Sunday 30 September 2018

Joists for Raised Beds

Time fly's so fast when your on the allotment and having fun. I still have crops to harvest and things to do like playing I mean testing the power planter, but the focus for today was giving the cut joists another coat of preservative and cutting as many long joist into bed lengths. Their are now two piles of 2.4m joist ready for painting, and a few 1.2m joist.

I've worked trough the outer pile of timber that was stacked next to the paving slabs and there are 4 more long joists to process. 

There are now a pile of joist that will do the 1.8m x 1.2m base for the greenhouse, the few 3 to 4 longer joist in this photo will be cut to 2.4m lengths and stacked during a future visit.

The pile of joist in front of the Hawthorne have reduced, there are a couple of joist that have stubs of other joist that were connected perpendicular to the main joist and its going to take some time to remove all the nails, screws and joist hangers from them before they can be processed and cut to length. 

The timber stacked on the left in front to the Daleks are odd sizes and may be used to form a bed on the perimeter of the plot for a row of Raspberries as a fence.  

Again I would not have got so much done if it was not for the Ryobi circular saw, I'm so glad I bought it 

Thursday 27 September 2018

How To Build A Garden Shed

Rain stopped play this Sunday so I thought I would post this little video about how to Build A garden shed as I was inspired by Sean James Cameron - Diary of a UK Gardener videos of his grand erections of his two sheds First Shed & Second Shed 

If you want to see more sheds then take a look at Garden Sheds UK on Facebook

Monday 17 September 2018

Power Planter & Correct Drill Type

As you may imagine now I have the three Power Planters to test, I'm really keen to give them a go, but inside of each box is a Quick Start Guide which gives the following advice with the accompanying image 

1 Tighten the Chuck 
2 Set Slow Drill Speed 
3 Adjust Clutch to High Number - Screwdriver mode will protect you from Jarring if you hit an obstruction 
4 Best with Side Handle
5 Change to forward mode

I went looking at my tool collection as I know I had a couple of side handles but unfortunately the battery drill I currently have can not accommodate a side handle. 

Now this point is made in the getting started video and I know from personal experience when using a vastly inferior product that is basically a paint mixer but is sold as a soil / weed  auger / compost mixer that a lot of stress can be put on a wrist if using it one handed. 

So a little research later and as I have now invested in some Ryobi tools I decided that if I'm to review these power planters properly then I should have a good quality battery powered drill to use with them that has a side handle or as Ryobi call it an Auxiliary Handle

Looking at B&Q (£90) and HomeBase (£75) the price was £15 cheaper in Homebase and if I bought a spare battery taking the cost over £100 they apply and additional 10% discount at the tills, so I have ended up with a spare battery for what is likely to be a growing collection of Ryobi One + Tools.  

As Power Planter have been so kind as to supply their augers  to me to review, I'm more than happy to invest some cash into buying the right kind of drill so I can give a fair review of the product

I have three tasks that the power planter is going to be ideal for testing with 

1) I need to created a trench in the ground to bury my hose pipe to keep it safe from the grass cutter and strimmer on its way to the water tank. I had to use the Matlock to get across the path as the ground was so hard but I'm hoping to go along the path a lot faster with the Power Planter

2) I need to auger a hole or holes on the plot so that I can move the plastic owl on a handrail pole around to scare off the birds 

3) I need to plant a whole load of bulbs

Power Planter now has it's own label on the blog, so if you want to read about me testing it and using it Click Here for all Power Planter related posts. I'm hoping to get at least one of the tasks completed next Sunday if the weather holds. 

Busy Sunday

A busy Sunday on the allotment harvesting and weeding, cutting up the roof joists that are going to be my raised beds on my new plot and then painting them. I cooked a nice lamb shank for lunch and then in the afternoon got into dealing with the carrots and beetroots which took me up to 9pm by which time I had been on my feet far too long and was knackered.

Carrots harvested from the first two rows of bed 8 in the background with the netting. Beetroots harvested from bed 9 and weeds removed. Weeds removed from bed 10 and I was quite disappointed how few beetroots had germinated or perhaps because of the rain had been eaten by slugs as I'm sure I saw more seedling there.

Bed 7 has more beetroots but also more weeds and these will be dealt with on my next visit to the plot.

The cucumbers just keep coming! shame some of the carrots appear to have hit something or perhaps a hard pan and bent sideways but most are not to be sniffed at. 50% were frozen later in the day and the others will be consumed fresh.

The Joists that were cut to bed size and painted last week received another coat of preservative and were the first job of the day and then I finally got to use my new Ryobi Saw and cut another six boards 3 x 2.5 and 3 x 1.2m 

It cut through the 215x50mm joists like they were butter and I wished I had started earlier on the timber joist, but now I own a Ryobi battery powered saw there is no manic rush to get everything cut up at once. 

Would I recommend the Ryobi Saw? Yes I would that's why I bought one after trying my brother- in-laws  

The newly cut 2.5m boards have been stacked next to plot 1A and the saw horses ready for painting. 

The 1.2m cut joists were placed on the bread tray saw horse and I managed to get the cut ends and one side painted just before going home to cook Sunday Dinner. 

In the afternoon and evening I washed and froze half of the carrots and cooked off the beetroots, skinned then diced and picked 10 jars worth, having saved the Doritos dip jars has been a blessing as this year there was no confusion of what cap went with what jar. 

Friday 14 September 2018

Power Planter Arrives

I would like to thank Brian Chapman for sending me three different versions of the Power Planter to test and review, it looks as if my daughter Kelly wants to have a play with them as well !

Looking at the PowerPlanter UK web site there appears to be four versions available here

There are other PowerPlanter web sites for USA, Australia and New Zealand The USA site which uses the dot com address redirects to the UK if you are in the UK   

Cordless Drill not included in price.

The three I have been sent to play with and review are from the UK Gardeners Range and are ticked above. 

Looking at the other country web sites there are many versions that have been tailored specifically for Landscape Professionals, Pest Controllers etc. The box for my 3" Diameter x 24" Length with 1/2"  Non-Slip Hex Drive also has a tick box for the contents for a 3/8" and a Heavy Duty Tip Version of the product 

Quick Start Video 

There is also a great Troubleshooting Video on the UK Web site which gives tips and tricks on using the product range.

NOTE: Please DON'T just stick it on your drill and start digging. You could risk hurting yourself and the tool.

After watching the Quick Start Video and the Trouble shooting video a couple of times I will be doing a review of the Power Planter Augers and making a video shortly, as I have some tasks coming up on the plot that these augers will be ideal for. 

If you want to see how I get on with the PowerPlanter and what happens next then Click Here for all posts relating to Power Planter

Sunday 9 September 2018

Clearing Tomatoes and Plot 1

The cunning plan was to harvest as much as possible and do some clearing up, the tomato plants were beginning to look a little ragged and weedy and I thought it would be good to harvest all the tomatoes and clear the bed ready for winter, so that's what I did. 

What I was not expecting was to obtain a full mushroom tray full of red and green Rapunzel tomatoes, I love these small tomatoes, the wife and I tend to have 5 or 6 each lunch time with our sandwich which is one reason I grow as many tomatoes as I do each year. 

I ended up with a further two mushroom trays of Crimson Crush tomatoes at about 60:40 Green:Red to be added to the others in the Space Saver Greenhouse in the back garden.

I harvest a whole bucket of cucumber and gave a couple to my Brother & Sister in law who popped down to the allotment to harvest some carrots as they have not had much luck with cucumbers this year. 

I made another two Bread Tray Saw Horses and had a tidy up on Plot 1 in preparation of cutting up more timber joists to be used as raised beds. 

When I made coffee and having the drill I put up the hooks along the back of the shed and behind the stove for the hand tools. It's amazing what you can do when your waiting for a kettle to boil.  

Saturday 8 September 2018

Ryobi Circular Saw

So after dropping off the wife to the high street with my daughters so they can go shopping, the old man (me) gets to go and play with the dirt. Actually the plan was to go and cut the joist up into bed lengths of 2.4m and 1.2m with my new toy. Thing is I could not work out how to lock the cardboard blade so that I could undo the locking screw to put the new blade in. I really should have read the manual or left it in the tool bag!

So I spent the few hours painting the timber joists I had already cut to size.

Got home took the saw out of the bag and immediately spotted the button that locks the drive shaft so you can unscrew the locking bolt. Now why didn't I and Wally find that on site when we were looking for it ? 

Wilko Seed Sale

I started the day by taking my wife and daughter to the top of the high street and visiting Wilko to see what I could find in their end of season garden sale. I love the Wyevale 50p seed sale but if you hit the Wilko one at the right time there are bargains to be had.

The good thing is they are still on the racks and not on tables like Wyevale and you can easily see what is available and what you may like to add to your collection. 

So £20.50 worth of seed for £2.30 you can't moan about that. (no matter how many seed you have in your collection already) Comment is for the wife just incase she reads this post ;0)

The sow by dates are mainly 2021 a few at 2022 and only one pack at 2020 so that three to four years of viability before the germination rates decline and realistically if looked after most will last five to six years. 

After building up huge quantities of some seeds I have gone more lightly this year, with the exception of the Minibel tomatoes as I though there would be very few seeds in a pack and didn't check at 10p a pack but as it happens there are 35 seeds in a pack.  The six pack for 10p is exceptional value for money.  

I also bought some other gardening related items some that were reduced like sturdy gardening gloves at 50p a pair, and some other items that were not reduced, but the prices were good anyway, like the six packs of 10 Tulip bulbs at £2 each that I intend to grow for my good lady wife to have as cut flowers when I come home from the allotment. Question: What Sales do you like and what bargains have you had in the sales?

Friday 7 September 2018

Freecycle Luck Improves

It's been a little while since I had some luck getting items off Freecycle but I managed it this week, I saw these two "camouflaged coloured" wheelie bins come up and thought, they would be ideal for storage of nets etc over the winter months keeping the sheds clear so that I can actually get into them

So the back of the car was cleared and off I went to an office in Wimbledon to pick them up, they looked smallish in the photo with the high skirting boards but they were bigger than I had expected.

One went in the boot and the other went on the back seat and they were taken to the site and placed behind the shed so they don't blind anyone coming on the site. 


Wednesday 5 September 2018

Tomato Seed Circle

This year has been a very good one for tomatoes and I have saved four different varieties for the Grow Your Own Grapevine Seed Circle. 

Balconi Red
Micro Tom
Red Robin

To save a small quantity of seeds for your own use

Remove seeds from the fruit and rinse in a sieve under cold running water, rubbing them against the sieve to remove the gel coating. Spread them on a paper towel or piece of kitchen paper and leave to dry. Fold up the paper, label it, and in the spring pop the paper with the seeds attached on to moist compost in a seed tray to start your plants. I have drawn boxes the size of the seed packet and have placed the seeds on the kitchen paper before then cut up once dry, but prefer the Fermentation Method

To save a larger quantity of seeds for Seed Circles I use the Fermentation Method

Squeeze the pulp from ripe tomatoes into a suitable container (e.g. a large yoghurt pot or KFC Gravy or Beans container). You can also process ripe fruits into a food processor with an equal quantity of water until you have a pulpy mass. The seeds are hard and will not be damaged.

Put the container into a warm place to ferment. It may smell bad but it is good for the seeds. Fermentation removes compounds that inhibit germination and it also destroys seed-borne diseases. You are merely duplicating what happens in nature.

After three or four days, when the container is topped with a mass of mould, add plenty of water and stir vigorously. Good seeds will settle to the bottom, so you can tip the rotting mass away. Rinse and repeat until only good, clean seeds remain. Strain the water off and place them on a clean plate or piece of glass or KP Nut or Gravy plastic lid (they will stick to paper). Stir once or twice a day to promote even drying and prevent clumps of seeds forming. Dry the seeds quickly to prevent them germinating, but avoid direct sunlight or an oven. A cool, gentle breeze is best I place mine on top of the fridge next to an air brick.

Storage Tomato seeds will last in storage for about six years, depending on the variety.

Monday 3 September 2018

Sweetcorn Sunday

Resuming my Sunday morning visits, I took four buckets of apples and composting materials to the plot to add to the Daleks. 

I spent a little time installing a half shelf in the shed at mid height between the Bench and the high shelf beside the stove for the Tea & Coffee making paraphernalia to go on. 

Derek the site rep from the neighbouring and my old allotment site Spencer Road popped in to see the new plot, what progress I had made and for a chat about the upcoming Site Reps meeting with idverde and the Local Authority.

It was good to be able to offer him a drink and to chill for a little while. As Derek was leaving my Brother & Sister in Law, Keith & Pauline arrived and once again it was good that finally I could make them a drink as up to now they have been the only source of fresh refreshment hand have been making me coffee for ages. 

It did however highlight that I need to clear up around the seating area at the top of the plot, so that's a job to go onto my To Do List. 

Whilst on the way to the top of the plot, I noticed that the squirrels or rats had started on the Sweetcorn, so my suspicion last week that they were ripe and ready for picking was justified and I spent most of the rest of morning removing and trimming and tidying up the cobs and bagging them to take home. The leaf's outer vegetation and stalks were cut up and added to the Daleks and as I'm low on shredded paper I added some of the decomposing leaf's from last autumn as browns along with spent compost from the potatoes in buckets.    

Another half a dozen cucumbers of various shapes and sizes and Rapunzel red Tomatoes were also harvested and added to the pile of produce to take home.

I made more bread bin saw horses and stacked them with the timber joists that have been already cut to size ready for painting, before finally coming home for lunch. Time fly's so fast on the allotment and you don't always get everything done you would like or had planned. 

The Sweetcorn was cleaned up, cut up and put in the freezer and a return visit was made to the allotment in the evening with the sweetcorn and my sisters grass cuttings to top up Daleks 2 & 3 once again to the top. It appears that I'm able to keep two Daleks topped up all the time, and I'm guessing a third will be started once I start clearing the bottom half of the sweetcorn stalks. 

I also have a double and now a single Dalek filled with apples from my back garden and the allotment and one does get a little high from the fumes from those two when you pass them 

Question: How many Daleks or compost bins do you have, and do you enjoy making compost?   

Saturday 1 September 2018

In My Seed Box - Swede

OK I admit when I think of swede it takes me back to my childhood as my Mum used to cook roast dinners all the time and swede was part of our staple diet, however since growing up and getting married it's not something that the wife is particularly fond off, but now as I am taking on more of the cooking duties and the fact that I have a packet "Best of All"  seed that came with the Grow Your Own magazine, I feel that space needs to be found to grow this vegetable in 2019 as I didn't manage to grow it in 2018 and that I should learn how to cook it !

I have a vague recollection of her boiling it, mashing it and adding butter, but I may be wrong !

Best of All  - 750 Seeds - FREE - Mr Fothergill's - Sow By 2021

Sow        May - Jun
Harvest  Oct - Mar

Planning and Reviewing September in Previous Years

Reviewing the diary over the last five years for September

2013 - My First September having obtained the allotment in October 2012 - At the first of September 9 of the 16 beds were complete and had been used for growing during 2013 the central path of 600 x 600mm heavy duty ex council road slabs was finished. My first corn on the cobs were harvested and a major hit with my daughter Kelly, A second visit to the Wyevale 50p seed sale was made. I was still harvesting red tomatoes and Blight hit on the 14th September. Last runner beans harvested last week of September.  

2014 - Dorking Wyevale 50p seed sale 2nd September, two £5 Space saving water butts picked up for the greenhouse from TESCO due to a marketing error they had to honour. First discussion with Redrow regarding them helping us form a drop off and pick up arear, I didn't know then that it would take another four years to actually make this happen. Harvested carrots and obtained more composting bins off Freecycle. Repairing Planting membrane and making new planting membrane using the trusty soldering iron. Making a Pop Bottle Greenhouse, if only I had known then what a pain in the arse getting rid of it was going to be! Harvesting.   

2015 - Took on additional plot on Spencer Road as I thought there would not be anywhere to drop off and pick up at Mill Green once the development was completed and negotiations re it's formation were not very good with the Council and Redrow at that time. Harvested sweetcorn mid September   

2016 - Tomatoes finally turn red and are harvested. We found a source for woodchips, 2nd Visit to the Wyevale Seed Sale, 72 Senshyu Yellow Japanise Onions from seed to overwinter, Seed Sorting and Labels, 2nd week of September harvesting Sweetcorn. Crimson Crush, Butternut Squash, meeting with council and Redrow as mound of excavation behind access gate.     

2017 Allotment work party arranged to clear the area for the drop off and pick up area on Mill Green, Sarpo Spuds, Pumpkin, Marrow, Sweetcorn, Walking Onions, Wilkinson's Sale, SoilFixer SF60 Overwintering Onions Experiment, Timber Bench taken to site and made into a Potting Bench. Still harvesting Cucumbers at the end of the month.    

Below is the to do list in no particular order and catching up with what actually happened in August and what has slipped. 

Mill Green - Plot 1
  • As much infrastructure works as the weather will allow - Ongoing, way too warm in August to dig beds, hoping for some cloudy less warm weather in September
  • Water Butts - Fix taps 
  • Guttering to Shed - TBD
  • Extension to shed - rear - built minor modification required   
  • Cut Roof Joists to bed sizes - Ongoing
  • Make Bread Tray Saw Horses - Ongoing
  • Paint Joist cut to bed sizes - Ongoing 
  • Lay the paving for the greenhouse - TBD 
  • Erect the greenhouse - Still waiting for the base to be completed 
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time
  • Remove Hawthorne bushes from the wall - TBD
  • Install Kerb Edging all around the plot - TBD
  • Stockpile Timber ready for burning in October - TBD

Mill Green - Plot 1A

  • Weeding - Never ending job   
  • Clear the storage area behind the shed  - Done
  • Clear the greenhouse - Now the second shed is in place this is happening ready for overwintering plants  
  • Rhubarb Bed to be created - clearance of weeds in current location and move when ready
  • Tidy Up the Allotment - Ongoing and looking better all the time 
  • Clear area behind the Greenhouse - TBD
  • Clear Seating Area - TBD
  • Plant Raspberries against the Wall - TBD


  • Harvest Tomatoes - As they turn red
  • Purchase vent opener for new greenhouse.- Not Yet 

To Do List
Week 2
Parsnips - begin to harvest - Went in late so not yet 
Mid month

Autumn Onion Sets - plant - Umm Over Winter or Not?
Week 3
Swede - begin to harvest (through to early Jan) - Not Grown this year
Week 4
Cabbage (spring) - transplant - Not Grown this year