Friday, 29 April 2016

First harvest and new life

I have a few days holiday that left over from last year. I need to use them up before the end of April so it's time to head for the allotment.

Ever since I put the spinach in a while back, I've been trying to get rid of it. It's in the flower bed. Or rather it's in the Wife's flower bed. So I've been pulling it out as and when I can. But sometimes it can actually be kind of good. So guess whats for dinner...

The beans are still in the greenhouse. I thought last week about putting them out. But the recent weather has proved me correct. With frosts and snows coming down at present putting stuff outside doesn't really seem to be the right move. But it doesn't stop me planting a few more beans.

Elsewhere things are springing into life.

Which does bode well for the future. Especially when it comes to the strawberries. Soon...

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Anti-mouse measures

That damn mouse has really made a mess of my courgettes, sunflowers and sweetcorn, so I've had to improvise. I made some temporary shelves using planks of wood and coat hangers. These hook onto the top of the greenhouse frame and fasten beneath the "shelves" with a simple screw to stop them falling off.

This lifts the shelves way up where hopefully no mouse can get to. Almost on a par with the existing shelf that runs across the back of the greenhouse.

The tools of the trade...

We've planted a load more courgettes to compensate. Can't plant any more sweetcorn or sunflowers though as we have no more seeds. This photo was taken a couple of days ago. We had 15 sweetcorn actually showing. We now have only 10 remaining. :(

The leaks are little whisps at present. But they're looking better than the ones we tried last year. Last year the compost made from the coffee grounds from work was a little too harsh. It may have been good for keeping the slugs and snails at bay, but not good for seedlings.

The beetroot is doing well.

But by fay and away the best performer at present are the little dwarf Borlotti beans in their cardboard cups.

Going to have to make a few more of these if they're going to do this well. May as well go with the crops that work out best.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Digging again

So after last weeks seed sowing session it's time to check on what's been happening. For the majority of seeds, things are looking quite promising. My beans sown in the cardboard pots have shot off to a huge start.

And the trusty beetroot is poking it's head up above the surface.

But like last year, looks like somebody has been nibbling on the courgettes and sunflowers. Yes mousey has started to make his presence felt again. In fact look closely at the bean photo above, and you'll notice that the very back pot in the middle has a whole load of seed husks cached in it. That's where the mouse has pulled out the courgette seeds and stashed them there. The small orange pots to the top right of the picture are where these trusty seeds once resided. Needless to say, measures have been taken to curb such enthusiasm.

Meanwhile outside, there are a number of project still to be done. I have a small potting table outside the greenhouse door. The base of which seems to be slowly rotting as it is simply placed on the notoriously wet floor. Fortunately I have some spare paving slabs that have been dug out of the ground. I used these to build a base for the table to stand on. Hopefully it'll remain a lot drier and withstand the rot.

Last years herb bed failed. The grasses and other weeds got in and took over. So it's time to dig it out and clear it. Perhaps I'll plant the beetroot in there. And of course there are more beds to be built and installed. I'm trying to build a block of six beds here which can then be fenced to prevent the rats-with-wings from attacking the veggies.

Still have a long way to go.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Sowing in the rain

Been a bit of a damp day. Just about managed to get the peas sown in one of the outside beds before it decided to start throwing it down. Unlike some, the weather didn't stop us...

We sheltered in the greenhouse and started planting loads more seeds. We planted various flowers. These are in fact a selection of old packets dating back to 2005. We're guessing that some of them may not germinate. But that's OK. Seeds if kept properly dry and away from sunlight should last a good few years. After all the Svalbard Seed Vault keeps seeds from all over the world in a secure storage facility for many years. But these ones may not have been kept properly. We'll give them a try anyway.

We spent a good couple of hours inside the greenhouse whilst the rain threw it down outside. By the end of the day when the rain died down we had a large selection of seed trays all laid out ready.

The plantings I did last week have started sprouting already as well. So it looks like the year is off to a good start. A slow start, but a good one.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Coffee pots

There is an issue sowing beans and peas. They don't like their roots being disturbed. So you either need to sow them direct, or do something else to minimise the disturbance. Now I've seen some people sow into rain gutters then they can simply slide the new seedlings directly into the beds. That a pretty good idea... if you have spare gutters.

Other people have tried the toilet roll centre method. Take a cardboard toilet roll insert, cut four slots one third of the way up then tuck the four tabs into each other. Fill with soil and you're ready to go.

A third option is to use newspaper. You can even buy special formers where you wrap your newspaper around a wooden dowel and then press the ends into a special cup which cinches closed the ends. I think these are way to expensive for what they are. So none of these methods really suit my setup.

But I do have something else. I drink a lot of coffee. In fact one of the first things I do when I get to the plot is stick the kettle on for a cuppa. But even when I'm at work I drink coffee from the canteen. Up until a year or so ago, they used to have plain cups and a separate coffee cup  holder made of cardboard to stop you burning your hands on the nice hot fresh brew. I kept the holders. In fact I kept lots of the holders. I'd been keeping them in the shed for a while, and it was while I was rooting around inside the shed where I re-discovered them. So I thought I'd put them to some use for my dwarf beans.

I took two holders and slotted them inside one another. The perforated folds were off set at an angle so this kept the holders in place. Then I tore another holder open along the seam and pushed that inside right to the bottom. Then I filled it with compost and planted the beans.

Now there are a couple of good points and bad points to this. Firstly the cardboard is recyclable, and they will eventually rot down. Secondly the cardboard will retain the water thereby keeping the moisture levels up.

For the downside, there is no real bottom to the pot. So if you're not careful, the compost may wash out. Placing them in a tray may help. Also because the cardboard gets soggy after a while, they can become fragile. So moving them afterwards requires some careful handling. Anyway, it's an idea. I'll let you know how they turn out.

Meanwhile, all this sowing is eating up space in the greenhouse. I really need to make some room. Time to clear out some of these strawberries that have been overwintering in here. Time to move into the new dedicated strawberry bed.

The two diagonal runs of strawberries are the two outside plant trays. I simply up-ended them and placed them in directly, then placed other single pots in and around them. I still need to build a proper cage to protect them from being dug up by Mr Fox and to stop the rats-with-wings (aka Pigeons) from getting at them. But for the moment I've replaced the spare wood planks over the top. That'll do for now.

There is still a LOT to do to catch up. Fortunately I work from home two days a week, so I can get down here in the evening to keep cracking on. It never ends.

Start of seed sowing.

Yes, I realise that I'm late to the party when it comes to getting my seeds sown. Should have started at least a couple of weeks ago. The problem was that I couldn't get to the plot. I caught a cold, and being asthmatic it sort of hit me bad. So bad in fact that when I went to my local GP, he took one look at me and immediately called an ambulance to take me to hospital.

So everything plot related had to be put on hold. Fortunately this weekend started out nice and sunny.

First off, our tried and trusted courgettes are started. This seems to be our staple on the plot as we have had huge successes with them over the years. It's a good job that we like courgettes as the plants are pretty prolific.

The ones in the pots are our normal variety. These are from seeds from two years ago, so whether they germinate remains to be seen. As for this years seeds, we need to get at them.

This giant courgette has been sitting on out kitchen cupboards since October last year and has kept nicely. I need to dry the seeds before shocking them into germinating.

Now the ones in the trays above, are actually a variety I found in Germany last year. They go by the name Autumn Wings. Not sure whether they're viable for eating, but they certainly look unique.

Also on today's planting menu we have the classic Boltardy Beetroot, and Sweet Tomatoes (which were some freebie seeds given away at the garden centre).

That and the over wintered strawberries means that it's starting to get a little crowded in the greenhouse now. Will have to finish building the strawberry net for the new bed and get them put outside. Some of them are already starting to flower.

Outside, the Big Rhubarb is started to show...

Whilst at the back of the plot, our Small Rhubarb is already producing an impressive display...

But there is still much to be done, because most of the plot still looks like a tip.

And then there are still a large amount of seeds to be sown. There is so much to do to catch up.