Thursday, 29 November 2012


It's been a little wet recently. So I haven't been down the plot. After all, I can't sieve mud. So I've been in my usual hangouts a bit. These are places I frequent on the Web. Places which have a good community of like minded people.

My first hangout is :
The Green Living Forum started life as a forum for discussing the TV program It's not easy being green. This followed the fortunes of a suburban family moving from the Midlands (Malvern) down to Cornwall to start a Green lifestyle. It rather hit home in a number of ways. Firstly, I used to work at the same place Dick Strawbridge used to work at in Malvern. Secondly, and more to the point, it's exactly what I want to do.

The second place I frequent is:
 Now Aquaponics is probably unfamiliar to you. What it is is using Fish to grow plants. The fish produce waste (Ammonia), which is broken down my bacteria into Nitrites and again into Nitrates, which is then consumed by plants as a fertiliser. The whole process is a circulatroy system using water as the main carrier. As such plants never need to be watered and benefit from the high availability of nutrients presented by the fish.
This has taken off big time in Australia. Mostly because it uses less water than conventional plant growing, yet is not as wasteful as hydroponics. And also because you can eat the fish as well as the veggies. There are a couple of companies here in the UK who have started doing this - most successfully too - such as Herbs from Wales.

The final place I hangout a lot is from a Dutch friend of mine:
JungleDragon is a photo forum dedicated to nature and wildlife. The photos that people upload are absolutely stunning. Don't believe me? have a look at some of their all-time greats.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Pruning the Vine

So last week I put a plastic cover over the pile in an attempt to keep the rain off. It worked. But it didn't solve the initial problem of the fact that the soil was too wet. Of course having the cover on did keep a lot of the rain out, as evidenced by large puddles in the dips of the cover, but is also prevented the soil from drying.
There are still too many large claggy lumps to allow it to be worked properly. But one way or another I'm going to get those roots out.

So I need to turn my attention elsewhere if I'm to have a productive day down the plot. The only other work that needs doing is trying to sort out the mess known as the Grape Vine.
It's been left to run wild the past couple of years. Fortunately grapes will withstand serious prunage. Its also the right time of year to deal with it. So out with the secateurs.
A short while later and it's looking a lot clearer. I also pulled out as much of the dead bindweed as I could get. There is a huge metal guide buried in there which will take some serious cutting with a hacksaw to get out as the vine has grown through and around it. But for the meantime I can leave it in there.
Last thing to do today, is protect the rhubarb. Not having any straw I opted to an upturned bin.
It's not ideal. But hopefully it will do. Next year I want to enjoy the rhubarb again.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Water water everywhere...

The is only one job on the plot at the moment. Sieve the soil. Except it's been too wet. I can't force the soil to dry (cue mental image of extra large solar dryer frying the soil) but I can stop it getting wetter... sort of.

One of the pieces of rubbish I inherited when I took over the plot was a large piece of polyethylene sheet. It's split down the middle but on the whole it's pretty serviceable. So it's time to put it into action as a rain cover.
A few bits of wood to hold it in place, and next week I should have some nice dry(ish) soil to work with.

Thursday, 8 November 2012

More Stupidities

A little while back, I wrote about the "Authorities" trying to get people to stop growing vegetables. Well it seems like it's happening again.
Now I can understand some planning guidelines which can prevent eyesores and the lowering of market values, such as builders rubble and the like being dumped. But growing veggies?
Sorry, but I am completely perplexed by this.
Now obviously here in the UK we also have some laws. I've been researching into them. And it seems that there is absolutely no laws against growing food in your gardens. The only mandates are if you live in a gated community that has some kind of charter or covenant. But even then, thats only between house holders in that area. There doesn't appear to be anything at a Council or County level. I'll gladly accept details if you know otherwise.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

On Legalities and Pumpkin Festivals

Today was a busy day on the allotments. But not anything to do with the Plot.
For a while now we have been trying to get self management sorted out. Going self managed means that we can have our own say in what happens to the site and we won't be at the whim of the Council. The Council have decided that the allotment sites around the borough should pay a higher rent. At Martin Way is the largest allotment site in Merton then our rent increases would also be substantially larger. Going self managed we can by pass a lot of the Council red tape and get things sorted ourself.
But it hasn't been easy.
For one there is a legal of legal work that needs to be undertaken. The existing Allotment society (Merton Allotment and Garden Association) is the wrong structure. To be a legal entity we need to have a limited liability - hence we need to be incorporated as a Company. Except we don't want to pay all the extras that are associated with a company since we're not in this for a profit. So instead we will become and Industrial and Provident Society.
Now this sounds very fine, but as I said, there are a lot of legal things we have to sort out. First is the new constitution. Fortunately we're in luck here since the NSALG have a set of model rules we can use. These can be submitted to the FSA to get the ball up and running. However the model rules are quite old and don't suit how the Allotments are run. It's more suited to old fashioned industrial companies. They require a President to be elected for one. At the meeting to discuss the constitution a few weeks back, a lot of (pointless) argument was placed on this. So it has been decided to remove this post. Did I say that each change we do to the constitution costs us money? Ah well thats what (some of) the members want. It's all over now. But there are still dissenting voices.
So now we have a new society - Martin Way Allotment Gardens Association Limited. Or MAGA Ltd. for short. Yeah, we thought we'd keep it simple for the hard of thinking.
So now the legal stuff was out of the way, it's time for the bonfire, BBQ and pumpkin festival.
The bonfire was a roaring success.
As was the BBQ.
And the sparklers I bought (last seen as the fuse to the "bomb" cake I made for last year's Guy Fawkes bake off at work) cheered up the crowd.
(Our Chairwoman - and son)
(Other half and friend)
All in all it was quite a good evening. Once the dissenters left that is. There are some people who just want to cause trouble and don't contribute to the overall running of the allotments.
And as for the pumpkin festival, there was a judging of carved pumpkins. The bat (left front) and house (left back) were the two winners.
Maybe I should grow pumpkins next year?

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Digging up roots

So now I have two big piles of "stuff" on the plot, I gradually have to start clearing it. Not as easy as you might think.
Last week we made a good start by sieving the soil. This week there is just myself, and it's been raining. The soil is like glue. Big claggy lumps of it. So sieving is well and truly out of the question. So instead I opt for simply digging through and pulling out the long couch grass roots by hand. Due to the digging by the mini digger the soil is pretty loose so I can easily grab hold of the roots and pull without fear of breaking them.
But even so, it's still back breakingly hard work. And I've barely touched the pile. Guess I'm going to be doing this until spring.