Saturday 31 March 2018

More Competition Winner Seeds

BlocX were doing a promotion on Facebook and supplying the first few hundred people who expressed and interest with five packs of Mr Fothergill's seeds, they arrived today and will be catalogued and saved in the appropriate locations in one of the three seed boxes I have apart from the Maskotka Tomato seed that I will be opening and sowing in one of the Portable Grow Stations later today. 

I have seen the BlocX products before and it's use as a landscaping and retaining structure is of interest to me as I undertake home extension designs when not on the allotment. Sometimes these designs include re landscaping so more civil engineering rather than architectural landscaping from my point of view but there is defiantly a crossover. 

I would dearly love some raised beds made of BlocX but they are way too expensive for an allotment plot, but defiantly something to think about for the garden.

Thursday 29 March 2018

Mr Fothergills Cairngorm Optigrow® Leeks

I was lucky enough to win two packs of seeds from a post on Facebook by Mr Fothergill's asking for those that would be willing to trial standard seeds against the same variety Cairngorm F1 Leeks of Optigrow® treated seeds and share the results.

As regular blog readers will know I'm always up for an experiment and I have a thing about onions but one allium that I have not grown are Leeks, that is all about to change!

I'm going to sow two flower buckets in exactly the same way as I did for the SoilFixer SF60 over wintering onion experiment, I may just increase the spacing between the leeks using the custom Jig I made.  

Until I entered the competition I had no idea what Optigrow® was all about until I visited the Mr Fothergill's web site


Here’s the science…

Optigrow® treatment uses just water and air. The really clever bit is knowing just how much of both to use and for how long. This patented treatment gets the seed ready to germinate (a process known as priming). The seed is then dried ‘back to sleep’. It can be stored in this state like untreated seed. Once planted the seed doesn’t need to prepare for growing because it has already done this so it germinates much quicker and with greater vigour than untreated seed.

So David Turner as soon as this cold wet and possibly snowy Easter weekend is over and I have cut down a couple of plastic flower buckets I will be off and I will keep my blog readers and you updated on the two types of seeds development on a regular basis. The proof as always is in the eating, well in this case the growing first.

Agralan Compact Plug Plant Trainer

Having now sown my spring greens I have to say I'm really quite taken with the Agralan Compact Plug Plant Trainer, and this is a bit of kit that I've actually bought and have not been supplied free to review which is more the shame. It measures 225mm x 200mm and is 140mm high and is an ideal windowsill/ greenhouse size. As you can see It's half the length of a tray and narrower.

The sexy lid is functional as you can turn it upside down and push it into the compost and it forms a perfect depressions in the top of each of the he plug at an ideal depth to accept the seed. 

The lid can be turned 90 degrees to adjust ventilation. 

Step 4 states that the lid can be turned at 90 for + or - Ventilation above you can see the small gap between the lid and the middle plug section above 

Lift and turn the lid 90 degrees and lower and there is now no ventilation gap, which is how I have left the plug plant trainer overnight to keep the heat in and the warmth as the temperature in the external grow house drops to about 4.5 degrees C when its around 2 degrees C overnight.

Another design feature is that they are stackable with the cones in the lid locking into the base plug upstands. 

The Agralan has an Integral water reservoir at a base and when your plug plants are ready you just ease the legs on the sides out and into the slots, then push the middle section down into the bottom section and your plants will pop-up automatically. No squeezing! just nice plug plants with healthy roots.

The Agralan Compact Plug Plant Trainer can be re-used many times and it's dishwasher safe so although it's not cheap and it is plastic as everyone is rightly bashing plastics these days it is well made and is going to give many years of service, in fact it comes with a 12 year warranty.

What's the damage for this bit of kit you may well ask? Well the Agralan Web Site gives a MSRP of £16.99 but a quick Google search gives you this price range, It's interesting that Garden 4 Less is the most expensive!

I found the cheapest supplier on ebay for this bit of kit, they are now selling it at £14.98 with free postage. The google search above does not include P&P so sometimes suppliers look cheaper but actually aren't once you slam on the Post and Packaging costs. There are some sellers that offer a couple of quid off if you buy two.

I've just purchased another and I may be looking to buy another two or more for next year (if I last that long), so that I can max out the space in the Grow Stations. 

Tuesday 27 March 2018

More Raspberries

I had to pop into Morrisons to pick up some Easter Eggs for the little ones in the family and saw these Summer and Autumn Raspberries sitting on the shelf calling to me to buy them as they were only £2 each and that they could be friends to the couple I bought from Lidl last week. These are in 90mm pots and have been watered and look healthy, unlike one of the twigs I got from Lidl.

The Red Summer Raspberry is called Tulameen  
The Yellow Autumn Raspberry is called Allgold 
The Red Autumn Raspberry is called Autumn Bliss

Fruits between July & August 

Planting between February and June or September and October. Ideal for small gardens these fruit are easy to grow and will tolerate most soil types 

Pruning Remove old canes in Winter. New shoots will appear in the Spring these will require supporting against strong winds. Feed regularly through the growing season with a fish, blood and bone fertiliser.

Position Full sun to part shade 

Height 1.5m or 5ft 

The Briers Reinforced Rigger gloves for £3 are worth it as I still have some Hawthorne trees to deal with, and who can resist Bypass Pruners with carbon still Blades for £2 each.

Sunday 25 March 2018

Woodchips, Raspberries and Burning Wood

The first job this Sunday was to unwrap the raspberries and leave them in a bucket of water.

The next job was to start shifting the woodchips from the drop off area onto the plot. I haven't sorted the shed and greenhouse area yet but I want the woodchips on the plot so that I can cover the weed membrane as soon as possible after digging out the weeds and semi levelling off the area and laying the slabs.

After feeling suitably knackered and ready for a drink I had a cup of coffee from the flask, sat and looked down the allotment and the greenhouse and started to build a mental to do list. Way to many things and not enough time to get them all done today. 

I cleared the shelf in the greenhouse and placed two trays of Catawissa Onions in there and the other two trays went under the extension to the shed. Wally and John took a tray and half a dozen from me when they arrived on the site. I'm glad I'm finding homes for them as I really don't want to compost them as they have over wintered so well and someone else may be able to benefit from the huge harvest of them I had last year.

The rear two rows that were planted on the 11th March appear to be happy in their new bed the first row was sown with the larger bulbs and many of them have now germinated and are showing through the compost.

Next order of business was to clear the remains of the grapevine and clear the dross around the leaf bins and plant the two raspberry plants that had been soaking in a bucket of water since I arrived on the plot. 

The Raspberry plants were picked up from Lidl so the instructions are in the crazy graphic language. So if I have interpreted them correctly

Yes you can eat them
Plant in full sun or partially sunny location 
Flowers July - August
Harvest August - October 
Prune October - November 

The Storage area next to the shed received some attention in the form of clearing leafs and composting them and clearing the scraps of six year old pallets and other lengths of timber that may come in useful some day, and burning them along with other rotten scarps of wood.

We can only have fires up until the end of March which funnily enough is the same time they put the water mains back on. From a health and safety point of view I have always found that fact a bit of a paradox. 

The tables, benches and area around the shed and greenhouse needs a good tidy up and the greenhouse still needs to be emptied of all the dross that may be useful some day so that I can actually grow some plants in there.

Time goes incredibly fast when you are working on the allotment and there are days when you have done a lot but it doesn't really feel like it.

My youngers daughter rang to inform me that lunch would be late and that I could get another hour in , so I managed a few more barrow loads of woodchips and added them to the pile on my plot. After Sunday lunch my body caught up with all the exercise I had put if through, my ankles ache there again so do my legs, plus the rest of me feels fairly knackered, but it's a good kind of knackered.

In the afternoon I sowed 15 loo rolls of Amsterdam 15 loo rolls of Nandor and 10 loo rolls of Early Nantes 2 Carrot seeds with approx. 4 seed per loo roll. They are staying in the warm tonight, they may reside on top of the Grow Stations in my broom cupboard office for a few days before making their way out to the Grow Station in the shed.    

Beetroots & Carrots

The beetroots and carrots I sowed on the 11th March just 13 days ago are doing very well 

So I've sieved another sack of Multipurpose Compost added some vermiculite and have filled up another tray of loo rolls ready for warming up over night so that I can sow them Sunday afternoon.

Saturday 24 March 2018

SoilFixer SF60 Spring Onion Update

The last time we looked at the SoilFixer SF60 Spring Onion experiment on the blog was 8th Jan with a View from the Greenhouse Door when the experiment was at a stage where the onions appeared to be holding there own, and appeared very evenly matched.

I still have not managed to clear the green house or erect the new one on the allotment, but I'm going to need room sooner than later in the Space Saver Greenhouse, and this experiment will need to go to the allotment greenhouse or shed cold frame, if I have managed to get the shed moved over. 

The weather has improved a little, and the temperatures have gone up enough for me to walk outside in just a tee shirt, so I decided to give the onions a little time out in the sun and wind and harden them off a little.  

Looking at the Eiffel Spring Onions the Bucket with the SoilFixer SF60 added is the one on the left and as can be seen the foliage looks to be larger and in a much better condition than the bucket on the right.

Friday 23 March 2018

Optigrow range - Leek Cairngorm

I entered a Mr Fothergill's competition on the 19th March on Facebook

Leek Cairngorm is a great leek variety that produces iniform, thick white shanks. It is also a variety that features in our new Optigrow range – a world exclusive new way of treating seeds for quicker and more uniform germination performance. Optigrow® is a non-chemical seed priming treatment for the hobby gardener that gives you quicker and more uniform germination.
We would love to hear from leek growers out there who have problems germinating and raising leeks as we would love for you to test out this variety by sowing untreated and Optigrow treated alongside each other and feeding back your findings to us.
We have 10 packets up for grabs and we’ll choose across Facebook and Twitter at the end of the week.

I'm now looking forward to sowing a couple of buckets of Leek Cairngorm when they arrive in the post, and after the Beast from the East 3 has been and gone after the Easter Weekend.

Cutting Timber

A swift visit to Mill Green to cut up some of the timbers as I was after some offcuts to help in installing a ramp to the front door. I also managed to fill another 5 milk bottles with dray sand and empty some broken bottles into the metal trays to dry out ready to replace and replenish stocks. I also took the kitchen waste down to fill the Dalek, hopefully the grass will start flowing from all directions following the first cut in about 4 weeks time. 

Wednesday 21 March 2018

12 Days After Sowing

Not bad germination rates at 12 days after sowing, finally a beefsteak is showing but no Tiny Tim at all, I'm wondering did I forget to actually sow them? I'm thinking another sowing of them is in order.

It won't be very long until these little beauties will need potting on into vending machine cups, but I'm thinking I will hold off until after Easter and the Beast from the East 3 that is forecast to hit the UK again.     

Tuesday 20 March 2018

Neudorff Trial Samples Arrive

Following the Garden Press Event that took place during the Beast form the East Part 1 this morning I received a parcel of goodies to play with and review from Neudorff

There's more samples here than I was expecting, and I have to say there is nothing that I will not use or be glad of playing with, and would like to thank Neudorff for their generosity.

I'm always happy to trial new products and equipment or items I have not used before as long as those providing them understand that just because they are normally provided free doesn't mean that I'm not going give an honest review based on my experience and opinion on the product. I provide reviews on this blog of a lot of products that I do purchase, but free is my preferred price to play. 

Taking my interest first and what was the main item of interest for me at The Garden Press Event this year is Sluggo which is an alternative to Metaldehyde based products slug control pellets. Last year was particularly bad for slugs, as I was not as vigilant as previous years due to my time on site being reduced due to the wife being hospitalised, splitting my time between two plots on two different allotment sites and having an overgrown plot and haven for slugs and snails, complete with vegetation in the form of brambles, bindweed and nettles next door that kept trying to invade my plot.

I now have taken on the overgrown neighbouring plot so I'm hoping for a better year this year with regards slugs and snail although I suspect there are still 100 & 1000s of eggs hiding and waiting until spring comes and will be ready to hatch.  

I have to admit I hadn't really looked into Metaldehyde in any great depth, but from what I have been reading and have found out about it recently, it's something that I will stop using,  as soon as my stock of pellets have gone!.

I'm glad that I make the pop bottle slug traps to protect wild life, but I would rather not have to spend the time doing that, plus once full of damp pellet remains and slug bodies can't really be put in the plastic recycle bin. I have an impressive stock of pop bottle slug traps and again, I will use them up rather than waste them, I just hope the pellets and traps last the same amount of time.    

I'm hoping that Sluggo pellets which are rain resistant and swell when damp to make them even more attractive to slugs and snails, plus the fact they are biodegradable with unconsumed pellets convert into iron and phosphate in the soil, delivering added nutrients to the plants are as effective or more effective than the Metaldehyde pellets.

There is a part of me that would still like to see the bodies, but the condition of the vegetables will be the real indicator of how much better or not they are, only a trial and time will tell. 

Monday 19 March 2018

Spring Green Seeds

Going through my extensive cabbage seed collection and looking for something that looks like it may provide the Spring Greens that SWMBO loves, I finally had a search and found a couple of varieties that are sold as Spring Greens. I purchased a pack of Spring Green Seeds - Greensleeves from Marshalls for £1.99 incl. P&P

Sow Outdoors: April-May or July-August. Sow thinly ½in (1cm) deep in a seed bed or clean module trays of firm pre watered compost. Keep soil moist at all times.

Plant Out: 6in (15cm) apart, in rows 12in (30cm) apart when plant has 3-4 true leaves.

Harvest: October-November or April-May

Protect from Cabbage White Butterfly with netting.

Looking at the sowing instructions in particular the spacing and rows, I thought about the planting membrane sheets that I already have and decided to create a new one specifically for the Spring Greens

So the idea is to give a 300mm exclusion zone around the perimeter so that hopefully it keeps the spring greens away from the netted hoops that will go over the bed. working on the basis of 150mm centres and 300mm between rows, I decided to stagger alternate rows so there is a little more space between plants but they are still dense enough to assist in growing as spring greens.   

I've also bought a pack of Cabbage Durham Early Spring Green Seeds for £1.39 incl. P&P from Premier Seeds Direct for an Autumn sowing.

This variety is a well-known and very reliable compact spring cabbage producing dark green pointed firm heads of medium size, good flavour and texture. Suited for high density growing for spring greens harvesting from Feb onwards and Apr for fully mature heads. Autumn sowing variety.

Cultivation Advice Cabbage Durham Early Spring Greens

  • Sow between Mid-July and Sep thinly in trays or directly to seed drills using 2-3 seeds every 12 in.
  • Planting depth 1/8 inch. When seedlings are 1 inch tall thin to one plant every 12-18 inches or plant out tray seedlings to growing location.
  • Best sown / located in full sun where no cabbage was grown the year before.
  • Keep weed free and protect against pests, especially pigeons over-winter.
  • Harvest alternative plants from Feb as spring greens and mature heads from early Apr.

I think that the Greensleeves Spring Geen seeds are the right candidates for trying out my AGRALAN Compact Plug Plant Trainer when they arrive.