Friday, 16 March 2018

AGRALAN Compact Plug Plant Trainer

I just had to get one of these to try out now it's sowing time. This innovative product from Agralan, designed in Sweden, allows you to grow professional ‘plug plants’ from seeds and cuttings on your windowsill or greenhouse.


 - Transparent multi-function top. Use with or without ventilation by turning the top 90˚ to give the perfect microclimate.

 - Space for 49 plants in a compact format. The compact plug plant trainer fits perfectly on a windowsill.

 - Stackable; secure when transporting.

 - Unique pop-up system makes it easy to remove plants automatically, with no root damage.

 - Easy watering – fill the bottom tray with water and capillary action keeps the compost moist.

 - Easy to clean, can even be washed and sterilised in the dishwasher. (Provided it is placed flat to avoid distortion due to the high temperature.)

 - Robustly manufactured and may be re-used many times over.

 - Height 14cm Base 22.5 x 20 cm.

 - 12 year warranty

I will let you know how well they work, if they pan out I can see me buying a few more to use in the grow stations where space is at a premium. Agralan Web Site 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Red Fen (Heat Prepared) Onions

Marshalls very kindly sent me some of their (Heat Prepared) Red Fen Onions to try, the pack contains Approx. 75 Onion Sets (250g)

When to sow onion sets

Marshalls advice on How to grow Onions and Shallots can be found Here there are also some video tutorials if you are new to onion growing. 

The best time to sow onion sets is mid March to mid April. If you are sowing red onion sets it's normally better to leave them until April as they are more prone to bolting and a later planting may help. Marshalls Red Fen and Heat Prepared so hopefully are less likely to bolt.

You can also plant sets in modular trays which can be kept in an unheated greenhouse or tunnel for planting out when the weather allows from mid March. I have never tried growing onions in modules first, however I've seen a lot of YouTube videos recently with gardeners doing this, and as I have room in my unheated greenhouse thought I would try a little experiment and plant half now in modules and then the rest straight into the ground in April. That way I have a form or sequential sowing going on with a month between sowing and can see if bothering with modules will actually make any real difference. 

On Mill Green allotment I suffer with White rot which is a disease that affects bulb vegetables like onion and shallots. Once you’re onion crop’s got it, it’s impossible to cure as such and you’ll need to stop growing onions in the same spot for at least eight years. You’ll recognise it at harvest time by fluffy white mould with black speckles that grows around the base of the bulbs.

I plan to grow onions in beds that have not been used to grow onions in before but when visiting the Marshalls web site was interested to read this:  

Prevent and Supress onion white rot

Have no fear there’s a great way you can prevent it getting to your onions in the first place!

Before planting your onions plant a crop of green manure called Caliente mustard. It’s a great organic means of creating a soil environment that’s uninviting to the disease.

Caliente mustard is a known as a bio-fumigant and once it’s chopped up and dug into the soil, it releases a natural gas that repels the pathogens that cause the rot along with many other soil diseases.

Just sow a pack from any time between March and October for a quick crop before your autumn-planting-crops or sow in November to overwinter for planting crops in spring. Just before it flowers, cut it down and dig well into the soil.

As I now have the additional plot my long term plan is to leave beds fallow, or grow green manure in them and feed the beds the year before they are planted in so that I can build up the nutrients in the beds and treat them for problems like Onion White Rot and Caliente mustard is now firmly on my radar and it looks like one pack will cover 60 square metres which is about 20 number 2.4x1.2m beds worth.

Garlic Extract & Equestrian Garlic Powder Cure.

Before I found out about Caliente Mustard the other methods of control I was considering using were the Garlic Extract Cure or Equestrian Garlic Powder. The basic idea is that these methods causes the sclerotia to sense allicin, the chemical that gives onion family plants their scent. This tricks the sclerotia into germinating and, finding no host plant to infect, they will starve and die. This may help reduce, if not completely eliminate, the disease.

To make garlic extract, take a bulb of clean, disease-free garlic and discard the papery wrappers and the basal plate. Crush the whole bulb into 10 litres (two gallons) of water. Water it onto areas of your garden that you’re not currently using for growing allium family crops. Don’t be shy – use a lot!

The whole 10 litres (two gallons) should be applied to two square metres (21 square feet). Do this when temperatures are between 15 and 18°C (59-64°F) (From the Met Office Data for my area below May - September) as this is the optimum germination temperature for the sclerotia. An easier option is to rake or water in garlic powder, which you can buy quite cheaply in large containers from equestrian suppliers.

Met Office Kenley (Nearest climate station to Sutton) Average Temperatures between 1981 - 2010

From the looks of all these methods, you really need to sow the mustard six months before or apply garlic water or powder and deal with the proposed area at least a year before you plant the onions.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Parsnip Experiment

And so the great Parsnip Experiment starts.

Kitchen rolls are about 20mm plus twice the height of a toilet roll or 220mm high, so my thinking is I will fill with compost, chit some parsnips on damp kitchen towel in a plastic Chinese Meal container and then sow in the top of the kitchen roll.

I have a Soil Auger and can drill holes in the allotment bed and place the parsnip and Kitchen roll in the hole and fill around with compost.  This time I'm going to use the top of a plastic milk bottle as a funnel for filling the kitchen rolls

It's nice to see the tomato seedlings popping their heads up after a few days in the grow station .

Washing out the vending machine cups that the Catawissa Onions were overwintered in ready for the sowing of onion sets. I use the trusty soldering iron to melt two holes in the cups and you can do 4 at a time. Vending machine cups last quite a long time if you can be bothered to wash them out and re use them, plus they sit nicely in a 4x5 tray module.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

Beast From The East Part 2

Round one came to an end just over a week ago however round two could be here by the weekend!

After the Severe blizzards at the start of the month most areas have seen a return to near average temperatures but the onset of spring looks set to be delayed by a few more days.

This weekend will see a dramatic change with temperatures in London going from +15c to barely scraping above freezing by Sunday.

Widespread snowfall is also possible particularly in areas down the Eastern side of Britain with one or two areas seeing significant falls.

The snow will largely be in the form of showers so amounts will vary but many in the East will catch one or two between Sunday and Tuesday.

As the week progresses all of the UK will experience harsh frosts with temperatures as low as -10c over night before milder weather tries to push in on Friday.

Original Posting here on the Extreme Weather site

Looking at the forecast for the Allotment this Sunday 

At the moment it looks like it's not going to be too bad, just a tad cold and a good 83% chance of no snow. I can do cold what I can't do is wet! 

Monday, 12 March 2018

16 Hours Hard Labour

Nothing says "I love you" more than opening a 60th birthday card and finding a voucher giving you 16 hours of hard labour on your Allotment from your Daughter when she hates worms, earth and mother nature.

I'm looking forward to spending some quality Dad Daughter time and making some memories for us both to keep (well for as long as we can!)

Sunday, 11 March 2018

Catawissa Onion Bed Finished

Site Rep duties this morning showing the next person on the waiting list the three vacant plots on Mill Green, they are taking plot 4 and whilst showing them around the site I introduced them to other plot holders who were on site. 

Bed three was finally covered up today and the bamboo gallows bracket structure above the Catawissa Onion Bed was dismantled.  Pruning and training of the tree branches to the apple trees either side of the Catawissa onion bed was achieved by drilling and fixing eye bolts then using soft rubber / wire ties.  

The compost from Dalek three was dug out into the wheelbarrow and then used to top the onion bed to the top of the timber. The smaller bulbs I planted some time ago that been over wintering in the greenhouse, that I brought to site in two trays in a large gravel tray were enough to populate the first two rows of the planting stations, with a couple of extras encase of slug attack. The larger bulbs have only just started to sprout so I planted the larger bulbs along the front row.

I will need to make a fence up to go around the front and sides to assist in keeping the onions from falling over onto the paths as they grow and start wondering around. and to keep the blessed foxes off the bed.  I have loads of mushroom tray bottoms on Spencer Road so I will need to visit and recover what I can and knock something up.

The Beetroots and Carrots have had a day under the lights in the external grow station and it's been around 17C in there, it's cooling off this evening, but I've given the loo rolls another good watering. 

The tomatoes in the indoor portable grow stations should be OK, I will give them a water tomorrow to ensure they don't dry out. It's also nice spotting the first seeds to germinate.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Loo Rolls At The Ready!

Finally the pile of Loo Roll inners I have been saving have made their way into seed tray modules. I'm not sure if anyone else has noticed that the internal diameter of these rolls appears to have reduced over the last year. It means that I can use a 5 wide tray module rather than the normal 4 tray wide one.

A pop bottle top was used as a compost funnel and a tray of beetroots and a tray of carrots were sown. The carrots will be transplanted as soon as the foliage is large enough to be slug resistant or at least not as desirable to the darn things! The variety of carrots sown are relatively short so I'm hoping they don't turn too deformed for being started off in loo rolls

Thermometer with 3 Remote Sensors

Digital LED Weather Station Radio Controlled Clock Temperature 3 Remote Sensors

Precision Radio Controlled Weather Station Clock & 3 Sensor Units.
This is the perfect gift for him or her.
Product Specifications
  • Digital.
  • Day, date and time functions.
  • Fully automatic multi-temperature clock.
  • Accurate to 1 second in 10 million years.
  • 3 portable slave temperature sensor units.
  • Automatic time change in Spring and Autumn.
  • Alarm.
  • Snooze.
  • Light.
  • Radio controlled.
  • Main unit uses mains adaptor (included) or 3 x AAA batteries (not supplied)
  • Each slave unit requires 2 x AAA batteries (not supplied).
Main unit 15cm x 8cm x 20cm
Slave units (x 3) 9.5cm x 5.5cm x 2cm

It's not really a weather station but I will forgive the seller that because it allows me to monitor the top middle and bottom shelf of my Space Saver Greenhouse and will alert me when I need to go and open the door when the weather improves. 

Ebay Seller was 2fit_fitness _shop who has a 99.4% Positive Feedback Cost £15.70 with Free delivery. 

As the two single units I had like the photo above both decided to give up the ghost this year and the Precision Unit is the same cost as buying two replacement units, and has a third monitoring device and one base unit that shows all three channels.  

I'm now using the base units of the old ones just as regular thermometers in the greenhouse as they are small and still reading the temperature around them.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Sow !

First off for the two portable Grow Stations are Tomatoes with 4 seeds from my grow every year list which are

01 Beefsteak
02 Gardeners Delight
03 Crimson Crush F4
04 Kibitz
05 Money Maker
06 One Hundreds and Thousands
07 Outdoor Girl
08 Stupicke Poini Rane
09 Rapunzel 

10 Vitorino (Tesco Saved Seed)
11 Angelle(Tesco Saved Seed)
If I manage to get some beds ready on the new plot I will gown a couple of Crimson Crush and Rapunzel on the allotment, hopefully early enough to miss the blight.
So that leaves 11 More varieties yet to be determined for growing in the back garden as I always grow 22 plants in flower buckets, these varieties will be based on the age of the seed saved so that I may replenish the seed stocks and keep my Tomato collection viable. I will sow the 11 selected varieties once the first two trays have migrated to the external grow station and been potted up, hopefully the delay in sowing will lead to a longer harvest period.

The Greenhouse varieties which are all small pot dwarf type tomatoes are

01 Bajaja
02 Balconi Red
03 Micro Tom
04 Minibel
05 Red Robin
06 Rosella
07 Sub Artic Plenty
08 Super Roma
09 Tiny Tim

Again 4 of each variety will be sown, and should I manage to get the second allotment greenhouse erected in time, one plant of each variety will be gown in all three greenhouses. So (at the moment) there is a planned total of 31 different varieties to grown this year, and a total of 76 plants!

Seed Compost in the trays warming up ready for the tomato seeds later today
All sown this evening and treated to some light before bed time 

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Ready, Get Set ....

So I goofed off from work and the computer for an hour to get my external grow station set up and the two portable grow stations set back up and installed in my broom cupboard office. So whilst SWMBO is watching her soaps tonight I will be sorting out the seeds and labels and the sowing will commence.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Catawassa Onion Planting Membrane

I cut the planting membrane for my Catawissa Walking Onions today, I started in the garden as it was dry and as soon as I got set up it started to rain, so the scaffold board came into the kitchen as was supported on a couple of fold up tables, and I continued inside.

I do love making these planting membranes with the soldering iron, you can see the silver paint pen guidance lines and ticks setting out on the sheet. I then use the lid from a jar of pickles that has a 75mm diameter and has a nice beveled edge to draw the circles with the silver Pentel Paint marker pen without smudging on the sheet. 

I line up the guidance lines drawn on the inside of the lid with the silver guidance line on the membrane, and the arrow with the tick marks for the centres of the holes and draw around the lid leaving me with the desired pattern. Next the trusty soldering iron is used to cut and weld the edge of the membrane so that it will not fray. 

I have sheets like this that I have been using annually for the last 4-5 years and they are still as good as the day I made them and they help keep the weeds at bay. 

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Catawissa Walking Onion Bed

Decking Board cut to length and two offcuts from a joist trimmed to 2.4m forms the ends of the 2.1m x 470mm bed, the soil below dug over and weeded then lined with cardboard, hopefully to inhibit white rot spores.

Spent Compost & Qoir and the Soilfixer SF60 mix from last years potatoes in bucket experiment starts to fill the bed. Next visit a layer of leaf mould and compost from my daleks will top up the bed ready for weed membrane and Catawissa Walking Onions through weed membrane that has yet to be cut.

It's been a little while since I took a photo from this location

Looking up the plot from the path.

Plot 1A 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

Woodchip Paths

The snow went yesterday and despite the forecast of rain, it was dry this morning so four and a half hours of shovelling woodchip into the wheel barrow and filling the paths that I lined with weed membrane over the last couple of weeks and it's nearly done. 

I laid out four secondary glazing panels on bed 7 to help warm it up, there are a few ends of membrane that need to be tucked under the slabs on the main central path, but all in all a good days work.  

Just the area behind the Daleks and between bed 7 and the table to go.

Lots of slug and snail tracks on the inside of the solar tents so some blue pellets of death have been added, The weed membrane on the path between Bed 4 & 5 needs to be tucked under the slab on the main central path. 

Next visit I must remove the debris on the smaller beds and transplant the Rhubarb from Plot 1, Dismantle the sprout netting and move it to it's new home for 2018.  

Saturday, 3 March 2018

I Feel The Need, The Need For Seed

As it's Winter and I don't have any tomatoes growing or ready for harvest we have been buying baby Plum tomatoes from TESCO and the wife and I quite like them.

The packaging says they are exclusively for TESCO that they are produced by Nightingale Farms, the Variety is called "Vitorino" and they are a produce of Morocco and are between 20/30mm.

I don't appear to be able to find seeds for "Vitorino" anywhere, then I was pointed to what happened with Rosada by a member of the Grow Your Own forum Grapevine. It would appear that Colin Randel, vegetable product manager at Thompson & Morgan, explanation provides an interesting insight into the sort of shenanigans that determine what plants we can and can't buy.

He says: “ 'Rosada’ proved extremely popular with our customers… the taste was outstanding. Unfortunately, as a variety from the Far East, its registration for the EU Common Catalogue was not undertaken, as neither of the two main obstacles could be adhered to. Either a seed production needed to be organised within the EU, or a strict 'growing season documentation and phytosanitary certification’ to allow importation had to be arranged. The breeding company would not agree to either requirement so we had no option but to discontinue. We had to go back to major trialling, resulting in the introduction of 'Santonio’, a slightly smaller-fruited 'Santa type’, which has proven popular.”
So there is a good possibility that "Vitorino" which is likely to be a F1 also cannot be sold in Europe.
So I have harvested seeds and they will be fermenting for a couple of days, then they will be sown with the others I have planned for the portable grow stations. I know that you may not get plants that are exactly as the original but sometime you find that what you do get is better and a little more tasty. I've been growing Crimson Crush from kept seeds since I got a plant when they were first introduced and every year they provide a nice tasting tomato.  

FGS - Frustrated Gardener Syndrome!

It's March and I'm getting that usual anxiety that I'm falling behind already, that is combined with a severe bout of FGS - Frustrated Gardener Syndrome!

I need to be sowing something, anything I may even grow some cress, that has helped in the past and it's a quick fix to FGS.

I actually bought two sacks of seed compost from TESCO yesterday and have it warming up in the house ready for the snow to go so that I can get on with early sowings that according to my master plan are now late!