

If the weather is extremely cold or wet, please cover your OSB roof boards and put your felt indoors until you use.

Wally offered to lend me a tarp, so we stacked everything up against the wall and covered it with a tarp, until I can get my son-in-law and daughters down to give me a hand erecting it. Gnome

Gerald the potting shed Gnome is finally happy that the potting shed is now here and so am I. You can't see the smile on his little face in this photo, but it's there

I really can't wait to get the potting shed assembled and get growing in it.

As we finished covering it up, the rain started so we retreated to Wally's shed, I brought some snacks from my shed as it is too small for us both to sit in and Wally made some coffee and we sat and chatted until there was a break in the rain, and we could both get on with some work on our plots.

Tuesday 28 March 2023

High Street Shopping Trip

Monday was exceptional this March for the fact it was dry and sunny. This year March have been very wet and I have not managed to get as much Infrastructure work completed as I would have liked on the allotment.

After my wife Jen passing away late January, I'm slowly getting to terms with the fact that I'm no longer house bound and have to arrange cover in order to venture out on my own or with others. Emma had some leave booked for today and suggested we venture out on a shopping trip in the rain, so we did.

A visit to the local High Street parking at the bottom and working our way up to the top and then returning. Emma had a few shops she wanted to hit, and as for me I wanted to hit the 99p & £1 shops to see what gardening stuff they had and wilko to get some spuds.

So in Poundland I bought the Gooseberry, Blueberry and Black Current plants for the Boundary beds tat you see at the top of this posting. No longer a £1 but £2 each and that still works out cheaper than buying them in from online companies. 

Propagator Covers and 220mm Gravel Trays at a £1 each so I picked up 3 of each as they will be useful either at home or in the new potting shed that is due to come tomorrow.

Nice small Pots and Tray that I will start off the "Forget Me Nots" that were bought to give away at Jens funeral. These will be my first sowing in the potting shed once it it assembled and ready for action.

I bought six blocks of compressed Coco Soil or Coir that was still £1 a block and hydrates up to 10 litres Plus or minus 10% once water is added. Three blocks will stay at home and 3 blocks will be going down to the allotment and I will be buying more of it next time I or my daughters visit a Poundland.

Slug Barrier Tape £1 to go around the legs to the staging that will be in the new potting shed. I also bought some clear silicone for the windows to the new potting shed, and then we made our way up the High Street towards wilko

There were only a few netting bags of
2kg of Wilko Swift First Early spuds. 

There were also only a few 2kg netting bags of Wilco Charlotte - Salad First Early spuds. It appears we made the trip at the right time for me to get my spuds for the year. 

I picked up these flexi pots in wilko they were the last pack on the shelf but I loved the way the base is sprung such that you can ease up the plant and soil when you want to pot them on. Again with the new potting shed coming why not have a few more toys to play with. 

We stopped for lunch and a coffee / hot chocolate at a well known Mc Dive on the way back down the high street. 

Last time I was in one of these it was decorated like a clown and had a kids train in it. I have to say the make over and better seating is a huge improvement. 

I really could not believe how much my local high street has changed, I've been locked away and not visited it for way too long.  

A couple of more visits into shops that Emma wanted to visit then back to the car and our way back home to unload our shopping. 

Monday 27 March 2023

Installing Loft Conversion II

With it being a nice sunny day today I decided that I would load up the car with the now prefabricated loft conversion dormer window and take it to site and to the Plot 1A Greenhouse which meant clearing out all the dross that had been stored in there and having a good tidy up first so that I could remove the automatic opener and opening vent.

This greenhouse has been covered externally because I didn't get around to fitting the netting internally. That's another job that will be done at the end of this growing year when I clean the greenhouse out at the end of the Summer growing season.

It fit into the framing was so nice and snug that I actually used a couple of half paving blocks to weight the dormer down and hold it in place whilst I ran the glue gun down the dormer cheeks to weld it into place on the framework.

Here are the fans working viewed from the outside

Here they are from viewed from the inside

Both the Greenhouses now have their loft conversions fitting.

Dormer window before putting the blue shading debris netting back over the lower panel.

Plot 1A Greenhouse after the clean up, lots of coffee drying on the shelving.

Coffee grounds on the greenhouse racking drying out ready for storage into small containers with lids. Tugs of Starbucks coffee stacked in front if the fertiliser, I'm going to have to find another dry home for the coffee pre drying and storage once the season really gets going.  

Self watering pop bottle propagators ready for action top shelf and third shelf down looking right. Empty tugs and weed / planting membrane on the floor to the right.  

Whilst I was sorting out the greenhouse on plot 1A two foxes decided to chase each other around my Rhubarb and Raspberry beds on Plot 1, until they noticed me watching them and then the scarpered one after the other.

Sunday 26 March 2023

Well that's the Kitchen one done!

80% Chance of rain all day, so no allotment visits for me, but that's not to say I can't do things for the allotment. 

This morning I picked up a set of plastic drawers from a Freecycle post that measure 400mm x400mm x 600mm high that I will build into a potting bench I'm planning to build in the the new potting shed once it arrives and is assembled. 

The potting bench will be built from timber and slats from an old bed that needed to go to the tip, well the bits I could not repurpose did.  

The rest of today will be spent cutting the rest of the roll of 1.22m wide weed membrane into 2.4m lengths as blanks for future planting membrane sheets for my standard 2.4m x 1.2m (8ft x 4ft) beds.

Saturday 25 March 2023

Pebble Pool Plus

Rain this morning so I did more cutting of the 1.22m wide weed membrane to bed lengths of 2.4m from the 50m roll, and then at midday I went to the allotment via the bakers. It was sunny and warm and it was nice to just sit and listen to the bird song, for a while and eat a Cornish pasty. I have a few robins in the nearby trees that were very active and vocal today.

I spent over four hours on the plot installing the pebble pool and cleaning the slate chippings. Once the risk of Frost is over I will install the solar fountain and the pebble pool will provide the birds and the bees with somewhere to come and source water.

The terracotta pot is in the hole just to prevent any wild life and dross from getting into the water chamber below. I watered the pebble pool to see what it will look like once full and the pump keeping the stones wet

My daughter Emma popped in to give me a hand for the last hour and a half of weeding and sorting out the next beds so they are ready for action stations after the last frost.

Friday 24 March 2023

Measuring Out Plots


This morning I met up with Jane from idverde and we measured out plots 11 & 11A because the previous tenant did a land grab taking quite a slice of plot 11, they are now equal in size.

We are still pursuing a solution to the removal of all the debris from plots 11, 11A & 3A by the council and idverde. The council have asked once again for a costing to remove all the debris, despite Adam Brind already previously agreeing the cost of the skips. Now idverde & Veolia need to also price up their element. I'm not holding my breath, but have told Jane I will hold back on taking matters further, for a short while and pointed out the welding oxy acetylene and oxygen cylinders and torch etc again to her.

Plot 9 & 9A which has had eight foot of brambles removed, may or may not still have Japanese Knotweed was also measured and pegged out as two half plots. If when inspected in a few months time there is no further signs of Japanese Knotweed then these plots will get new plot holders from the waiting list which now stands at 40.

Finally some fencing and signs will be forthcoming for plot 9 which should have been in place for all the years this plot has been out of action and undergoing treatment. With the plot belong so overgrown and inaccessible for so long, and the hit and miss treatment over the years, the likelihood of it actually being clear of Japanese Knotweed is very remote.

At least idverde have bitten the bullet and sub contacted the Knotweed treatment out now to a company that knows what they are doing and has the training and resources. I'm assuming that the fencing will not go up until they come to inspect once the growing season is underway.

An invite has been sent to the first person on the waiting list to contact me & come and view Plot 4.

I managed to have a little tidy up on Plot 1 and to sort out the pebble pool and measure for the weed membrane to go under the plastic former. I sowed radishes into the raised planter that is beside the plot 1 greenhouse.

The heavens opened up and I took refuge in the plot 1 greenhouse and was decanting coffee grounds into tins to dry out, until the rain slowed down and I could make a dash for the car. I'm so looking forward to having a 6ft x 8ft potting shed to work in when the weather is not so kind in future.

It's been way to wet cold and windy to cut the weed membrane in the back garden, so tonight I set up the scaffold board in the living room between two fold up tables.

The new 50m roll I bought was supposed to be 1.2m wide but in fact is 1.22m or 4ft. At least now I have finished the 2m wide roll up I only need to cut the roll into 2.4m long sheets to fit the standard beds. I will get 20 sheets out of the roll, tonight I measured and cut 5 and looking at the weather forecast, I may get the other 15 processed on Sunday.

I need some winter blanks and the others once processed will have holes burnt out of them and be turned into planting membrane.