Thursday 29 January 2015

Coir Blocks

A trip to Poundland to pick up 10 packs of 10 Litres of Potting soil which actually isn't soil its made from natural coir raw material and is compressed into a block 180 x 180mm x 35mm thick.

1) Cut the bag open at the top
2) Add 3 litres of lukewarm water
3) Wait about 5 minutes for the water to absorb
4) After 5 minutes you have at least 10 litres of fresh potting soil

This is a natural and environmentally product produced out of natural coconut coir raw material
It has good water intake ability and good water repartition in the pot

Picture on the left is the top of the pack
Picture in the middle is a pack before and after adding water
Picture on the right is what it looks like once watered

I shall be using this at the bottom of my flower buckets and mixed 50:50 with verve compost for my tomatoes   

Wednesday 28 January 2015

A Plastic Flower Bucket & A Soldering Iron

Last night I got inventive with the a couple of flower buckets and the soldering iron. The top has been made into a framework to support fleece or debris netting. Holes have been melted at 1/4 points around both rims so that they can be cable tied together. There is a mark burnt on the rims of both buckets so that the holes line up.

Ideal for warding off carrot or onion flies, and keeping the foxes and squirrels at bay.

Lunchtime I started painting the 50x50mm estate agent for sale posts that has been cut into 100mm long lengths that I'm going to use as corner blocks to join the 1.2m long decking to make a base frame for some netting hoop frames for the allotment.

I can sow any seeds at the moment, but I can get as much done as possible before that happens.   

Tuesday 27 January 2015

24 Alison Craig Onions Sown

24 Alison Craig Onions sown in a small propagator. Germination is supposed to be 18-21 days so we are looking for some signs of life around 13th - 16th February. What I found strange is that according to the back of the pack you can plant in Jan but not Feb, then plant again from March to mid April and can plant out end April. Now how does that work?

Then I fell in, the sow Dec/Jan and plant out end of April is for exhibition not for domestic/culinary use!
But I intend to plant out for domestic/ culinary use. I don't want to show them I want to eat them  :nowink:

Ummmmm I have sown something, and it feels good  :D

More Flower Buckets obtained from the Co-Op today

Monday 26 January 2015

Compost & Red Wiggler Worms

Started cold but soon warmed up, tidying up the greenhouse and behind the shed. Cut some more timber and separated nailed sections with a hammer and a couple of large chisels.

Made some more soft milk bottle bricks and set some more sand in trays to dry.

Weed membrane around the first apple tree and spun some slate chippings to cover the weed membrane.

Checked compost bin 2 as we have had some very frosty mornings recently. The Red Wrigglers are still in there and doing there thing, not quite as fast and on speed as they were but bearing in mind how cold it's been, I'm impressed.

Sunday 25 January 2015

Vertical Garden Flower Buckets

I acquired a few more flower buckets from the local supermarket and decided to have a go at making them into vertical growing pots. So 60mm lines drawn at quarter points around the circumference at 75mm and 175mm from the bottom and then between them at 125mm up from the bottom.

Soldering Iron to melt a hole at each end of each line, then again backwards and forwards until all the slots were formed. I tried a small glass coke bottle, but a broom handle with the end cut off at an angle worked best in forming the shaped areas with a heat gun.

I have cut some small bore plastic pipe to assist in watering, there are drain holes formed about 15-20mm up from the bottom again at quarter points. I will fill the bottom 20mm with a mixture of stone, sand, Pop bottle caps water retaining gel and compost.

Wednesday 21 January 2015

Tin Foil Solar Reflectors

Using the corex signboard from the for sale sign I rescued from the road & traffic I cut panels to fit into the back of the space saver greenhouse and covered them in aluminium foil shiny side out, and have installed into the greenhouse.

Because the space saver has shelves at 290mm centres, the lower shelves don't get an awful lot of light. I have probably made the problem worse by adding small selves to the front section. Where the greenhouse is located means that it gets full sun in the morning and by the afternoon the apple trees provide shade.

I have made some reflective panels that can be added just behind the front shelf directly behind some the small propagators. I have a couple of more boards at the allotment I can bring home to complete a foil back panel for the whole greenhouse.

I now just need it to warm up so I can start growing seedlings.

Tuesday 20 January 2015

Seed Sorting because the Seed Parcel is on it's way

Frosty and very cold today, so more seed sorting and making of plant labels and scanning seed packets and making seed labels for the small zippy bags that my seed go into when the original seed pack is opened.  I made seed bags labels for the seed circle tomatoes - very interesting looking at the pictures on them and another 5 to add to the already extensive list. I need to work out how many and where to grow them it's split between the back garden and allotment.

I'm thinking of erecting a post on the corner of one of the beds to support the Christmas tree frame for the cucumber to grow up and screwing four hanging baskets at the top for some of the tomatoes. Am I asking to be hit by blight and then there is ensuring they are watered regularly? Need to think about that one.

I can't find the sprouts seeds I have been using for the last couple of years - must look back and see if I can find their name on my old diary, as the wife and kids love them, apparently mine don't promote flatulence. But I do have two packs I picked up last year

Wyevale 50p Sale RRP £2.99   30 Seeds Sow By Dec 2017 Thompson & Morgan Revenge F1 Hybrid
Wilko     25p Sale RRP    60p 300 Seeds Sow By Dec 2016 Eilko Eversham Special

I grow 8 Brussels Sprout plants which provide for Oct to  Christmas and frozen into the new year.  Looking at the packs if I start off the Evesham in February I could be harvesting by as early as September, and the Revenge from December to February.

The Eversham are large buttons and the Revenge are smaller sweet buttons. So the plan is to plant 4 of each plant.

As there are 300 seeds in in the Eversham pack and they will last 2 - 3 years I'm only going to need 10% of the pack even allowing for 50% germination so I have made up some packs to go into the seed parcel which is working it's way towards me. 

Batteries arrived for the quadcopter - I'm definitely going to need a lot of practice before taking down the allotment and attempting to video the plot and site. 

Monday 19 January 2015

Tomato Seeds - The cost per seed !

An appointment for a scan on my shoulder and rain stopped play with regards the allotment. But in the morning I completed the spread sheet on my Tomato plants. £41.63 worth of Tomato plants cost me £7.50 in the Wyevale sale as the Harbinger were free when you bought two packs of T&M seeds. so that's a saving of £34.13 just on tomatoes.
What I can't believe is the difference in the RRP vs quantity of seeds. 

Having the spread sheet I have worked out the cost per seed for all the different varieties I bought based on the RRP. The most expensive is the Heartbreaker at 49.8p so nearly 50p per seed and the cheapest is Moneymaker at under 3pence per seed 2.7p That's a 47p difference how on earth do they justify the difference in price? 
After the scan at the hospital, I went to Wyevale to have a look around and as the potatoes looked better than the BQ Potatoes at 3 bags for a £10 I have bought the last couple of years, I paid the extra and purchased

Gardeners Treasure Kestrel Second Early Scottish Basic Seed Potato £4.99 / 2kg
Gardeners Treasure Desire Maincrop Scottish Basic Seed Potato £4.99 / 2kg
Gardeners Treasure Cara  Maincrop Scottish Basic Seed Potato £4.99 / 2kg

I have the Early Swift 8 seed potatoes for a £1 from the £1 Shop so unless I see some other type of Early in Wilko or the 99p or £1 Shop that may be it on the potatoes. I need to find a couple of trays and put them out for chitting in the greenhouse, but they will come in when threat of Frost. 

Saturday 17 January 2015

Tomato Seeds

Up early so I finished scanning the packs of tomato seeds and making the labels for the little zippy seed bags that the excess seeds will go into once the packs are open. Below is the unopened Wyevale 50p collection. Many are 2016 so they will do this year and next year, and there is one pack with a date of 2017.

There are a lot of small cherry bush types and I want to grow them under cover at the allotment and in the back garden on the patio. I built the canopy / covered area extension to the Shed and I have the grow house Greenhouse up against the wall. There is also the greenhouse on the allotment and the Space Saver Greenhouse and Patio in the back garden.

As there are some hanging basket types, I'm also thinking of growing some in hanging baskets down the allotment as well as the back garden.

Next Job is to extract the information from the backs of the packs and make a spread sheet, Well if I can't sow yet at least I can do the background research so I know which one to sideshoot an which ones to leave alone etc. 

A trip down the allotment to silicone the panel on the greenhouse, I took the new tube of silicone as there may not be enough in the tube that's in the gun, forgot to take the gun - Doh!
OK so while I was there, I cut down sections of estate agent signboard posts for the corners of the hoop frames I'm going to make. The local vandals had ripped out the sign and chucked it in the road and the sign had gone but the post was salvageable and ideal for my needs.

I emptied the incinerator and broke up the fence panel slats and filled it up, topped it off with dried bean stalks off the frame.

Took the saw to the 3 office water bottles I rescued from the industrial site next door before they demolished all the buildings. These make really great cloches

Had a general tidy up, with each visit it's looking better and better and I'm gradually getting there.

Friday 16 January 2015

High Wind Checkup & Quadcopter Arrives

A trip to the allotment to see if the Perspex was still in the greenhouse after the high winds last night. As is suspected the panel next to the door was hanging on by the skin of it's teeth. I was going to drill some holes and screw it but in the end decided to use some silicon to hold the restraining strip in place so that it does not fall out and it still locks the panel in place.

A visit in the next couple of days to silicon the inside and we should be good, the door opens so easily now, I somehow miss the noise it used to make.

Various other bits and bobs had been taken by the wind and a couple of beds were partially uncovered so I fixed those problems and came home.

Quad copter arrived today, but I'm still waiting for the additional battery. So there will be some trial flights in the back garden and then the plan is to take it to the allotment to video it from the sky.

Sorting out my seeds and making small zip bag labels for the leftover seeds from the big packs once opened.

I have so many types of Tomato it's crazy, I really went too mad at the Wyevale sale last year. Looking at the list first candidate for the Seed Circle next year is Red Robin. They look as if I could isolate them in the bottom of the Space saver Greenhouse 

Thursday 15 January 2015


OK I've been looking at my onions, I bought way to many in the Wyevale sale but they will last 2 - seasons so it's all good. Below is a list of all the details off the backs of the seed packs and It's really confusing as they all say different things. The seed labels are all done and I have created the small seed bags to hold the remainder of the seeds once I open the packets.

I have brought some seed compost indoors and have warmed it up and its now in the mini propagator with the labels for my first Onion seed outing which will be towards the end of this month. I have to hold off because of the weather and that I don't have a heated greenhouse to move the seed onto once they have germinated .

3 rows 18 modules of Alisa Craig Sow Dec - Jan
3 rows 18 modules of Globo        Sow Dec - Jan
2 rows 12 modules of Bedfordshire Champion Sow Feb - April
2 rows 12 Modules of Sentero F1  Sow Feb - March

Once they are ready they will be moved out to the allotment to the grow house in the greenhouse or the Space saver greenhouse in the back garden. 

Wednesday 14 January 2015

Who touched my potatoes?

Introducing... Potatoe of the carbriean, Alvin and the chipmunk, the untateables, hoot potatoe, couch potatoe, punk potatoe, sm-masher potatoe...sure sign my sister Elaine is round...and had a few glasses of wine.

Photo credit Kelly Wooldridge

They obviously were not "Swift" enough to get away from her

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Freecycle pickup and drop off at allotment

I went after a couple of dustbins with locking lids on freecycle and was told if the person didn't have them I could. On Sunday got an email saying they had gone but that they guy had one dustbin with a lid and one leaking water butt with lid but they are not locking and I could have them if I wanted them.

I was after the original for storage of nets and the like, thus giving me some breathing room in the shed and the greenhouse, so I said yes

Dropped off the wife at her sisters and went on to pick them up and then drop them off to the allotment. Whilst there I emptied a couple of watering cans of water from the full water butt on the greenhouse into the empty one as it was leaning over after a cat spring boarded off it and onto the wall as I approached the plot 

Monday 12 January 2015

Fixing the Greenhouse Door

Got down to the allotment about 8:30 - Ice on the front of the car and the water sitting on top of beds 15a & 15b were ice. It was chilly but the sun came out to play this morning and made the morning on the allotment really nice.

Just Andy and I as usual on the Sunday morning, beautiful (my robin) didn't make an appearance today and I didn't hear him singing to me so no idea where he was. Perhaps he was not interested in me as I was not digging today.

During the week I picked up 4 lengths of 2.4m decking and cut them in half and they have been laying on the back seat of the car ready for today. I have loads of slug trap POP bottles to deliver as well.

We have been having some high winds over the last few days, and Barry's black trap has all caught up with my young plum tree and the small rope and timber posts along the boundary. The damp proof membrane on bed 11 and blown off and the membrane was over the path and on bed 10. So that got recovered and I used more soft bricks to hold it down.

I started off the fire in the incinerator that has been sitting there with all the dried bean stalks in and I also managed to burn two flower buckets of broken up fencing that I left to dry in the greenhouse last week.

The main job today was to repair the greenhouse door so I removed it and set about trying to find the new wheels for the top runner which meant clearing out the inside of the greenhouse that really needed to be done. I have been storing all the pop bottle slug traps and milk bottles for soft bricks in there plus the timber for making up hoop frames, so the whole lot had to come out.

I found that the Perspex panel behind the sliding door had popped. As I could not get access due to the water butt, I ended up attaching a hose and drainage all the water so I could move the water butt out of the way to gain access. I tried to re fix it but the plastic strips that hold the panels in place never did really hold that corner very well. So next visit I will take a drill and some PK screws and some translucent silicon and glue and screw the corner in place. For the moment I have left material up against the panel to hold it until I can repair it.

It appears that the corner panel was what was popping the door off its bottom runner. I re fixed the door and sprayed the plastic wheels on the top with WD40 and they no longer shriek when the door is opened. I didn't find the replacement wheels until it was nearly time to go home, typical.

So no major advancement other that the greenhouse is much tidier and better ready to cope with the impending trays of young seeding's in a couple of months. I did manage to make 3 more soft milk bottle bricks from the dried sand, and I have filled up all the metal trays so that the sun can dry the next batch of sand out. All the milk bottles are now in a couple of square flower buckets in the tomato grow house against the wall, together with the timber for the hoop frames keeping dry.

I ran out of time, but I did spot the wood preservative, it's on the shelving behind the shed, which means I'm going to have to clear all that out to get at it so that I can paint the bases to the hoop frames before I construct them.

I came home at 1:00 and brought a couple of bags of seedling compost home so that I can have a go at growing onions from seed. After Sunday dinner l washed and cut up the remainder of the nursery seed tray modules to domestic size tray sizes and washed them out ready for sowing.  

Thursday 8 January 2015

Brother P-Touch 1000

6th & 7th January 2015 - Rain yesterday and I've been a bit busy to go to the allotment to fix the door to the greenhouse, but I did manage to have a hour yesterday and today washing, cleaning seed trays and cutting down some large nursery 20mmx20mm x30mm deep modules to fit my Full, Half and Quarter seed trays for the Space Saver greenhouse in the back garden.

I need it all ready for the end of the month beginning of next month for when I start my onions off, Once Germinated they will go out to the Space Saver Greenhouse in the back garden.

I've been using my Christmas present the Brother P-Touch 1000 to produce labels for my seedlings over the last couple of days. The coloured sample tapes they supply with it are really naff. £19 in Ryman for original tapes but £4 something on ebay. The Black on White laminated tapes look really good. 

So far I've done labels for Tomatoes, Spring Onions, Beetroot, and the different types of lettuce.

Monday 5 January 2015

Winter Tidy Up

A more slow start to the day, still up early 6:20, but breakfasted and made a flask of coffee and left for the allotment arriving around 8:30. There was a dead rat at the entrance looks like the foxes have been playing but were not hungry enough to eat it.

Cold today and everything is wet from the rain yesterday and overnight.

I managed to get through 3 pairs of gloves as they were getting muddy and wet. But I did manage to remove the hoops from Bed 13, dig it over and remove the remains of the cabbage stem and roots, and a few weeds and then manure. I'm leaving this bed open at the moment, so that it may benefit from some weathering before covering it up. There are quite a lot of stones in this bed. 

Hoops stored behind the shed and the netting has gone over the wintering onions, so that they are double netted which may help them a little if we get more heavy frosts, plus it saves me finding a home for the netting and taking the edging on the long sides off.

The foxes have dug out into woodchips around the daleks, so I picked up all they had left on the path as a result of their digging and put it back. Actually they have been digging in most of the woodchip paths, looking for worms I'm guessing. Raked all the paths where the foxes have been digging.

Bed 11 was un-covered, dug over and a sack of stable manure added then recovered.  Beautiful my little Robin came and said hello and was feeding on bed 11 while I was working it. He as grown into such a little round fellow he obviously has been eating well for the winter.

Timber fencing slats that were being used to hold down membrane are going mouldy, so a lot of them have been broken up and placed in square flower buckets and put in the greenhouse to dry off. Once they are dry enough I will have a burn up, I have the incinerator full with dry material ready to burn.

General tidy up of the allotment mainly at the bottom end of the allotment, bags of wood chips used to tidy up the bottom of the central path. Lots of plastic extrusions used for the netting has been put back on the storage rack.

Washed off and spun some freecycle slate fragments I obtained last year, using a spinning head mop bucked I no longer had a use for and have brought down to the allotment for that very job. I will let the rain wash out the remainder of the soil, and do more loads in future visits. I need the slates to top up around the apple trees and the grapes. 

Checked the daleks and saw some nice red worms being very active in Dalek2 doing there thing.

The Greenhouse door came detached again, as I was shutting it to leave. So next visit I will have to fit the new rollers and re hang it. I have pushed a garden chair up against it for the moment to stop the wind taking it away before I can fix it.

Came home around 1:00- so a good 4.5 hours of potting around, and the plot is looking all the better for it.

Friday 2 January 2015

Tomatoes & Onions

Planning and using my new label machine - 20mm x 20mm x 30mm deep modules 8 in a tray width so I will try sowing 2 rows of the following:-

16 x Alisa Craig
16 x Bedfordshire Champion Onions
16 x Globe the Giant Onion
16 x Hytrch F1
16 x Kamal F1
16 x North Holland Blood Red Redmate
16 x Red Baron
16 x Santero F1
16 x Stuttgarter Riesin 

Wife thinks I'm barmy as an Onion is an Onion but I want to monitor germination rates and see and taste the difference. Plus I bought way too many seeds in the 50p Wyevale Sale. The same is somewhat true of the Tomatoes and I have the labels now ready for

100s & 1000s
Cherry Cascade
Gardeners Delight
Money Makers
Plum Roma
Red Robin
Sweet Mullion

There will be other tomatoes from the Seed Circle pack added to this list. I want to monitor success rates of germination and ultimately yield and taste from all these this year. In some of these packs there are only 6-8 seeds and as I can grow in the back garden and at the allotment I'm thinking of sowing 4 seeds per type so that germination rate will be 100, 75, 50, 25 or zero%