Tuesday 30 August 2016

Bargain stainless steel bulb/potato/leek planter...

I'm not on commission or anything... Just couldn't quite believe the price for what looks to be a quality tool

I saw this on the grapevine forum and had I not already have a geological soil sampling augur that I use to plant potatoes I will invest in one as they are being sold at £9.99 and with the postage £15.98 for a quality stainless steel gardening tool.

Click Here for more photos, details and to buy. 

I'm still a bit tempted to get one for my second allotment, perhaps British Garden Centres will send me one to review if they see this post and I'm lucky.

UPDATE May 2019 

Nope never got lucky but I do have many more types of Bulb Planters now to see them follow the hyperlink

Sunday 28 August 2016

Wyevale 50p Seed Sale - First Visit

It's that time again when you have to get down on the floor or bend over to find seeds in the half barrels at Wyevale, well at the Morden branch anyway, why they can't leave them hanging to make life a little easier is beyond me.

So a swift visit as it's my wedding anniversary and I have come away with

3 Packs of Thompson & Morgan Grazing Rye Green Manure
2 Packs of Thompson & Morgan Mixture Green Manure
2 Packs of all season Brussels Sprouts (Bright, Brodie & Braemar all F1)
1 pack Waltham Butternut Squash 8 seeds
1 Pack 6m Seed Tape carrots Early Nantes 5
1 Pack 6m Seed Tape Little Gen Lettice

and then as if I don't have enough tomatoes, but these are mainly F1's that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.

Alisa Craig
Cherry Cascade
Cherry Falls
Ferline F1
Sungold F1
Sweet Million F1
Tomatoberry Garden F1 
Tumbling Tom Red

The title of the post is First Visit because Dorking Branch usually has more and it's on tables and nicer and easier and more comfortable to rummage

Thursday 25 August 2016

The Beetroot Factory is Open

My sister-in-law had eight good sized beetroots and the rest we have picked tonight and managed to fill six large jars.

Cut down on cooking time by increasing the time in the microwave from 3 minutes to 4.5 to 5 minutes but it did make handling the pyrex dish a little tricky. See cooking in the microwave post   

I'm going to save the large 1.14 litre Sarson's Ready Spiced Pickling Vinegar Jar for the gurkings I'm going to grow next year for my sister. 

Tuesday 23 August 2016

Coir Supplies for Next Year

Last few visits to the Poundshop have resulted in the purchase of 16 number 10 Litres of coir that have been in different bags and finally today I had a bit of a sort out in the shed and filled an old plastic box with them all. That's not counting the few packs I have in the shed at the bottom of the garden.

It's highly unlikely that I will get to pick up any more and soon all the gardening stuff will be gone in favour of other seasonal items. But I have more than enough for early spuds in buckets and tomatoes next year, to get me going.

Ray Rascal & Rapunzel

I look forward to Ray or Praxxius55712 uploading a vlog episode on YouTube over the weekend ready for watching on a Monday morning with breakfast.

Ray is one of life's gentlemen, the kind of guy that if you really knew him you would feel better for the experience.

Rascal is the little "crackhead" dog that Ray adopted when he found him walking down the middle of the road.

I started watching Ray for the gardening, but I never knew that I would enjoy watching his videos about his goats, chickens and turkeys, never mind the other critters that come and visit him as much as I do.

Ray has been growing a new cherry tomato plant and I want to give it a go next year, it's called Rapunzel and the good news is that I have finally found a seed supplier in the UK that can supply the seed and most searches result in American based companies.

Jungleseeds have it, the bad news is that you can't just buy one pack of seeds from them, the minimum order is £10 so until more seed suppliers in the UK start holding them, I have had to hold the candle to the devil and buy three more packs of seeds.Exhibition Giant Marrow, Tomato Micro Tom and Tomato F1 Totem as I'm looking for more prolific smaller bush cherry toms for next year.

I will try Rapunzel in the back garden, in the two green houses and out in the open on the allotment next year in addition to the other tomatoes I have planned. If it really grows well like it has for Ray and in the photo images on Google in the UK climate, then I may not have to grow as many toms each year as I currently do.

See Rays video between 23:20 to 27:35

UPDATE Fellow Grapevine member Big Mallly found them for £4 on ebay but not UK based so if I need more in the future I will look there.

Monday 22 August 2016

Seed and Plant Spacing Rule

Someone on the grapevine posed a link to Sjef Garen Tips and the guy has lots of interesting builds and suggestions for making things easier, I've only just started working my way back down his tips but I found one from 2014 that I have worked on today which is about sowing small seeds individually with fixed distance

In his blog he posts a link to commercially available rule that's a metre long and cost £18.95 and no doubt some postage and packing, but suggests making your own so I did.

The small holes at each end are for the galvanised wire tent pegs, the larger holes are at 50mm centres, the bottom one is the cap off plastic rectangular electrical conduit and the top one is 700mm between the first and last planting hole so I can do half a 1.2m bed at a time, and is an offcut from an old plastic curtain rail.

Both strips of plastic were living in the shed as they could be useful one day and now they are.

I can see these being very useful next year, for beetroots, peas etc. and perhaps If I find another bit of plastic conduit or old curtain rail knocking around I may make one with holes at 25mm centres.

This now has me thinking, perhaps I could also make a couple of square foot gardening templates up.

Saturday 20 August 2016

Tomato Seed Audit & Seed Parcels

The nights are beginning to draw in and the Wyevale seed sale will be on over the bank holiday so it's time to start looking at my seed list and stocks and thinking about what I need more off and to replace. I do have a lot and I mean a lot of tomato seeds, orders from the family was that they didn't want yellow, purple, black or green toms so those that I have can be donated to fellow plot holders or go to a seed swap.

The wife does not understand why I need to try new varieties every year, in her mind as long as they are red she is happy. Then I point out to her that she likes plum and cherry but there are times you want larger or even beefsteak sized toms 

I'm about to send 20 packs of self saved parsnip seed to the GYO Grapevine Virtual Seed Parcel and as a result can request 20 packs of seed back so you guessed it I'm looking at tomatoes. Those whos stock I need to replace and those new ones that I want to try.
What is this a virtual parcel, well it differs to others that I have joint where a physical parcel normally a small box of a certain size to limit the expense is sent from member to member who has asked to be on the list and the parcel is tracked and the mileage traveled is recorded and the parcel tracked.  You open it up take out what you fancy and add seeds that you no longer want back into the parcel, then post it on to the next member.

The GYO Virtual Seed Parcel is only open to Grapes (members of the grapevine forum with UK return addresses) the seed are listed on the forum. It's fundamentally a seed swap system and has conditions of membership.

You must have been a member of the Grapevine for at least three months and have made more than 50 posts in those three months, which really is not hard to do as there are lots of interesting threads to contribute to and games on the forum.

Basically if you had 10 packs of seeds that you don't want, and you want to echange them for 10 on the list that you do want you look at the extensive list of seeds on The NEW Virtual Seed Parcel - Seed lists.and draw up your wish list. Then send your seed to Veggie Chicken the organiser and keeper of the pointy stick on the forum (as in she is one of the moderators) who will swap them for 10 packs you have selected if they have not already gone, and send them back to you.

One can send in as few or as many packs but there is a limit of 20 out at one time.

Normally I grow 8 toms in the Space Saver Greenhouse, 20 in the back garden in flower buckets, 4 - 6 out in the open on the allotment and 6 - 10 under cover and next year hopefully the new greenhouse will be erected on plot 23B

Below is an audit of my tomato seed stock.

Tomatoes Red

Amish Mayberry
Cherry Cascade– No Seed
Crimson Crush self saved experiment
Gardeners Delight– Too many packs give some away or swap 
Garden Pearl
Harbinger – one seed
Hundreds and Thousands – Definite in quantity
Kibitz – No Seed
Marvel Stripes
Money Maker
Necta Rose
Outdoor Girl – two seeds
Plum Roma
Purple Russian Plum
Rainbow Blend F1
Red Robin – Definite in quantity
Red Zebra
Sandpipe No Seed but plants growing in the SpaceSaver for seed saving this year 
Stupicke Poini Rane
Sunset Sweet Horizon – 3 seeds
Sunset Red Horizon - two packs 
Super Roma
Sweet Aparitif
Sweet Million No Seed
Sweet’n’Neat Cherry  No Seed
Tesco Mini Plum
Terenzo F1 Hybrid
Tomatoberry Garden F1
Tumberling Tom Red


Black Sea Man
Black Krim
Black Opel (Cherry)
Black Russian


Oleron Yellow
Nikolayev Cherry
Summer Cider
Wild Cherry
Yellow Cherry


Tomatillo Verde
Green Zebra

Friday 19 August 2016

Planning for Plot 1A 2017

It's getting to that time of year when you start thinking about next year,,,,, and I want to make sure I know where things need to go before I close the allotment down for the winter.

Wednesday 17 August 2016

Happiness Is

Finding the first ripe tomatoes in the Space Saver Greenhouse.

The outdoor tomatoes all got a hair cut again today so the sun can find the fruit. They also got their weekly feed this morning before the sun came around.

The Bees are more active around the flowers that have yet to turn into fruit. Now we just need the blight to hold off and the little darlings to start turning red like the ones in the greenhouse.

Tuesday 16 August 2016

Compost & Cucumbers

A swift visit to drop off compost materials and whilst there harvest another four Burpless Cucumbers, drag back the Butternut Squash that had decided to re invade Adams plot.

Water everything as it's been dry for a while. Dug up the area of three Lady Christie seed potatoes and got some really nice clean spuds. I shall grow them again! 

Install three bird scarers over the onions, video above. Put pots under the strawberry runners

The experimental Crimson Crush Toms from saved seed have gone bonkers and they have large fruit forming, however they are growing close to the ground as I didn't provide any support for them.

Then back home to continue with work.

Sunday 14 August 2016

Sunday Morning on Plot 1A

Due to the restricted parking because of the building sites on both sides of the entrance to the plot, I'm trying to only visit Plot 1A on a Sunday morning, sometimes briefly to water the tomatoes that are under cover and the crops that need it and to harvest.

I took the time to thin the leafs off the tomatoes and I'm underwhelmed with the amount of tomatoes this year.

The foliage from the King Edwards was dying back which is really strange and a little early as they are main crop?

I harvested the remainder of the Estima from bed 3 and got a bucket load of potatoes from three King Edwards from Bed 2. They are not particularly large and are main crop so I will leave them in the ground for a while longer before harvesting anymore. 

The Lady Christie on plot 23B which are early spuds are in a similar state to the Kind Edwards but they are Early Spuds so I will harvest them next.

A harvest of runner beans to hopefully stimulate some more flowers and beans.

 I assisted in the germination of the sweetcorn which has come on leaps and bounds

The Cucino Cucumbers are growing really well, but as we already have three burpless cucumbers in the fridge I'm leaving them to fatten up a little.

The butternut squash has finally decided to wonder over the bed but for the moment very little activity on the flower and fruit front. This one is far less active and productive than it's brother on plot 23B, but there again the bed on Spencer Road was laced with manure.

The comfrey pipe was topped up and as I now have a 2 litre bottle of pure comfrey I loaded a new milk bottle.

Two sacks of weeds from paths and bed 15 were removed to go to the dump. 

Friday 12 August 2016

Beetroots Onions and Saturn Solar Powered Lights

Emma decided that she didn't want her old shoe rack so I have repurposed it and it's now an onion drying rack which fits just nicely in the outside store overnight and when it's raining. The ample onions were donated to me by Joe one of my plot neighbours at Spencer Road when he found out I had a bit of an onion disaster growing from seed this year.

We finally got around to pickling the beetroot and this year we tried the microwave. It's not much faster but it's cheaper and less stream producing

Get one Pyrex dish with a lid
Prick the Beetroot so they don't explode!
Add 13mm or 1/2" of water and place the beets in the dish, put lid on.
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 10 minutes
Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 10 minutes
Turn beets over 180 degrees, put lid on
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes
Rest for 20 minutes
Test to see how easy the skins come off and if necessary
Turn beets over 180 degrees
Microwave on FULL power for 3 minutes, put lid on 
Rest for 10 minutes

The solar lights on the fence with the adjustable solar panel tops came from PowerBee and is called the Saturn and I have been most impressed with them, in fact I think they run rings around the cheap £1 shop ones I have bought in the past, OK OK I couldn't resist 

One was sent to me by PowerBee as a thank you for adding a link to their web site on the left panel of the blog.

As you can see they are much larger than the cheap £1 shop lights that have only lasted two years and were in need of replacement.

You can angle the solar panel on the top so that it picks up maximum power from the sun. They are particularly bright and last all night only going off when the sun returns in the morning.

The original one sent to me for review was placed in a flower pot that is fixed to a wall and I was so impressed at how long and how bright it was that I contacted PowerBee to see how much it would be to purchase another three to replace the four on the fence.

There are holes in the base plate that allowed me to screw them to the timber capping plated of the fence posts.

They are sold in even numbers and there is a discount structure based on quantity. See Here for more details.

Having had them in use for some time, I would highly recommend them. It will be interesting to see how they cope with reduced sunlight over the winter months and how durable they are?

I will try and update you on their performance same time next year.

Wednesday 10 August 2016

Butternut Squash

As the lawn mower was still in the car this morning I cut the grass at home and managed only a single sack of grass clippings before putting it away . A swift visit to plot 23B to drop it off ended in a Comfrey harvest and a layer of comfrey added to three Daleks and watered in.

I pulled in the butternut squash that was making it's way into Adams plot back onto mine and had a little look to see if I could see any squash growing

Loss & Gain

There comes a time when your children decide to make their own way in the world and leave the nest. Devastating for a Mother that feels like a large lump has been torn from her heart and as much as I would like to be seen as macho, I have to admit it I don't like sharing responsibility for the protection of my firstborn with another man and hate the empty bedroom we now have until my younger upgrades to the larger room.

We have had the, "You make sure you look after her and never hurt her or I will hunt you down like a dog and brake your knee caps" discussion, in jest but with the underlying serious message and marking of cards which was done to my satisfaction.

So the last two days have been assisting them with removals of all the stuff they have accumulated and been storing at home and in his mothers garage. I recall that when I finally got married and moved out my own father had the onset of Parkingsons and was not physically able to help as much as he would have liked, but he was there with advice and moral support with the rebuilding works and decoration that were required.

Wanting to help as much as I can but not get in the way to much I volunteered to deal with the garden which had pretty much turned to meadow, in addition to large furniture humping. As a result Monday was strimming the long grass and Tuesday was mowing and sucking up the cut strimmed grass and I ended up with around 15 sacks of grass which filled the car and was taken to plot 23B and filled nearly three Daleks. Good thing I had lots of shredded paper and woodchips/ sawdust and manure to add as browns.

So trying to look for any kind of positive, I do have another source of grass for my Daleks, and its a good excuse to visit and keep an eye on her on a regular basis not that I will need one.

Sunday 7 August 2016

More Celery & Spring Onions

It's time for the last of the Celery and Spring Onions to exit the Space Saver greenhouse and go into the vacant space in bed 2 at Spencer Road. Timber from the old door and excess timber donated by Andy was also taken down to the allotment.

Once I had planted the remainder of bed 4 and the half of bed 2 with Celery and Spring Onions, half a dozen Celery were left so I left them in Liz's Polytunnel as I asked last week if she would like a few, I'd rather donate to fellow allotment holder than turn them into compost.

Joe who had half a dozen Celery plants from me last week gave be some smashing spring onions and large cooking onions. 

Modifications to the watering system were made and I now have a watering spur at the bottom of that allotment that can reach the compost bins and the strawberries. I need to find a few more hoselok connections, and I suspect I have a few down on plot 1A.

The Burpless Cucumbers have gone crazy and I came away with three more massive cucumbers two of which will go to Emma and Elaine. The shed  received a tidy up whist I looked for the fittings for the hose and to make room for the timber. 

On the way home a drop off at Mill Green to pick some runner beans, water the tomatoes, assist the sweetcorn in fertilising the cobs, then home.  

Friday 5 August 2016

Re Potting Celery

The celery in the vending machine cups are getting a little to big and need potting onto larger pots so that's what I did this morning at 8 am

Thursday 4 August 2016

End of Season Gardening Sales

A swift visit to Wilko as there is talk about end of season reductions on the GYO Grapevine. very disappointing most of the sale stuff has gone and is being replaced with other goods and the only thing worth having was 10 Half Size Propagator tops at 10p each!

Happily the £1 shop had a good stock of Coir in so I bought 10 bricks, that means I'm all stocked up on coir and ready for next season. a few packs of 100 green cable ties, as you can never have too many and four packs of 10 galvanised tent pegs, as some on the allotment have really seen better days. Galvanised tool hooks, for when I can actually get back into my shed on Spencer Road, so it was not a wasted journey.

I was then asked to pick up a birthday present for my nieces little one so popped into ASDA and picked up two Seed and Feed tins reduced to £2 each, they will do for storage in the shed and for keeping the mice at bay and making bedding out of my plastic bin bags etc.