Friday 29 September 2017

Potatoes for 2018

I've been thinking about what spuds to grow next year and I've decided upon the following (subject to an over winter review)

Lady Christi - First Early - SoilFixer Experiment in Buckets Year 2 Lady Christl potatoes are an excellent first early variety that bulks up early in the season and can be harvested after just 8 weeks of sowing. Derek on the Spencer Road allotment introduced me to Lady Christi when he had too many seed potatoes in 2016 and donated some to me. This year they will be sourced from local Wyevale or other garden centre only because I can see what I'm buying.

Albert Bartlett Vivaldi - Second Early - 2.4 x 1.2m bed - Can be grown on as main crop - Sweet creamy taste - Great baker - I selected these because my kids were always saying my potatoes are not as good or as large as the shop bought ones for baked potatoes and this is one they believe is better than mine have been historically. Will be sourced from local Wyevale or other garden centre only because I can see what I'm buying.

Albert Bartlett Purple Majesty - Second Early 1kg Pack (12-15 Tubers) I've never grown these before but I'm being provided with some seed potatoes to trial by Marshalls, reading the info about them they are the first purple potato to go on sale commercially in Britain. They are potatoes of the richest purple – purple skin and purple flesh, jam-packed with nutrients and antioxidants it makes a fantastic member of the superfood family along with blueberries, pomegranites and kale. With its genetic origins in the Andes, it’s been specially selected for the food market and has enjoyed great success. It’s an early maincrop variety suitable for salads, and of course as jackets which prove a real hit with children fascinated by its dark purple flesh. Provided by Marshalls Link to Purple Majesty details on Marshalls web site

Charlotte - Second Early - 2.4 x 1.2m bed Are mentioned by name in many recipes. That's always a good sign because in the end the purpose of growing potatoes is to eat them and recommendations from recipes is a sure sign of good taste, and they have never let me down. They are on the waxy side which makes them excellent for boiling, they hold their shape well and are delicious hot or cold. Using them for roasting and to sauté produces excellent results. Will be sourced from local Wyevale or other garden centre only because I can see what I'm buying.

Kestrel - Second Early - 2kg Pack (25-30 Tubers)  so enough for a bed and a half or a three row bed, these are another trial packs courtesy of Marshalls and were not on my radar until offered. Kestrel seed potatoes produce smooth skinned tubers with purple eyes, and winner of many prizes at exhibition. They have an old fashioned flavour, and make good chips and roasts well because the soft flesh does not absorb much fat. Consistently shows good resistance to slugs and blackleg. which I really need after the slug attacks last year. Provided by Marshals Link to Kestrel details on Marshalls web site

Estima - Second Early - 2.4 x 1.2m bed - Good Uniform Shape Ideal for Boiling and Baking last year I bought a 2kg sack bought from Wyevale no chits on them. Another shop bought potato I selected because my kids said they liked the shop bought ones. I looked at the small print on the label and read that they had been grown in Norfolk by Neil Van Poorvilet Variety Estima, up until then I had never heard of the Estima variety, but now I will grow them every year. Will be sourced from local Wyevale or other garden centre only because I can see what I'm buying.

Jelly - Main Crop - 2.4 x 1.2m bed modern variety has smooth skin, is long and oval in shape and has rich, yellowy flesh – reported to be a good roaster that makes superb, golden coloured chips! The tubers have good scab resistance and it is known to have excellent drought tolerance. I've selected these as this was a variety that we bought from the supermarket when the home grown spud ran out, that were particularly good and a nice size for baked potatoes and they roasted very well, plus I did have a bit of a scab and slug attack problems this year with some Sarpos that I grew. I found that Mr Fothergills can supply these if my local garden centre or Wyevale can't.

Thursday 28 September 2017

Save Cemetery Road Allotments

Plans for a new school in Huddersfield will lead to the destruction of 35 allotment plots on a site where there are no vacant plots! The loss of allotments is to provide a sports pitch next to the new school. This is the second time that allotments have been lost in the last decade due to development plans.

The plot holders at Cemetery Road Allotments are trying to fight the recent decision by Kirklees Council to destroy one third of their land which they consider is little more than an act of vandalism and one they intend to fight.

Please help them and Sign their petition

Cemetery Road Allotment Facebook Page

To read more about this Click Here

Tuesday 26 September 2017

Electric Fence for the Greenhouse ?

I was out tidying up the Space Saver greenhouse this morning at 7am and ended up moving the Catawissa Walking Onions down a level as some had just started to touch the trays on the shelf above them.

It looks as if I really need to get the greenhouse on Mill Green Allotment clear  and more importantly slug and snail free as I found one of each this morning on the Space Saver in the back garden.

I'm thinking of setting up an electric fence with copper wire and a 9v battery at the entrance to stop the blighters getting in there in the first place. 

Sunday 24 September 2017

Ten Soft Bricks Standing On A Bench

I arrived at the plot around 8:30 and left at 1:00, my brother and sister in law were on their plot so there were a couple of tea and coffee brakes during the morning.

I took a bucket and a half of apples and compost material including three sacks of grass cutting with me and with what I cut back on the plot managed to fill up double Dalek 6 and Dalek 4 to the brim again.

The comfrey was trimmed and topped off Daleks 4 & 6 and Alan's golden magic was diluted and added as an activator

I harvested beetroots that were large enough, but found that many have been nobbled or were in the process of being nobbled by woodlice.

The weeds are going bonkers in the paths and as fast as I'm clearing them they are returning with a vengeance.

The ex- woodchip paths as now such nice nutrient rich material that they are supporting weed growth.  I think that could also be the reason I've experienced woodlice attack on the beetroot as the large woodlice population now have very little to munch on.

As soon as the drop off and pick up area is completed I will be arranging a deliver of woodchips and completely re laying all my paths, bagging up the existing paths for adding as browns in the Daleks.

The last of the runner beans were harvested, and also started to fill up Dalek 1 to around half way with runner beans foliage and sweetcorn stems. Cucumber and Gherkins were harvested, but I didn't get time to dig up any more spuds, a job for another day.  

Ten Soft Bricks Standing On A Bench

I had the song "ten green bottles" going through my mind as I typed the title to this posting. It was so easy to fill empty milk bottles with the dried out sand from the old bottles that had become brittle and split.

They have done quite well as I started making and using them in 2013, so I'm guessing I will have a rolling programme of recovering old soft bricks, drying the sand and making new soft bricks from now on. 

As I was clearing the greenhouse further I found a new bag of sand, but it was still too damp to make filling the milk bottles easy, so all the now empty metal trays have been re charged and hopefully in a week or two they will be dry enough for me to fill another batch of empty milk bottles. I will need some extra for holding down the bed covers over winter

I used up the large pump action weed killer on the remaining weeds on the paths and on the boundary with my neighbour who has not returned since spring. I have my name down for his plot and I'm aware that the 28 day Notice has expired and that a Notice to Quit, has or will be sent shortly, then when I get the paperwork I will be at liberty to attack the plot, bush cut all the weeds back and have a nice big bonfire, and start clearing and getting ready for next year. 

Then the fun will start as I will have to move everything from the Spencer Road plot to my new plot at Mill Green. At least it will be easier to keep an eye on one large plot rather than splitting my efforts between two plots.

I have four and a half hours of sheer joy in the sun and a lovely bright and sunny and warm 21 degree C Autumn day, and lets hope this lasts a little while longer.    

Saturday 23 September 2017

Allotment Trading Huts

For a small membership fee many large allotment sites have trading huts which enable you to purchase all your gardening needs at reasonable prices and are more convenient than going to your local garden centre as long as your happy to shop on a Sunday morning.

Most of these trading huts are not only open to the plot holders but some are also open to gardeners in the surrounding area. Most are no profit making and are staffed by volunteers any profits go back into the association or get donated to charity. So if you have taken on an Allotment or are growing vegetables from home check out your surrounding Allotments and find out where they are located.  

Trading Huts in the London Borough of Sutton

OK as my plots are in the Borough here are the local Trading Huts.

Belmont Allotment between Cotswold Road and Brighton Road Sutton SM2 5NJ Only open to plot holders who have paid to join their allotment association and is open on a Sunday 10:30

Web Site - Coming Soon
Facebook Group

Bute Road Allotment - Currently I don't know if this trading hut is open to the general public or not, I'm trying to contact the Site Rep and will update this post when I find out. 

Web Site - No longer Active
Opening Hours:
Saturday mornings from March to May
Sunday 10am to 12 noon

Benhill Crescent Horticultural Society have a trading situated in the entrance at the Benhill Allotment Site, Benhill Road, Sutton. It costs only £2 per year per member of this trading Hut. They are a not-for-profit organisation, so there prices are usually considerably lower than you will find elsewhere. Many items are purchased in bulk by the society and repacked in smaller sizes so that members can benefit from even lower prices.

Opening Hours:
Every Sunday morning (10.00am-12.30pm)
Friday evenings in May and June (6.30pm - 8.00pm)

Gander Green Lane  have a trading hut which is located between the A217, Collingwood Road and Gander Green Lane, Sutton, Surrey.The main entrance is in Collingwood Road and there is a pedestrian entrance in Gander Green Lane.  

Web Site
Opening Hours:
every Sunday morning between 9.30am and midday (closed in December) and between 6pm and 7.30pm on Wednesday evenings from April until August.

Green Wrythe Lane have a trading hut called "Fork Handles" obviously the committee are Two Ronnie fans. They are a not for commercial profit organisation. Any trading profits go back into the Allotment Association. They are committed to a policy of fair and sustainable pricing; and in most cases are lower than local high street shops. It is good to support local shopping, and of course being local you can save money on fuel and parking.

Web Site
Opening Hours:
Every Sunday morning (10am -11am - Longer in the Summer Season)    

Stanley Road Allotment & Garden Society have a trading hut situated in the entrance behind Alexandra Gardens estate in Stanley Road, they stock fine quality hardware, large and small, seeds, potatoes, onions, garlic, fertilisers, and all for an annual fee of just £5.

Opening Hours:
Sun 10am-12.00, Late Marchto Late October

Westmead Road  have a trading hut the entrance to the allotment is at the end of the access road by 33 Colston Avenue, this trading hut is open to the general public.

No Web Site
Opening Hours:
10am - 12 noon Sunday

Friday 22 September 2017

Onion Update

Catawissa Walking Onions

SoilFixer SF60 Eiffel Spring Onion Experiment

Thursday 21 September 2017

Crop Rotation

It's that time of year when I start to look at what's going where on the plots next year and below is the first stab for Mill Green Plot 1A in 2018.

My crop rotation is based on four beds of spuds, 12 full sized beds so a three year rotation clockwise with everything moving along four beds each season  

2018 Preliminary Plan

On the basis that I will keep on Spencer Road for one more year. At the moment I have no idea if my neighbour is going to give his plot up, but you can see my thinking if he does. If it happens then his plot is larger than mine and I will have a wealth of space to move into, once it is cleared of all the brambles, Nettles, bind weed and couch grass.

There will be a bed of spud or two at Spencer Road this year and the spud beds have reduced from four to three on Mill Green this year.

The tomato grow house has been replaced with a potting bench / work station and there is another large Dalek no 6 that needs to be added to the layout shown above, The Cherry tree in the bottom left corner has been donated to my brother-in-law.

2017 Plot 1A Plan

Four Beds of spuds planned but due to the wife being taken into hospital only two actually made it into the ground on this plot and two beds on Spencer Road, Bed 7 became Cucumber, Gherkins and Sweetcorn.

2016 Plot 1A Plan

Only three beds of spuds with first early potatoes being grown in buckets, First year for Butternut Squash and gave up on strawberry bed.  

2015 Plot 1A Plan

This was the year I added the Tomato Grow House against the wall, and only three beds of spuds with first early potatoes being grown in buckets

2014 Plot 1A Plan

This was the year I lost Bed 6 to the Greenhouse and bed 5 became the Strawberry bed

2013 Plot 1A Plan

2012 Plot 1A Plan

2012 Plot 1A Original thoughts before clearing the plot


Wednesday 20 September 2017

Cucumbers Are Like Children

I've come to the conclusion that Cucumbers are like little children!

Take your eyes off them for a moment and they will get their head caught in the fence.

Sunday 17 September 2017

Bench To Potting Bench

Another Sunday morning on Mill Green Allotment. This morning I re assembled the bench but as I already have a bench for sitting on this one is going to be used as a covered storage area and an onion drying rack located the back of the potting bench. 

I screwed on a couple of timber uprights to the front of the bench, then added a horizontal roofing batten between to support the sheet of twin wall polycarbonate sheeting that has been sitting next to the shed for the last couple of years looking to be used somewhere. I added a similar horizontal batten to the back of the bench.

I drilled and screwed the polycarbonate to the battens with cup washers so as not to split the polycarbonate and to spread the load in case of wind uplift. There is enough of a slope for the rain to run off, and to keep anything stored on the bench or below it dry. More by chance than design the taller flower buckets just fit under the front batten so whatever I store in there should remain dry and rain free.

At the moment the buckets are full of empty milk bottles awaiting sand. The broken brittle soft bricks (milk bottles full of sand) that were made in 2012 & 2013 have finally gone brittle and have started to degrade so as they split or break they been stacked in the greenhouse.

The sand has now been emptied into steel trays so the sand can continue dry out in the greenhouse. So the plan is to decant the dry sand into the new milk bottles on the next visit to the plot to refresh and increase the amount of soft bricks I have to hold down weed membrane and netting over hoops

The red container on the table under the bench holds empty pop bottle slug traps.

Bed membrane sheets left to dry in the greenhouse were brushed off folded and stored in the shed, and gradually the greenhouse is becoming less full and before next season will be ready to take the overwintering spring onions and walking onions that are currently housed in the Space saver greenhouse at home. 

Friday 15 September 2017

It's All About Onions!

The day time & night time temperatures are on the decline, overnight temperatures in the greenhouse are 7degrees C with about 1 - 1.5 degrees lower outside the greenhouse, dew is on the cars, grass and about anything left out over night.

The only thing I have left in the greenhouse is the SF60 Over Wintering Spring Onion Experiment and the Catawissa Walking Onions 

 Catawissa Walking Onions looking right

They are growing really fast these were only sown eight days ago, and all leaning towards the front of the Space Saver Greenhouse, I will turn the trays 180 degrees once a week to try and straighten the onions up. 

 Catawissa Walking Onions looking right

The two trays on the left were sown seven days ago, and the largest of the bulbs can be seen on the wooden shelf, looking at the germination rates off the micro bulbs from the secondary clusters, I think I will be eating the larger bulbs rather than planting them, especially as I have some 120 in total. I could possibly do an SF60 trial with some of these bulbs I suppose, Ummm something to think about.

It look as if I may have some to share with other plot holders if they survive the overwintering process. I lost very few last year from the 18 bulbs I originally purchased.   

SoilFixer Experiment - Eiffel Spring Onions (SF60 used on the right)

It's very difficult to see any real difference at the moment, I try and rotate the pots so as to straighten the onions as they all want to lean in the direction of the sun. It's an attempt to try and straighten them if at all possible

Wilkingsons Sale - ROUNDUP

I nearly missed the Wilkingson's Sale but I managed to get there when there were still a few items that had not been replaced with Christmas item!

Christmas items in September I kid you not (What a crazy mixed up world we live in)

Note to self, when you hear that Wilkingson's sale is on next year drop everything and get there straight away.

Anyway back to the plot, I managed to pick up four 100ml Gel Sticks of Super Strength Roundup for the price of one.

Now before anyone jumps on me and the bandwagon, yes I've heard the hype, and yes I have read all the warnings and yes this stuff works.

It's supposed to kill things, it's going to be toxic but at least with the Gel stick I can be very selective and the risk of exposure to me is minimal and I can use it on the stick or wand that I have.

This will primarily be used to attack the weed that are encroaching from the plot next to mine that is four to five feet of nettles and brambles, and I want to use something that is going to work and I know this stuff does.

I also picked a couple of packs of Long White Ishikura Spring Onions with a sow date of 2020. Three packs of White Lisbon Winter Hardy Spring Onions with sow by date of 2020. Two packs of Solist Beetroots sow by date 2019 and I pack Boltardy Beetroot so by date 2019. One pack of Cucumber la diva which can be sown indoors between February - May and planted out in January with harvest from July to October, with a sow by of 2021.

There were a few more allotment and grow your own items that made the trip to Wilkingsons worth while.

Sunday 10 September 2017

Growhouse Clearance

This Sunday was dedicated to clearing all the dross that had accumulated in and in front of the old grow house.

As we have some new garden furniture I've taken the old stuff down the allotment and have installed it where the old grow house was to use as a potting table.

Rain and time stopped play but a bench will stand on top of the table. The plan is to extend the height of the bench so that I can fix a roof on it, like the extension to the shed in the photograph at the top of the page. I should then be able to use it for drying off onions and hardening off plants early in the season.

There is enough room under the bench / potting table for 30 of the food buckets that I store Coffee, Coir, Composting Materials and Shredded paper in so that the grow house extension to the shed can once again be used for growing tomatoes in next year.   

Up until a couple of weeks ago when it was confirmed that we would be getting the drop off and pick up area, I had thought that I would have to give up my little kingdom at Mill Green, and for the last two years I have been working on making my plot at Spencer Road as a replacement for Mill Green.

But now I will not have to give it up and in fact I will only keep Spencer Road on for another year, which will give me time to bring all of the slabs that I have accumulated over the last two years from Spencer Road to Mill Green and then I will not have to worry about weeds in the paths so much.

I now have a renewed interest in getting Plot 1A back to its former glory for next year, hell I may even get to empty the greenhouse of rubbish and use it for growing as I will be able to access the plot on a more regular basis, especially once the construction works comes to an end near the entrance next year. I have had my name down for the overgrown plot next to mine for the last four years, and if the current tenant gives it up, I will be able to extend plot 1A

I took grapes home and the conclusion was they didn't taste good enough and they have too many pips, I don't make wine and I'm not looking for a seedless variety to replace it with, so I shall cut back and remove the vine and replace it with Raspberries that my daughter and my wife will eat or perhaps try the polar berries that Marshalls are sending me in there. 

Friday 8 September 2017

Catawissa Walking Onions - More Sowing

I sowed the remainder of the onions in the left had container, 15 vending machine cups per module in another 3 trays so that's another 45 Catawissa Walking Onions making 120 sown and in the greenhouse ready to over winter. Had a couple of the larger ones with my lunch and they are very strong and tasty!

Sowing Catawissa Walking Onions.

I've sown 15 vending machine cups per module in 5 trays so that's 75 Catawissa Walking Onions.

I planted many the smaller ones in the left container that had already started to sprout and I still have not used them all

I'm going to sow the rest of them over the weekend.

I may just have to eat the larger one in the container on the right

Wednesday 6 September 2017

Catawissa Walking Onions

Looked at the Catawissa Walking Onions today and some of the secondary clusters of mini bulbs are already sprouting so I have harvested the lot and will plant them in some vending machine cups and over winter like I did the original bulbs I purchased last year.

In addition to producing top-sets, the parent plant divides at the base producing an abundant supply of green scallions for salads, gazpacho and other soups or casseroles. When harvesting, always be sure to leave at least one onion in the ground so the plant will continue to multiply and keep you supplied with onions for a lifetime.

I pulled one onion station as they are still green and lush just to look and they have split and appear to have created another bulb but they have a massive root system, not quite sure how I'm going to get them out and manage to leave the one in the ground at each station?

Monday 4 September 2017

Harvest Time & Fighting Fires

Today was spent harvesting a bed or Sarpo Spuds and I have to say they did really well. I managed to get three buckets of spuds out of a 2.4 x 1.2m bed planted with 18 seed potatoes.

The seed potatoes were egg sized spud that I had saved from last years crop. Saving my own seed potatoes is not something that I will do every year but it was an experiment and it worked fine and dandy.

I did take time to brush off as much soil as I could and as we have not had a great deal of rain recently the soil was moist but not claggy. Bed 9 was decommissioned and covered for the winter months to prevent future weed growth. I need to plan what's going where next year before I start adding manure to the beds.  

The runner beans keep coming but I did notice a lot of snails on the plants, so I'm not expecting a whole lot more, the excess has been distributed to in laws and my eldest daughter.

There are two nice sized marketmore cucumbers on the vine and a number of small slow starters and I'm hoping they will be ready in a week or so when we run out of other allotment holders excess that I have been given as they know I was late getting stuff in because my wife was in hospital twice early in the growing season.

I love the way that when you do have an excess there are always family and friends and those include your plot neighbours who have not been growing that particular vegetable or have had a problem with that vegetable this year. 

Whilst digging up the spuds I noticed that something, mouse, rat or squirrel, yes all three are on and around the allotment had taken a fancy to my sweetcorn. It has not been a very good year for sweetcorn, I don't know what it is but fellow Allotmenteers on Mill Green and Spencer Road have notice that the plants appear shorter and the corns smaller than usual.

I looked what remained of the cob and they were ready for harvesting so I picked the lot. I do have another bed of corn but they have not even developed cobs and I'm doubtful I will get a crop from them. Look like I have been growing compost on that bed.

Wally has more marrows than he can deal with and offered me one of his excess marrows.

My plant died early on and I didn't get any planted this year. I have seed from the Wyevale 50p seed sale ready for next year, and if I do manage to get the half plot next door, these are the kind of things that can be allowed to grow and take over the areas I will not be able to weed and cultivate

A swift visit the Spencer Road plot on the way home resulted in me discovering that the self seeded pumpkins that were green and covered with foliage last visit have nearly turned colour and the vines have died right back.

Looks Like my daughters will not have to buy carving pumpkins this year for Halloween if they last that long their was a small one but it appears to have imploded and just melted away

The Burpless cucumbers are doing well, and I have the obligatory cucumber that has decided to grow through the mesh netting meaning it will have to be cut in order to harvest, I may get 3-4 cucumbers if the weather holds and we don't have an early frost.

I harvested the last of the spring onions and bagged up the last of the red and white onions off the growing rack and made my way home for lunch

After Sunday lunch I wash and trimmed the spring onions. Skinned and cut up the sweet corn and put in the freezer, the beans can wait until tomorrow.

I also had the excitement of trying the help the neighbour put out a fire that was consuming his boundary fence and hedging whilst we waited for the fire brigade to come and finish the job. Silly sod had decided to burn his hedge cuttings next too the fence and the wind took some burning embers and the fence went up as if it had been covered in petrol. 

Friday 1 September 2017

Allotment Work Party

Redrow and Natta are going to remove the post and wire fence, clear the vegetation, lay crushed risings and compact and erect a close board fence to the perimeter plus replace the entrance gates and fence either side. They are also going to provide a composting wc for us. 

I agreed with Redrow that the allotment holders would will arrange for a demarcation line to be trimmed in the existing overgrown vegetation largely brambles alongside the bees. Thus a work party of four was quickly formed comprising of my brother-in-law Keith, John, Wally and myself.

When we met up this morning John and Wally had already trimmed the few branches from existing trees that would get in the way of the works and john had already made headway into the overgrown brambles earlier in the week. I must stay it lifted my spirit to see that we would not be starting from absolute zero and headway had already been made into the area.

We worked like little beavers from 8:00 - 12:30 with a couple of tea and coffee breaks and cleared quite a margin, actually about four to five times wider than the Redrows site Manger thought we were going too create. We had a good time and enjoyed each others company and we are all looking forward to having this beneficial resource on our allotment site

I would like to publically thank Keith, John and Wally for their help 

The works are due to start sometime towards the end of September / early October, but at least we have completed our tasks whist the weather is still sunny and dry.

Once completed we will be able to arrange deliveries of woodchips to be dropped off and renew the paths on our plots as it's been a long time since they were created and they have turned into material that will now support weed growth and need renewing.