Sunday, 11 December 2016

Pretty, bleak and an end of year round up.

It all looks a bit bleak down the allotment at the moment.

I've not been down the allotment for quite a while. Both the Wife and I have been suffering from a rather nasty cough which is proving rather hard to shift. The last time we were there was with the last blog post... which was about 3 weeks ago.

Not much has changed though... apart from Mr Fox has tried to have a bit of a dig in the new flower bed and unearthed some daffs. I just replanted them, they should have taken no harm.

But this year has seen a lot of ups and downs. Things started up quite well. Early March saw the fixing of the shed. Not only the roof (which got blown off) but also, after rootling in the rubbish, the windows got replaced, which had been broken for a long time.

The seeds started off well (albeit a bit late), and plantings outside went brilliantly due to nice warm weather in the early months.

However June saw a bit of an upset in the rains which caused severe flooding. That lost us a lot of veggies (such as the Onions) and, more to the Wife's horror, the flower bed. Hence the last allotment week was spent building the new raised bed.

So lets have a round up of what we grew this year...
Apples - Not as many as last year. Perhaps the floods put off the tree from making as many blooms. But what we did harvest were quite sweet... albeit a bit maggoty. Think we're going to have to try a coddling moth trap next year.
Artichoke - Put up a load of blooms again. Taken a bit of a trim in the installation of the new raised flower bed. But hopefully it'll bounce back next year.
Beans - Didn't do as well this year. Slugs decided to make a meal of them.
Beetroot - Despite taking a ducking during the floods, they did really well again. Still going strong even into winter.

Blueberries - Way more than last year. Think they may need a bit of a prune over winter though. Hopefully they'll be even better next year.

Cape Gooseberry - A new addition this year, and they have done really well in pots. However being a permanent bush, these really need to find a good home.
Carrots - Well they produced. But once again they're misshapen. Not sure of the best way to solve this, as we've tried all sorts of options. But they're still tasty.

Chinese Lanterns - They're not supposed to produce in their first year. But we did get a couple of them to do so. I think because we kept them in the greenhouse. Next year they should be putting on a good display.
Courgettes - Again a stirling performance. This year we kept count... 67 off 5 plants.

Grapes - Quite a few bunches this year. Still a little tart, but some filled out quite nicely. We're still unsure of the variety but we guess it must be a wine rather than a dessert grape.

Leeks - Produced a rather vigorous growth. But somehow didn't get to the size expected.
Leafbeet - Still going strong. Now has a permanent home in the front bed. Performing a simply "chop-and-drop" when they grow. They keep producing seeds, so I simply strip said seeds and throw them back into the bed.
Lilies - Started out nice, but then the deadly beetles took hold and ate them.

Mint - Wow. Just a few spare leaves left over from buying a small bunch at the supermarket has turned into about 8 really big full size plants. The bees loved the flowers. Guess it really is prolific.
Morning Glory - Despite a slug-fest start, it put on a huge display this year - even going so far as to fall over. Unfortunately it didn't produce any seeds.

Onions - We managed to get a few before they rotted because of the floods. Need to plant next years in one of the higher beds to prevent waterlogging them.
Peas - Dismal failure. The floods really did a number on them.
Potatoes - The Maris Peers did really well in their bags. This seems to be the preferred growing method for them, so we're going to do the same again next year.
Rhubarb - We've given away the rhubarb that was at the back of the plot. But the big one at the front more than makes up for it. Once again it's been throwing out the stalks.

Strawberries - Not only the strawberry bed, but even those in the pots were putting out a load of them. Next year should be even better as they're going into the tower.

Sweetcorn - Did wonderfully. Only we were too late in harvesting them. The chickens loved them though.

Tomatoes - More toms than you could shake a stick at. We've decided that the the smaller, cherry toms, are better suited to our needs, so next year we will be concentrating on the smaller varieties.

Wildflowers - These were dumped into an empty wheelbarrow at the front of the plot. And, to quote a phrase, didn't they do well. Collected a load of seed heads, so hopefully we can do the same against next year.

Zierkurbis - Did really well. Despite them not being edible, they certainly worked wonders as Halloween decorations.

Anyhow, I'll leave you with some allotment produced festive lights. The sun was sparkling through the dew drops on the new wattle fence.

Saturday, 19 November 2016

Allotment Week - Day 6 - Filling the bed

So today's the day when the wife got to see the new flower bed. Brownie points for me... she loves it. The first thing we did is started planting the daffodils.

We only did the very back of the bed. The rest of the bed will follow in the new year as we start getting things ramped up. We have all the seeds that we saved from the wildflower wheel barrow.

Meanwhile the willow that I scavenged from the waste area has not gone to waste. I wanted to make an archway leading into the flower bed. But unfortunately the willow is not pliable enough to be able to form on of sufficient height to allow people to walk underneath comfortably. So instead I opted to making a small willow fence between the water tank and the shed. It should stop the rhubarb from getting out of hand.

Tomorrow's weather forecast says that it's going to be chucking it down all day. So I guess this is the end of another Allotment Week.

Friday, 18 November 2016

Allotment Week - Day 5 - Complete

Well the final touches were put into the raised flower bed. Wife gets to see the full effect tomorrow. Could have finished it yesterday but the wind and cold was just a bit too much.

And once again I went scavenging through the trash pile. Somebody threw out bags of leaves and grass clippings. Seriously? Don't they know that sort of stuff makes excellent compost? Oh look, I have a nice new flower bed just waiting for stuff like this.

The leaves and clippings just about filled up to halfway across the very back of the bed. Obviously it'll squash down once we start putting soil/compost in there, but they'll certainly breakdown over time and provide nutrients for the flowers. All the daffs will go across the back, so I think they'll be off to a good start. We'll be planting them tomorrow.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Allotment Week - Day 4 - Construction

Didn't get as much done today as I wanted to.

Popped down to Wickes first thing to get the remaining wood, and woodscrews, then back to the plot. Construction was going OK, but I was kind of fighting the weather. There were spurts of rain (which meant I had to bundle the equipment - and me - into the dry), but all the time it was blowing across the plot a bitterly cold wind. We didn't have the wind as bad as some, but even so it was enough for me to consider that retreat is the better option. Just managed to grab a quick photo before  left.

As you can see, it's starting to come together now. The loose planks at the back are the very back wall. They're obviously not fitted yet. The boards towards the front are actually the right hand outer wall. Need to cut the weed membrane at the front and place it to the right... but trying to do that in a wind is not going to be fun. So I guess that'll be for tomorrow. If it stops blowing so much.

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

Allotment Week - Day 3 - Construction begins

Last night it rained. No big deal surely? Err. No. Ever tried sawing damp wood? Not nice. The saw kept getting stuck as I was attempting to get it chopped to the right lengths. But I eventually managed to get the planks into the 5 & 3 lengths.

Putting things together started to go a little easier. Although I did make a change to how I usually build. In previous builds I used two screws per plank. But this time I decided to only go with one because this time the build is a little larger than normal.

I put down a weed membrane over the area because there is still this very large issue with bind weed and couch grass.

Then it's a matter of putting together the parts. I used the 3ft off cuts with the full 8ft lengths to make a start.

Just as an after thought, I placed some more of the 3ft lengths at the end as a kind of seat. Not sure what the other half will make of it, or indeed if she wants a seat area. But the option is always there if needs be.

I also mentioned whether I could build an "arch" over the entrance to the 'U' bed. She definitely liked that idea. And it might be a little easier because somebody threw away a whole load of willow branches.

It's not the first time I've scavenged bits from the waste bays. But maybe these will be just as useful. Need to go back to Wickes in the morning to get more wood... and more wood screws.

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Allotment Week - Day 2 - Materials

Not a very photogenic day today. All I did was spend money acquiring the necessary goods ready to build the raised flower bed. Well sort of...

These are only 2.4m (8ft) boards. What I really wanted was 3m (10ft) boards, but a) the didn't have any and b) there were enough problems trying to get these to the allotment. No way the longer boards would fit in the car.

So this means I have to seriously revise my plans. What I wanted was a space 10ft long by 7ft wide. Chopping 3ft off the 10ft lengths would give the 7ft lengths. Chopping 2ft would give 8ft. So 5 boards would yield 2x10ft outside (black), 1x7ft top (blue), 2x8ft inside (green), 1x3ft inside (red), and 2x2ft bottom (orange). Essentially a 'U' shape with a 2ft width all the way around.
All nice and neat. But with only 8ft boards available, this design will have to undergo some re-structuring.

Fortunately there does seem to be a way out. I need 3ft sections for the other beds. So chopping 3ft lengths gives me a couple of 5ft sections. Joined together they should make up the 10ft side. But obviously I'll be needing some more wood. Back to Wickes in the morning then.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Allotment Week: Day 1 - Preparations

I have a week off work. I'm not really one for taking holidays, but it's a case of "use it, or lose it." So I'm using it down the allotment.

It's a little damp down the allotment. The rain earlier in the day has made it a bit boggy to dig out the flowerbed. But I managed to clear a bit more space than I did previously. I also dug out some of the wood that I used to mark out the bed way back when. And what I surprise I found when I did so.

But I managed to dig out the bed with enough space to build everything.

In the process I also dug out, rather carefully, the daffodils that were hiding at the back.

These will be found a nice home in the new bed.

But that not all that happened today. The Morning Glory got hit with a frost the other day and it's somewhat dead.

Time to give it a new home in the new courgette mound and dig out the old compost bin that's hiding behind it.

Tomorrow, hopefully, I can make a start on building the new raised flowerbed. That is, if I can actually get the wood to the plot in the first place.

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Still getting a harvest

The nights are drawing in now... especially because the clocks have changed. But down at the plot there are still some goodies to be had.

The potatoes have been sitting in the bags since August when I took all the tops off them to stop blight from spreading. But down in the cool earth they're still happy.

Wish I could say the same for the carrots though. We've never had much luck growing carrots. Tried all sorts on methods, but we just can't seem to get nice true, straight carrots. They always end up knobbly and branched. They taste fine though. The spuds and carrots we're used in a nice Japanese Curry. The Cape Gooseberries... well they're dessert.

On the plot though, we're now onto boring jobs which aren't very photogenic. Emptying and re-locating the compost bin is not the most glamorous work. So I didn't bother taking photos of that. But trimming to Buddleja turned this...

Into this...

Which I'm sure you'll agree is a lot better. It also won't be bothering the neighbours anytime soon. But there is still much to be done. But it gets dark early these days. Darker now they changed the clocks. Can we just leave the clocks alone for once? If you want lighter "evenings" then get up earlier. I still wake at stupid'o'clock in the morning. But my times have to fit to everybody else, so now I can't go to the allotment in the evenings. :(

Saturday, 22 October 2016

This is why you use wood chips...

Haven't been to the plot for a week. Most of the week has been cold and rainy. So when I turn up I find loads of these guys...

Fun guys!

The woods chips become food for Mycorrhiza, which in turn becomes excellent food for your plants. Compost is a bacterial breakdown, whilst wood is fungus based. This gives a better composition of nutrients. In fact, you need both, but plants that have a better selection of mycorrhizal fungi tend to produce better crops. This is also the basis for "Back to Eden" gardening. I don't agree with the naming of it, but there can be no doubt that using wood chips and leaf mulches does produce good results.

Now I don't use the wood chips on my actual beds. But all of my paths are chipped, and the stepping places between the beds are also chipped. There are a number of other benefits too. Any weeds that manage to get a toehold, are very easily pulled. And it helps keep the place looking tidy.

Meanwhile, I went for a full blown cooking session at the plot today.

I was using the Ghillie Kettle to try and cook some breakfast. Unfortunately there were issues. I was trying to boil potatoes (they're in the pot on top of the kettle). This did not work as expected. The wind, gentle as it was, was enough to pull the heat away from the pot. I had to feed endless amounts of sticks into the kettle just to heat it up. In all it took about 90 mins to cook the spuds. So I decided to abandon that as a cooking method, and went back to the ethanol cooker.

There I managed to fry off the spuds, and add in a couple of eggs. Then with a tin of freshly cooked tuna I produced this mess... a.k.a. Lunch.

But I wasn't just cooking all day. There was plenty of work to be done. The flower bed was in a sorry state after being neglected after the floods. So I started to clear it of the couch grass, brambles and bindweed. Left behind some of the small blue flowers - not sure what they are, but the bees love 'em.

And piled everything up to become next year's Courgette Mound.

Soon I'll be building a new raised flower bed for the wife. In the meantime... there is much clearing to be done.

Saturday, 15 October 2016

Tidying the bed(s)

Duvet's are nice. To make your bed after sleeping in it, you simply give it a flick. Raised beds are a bit different.

I had only intended to dig over two of the beds, but I guess I got a bit carried away and dug over four. But let me tell you, digging the bed with the old sweetcorn roots in was not fun. Those things look like some sort of alien with root tendrils going all over the place.

I still have the second bed of beetroot (the one which flooded back in June), but I pulled all of the existing ones from the original bed.

Some of them may be a little woody, but I doubt it. They have been really sweet and tender.

But there is still much to do. Plans for this winter include the second greenhouse, and a new raised flower bed for the wife. Work work...

Sunday, 9 October 2016

Last gasp of the Courgettes

We've been away for two weeks hiking in the Austrian Forests and Mountains, so it's with some trepidation that we return to the plot to see how it fared whilst we were away.

Well the first thing we noticed was the dead foliage of the Courgettes and the Tomatoes.

They have definitely past their best, but the have still left a few goodies for dinner.

The Wild Flowers in the wheel barrow are now all dead, leaving behind a lot of dried seed head. These will now be cut off and put into a paper bag ready for planting next year.

We have already collected a lot of specific seed head, such as the Poppys, but this will be a  mixture of everything. Just like we bought the pack in the first place.

Meanwhile, the Daikon is going great guns. Looks like we'll have a good crop early next year despite the damage done by the slugs.

The Morning Glory is still putting on an impressive display. A lot of people who walked by our plot today commented on it. At least it's now standing up. It's kind of fused to the grape vine now.

Talking of which, there are grapes on the vine. Not a large amount, but enough that they're worth harvesting a few bunches.

So we've done a lot of tidying up today. All the dead foliage has been removed. But we have left one courgette plant behind. We may yet get another one or two out of it.

But on the whole, our tally of courgettes has been quite impressive. Especially as we only planted 6 plants, and one of those we pulled because it produced somewhat mutated plants. So, including the 6 full size marrows that are sitting as potential seed stock for next year, the 2016 Courgette Tally stands at a mind blowing...

With maybe one or two latecomers. Here's hoping.