Monday, 22 December 2008


We added the plastic panels to the green house and it is now a splendid thing. It is warm as toast on a coolish day and the space inside is drying out. I'm very pleased with it.

We have been trying to stay off the plot to avoid making the muddy morass that we created while we made the green house. After we finished Jean dug the ground over to bury the clag. Today we walked on it for the first time in over a week and it just sank underfoot. I still have the shelves to add, but to help preserve the ground I'll wait for a few weeks, we're not in a hurry to use it yet.

We dug some more leeks and parsnips. The parsnips are beginning to look a bit rough, with chunks out of them and blemishes on the surface. One of them was rotten. There are about a dozen left so in a couple of weeks we'll dig them all up, give away what we can and freeze the rest. The leeks have just got better and better, but sadly there are only a few left, some of which were the spare ones that we planted rather late and so are a bit small.

Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Greenhouse weather

Over the past few days we've popped up to the allotment a few times to rebuild the greenhouse. I wanted to make it bigger so I took down the existing, rather successful one and set about making a new one in the same style. I reused the front side panels and the door and made new, bigger sides. The frame above the door is a little higher now so the slope of the roof will be preserved. The water will run off into the gutter on the shed to add to the water in the tanks behind the shed. The floor area will be about the same as the shed and should give us enough room to grow all we want. The frame is pressure treated one-by-two, which is thin to be light weight and allow lots of light in. We will cover the side and roof with plastic sheets which are easy to cut to size and add a huge amount of strength to the whole structure.

There has been a bit of snow over the past couple of days, with a bit more forecast. There has been much less of the usual guff on the TV about arctic weather and yet actually this winter is earlier and colder than for many years. I've been slightly worried about the plumbing for the water system, but the lagging seems to be working. When I get the plastic sheets on the greenhouse that will restore the heating of the pipes to make that much safer again.

The parsnips and leeks are still going strong - some say frost sweetens parsnips, so we'll see next time we take some. The leeks are standing up to a bit of snow, but the main problem with the parsnips is that their tops have withered so finding where some of them are is getting harder, snow or not. They are also frozen in so digging them up without breaking the root is tricky too.

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Gentle harvest

The wet and windy weather had a rest today, so we ventured up to check things out and dig up some parsnips and leeks. They were lovely.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Garlic has appeared

We planted a row of garlic last month and they have begun to grow. They are a bit close to the trampled line from the gate that is becoming a path and I was bothered that we might be damaging them. The very wet weather has kept us off the plot, so the garlic has had a chance. The parsnips tops have wilted so we can get the roots up as we need them. The remaining leeks are still getting fatter. We think we will still be eating leeks into January.

Friday, 31 October 2008

Giant parsnip

Jean popped up to get a parsnip and came back with a tree trunk. You just have no idea how big the root is going to be until you dig it up. In fact it was so big she broke the root digging it up. One of the other parsnips had some canker in it - I hope there isn't much more, canker that is.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Bricks, digging and slabs

The bricks have been laid on the concrete footing. The line is fairly level, but if the front of the new greenhouse follows the line of the bricks we will have a bow-window front.

Over the last few days all of the empty parts of the plot have been weeded and dug over. I cut down the asparagus to the ground, then turned my attention to laying paving stones into the new extension of the greenhouse. I had to cut a paver, which smashed into many pieces, but two of them fit the space so that will do.

The winter onions are doing well, the rhubarb has all died back so everything looks good for the start of the winter. No sign of the garlic yet, but that's not an issue.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

Concrete results

We took advantage of a fine, bright day, albeit a bit cold and breezy, to fill our foundation trench with a concrete mix. We used spare gravel from home mixed with a sand and cement mix left from some bricklaying at home to make up a concrete mix. It was a bit quick to go off so I think I got the mix wrong, but as long as it will hold a course of bricks it'll do me. It is fairly level, so a reasonable bed of mortar for the bricks will give a great base for the woodwork.

We took a cabbage and the last of the beetroot along with some tomatoes. The colder weather seems to be arriving, so the toms will need to be taken home on the vine to ripen. As soon as we do that we can start to extend the greenhouse.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Onions, garlic and trenches

Over the weekend we popped up to plant the garlic. Jean dug over the row again while I fitted a handle and catch to the shed door, which I hope will stop it getting blown open. I hope we'll see the garlic over the next few weeks. The first of the onions have sprouted in the two rows we planted.

The last of the fennel is starting to go over and the last of the cabbages are pretty ropey, but we might have a couple left to use. The parsnip tops are beginning to wilt so we'll see how the roots look. The leeks just get better and better.

We also dug out a shallow and narrow trench which will form the foundation for the extended greenhouse. When we have a few dry days forecast I'll mix a little concrete to fill the bottom of the trench, then lay a course of bricks to form the base of the extension. This needs to line up to the existing concrete supports to keep things level. My brick laying is not the best, but it is an allotment greenhouse not a palace.

Sunday, 28 September 2008


We popped up today to check the remaining tomatoes. Gary was starting his digging - he digs in the autumn, then again in the spring. He gave us a huge onion, some little carrots and a couple of sweetcorn cobs; we gave him some fennel. We ate the carrots for tea with some of our parsnips and very nice they were.

I like the way Gary and Brenda both grow their carrots and they have both done well. I'll build a small raised bed over the winter so we can give it a try.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Know your onions

We went up yesterday to dig the row that we want to plant garlic in. It needed digging over because we have been using it as a path between the beds so it was trampled down hard. It also needed some manure digging in. We gave away some more fennel to Ken and to Rob. Rob had planted some winter onions which have already come up. He had some left and he gave them to us. They were two types of small onion sets. Some white ones he described as Japanese onions and some yellow onions. We planted them to get them on their way. They should be ready in April or May, so we may well be able to plant something else straight after. The garlic should go in in a couple of weeks.

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Civil engineering

I have replaced the stands under the water butts. It felt like a big job - I used chunky timber to be sure it could take the weight and the result looks very tidy and strong. We took some trouble to level it which should help support the weight of the water butts. The pipework connecting the guttering on both sides had come apart and may have been leaking for a while - the ground under the shed seems very wet. It's not a great photo, but it shows the frame and the new space carefully created to store the wheelbarrow and other such stuff.

The tomatoes are still producing fruit and the leeks just get better and better. We'll be working on the greenhouse extension before long.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

What a heap

The autumn cleanup has begun. We have decided to weed the empty spaces, put some manure on the ground and leave it until the spring. That way the manure will be drawn into the ground by worms over the winter. When we dig it in the spring the ground should be lightened and fed ready for our next season.

The local riding school cleared their manure heap earlier in the year by spreading it on the surrounding fields, so I wasn't too sure what we would find. I drove to the site, following a tractor pulling a farm trailer about half full of muck. The driver dumped it onto the heap, which I was surprised to find was once again huge. We took two loads away in our trailer and we will be back for at least one more.

The rest of our plot is doing well. Our leeks are fantastic - I think they're still getting better. The parsnips we've had are lovely. I'm letting them grow a little more until their leaves begin to yellow. The spring onions have finished but there are still some beetroot and cabbages to take.

I need to urgently rebuild the support for the water butts. The existing ones are too flimsy and are beginning to buckle. I underestimated how the relentless weight would bear down on the stands. There are two butts, and when full each weighs over 210kgs. I've ordered some timber for the new stand, more details to follow ...

Wednesday, 10 September 2008

Stinging strawberries

We've done some more weeding and tidying up. As I type this my fingers are tingling from the nettle stings. I weeded the asparagus and strawberries by hand and some nettles had sneaked in amongst them. It's surprising how much a tiny nettle stings.

The strawberries had loads of runners, which I pulled up and cut off. I was going to plant some on, but we don't have the space at the moment and since the plants are only one year old (from Norman's runners) they don't really need replacing next year, so I'll pot some runners next year.

We dug a parsnip. It is fat but very short. It doesn't look as though our idea has worked too well. Our leeks were a great success, they tasted great.

There is due to be a national cycle race in our area tomorrow so we will probably do some more at the allotment to stay off the roads. I think I'll check out the new manure heap at the village riding school.

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Leeks and plans

We took down the runner beans today. They've given us a great crop, we've eaten them, put loads in the freezer and given loads away. As well as our last runner beans, we took a couple of cabbages, a few tomatoes and three leeks. The leeks are short but very fat and they smell wonderful, we'll see what they taste like later.

We have begun to plan our plot for next year. We need to know where to put the manure, some plants don't like extra nutrients. We also need to make space for garlic which needs to be planted in a few weeks.

We listed what we grew this year and realised that we sowed or planted out a few things too early. There was a longish winter this year with some snow at Easter, but the things that were planted later generally caught up. I want to sort out the fruit soon too. We need to pot up strawberry runners and I want to organise their beds a bit better. I want to be able to put a simple, removable wire frame over them to make harvesting and weeding easier. I also want to plant some cuttings of black currants to increase our stock.

Friday, 29 August 2008


We've been up a few times over the past week, mostly to harvest vegetables and water the tomatoes in the greenhouse. We have had great beetroot, lots of runner beans, huge savoy cabbages, crunchy spring onions and crisp fennel. Norman on the next plot lifted a parsnip to see what it was like. It was fat but short; we'll see what ours are like in a few weeks. We dug up the stray raspberry canes that had self-seeded outside of the rows. I put some chlorate weed-killer down around the grass edges to stop the couch grass spreading onto the plot.

We have started to think about next year's layout. We will remove the beds and go for longer rows across the width of the plot for most vegetables. We want some more gooseberry bushes and we'll take blackcurrant cuttings to grow more of them. We're going to use the plot we cleared last to grow small amounts of things like spring onions and maybe some other salad stuff.

We need some more horse manure, so we''l be heading off to the local riding stables to get some. It's very handy and free. It made a big difference to the soil texture last year, so I'll keep adding it when we can.

I think I'll extract a summary for the year from this blog, so we know what worked well and for timings of sowing and planting out. This will help to create a plan for next year. Keeping the plan and results seems to be useful, Gary has records for twenty years, but every year is different.

Friday, 22 August 2008

First seeds

We cut down the remains of the broad beans today and gathered the remaining pods for seed. I've spread them out on a shelf in the greenhouse to dry off. There are far too many for us, but someone else might like some. I gave away some fennel and a cabbage to Ken and Brenda and a fennel to their neighbouring plot-holders too. Our bodged support for the runner beans needed a little extra help but is still standing.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

Beans are down, but not out

We went to the allotment to harvest some veg, but when we got there we were met with a little problem. The frame I built for the runner beans had been blown over. The plants were just laid over, so they were not damaged. They were covering the beetroot, but it was fine too. The wire guy lines had been pulled out by the wind and the supporting legs had snapped clean off. We stood it up, shortened the guys, fastened them to much more substantial supports and the frame was up again. Next year I'll build a more traditional pyramid or two from bamboo or the like.

We took two large cabbages and a good crop of now-upright runner beans as well as a few beetroot, some spring onions and a fennel. We cut back the raspberry canes that had fruited and began to tie in the remaining canes to the wire supports. I didn't finish - I got fed up. I also checked out the broad beans that we had left as seeds for next year. They are not yet ripe or dry enough to gather, so I'll cut them and hang them to dry next time we go. I think that will be tomorrow, just to check those beans.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Pak choi sprouting in the rain

The pak choi we planted has started to come up. If it needs rain it will be happy. We now need to gather the broad beans we have set aside for seeds so they can be dried and stored. We should also prune the raspberry canes that have finished fruiting. So if we can find a few dry hours ...

Friday, 15 August 2008

All's well

We popped up today to check things over. The ground was nicely wet; it has rained over the last few days quite a lot. The tomatoes (in the greenhouse) needed watering - they always do. The first broad beans to be planted out have finished some time ago, but the last to be planted out have just produced the first few beans and probably their last too. Staggering the sowing didn't really work, so next year we will just sow them all at the same time.

The runner beans are doing well, we picked enough to make about four meals. We also pulled a couple of beetroot. We've had a few already. They take an hour to boil, but they are really good to eat as part of a salad. There are four large cabbages ready to take with many more to come.

The leeks look great. The stems are fat and lush. I think we will start harvesting them in a few weeks. The parsnips also look lush. I have no idea how big the roots are, but I'm itching to find out. I just hope our sowing and transplanting technique really has worked as well as it looks.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Pak choi

Yesterday we planted out the next batch of spinach plants. We also sowed some pak choi seed directly in the ground. Normally we sow in pots and then plant out when we have plants, but this specifically does not like being transplanted, so we sowed it direct.

Today I measured up the layout for extending the greenhouse and it looks good. Some weeding and tidying up later we picked some runner beans for later.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

Do beans go with fennel?

Our sweet peas have finally finished after a great show. We've had loads of cut flowers from them and given loads away. We've had a good tidy up over the last few days, and things look good. There have been even more spears on the asparagus, they grow really quickly. The runner beans are now ripening increasingly quickly. It's a bit of a game hunting down the bean pods as they hide behind the huge leaves. There are loads of small pods growing fast and loads of new flowers too.

Our cabbages are filling out nicely too. We've pulled a couple to try and they were very good. We've had mixed messages about freezing cabbage so Jean tried freezing some, and it worked well. Fresh is better, but frozen is pretty good too and certainly not the mush some people predicted.

We took a couple of spring onions to try. They look pretty good, but there are not many of them so I'm not sure they were worth the trouble.

We have been growing Florence fennel as an experiment. The bulbs are beginning to fill out, so we took one home to try. It ended up much too small and very green, rather than the white bulb I was expecting. It tasted good in a salad, so when they are bigger we'll try some more. Gary on the next plot grows herb fennel for its root. I'll give him some of ours to see what he thinks of it. I wonder if it freezes?

Monday, 28 July 2008

After the beans: beans!

We popped to the plot today to water the tomatoes in the greenhouse and found a few runner beans were big enough to eat. They were delicious, and loads more to come.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

Beetroot for lunch

Yesterday we spent a very hot hour or so weeding and tidying up. The bindweed is still growing where it can, but I feel that we are staying on top of it now. The nets are off the raspberry canes since the crop is over and we could get a better look at weeding between the canes. We'll do a better job when the canes have been pruned.

The asparagus is still putting out extra spears. I watered it well a few days ago and this seems to have stimulated more growth. If it stays dry I'll keep watering to encourage more growth. This should build up the crowns ready for sending out spears next spring, which we'll harvest. The runner beans are setting some beans with lots more flowers too. I watered them and will continue to water to help set the beans. One bean was big enough to pick, but one is not much of a snack. I'll be patient.

The waiting is over for the first beetroot. We took three beets and had some with lunch today - lovely. We also had some coleslaw made with our cabbage, also very good. The cabbage is savoy which made the coleslaw slightly peppery; I liked it. Last night we had raspberry coulis (from our raspberries) with home-made icecream; that was really good.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

More beans

We went to make another harvest this morning; all is well. The broad beans continue to produce loads of fat pods. I took a carrier bag full again today. We took the last of the raspberries - about 600g - which will make another fantastic pie. The gooseberries also produced their last crop, about 300g, which added to the other crops is fantastic for just one bush. The runner beans are growing fast, but are not quite ready to take any yet.

The savoy cabbages are looking good, but they are a bit crowded. We planted them knowing they were too close to fit all of the plants into the bed, so now we will thin them to give the other room. Our first cabbage is small, but looks lovely.

Friday, 18 July 2008

Paving Slabs

I've been a member of Freecycle for a while. It helps put people who own things they don't in touch with people who cold use them. Most of the things offered would go to a landfill site if they were not taken by someone. I saw some paving slabs offered and I got them. We went with the trailer to pick them up today - they were heavier than I expected and it poured with rain while we lugged them to the trailer, but they will be useful.

We had some spare plants in the greenhouse in case some died, but everything has done so well that they were not needed. No one else seemed to need them, so they hit the compost heap. The only thing left in the greenhouse is a growbag with tomatoes in it. They're doing well, but we realised that we hadn't been feeding them so they got their first feed today.

The raspberries and broad beans will be ready for another harvest tomorrow. The runner beans are setting little pods, so we need to keep an eye on them to pick them before they get too big. That would make them stingy and tough.

Monday, 14 July 2008


We've been a bit busy, so this is a bit of a catch-up. We've had two big harvests of broad beans. We've eaten some and given some away, but still we have added over a kilo of blanched beans to the freezer. There will be much more yet. The actual take from the plants is much more because the pods are so big. At some point we must let about twenty good pods ripen completely for next year's seeds.

We have also had harvests of raspberries and some more blackcurrants. There are still lots of raspberries to come, but both the strawberries and the blackcurrants have finished. We took our first gooseberries which are ripening in stages. We had to take the first ones to stop them spoiling.

We pulled the redcurrant bushes up. We don't really like them and can't find anyone who does. They are also not producing much fruit. We'll plant new gooseberry and blackcurrant bushes, either bought or from cuttings to replace them.

The asparagus has decided to put out new spears, I'm not sure why except that they have had a lot of rain lately so maybe that's pushed them on. I earthed them up some more ready for next year.

We had a really good weeding session to deal with the burgeoning weeds. The strawberries had nets over them to keep the birds off, so the weeds had flourished, especially nettles.

The runner beans have flowers, the fennel is fattening up and the first beetroot beets are showing.

Sunday, 6 July 2008


The spinach was ready to plant out, so Jean planted two rows out in the newly prepared area at the back. We have some leeks still in pots but I don't want to plant them in the rest of this space.

Last year we planted some stuff here and there and it caused us some problems this year. Leeks stay in the ground a long time, so anywhere we plant them must be somewhere they can stay without causing a problem next year. We already have loads of leeks, so we might eat these from the pots as small leeks. The spinach will be grown and eaten before the autumn.

Friday, 4 July 2008


There were some thundery down-pours yesterday, so everything got a good soak. The result is a good crop of red raspberries and strawberries. We have a family party tomorrow, so a kilo of ripe strawberries will help feed the assemblage.

I also pulled our first broad beans. There are loads of pods, but most of the big ones are still soft to the touch; a few are firmer with the beans inside feeling plump. So I pulled these for a snack.

The latest spinach seedlings are almost ready to go out, beetroot seedlings are sprouting, but the latest fennel seeds are not showing yet.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Fruits galore

The vegetables are growing well, but now is the time for fruit. The strawberries are still going strong and now the raspberries are ripening nicely. I thought the bushes were a not doing well, but I was wrong. We took half a kilo of raspberries which are clean and look great. There was also a lot of ripe black currants on our main bush, with a few white currants too.

We finally made a trip to the tip with all of the rubbish we dug out of the back of the site. It is about a year since we took over the plot and it has taken this long to dig up and remove the broken glass, rotten wood, plastic bags, buckets, broken tools, wire, wire fence and plastic mesh.

Sunday, 29 June 2008

Fenced in

The new space at the back of the plot now has a fence around it. We added two new gateways, made from half a door each, that slide out of the way if need be, but are low enough to stride over. They may need to be bit lower yet, striding is a bit of a stretch. We moved some of the existing fence, so the plot overall is 2½ metres longer.

Our raspberries are a little feeble and a lot have mildew. I think we might dig them out and replace them. This gives us the chance to change the layout of the plot if we want to.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Flowers too

We have a few flowers on the plot. I thought a few pics might be nice.

These are sweet williams. They were left over from some planted at home. The ones at home didn't do very well, but these are fine.

This is just one of many delphinium spikes. Jean wanted a change at home so we moved them to the plot rather than waste them. These are much smaller than they were at home.

This is the first bunch of sweet peas cut and taken home. They smell good too.

Friday, 20 June 2008

The digging's dug, now for the growing

The back of the plot is finally dug over, free from junk and weeds and fairly level. The pile of junk is pretty big for such a small plot.

The rest of the plot is growing fast, except our garlic. It is our biggest disappointment so far. It is weedy and most have died.

The broad beans are fattening up nicely. I think we might get a glut - I hope so - I love broad beans.

As well as the veg, we have a few flowers around the plot. We planted some sweet peas which are just coming out now. The more we cut them the more flowers we will get.

Tuesday, 17 June 2008

Dig, dig, dig

The junk heap under the hedge is proving hard to clear, but we are getting there. The junk just keeps appearing. At this rate there will be a full trailer load for the tip from such a small area. We've managed to clear and level an area behind the shed and moved the compost bins onto it. The soil that I dug out to level it was lovely loam. I've moved some onto the main plot for later use and I think there is much more to move yet.

We found a toad in a compost bin - I hope he likes slugs and snails.

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Digging, leaving and berries

One small part of the allotment has been used as a bit of a dump. The previous tenant certainly used it as that with piles of plastic bags, netting, wood, wire and glass all over it. We have slowly been clearing it and over the last couple of days we have had a big push. The soil that remains, after the junk is removed, is rather nice. I think part of the area was a compost bin and the resulting compost seems rich and fine. The ground is uneven, so when we have dug it all over we will need to level it. It is currently outside the rabbit fence, so before we can do anything useful with it we need to move the fence.

All of the plots are being well looked after now. When we moved in last year there were a few abandoned-looking plots, but they have all been taken on now - except one. There is a guy in the middle who only grows stuff in old oil drums. The rest of his plot is overgrown with weeds including mare's tails which are very hard to get rid of. I heard last week that the council have asked him to leave because he is not keeping the plot up to standard. Today someone was moving his greenhouse, so I guess he'll be gone soon.

We had a pleasant surprise. There were some ripe strawberries. They are the sweetest berries I've ever tasted, and so many more to come.

Sunday, 8 June 2008

Mulch then munch

We wanted to do some tidying up of the strawberry beds. We bought some bark and chippings to use as a mulch to try to support the berries while they ripen to stop them rotting on the ground. It might deter slugs a bit too. There were loads of weeds, including nettles, so we pulled back the netting, dealt with the weeds and added the mulch. The result is tidier and should help the berries too.

Now, where's the cream?

Thursday, 5 June 2008

And now, the pictures

We had a really good tidy up. Jean trimmed the edges of the grass surrounding the plot. I nipped the tops off the broad beans which had black-fly on them and tied a string either side of the rows to support them.

The newly planted very young beans are doing well, so they should provide much later crops.

There were a few ladybirds patrolling the beans, hopefully laying eggs so their nymphs can eat the remaining black-fly. You can't beat a bit of biological control.

I hand-weeded around the asparagus and added extra earth around it. Extra spears are still growing. I'm really keen to see this do well.

I added some blood fish and bonemeal to various places, it looks like it will rain again tomorrow so it should get washed in. Included in this were the strawberries. I got some of the bonemeal on the leaves and as I knocked it off I noticed just how many berries there are. They are covered in them.

Now the edges are cut I can see the trees we planted. The whitebeam is doing very well, but it will be years before its ready to take its place in the hedge where I really want it. All of the trees have taken so we have little oaks, hazel and rowan.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Rained off? No way.

It rained yesterday. Then it rained. Then it rained some more. Today it's a lovely day so we went to see what the rain has done.

Everything has loved the rain. The broad beans are flourishing, but they needed a bit of support so I put up some string between canes. I think they may need more as the pods ripen and get heavy. The extra beans in the greenhouse have all sprouted so they went out too. They are the last ones and should provide beans later in the season.

The spring onions, beetroot and fennel in the greenhouse are all sprouting and they will be out pretty soon. The beetroot and spring onions already out are doing well.

In fact everything is doing well and so are the weeds. More of the dreaded bindweed is surfacing and there are some nettles in amongst the strawberries. Then there's the grass and other general stuff too. A wizz round with a hoe will help a lot.

Thursday, 29 May 2008

There's a catch

I got some doors from freecycle. I took off the hinges and handles and I've fitted a handle and catch to the greenhouse door. It was a long time coming, but the door feels complete now. We have used the greenhouse so much and it has worked so well that I think I'll extend it this autumn. If I make it twice as big it will be just about right. It should be easy to do, much of the frame can still be used, it will need a bit more plastic covering and an extension to the base. We'll see how easy it turns out to be. I'll be using the doors for cold frames, compost bins and storage bins, but first we need to continue clearing up the legacy of the awful weed bed near the hedge.

We had a general tidy up, hoeing and the like. I topped up the water tanks since the rain was not much and there is none forecast for days. Everything is doing well, with more beans growing in the greenhouse. Jean

Monday, 26 May 2008

Rain, what rain?

Rain was forecast for today. It's rained heavily in the south for a couple of days, but not a drop here. There's a promise for tomorrow, but each forecast shows less and less. Our water tanks are running dry, which, as it happens, has been useful. I emptied one tank completely and disconnected it from the pipes that join them all together. The frame it sits on had settled a bit so I raised it on a couple of bricks to level things up. In the process I found a little leak where the pipe joins the tank, so a rubber washer made from an old inner tube seems to have fixed the problem.

Now all we need is rain to fill the tanks again.

Thursday, 22 May 2008


The extra water has encouraged the last asparagus crown to send up a spear, so now we have a full house.

Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Get out

The plot looked very dry, so today I watered it from end to end. I also topped up the water butts since its about a month since we had any decent rain. I will try to use one first to empty it because I want to raise its stand a little to match its mate and level the base which has settled under the weight. It holds 210 litres which is a fifth of a tonne.

We took the plunge and planted out all sorts today. We looked through the greenhouse and made our choice. The biggest leeks went out into deep holes which were simply filled with water. The surrounding very fine earth was washed back in, but there is still a hollow which will love some more water over the next few days. The little spring onions were pricked out directly into the plot and watered in. The beetroot seedlings were just showing their first true leaves, so they went out too. The runner beans were bursting out of their pots, so they went into the plot already prepared with a net for them to climb. I soaked everything that was planted and I'll do it again tomorrow.

We have already sown some extra runner beans, though I'm not sure we'll need them, and some extra broad beans which we certainly have space set aside for. We will sow some more spring onions, some more beetroot and start our first fennel. We moved our pots with chilli seeds in to the greenhouse were they will be warmer and so might sprout.

All of the tiny tree saplings we planted have sprung into leaf. So now we have rowan, whitebeam, oak and hazel trees in the margins. I'd like a lot more.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Stawberry fields forever

The strawberry beds are both covered with netting, supported with stakes. I really am looking forward to these berries, I've only ever managed a couple of tiny strawberries before. The nets should keep the birds off, but the slugs might have a party yet.

We get mains water from two sources, both have tanks with float valves, but one also has a screw fitting that a hosepipe can be fitted to. Both tanks are about the same distance from our plot - so we are the furthest from water. I tried to set up a siphon from the tank without the hose fitting which is scarcely used. It just about worked but the fall is so low the flow was no more than a trickle. A pump would make it work well, but for now I'll stick to the hose fitting. So far this year we have only used rain water gathered from the shed roof, but if the lack of rain continues we may need a top up.

Thursday, 15 May 2008


I built the frame for the runner beans to climb. A couple of wooden poles, with a wire across the top and some wire guys. A plastic net hung from the wire and fastened to the sides completes the space for the beans to grow. I then knocked in some stakes to support the flourishing asparagus plants. This took longer than I expected so I didn't cover the strawberries. They are smothered with flowers so I must cover them before the berries ripen, but there's time yet. The odd little bit of bindweed was pulled out - we really must keep on top of the stuff.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Tidy up

We went to tidy up - some hoeing and trimming the edges of the path around the plot. Runner beans are sprouting so we will need the frame up for them to climb. The asparagus is growing fast and it needs some support, so a frame is needed there too. The strawberries are covered in flowers so they need covering to keep the birds off before the berries ripen. The parsnips and cabbages are growing well. In the greenhouse the spring onions are sprouting and beetroot are coming along too, so they will be ready to put out in a few weeks.

The auto watering system for greenhouse tomatoes and peppers now has an outline design and some bits tested. I helped a neighbour to remove some spyware from her computer and give it a general tidy up, so she is getting me a car battery from the garage she runs (the old battery I had is kaput). I bought a windscreen washer pump from a scrap yard for £5 which works well, so I think I have everything I need, so no excuses. I'll build two boards, one with the 12v stuff on it and the rest with the 5v stuff on.

Thursday, 8 May 2008


We've been up to water in the greenhouse - things were ready for water it's been warm and sunny. I watered the asparagus and checked how it's getting on - there are now eleven out of the twelve plants showing, with the first shoots about 30cm long. Some are a bit spindly but they've got a year to fatten up. I watered the parsnips in the bed. They're a bit puny, but they are growing.

I've done a bit of work on the auto watering system, my embryonic timing system seems to work, so now I need to test the motor switching, the timing control system and the indicators, then it needs testing, then ruggedising and installing. Then it might work.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Rhubarb for tea

We popped up to water the stuff in the greenhouse and decided some of the parsnips were ready to go out. Two more trays were put out, with one more tray still in the greenhouse. The bed looks as though it will just be the right size for the job.

We sowed spring onions in a tray, beetroot two in a pot and runner beans one to a pot and put them all in the greenhouse. I measured up the netting for the beans to grow up. I've got some wooden posts to support it and, like the sweet peas posts, I'm going to knock in some older posts and screw the new ones to them so the new posts don't rot too quickly. The netting looks a good size. We have grown runner beans at home before, with about four plants producing loads of beans. We've planted twelve beans so if they all grow we should be able to pick them small before they get woody and still have lots of extra beans to give away.

We picked our first rhubarb. We cooked some and gave some to my parents. I've offered Jack next door some and he is keen. It's just as well people like it, there is loads. This autumn we should dig up the crowns and split them to renew it.

We had a good weeding session. As I expected the bindweed from last year is making a comeback. I have carefully followed the roots to dig it out, but some breaks off to fight another day. There are a few nettles too, but they're easy to dig out. The planting beds look quite weed-free now.

I have seen in the Parish Council agenda that the report on the state of the allotments is due to be delivered on Tuesday. We'll see if anything comes out of that. Almost all of the plots are in a good state now and there is a waiting list.

Sunday, 27 April 2008


The last couple of days have been a lot warmer and this has helped the asparagus to send up shoots. They're skinny little purple spikes and there's only two of them, but I'm delighted. I have seen conflicting ideas about whether to get any crop this year. Some say no stems should be cut this year, some say cut one stem per crown to encourage more stems to grow, some say even two stems per crowns. I have decided to not cut any stems this year because the instructions that came with the crowns suggest so - I think I can wait that long.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Cabbage scoffer

We have a cabbage scoffer in our midst. The little plants have been sitting still, quietly growing, guarded by overhead CDs dangling on a string, but at the edge of the range of the CDs a scoffer snook in. It was probably pigeon shaped.

We planted the remaining cabbages out and put up more CDs, with a better coverage. If the scoffer has still found a way in then I'll put up some netting. We used the greenhouse space left by the cabbages to put the young tomatoes in, which should suit them.

We turned the compost from one bin to the other and watered it well. The sweet peas are thriving but the asparagus is yet to show.

Thursday, 24 April 2008


[Not really allotment stuff]

I have been giving the issue of automatic watering systems some thought. I have some resources and restrictions. I have two large water butts which will have water in all the time. They are not very high (they are below the shed gutter to collect the water) so there is not much pressure. There is no mains electricity. There is a shed and a greenhouse. I have a spare car battery and a solar panel to charge it.

I have searched t'internet for pumps and motorised valves. I can find pumps, including 12v pumps for water supplies in caravans and 12v pumps for garden fountains. I have had no success with any kind of low voltage motorised valve.

I have wondered how to deliver a fixed amount of water to a grow bag or pot. I have tried making a simple syphon with a drinks bottle and some piping, which works as expected, but how to fill it?

As a simple stop-gap I'm going to build a simple two step timer. This will trigger a few times per day and each time it will switch a pump on for a fixed time.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Getting warmer

Spring has sprung, or so it seems. The weather was warm and dry so a bit of sorting out was due. We moved the netting to the new sweet pea spot. They have survived a couple of days - the last lot didn't survive overnight - so the netting frame was moved. It was easier than putting it up originally because there was no tangle.

The cabbages are romping away, so we planted half of them out. They were sown two to pot in case some didn't grow, but they all came up, so we split them up and planted them all individually. A string with some dangling CDs over them should keep the pigeons at bay.

We put some more of the remnants of pernicious weeds into sacks to take to compost, and I knocked down the extremely rotten wooden frame that had been a large compost bin. It didn't take any effort. We then took the rotten wood to the tip along with a pile of plastic and broken glass pulled out from the site. We are still getting rid of rubbish that we didn't introduce, the glass is particularly annoying.

Sunday, 20 April 2008

Sweet peas, beans and pumps

We dodged the showers to do a bit more work on the allotment. The remaining sweet peas were getting very tall and floppy, so we planted them out. The last lot got eaten in a few hours, and I think that was rabbits, so this lot were planted inside the fence, so I hope they survive. These nine plants are the last of our sweet peas, so if they got scoffed we're sunk.

We also planted another fourteen broad bean plants. The first row we planted a few weeks ago now have flowers forming. We're holding off sowing the last beans to delay their growth otherwise we'll be overrun with beans all at once. You have to pick them when they're ready, except for the few we will allow ripen fully. These will be next year's seeds.

We have moved all of our leeks up to the greenhouse now. There are about one hundred little plants. I think we can just fit that many into the bed we've set aside for them. They are way too small yet, but the weather forecast is saying that the temperature should go up next week, so things will grow more quickly.

If the temperature goes up, so the need to water will increase. I'm still mulling over the best way to automatically water plants, but no firm decisions yet. I have found a pump from MUTR which is an outfit I have used before. It runs at 3-6v so, since I'm thinking about using a car battery, I'd need to step the voltage down. I think I'd also step the voltage down to a circuit board to time and switch things. This stepping down is worth it I think because a car battery is a big reservoir of energy, I have an old car battery to use and I have a solar powered 12v battery charger ready to use. I've looked at a few simple systems on t'internet, but they don't get any recommendations from people who have tried them.

We harvested some more spinach for a couple of meals which I can really look forward to.

Friday, 18 April 2008

Water, water ...

We popped up to the allotment today to check things out, especially checking that things in the greenhouse are not drying out. They were fine, it has been cold and cloudy for the last few days so they are not dry. This ritual will be repeated throughout the summer and if we put peppers or tomatoes in the greenhouse it will be even more important as the heat increases (if it ever does). I am now thinking of how to water things automatically. We have water butts collecting rainwater, they're full to the brim right now, but the pipework doesn't give much pressure at all because the butts are below the shed gutters to catch the water so have no head to make the pressure, and as the level changes when there's no rain and we use the water the pressure will drop. We also have no power to drive a pump or the like. I'm thinking of how to water things reliably, possibly with solar power. If I get past go I'll describe the set up (and the results) here.

Broad beans are looking good, but not as good as Norman's next door, which have flowers showing. Rhubarb is not far off and the remains of last year's spinach is growing too. Parsnips are fine in their little tents.

Wednesday, 16 April 2008

All systems go.

We've just dodged a shower to plant out another couple of rows of parsnips, again under a fleece tunnel. The last lot look fine and the ones in the greenhouse are thriving so we went for it. It is clear that the plants in the greenhouse are doing much better that the ones on window sills at home, which is interesting. At home they are in heated rooms, but the extra light in the greenhouse is clearly what makes the difference.

We've decided to try planting the remaining sweet peas inside the fence - it seems likely that their nemesis was rabbit shaped. There is no sign of asparagus yet, but the spinach is big enough to harvest some for a meal tonight.

The gooseberry bush and currant bushes have flowers on them and they are bursting into leaf. The two small plum trees are also coming into leaf, as are some of the little trees we planted. The rhubarb is growing fast, I think we will harvest some soon.

We tried to remove some more of the weed roots from the hedge bottom, but it was not as easy as I expected. They have rotted down, so much is more like soil and is very heavy, so we don't want to overload the council bin with it. I'm still sceptical that the soil made from these roots won't be full of seeds from nettles, bindweed and docks.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Parsnips in a tent

Yesterday we decided to plant out our first parsnips. The first 15 parsnips growing in their fibre pots had the bottoms cut off the pots so the all important tap root can get away. That root will, of course, be the parsnip we eat next winter. We made temporary cloches with strong wire hoops covered with fleece to protect them for now. This morning they look great.

We took the rest of the parsnips we have started to the allotment greenhouse, to make more room at home. The cabbages are looking great, so they should go out soon, but they need mesh over them to keep the pigeons off.

When I had finished putting up a tiny tent for the parsnips I noticed Jim had a frame that rivals Wembley stadium half complete. He bought it from the internet and I don't think he realised just how big it was about 7 metres long, about 5 metres wide and 2½ metres high. He wants to grow some tomatoes, but will still have enough space to hold a barn dance.

Monday, 7 April 2008

And a partridge on the shed roof

The asparagus crowns arrived today. What great timing. It snowed again overnight and is set to be frosty again tonight. The planting leaflet says plant without delay, so we set off to plant it.

The snow had all melted and the ground was wet but not too sticky. The patch set aside for the asparagus had loads of manure dug in few weeks ago. A pit was dug, about one metre by one and a half and about twenty centimetres deep. Then three ridges were built up along the bottom. The crowns were laid out four to each ridge, with the roots spread out on either side of it. Then they were carefully covered over. There is enough soil left to bank them up if needed.

I now have to wait a whole year before I can cut my first shoot, but if all goes well I could be cutting about 90 shoots each year for twenty years. I do hope so.

The sweet peas we planted have been eaten to the ground. We kept some back just in case, but I don't know what ate them so I don't know how to protect the next batch.

And the partridge ... it was sitting on the shed roof when we arrived. A lovely red-legged partridge. Hey, I hope he's not the sweet pea eater.

Wednesday, 2 April 2008

Trees 1, Parsnips 0

After a spell of windy, cool weather, today has been warm, calm and sunny. We set off to do a few jobs. The greenhouse is helping plants along, except our parsnips. We put some in the allotment greenhouse, partly to make room at home, and it's been a disappointment. They are wilting and not really growing well at all. I think the fibre pots are drying out too quickly, so that's not a great success yet. We will keep the ones at home where they are until they nearly ready to plant out.

I put some plastic netting up for sweat peas to grow up. I avoided the worst tangle but it was still a bit fiddly. We planted half of the sweat peas against the net - I hope they latch on to it soon. We only planted half in case we're too soon, we have some to fall back on. These are also outside our rabbit fence, so they could be vulnerable to munching.

I cleared some poles and planks from around the edge of the site so we could plant some tree seedlings. They grew in pots all last year so I decided to plant them out to see how they do. There are some hazel, oak, whitebeam and rowan trees. Eventually I want them in the hedge (maybe not the oak) but growing them for a year or two inside the fence will give them a better start.

The forecast is for more cold and windy weather in the next few days. I hope spring starts properly soon.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

Easter snows

It's been a quiet week. The shelves and windowsills are full of seed trays with seedlings growing on. The greenhouse on our allotment has its shelves full of seed trays too. Even the cold frame at home has some beans in it. I've added another shelf into the greenhouse and there's room for two more. They can be removed later so we can grow some bigger plants that do better in the greenhouse all year. Jean got some free seeds with Gardeners' World, including some peppers, which we should grow well in that warm space.

Easter is early this year - almost as early as it could possibly be. Unlike previous recent years, this year we have had a taste of winter with some frosts and a few storms. This Easter the cold north winds have blown in snow squalls. So far the snow has not really settled but the ground is quite cold, so really we're waiting for things to settle down and warm up.

Friday, 14 March 2008


The first leaves of parsnips have appeared. These are thought difficult to grow, so we spread the seed on wet newspaper in a seed tray with a clear lid. Nearly half of the seeds rooted and have been transferred to fibre pots. Now the first couple of leaves have sprouted above the compost so it looks as though the method works. It is a bit fiddly and time-consuming, but home grown parsnips next winter will be well and truly worth it.

Now we will sow the next batch in just the same way.

Friday, 7 March 2008

Out they go

The first of our broad beans have been planted out. We have lots of spare seeds - more are already growing - so we decided o see how they do. Other plots have broad beans out on them, but they have mostly over-wintered.

We took some more leeks up to the greenhouse and also our first batch of savoy cabbage too. The greenhouse is working well, so I want to make the most of it.

Our major success is the first showing of parsnips. They are notoriously poor at germinating so we have put some on a wet newspaper to force them to germinate. so far about a third have sprouted roots. We potted them into fibre pots with sandy compost so I'll be very pleased when their leaves break through, but things look good so far.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Bin there, done that

The council have delivered a new bin to us. It is a large wheelie bin for our garden rubbish, the sort of stuff that can composted. This stuff all goes to our allotment compost heap so this large bin is not much use to us. But then again ...

We have a large pile of pernicious weed roots at the allotment, left over from clearing the site last year. They are rotting down, but we're worried about putting them on the compost heap in case they don't rot completely - the heap might not get hot enough to kill them. They are mostly bindweed and nettle roots so we don't want to spread them. So in an ingenious exchange deal we take our garden cuttings to the allotment compost heap and take the weed roots home to the new bin, so the council can take them away. The council will compost them in a big facility that will get hot enough to kill them. We have filled the bin but the first collection is about a month away so we have to wait get rid of more. We could probably fill the bin many times over, so it could take a while to get rid of the nasty stuff.

Seeds are growing fast, well not the parsnips yet. Plants in the greenhouse are growing nicely and don't seem to have suffered in the frost at all. We seem to be off to a good start.

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Legumes brassicas and alliums

A fine afternoon tempted me up to the allotment. I wanted to build a simple frame to support sweet peas. I bashed a couple of short posts into the ground and screwed a long post to each. This way the long posts are not in the ground so they won't rot away. At the end of the season I can take them down and store them for next year. The short posts are old and can be discarded. I strung a wire across between the posts, anchored to the ground at each end. When the sweet peas are ready to plant I'll add some string supports from the top wire for each plant.

Earlier we planted savoy cabbage seeds and some more broad beans, both in individual pots, at home. The last broad beans have grown too fast and become leggy, so these new ones will go outside almost as soon as they show. The first broad beans, sweet peas and some leeks have gone up to the allotment, into the new greenhouse. The weekend is forecast to have very strong winds, so once they have passed the broad beans will go into the ground. The sweet peas will be a couple of weeks yet and the leeks even longer.

Jean planted a lot of flower seeds for our garden so space on window sills is tight. We tried to grow parsnips last year but not one came up, so we are trying something different. We have sown some seeds onto damp newspaper, covered with a propagator lid. If it works we will transplant each seedling into a fibre pot. When they are ready to plant out we will cut the bottom out and plant the whole pot. If you disturb the roots they split and don't grow well.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Take a leek

The leeks have sprouted. They push through the compost in a big loop and eventually they stand up. The tiny green spikes have the seed case stuck on top, like crinkled helmets. If you look very closely they are already perfect tiny leeks with white bases and a dark green stems. Jean potted them into small pots, fifty plants in all.

The spare room had trays of broad beans in the window. They have burst upward and and are in need of holding back to stop them growing too lanky, so they have gone outside. We can bring them in if they need some protection from frost, but otherwise they are hardening off before planting out. They could probably stand a frost, especially close to the house, but I don't want to lose them all.

Moving the beans outside has made space for the leeks. They too are quite tough and will go outside before long, making space for the seeds that will be sown in March

Saturday, 16 February 2008

Wandering garlic

The garlic has moved. Not by itself you understand, it has been moved. It was happily growing scattered across many of the beds, planted without a plan. But now there is a plan and the garlic is in the way, so it has moved. I hope it's happy in its new home.

The shelves are in the greenhouse. They are removable wooden frames, to keep the space flexible, covered with wire mesh left from the fencing to stand the trays and pots on. The mesh will let light through and keeps the shelves lightweight.

The broad beans planted at home are romping away. Each pot had two beans in it just in case, and every bean has germinated. They were in pots that now seem too small - roots were bursting out of the bottom - so the strongest bean in each pot got potted on into bigger pots.

The leeks are sprouting, so the growing season really is under way. Bring it on!

The next few nights are forecast to have hard frosts, maybe -8˚C, so I have moved a pot with holly seeds in it into a very exposed spot. I want to frost them to help them to germinate, a process known as stratifying. A couple of holly bushes in the hedge would be very welcome, even if they will take many years to grow.

Sunday, 10 February 2008

There she grows

The broad beans have started to emerge. They look a bit puny until you compare them with the seed leaves of many other plants, then you realise they are really strong. We'll plant some more beans in about a month to stagger the arrival of the crop, otherwise we will be under a foot of beans all at once.

The next set of seeds went in today. We planted sweet peas in pots and half of our leeks in a tray, to start indoors. It is a touch early, hence holding back some of the leeks, but as spring arrives sooner each year we could be fine. (We can't stop global warming now, so let's make the most of it). Leeks grow slowly and can stand in the ground quite well, so staggering the planting to spread the crop has no real effect.

In the green house I've started to build the racks to mount the shelves on. We should have a fair bit of room. The sun was out today and the air very still, so it was very warm for early February. The greenhouse was positively toasty. I'm slightly worried that things will fry in there.

Jean turned the soil on the empty beds to help get them ready for planting, even though that's some way off yet. There were still quite a lot of weed roots that came out, especially bind weed and couch grass. We planted garlic cloves last year, a bit randomly and we're regretting it now. Many of the beds have garlic shooting up in them and it will get in the way, so I tried moving some to see if they survive. I don't want to lose the garlic - it is so sweet compared to shop-bought stuff.

The asparagus bed has been deep dug with a trailer-load of horse manure dug into it. This was nearly the last chance to get it weed-free and it seems pretty good now. I'm looking forward to the plants arriving so we can get them on their way.

Gary was there working hard. He stopped to say he had been to Wilkinson's where he had bought some asparagus plants for half what I paid and some plastic tunnels for £5. It is surprising what they sell and it is often very cheap.

The growing season is starting.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Broadly speaking

Norman, the chap on the next plot, gave us some of his ripened broad beans to plant last year. Jean planted about a third of them, two to a pot. They are all sat on the kitchen windowsill and I can hardly wait to see if they grow. Norman has grown beans from his own saved seed for years, so they should be adapted to the local environment - that's evolution at work.

The shrubs in our garden got a good pruning. I suddenly realised that we might plant some of them as cuttings, even though it's not the best time of year. If they grow we could add forsythia, buddleia and cornus to the hedge in the allotment.

Thursday, 31 January 2008

Hedging your bets

The hedge that borders our allotment is now a bit tidier, though it is mostly old elderberry bushes with gaps rather than the hawthorn elsewhere in the hedge. I would like to make a better hedge, but I don't want to obscure the view, you can see why ...

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

A rubbish letter

We got a letter from the parish council clerk about the allotment. It reminds people that rent is due in April, so if anyone wants to give up their plot, now would be a good time. It goes on to remind people that the site should be kept weed free and well manured. It then mentions rubbish against the hedge that should be cleared and that another inspection will be taking place in six weeks.

The Clerk to the council is new to the job, but she has certainly ruffled some feathers. Our plot was a jungle last year when we took it over and under the bindweed and nettles there was a lot of rubbish. This included mountains of plastic netting, torn and useless membrane, metal cages and worst of all loads and loads of glass, mostly broken sheets from window panes. We took the glass to the local waste tip last year (scratching the car badly in the process), but the rest was piled up against the hedge. We took this to the tip today as two full loads in our new trailer.

I resent having a veiled threat in a general letter. If there was something wrong, a note or a phone call would have been much better. The fact that all of the rubbish was left over from the previous tenant annoys me even more. I'm also concerned that the clerk thinks that allotments need to be maintained to the standard of a stately-home garden.

Phew, that's better.

The ground is drying but the forecast is for heavy rain followed by frost and maybe even snow. I have planted some Holly seeds outside in a pot and some frost should stratify them. I want a few different trees to plant in the hedge to add diversity and suppress the elderberries. I planted some hazel nuts last winter, having being told that they were hard to grow. Every one came up, so I'm going to pot some on for a hedge. I also have some oaks, whitebeam and rowan, but I don't think oak is a good idea in the hedge.

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Shed that problem

The greenhouse attached to the south side of the shed has had an enduring problem. The corrugated plastic roof and sides leave gaps at the joints which allows a cold gale to whistle through. I resolved to sort this out today. A combination of trimming the roof exactly to the edge, adding overlapping cladding and a bit of gaffer tape solved the problem. Without the draft, the inside already felt cosy. A few shelves to come and the job's done.

Saturday, 19 January 2008


Today we laid out a plan of what we want to grow and where to put it. It didn't take very long and the plan just fell into place. I think it's mostly because we had discussed it on and off over the last few weeks. I drew a plan to check it out, which is below. We then went to the Kenilworth road allotment society to renew our membership and see if they had any seeds.

Renewing our membership for the year was the sting. I had to pay the full adult price of 50p. We then looked at the seeds they had. We got every kind of vegetable we wanted, except the asparagus which I expect to buy as one-year-old plants. The seeds all had prices marked as usual, but they knocked off 25% for members, so my 50p membership saved me over £4 on the seeds.

Now we need to work out the schedule to plant them and the excitement of seeing them sprout can begin.

Saturday, 12 January 2008

One door closes ...

The rain cleared up today, so I thought I'd fix the door onto the greenhouse. It went well - it fits well and once we had screwed the corrugated plastic over it it is very rigid and strong. The greenhouse will need some gaps filling to work well, especially where the corrugated plastic meets an edge - all of the corrugations need filling. Maybe a carefully cut plywood panel, maybe expanding foam, I'm not sure.

The water tank in the greenhouse that catches the rainwater at that side of the shed is full. There was condensation on the greenhouse roof above it, so even with no door fitted there must be enough temperature difference to lift some water. The tank should help to keep the air moist in the greenhouse and could provide a supply for some watering system, maybe capillary matting, we'll see what is needed.

The tank at the greenhouse side is small - it's a header tank for central heating. It is connected with plastic pipes to the two main water butts at the back of the shed. I put them as high as I could under the eaves of the shed so they catch the water yet the height gives a little pressure from a connected hose. When the tanks are full it works, but as the level of water falls, so does the pressure. Fetching water is tedious; we are about as far from both water sources as we could be.

I surveyed the burrow we found yesterday. It is much bigger than I thought, with more than one entrance and each hole quite big. There is a heap of spoil in the field behind the next allotment. It really does look like rabbits, so it's a good thing we took the advice to enclose our plot with a wire fence. The field behind was a hay field last year and looks like it will be again, so maybe the rabbits will be fairly happy in there and leave us alone.

Friday, 11 January 2008

Doors, Burrows and Drawings

Today's visit was to drop off some stuff.

Firstly, I took the frame I've made as the door for the greenhouse I've built. I checked that it fitted as the rain started to fall and decided to leave it for final fixing until a dry day. The greenhouse is a simple affair, built on the south side of the shed, it's only small at about 600mm wide, so more of a tall cold frame than a real greenhouse. The sides and roof are covered with corrugated plastic over a treated wooden frame. When the door has been hung it will be covered with the last of the plastic. This should make a great place to bring on plants in pots or trays before they go out. I think I'll make a low cold frame for hardening off plants as well. The shed already gets a lot warmer than the outside air - even in a wet Yorkshire January, so the enclosed greenhouse will be even warmer much of the time.

One problem with greenhouses is that they lose their heat at night, but one built on the side of a dark brown shed will warm the shed by day and be kept warm by the shed by night.

Jean took a bag of garden cuttings for the compost heap and made a surprise discovery. When we cleared the site last year there was a burrow of some kind tucked away in the nettles under the hedge at the end next to field. It has reappeared, but not quite in the same place. The burrow looked as though it had collapsed in and when we stood next to it more of the ground gently collapsed into the burrow. It was big enough to be a rabbit hole, but there has been talk of stoats and feral ferrets, so I'll try to suss it out.

We quickly measured the plot to make a drawing of the layout as the rain drizzled down. I'll upload the drawing when it's ready. We needed to work out what to plant so I thought a drawing would help to firm up a real planting scheme. We have a few ideas, including creating an asparagus bed, and the drawing will help us understand what really will fit, as well as when things will be in the ground.

We need to get another couple of trailer-loads of horse manure to prepare the asparagus bed. There is a large riding school and stable in the village and they have a large excess of manure. They pile it into a huge heap, which makes it rot quickly and thoroughly into wonderful compost. Last October we collected many trailer-loads of this stuff and spread it on the newly cleared ground but now it has disappeared, dragged down by earth worms. I want to dig lots of this into a bed for asparagus which I'll buy as plants not seeds.

That's the plan anyway.

Monday, 7 January 2008

Start of the year

So, the new year rolls by and the quiet time on our allotment idles along. We made a quick visit today, our first of the year, to check things over. All was well; we picked a couple of cabbages which together might just make a couple of servings. They are the remnants of the very late, cabbage afterthoughts that Rob gave us last year, but they taste good. The spinach is small but growing so it should be some use once the growing season starts. The garlic is sprouting rapidly - I hope it's not too early since there is lots of opportunities for frost yet. We might get a couple of meals from the last of the leeks - more of Rob's gifts from last year.

The ground is very wet and our newly dug and enriched soil is muddy (claggy in local parlance) but it will dry a little soon. I don't expect to have to work the ground much for the next few weeks, except perhaps pulling the odd weed. The bindweed that the site was covered in will still make appearances as the year goes by and it seems that the only way to deal with it is dig it out as it appears. When I say covered with bindweed, I mean it. There were two small plum trees on the jungle when we first took it over last July, but one was so completely hidden by bindweed that it was a couple of weeks before we even knew the plum tree was there. The space that was not covered with this climbing menace was waist-deep in stinging nettles.

The cuttings we took from blackcurrants and gooseberries look as though they have taken, so our fruit bushes should improve over the next couple of years. The raspberry canes are surviving the winter winds, aided no doubt by being tied to the wires I put up last year, and by being pruned and free of the blanket of bindweed. Norman gave us some (loads of) strawberry plants which were cut from his runners. They seem to be surviving the winter - I'm just not sure how well they'll do since they are not in raised beds.

The exciting time of planting seeds is fast approaching, then the work really starts.