Sunday, 26 January 2020

Seven More Raised Beds Built

The weather has been very cold and we have had a good deal of rain in January but looking at the weather forecast for Sunday Morning there was only 15% chance of rain/ My daughter asked if I would like to borrow her husband for the morning and she would look after my wife and I obviously said yes.

We managed to screw seven raised beds together and have stacked them on the last two raised bed that have been dug and weeded. It's amazing how much clearer the plot is looking now that the timber is together and in one place.  We also laid the weed membrane between the two stacks of raised beds and wood chipped the paths between and behind the bed towers.  

The area in front of the stacked raised beds has been cleared of the weathered secondhand weed membrane that I was using to suppress the weeds and the heavy duty tarp has been laid down in an attempt to reduce the amount of water seeping through to make the soil more workable. 

A quick serious selfie of Andy and myself in front of this morning's work as I was trying to learn to use the new phone camera. 

A not so serious selfie after working out the camera on the new phone 

Leafs from the water butts finally decanted into the temporary holding cage made of the bottom of bread baskets. 

Good progress on the to do list for the month and the plot is looking clearer and more tidy with each visit. So good to see real progress and I'm hoping to borrow my son-in-law again shortly as we work well together and I think and hope he enjoys it ! 

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Rose Arch off Freecycle

Nice little find on Freecycle just a couple of miles down the road from a very nice lady who bought it then moved property and does not have a use for it in her new garden.

I have a good idea what the Gherkins will be growing up this year. Next year I will move it to the entrance to the plot and perhaps grow some flowers up it.

Using the code on the box it appears it came from Argos and cost £15

I do like to keep an eye on Freecycle and have had some very useful items off it including the majority of the paving slabs that I have for my paths on both of my plots.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Another Beautiful Morning

Photo Taken by Emma Wooldridge on her way to work this morning.

Sunday, 19 January 2020

Two More Beds Dug and Weeded

Yesterday it was cold and I spent the afternoon cutting some more weed membrane for used under the wood chip paths. This morning when I went out to scrape the ice off the car windscreens it was -2C. By the time I made it to the allotment at around 8:45 it was -1C and there was a thick layer of frost everywhere and the rain water in the wheel barrow had frozen and there was a layer of ice about 10mm think on top. 

The builder who has been converting the old office / industrial units building to residential have built for want of a better description a single story brick building to house services equipment to the development. 

They have built it off the concrete slab that was already there and it does not have an independant foundation and they chose to build in front of the dog leg 225mm wide wall that has a 20mm crack in it and has moved and rotated. 

I'm not surprised the whole thing was supposed to be completed mid last year and in fact one of our plot holders have bought one of the top floor flats. Seeing the quality or lack thereof of the construction work and their method of limping along for the last five years I would not touch a property in there with a barge pole!.  

Electric cables and other comms cables have been sitting on top of the boundary wall since they set up the site, but for the last few weeks they have been dangling over my storage area and shed at the dog leg in the wall. My chair and wheelie bins were covered in 9 bricks and mortar snots from the brickwork. 

I was not best pleased when I saw what they had done, especially as I have no hose or water to wash off the snots and clean up the area. 

I did manage to attract their attention and finally they found someone who could speak English, which was the same guy who promised me the cables were going to be built into the wall and it would all be done last Monday. 

I reminded them that they said the cables would be gone two weeks ago and that I wanted it sorted straight away or I would take matters in my own hands to remedy the situation returning the ends to them. Who was I kidding as if I would cut them I could electrocute myself, but I had to appear bonkers and angry enough to actually do it.   

My daughter has not often see me loose it, and I could see on her face that she was a little shocked. We went and got on with digging the outer bed and I saw the cables being played with and pointed it out to her. It was funny how it went from the cables were not long enough to them suddenly being able to resolve the problem, so they must have found some slack in the cables somewhere.

Where as I would have normally disposed of their plastic debris that had blown over and onto my plot it was gathered and returned over the wall.

View from the dog leg on the wall looking up the plot at the end of the morning work The yellow tarp will be the next area to be turned over and the two long blues boxes in the area that will be the bed to the right of it will need to me moved and stored somewhere until I can erect them as a fruit cage. 

View from the side of the Greenhouse looking out towards the rest of the allotment. The newly dug beds have been left uncovered for Beautiful the Robin to help himself to anything he can find, and for the frost to help break up the soil a little more.  

Next visit I need to take my drill and screw the frame in the bottom left of the picture together and perhaps pre drill a number of the other long boards ready for assembly. 

Once again thanks to my daughter Emma for coming to help on the plot and my daughter Kelly for being at home Sunday morning and making sure my wife was up OK and had her morning cup of tea and was settled in before she went out for the day.

Friday, 17 January 2020

Storm Brendan - The Aftermath.

Because I'm our allotment site rep I received an email from our allotment management company idverde that a greenhouse ended up in the back gardens that are behind our allotment, but the person who found it had captured it and took it apart and saved it. The taking apart made me think it has to be a Blow Away Greenhouse/ Polytunnel and turned out I was right. There is a reason they are referred too as Blow aways by allotment holders.  

So last night I went down in the dark after work in the rain to look to see who's tunnel/ greenhouse was missing. I managed to put the plot holder in contact with the person who captured it and stopped it causing any more trouble so that man and Greenhouse can be reunited today. 

A visit on Saturday to recover items and tidy will be in order methinks as I could see missing items on my plot but it was too dark and wet to go hunting last night. 

Anyone else have problems with Storm Brendan?

Sunday, 12 January 2020

Davros and the Genesis of the Composting Area

Today I definitely felt like the Davros from Dr Who, it was all about getting the path in front of the outer narrow bed and clearing the margin along the Plot 1 - Plot 2 paths and installing four Daleks onto a weed membrane area between where the beds will be going and the kerb stones, all with the aid of my companion Emma Wooldridge who worked like a little beaver.   

There was a little mishap with the square Dalek that resulted in the snapping off of the lid hinges but with a small concrete paving slab as a weight on the lid it's still going to be a great Dalek for producing compost during 2020

The area inside the red lines is the progress we made today 

And Beautiful the Robin was around all morning feeding on exposed slug and snail eggs and insects.

Wednesday, 8 January 2020

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 In 2019 I set about looking for some heavy duty durable, robust, plastic modules to use and bought them from 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 

If you visit CMH Containerwise Materials Handling and make an enquiry then please do tell them where you heard about them, this gives them and myself some ideal of how many people are visiting their web site as a result of my article. I have not been paid to write these articles about their company and I'm not on commission. I have to say I'm quite honoured to be listed with Charles Dowding and Huw Richards 

Hopefully I may get discount on future purchases if enough of you find them via my blog, but if the modules last as long as I think they are going to, I don't think I will be buying too many more of their trays. That being said I have got another half plot now and an additional greenhouse that is half constructed so who knows what next year might bring..  

Sunday, 5 January 2020

First Plot Visit in 2020

First Sunday in 2020 and the Gods are with me daughter No 2 is came home last night and will be around until mid morning to keep a watchful eye on my good lady wife and the weather is dry and no rain after what feels like 2019 was one of the wettest Decembers for some years. One can always tell when it's been a wet year because the ground water table rises and the grotto canal in Carshalton Park starts flowing, which it did just before Christmas. 

That means the likelihood of surveys for building suffering subsidence exacerbated by trees will reduce in 2020, and thus it's a good thing for those people who's buildings had just started to show signs of movement due to drying clay locally and in the London basin. 

Loading the car this morning took some time with lots of empty clean milk bottles for making soft sand bricks, two trugs of leaves from the front garden and two food buckets with lids worth of shredded paper. Bottles of water for making coffee as the water is turned off until April 

I didn't know at the time of making the video update that the last video update was in  September 2019. After four trips unloading the car and trying to make contact with the builders on the site over the boundary wall I made this short Plot Tour video with my new phone, I was hoping it would not be so sensitive to shaking which it is, so I can only apologise for the lack of quality of the image.   

January 2020 Plot Tour 

 View down plot 1 from Plot 1A

Staging Table taken down to the new greenhouse, then dried sand removed from the greenhouse and a number of soft bricks were made to assist in holding down the bed sized weed membrane. 

The open bottles of sand that had been put under the onion drying extension to the Plot 1 shed were decanted into trays and laid out on the shelving in the Plot 1A greenhouse to dry out as it's easier to make soft bricks using dry sand than damp sand.  

Sweetcorn stalks and roots pulled from bed 8 and placed in a trug ready for adding to a new Dalek once they have been installed in their final home on the plot 1 path boundary.  

The stuff that was stored under the Staging Table needs to be sorted and packed or thrown away and this is an area I will deal with during a future visit. 

The next two beds areas that need to be created can be seen behind the two 0.6m x 2.4m beds that have been installed on the boundary between Plot 1 and Plot 1A

Some time was spent emptying the remaining Buckets with lids of apples into the two acidic composting bins in which the composting material had dropped sufficiently to accept all the remaining composting material. 

The problem now being that I will at some stage have to move the bins and their contents into their final locations, but not until they have composed down some more and all fruit flies and died off. 

I now have a number of empty buckets that I washed off in the dip tank and left to dry as I did other work and these came home with me and will be filled with the compost/coir I have in flower buckets in the back garden to fill in the narrow bed in the picture above.

Jobs to do at home 

Trim large weed membrane sheet that will go under the new Daleks 
Create two 600x2400mm blank sheets for the narrow beds 
Create two Planting membrane sheets for the narrow beds.
Make as many 800 & 600 wide weed membrane sheets for under the woodchip paths.

Friday, 3 January 2020

Cat Adopts Orphaned Baby Hedgehogs

Wildlife and animals are so much nicer than humans 

I so wish we had Hedgehogs on our allotment to clear the slugs and snails

Thursday, 2 January 2020

Zippy Bag & Plant Label Time

I'm an early riser as my body clock still wakes me up just before 6:00 in the morning despite caring for my wife and working from home for the last five years. It's down for breakfast and then into something to do with the allotment, until I have to help the wife out of bed and get ready for the day. 

I managed to get the three Seed Boxes audited and the catalogues for each variety of vegetable In my Seed Box(es) completed by the end of 2019

If I can't work on the allotment, I will work for the allotment and so it is on the second day of 2020 and I'm assuming during the rest of January, that I will be making seed labels for the small zippy bags that I use for what remains of the seed packs after opening. 

The small zippy bags fit nicely into to Business Card plastic boxes

Which in turn fit nicely into the Plastic Tool Boxes I use for open packs

Unopened Packs 

And those in between

Next job is to break out the Brother p-Touch and start making the seed labels that will be needed when sowing and then moving onto larger pots before planting out. 

This collection of labels has taken six years to produce and each year when I try a new variety more are made. There is plenty of room for growth of the collection and it saves time once seed sowing really gets going.

I can't really see a time when I will not want to trial a new vegetable variety despite gradually establishing my favorites along the allotment plot holders journey through what remains of my life.  

How Do You Store Your Seeds?    

Wednesday, 1 January 2020

Seed Megastore

New years eve I saw an advert on Facebook for Seed Megastore and thought it worth having a look at as I had not heard of them before. Looking at the About Us page I discovered that Seed Megastore is a family run business based in the West Midlands and that they state they provide the finest quality vegetable seeds, flower seeds, Herb Seeds, and garden sundries to growers and gardeners throughout the UK and Europe.

What you don't find out until you come to pay is that they will accept PayPal which ticks my box straight away. There is a banner on the home page stating FREE Delivery, that thicks another of my boxes but also they have seeds starting from 55p a pack and at the moment have a number of packs of seeds on Sale at 59p a pack.

Now having done my audit of my Seed Boxes I know that I don't currently have Gherkin and that I want to grow some to pickle for my sister and at 59p for a pack of 25 seeds it would be rude not to purchase and see how good their seeds actually are. 

I felt a little guilty buying just one pack of seeds as they have no minimum order size, as even 2nd class letter postage these days was going to be 61p so I took a look at my audit and what else they had to offer and ended up with these 

So total order value £4.96 for four items, and I have no guilt re the free postage and packaging.

Checking out Thompson and Morgan for Sweet and Neat Cherrie Kisses and they are selling packs at £2.99 each that's a saving of £1.30 in one item so that makes me happy and feel like I've got a good deal Even Nicky's Nursery sell them at £1.75 and they charge for shipping.

Seed Megastore are now listed on my left panel for Seed Suppliers, and I will be visiting when I need topping up with seeds, especially as there is no minimum order value.

They also offer discount on orders over £10 and above please look at discount page for discount rules.

Their web site is worth surfing whilst we are still in the Winter Months and check out their FAQ Page for any questions you may have about them and their service.

The seed is supplied in hermetically sealed foil packets. The product label details the product, quantity and any seed treatments. For sowing instructions please see the relevant Technical Information on product page on their website

When my seed arrive I will take a photo and place it below so you can see how they send the order above.

Update Seeds Arrived today Monday 6th January in a padded envelope

Nice foil looking ziplok type bags with information about what's in the pack with a packed pate. All seeds meet EC Rules and standards for quality and packaging. Some supplier's do put a sow by date on their labels but a lot of seeds are still of very good quality long after that date and a lot of people will just throw a lot of good quality seed away. With Seed Megastores zip lock foil packets one can reseal the packet and use the seed when required.

Planning and Reviewing January in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last Seven years for January

2013 - Infrastructure works, Laying concrete 43 slab paths and patio area, Collecting Leafs  
2014 - Infrastructure works, Plastic edging from the Window Factory, Digital Thermometers from Lidl, dismantle a greenhouse, Bean trench, Chitting Potatoes, Onions from seed  

2015 -  Coir Blocks from Poundland, Onions from Seed, Spacesaver Greenhouse, Chitting Potatoes, Onions from seed. Allotment Winter Tidy Up   

2016 - Infrastructure works base for the Shed on Spencer Road, Sarpo Spuds arrive end of January, and were set chitting

2017 Infrastructure works, Laying concrete slabs, Base for the patio area on Spencer Road,  Digital Thermometers from Lidls for the additional green house and Grow Station, Tomato Compost & Coir to the plot as soil conditioner

2018 Infrastructure works covering the plot with weed membrane, Moving infrastructure materials like kerb stones from Spencer Road to Mill Green, Worked out the Tomato Grow List for 2018 after receiving the GYO Seed Circle packs, Overwintering Spring Onion experiment and walking onions in the greenhouse. Updates the Gardeners Guidance publication for idverde & LBS, Beast from the East & Terracotta Pot Heater in the greenhouse.

2019 Only 8 post last January, Planted up a bed of tulips and daffodils. Reducing the amount of hawthorne along the wall and had a fire in the incinerators, Infrastructure work cutting joists to size and painting them. 
To Do List  

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in November and what has slipped in December 2019 as there has been so much rain that the Grotto Canal is once again flowing as the water table is so high . 

Mill Green - Plot 1A
  • Clear Bed 2 of Cabbages and cover - TBD
  • Clear Beds 7 & 8 of the sweetcorn roots and cover for Winter - TBD
  • Clear the storage area to the side and the back of the shed - TBD
  • Cut back the tree over the shed so it can be re roofed - TBD
  • Remove and dispose of Corex on the roof - TBD   
  • Temporary Bitumen the shed roof where felt is missing - TBD  
  • Re felt the roof of the shed - TBD   
  • Fix the potting Bench - TBD
  • Clear the Wasp Nest in greenhouse 1A - To Be Done once the wasps have gone! 
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - clearance of weeds in current location and move when ready
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time 
  • Clear area behind the Greenhouse - TBD
  • Weeding - Never ending job   
  • Clear Seating Area - TBD
  • New Fix the Runner Bean Frames to the wall - TBD

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow - Subject to rain
  • Install the kerb edging along the bottom of Plot 1 - TBD
  • Clear the weeds and install a 600mm margin around the perimeter of the plot - TBD
  • Woodchip the Margin around the perimeter of the plot. - TBD
  • Clear fire area - TBD
  • Have fires to clear the rubbish - TBD
  • Start digging and weeding the Beds and Paths - 2 New beds and paths in
  • Erect the greenhouse - Timbers Cut for base need to be treated  
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time
  • Remove remaining Hawthorne bushes from the wall - TBD
  • Stock pile Hawthorne to dry before burning - TBD 
  • Stockpile Timber ready for burning  - Ongoing
  • New Install two new beds and paths in December - Didn't happen because of all the rain now looking for at least 4 beds in January weather permitting.
  • Planning - Ongoing
  • Catalogue Seeds - Vegetables for 2020 done just flowers remain.
  • New Cut Path Weed Membrane - TBD
  • New Cut Bed Weed Membrane - TBD
  • New Cut Planting Membrane - TBD
  • New Clean and tidy the Space saver Greenhouse - TBD
  • None at the moment.- Add when remembered.

To Do List

Apple - Prune Trees