Sunday, 18 February 2018

Still building beds

Whats this? Sunshine? No rain? Wow. Time to get down the plot.

It's a nice sunny day (for a change) and I'm greeted at the plot with a small ray of sunshine - the daffs are flowering

But even so, there is still a lot of work to be done. So it's time to dig out the tools and get building.

Unfortunately, as I've mentioned before, my old drill is no longer up to scratch. It's a Ni-Cad based drill in which the battery has seen better days. Although I did managed to get a couple of beds made, the fully charged battery was unable to go any further putting a halt to the days work.

I still have three more 8ft beds to make for the new section. But due to the drill, it's impossible to put together any more wood. And there is also the slight problem in that I don't have any more 6ft planks. I normally chop the 6ft'ers in half so that all the beds are the same 3ft width. So next week I'll have to get more wood, and see how long the charge lasts. But I suspect that the drill may be on it's last legs.

Mr. Fox has been around again. You can see in the photo above that he has tried digging his way underneath the bed I put down last time. I'll have to fill in that hole when I put down the beds. Hopefully the weather will stay dry and I can do it next week. But then again, this is English weather we're talking about. Anything can happen.

Saturday, 13 January 2018

Trimming the Tree and Building Beds

One normally "trims the tree" for xmas. But in this case it's the Apple Tree that needs a drastic haircut. Especially as it overhangs the new path.

The pictures aren't really clear as to how much has been trimmed, but it's sufficient to say that there are now a lot less branches that cross over each other. Pruning opens up the centre of the tree to more light and more airflow. And as an added benefit, makes harvesting easier too.

I've also built a new bed at the front of the plot which will become a second strawberry bed, right next to the existing one.

Second? Probably third. Possibly fourth. Yeah, the Wife wants a few more strawberry growing areas. What with those in the greenhouse, the stackable trays... Note to self; lay in super large stocks of cream for summer.

We've also re-potted our blueberries into larger pots. They probably need to be pruned as well. But the Wife mentioned something about taking cuttings from them to try and create more blueberry plants. Do I see yet more berries in my future?

And the onions have been planted too.
Onions left, Blueberries right.

Elsewhere on the plot, the old greenhouse has had a mini-clean. It will get a full clean later in the year. As will the new greenhouse. It has a thin green film on the inside of the glass as a remnant of last year's Tomatoes. I also need to build a table inside so we have a raised area better suited to putting seedlings and plants on.

Oh, and I need to make more beds as well. So much work to do... and I haven't even ordered this years seeds yet.

Best crack on...

Monday, 1 January 2018

A New Year's visit to the Plot

The Plot in winter is not an inspiring sight. There is no greenery. OK, I tell a lie, there is, but it belongs to the small weeds and grasses that are obstinately clinging to life.

We have had quite a bit of rain over the holidays and the main path next to the new section is somewhat flooded.

Which also doesn't bode well for said news section as it is significantly lower than the rest of the plot. If we end up with huge rains again, like last time, then this new bit will be totally underwater.

The shed is looking a little tired. When the weather warms up a little (and before the grape vine starts sprouting obviously) I will have to apply a good coat of preservative again. Gotta keep the Red Shed on Stilts.

This is not the only job required. There are new beds to be built. I already have all the necessary wood ready. I just need a decent dry day to get to work.

The new beds will be installed in the new section and at the front where the previous infamous Courgette Mound resided. At the moment it's covered with weed membrane in an attempt to keep the weeds at bay. Though they are still making an appearance in some places.

But there is a light at the end of the tunnel. The Daffs are starting to raise above the damp. Well they are in a raised bed anyway.


Friday, 29 December 2017

End of year round-up

So once again the wheel turns full circle and we come to the end of the year. Time to reflect back on what was achieved and look forward to what we aspire to.

So what happened this year?

Well for starters it was an extremely poor start. January saw me fighting off a lingering lung infection which required a couple of trips to hospital. But on the plus side, I got to take part in the Greenliving Forum's Seed Swap.
February saw me start getting the new greenhouse put up. This actually took quite a while due to the lack of glass, but it did get put to good use throughout the rest of the year as the Tomato and Chilli house (oh and Carrots too).
March saw the completion of the afore mentioned greenhouse and the start of our actual planting as well as preparation for this years courgette mound.
April we got hit hard by a late frost. It's unusual to get frosts here in the centre of London due to the heat island effect, but this one almost wiped out our courgettes, and did wipe out our sweetcorn. Fortunately we had corn to spare and some of our courgettes survived.
May was warm. Really warm. Unseasonably warm. Time for a Barbecue. But it also saw the first of the Bread Club's visits to a working flour mill.
Blooming June was just that. Loads of flowers (keep the Wife happy) and the start of harvest-able veggies (keeps me happy).
July paved the way for this year's courgette season to really get rolling.
By August we were into peak production across the board. Many things were ripening and we started enjoying fresh potatoes and yet more courgettes.
September rolled on and we were getting pretty sick of courgettes by now. Fortunately we could now start combining them with our own tomatoes to make chutneys and jams and even get to show off the Bread making skills at the Produce show.
October finally things started to slow down. Once again our carrots were forked sixteen way to Monday, but they still tasted wonderful.
By November we'd finished with courgettes (finally), and made a start securing the new addition of an extra rod which has been added to the plot, and we also harvested what we could of the Cape Gooseberries.
And by December, it was all over.

So lets go over some of the more specifics that we did.
Apples - The apple tree didn't carry as much fruit this year as it has on previous years. I tried using a moth trap to see if I could cut down on the number of maggot infested apples. I'm not sure how well it worked as we had less infested apples, but we also had less of a crop. The apple tree however will soon have a major trim to tidy it up and make access to it easier. I have also removed the Bramley (never really produced well) and the third apple tree (which has never produced anything anyway).

Artichoke - The artichoke had a huge thinning as it was partly in the way of the flower bed which I built last winter. But even so it once again produced a load of bee friendly blooms.

Beans - Dismal failure. We tried for borlotti beans again this year, but I fear the slugs were rather ravenous and they didn't recover.

Beetroot - Only a single bed this year. But even then that was more than enough to produce a whole load of delicious beetroots. And some even got turned into bread.

Blueberry - Getting bigger and better ever year. Though I will have to cut them back this winter.

Cape Gooseberry - Prolific is the word I would have to use. However it should be noted that the plants in the beds but more effort into growing foliage rather than fruits. Whereas those in pots soon got root bound, but did produce a substantial quantity of fruits. Perhaps limiting their nutrient intake is the better option.

Carrots - Forked. Again. But tasted wonderful in soup.

Chilli - We produced a pretty impressive quantity this year. Certainly we'll have to do the same again next year. We dried and crushed them, and now they feature regularly in our meals.

Courgettes - We lost count at around the 130 mark. I reckon we had over 150 of them. Fortunately we can trade them for cheese or eggs with our neighbours. So it's a win-win all round. We did try de-hydrating them this year. They took 24 hours in a low heat oven to dry, and that seemed to go OK. But when re-hydrating them, they just turned to mush and tasted foul. So either less main courgettes or we need to switch to growing winter squash instead.

Flowers - The new flower bed did wonder and the Wife was really pleased. So much so that now she wants even more flower growing areas.

Grapes - Seemed grow OK... but once again somebody went and pinched them off the vine. Have to definitely rig a camera trap to catch the culprit.

Lavender - We lost our planted lavender, so now we have potted ones. And they did really well this year. Next year hopefully they'll be even better.

Leaf Beet - One of our front beds to totally given over the Leaf Beets and it's in constant production. A good staple.

Onions - Well they grew, of sorts. The problem was that they were so small as to not really be worth pursuing. So maybe I'll re-plant them this winter and see if they can produce something decent this year.

Pak Choi - Again they grew... but didn't really like the greenhouse. Seemed to be lamky and tasteless. But if I had planted them outside they would have been devoured by the slugs. So I guess they dodn't win either way. We probably won't be growing them again.

Potatoes - Didn't do so well this year. Very small results. But growing them in bags is a useful way to get them going so we're going to be doing the same again.

Rhubarb - Does nothing stop this plant? I'll have to make even more Rhubarb and Ginger Jam next year.

Strawberries - The Wife wants a strawberry empire. She's already earmarked one of the new beds to be another dedicated strawberry bed next year. And she also wants a vertical grow wall at the rear of the greenhouse too. And lets not mention the strawberry towers. Fortunately, I like strawberries too.

Sunflowers - The Giant Russians didn't germinate. But the smaller ones did put on quite a decent show.

Tomatoes - They just kept on coming. Though the larger ones didn't really ripen properly, so I suspect that we're going to standardise on cherry toms next year.

A few points of note.

  • Firstly there was a distinct lack of Black Fly this year. Not sure why but we didn't get any on our Artichoke or other plants. None whatsoever. I really have no explanation for this, but it's good to see.
  • Secondly I'll be more wary of late frosts. We carry over our courgettes seeds from one year to the next. This year we gave away a lot of our seeds and seed marrow to neighbours. So when we lost a lot in the late frost, we were almost wiped out in the courgette area. That however has been our biggest producer each year, and we use it as a staple in trading favours with our neighbours.
  • Thirdly we're going to have to start inter-planting a bit more. Especially when it comes to the Cape Gooseberries. They will be better used as possible ground cover in amongst the sweetcorn.

So what about next year? Well we now have a bit more room to play with. We have the soil in an excellent position to carry us forward so things are looking good. Here's to the next growing season.

Friday, 1 December 2017

Allotment Week: Beds and Woodchips

There has been a fresh delivery of woodchips this week. Once again the woodchip bay is brimming. It makes sense as the various arborists around the area do most of their work in the winter months. They don't have to worry so much about leaves, and they can clearly see what needs to be cut back. But then they have to get rid of the resulting mess. Which is why Allotments around the borough will gladly accept their rubbish, because to us it's like gold dust.

So I have a new extension to the plot, which is only small, but I reckon I could get 5 8ftx3ft beds in there. So first thing this morning I went to the local Wickes to pick up some boards to be made into beds. I grabbed 10 8ft boards, and 5 6ft boards. The 6ft's will be cut in half to make the end pieces. I done a post on how I construct my beds so I won't go over it again here.

But what I didn't reckon with is the cold. It played havoc with my drill's battery and I could only get 2 beds done before the power wasn't enough to drive a screw in anymore.

So I now have 8 6ft beds complete in the centre of the plot plus 4 6ft beds down alongside the main path (by the rhubarb and shed). I should have 5 8ft in the new section and 4 10ft beds at the very front. I'm not counting the Wife's flower bed which was last year's winter project.

Of course the big problem is that Wicke's (Merton) do not carry 10ft boards, so I'll have to go further afield to get them at some point n the future. But since the drill packed up, there wasn't a lot else to do other than saw up corner sections and trundle woodchip around the beds to fill them up and make nice happy mycellieum homes.

Yesterday I started levelling out the old mound area. The new section is very low, and obviously the mound is very high. So the new path which has to go in needs to run between the two, mis-matched levels. Not an easy job. But I eventually managed to get a levelled section and put a new path in.

I'm still missing a section between this path and the one I did on Tuesday. But I guess I can do that at the weekend.

But back to that pesky drill of mine. It's getting a little long in the tooth and the battery doesn't hold the charge so well. It was only a cheap'n'nasty non-brand drill anyway. So I'm contemplating getting something a little better. I've been looking at the Ryobi One+ range as they have a variety of power tools with a common power system.

Has anybody tried these?
Are they worth it?
What drawbacks have you found with them?