Friday, 2 December 2022

Making Self Watering Pop Bottle Propagators


Self-Watering Pop Bottle Propagators. 
Repurposing plastic pop/ water bottles before they ultimately get recycled.

Use the lines in the molding of the bottle to line up the two strips that will become the lifting handle. On this one I'm also taking the bottom of the bottle as well.

Here is another I have marked out a little more than I normally would so you can see what I'm cutting out. I highlighted the line in the moulding and then placed a rule over it to mark the handle strips.

Cut out the sections that are not required, and you have this.

The two 20 - 25mm wide strips will become the lifting handle.

Overlap the strips and staple them together. 

View once stapled, I have used a soldering iron and melted the straps together in the past as well.

Rag cloth rescued from an old bed mattress that I cut into tray size to use as capillary matting and now cut again into strips wide enough to be rolled up and stuffed into the neck of the bottle as capillary membrane.

Five 1mm holes drilled into the pop bottle cap to allow the water to get into the inside of the plastic bottle top via the wicking capillary membrane once filled with soil.

Roll up the strip of rag cloth and stuff into the neck of the bottle and screw the cap on.

The three parts of the Self Watering Pop Bottle Propagators the water container the growing basket and the Propagator cut to length so that the handle fits neatly inside and supports the propagator lid part, which can have a cap with holes added or the cap can be removed, as can the top of the bottle once the seedlings are up and no longer need the propagator lid.

Basket in the water container. The handle helps hold the bottle top you will be using as a Propagator in place.

Self-Watering Pop Bottle Propagators Assembled

Six Self-Watering Pop Bottle Propagators ready for being shipped to the Allotment greenhouse

Typical cucumber seed planting layout, and other seeds come to that.

Self-Watering Pop Bottle Propagators in use earlier this year, the plant label fits nicely in the middle of the bottle. 

Self-Watering Pop Bottle Propagators waiting to be filled with compost and seeds sown.

Video from 2016 when I added the lifting handle which was a game changer!

I use these in my allotment greenhouses, as I can't always get down to the allotment to water as I look after my wife who has Lupus and needs someone to be around as standing and moving around is not possible unassisted.

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Planning and Reviewing December in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last TEN years for December 

There is not a whole lot of growing that happens in December, its normally blustery, cold, rainy, and overcast. It's the only time of the year with no sowing programme, though some enthusiasts and trophy hunters will ignore convention. I can't shut my plot down completely because there is too much tidying and maintenance to do on plot 1A and I have infrastructure works to undertake on plot 1. I also need to go there for some Allotment Therapy and get out of the house. 

2012 - My First December and third month of owning an allotment was mainly spent cutting down the weeds and exposing what lay underneath and discovering all manor or debris to dispose off. There was a lot of burning of weeds in the two incinerators 

2013 - Mainly clearing up the plot, Growing and cut and drop green manure, installing an infrastructure of paths and beds. Harvesting Sprouts 

2014 - Mainly clearing up the plot, Growing and cut and drop green manure, installing an infrastructure of paths and beds. Harvesting Sprouts 

2015 - Mainly clearing up the 2nd plot on Spencer Road, Growing and cut and drop green manure, installing an infrastructure of paths and beds. Harvesting Sprouts, carrots and parsnips  

2016 - Two plots on two different allotment sites Mill Green and Spencer Road, installing more infrastructure, collecting leafs, Walking Onions in greenhouse, harvesting sprouts, manure and leafs on beds, making planting membrane sheets, High winds blow over Keith's shed. Shed Break-ins and meeting the police on Spencer Road.
2017 - Family health matters mean very little achieved on the plot. Leaf collection and sprout harvest.

2018 - Lots of rain and not a great deal of work possible this month. Grow Your Own Tomato Seed Circle package arrives. 30th December and I was clearing the sweetcorn from the beds and putting to sleep for winter.  

2019 - Lots of rain, but I did manage to audit and catalogue What's In My Seed Box 

Jools Holland in Brighton with Kelly and John Barrowman A Fabulous Christmas and weekend away with my good lady wife meant I lost two weekends of working on the plots.

Christmas Eve my good lady wife and I were in the Royal Brompton Hospital as she was undergoing a night study to recalibrate her BiPAP (Bilevel Positive Airways Pressure) machine that she has to go on each night.

2020 - Lots of rain, but I did manage to audit and catalogue What's In My Seed Box 

Raspberry infrastructure created. Weather watching and rain stops play. Plot Tour Video produced. New varieties of seeds from Suttons reviewed, In My Seed Box reviewed and published throughout the month, Seed catalogues reviewed. Before You Buy Seeds article updated. 

2021 - Lots of rain, but I did manage to audit and catalogue What's In My Seed Box for 2022 

After storm Arwen in November, Storm Barra hits the UK at the start of December. Leaf Bin and Carrot barrel set up. Rhubarb Bed 3 created; Rhubarb moved into it. So many bulbs planted by Andy and then stolen by the rats with fluffy tails.  21st December Winter Solstice and we start making our way to longer daylight. Sorted out the plot arrangement for 2022 and published it on the blog. Managed a site visit on the last day of December after so much rain. 

To Do List

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what didn't happen in November and has slipped because of all the rain and missed visits. The plan is now to get as much of the remaining infrastructure on Plot 1 in place as possible and get both plots and greenhouses ready for next season. 

Mill Green - Plot 1A
  • Re Add additional supporting timbers to the roof of the shed - TBD
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing but getting so much better 
  • Weeding - Complete the weeding of plot 1A
  • Greenhouse 1A - Get ready for winter sowings and perhaps some hydroponics

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • Beds and Paths - Third Square Foot Gardening and Solar Tent Bed to be formed.   
  • Install the kerb edging along the bottom of Plot 1 - TBD over Winter months. 
  • Potatoes in Buckets - Harvesting to continue this month as some are re growing!  
  • Planning - Ongoing
  • Cut Planting Membrane - Make more full bed blanks
  • Space Saver Greenhouse - Sow some winter crops.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Beast from the East 2022 On It's Way


One thing is sure, that the temperatures have dropped over the last few days, and it feels like the warnings could be right even though it is the Daily Express.

More and more warnings dropping into my news feed, and it's feeling a lot colder out there this afternoon. let's take a look at the weather forecast ...

Looking like cold possibly frosty weather (3C and below) from the 6th December onwards. I don't mind cold days on the allotment, but I can't be doing wet, and I still have so much to get done on the plot before the next growing season kicks off in 2023.   

Gomphrena Atomic Purple

Gomphrena Atomic Purple - Mr Fothergills - 50 Seeds - £2.95 - Item Code 39207 

Plant Class  Half-hardy annual
Height 600mm (2 feet)
Spread 300mm (1 foot)

Charming rounded flower heads provide a contrast to other flowers in the garden. Drought resistant and great for fresh or dried cut flowers.

Half-hardy plants cannot withstand winter wet and cold and will be killed by the frosts. However, you don't need to wait until the warmer weather to get going – sow your seeds or grow your seedlings in a light, frost-free place, protecting them under cover until the frosts are over.

Growing Instructions

Sow Indoors February -April, 5mm (1/4") deep in trays of compost. Keep moist and warm at approx. 15-20C (60-68F). Transplant seedling 50mm (2") apart to other trays when large enough to handle. Grow on in cooler, but not cold conditions. Gradually accustom young plants to outside conditions (avoid frosts) before planting out 250mm (10") apart, when frosts are over. 

Flowering /Harvesting June- September.  

For some reason I ended up with three packs of theses seeds in my bulk order from Mr Fothergills. I had not requested them, but hay you never look a gifted pack of seeds or three in the mouth even if they are flowers and not vegetables.  

Tuesday, 29 November 2022

More Basil in 2023

If you are a regular visitor to then you will know that I've not really been into herbs until earlier this year when I grew Basil Ganovese supplied by Joe as part of the Joe Mills - Grow With Me for 2022. Now I'm hooked and in 2023 I'm trying two additional varieties of basil that are New for 2023 to Suttons and Organic Gardening Catalogue.

for 2023 Code 70 00 15 Basil Loki - Organic Gardening Catalogue - 140 Seeds - £1.99

Basil Loki is a new generation of Genovese basil armed with improved resistance to mildew and is the ultimate selection for organic growers. 

Downy mildew is a common problem with basil, and it can rapidly spread through neighbouring plants. Basil ‘Loki’ resists infection and has also been bred to adapt to our cooler UK climate, producing crops of bright green, healthy leaves throughout the summer. 

Sow under glass - Feb-June
Plant out              - May - June
Sow Outside        - June
Spacing                - 250mm x 250mm
Harvest                - June - October 

Sow in a propagator on a windowsill, cover with 5mm compost. Germination 14-21 days. Grow on, plant out after frosts 200 - 250mm apart. Can be sown direct outside in June. 
Height and spread: 300mm (12").

for 2023 Code 10 02 82 Basil Purple Ball - Suttons 15 Seeds - £3.99 

Basil ‘Purple Ball’ is so ornamental, it can even be used as a foliage filler alongside brightly coloured bedding in a container or window box. 

A Greek-style variety, it bears small, highly flavoured, purple leaves which naturally grow into a dense ball. Wonderful for edging veg beds or as a decorative addition to the kitchen window sill, this clove-flavoured culinary herb is indispensable for tomato-based dishes. Height and spread: 300mm (12”).

Monday, 28 November 2022

Rote Kugel Beetroots

Rote Kugel - Organic Gardening Catalogue - 145 Seeds - £3.49 - Code 70 00 12 - Packed 2023

 Early maturing variety with good bolt resistance

 Easily growing to giant proportions

 Re-selected from Scottish seed vault

 Great for the show bench or the kitchen

Beetroot ‘Rote Kugel 2’ is a high yielding, early maturing variety with good bolt resistance. Produces large, globe-shaped, well coloured beets which are potential show bench winners. The purple flushed leaves are delicious in salads. Height: 30cm (12"). Spread: 15cm (6").
Selected by me to add to my seed box primarily because of its early maturing and bolt resistance, and that it's a variety I have not grown before. 

Sunday, 27 November 2022

Seedoholics Anonymous

I could not get to the allotment today, just too much rain, so I did the next best thing and visited the Seeds To Suit web site

14 packs of seeds with the MANVSLUG10 10% Discount code £5:10 with P&P £6.50

Now to update the In My Seed Box For 2023 - Index 

In My Seed Box For 2023 - Spring Onions


In previous years I have done really well with Spring onions, I have two or three with my sandwich most lunchtimes. A note has been added to my Sowing & Planting Plan for 2023 so I can get Spring Onions going a month earlier than previous years.

The life expectancy of Onion seeds is 2 - 4 years, and most suppliers have a two year gap between packed and sow by date.

All but the sow by 2021 seeds were removed from the Seed Box in 2022.   

In 2022 my sister treated me to a couple of packs of Lidl - De Barletta Spring onions and I bought 3 more packs in April when I went shopping.

These have sow dates between February - April and August - November and are Frost-Resistant for harvest in spring and summer. 

Germination is 15 - 20 days and soil temperature needs to be between 8 - 10C  No seed count but pack say enough for 10m of sowing.   

Lilia - 550 Seeds -  £2.49  - 43 79 38 - were a new variety from Dobies in 2022 and I have to say they are a great bulb spring onion that have really grown well and have lasted from being picked, and I will be growing these again in 2023 and buying more seeds for 2024 

Lilia is a dual-purpose Italian variety with a robust flavour. Dark pinky/purple base, tapering to dark green leaves Spring Onion Lilia is best grown as a salad onion. Its eye-catching dark green leaves and a shiny, intense red inner core make a great addition to a summer salad. Plants can also be grown as a maincrop, storing bulb onion. When fully mature it shows off its defined red and white inner rings. 

Sow March-July 

For salads, best sown in broad drills sparingly April - July, into finely raked, firm soil at a depth of 10mm in rows 300mm apart. (Germination 14 - 21 days). No thinning necessary. Bulbs will be quite large if left to mature. Sow a pinch of seeds regularly for continuous production. 

For bulb onions best sown 3-4 seeds per small pot in a propagator or greenhouse during march April at approx. 15C eventually planting outside. 

Best grown in ground that has been manured the previous autumn. Water freely in dry weather. 

Harvest June-October.

Sow By 2023 
Ramrod                                   - 250 Seeds - £1.00       - wilko - Sow By 2023

Sow By 2024 

De Barletta (Bulb)                   - 10 metres  -      49p       - Lidl - Sow By 2024
De Barletta (Bulb)                   - 10 metres  -      49p       - Lidl - Sow By 2024
De Barletta (Bulb)                   - 10 metres  -      49p       - Lidl - Sow By 2024
De Barletta (Bulb)                   - 10 metres  -      49p       - Lidl - Sow By 2024
Lilia (Bulb)                               - 550^ Seeds - £2.49         - Dobies - Sow By 2024
White Star                               - 550^ Seeds - £2.49         - Dobies - Sow By 2024    
Snow Queen F1 (Bunching)    - 300 Seeds - £                 - Premier Seeds- Sow By 2024
Tokyo Long White                    -1200 Seeds - £                 - Premier Seeds- Sow By 2024
North Holland Bloodred Redmate - 1200 Seeds £                 - Premier Seeds- Sow By 2024

^ Opened Pack               

Sow By 2025 

White Lisbon                           - 450 Seeds -      75p*     - Wilko - Sow By 2025
White Lisbon                           - 450 Seeds -      75p*     - Wilko - Sow By 2025
White Lisbon                           - 450 Seeds -      75p*     - Wilko - Sow By 2025
Guardsman                             - 350 Seeds -  £2.55       - Wilko - Sow By 2026          

Sow By 2026 

Ishikura (bunching)                 - 375 Seeds - £1.00*       - Wilko - Sow By 2026
Ishikura (bunching)                 - 375 Seeds - £1.00*       - Wilko - Sow By 2026
Ramrod                                   - 250 Seeds - £1.00*       - wilko - Sow By 2026
Ramrod                                   - 250 Seeds - £1.00*       - wilko - Sow By 2026

* Purchased in the Wilko 50% 0ff sale 

Alphabetical Listing of Varieties historically grown 

                                                Sowing            Harvest

Arrow                                     Mar - Apr          Aug - Nov
Feast F                                  Mar - Jul          Jun - Onwards ( Winter hardy) 
Gerda                                    Mar - Jun          May-Dec - Marshalls
Ishikura                                  Mar - May        Jun - Sep - Thompson & Morgan
Ishikura                                  Mar - Jul          May - Oct - Mr Fothergill's
Ishikura                                  Feb* - Jun         12 Weeks after Sowing - Kings Seeds
Lilia                                        Apr - Jul            Jun - Oct
Long White Ishikura               Mar - Jul           May - Oct - Johnsons
North Holland Blood Red       Feb - Jul           Apr - Oct
Pompeii                                  Mar - Jul          Jun - Oct
                        Mar - Jul          Jun - Oct
Ramrod                                  Mar - Jun          May - Oct - wilco
White Lisbon (Winter Hardy)  Mar - Sep         Mar - Nov - wilco 
White Lisbon                          Mar - Sep         May - Oct - Thompson & Morgan
White Lisbon                          Mar - Jul           May - Oct - Mr Fothergill's
White Star                              Mar - Aug                  - Dobies
White Star                              Sept to overwinter 

* Under Glass 

Sowing Plan for 2023

In 2017 spring onions were grown in vending machine cups in tray modules and transplanted into the onion beds plant membrane, but white rot got a few and the rest had to be harvested early or disposed off.

In 2018 I tried to grow them in cut down square flower buckets but the results weren't very good, saying that the Spring was unnaturally warm and dry.

From 2020 a return to growing in vending machine cups in tray modules and transplanted into the onion beds plant membrane, 

Looking at the back of the seed packets, yes I do read them! What I find interesting is the different guidance provided by different seed companies for the same variety of plant. for example, looking at Ishikura Spring Onions from Wilko, Thompson & Morgan & Mr Fothergill

Sowing Outdoors

Mar - May ~ Thompson & Morgan
Mar - Jun ~ Wilko
Mar - July ~ Mr Fothergills

Frequency of Sowing

Wilko &  Mr Fothergills both suggest every 2 - 3 weeks for a continuous supply throughout the summer, interestingly Thompson & Morgan advice is that "The long harvest period means one sowing lasts the whole season!" which is kind of mad as there harvest period is shorter than both Wilko & Mr Fothergills ! Thompson & Morgan also states "Can be harvested pencil-thin or thinner, or left to mature to carrot size" although they don't state what kind of carrot.  


Wilko & Mr Fothergills both suggest no thinning is required whereas Thompson & Morgan state it is!


May - Oct ~ Wilko
Jun -  Sep ~ Thompson & Morgan
May - Oct ~ Mr Fothergills


Wilko &  Mr Fothergills both state 14 - 21 days and Thompson & Morgan provides no information on germination, I have seen this missing on quite a lot of their packs and it's something I'm and I guess most other gardeners are actually quite interested in.

I know that like Structural Engineers, if you get four or five gardeners together and ask them a question you are likely to get three different answers but until I see what other suppliers of Ishikura Spring Onions have to say, I think I will ignore T&M and go with the guidance from Wilko & Mr Fothergill.

Saturday, 26 November 2022

Courgette - Summer Holiday

Mr Fothergill's Courgette - Summer Holiday - 10 Seeds - Item Code 29382 - £3.35

Their web site says, "This customer favourite variety is back!" so not completely new to Mr Fothergills for 2023, but to me up until now courgettes are and have been mini green long mini marrow like plants, that if you don't pick them at the right time turn into marrows! 

Summer Holliday produce large crops of rounded, colourful and eye-catching beach ball looking courgettes. Again, Mr Fothergills web page says they are "Very popular in Italy, their shape makes them ideal for stuffing, or steamed whole." 

Packed with great flavour and texture, they are an excellent source of vitamin C.

Sow indoor: for surest results, 13mm(½in) deep, on edge, in small pots of compost. Water well and place in a warm position. A temperature of 15-20°C(60-68°F) is ideal. Keep moist. Seedlings usually appear in 7-14 days. Gradually accustom plants to outside conditions (avoid frosts), before planting out 600mm(2ft) apart, when frosts are over.

Sow outdoors: for ease, where they are to crop, 13cm(½in) deep directly into finely prepared soil which has already been watered. Allow 600mm (2ft) between sowing positions. Sow two seeds on edge per position. Early sowings benefit from cloche protection. Thin to leave the stronger plant. Water well until plants are established.

Friday, 25 November 2022

Mr Fothergill's - Radish Whitella F1

NEW to Mr Fothergill's - Whitella F1 Radish - Item Code 38215 - 300 Seeds - £2.40

The Mr Fothergills web site says "Premium quality, crisp tasty roots. This fast-growing variety is ideal for seasonal growing. Slow to turn woody, it’s highly trusted and performed strongly on our trials."

Now I got this radish because I have grown white radishes before and quite liked them. Doing a little digging on the internet, I have found out that Whitella F1 is the first white radish hybrid on the market. 

Average to long strong leaves, good leaf attachment. Clear white bulb colour. Round uniform bulbs. Cross section diameter up to 35 mm. Rapidly growing and very productive variety. High tolerance to splitting and drying out (except in cold conditions). 

Good internal quality. Good and long storage life and storing quality. High resistance against false mildew on foliage and bulb. 

High Fusarium ox resistance. Suitable for bunching. Growing in greenhouse: year-round sowing is possible, but not during hot summers (long leaf) and cold winters (risk of splitting).

Beautiful white radish with good uniformity and internal quality. With stress it may develop a faint pink cap near the stem attachment but remains attractive. With medium to tall tops.