Sunday, 26 April 2015

Building stuff (and weeding!)

A little bit of rain and the weeds go crazy.

No I didn't bother taking photos of the weeds. You all have your own, so you know what they look like. They're popping up all over. Out with the hoe and bring 'em all back down to size... except for the bind weed which is popping up shoots no matter where you turn. I keep pulling them out whenever they rear they're ugly little heads, but as the ground is so full if it, it seems a never ending task.

Which is why I'm building the beds. However I left the wood out yesterday after building one bed. Today I need to cut lots of the corners. But of course, cutting wet wood is not fun as the saw tends to stick, so instead I turned my attention to wood that is inside.

I've had this little stack of pallets for a while. It serves as a table of sorts, in that it holds the cooker and kettle. But it's not very practical because it takes up so much room. Time for a little creative attention I think.

There are 5 pallets stacked there. So I chose two with long slats to turn into the legs, and two with short cross slats to work as shelves. With a diagonal brace at the back to stop it all shifting around, it seems to work well now... and I have a pallet left over.

Kettles on. Time for coffee.

Meanwhile, the strawberries in the greenhouse, have flowered and started producing.

Beetroot seedlings are coming on a treat. They'll soon be ready to go outside. Time to plant some more.

Outside, the Apple tree is now in full blossom.

And what's this?

Potatoes are sprouting. Things are finally starting to get going. Gotta get the rest of these beds made so I can get my beans in. Of course, now I want it to stop raining and dry out so I can cut this wood. Typical! Never satisfied.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Building stackable raised beds

It's time to get some more beds made. The last lot of stackables are currently in use, so I need some more. This is how to make raised beds which you can stack as high as you want. Grab your weapons of choice.

Firstly choose your wood. It doesn't really matter about size with this guide, because it is applicable to any size, any depth and any combination of beds. The thing you need to look out for is consistency of construction. For my beds, I chose 1.8m gravel board (that's 6ft in old money). Now you could make the beds square, but for me I want my beds easily accessible so .9m wide is suitable. Simply chop them in two.

Next you need to make corners. You can use square posts, but I chose triangular posts since they seem to blend in a little better. Cut them the same length as the width of your bed boards.

When you have a nice pile of them...

... then you are ready to start assembling. This is where it starts to get tricky. If you were an expert craftsman and measured everything properly then you can fix everything together perfectly square and it should all be a nice tight fit. However this is cheap rough cut wood, cut by eye with almost no measurements. Cutting the boards in half was a rough guess, the cuts were not perfectly square since it was done with a hand saw. So nothing is at it's best so we need to take this into account when putting everything together.

The corner posts need to be screwed (or nailed) to the boards at a slight angle. Because the length of the posts is exactly the same as the width of the boards they need to be slightly offset to allow for the stacking of them. I find that pre-drilling the holes helps immensely.

Put two screws in to hold the post in place. There needs to be a consistent offset (I chose the length of a screw - top right) and the top part of the board should be level with the edge of the post and the other end of the post sticking out a small way, about 1cm is fine. What this will do is place the posts at an inward sloping angle to allow for any mis-measurement to be accounted for when it all comes together.

You could build the whole frame straight away, but I chose to make up a whole load of end-pieces first. Building in small sections makes things much easier.

It doesn't matter whether you choose the small lengths or big lengths as the main part of you beds, but when you make your choice, you stick with it throughout.

Now you need to build the bed itself. Take your other boards and do a similar offset when you add them. Using a table or saw-horse is essential when trying to put these together.

Again the top of the board should meet the edge of the board already attached to the posts. This means that the top of you bed is a consistent size (1.8m x 0.9m in my case). Whereas the bottom of the boards are now slightly wider, with about 1cm additional space all the way around. Your beds are now stackable.

All this was pretty easy except when you get disturbed on the plot. Fortunately today's disturbance was a welcome sight from a fellow allotmenteer and blogger. Jerry from the Allotment Gardener website dropped by.

We had a good old chat about allotmenteering and stuff. I suspect we may meet up again at other event around London. Especially the Sutton Chilli Fiesta.

Meanwhile in the greenhouse, Mr Mouse is trying his hardest to hide the sweetcorn seeds (left over from making popcorn) in the Sweet Pea seed tray.

We put the sweet corn kernels down as a kind of distraction to stop him getting at the courgettes and digging his way through the other seed trays. Well it seems he's just making a nuisance of himself now. Time for traps.

Not that the apple tree cares... it's just starting to come into blossom.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 7: Shed and wrap up.

Today was supposed to be the building day for the rest of the beds. Just one problem. B&Q didn't have the right size of boards. They had 3m and 2.4m boards, but I was after the 1.8m boards. So as to not have a wasted trip I decided to get some wood preserve for the shed.

The shed was put up in my last Allotment Week back in 2013. And since then it's withstood the storms, clear outs, and slow stood in the sun and rain and got faded over time.

So it's time for a bit of a face lift.



Much better looking I'm sure you'll agree.

Although I didn't managed to get a lot of what I wanted to do on the plot done. There has been enough changes that the plot is now looking slightly organised. Certainly a lot better than the ramshackle that it was.

However the beds are getting somewhat important as I really need to get the beans in. So I guess that will have to be done without fail next weekend.

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 6: More seeds on the top shelf

So Mickey has done quite a fair bit of damage over the past couple of days. Out of the 60+ courgettes that were planted, only one (yes one) survived being dug up and eaten. Time for a different strategy.

Time for the Top Shelf.

Hopefully Mickey can't get up there to get his tasty treats. If that doesn't work, then it's mousetrap time.

It's a bit windy today. We had rain first thing, but by the time we got to the plot it was blue skies. But the wind started blowing things around again. The bamboo canes that I used to mark out the Soya bean patch were all blown across the plot. So it got me thinking. If I lean them up against something then they'll get blown over again. I need a place to put them. I've seen some people use wood pallets as cane storage. Nice idea, and I've got pallets to spare. But no real room to put them out at present. I was toying with the idea of using wire and making a couple of loops on the greenhouse to put them there. But there is no suitable gap where I can put the wire through. But how about the shed? Problem there is that the shed is covered with the grape vine.

But the shed is raised off the ground. Tadaah! I have an idea. Out with the wire.
Keeps them off the ground, and ready to hand.

I've dug the rest of the plot over, so now we're ready to get the beds done and start planting out the beans and such. Beds? Err, none around. Got to get cracking making some more beds. Drill on charge tonight, and a trip to B&Q in the morning. I hope they sell mouse traps too.

Friday, 10 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 5: Both barrels and a flat top.

Didn't really get round to doing a lot today. Mainly because my back is still aching from previous days. But I did make a start on some watering... before disaster stuck.

OK, not disaster, I skinned my knuckles trying to get a watering can full out of the rain barrels. That prompted much thinking (and wrapping tissues around my bloody wound). Dipping from the barrels is a pain, because most of the water runs back out again as you pull the can out. Especially as the levels are pretty low at present. Both barrels are situated at the end of the greenhouse, where they collect the rain waters, one from each side of the roof. But one of the barrels has a functioning tap. Only problem is that that tap is very low down. So I went on a hunt around the waste bays.

I found a few large slabs of concrete that somebody had thrown away. Hurrah, just what I needed. I emptied out the one barrel with the tap into the other, filling it almost to the brim. Then repositioned the barrel on the concrete. That lifted it sufficiently that digging a shallow scoop was sufficient to get the tap raised enough to fill the watering can.

A piece of hose was then taken between both barrels and a siphon started. This way the barrels should always be level with water, and I can get at the water, albeit rather slower than filling by dipping. And no skinned knuckles.

there is not much else to do one handed on the plot. But I can wield a rake to level off the top of the mound. There is just that solitary daffodil on the top. Can't really reposition that whilst it's in fill flower, so the top is not 100% flat. But flatter. And looking the better for it.

Now is to be handed over to the Wife for flowering duty. Should be quite an impressive display next to the main track.

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 4: Mouse in the house

Remember those courgettes I planted a few days back?

Well when I got the plot today, I was faced with a scene of utter devastation. OK, maybe I exaggerate a bit. But it seems like some hungry "thing" (I am suspecting mouse) has been liberally helping themselves to the planted courgettes. The seeds have been dug out of the pots and eaten.

About 5 of the plants have been got at in this manner. Though I know a couple of them, because the husks have been left on those pots, there are a few other where the husks have been left on the table. So, I'm just going to have to wait and see which ones germinate fully. Mind you, I have plenty of seeds to spare so it's no great loss.

But on the subject of planting, it's time to get the Edemame in. More commonly called Soya bean.

These will go into the bed which last year had the onions and sweet peas. It was manured late last year and covered with weed membrane. The worms have done an excellent job in getting the bed ready, indeed many are still in residence. A light forking over and it's ready to drop them in.

I used canes to mark out the positioning. the packet says to drop two beans in together, so that's what I did. 32 beans duly sown, and about another 32 held in reserve.

Elsewhere the seedings are starting to churn out at a great rate. Must be the coffee.

The small rhubarb has produced a health set of leaves.

Whilst the big one has just started to crank up the production.

I'm going to have to stop called them small and large now, because it just doesn't make sense when the "small" one is bigger than the big one. So I'll have to call them the front and back rhubarbs instead. I'm sure they're different varieties as the stems are slightly different. We've never really had the rhubarb from the back (aka the small) one as the slugs have always made a meal of the leaves and stems. But this year the slugs seem to be in, thankfully, short supply. But all the same, I now have some organic chemical free anti-slug pellets. The pellets are supposed to make the slugs stop eating rather than killing them outright. So they effectively starve themselves to death rather than be poisoned. Just as well as poisoned slugs are the worst things for your friendly neighbourhood hedgehogs.

Anyhow, back to the courgettes. I've grown them on the big mound for the past couple of years, so I can't really do that again. The mound is going to be turned into a green manure and flower mound. But it can't do that with it's jacket on.

So it's time to whip it off and start sorting it out.

I've dug away to side right next to the track, as there is often times when the tractors coming past to empty the waste bays drive over it. Tomorrow I'll flatten the mound a bit by taking the top off. It's reduce the height by a couple of feet but give a large flatter growing area for the Boss's flowers.

The Fox seems to have temporarily moved out because there are spiders webs across the front door. Maybe it's all the time I'm spending at the plot that's scared him away? I hope not. Want to get some camera traps setup to see what he's up to. But he is around. My nicely raked new beds have a nice long line of paw prints in them. Guess he's been checking up on my work.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 3: A lot of nothing

Today has been one of those days where you were busy all day, but at the end of it, there is not a lot to show for it.

I spent most of it digging paths. Digging? Yes, digging. If you are going to put down paths, you certainly don't want to put them down where there is bind weed and couch grass which can poke their way through. So I've been digging out the pathways and putting cardboard down, before several trips to the wood chip pile to bring the level back up to that which it was before I started digging.

In doing so, I seem to be gradually moving the spoil across my plot. Which is no bad thing really as it gives me chance to get everything dug over, at least once, in some places many times, and to sieve the soil ready to be put back into the beds. The only problem is that it is back breaking work.

More tomorrow? Anybody know a good chiropractor?

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 2: Making chaos out of order... wait, I mean...

So the plot still has issues. Mostly the issues are with the amount of bindweed that is in the ground, but the biggest issue is that it's not very organised. Although we've had beds dug which were pretty much ad-hoc, they worked well at the time. The problem is that it's just too messy. I've been trying to organise some parts of the plot with my modular stackable beds. But since nothing was growing there over the winter time, they kind of got used as a dumping ground for whatever happened to need a place to be put.

So, time to get organised. First off, shift the carpet out. This will be used as a covering in the main walk way area of the plot. It'll eventually get moved towards the end of the year to make way for a new bed, but for now it serves as a central area where the boss can keep an eye on me.

The new bed area has to be dug out to remove the bindweed rhizomes. Then I laid some hugelkultur into the bottom if it.

Placed down some cardboard and made a start sieving the dug out soil back into the bed. That was seriously hard, back breaking work. But eventually we ended up with one of the two new beds done.

It all looks a little neater now.

The second bed I'll finish tomorrow. If anybody is curious, underneath the trellis and pallet are our onions. Cover to stop Mr Fox from displacing them whilst they settle in.

And on the subject of Fox, the Boss has put some foxgloves in the flower bed.

Hope our resident doesn't try digging them up.

Monday, 6 April 2015

Allotment Week Day 1: Brambles and Beds

Today, as promised, we went down to the Lower Morden Garden Centre first thing. Had a spot of early lunch whilst perusing the wares. Just some compost this time, but a voucher for £5 if we spend £25 within the next month. Like the man says "I'll be back."

Down on the plot, it's a glorious sunny day. But there is still a lot to do. Good job I have the whole of this week off work and can get cracking. So much to do.

First off, we have an infestation of brambles. Along the southern border. Though it would be nice to have a Blackberry wall, these are just too much of a nuisance here. So they really have to be cut down to size.

Easier said than done. There is a lot of long, dead grass mixed into it all. The thought occurred to me, why not burn it out. Or at least burn back some of the dead grass to see where you're cutting. So I liberally sprinkled some of my cooking juice over the area and set a spark against it. Much easier on that clump.

Unfortunately I can't do the same on the other clump as it is right next to next-door's beds with the weed fabric covering. If I were to torch this, then it might burn the weed fabric too, which is not something I want to do. But in the end, after four barrows of spiky bits, I got most of it down to ground level.

Meanwhile the wife was getting her flower bed ready. She's going all out on flowers this year (I'm still a veggie only guy. I don't do flowers unless they're edible).

She planted Lily-of-the-valley and Ranunculus, but has a whole load of other bee-friendly flowers ready to go in. It's going to be a right old mixture this year.

In the greenhouse, the infamous Courgettes get planted.

Well at least the first wave of them. We still have loads more seeds.

Spuds are starting to chit.

But outside, there is sooo much to do. Got to get new beds made, the mound needs sorting out. No courgettes on there this year. It's probably going to be green manure and meadow flowers.
So long as Mr Fox doesn't dig them up.

And yet more to do tomorrow, if the weather holds up. But at least the Strawberries seem happy.