Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Fixing the shed roof

Well here it is. Thanks to my Dad for supplying some roofing felt and bitumen, I got to work last Saturday on fixing one side of the shed roof as the previous felt had been ripped off.

It was a perfect size as it covered the whole side with enough to fold over the top and seal on the other side. I used plenty of tacks, bitumen and the batons on the sides to try and hold it whatever the weather. Sunday was due to be extremely windy and wet, so a big test.

I haven't been there yet to see if it stayed on, but here's hoping!

This coming weekend, I shall be getting back into the digging habit and making the plot ready for the winter. I've plans to expand the beds a little bit, so over the coming months that's the work schedule.

I'll keep the updates coming.........Have fun this Autumn.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Preparing for the Autumn and Winter

Well, a truly lovely weekend of that late Summer/early Autumn weather, so although having trouble ridding myself of this cough and 'man flu' I wanted to make sure I'd got down to the allotment and sorted out the strawberries in preparation for next year, having done the raspberries last week.

First of all on the raspberries, I weeded, cut back the grass edges, tied up any shoots that needed it and used the huge pile of cuttings from the council to mulch all over the raspberry bed. With luck this will keep the weeds down and help them over the winter. Here they are below;-
...and a close up of the autumn raspberries. We've been lucky enough to have had a few from them , so that's always a good start.

Sometime over the coming weeks, my Dad will be coming up to check them over and make sure I cut the right stems away and make sure all looks good for next year. I have high hopes for them and look forward to getting a pretty good crop.

Anyway, on Sunday I set about tidying up the strawberries. As you may remember I've not had a great deal of luck with them, but thankfully from all the healthy plants that survived, there have been plenty of tubers and so, I set about cutting these new plants out and replanting them. As a result I have over 40 plants, which look pretty healthy, so there is always hope!

Just like the raspberries, I weeded the entire bed, cut off the tubers, cut the grassy edges and then used the council cuttings to offer the plants some help over the winter, as you can see below;-

I just hope they all survive and then I'll make sure I have proper netting and fingers crossed we'll have a great harvest. I know Tom will look forward to that.

Finally, We have had a few strawberries and as you can see below they are still trying.

Well, long may these weekends continue and I shall continue with the rest of the plot, clearing up, digging, etc. I have also to replace one half of the felt roof as it was destroyed, coat the shed with another layer of stain, demolish the large pile at the bottom of the plot, spreading all the soil everywhere else and burning all the weeds and roots as well as a few other things I've forgotten.

I've just been in to order the potatoes from the Trading Hut for next year, once again at an amazing price per kilo and I've curtailed a little to make sure I don't waste them.

That's all for now...Happy Autumn.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Post holiday Summer update.....

Well I put a few of my Dad's sunflower seeds in and look at them now. What a picture. Now it's been a while since I posted an update as we've been on our holidays for a couple of weeks and the last time I went down to the allotment, I went with Ellie and Tom and they helped me with the harvest......and what a harvest it was too.

Ellie picked our first bag full of tomatoes and Karen has subsequently made a load of tomato sauce. I picked another bag this last Sunday, so this time we're ( I say we're of course, but really mean Karen) going to make a batch of soup as well. That is in addition to plenty of them that we're eating in the Summer weather and in my sandwiches! The tomatoes have been a great success, from the cherry ones right up to some really big one's. Tom was busy digging up carrots so we've also got a bag of them in the fridge too. All different shapes and sizes, but they taste good!

Also, before we went away I replanted the broccoli and sprouting, covered with netting to try and stop the pigeons eating them and just look at them now. I weeded all around them when we got back and it looks as if they should be ok now. So that's excellent news.

...and here's a close up of one of the plants.

Finally, the raspberry plants continue to grow and I've now started to tie them to the wires my Dad provided and helped me set up. We may even be lucky and get a little bit of fruit from them.

I finally finished digging up the rest of the potatoes and now have a very heavy hessian sack full of spuds for us to use, as well as bags of dwarf french beans.

There's not too much more for me to do now, apart from continuing with the harvesting and keeping the weeds down, whilst keeping notes on what worked well and what did not, so that next year, I can do even better.

As you look around the plots, there is plenty of growing and lots of harvesting going on so with luck lots of other people will be enjoying the fruits of their labour too.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Nature's lessons......

I know it's been a while since I had a chance to update my blog, but we have been so busy these last few weeks, I've barely had a chance to dash down to the plot, keep the weeds down and harvest some of the produce.

It really seems to be the time when you have to keep on weeding, watching how the plants are coming on and trying to protect them from all the scavengers who just love to eat everything before you can get to it. I'm already learning a lot this year and am starting to understand what needs to be done and when, to make sure we have the type of fruit and veg we like and use.

First things first. I shall not be doing as many potatoes as this year as we have so many. Here's the load I dug up at the weekend, along with our first dwarf french beans and climbing french beans. We've got so many, I'm bagging them up and giving them away. I've got a hessian sack and will be filling that up too, for us to use over the coming months.

As for the dwarf beans, all I did was put the seeds in the bed and waited to see what they did, so all very easy. They look really good, just like the ones you buy in the shops, so I top and tailed them and we've put 2 bags in the freezer. They dont need any support and as we like these, I think next year, I'll do a few more. I got the climbing french beans for a present, but I'm not really sure what to do with them, but I've put a bag of them in the freezer too, so will need to have a look and see what you can make with them.

Here's the bed with the beans in, with the peas behind. The climbing beans seem to have taken a while to get going, although I was speaking with Les on Saturday and he was telling me that's the same for everyone this year. In the background you can see the peas. I really like them too and we have a bag full in the freezer, however another leasson for me there, as I should have thinned them out a little bit and I missed the first batch as I saw them almost ready and then left them too long, resulting in them being past their best. So, next year I will keep a much closer eye on them. All they needed was the support and that's it, so another easy one for the future.

The tomatoes seem to be coming along fine, even though I've not been watering them as we have had a series of hot days followed by nice downpours. I've had a look around and everyone elses are still green, so with luck over the coming weeks, we should be able to get plenty of tomatoes too.

We have already had about a dozen sweetcorn cobs from the plants my Dad gave me and very sweet and succulent they are too. Here are the 6 I picked at the weekend.

I've had a bit of difficulty with the cabbages and broccoli, with the caterpillars loving the cabbages and it looks like the birds having a feast of the broccoli. As you can see below they really have been battered. However, I put a net over them and hope that they'll come back. We'll see.

those pesky pigeons!

As for the rest, we've had some carrots and plenty of salad leaves. I must also make sure I thin the carrots and lettuce properly next year and also, not do too much and spread out the sowing a bit more.

As for the fruit, the strawberries were a bit of a disaster, but some of the plants are still ok and I plan to get some more this autumn, sort out a larger bed for them and make sure I have straw mulch and also proper netting. So, next year is the big one for them. Here are some of them that have survived so far, with the sunflower left for the church competition and also some of the seeds my Dad gave me, going like crazy!

Finally, the raspberries are continuing to find their feet and shoot up a bit more, so I'm hopeful we'll get plenty of fruit from them next year.

So, nature continues to teach me and show me how best to play things going forward. So far not a bad first year, with lots of optimism for next year and still plenty of produce to harvest over the coming weeks and months. All in all, going along nicely. Just need a little bit more time (and sunshine) to get down there....if only!

Friday, 19 June 2009

Harvest time....

I kept forgetting to bring the camera in to the office, by finally I remembered and as you can see below I dug up quite a few potatoes and as it turned out, 7 bags of salad leaves, including some spinach and rocket.

....just look at these lovely spuds!!!!.....there were over 60 of them.

I'll have to find time to pop down this weekend and see how everything got on after the crazy hail storm we had in the week and make sure the weeds and slugs haven't eaten everything. Also, I'll need to dig up some more spuds and cut some more of the salad leaves for our visitors on Sunday.

More pictures and information on that next week.

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

It's all coming along nicely

Last weekend I managed to spend a little bit of time covering the cabbages with netting as I think the birds were having their fill and also built a frame for the sweet peas with the last few bits of wood I had left.

As always there is always plenty of weeding to do, so I once again kept them down as much as possible to give the plants a chance to grow.

Here's one of the courgette plants from my Dad and they seem to have settled in nicely and are now flowering. Indeed, so are some of the tomato plants.

Also, the sweetcorn have clearly got theirs roots all nicely spread in the soil, the stems are thickening and they are starting to reach for the skies as you can see below. They really do seem to have shot up this last week.

.................and as you can see from this bed, the carrots which did seem to start off a little slowly have now started to shoot up, with the rocket and lettuce also coming along. I think I should have thinned this by now, so I will have to look at them next weekend.

....and finally, although the strawberries have been a bit of a disaster, we did have one! All four of us had a taste and it was delicious, so I only hope the other plants find their legs and start to improve, so we'll see.

After doing the weeding, I put in the 2 sunflower plants for Ellie and Tom, for the church competition, along with the 3 cucumber plants from my Dad and put all the sweet pea seeds in next to the frame, so most of the beds are pretty full up. Luckily, we are having plenty of rain, so all of these should do well over the next few weeks. I just need to concentrate on keeping on top of things and keeping it all alive.

On Sunday, I bashed together my shelf/table and took this down to the shed, to tidy things up in there. I plan to try to continue with the staining of the shed, weeding, dig up some potatoes and thin the carrots and lettuces this weekend. I need to make sure it's all looking good as we have some special guests coming the week after and I'm sure to have an inspection!

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Dinner's on me!!!!

We were at my Mum and Dad's on Sunday and looking at Dad's potatoes, I managed to work out which were my First Earlies and as he had a few nice looking spuds and I put mine in a week or so before him, I decided to dig a few up for our Dinner on Monday night, on my way home from work.

....and low and behold from 3 plants, I filled my sandwich box up, we had enough for our meal and for me to have some for my salad today. So what with this and the salad leaves we've been getting, all I need now is the tomatoes, cucumber and some fruit and that's lunch every day!

Anyway, it sure was a treat digging up the potatoes and getting something, almost like digging for gold.

It's all coming along now, so I just need to keep on top of it and finish a few things off this weekend, like stain the shed, build the frame for the Sweet Peas and keep weeding, then we are looking good.

All in all, not too bad...and there is even a strawberry growing, only one but it's a start!

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Finally, the decorating is finished, now how's the allotment?

Yep, after promising to redecorate the hall, stairs and landing in May, I have finally finished, so all looking fresh, with the walls, ceiling, skirting boards, door frames and bannister's painted. Phew, what a job. Also, this weekend, before making my way to the plot, I managed to power wash the deck and get a layer of stain on it, as it really needed it. I tell you, I'm stiff all over today and feel like an old man, but great to get it all done.

Now, I was a bit wary before going to the plot, as I'd not had a chance these last few weeks to get down there, keep on top of the weeding, etc so it was with some trepidation I set off on Sunday afternoon and sure enough I had weeds growing everywhere. I spent 3 hours weeding the beds and then on the holiday Monday I once again went in the afternoon to complete the job and get the tomato plants in the raised bed, that I had grown from seed.

Anyway, let's start with the potatoes. As you can see below they are coming on well and look like a tropical rainforest!

These were planted on the last weekend of March, so in theory after 10 weeks, the First Earlies should be ready for digging up. So either next weekend or the one after should be the time to test one and see what we've got....that is if I can get the right one's as I got them muddled up when I was chitting them. Not much else to do with them, just a bit of weeding, but now they are so big, they keep the weeds down themselves.

Next, I had to weed all around the raspberries and as you can see I'm starting to get a few shoots and behind you can see the sweetcorn still looking good, which I'm pleasantly surprised at, as we, had a lot of wind (which took off half the felt from the shed roof, so I had to make a temporary plastic covering, until I get some more).

Also, Dad's salad leaves have done really well after an early problem with slugs and for the first time I took some of the leaves and I have some in my sandwich today!...not to mention the 3 bags in the fridge!

The next bed had the carrots, rocket, little gem, all year round lettuce, spinach (both types) which I grew from seed and the marigolds, tomatoes and courgette plants from Dad. These last two have done well as we've had all sorts of weather and they have so far survived and look to be getting a bit of strength to them. Here's the carrots.....

and the lettuce and spinach...growing like crazy.

(i dont know how I got the underline for the next 2 sections, but I cant' get rid of it, sorry)

The next bed had the cabbages and broccoli seeds as well as some more potatoes and tomato plants. The plants look to be fine, but the seeds got a bit overgrown with weeds and although a few survived as you can see below, I shall have to redo the spaces and see how they get on.

The next bed has the peas, dwarf french beans and climbing beans in and as you can see the the Kelvedon Wonder have shot up, but the slugs really liked the Onward so I had to redo them and they will come a little later. Also, you can see the climbing beans just shooting up and the dwarf french beans just coming through, along with the marigolds I grew from seed.

One of the other jobs was to get the raised bed cleared of weeds, put in the bags of compost I get cheap at Lidl and put the tomato plants I'd grown in. So here they are. Ellie is going to plant some flowers in the area near the front and the Allotment Society are running some children's growing competitions, so I expect we'll be entering them too.

Lastly, my strawberries have not done well at all, so that's one thing that hasn't gone too well, but luckily when I was in Lidl I saw 6 plants for £3, so bought 2 packs and put them in and we'll see how they get on. Too embarrassed to show a photo of the poor plants in that bed!!

So now I'm back on top I've a few more things to plant, then need to keep an eye on watering, feeding, etc. Also, need to refix the shed roof, make my bench/shelf unit from the wood I collected and finish staining the shed too. But that's for the next few weeks....anyway very warm and sunny weekend to do all the work then a downpour overnight and this morning to water them all, I hope they are all ok!

Monday, 27 April 2009

Dad and Mum come laden with treats

Well with the beautiful British weather all set to give us a pleasant weekend, my Mum and Dad arrived with a car full of plants Dad had grown in his greenhouse. As I said, I wasn't sure what he'd have, so you can imagine my surprise and delight to see the car full!

We set off late morning on the Saturday and set to work working out where they'd all go and with Mum weeding the patch for the sweetcorn while I planted the strawberries I'd bought from ebay and Dad began with the cabbage and marigolds.

As you can see below the sweetcorn look great and we managed to squeeze some of the lettuce and salad leaves around the edge too.

You will also notice the raspberry poles we put up in the afternoon, in the background.

From the following photo you can see the tomato plants, cabbages and marigolds we spread about in the brassica and root beds.

....and here's the small strawberry plants, with a little bit of room left in that bed for something else.

and here's a shot of the main potato bed. I did earth them up last week and now look at them. They just keep on growing!

You can only imagine my pleasure in seeing all of these plants in the plot, as it really looks great with lots of different vegetables, fruit and flowers at different stages of development. As my Dad has spent so long getting them from seed to nice healthy plants, I now have the responsibility of making sure I keep them alive, nurture them and try to get as much out of them as I can.

I've got to update my plan and research how I protect them all from the pests and frosts, so I expect to make preparations for that this week. However, I have promised that I would start decorating of the hall and landing in May, so I'm going to be a busy boy over the next month or so.

I also need to finish staining the shed, (I did do half of it on Saturday afternoon after we'd sorted the raspberry poles) and fill the raised bed with soil for some more tomato plants (which I'm growing from seed), Ellie and Tom's seeds and anything else. Not to mention all the weeding and watering depending on the weather.

Anyway, not only did we have a lovely day in the Sun, but Swindon beat Bristol Rovers and managed to avoid relegation, so all in all a BIG RESULT of a weekend. Keep it coming England, I'm having a ball.

Monday, 20 April 2009

It wasn't warm and sunny 11 years ago today......

Yes, 11 years ago on Saturday 18th April , Karen and I got married and it was a cold afternoon that day. Not that it mattered of course as we had a brilliant day. Unfortunately, Karen picked up a sinus infection last week and is laid up recovering, at the moment and thus the reason I'm at the allotment with Ellie. Tom was invited to watch Crystal Palace play with one of his friends from school, so we are listening out for the score on the radio.

It's been a little while since the last update, during which we had a great week before Easter in Pembrokeshire with our friends and so with the sun and rain, the weeds and grass have grown with a vengeance, so plenty of work to do.

I have managed to pop down to do a little bit previosuly, but today, Ellie and I were planning on planting some peas and marigolds in one bed, some cabbages, leeks and broccoli in another, as well as see how the potatoes are getting on under the fleece, along with a bit of weeding.

As you can see from the next 2 photo's we've got plenty of labels in and not only was Ellie helping with the seeds, she also wrote most of the labels out too.

I took the fleece off the potatoes and by some miracle they are growing!!! Hoorah. I weeded the bed and 'earthed them up' as you can see below.

Of course, we deserved a break and Ellie got the chair, as she was supplying the mini eggs!

....and Ellie was keen to take a photo of me actually working so here's the proof.

We had a good couple of hours and have now got quite a lot of seeds in, including some carrots, lettuce and spinach which we put in last week. I'm hoping to get a few strawberry plants and put them in next week. Also, my Dad is coming over to help me with the raspberry supports and bring me some plants, with luck, so I'm excited to see what he brings!

It's all taking shape and as you may have noticed from some of the photo's a lot of the plots are being worked on now, so I expect to see more and more people around. Roll on next week.... from a happy gardener on his anniversary.

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Thank you to the Boss

...before we's a bit like 'Where's Wally?'...only 'Where's the plot?' !!

It takes an understanding wife when you spend every spare minute you have at the weekend down at the allotment and thankfully that's what I have. As we're away over Easter, I knew I'd miss 2 weekends and therefore, needed to get a few things sorted so between football, jobs around the house and church I was down at the plot trying to make as much headway as I could.

Here's what I wanted to get done;-

1. Nail/screw all the wooden slats I'd managed to saw to size during the week, in the evenings. As the clocks went forward in the US 3 weeks ago, I was finishing work at 8pm and had some spare time.

2. Fix the new latch and padlock to the door, which Karen found in Wilko's for under £3.

3. Clear the area outside the shed with the mattock and dig it over to get rid of the roots and weeds, etc.

4. Saw all the lengths of wood I had to make a raised bed area and also get some more if I needed it from Ali's plot, as she had some left over.

5. Nail/screw all these together and level it off.

6. Board up the side of the path leading to the plot and level this off so there is a proper path to walk on.

7. Plant a load of the potatoes, cover with fleece and sow some carrot seeds under the cloches.

Now it doesn't seem too bad, but it's amazing just how long these things take, with all the sawing, etc and of course the hail we had on Saturday afternoon, didn't really help matters. It took me back to the times I was there over the winter digging in the rain and freezing cold.

I spent all Saturday afternoon on the plot working away and although the weather forecast was supposed to be good in the afternoon, the hail proved that wrong and curtailed my efforts. So, after church on Sunday morning, I dashed back down to finish off the raised bed and there was even more urgency as the council had deposited a huge pile of wood shavings on the site and I knew this would be perfect for the area around the shed and the path. The huge pile was getting steadily demolished and I had to get in there fast!

Here's the rear of the shed all done.

Thankfully, I completed all of this and was back home for 1pm in time for a great Sunday lunch, before collecting up the potatoes and carrot seeds and heading back down for some planting. For the first time, I met my other neighbour, David, who was working up a sweat digging some of his plot over.

Here's the raised bed, path and area sorted by the shed, with the wood shavings on the ground.

I'd taken about half of the potatoes, partly because they were ready, but also as we needed the space in the spare room to get everything ready for our holiday. The rest have been moved to the garage until I get back. Now, not really knowing how much room they would take up, I took my new book, The Essential Allotment Guide by John Harrison, which Ali very kindly bought me as a gift and is really useful. His website is on the links on the blog. I followed his instructions on the spacing, etc, used my hoe to make the trench and then put in 2 rows each of my First Earlies(Accent), Second Earlies (Charlotte) and Maincrop (Cara)....and this took up the whole bed I had set aside for ALL of the potatoes...ooops. So I'll need to squeeze the rest in elsewhere. Ahhhh, also, bit of a problem, maybe, as I forgot to label the different potatoes when they were chitting and may have got a bit confused with the First and Second Earlies, so could be a bit of trial and error when I dig up the first one to see if they are ready. Silly me, but with luck I'll get away with it and have learnt that lesson for next year.

I was reading in the book all about the wireworm and apparently it's pretty prevalent in grassland, so with all the roots, grass and brambles that were on the plot, I'm just hoping these pesky little monkeys don't eat through all of the spuds before I get a chance to dig them up, but fingers crossed, as there isn't a lot I can do about it now.

Here's all the potatoes, nice and cosy under the fleece (thanks to my Dad for that).

Finally, under the cloches I sowed a row of Early Nantes 5 carrots, so we'll see if they do anything when we get back from our trip. A finishing touch was Ellie's rabbit plaster caste mould she had painted which nicely marked the row. Hopefully, that will be the only rabbit that gets near them!

Here's one final photo looking West down the plot. I took all of the photo's on the way home from work on Monday, as I forgot to take the camera with me on Sunday.

Well that's it until mid April when I plan to sort out the bed for the legumes, get some strawberry plants, stain the shed, make a table from an old pallet I have, fill the raised bed ready for some plants and most important of all get a chair to sit on and enjoy the sunshine with Radio 5 live on, hopefully listening to Swindon avoiding relegation......

Monday, 23 March 2009

Rome wasn't built in a day, but.......

....the shed almost was!

What a lucky boy I am. Nice sunny day to erect the shed. After dropping Tom off at his football, I stopped off at a house on the way home to recycle some of the wood they had in their skips from the roof extension they are having done. I then dropped this off at the allotment and drove home to let Karen have the car and pick Tom up later.

So with my trusty Ikea bag full of all the tools I thought I'd need I set off down to 94a and began the Grand Design. The base was quite rotten, so having replaced some of it and used some of the wood to reinforce it, I then repaired some of the panels and then man handled it all up. As you can see from the photo below, I ended up with 2 ends with space for doors!

Then it was a case of screwing the roof panels on, using the felt Michael gave me to cover it and then use all the bits of wood I had to fix that on. Thankfully, I had just enough of the felt and pieces to finish it off. Also, I did have one door and screwed this into place...

Almost looks like new from this side! Ellie was making us all lunch today, so I had to dash off to make sure I wasn't late. In the afternoon, Ellie and Tom decided to come down and have an explore about as it was such a lovely day. I carried on with the fixing and also sawing and screwing into place some supports to fill in the other door space...and so this is how I left it on Saturday.

Just in time for the 'Inspectors' arriving on Sunday afternoon after our Mother's Day lunch!!

So, quite a productive Saturday and now I need to finish that end of the shed off next week, stain the wood and then set to putting the raised bed in by the shed too. I think I'll have to revisit those skips to get some more wood first! Also, I think I'll try sowing some carrots and maybe some of the potatoes that have been happily chitting away, before we go away for Easter. Plenty to do, but oh what fun!!!! Happy Springtime.