Saturday, 31 May 2014

Out with the Courgettes

It was July last year when I put the Courgettes out. This time it's the end of May.

But that's not the end of things we did on the plot. There were plenty of weeds around. Now you see them...
Now you don't...
That's the beetroot, red onions and what's left of the sprouts after the slugs got 'em. We'll be putting tomatoes in along side that lot in a week or two.

Meanwhile the Artichokes have decided to flower.
But like last year, the flower heads are infested with Black Fly (and Ladybirds).

Finally whacked down all the seedy spinach.
So we can now get a bit on sunlight into the greenhouse.

And stuff from the greenhouse now goes outside. Like a little Teddy Bear Sunflowers.
Which the bees love.

Oh, and did you notice the Grape Vine in the photo above. It's looking pretty good, with lots of bunches of grapes forming.

Back in the greenhouse, the Chilli plant needs to have a few chillies taken off it.

And finally, I planted some new seeds. These ones I really really hope will grow. As I sure could do with a cool one...

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Problem with spinach

I have a problem with spinach. Not so much the eating it part. The part where it goes to seed and cuts out all light from my greenhouse.

I tried cutting it down to size, but I hit another size problem. Namely the capacity of my compost tower. I am loathe to throw away stuff which can be used on my plot. And throwing away perfectly good plant matter which has taken nutrients from the soil is one such issue. So I only chopped back about a quarter of it. I'll let that quarter gradually decompose in the tower before I cut a bit more down. And so on.

Meanwhile I finished the second raised bed and planted both of them. The one closest to the camera are three marrows, which the farthest (under fleece to keep foxy from nosing around) is leaf beet.

Yes, the bed I put in yesterday, I raked the soil out nice and level. This morning when I turned up, there was nice foxy footprints in there. Guess our resident has been checking over my handiwork.

And on the subject of handiwork, the old sign was falling down and a bit tattered and battered. So I decided to make a new plot sign. The original thought was to use my fresnel lens to burn the number on a spare bit of wood from the waste bays. But I found a nice white piece and it tends to resist the suns rays somewhat. So I guess that I'll have to settle for paint.

At least the sign will match the title of the blog.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

New Beds

Well now that the growing and space for last week's Plant Sale has been cleared out of the way, I can turn my attention to my own plot. And boy does it need it.

The weeds and grasses seem to have taken hold with a tenacity of a jack russell terrier on your trouser leg (voice of experience). So they need to be cut back and more space made for planting out some of the plants that are still in the greenhouse. Oh, remember those raised beds I built a few weeks back. Guess they could come in handy. Only problem is where to put them?

Well there is the very front of the plot. The weeds there are covering the plot number.
(I had already started clearing to the left when I took this photo)

Then there is a large piece of carpet thats been laid over the soil for nearly two years. So I can pull that up, rake it all flat, lay down some weed proof membrane and put the beds in there. Then there is also the issue of the water pipe right next to the tank. People come there to attach their hose pipes and fill their buckets and watering cans. So I really ought to try and protect the area and make it look good from the road.

The weeds and grasses that I am pulling out are being liberally distributed between the compost tower and the fox mound (that you can see in the photo above). I decided to cover the mound middle leaving the two fox entrance holes on the sides uncovered. I'll do my trick of planting through the covering which worked so well last year. Until the foxes move out, I don't want to dig up their place of residence.

Pulling up the carpet along side the shed led to a shock discovery. The soil underneath, though compacted a bit, was in excellent condition. So I decided to do without the weed proof membrane and simply place the beds in situ.

So now the front of the plot looks a little better. Gone are the long grasses. Arrived now are the wood chips, and a large concrete slab which was previously buried in the plot, now serves as a stand for buckets and such when filling from the tap. You can see where the carpet has been pulled up. There are still more to pull up and a second bed to go in along side, but time is marching on.

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, the Wife has been busy potting on various plants. The Tomatoes, Peppers, Aubergines, Okra, various herbs and such are all going into larger pots. There are still some seedlings in trays that are desperate to be planted out.

And we still have a lot of other plants dotted around the plot that need to find a permanent home.

The carrots are looking good.

And we are really anticipating our strawberries.

I'll be on shop duty again tomorrow (filling in for somebody who can't make it). So I'll be able to spend the rest of the day ripping up the rest of the carpet and putting the beds in. The Wife is off out with friends tomorrow, so I'll be on my lonesome.

Friday, 23 May 2014

Best of the rest?

So, yesterday (May 22nd) there were local Council Elections throughout the UK. I was standing as a Paper Candidate for Merton Park. Did I win?


Why? Well for one thing this is more about community than it is about politics. The Merton Park Independent Residents are a tightly knit group who work on behalf of the community in which they live. And the community respects that and backs them.

The same goes for the allotment society. We're not a business, so the place should not be run as such. We do not need to make a profit, in fact we are an Industrial and Provident Society so we shouldn't even be thinking about making a profit. What we have to do is work for the good of the community as a whole. That is what we as the MAGA Committee are committed to do.

This is not easy. There are a number of works that we currently are undertaking, such as the replacement of the West Side entrance gates. This will help the security of the site. Especially as we have had a few fly tipping issues recently. We are currently looking into fitting security cameras near the shop in an effort to catch said tippers.

As an aside, MAGA was originally the "Merton Allotments and Gardens Association", but since we became a proper legal entity for the purpose of managing the site the name was changed to "Martin Way Allotment Gardens Association". Merton covers a large area and there are quite a few allotment sites under that umbrella. It was unfair of us to covet the name over everybody else. And since we're based on Martin Way...

Monday, 19 May 2014

Plant Sale

There has been little in the way of posts here for the past couple of weeks. The reason being is that a lot of hard work was done getting ready for the Plant Sale.

Well that happened this last weekend. Why no posts over the weekend? Because I was too damn exhausted once I got home to actually sit in front of the computer and write something up.

The Plant Sale is one of our yearly events. We order in a lot of bedding plants and vegetables, mostly in plug format. These we then pot on and keep in the various greenhouses around the site. Space in the greenhouses are donated by many plot holders. My own greenhouse was absolutely choked. No spare space at all. As a consequence I had to postpone the potting on of some of my own seedlings. This has had an adverse effect. For example my Pak Choi has gone straight to seed in it's seedling tray. This is not good and basically ruins them.

Slugs attacked my Sprouts that I put out a while back. Of the 26 plants outside, only 1 survives. The Red Onions and Beetroot however seem to be going great guns. The runner beans are showing leaves the potatoes got hit by a late frost a while back, but seem to have bounced back. Well, except for one which seems to have been slugified as there is no actual foliage left, just stalks. But we shall see. The Carrot are doing extremely well. Their fronds waving in the breeze above the tops of their bags.

But back to the Plant Sale. Things started out bright and early Saturday morning. We had already got some of the benches and tables set out the previous week. The Vegetable trays had been stored in the marquee since Monday and many trays of the bedding plants had already been moved in to join them. So it was just a matter of rolling up the sides of the marquee, last minute layouts and sticking pricing labels in.
Setting up.

Sure enough, come 10am the buying hordes started streaming in.

The weather over the weekend was brilliant. Thank goodness for the shade of the marquee as without that a lot of the plants would have been wilting in the heat. But liberal doses of water for them (and the workers) saw us through until 2pm when we closed for the day.

We also had a couple of off-shoot stands. Firstly was a charity stand run by our Bee Keeper in residence, Alison, raising funds for Bees for Development. Helping her was Phil who was also selling bee friendly plants, but grown from MAGA plants and the funds from that went to MAGA of course. I think there was some confusion in how everything was discussed before hand, because there were some rumours going around that all of the funds on the Bee stand were going to charity. Yet everything was clearly defined on the day to show which plants were being sold to support which cause.
Support the bees!

Sunday started out with a smaller amount of plants as most had already been sold. But we cut prices all over the place, and dropped the prices even more towards closing time. In the end we gave people a tray and told them to fill the tray for £2. We didn't want anything left.
Sales in full flow

But even so at the very end, there were still plants left. So we simply left one side off the marquee and put an Honesty Jar for donations inside and let people take whatever they wished. I suspect over the next few days we'll offload a lot of the plants. But anything that doesn't go by the end of the week will probably end up on the compost heap.

All in all, we raised over £100 for Bees for Development and over £1,000 for MAGA. Not a bad weekends work.

Next weekend we'll start the Plot Inspections before the sunny weather pushes the weeds into overdrive. Which reminds me. I have to borrow the strimmer to attack the grasses and stuff that suddenly wants to take over my plot.

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Yet more construction

Seems like the building never stops.

Well OK, it stopped for a week. But only because I was at work and there was quite a bit of rain over the past few days. I have decided to change my construction technique of the raised beds. Instead of building the beds as a fixed size like the first one. I am now building them all at a single height, but with the corner pieces slightly offset by an inch. In this manner I can stack the levels as I see fit.

We had a slight frost last night. The potatoes in the bags seem to have taken a hit to the leaves. But spuds are pretty tough things and should be able to bounce back. Fortunately nothing else on the allotment seems to have been hit by the frost. Thankfully I had most of the dainty stuff covered by fleece.

I didn't get round to finishing the raised "beds" today. Because there were yet more deliveries of plants for the plant sale. And the wife and I spent a good few hours in the greenhouse potting up the plugs into proper pots. Looks like the back storage shed of the allotment has nearly run out of pots small enough. We now only have 9cm+ sized pots left. But thats not so bad. It should give the plants room to grow. But I really had to have a drastic clearout of the greenhouse to make everything fit. Where did all the stuff go? Into the shed of course. It's now officially a "throw-everything-in-and-slam-the-door-before-it-all-falls-out" shed.