Monday 31 July 2017

Spring Onions in Flower Buckets.

As I have white rot on both allotments I'm seriously thinking about growing onions in cut down flower buckets over winter, question is for spring onions what minimum depth of container would be best?

I've made a mock up out of a based of square flower bucket from another creative project that I had made. I have a few buckets where the tops have split or become brittle. But I can cut them down to any height really.

The bottom of the handle hole in the side is 100mm from the bottom.

The two holes on all sides at about 10mm up from the bottom so the bucket can hold some water in the bottom to encourage the roots to go down and find the moisture.

The flower buckets measure 240 x 220mm

So if spaced at 20mm centres in both directions

240 / 20 = 12 spaces = 11 seeds
220 / 20 = 11 spaces = 10 seeds

11 x 10 = 110 onions

There are about 10 onions in a bunch bought at the supermarket so that's 11 bunches which would last us about 22 days at our average rate of consumption, so that a bucket needs to be sown every three to four weeks

I got to thinking about how to make the setting out the seeds easier and decided to make a Jig. So I cut a bucket to the same size as the one above and marked out the sowing pattern on the bottom of the bucket.

Then I found my trusty soldering iron, warmed it up and then made the holes in the base of the bucket with it.

The template will be used to flatten the compost in the growing flower bucket and to create holes with a dibber for sowing the onion seeds.

I can then sow the seeds, lightly cover over and hopefully job done. Looking at the back of the seed packs I have, most spring onions can be sown until the end on June, but three varieties can be sown in August so I will try all three Lilia, Performer and Winter Hardy White Lisbon in this bucket and then sow another in three weeks time. 

Self Seeded Something

Something that I thought was a butternut squash started to grow where my spuds have been planted in Bed 4 Two weeks later it looks like this

In the morning the yellow flower was open and it was massive, but had closed up by time I went home at 1 in the afternoon.

I moved it off Bed 2 and dug out the spuds and covered the bed ready for winter, then put it back so it can wonder over the adjacent bed 2.

But what's growing does not look like a butternut squash, It's not peanut shaped I have no idea what it is. I posted a couple of photographs on the Grow Your Own Grapevine forum and it was suggested that it could be a pumpkin.  I did put a couple of pumpkins in the compost dalek last year so it could well be one, but having never actually grown one before I would not know  

Funny isn't it but there is always at least one potato that get a fork through it when you dig them up, at least it wasn't a big one

Estima Potatoes from Bed 2

The Parsnips have died or been eaten by slugs so I will sow Beetroots in the remaining space in the weed membrane in Bed 6.

There was some white rot on some of the North Holland Blood Red Spring onions so I ended up harvesting the lot.

Saturday 29 July 2017

Making A Fashion Statement

Not really it's more a case that my glasses have broken in two and after trying Super Glue then Gaffer Tape which didn't work and the glasses fell off my face when I was shopping and they are the only Varifocals I have that I can see through, the older prescription is so far out of date, it's not like they were mine at all, I had to do something so that I could drive the car as my reading glasses are only good up to about four feet.

Epoxy Putty that looks a little like blue tack and a cocktail stick to the rescue, well I may look incredibly "Special" but at least I can drive the car until the new prescription replacement glasses come next week.

Just call me Jack Duckworth the second.

Sunday 23 July 2017

SoilFixer SF60 Experiment Update

From left to right

1) My Own Compost & Coir 50:50 
2) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 5% by volume
3) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 10% by volume
4) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 20% by volume
5) My Own Compost & Coir with Potato Fertiliser
6) My Own Compost & Coir with SF60 & 5% by volume with Potato Fertilizer

Nine weeks in of the 13 week growing period and since the last visit to the plot the growth of pot 4 which has the SoilFixer SF60 Super Soil Improver biochar/colloidal humus matrix added at a 20% by volume is looking more lush, taller and healthier than buckets 1 - 3. 

The first three buckets have always looked thirstier than the rest as noted on the visit on the 21st June. Buckets 5 & 6 also have greater growth of the leafy foliage that grows above ground known as haulm but are not quite as tall.

Potato plants turn yellow at the end of their growing season, and this is normal. But if the potato plant yellows before the tubers are ready for harvest, the plants may be infected by wilt fungi or infested with psyllids, and allotment holders are always worried about early blight and in all fairness because I had my wife in hospital with pneumonia and then she went back after turning into Hell Boy because of an allergic reaction to the antibiotics they sent her home with the experiment started much later then ideally I had wished..

So do buckets 1 - 3 think they are getting near to the end of their growing season? I don't know but for the sake of the experiment I will keep an eye on all the buckets and if I see signs of blight I will remove the halum on all buckets and give the spuds a couple of weeks before the reveal weighing and recording and blogging of the results.

It's going to be interesting to see what the difference is between the six buckets in terms of quantity, size and overall weight.

I know I said SF90 in the video but the product name is SF60

Friday 21 July 2017

I Won A Prize !

I'm stunned and very happy, I have just received this

The Wilkinson Sword Carbon Steel Collection worth £20.80

No covering letter only a dispatch note with an order no of my Surname - May

Wife - What gardening stuff you ordered now?Me   - Umm Nothing (wracks brain to think have I?)

Looking at dispatch note on the box I can see the first couple of items listed Weed Grabber, Patio Scraper. The dispatch note and certificate of Conformity states a value for each item and a total then I notice the invoice to FREE OF CHARGE ACCOUNT.

Then when I open the box and look at the contents, I recall this was a prize in the May Issue of Grow Your Own Magazine.

So who's a lucky boy then !

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Huge Sack of Grass Clippings

So before the storm that is predicted for this afternoon, I picked up a huge sack of grass clippings, took another half bucket of apples and kitchen compost and shredded paper to Mill Green Allotment and filled Dalek 8 right up to the top.

I also managed to plant my cucumbers and the spare sweetcorn into bed 7

Sunday 16 July 2017

Vandalism or Another Plot Holder ?

Either we have little darlings that are getting over the fence and committing random acts of vandalism or another plot holder wanted some rope and decided to cut the new one on my comfrey pipe and took it complete with the plant pot saucer.  

It has been suggested that kids brought onto the site and not controlled by their parents could be responsible as kids have been seen wondering around plots.

I'm not amused, and have asked if any other plot holder has had any problems.

 The Burpless cucumbers are in at the end of the Onion Bed 3, I'm hoping there is enough good weather to get a harvest, they do grow very quickly.

The self seeded butternut squash or marrow in potato Bed 4 looks like it's going for world domination.

Beetroots from the space saver not used on Mill Green on Friday fill in the gaps in Bed 6, it look like some of the parsnips at the right of the bed may have taken, I will have to wait and see what happens.

The bags of crushed glass paving sand had started to weather & perish so I spread them and laid as much paving as I could. look like I need another four bags to complete the paving then I can erect the greenhouse ready for next year.

I had never seen these guys before they are Cinnabar Moth Caterpillars and they normally feed on the leaves and flowers of Common Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). Occasionally found on other ragworts and groundsels.

Thanks to Veggie Chicken on the Grow Your Own Grapevine for identifying them for me.

I then saw some ants attacking and chasing and riding one along the bed edging

Friday 14 July 2017

Meeting with Redrow & Council Officers

This morning I had another meeting with Redrow and the council officers regarding the formation of a pick up and drop off area, Redrow are to confirm exactly what they can do for us and then the Local Authority will provide them with a letter of comfort confirming that they are happy for Redrow to undertake the work on their land.

I took four seed trays with me, one of the reasons we need the drop off and pick up area, two of sweetcorn that went into Bed 1 (picture below) a tray of beetroots and of cucumbers.

The remainder of the sweetcorn in vending machine cups are sitting on the table waiting to go into another bed or be used as a backup if the foxes attack again.

Bed 2 has the earlier sowing of sweetcorn and an anti fox barrier around the bed and is progressing well, one corn has been damaged but has been replaced with a spare

Bed 3 Beetroots and French Beans is doing well, I filled in some of the gaps with Beetroots grown in vending machine cups in the Space Saver Greenhouse

I didn't have time to get the cucumbers in, so they are on the table hardening off and will go into a bed Saturday or Sunday morning.

Tuesday 11 July 2017

Agapanthus Plant & View from The Greehouse Door

One of the things that I truly love now that I work from home is that when I look out of my office, I look straight into the back garden and at the end of the paths under one of the apple trees is an Agapanthus plant that was given to me by an old neighbour that I had known since I was a kid.

It started life in a smallish pot and got moved up every few years until it finally went in the ground under the apple tree. It thrives on neglect, It gets watered very occasionally and that's about it.

Each year we get more and more stems and flowers. last year I saved a head and harvested the seeds and have sown them in a pop bottle propagator and now have some little seedlings that needed to be transplanted into vending machine cups

Agapanthus Seedlings

Burpless Cucumber 2nd sowing ready for transplanting 

As Cucumbers do they sulked a little after being transplanted

But by the end of the day they had their Act together

The loan first Burpless Cucumber in the front of the tray really needs to go in the ground soon, in the rear of the tray are Marketmore Cucumbers and some Butternut squash

The second sowing of Lark Sweetcorn can go in the bed this weekend

A top up tray of Beetroots to fill the gaps at Spencer Road

Monday 10 July 2017

Gardening Sunday

I spent the morning clearing up around the garden, I had a bucket from my neighbour who was keeping chickens and saved the sawdust and poo for me. I've collected all the fallen apples and had nearly a bucket worth of them. A bucket of spent compost, and a bucket of shredded paper plus the last few tiles left over from the wet room conversion.

In the afternoon I picked up a sack load of warm cooking grass from my sister and took the lot to Mill Green to feed Dalek 6 which was once again down to half way full and ended up two thirds full by the time I had finished applying in layers and wetting down.

The SoilFixer Potatoes in Buckets looked a little thirsty so I tried as best as possible to ensure they all received the same amount of water. With the Redrow building site next door the biggest problem is access and parking so the usual mid week visits just have not been happening since they started work. These are 7 weeks into a 13 week growing period so harvesting should take place around the 21st or end of August blight permitting.

I watered everything and replaced a sweetcorn that something had pulled out of the ground, the French Beans planted last week are just showing.

I have two craters that I can fill using spent compost where the Cherry Trees were, as I donated them to my bother-in-law Keith as they are cookers and his wife Pauline likes to make jams and preserves where as my wife isn't into that kind of thing. Keith & Pauline were also in the plot and I went to look at the trees in there new home, on Keith's second plot which is dedicated to fruit. Somehow they looked a lot larger on his plot that they did on mine.  

I then made my way to Spencer Road Allotment to water and drop off the wall tiles and watered the beds there.

The beetroots in Bed 6 which was the over wintered Japanese onions are starting to bulk up a bit which is good, so between Mill Green and Spencer Road I should be ok for Beetroots this year. We pickle and distribute so many jars around the family each year. 

I harvested some red spring onions, but I only have one air onion with bulbs which is disappointing, I'm glad the Catawissa Walking Onions at the back of the plot aare doing so well and hopefully I will have enough bulbs to create two beds worth next year. 

A butternut squash or marrow has decided to self seed in the potatoes in Bed 4, for the moment I'm not going to remove it I will try and work around it.

Bed 1 needs clearing, it was supposed to be for Parsnips, but I have not got around to clearing or sowing. I must see if I can squeeze in some parsnips they may not be large but it would be nice to have some. 

Bed 2 the potato foliage has wilted, so I've pruned the plants down to ground level, about an 1 inch above the soil surface. Don’t cut them any lower than this, as you may expose the tips of shallow potatoes. I will now wait at least two weeks two weeks before digging out the tubers out to allow the potato skin to thicken.

So much infrastructure works is required on this plot, I really need to get onto it once the harvests are in and the existing beds are put to sleep for the winter.

Saturday 8 July 2017

Watering at Depth

I try where I can to use pop bottles with pin holes in the caps and around the tops with the bottoms cut off to turned upside down and buried in the ground to assist me in watering at depth, so the root system of the plants goes and looks for the water rather than surface watering which is especially important for root vegetables.

2 Litre pop bottles are better as one can pop the hose head into the pop bottle, the small 330ml coke bottles fit neatly into smaller weed membrane planting sheets but they don't have the capacity for holding the hose head.

Long slender necked 1 litre Tonic Water bottles are idea as they give you the best of both worlds, a nice long slender neck and a diameter that will allow the hose head in. 

But as I don't use to many tonic water bottles I've made the best of both worlds by cutting a hole in the top of a 2 litre bottle just big enough to pull a 300ml pop bottle through and create a seal.

Necessity is the mother of invention

Friday 7 July 2017

Watering Visits & Absent Neighbours

A watering visit to both plots early this morning as the promised thunder & lightning with rain warned about by the met office service didn't happen.

I have seeds sown and crops that are feeling the heat. In the photo banner above you can see that the plot to the left of mine has once again been left to go to seed. Brambles, bind weed and nettles are making their way into my plot and I'm dealing with the invasion as best I can but once the wind takes those seed heads I'm doomed.

I managed to fill the leaf bins up with the leafs that had been in the sacks. whilst watering at depth. 

On the Spencer Road site I topped up the comfrey pipe as the level had dropped by about 400-450mm as the weight had completely disappeared into the pipe.

Sunday 2 July 2017

Weeds Weeds Everywhere....

Another Mill Green Sunday morning visit to continue with the battle against the weeds, the paths are in desperate need of new woodchips as they are turning into really nice soil and the weeds know it !

To say I'm behind on growing and maintaining the plots this year would be an understatement, due to works undertaken at home & health problems in the family that resulted in a couple of stays in hospital for my good lady wife, I'm not where I would like to be with either plot, but the basics are in or about to be in, just in time I hope.

The sweetcorn is looking good and for the moment the fox barrier appears to be working, I have another bed load of sweetcorn underway in the Space Saver Greenhouse at home.

Lots of the soft brick milk bottles are becoming brittle and on each visit I'm finding one or two that need replacing, so they go into the greenhouse to dry out, then I fill new bottles with the sand and hopefully they should last another three to four years before the sand needs to be decanted into a fresh bottle.

Not a lot of action on bed 11 where I sowed the green manure yet, I cleared the weeds around it again and the weeds in bed 14 ready for a sowing of late carrots on the next visit as I never got around to an early or a mid sowing. 

I direct sowed beetroots in the rest of the bed up to the white strip, that area is reserved for a trial of a new variety of Dwarf French Bean called "Satelit" which Marshalls press release states is

"A great tasting string-less white seeded bean. Produces straight beans approximately 13cm long and 6-7mm in diameter. A very early variety which will crop right to the frosts with no loss of flavour. Pods are held up and away from the foliage cropping 60 days after sowing. Disease resistant to Common Mosaic virus and Anthracnose."

The sprouts are growing well and looking good, I would have been really disappointed if I had not managed to get them in on time as they take so long to grow, but the different varieties I have in should give me a longer harvest period.

The SoilFixer Potato in buckets are looking good, but bearing in mind that we are supposed to be having another heatwave coming and we have not had a lot or rain I gave all the buckets a little drink to keep them moist.

The guy on the plot next to mine has done less than his usual and I'm now dealing with invasive brambles, stinging nettles and bindweed coming in on the boundary between our two plots. I may have to result to weeding his path that is on the boundary to create a fallow area between our plots.

With the wheel barrow fixed and an empty boot the two concrete blocks, four paving bricks and slab used as a platform for the Comfrey on Draft Water Butt were taken to the car and loaded into the boot ready for transporting to the Spencer Road plot.

Saturday 1 July 2017

Planning and Reviewing July in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last four years for July

2013 - Infrastructure works, harvest of first early and cucumbers and the best cabbages I have ever grown ! Beginners luck   
2014A really good year with plentiful harvests .  

2015 -  Great year for beetroots, Wrens in the bird box .   

2016 - Lots of coffee grounds, drying coffee, Building a replacement door for the outbuilding from decking timber.

Mill Green - Onion White Rot, Runner Beans,     

Spencer Road - Comfrey Bed 2 completed, Four Beds, Butternut squash, Beetroots, spuds and spring onions. Onions, Potatoes, Beetroots and infrastructure works. Burpless Cucumbers go manic  

Home - Tomatoes finally get transplanted into flower buckets.  

July is normally the month for harvesting rather than planting, but below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in June and what has slipped. Way too much has slipped.

Spencer Road
  • Platform for Comfrey water butt to be taken from Mill Green to Spencer Road  - Done
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow - Ongoing
  • Raise the paving for the greenhouse- Ongoing
  • Erect the greenhouse - Still waiting for the base to be completed
  • Make Air Onion raised bed frame.- Still waiting to be made
  • Make a decision about if to have permanent beds behind the fruit cages - Yes Behind  
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - currently in flower buckets awaiting a permanent home 
Mill Green

  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better
  • Hoop Cages and Netting for Onions from Mill Green to Spencer Road - Not Yet but blue pipe obtained and just found white rot on the onions so they have been harvested, only spring, walking and tree onions still in.
  • Install hoop eyes and training wires for trees - TBD
  • Sow Carrot Bed - TBD
  • Trim the grapevine Back - TBD

  • Second sowing of sweetcorn in Space Saver Greenhouse
  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet