Saturday, 27 April 2013

Building it back up again.

Last year we had to take down the Marquee. There was no way it would have withstood the winter. But we need it. So today was the day that we took it out of storage, dusted it off, and got busy rebuilding it.

We have a spare plot that we use that is all wood mulch. So first thing we have to do is get it all laid out correctly.
The the willing victi... err. volunteers have to get the frame work ready.
Throw a roof on it and lift it up.
And finally put the sides on.
Et viola.

Meanwhile on the plot 30 itself, the Rhubarb is going strong.
And the artichoke is putting forth some seriously vigorous growth.

Seedlings are raising their heads abover the pot side and peering out. Looks like I may get some veggies this year after all.

Saturday, 20 April 2013

Rescuing the tree (again)

Last year I wrote about a similar instance where I saved the tree from bindweed. Seems the now the decent weather has started the whole process all over again. This time I decided to do something a little more permanent about it.

I got in and cut all the grass and then used the secateurs on the brambles to flatten everything. Then it's time to put all the cardboard to good use. The amount of left over cardboard from making the greenhouse has been filling up the shed somewhat. So I cut it to size and placed it all around the tree. Then it was time for a few barrow trips to the wood chips. And now, the tree has it's own little cleared piece of ground.
Hopefully that'll keep the weeds out. For now...

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

Questions about the grapevine

Working from home two days a week means I don't have to spend the 2.5 hours in the commute home. So come end of day I can nip down the allotment for a bit more quality time.

Today I went down there just to tidy up a bit. Water the seedlings (which are going great guns at the moment) and start looking at getting the grape vine lifted into position.

Since I trimmed off all the leaves and end stems late last year, I haven't touched the grapevine. So when I looked at it I was a little surprised to see how dry and brittle it was. I am worried that it might have died. This would be a major set back as the vine is a huge big thing that looks like it has been there for ages. They are normally quite tough (my father had several) and would withstand drastic pruning in the autumn. But in this case, the ends are dry, brittle and break easily. i cannot see any signs of new life in it. But it may just be a little too early.

Does anybody know when vines should be springing into life?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

2nd Bed and bark chips

I had problems trying to park this morning. Seems a little bit of sun and then everybody and their Grandma come crawling out of the woodwork down to the allotments.

The recent rain has made the ground claggy. Which is a shame as it's digging that I really need to get done. It will take an age to shift the big mound, so instead I decided to put in a second bed along side the greenhouse. The other half is certainly not up for digging duty, so the back breaking work is left to me and she is relegated to wood chip dispersal.
We get a lot of wood chips delivered. Not sure exactly where it comes from since that was put in place from the Council. But we still have tons of the stuff left. Fortunately it's really good as ground cover and mulch. So a whole load has gone underneath the shed to keep weeds down (and for foxes to sleep on!). Yet more is being used as paths and weed suppressant around the greenhouse.

About that greenhouse... the other half was super excited to see little shoots from the seeds we planted last week. Yeah, you can barely see them. But they are there.

Saturday, 13 April 2013

Bits and pieces

It's raining. Not heavily, but enough to be annoying. So I decided that today would be light work and nothing to to with digging. So first thing I went off to B&Q to get some bits. First on the list was a wheel barrow. Last year I borrowed my neighbours barrow (from plot 31). But they have given up and handed back their plot and we have new tenants. So I am barrowless. Not good. I only need a cheap one. So the cheapest they have comes in bits.
How hard can it be? I've put up a shed and a greenhouse which are harder. The "instructions" are not very clear and a more of an exploded parts list. So I started putting the main pieces onto the barrow frame, leaving the wheel till last. Bad move. Tip for the future, if ever you are going to build one... make sure you do the wheel first before you get anywhere near the actual barrow part itself. The frame can be pushed and pulled as necessary, but the wheel axle needs to be correctly fitted to make the whole thing work.

Any how, after a bit of juggling with bolts and a couple of scuffed knuckles, I now have a barrow.
I also bought a lock for the shed. Have to deter the would be thieves somehow.
And finally some cheap hose. When I bought the greenhouse, I opted to pay the extra £9 to have downspouts for the gutters. Waste of money. The downspouts are way to short and useless being all of about 1ft long a stiff plastic, albeit with a few clips and clamps to hold it in place. Cutting a short piece off a hose pipe is a much better option.
At least now I can collect the annoying rain from the roof.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

A barrage of seeds

Now the warm weather is here we can seriously get a move on with the planting that is needed. Better yet now we have a decent place to keep the seeds whilst they germinate and get going.
So here are a few of the ones we kicked off today. Others will follow over the next few weeks. After all, we don't want them all to fruit at the same time.

Yes, I said "we". It's not often I can persuade the other half to join me at the plot, but now the weather is a little better she is more inclined to come out to play.
But even she was impressed with our haul of seeds. And there is still much to be done outside the greenhouse too. But for now she is content with this.

Incidentally, make note of the the labels in the seed trays. These are in fact the remains of a milk carton. We buy Cravendale milk, the 4 pint size bottles. Why? Well it's filtered so it lasts longer. But once the milk is finished the carton, being a white plastic, can be cut up to make marking labels. Why anybody would actually buy separate labels is beyond me. Just make your own.

Saturday, 6 April 2013

A sunny day for shelving

Something is wrong. There is a big round WARM thing in the sky. This is most unusual. Where is the ice? Where is the freezing east wind? Where are the frozen fingers as you try to tighten up the nuts and bolts? This is all so strange.

But it has allowed me to finally finish the greenhouse by putting up the staging. The staging, like the greenhouse, it simply a load of aluminium pieces bolted together.
But due to the size of it (8ft staging in a 8ft greenhouse) it has to be built inside. It's never going to come out of there. Not too much of a problem, but tricky enough.

However the sunny day has allowed me to make excellent progress. So after a few hours toiling in the blazing sunshine, I now have a fully functional greenhouse.
The staging itself fit rather nicely, even if it's not how I planned it. I wanted the two pieces to fit in as an 'L' shape with the 8ft staging along one side, and the 4ft staging at the back. Unfortunately I built the 4ft staging first, and due to the height and nature of the small size, I now cannot turn it around.
So instead it now seems I have two lengths with a narrow walkway. I don't plan on growing anything in the ground in there (hence the weed membrane that I put down as the floor) but I did want some large pots. I guess I'll have to try and work around it. But the metal tops fit both ways so they are either a single flat shelf or (closest, left staging above) they can be turned upside down to act as a tray... or in this case a potting shelf.

I wonder if all this heat means I have to get the roof vents sorted out soonest?

Monday, 1 April 2013

Allotment Week - Round up

Since last Tuesday I've spent everyday on the allotment. And let me tell you it's been cold. Spring this year has been somewhat delayed but it seems everybody is in the same boat. There have been few of my fellow allotmenteers around. Those hardy (foolhardy?) people who want to get out and about and risk frostbite in their extremities. OK, I exaggerate it a bit but over the week I have made a great deal of change to the plot.

The shed is up.
The greenhouse is up.
Also today I scavenged a few pallets from outside the Wimbledon Theatre. Not you normal shipping pallets where there are great big holes in the wooden slats, but these were tightly placed together. I got three of them. One of which has been placed on top of the crate which the greenhouse glass came in, and has instantly turned into a table. The other two... well we'll see.

One last thing to sort out on the allotment today. My poor old artichoke. Seems that it's getting a little swamped by the couch grass.
So I cut a slot and hole out of some of the cardboard wrapping the glass came in and created a small mulch to keep the grass down a bit. Not sure how much it will help, but I'd rather keep this little plant alive.
I've also stared shovelling the mound of soil into a better position where it can be covered with weed membrane and planted. Wish I had thought of this trick when I had the old digger around. Would have been easier back then.
Ah well. Back to work tomorrow. But I'll have the staging for the greenhouse delivered on Wednesday. Built on Saturday. Or maybe, given that we're now in British Summer Time, I could build it in the evenings. Did somebody mention Summer? Where?

Allotment Week - Greenhouse - Part 4

Just the door left to do. And boy was it a pain. The instructions show how it should be assembled, but they are not completely without issue. For starters they say you should add the door stops when making the door. Just one problem? How or earth do you put the door on, when the door stops are designed to prevent you sliding the door past the door frame? No, it just doesn't work. I had to put the door on, then undo the bolts where the door stops are supposed to go and put them back in.

An additional problem was the padding which the glass is supposed to rest on inside the door braces. This kind of looks like the sort of draft excluder stuff you put round the outside of doors. Nice tough stuff. But it doesn't fit in the slots. There is a stiff plastic backing which is supposed to fit in the door slots, then the glass slot into that. But the plastic backing is too wide. In the end, I just had to rest the glass directly onto the metal. Not good when it comes to thermal expansion, so I left a few millimetres gap just to be safe.

Finally I made it though.
The more astute of you would have spotted a lack of an air vent at the top. Fear not. That will get added when I get a little spare time to rest my fingers.

After the final piece I thought I'd take a wander around the site in my capacity as a Committee members just to make sure everything is as it should be. I saw quite a few people on the other side (West side. I'm East side) and whilst chatting to them I was eagerly offer to show off a new bee and insect hotel. The lady who built it is also in charge of the bee hives that we have on the allotments. So she knows a thing or two about insects.
The carpet at the bottom is over a slatted board which houses a single slow worm (at present) and the shelves have a variety of habitats to help the various insects. The whole lot is sheltered between two dwarf apple trees.

I think I may have to copy this and build one on the East Side. After all, if we don't help the bees and insects, who is going to pollinate our plants?