Sunday, 16 June 2019

Fathers Day 2019

My two beautiful daughters took their old Dad for a Toby Breakfast, shopping for gardening bits and bobs and then in the afternoon came to the allotment to help me weed, plant two beds of sweetcorn and three varieties of cucumbers, then home and a Chinese meal. I also got shoes, chocolates and a book which somehow seemed right for me and the day.

Sweetcorn in beds 7 & 8

Burpless on the left side & Mr Fothergills Esmarald on the front 

  Mr Fothergills Esmarald on the front and Marketmore on the right side

  Mr Fothergills Esmarald on the front and Marketmore on the right side

Spuds in buckets moved to bed 9

Someone has attacked the trees that are pushing over and holding back the wall behind the shed, looks like I have some cutting back to do 

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Heavy Duty Plastic Tray Modules

There is a lot of pressure these days to reduce the use plastics, we see what’s happening in the oceans and on our beaches and in the countryside and I for one was brought up not to litter and I hate to see it happening. Supermarkets are being pressured to look at alternatives to supplying products in plastic containers and bags.

Gardening programs, magazines and gardening forums are talking about the estimated 500 million plant pots and seed trays are sold every year and that the majority are sent to landfill or incinerated, with very little is recycled. A large quantity of fossil fuel is used in the production of plastic pots, which take around 500 years to decompose.

It’s suggested by many that you just reduce the amount of plastic you use by simply not buying it. Then they tell you that’s It’s not as hard to avoid as you may think, and that there are a growing number of non-plastic alternatives for tools, plant pots and other materials.

The thing is I’ve been there and tried those, I’ve made paper pots and used and continue to use the cardboard toilet roll tubes even if they do get a little mouldy in use for Starting off runner beans etc. I could look into buying biodegradable pots made using materials such as coir (from coconut husks), wood chips, rice husks and even seaweed, I've tried some of those and didn't get on with them they tend to suck the moisture out of the compost in the pot.

Terracotta is nice but its costly, bulky and prone to damage. I must admit I have not really looked into Vipot which according to Alys Fowler in a post on Friends of the Earth says “they look and feel like regular pots but are plastic-free, if cared for they can last several years. When they do finally crack, they can go straight on to the compost.” So one has to ask just how long will they take to degrade if they will last several years before cracking? 
Personally I prefer taking good care of existing plastic items as it’s a good way to ensure I don’t have to keep buying it, because you can reuse it for several years.

For the last seven years I have been using vending machine cups that I use a soldering iron to make two drainage holes in. I wash the vending machine cups and stack them ready for use the following year. When in use these stand in 15 cell modules in good quality seed trays in my space saver or Norfolk greenhouse.

 I have tried growing in modules from garden centres, Wilko, B&Q etc for smaller items but the modules are so flimsy they normally can’t be used more than once and that’s why I used the vending machine cups in the first place and have now started to look for more heavy duty alternatives and smaller modules.

In 2014 I managed to pick up some second hand heavy duty very small cell propagation seed modules from a nursery off ebay and I ended up cutting them down to fit my window cill propagator and mini Ikea greenhouse and to fit standard seed trays, these get looked after washed and stacked away and reused each year.

In March 2018 I purchased an Agralan Propagator which as a plug plant bottom section with a built in watering tray and extraction tool. I liked it so much that I ended up buying another the same year. I would have liked to see what the design change was, and I was informed I would get one to play with from Agralan at the Gardening Press event but it never materialised. 
I had some flexi pots that were actually made from recycled material and I’ve been using those for starting off my sweetcorn each year, but those are now finally giving up the ghost and each year I end up with less and less of them, so I need to look for alternatives
So I’ve been looking for some heavy duty durable, robust, plastic modules to use and I think and hope I have found them. During my Google searches I found a company called CMH Containerwise Materials Handling
Their range of Materials Handling Products and Plastic Storage Systems cover a wide range of industries from horticulture/agriculture, food and general industry. Their number one aim is to provide an extensive range of plastic materials handling products that not only save their customers time and money, but that also offer an exceptional life span.
Their range of injection moulded long-life Propagation trays are suitable for all Horticultural sectors, from Bedding Plants / Ornamentals, Vegetables, Nursery Stock and Shrubs & trees.They supply module/ propagation trays in a large range of sizes and cell volumes but these can be basically broken down into the following categories:

Their products are designed to give in excess of 10 years trouble free use and they note on their web pages that trays produced 15 years ago are still giving good service today, which ticks my robust and durable boxes. 

There are no prices for items on their web site because their customers are large commercial organisations rather than domestic, and they apply quantity discount, however following my email asking if they would sell to domestic clients, I received the following reply that stated:

“In recent months, with the attention given to single use plastics and with a degree of promotional activity on YouTube through Charles Downing and Huw Richards we have had a very positive response to our range of trays. Many of the enquiries we received were small, 5 trays, 10 trays being typical which didn’t cover the minimum order level (£50+vat) . 

As a result of this number of small enquiries we felt morally obliged to supply, after all, if “small growers” were being positive, we should help them. Consequently, we have waived the minimum charge now with a minimum tray quantity of 5 units which can be mixed across the range. I have attached a price list for the most popular sizes across 2 different tray footprints. As you will see they start at £3.95 each plus P&P and Vat.”

They also sent me a domestic rate price list based in a minimum order of 5 units. Having already purchased small 20mm nursery sized propagator trays in 2014 my attention was on the normal seed tray sizes 350 x 215mm Shallow and 350 x 215mm Deep Cell Trays. I screen captured the styles and looked at each page and marked up the cell size, depth and drainage hole size to help me make a decision what to buy. Below is a neat version that may be of some assistance other wise it's a lot of clicking in and out of pages to find the information on their web site

I've ended up buying six Shallow trays and 3 Deep trays that I'm hoping will serve me well for however many years I have left to tend my allotment. Below are the other trays that they will sell to domestic customers 


Tuesday, 11 June 2019

Potting Up Session 3

Potting on session 3 

Top Shelf looking Right 

Top Shelf Middle

Top Shelf Left 

Top Left Front 

Top Front Right 

2nd Shelf Left 

2nd Shelf Middle (Beetroots in the Propagator)

2nd Shelf Right 

Bottom Shelf Middle 

Sweetcorn Bottom Right before turning 180 degrees to straighten up  

Sweetcorn Bottom Left before turning 180 degrees to straighten up  

Monday, 10 June 2019

Checking On My Crops Today

Months Rain in a Day

Monday there were warnings of flooding due the the rain, the red area is my allotment site, and the possible flood zone. The last time we had any volume of rain the site was OK but where the drainage in the road is blocked we lost the kerb edging on MIll Green Road so access was not so good.  

The one positive is that the open culver around one side of the site was cleared and new open concrete culvert was installed plus a new buried rectangular culvert and overflow area was built into the housing development along the other side of the site two to three years ago and the annual flooding at plots 9 & 10 stopped, so there is hope that we will get away without actually getting flooded   
Following day the railway line from via Mitcham, Hackbridge and Carshalton was closed due to flooding. I was tempted to go and see what if anything has happened to the allotment but with further rain forecast I thought I would wait until the weekend to go and see, there is nothing I can do if it is flooded.

Photos of other peoples plots started to get posted on the Facebook groups, and blight reports in some ways it's a good thing I'm way behind on the tomatoes this year.  

Wednesday, 5 June 2019

Potting Up Session 2

Nice to see the top shelf starting to go from Pop Bottle Propagators to individual Plants in vending machine cups   

Both lots of Butternut Squash have germinated 

A snail or slug have been munching the Cucumbers so tonight I'm going on a snail & slug hunt 

The Gherkins have bucked up 

The later batches of Tomatoes are beginning to come through and when the smaller later plants have caught up with their bigger siblings it will be time to move them onto individual vending machine cups

Monday, 3 June 2019

Germination Update

Update since the 29th May 2019 

Butternut Squash - 7 Seedlings


Achoch Fatboy   - No Germination yet 
Piccolo Di Parigi - 5 Seedlings - Potted on into vending machine cups 
Burpless             - 4 Seedlings - Potted on into vending machine cups
Kiwano               - 4 Seedlings
Mini White          - No Germination yet
Marketmore        - 6 Seedlings - Potted on into vending machine cups

Marrow (Long Striped) - 6 Seedlings - Potted on into vending machine cups


Bailoni Red        - 4 Seedlings
Bajaja                - 5 Seedlings
Blaby Special    - 4 Seedlings 
Crimson Crush  - 5 Seedlings 
Kibitz                 - 1 Seedling 
Maskotka          - 2 Seedlings 
Micro Tom         - 3 Seedlings
Minibel              - 2 Seedlings  
100's & 1000's  - 4 Seedlings
Rapunzel          - 7 Seedlings
Red Robin        - 2 Seedlings + 6 = 8
Sweet Mullion   - 1 Seedling
Tiny Tim            - 1 Seedling

Tomatoes sown from the Grapevine (VSP) Virtual Seed Parcel 

Mainly sown into small pop bottle propagators at 4 seeds per pot as I only really require two plants of each and should be germinating this week.   

Alaskan Fancy                    - 2 seedling 
Cyrils Choice                      - 2 seedling 
Egyptian                              No Germination yet
First In The Field                No Germination yet
Kenilworth / King George  No Germination yet
Lukullus                              - 2 seedlings
Petit Moineau                     - 1 seedling
Raspberry Oxheart             - 2 seedlings +2 = 4
Sallisaw CafĂ©                      - 1 seedling 
Stupice                                - 2 seedlings 

White Cherry                        No Germination yet

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Watering & Composting

The Spuds in buckets at the Plot 1A end were looking a little limp and overheated and this photo is after they had a good watering. Last week I got a little sun burnt and worn out in the heat, so I decided not to submit myself to it today, and my visit was timed for later in the day when the sun was not so harsh and there was some shade on the plot. Thus not a lot of progress on the infrastructure as I was there primarily for a deep watering of the beds.

There is still not a lot of activity on the beetroot bed and this was a pack of new seed, that being said I really need to get down there at least three times a week to water as I drowned the bed three times and it dried out so quickly. 

The spuds in beds 3, 4 & 5 are doing well and looking lush. 

The spuds in square flower buckets on the Plot 1 end are growing well, and from the looks of it are handling the sun and the heat a lot better that their counterparts on Plot 1A 

The trees did look distressed which was nice to see and I gave them a good drowning 

Having a tidy up of the back garden on Saturday generated four buckets with lids worth of decaying leafs, worm castings etc that were taken to the allotment and added to the Dalek along with a bucket load of kitchen waste.

A tidy up of litter that gets thrown over the wall by workmen and sorting out of the buckets with lids to get them under the extensions to the sheds once more and it was time to come home.  

Saturday, 1 June 2019


A nice lady called Lynn on Freecycle was giving away some mint plants after thinning out her mint bed. 

Now that's me sorted out for mint at home and on the allotment. 

She even put my name on them so I knew which ones were mine when I went to collect them.

Friday, 31 May 2019

Potting Up Session

When you see roots have gone through the capillary matting bung and into the water section of the self watering propagators you know it's time to move the plants up into individual pots or vending machine drink cups, so that's what I've done 

6 x Marketmore Cucumbers (100% Germination)

4 x Burpless Cucumbers (67% Germination)

5 x Piccolo Di Parigi Gherkins (83% Germination)

5 x Long Stripped Marrows (83% Germination)

Vending machine cups have two holes melted in the bottom for drainage, with the trusty soldering iron and each cup is washed and stacked after use ready to be used again the following year. That's my way of reducing plastic by not throwing them away each year. 

Thursday, 30 May 2019

Reductions at Morrison's

Morrison's have reduced all their gardening tools and oddments, and it looks like an early clearance by this supermarket this year. I managed to pick up he last two insect houses from my local store left on the shelf.  They were still priced at £6 each but went though the till at £1.80 each.

These will be going on the wall either side of my runner beans to hopefully provide bed and breakfast by way of the aphids for ladybirds etc. 

Alliance & Tyson Sweetcorn

On the 13th May I sowed 45 number Marshalls Alliance Sweetcorn into plastic flexi-pots surrounded by bubble wrap and sat them on the concrete paving of the Space Saver Greenhouse. 17 days later and here is the germination rate and growth so far.

Tray 1 = 14 out of 15 

Tray 2 = 13 out of 15 and Tray 3 = 13 out of 15 

So germination was 40 out of 45 = Germination Rate of 89%

Photo above from last year. As you can see I grow my sweetcorn in blocks at 3 rows of 6  or 18 plant per 2.4m x 1.2m bed which means I need 36 healthy plants so I have 4 spare which I can live with. 

If and its a big IF I can get a couple more beds ready before the end of June then I will grow a bed of Marshalls Tyson F1, these again are New to Marshalls and boast extra thick cobs with 20 kernels surrounding every cob at maturity, compared with other varieties which can average only 16. 

If I'm not ready this year you can guess what variety I will be growing next year as the seeds are best before 2021. With 30 seeds per pack I will have enough for one beds worth not two and I know they will fit nicely in two mushroom trays and I only need a 60% Germination rate for one beds worth.