Thursday 31 May 2018

Watching Growth

With constant rain and thunder and lightning storms, mixed in with work, life the universe and everything, there has been little time and indeed point in trying to get down to the allotment. 

I don't have anything under cover down there to water so my attention this morning was to water what's in the space saver greenhouse and the coldframe.

The Micro Tom has many more flowers open and many more forming since last week when I posted about the first flower and I'm looking forward to what appears may be an early harvest from this little plant. It's done quite a bit of growing in a week and I really must start feeding it now it's got flowers. 

The growth on the Radish over a 24 hour period is very noticeable and hopefully it will not be very long before I start seeing the roots developing and bulking up. 

Radishes are fast growing and are normally ready to harvest in about four weeks from sowing. So my intention is to grow a tray every two weeks in fertile moisture-retentive soils throughout the summer for crunchy salads.

There is a winter variety called Mooli and I think I may look into what other winter varieties are available and extend the cropping season for as long as possible. Next year I will be sowing from the end of Jan / early Feb. 

Wednesday 30 May 2018

Radish Update

Friday I sowed a cut down flower bucket full of Radish, using the jig on the left of the bucket. I was very happy to find this, when I went out the garden this morning. Still time for the few in the gaps to germinate.  

Tuesday 29 May 2018

Rotary Soil Sieve Update

Last year I found that the Clarke CRS400 Rotary Soil Sieve has a price range of between £64.66 - £38.32 when undertaking a google search, which was mind boggling that companies get away with selling it for so much.

Tool-net have it for £24.94 + Vat = £29.93 then when you add £6.99 for UK Mainland delivery and they apply VAT not only to the item but also on the Post & Packaging it comes to £38.32.

After some searching & research I found the Apex Rotary Soil Sieve Compost Sieve Mesh Riddle from Germany which could be bought via ebay for £34.98 including delivery.

So £3.34 cheaper than the lowest UK price and shipped in from over seas, absolutely crazy but I do like a bargain, and that's equivalent to six packs of seed with change in the Wyevale 50p seed sale later in the year.

I did inform Clarke & Tool-net via email of the price difference and that I was thinking of getting the alternative product from Germany and suggested that they may wish to provide me with the Clarke CRS400 for comparison.

Funny I never got a reply from either company! 

The Apex appears to be no longer available on ebay, but the good news is that there is a new version The BMC and it's another £2 cheaper than the Apex and £10.25 cheaper than the Clarke.

I never did obtain a review product from Clarke so that I could compare the quality with the Apex, however I suspect that fundamentally The Clarke, Apex and BMC are all the same product with different branding and paint colour. 

I should mention that these are great for removing stones and for dealing with your compost if you want to riddle it once its ready.

Monday 28 May 2018

Early Morning Visit

Early morning visit to the allotment whilst the wife and daughter lay in and condense snot. My body clock woke me up just after 6am so breakfast and then off to the allotment.

Bed 13 cleared and two Crimson Crush and one Rapunzel planted and watered in. A sprinkle of environmentally friendly slug pellets then back to the Beetroot bed 

My body let me know it's 60 and didn't like all the getting down on my knees and getting back up again to sow beetroots in the 80 holes in the planting membrane.

I have a tray load of beetroots growing in the Space Saver Greenhouse at home to use to fill any gaps due to bad germination or slug attack.

This bed was also covered with a sprinkle of environmentally friendly but slug killing pellets before I left to go home. 

Sunday 27 May 2018

Runner Beans & Beetroots

The weather forecast after the flash thunder storms last night was for showers with a 50% chance of rain by 10:00. Mill Green road was under water and the kerb could not be seen on one side of the road but I estimated that it shouldn't be higher than the bottom of the floor so drove through it.

The plan was to get the runner beans in place and I set about clearing the last of last years beans off the cantilever frames attached to the wall and then used my super bulb planter to make the holes for the toilet roll training pots used for grow the beans in. 

I was about half way through clearing when a rain shower hit and I put everything away and sheltered under the trees by the gate. The shower went and I managed to get on and get the runner bean in place.

The Beetroot bed was uncovered and the volunteer potatoes were removed. 

I laid the 105 location Planting membrane and used the bulb planter to form the holes for the beetroots grown in cardboard toilet rolls, and planted three and a half rows. 

Then for the moment I covered up the rest of the planting locations, not knowing if I would be able to get back down to the allotment tomorrow or not. 

The anticipated and predicted rain didn't happen so I proceeded to decant all of the dried sand into the empty milk bottles to make more soft bricks. A trip around the plot found a few more soft bricks that were becoming brittle and the sand was decanted into the now empty trays and the rest of the trays were filled with more sand from the sacks bought a couple of weeks ago. 

Before leaving I took some update photographs 

Potatoes in Beds 11 & 12 are growing nicely and appear adequately watered. Bed 13 in the top left corner was worked on to remove the debris from the plot next door so that I can plant the tomatoes in there on my next visit. Slowly all the beds are being planted up or sown, and I love it when everything is in and all the bed are occupied.

I'm glad to repot minimal slug damage to the cabbages at the moment 

Onions in Bed 10 are doing well and it's interesting how the newly sown ones are catching up with those started off earlier in the Space Saver Greenhouse, I was hoping for a month between harvest of the two, but I don't think that is going to happen somehow. 

Cucumbers and Courgettes appear to be happy in their new homes.

Agapanthus Plants

The half a dozen little Agapanthus grown from seed last year that have been stuck in the Space Saver Greenhouse have finally been potted up into 127cm pots and released into the wild. OK a little dramatic they are sitting on the paving in front of the tomatoes which were also finally all potted up into the flower buckets today.

Growing Agapanthus from seed isn't difficult, but the plants don't grow very fast and will not produce blooms for at least two or three years. My little beauty in the garden under the tree was given to me by a neighbour called Flo, and I ended potting up into a larger and larger pot until finally I had to cut the pot off the plant as all the compost had gone and it was just a mass of roots. 

It was then that I made a raised bed and planted it next to the tree. At some time I'm going to have to split it but for the moment if not getting too much bigger each year. 

When the flowers die and the pods turn from green to pale brown in late summer or autumn place the removed seed pods from the plant in a paper bag of leave and store them until the pods split open. Remove the seeds from the split pods and place the seeds in a sealed container of small zippy bag and store them in a cool dry place until spring. Or alternatively if you don't know someone with one of these plants you can buy the seeds. 

Fill a planting tray with drainage holes with good quality compost- based potting mix and add a small amount of perlite to promote drainage. Sprinkle the seed on the potting mix and cover the seeds with 5 -6 mm of the potting mix.

Water the tray slowly until the potting mix is moist but not soaking wet and place the tray in a warm area where they will pick up sunlight for at least six hours a day. Water lightly whenever the potting mix looks dry. Germination takes around four to five weeks.

Once big enough the seedlings can be transplanted into individual pots or as I did vending machine cups. I've now moved the small plants up to the 127cm plots and I will let them gown in these for a while before I move them up a pot size again   

Quite where these will finally go I'm not quite sure? I don't really have room for more at home, I just love the plant so much, especially as it was given to me by Flo who has been in the heavenly garden for a few years now, that I would like to see the next generation of the plants flourish somewhere or give them away to friends as my neighbour Flo did.

I may donate one or two of the plants when large enough to our allotment drop off and pick up area and there is a corner one could quite happily take over. Or as I now have the plot next door and we have bees on the plot I may put four along the bottom boundary.    

Saturday 26 May 2018

The Humble Radish

Another four flower buckets recovered from my Spencer Road Allotment have been surgically altered to turn them into shallow trays and one of them has been filled with Multi Purpose Compost and sown with the aid of the new sowing jig with Radish.

I do like a radish and normally would have already had them on the go, but this is turning out to be another year where I'm not getting the opportunity to get down to the allotment quite as frequently as I would like, in part due to an increase in hospital visits with my good lady wife and a need not to be away from home for too long. 

So my cunning plan is to see how well they will grow in shallow flower buckets and in that way I may be able to grow them for a longer period and in batches at home where I can keep and eye on them, so the I have a constant supply. It does annoy me when I buy a bag of radish when I have a number of packs of Radish seed sitting in the seed box.

So using the new jig made earlier in the week I have sown 63 number Unwin Bright and Spicy Mix in a 7 x 9 grid in the 300mm x 280mm cut down flower bucket. The back of the pack suggests small sowings made every three weeks during the summer should ensure a continuous supply. 

Next year I'm going to start some off in the grow stations in late January early February.  I looked on the back of the packs I have and they state that seedlings usually appear in 7 - 10 days, we will see. 

Thursday 24 May 2018

Tomato Transplanting

The Toms at the back of the cold frame were getting to the point where they were taller than glass windows and I didn't really have a option other than to start moving the taller ones out. It's one of those things where you started so you may as well finish so 19 out of 22 flower buckets now have their tenant for this year.

In previous years I have taken the spent mixture of coir and compost to the allotment and used it as a soil conditioner. This year I have reduced the flower buckets contents by 50% and mixed in some blood fish and bone to liven up the old compost & coir and then have potted in with 100% B&Q Verve Multipurpose Compost which I have to say looks to be the best looking and well compost that I have ever had from B&Q. My thinking is as I water the nutrients from the pure compost will filter into the coir/ compost mix below .

I have a supply of Comfrey in milk bottle that will be coming home and will be used as a feed in the next couple of weeks and I also have some other tomato feeds to use up so they are not going hungry. 

The three front right flower buckets without canes are currently holding pots that include two Crimson Crush and a Rapunzel that I want to grow on the allotment and a 100s & 1000s that my daughter will be taking to her place to grow on as she loves the little toms they produce.

I obtained the original Crimson Crush plants in 2015 and despite being an F1 decided to save seeds and grew them in 2016 and got two very different looking plants one with a potato leaf and the other with the more traditional tomato looking leaf. 

The Tomato looking leaf tomato produced a greater yield and looked more like the original plant and I saved seed and grew again last year. So this years plants are third generation from the original plant.

So far I have not really had great blight problems and I hope that continues but it just happens that the Crimson Crush are a nice large size tomato to grow and ideal for burgers, and my success with beef steak toms is not good in fact this year the seeds decided not to germinate so I don't have any.    

This year I have gown a lot of small pot tomatoes for the greenhouses and what has really amazed me is the Micro Tomato which is already in flower but currently does not look large enough to actually carry any fruit so it will be interesting to see how this plant develops over the coming weeks.   

I will report progress on this and the others small tomatoes that I have grown as they develop.  Bajaja , Balconi Red, Minibel, Red Robin, Rosella, Sub Artic Plenty, Super Roma, Tiny Tim

Tuesday 22 May 2018

New Plot Holder

A swift evening visit to meet Adam the next person on the waiting list and show them the available half plot, which they are keen to take on, The photo is around a month old and its much worse now as the brambles have been making a recovery. 

Monday 21 May 2018

Composting Visit

Last night we got a telephone call that my sister-in-law had another two giant sacks of grass for me to collect. The plan was to pick them up first thing this morning, but the best laid plans of mice and men, and all that, it didn't happen.

I actually picked them up after lunch and took them down to the allotment to refill the Dalek that had already consumed and processed the last two sacks from my sister-in-law.

I'm not a half full or half empty kind of guy, as an engineer lets just say it was once again at 50% capacity. I managed to fill up that Dalek again and with the rest of the grass and layering it with shredded paper, coffee grounds and a layer of comfrey managed to fill another Dalek to just a little over 50% capacity. 

Not knowing we were going to have a thunderstorm and a downpour of rain, I did water the Cucumbers and the spuds in buckets again whilst I was down there. 

Looking at the plants in the Space Saver Greenhouse 

Three days ago there were only two runner beans showing, now there is only one left to poke its head above the soil, I'm guessing these will be long enough to go in next Sunday.

Checking on the parsnips there were another three that had germinated and started to grow so these have gone into toilet rolls with the first three so currently I have six parsnips that I know are viable.

The lid has been placed back on the container and it has gone back under the stairs in the dark and I will check for more growth in another couple of days.

Finally more growth on the butternut squash front, but still nothing from the marrows

I'm guessing at least two weeks before the sweetcorn can go in so I will get the beds ready for it next Sunday and it can go in the following Sunday 

The second sowing of beetroots are germinating and the new pack appears to be providing better results than the older seed did. I'm guessing a couple of weeks before these will be ready to go in at the allotment. I think a third sowing needs to be done in the next few days.

I have to say I'm very disappointed with the germination rate of the marigolds, I don't hold out much hope that others will germinate any time soon and I may just pot on what's there over the weekend. 

Clearance Works

Today was another very early start and a mixture of visiting Spencer Road to get the Greenhouse frame and other miscellaneous items reducing the stuff in the shed so that ultimately it can be dismantled and brought to Mill Green. I also got an hours extension the other end of the morning and worked up to 1:30 as Sunday Dinner was about an hour late as the wife and daughter had a lay in.

It appears that the local foxes had taken it upon themselves to dig out most of the woodchip that surround the paving stabs and on all the paths the woodchips were over the paving slabs. Next time I see one of those solar powered ultrasonic pest devices at Lidl I'm going to invest in a couple. 

Here are the potatoes in buckets that when I arrived looked practically dead, as they had dried out. My fault as I have been too busy with work and taking her ladyship to hospital appointments to get down and water them. After topping up the soil and giving them a drowning they looked a lot healthier.  

John came in and popped up for a catch up, and asked if I would like some cucumbers and Courgettes. So I walked with him to his greenhouse and picked up four long cucumbers, I can't recall the variety at the moment, and two Courgettes because lets face it who can eat the huge amount you get from a plant. 

That's one of the things I love about allotmenteers is that if one has an excess of seedlings they offer them to their neighbours rather than compost. I do have Cucumbers growing but they have been slow and germination has been really poor. 

I have no problem also growing the two additional varieties I have on the go and hopefully I may even get and extended growing and harvesting season as they look to be about a month apart in growth from the mature plants supplied by John.   

The struts bracing the climbing frame are the poles from two uplighters we used to have and I could not help but think they may be useful for something on the allotment, I didn't know what, but I had a eureka moment.  I cleared the area behind the bed and later when re visiting to water in the evening re wood chipped that area and along the Daleks whist leaving the hose to saturate the potato beds.

I know its late to be trimming the plum tree but it was taking over the path and needed trimming back and I am trying to train it along to become a living fence eventually. 

For the moment the back part can remain more natural tree like especially as I have a number of small green plums on there already 

The cabbages are doing extremely well and so far have not been attacked very much by snails and slugs 

Again very happy with the progress of the red and white onions

The two beds of spud are doing extremely well and its nice to see a number of beds in production.

What is supposed to be the Rhubarb bed has a beer slug trap in the middle and I will be making sure that as many of the blighters have been dealt with before removing the netting which is there to keep the weed seeds out as there were weeds with seeds along the path until my neighbour strimmed and effectively released them all into the air.

U gave the whole plot a sprinkle of the wildlife safe variety of blue pellets of death before leaving and I also used weed killer again on the bindweed that is crawling out from the edges of the weed membrane in the area where the shed and greenhouse will finally go.

The one disappointment has been the carrot bed as it appears that the seedling have died or have been munched by slugs and snails probably because they were in distress due to lack of watering during the last week. So next visit I will try the more traditional approach or direct sowing. 

I also made a load of soft bricks with the dried sand, and set up the next trays of sand in the greenhouse to dry off and had another tidy and brought home yet another sack of rubbish. gradually Plot 1A is returning to it's former glory and then I can crack on with clearing and installing the infrastructure in Plot 1

For next Sunday I need to sort out the planting membrane for the spring greens and get them planted and also get the beetroot bed cleared and kill off as many slugs and snails and get the beetroots in the Space Saver in the ground and direct sow the rest of the bed and time is moving on fast and if I blink I will miss the opportunity.

I finally heard back from the plot holder from plot 11 who has admitted the bit off more than they could chew and I can now offer the plot to the next person on the list. The shame is that the plot is covered in brambles and they can't have a fire until October so they are going to have to cart all the brambles away from the plot.

Friday 18 May 2018

Hardening Off The Toms plus

A brighter and warmer day than yesterday so the windows/ lids to the Cold Frame are off today 

The White Lisbon Onions are showing but there is still no sign of the Lilia Onions 

No Tiny Tim but a couple of Maskotka Tomato seedlings showing (lids removed for Photo)

 Runner Beans are on the move 

Nearly all the sweetcorn are now showing 

Spring Greens look to be at a stage where they need potting on or putting in the ground 

Finally at least one butternut squash has germinated but still no sign of a Marrow!
(Pop bottle lid removed for photo)

Thursday 17 May 2018

Onion Jig Mk II

Tonight I made up a second sowing Onion Jig. The original on the left gives me a grid of 10 x11 number 10mm spaced holes giving me 110 sowing stations per flower bucket tray and if I use every other hole then its a 20mm x 20mm grid based on a 5 x 6 giving me 30 planting locations which is what I used for the Leeks experiment.

What was really needed was a grid somewhere in between, so using the casting pattern on the inside of the bucket as a guide I've ended up with a 7 x 9 grid giving 63 locations which are a little more open and will hopefully promote larger onions forming. 

As with all things gardening it's all about trial and error and finding out what works for you. Due to the white rot on the allotment until I can treat the beds with garlic water I need a way to grow as many as possible of the vast amount of spring onions we eat annually.

Overwintered SoilFixer SF60 Spring Onion Experiment 

The next 110 White Lisbon Spring Onions are on their way