Sunday 31 July 2016

Busy Sunday Morning on Both Plots

It's been a very nice bright dry and not too hot Sunday morning with cloud cover rolling in around 11:45. First on the agenda for the morning was a visit to Mill Green and plot 1A to see if the beetroots were ready for harvesting, from the look of them they can do with a couple of more weeks.

Watering the toms in the extension to the little shed on the allotment, the butternut squash and the cucumbers that have finally started to climb the netting.

I was harvesting more parsnip seed off my parsnip trees, when Barry arrived an promptly complained about the comfrey growing on the boundary between our plots so even though I had already topped up the pipe I harvested more and topped the pipe up and them spread the remainder as a mulch around the runner beans.

I trimmed back the grapes and filled a tug full of cuttings to take to Spencer Road Plot 23B. My brother-in-law was on his plot and made a cup of coffee which was a good start. Dalek one was watered, paper shredding's were added and then the vine cuttings, a sprinkle of coffee grounds and a layer of comfrey followed by another layer of shredded paper.

Two trays of spring onions and two of celery were planted in bed 4 and some were left for Joe. I gave the plants a good soaking, as well as bed 2 the cucumbers, spring onions and tomatoes and bed 1 the butternut squash that is watered via the two pop bottle stacks. 

After watering a dressing of coffee grounds as a slug and snail barrier were added to the bed and this will be worked into the soil on a future visit to also act as fertiliser. 

Pots filled with compost have been placed under the strawberry runners, and from the look of it I'm going to need some more pots next visit to get the rest so I have some new strawberries for next year.   

Thursday 28 July 2016

First Burpless Cucumber

The Tomatoes in the back garden had a bit of a trim up this morning

On the way out to pick up some shopping, I stopped by Plot 23B to drop off leafs, flowers and grass clippings for Dalek 1, a layer of paper shredding's and a sprinkle coffee grounds all watered and laid down in layers.

I also took the opportunity to pick the first of the Burpless Cucumber, that's one salad item I will not be buying today.

Wednesday 27 July 2016

Plan Your Work - Work Your Plan

OK remember the plan yesterday was to plant spring onions on visiting Spencer Road today. Well that didn't happen! - I only just managed to get the Party Wall Awards completed and bound in time to get to the post office for the last post to ensure they got delivered tomorrow, as the first lot went missing in the post.

So no time to load up the car with veg to plant, and I didn't even put the sack of grass cuttings in for the Dalek. I did manage to get to the post office in time and then when on to the allotment to be loitering around on the plot so that I could be called over after the committee had voted me in.

Whilst waiting, I continued de stoning bed 4, and harvesting the beetroots from bed 2, the foliage/ beetroot leafs were cut up and put into Dalek 1. It was comforting to see a few red wigglers in the bin, so hopefully I've got it about right and I'm creating good stuff for next use year.  

Cucumbers Butternut Squash & Bed 4

Having two plots on different allotments means that I alternate Sundays and thus sometimes especially when I'm busy and can't get down for a couple of extended lunch breaks during the week that it can be 10 - 14 days between visits to the new plot, as it has less that needs watering.

To my surprise the cucumbers had gone absolutely mad but had failed to climb the frame and were making their way towards the butternut squash on the path, so I had to untangle them and assist them in climbing the frame.

On closer inspection I have a cucumber that is growing through the mesh. Doh! if I had seen that I could have prevented it, on the plus side there are a few reasonable cucumbers on their way which should be ready to harvest shortly.

I love the large and small one side by side the photo.

The Crimson Crush from self saved seeds are growing at a slow rate and they are after all only an experiment to see what I get. The Purpulette Spring Onions are coming on nicely and the Beetroots need to be harvested as they have bulked up nicely in the last few weeks.

Within those 10 days since my last visit the Butternut squash have decided to take over not only Bed 1 but had spilled out into the path and was making its way towards the cucumbers but working on covering the paved area behind where the greenhouse will finally go.

I'm not worried about the paved area behind the bed, but I have encouraged the squash to grow back on the bed and away from the cucumbers. The two Crimson Crush Toms are getting dwarfed and I suspect will either curl up their toes or fight and rise above the squash.

The Lady Christie potatoes in Bed 2 are on their way down, but as I've just harvested a load of Charisma from Plot 1A they can stay in the ground a little longer. 

Bed 4 was de stoned and the area where the ants nest was dug and weeded, then the Wolf Miller was applied and more stones brought to the surface as a result. I can not believe that there are so many large stones when you consider how long these allotments have been here.

There is a Committee meeting tomorrow and I have been nominated to join. So the plan is to get some of the spring onions out of the Spacesaver at home and finally in the ground. and if there is enough time before the meeting the harvest the beetroots. 

Inspection Site Agent & Contracts Manager

I was over the allotment early to assist in identifying the plot numbers for the deputy head of parks, a result in the fact that non cultivation notices have spurred some action to tidy and do some work. not so good when it results in fly tipping on an empty plot that is being treated for Japanese Knot Weed.

It looks like two notices to quit will be sent, problem is finding one two of the eight on the waiting list mad enough to take the plots on as parks have no money to clear them. I suggested the first year free of charge as an incentive.

I managed to get some paths cleared and more parsnip seeds harvested from the parsnip tree.

I met the Redrow Site Agent and Contracts manager who appear to be happy to assist in the formation of the drop off and pick up area when they get started, which is good news especially as the access road will be closed to parked cars except on Sundays.

Monday 25 July 2016

Potatoes & Parsnips, Celery & Carrots

A short visit to the allotment as I needed to plant some carrots started off in modules donated by my brother-in-law, some celery, cut back the dying foliage to the Estima Potatoes harvesting 2/3 of the bed and finally collecting the seed heads off the parsnip tree.

Sunday 24 July 2016

Shed Door / Gate

I have been far to busy with work to get down to the allotment during the week to do anything which is a real shame as the weather has been marvellous the last week if not tropical.

I would have liked a swift visit Saturday, but the support to the shed door/ gate has been on it's last legs for a year, I did a Heath Robinson on it as the washing machine and tumble dryer need to be removed in order to replace the supporting timber. Then the washing machine stopped working Tuesday !!.

No excuses now as the washing machine has to come out to be replaced. I looked for a gate kit and was shocked how expensive they had become in 25 years since I built the original. So I managed to make a new gate for less than half the price by buying economy decking and building it myself and painting all the timber before assembly ready for Saturday.

I managed to get it mounted with a little help from Keith who stood inside an held it up, once he left some tweaking of the internal benching that holds the tumble dryer over the washing machine, and I started some notching of the timber stop because this door has three horizontal bars rather than the original that only had two.

Another coat of paint Sunday morning, and collect the new washing machine Sunday afternoon.

Sunday 17 July 2016

Mill Green Allotment Update

Well when I visited the allotment on Sunday I found out why the road was off limits for a couple of days last week. The container offices, and welfare facilities for the project have been installed on the nice base with acco drainage that was cast the week before.

I was really hoping that the main entrance off the junction of Mill Green and Middleton Road was going to be used for the project, and we would be able to use the road for parking, but it looks like we are stuck with limited access for the whole duration of the build.

I have written to Redrow and requested their assistance in for formation of a pick up and drop off area just behind the timber gates to the allotment that can be seen at the end of the access road that serves both construction sites and the allotment.

It would certainly assist Mencap who have two half plots and a full plot on the site, as well as the rest of us. In anticipation of the access problems I'm growing less watering dependant crops at Mill Green this year, but even with the Heath Robinson watering system in place I and others still need to visit every 2-3 days depending on the weather to keep plants alive in the grown houses and green houses. 

The runners are doing particularly well, I need to try and visit mid week to
water especially if we get the heat wave they are talking about.
The Parsnip tree looks to be on it's last legs so I will have to keep an eye on it to collect the seeds. The first early spuds are dying back and I'm guessing Sunday Mill Green will get my full attention and the spuds will be harvested.

The sweetcorn is about 900mm (3 feet) high but no corns forming at the moment, and the beetroots are fattening up. The sprouts are on the way up and some stakes will need to be installed soon.

The cucumbers are not doing as well as those at plot 23B and the slugs have destroyed one of the butternut squash as well as making holes in my overwintered cabbage that has now decided to bolt.

Plot 23B Bed 4 is in

The plan for today was to get bed 4 dug over and weeded, so first thing on the agenda was to uncover the area and expose the bed to the air. 

On inspection there were slugs that were dispatched to sluggy heaven. An ants nest that was dug around and finally turned over and the ants went about saving their eggs. I don't particularly want to put ant powder down but I can't have them living in the middle of the bed.

The bind weed has done it's best under the plastic to grow and I dug out the live and growing bind weed first.

There was a 900 mm long spiked metpost that had to be dug out so that I could get the bed frame in place,

Half way through the morning I took a break from digging and strimmed the path at the rear of the plot and up to the water tank and stand pipe. I want to form a slot in the path and sink the hose is so that it does not get strimmed and punctured

Once the battery ran out it was back to digging, it was hot but at least overcast and I'm so glad I took a flask of coffee and a 2 litre bottle of fizzy water. I need it to replace the sweat from all the digging and weeding.

I managed to remove nearly half a square bucket of stones and concrete from the area and came home with a black sack of weed roots, bits of timber, glass, metal and old weed membrane from the area of bed 4.

In total dug and weeded about 5 square metres of bed and paths.

The frame was put in place and I started raking the soil and removing more stone and debris. Before I knew it I had to start packing away and recovered the path and bed 6 with the grey plastic damp proof membrane over the ground and the tarp covered ground and put the weights on top to keep it in place.

The metpost spike can be seen in the photograph of bed 4 & 2. The Burpless cucumbers are climbing and there are little cucumbers behind the flowers, The purplette spring onions are fattening up and the beetroots are now forming larger leafs and I'm hoping will fatten up a lot more than they are at the moment  

I'm guessing there is about another 30 - 45minutes of raking, weeding and removing stones to do before I can put the spring onions in Bed 4, but with white rot on plot 1A they really have to go in on plot 23B.

The Butternut squash are beginning to wonder around bed 1 but I can't see any squash forming yet.

Days like today make me feel that I'm making headway and I'm hoping that have at least another four beds in by Christmas which will mean that 50% of the infrastructure will be in place.   

I'm hoping that next year is a much better growing season than this year has turned out to be at least I should have two greenhouses on the allotment in play next year.

Saturday 16 July 2016

Modified MK V Bird Scarer

Here is my modified MK V Bird Scarer. I wondered why it kept rocking backwards before I noticed one of the blades was the wrong way around... Doh!,

All fixed at the end of the video when it's spinning in a light wind.

Freecycle came up trumps again and I managed to pick up 12 small 300x300 concrete paving stones that will fill the gap I have where the greenhouse is going

Wednesday 13 July 2016

Allotment Security and Parking Mill Green Allotment

As readers of this blog will know, back in August 2014 I found out that not only was the office building with the car park that allotment holders use on the North Boundary (behind Plots 1 & 1A) going to become residential but the light industrial complex on the West Boundary (Behind Plots 14A - 9) had obtained planning permission for redevelopment and that all car parking locally to the site would be lost when both development start.

I gained approval of the parks department for creating a drop off and pick up area by clearing the overgrown and wild area between the fence shown dotted and plot 14A which has bees on it. We did manage to get the area cleared and the site caretaker for the light industrial site on the West had managed to save us some materials so that we could arrange a working party and fence the area off. Then the travellers hit the site, mayhem and vast quantities of rubbish appeared as fast as the materials disappeared.

The site on the West appeared to be taken up by two development companies since then and finally Redrow appear to have bought it and have at last installed more robust protection in addition to employing security men with dogs to prevent another site invasion. They pop into the allotment from time to time for water for the dogs.

I have written to Redrow to see if they would be kind enough to assist in the formation of the pick up and drop off area, especially as Mencap have plots 13, 13A & 14 on the allotment and they are not going to be able to get their mini bus and cars that they bring their day care members anywhere near to the entrance of the allotment. 

The fence on the boundary of the allotment and site has been historically bodged by the councils fencing contractor, and on the planning drawings is not down for replacement during the re development of the site. I am aware that Redrow are in discussion with the council regarding the replacement of the fence and that make all kinds of sense as it will be easier for the contractor to undertake the drainage works required, as plots 9 & 10 flood in winter and during flash floods like we have had recently, and both the council and Redrow have a Japanese Knot weed problem to resolve in that area.    

I will update you on the situation once I receive a reply from Redrow regarding the request for assistance.

Monday 11 July 2016

Comfrey Bed 2 Daleks In Place

A swift visit to plot 23B to drop off 3 of the buckets with lids of coffee grounds and compost for Dalek 1. Whilst there, I managed to get the next three Daleks in place behind Comfrey Bed 2. The small Dalek 6 in the corner now contains the coffee grounds that I have not had time to process and dry out. This will be my overspill storage for the moment when I get too much to process, or there isn't enough sun to dry it out.

Three of the comfrey roots planted have just started to produce more leafs, two are still to show any sign of life.   

Sunday 10 July 2016

Onion White Rot

I managed to harvest my Overwintered Senshyu Japanese Onions this Sunday but have lost six of the biggest to white rot, I've had similar problems with spring onions in past years but for some reason it's never given me problems with larger onions.

So I'm thinking of growing all my onions in containers or flower buckets next year using a mixture or coir and compost, coffee grounds, and perhaps some Blood fish & bone to start off with, then a comfrey tea feed every 2 - 3 weeks.

Anyone grown onions in containers and managed to get a good crop?
Any suggestions ?

Saturday 9 July 2016

Kerb Edgings Picked Up and Dropped off

A thank you to Andy for donating 6 full and one broken 900mm long kerb edgings, which he can't take with him when he moved next month.

These were collected and laid roughly along the edge of the paved area where the greenhouse will go and along the next two beds.

More than likely some may find there way into the greenhouse frame to weight it down when the greenhouse finally gets erected.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Drying Coffee Grounds And A Soldering Iron

Not a lot of news about it, but Natwest bank is closing branches and reducing their staff as they promote on line banking. My sister is likely to be moved from the branch she is at if she is not made redundant in this wave or the next wave which is rumoured to be aimed at around Christmas, isn't that going to be a nice Christmas present for the staff affected?

Each day she treats herself to a coffee from the coffee shop opposite her branch, and once a week she comes round to my house for a drink and evening meal. I pick her up behind the coffee shop and she arranges for me to collect a sack or two of coffee, as I need it.

As she may not be there for much longer I have taken to collecting every week and I'm building up stocks of coffee. The problem is drying and storage. The large gravel trays below were moved around the garden following the sun and the grounds moved around every half an hour for a couple, of days. 


I have small trays of coffee in the Spacesaver greenhouse at home. I have bought some metal loaf backing trays as metal trays dry the coffee out faster as they metal warms up.

I also have some coffee drying in the greenhouse on plot 1A and the blow-a-way grow house on plot 23B is full of drying coffee.

I was thinking about perhaps having a dalek just filled with coffee ground but coffee grounds goes mouldy if left damp and in the sacks for very long so I'm not sure that is a viable solution to the storage problem

Hamid the owner of our local Pizza Shop provides me with 10L Heinz Mayonnaise Buckets with Lids when he has them which I use for storage of seed sowing compost as well as coffee grounds but I need more than he can supply.

So I have had to become a little inventive, my first thought was to use the dried coffee to fill plastic milk bottles. As you will know if you have read my blog I use these full of sand or stones as soft bricks to weigh down nets and the weed membrane on the allotment. I use the top of a plastic bottle as a funnel as the neck if the bottle fits nicely into the milk bottle   

Again if you read my blog you will also know that I have a thing about re purposing pop bottles and attacking plastic items with the soldering iron. I've made shed loads of slug traps and pop bottle propagators and at the moment I'm just crashing and putting in the recycle bin. 

Suddenly a light bulb lit up above my head !.

I placed two caps top to top and melted a hole in them and in the process sealed them together so that I could join two pop bottles cap to cap, so now I have a pop bottle funnel that can be screwed to the top of a pop bottle and the excess coffee can be stored in the 2 Litre pop bottles.

I have left the caps off and placed a couple of coffee filled pop bottle in the greenhouse as the coffee is dry but not bone dry and there is bound to be some condensation and moisture that is going to want to get out of the bottle. But until I can get some more 10 Litre buckets with lids, I have a storage solution. 

Monday 4 July 2016

New Potatoes

Up early and potted up two tumberling toms from vending machine cups into tall pots to go on the top shelf of the space saver greenhouse, also potted up one in a hanging basket for Emma to take to work for the kids in the nursery.

A swift visit to Plot 1A to water the tomatoes and harvested New Potatoes grown in buckets and plant the Poached Egg Plants around the base of the runner beans.

Potted on some more Tomatoes and added them to the extension to the little shed On the Allotment

Comfrey Bed 2

I loaded up the car with most of the stuff that needed to go down the allotment plot 23B the night before with the exception of the two bags of grass clippings. Up dressed, breakfasted and on the plot at 7:55. I love these mornings when I'm first and the only one around. Just me and nature until the other plot holders start to slowly drift in.

I unloaded the timber and stacked it on the plot in an area that does not look to flood or puddle. Next I treated the weeds around the beds in the path with weed killer as it looked like the treatment the other day was not effective because of the rain later in the day.

The strip door curtain was slowly unwound and the old one that was in the process of loosing strips each time I visited was taken down. It was old but still in its packaging and was something I had saved from clearing my mothers house when she passed away some years ago.Next was decanting the coffee from the sack in the blowaway into small gravel trays, followed by trimming the vegetation that was encroaching onto my plot and the rear access path. I strimmed the grass on the path and the battery ran out just as I was finished because I had not fully charged it.

The Dalek received the two sacks of grass a sprinkle of coffee ground the vegetation I had trimmed and the lower leafs from the comfrey in bed one which you can see in the picture at the top of the page. Bearing in mind I took root cuttings from the top of the plants on plot 1A these comfrey plants are doing exceedingly well and I don't want to trim them until the end of the season as it's their first year of growth.

The root cuttings that I placed in loo rolls were showing leafs and I wanted to crack on and get Comfrey Bed 2 established. I turned over and weeded the area again and dug out the couch grass that had regrown/ That particular area has now been cleared three times and I want to make sure I have removed as much couch grass as possible as three compost bins will be taking up residence in this area and I don't want them riddles with couch grass and bind weed.

I finished with giving Comfrey Bed 2 a dressing of sawdust and well rotted manure as a mulch to hold off the weeds until the comfrey has chance to establish and cover the area like it has in Comfrey Bed 2

Next visit I will plant the Narcissus Tete-a-Tete bulbs that I bought from the Benhill-Crescent Horticultural Society Trading Hut like I did for Comfrey Bed 1  back in April.

Sunday 3 July 2016

End of Season Sales & Reductions

A quick trip to Wilko's this morning following notification of the start of the end of season sale reductions on the Grow Your Own Grapevine resulted in a purchase of:-

5 x Deep 52cm Gravel Trays ~ For the new greenhouse on Plot 23B.
8 x 22cm Gravel Trays ~ As 25p each a must have for coffee drying in the greenhouse.
2 x Unheated Windowsill Propagator Sets ~ Last two! I would have got 4 as they fit perfectly in the Space Saver Greenhouse.

5 x 850g containers of Slug Killer ~ 2 for Plot 1A, 2 for Plot 23B and 1 for home.
1 x Plastic garden sieve ~ For Plot 23B as I don't have one there.

3 x Packs of 3 seed tray insert with 15 cell modules each ~ Top up for next year as so cheap and stocks are dwindling.
1 x Pack of 5 x10cm Saucers (Black) ~ I wanted one for an end cap to the comfrey pipe.
1 x stripped door curtain ~ To replace the one that is falling apart on Plot 23B

There was so much I needed 2 trips to shop and car to get it all and carry it back to the car.

A visit to Wicks to get a hacksaw and picked up 4 more decking boards as they are £3.99 and by 4 for the price of 3 at the moment.

Working in the back garden in between rain showers, managed to get the garden gate re hung and the roof rack disassembled as the aluminium tubes will be useful as stakes.

Friday 1 July 2016

Storing Coffee Grounds

I picked up two more 10L HEINZ Mayonnaise buckets and lids from Hamid at our local Pizza shop last night.

This morning the rest of the two sacks of coffee were decanted from the sacks into the buckets to wait their turn to dry out in the trays in the greenhouse.

These buckets are so useful, I used the Brother P-Touch to make labels for the lids so I know if they have shredded paper, coffee or compost in