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?

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

Allotment Week: Paths and Mounds

One of the requirements of taking over a small additional section of an adjacent plot, is that I put in a pathway between plots 30 and 31. Now there never has been a path between 30/31, same as there is no path between 28/29 or 32/33, so it's kind of awkward trying to figure out where it should go.

One big issue is that the apple tree slightly overhangs the boundary, so in order to get a free walk down the path, the apple tree will have to have a significant haircut. But not today.

Today is the path for actually putting a path in. I've started at the back of the plot because the closer section needs some serious levelling and sorting out.

Of course another big problem is that there are significant amounts of bramble and couch grass blocking the way. So I gave the brambles and grasses short shrift with the billhook and then put down weed membrane. It might keep them at bay for a while. I then piled loads of wood chip on top.

Meanwhile all the grasses and weeds that I've been digging out of the paths and beds are being dumped on top of the Cape Gooseberry stems which were chopped down the other day. This will eventually be turned into another courgette mound, since these mounds do so well.

All-in-all, not a bad days work. Rather cold and brisk, but sunny enough to make me take my fleece off when doing the heavy work. Still more to do though. Back tomorrow.

Sunday, 26 November 2017

Allotment Week: Clearing up

End of the season, time to get things cleared up ready for winter.

I dug and manured 4 beds today. Over the winter hopefully the worms will do their work on the manure and these beds should be great for next year. Not sure what I'm going to put in them yet, though.

Meanwhile, the wife washed the pots that we grew stuff in (and additional pots which we scrounged over the year). The water will be switched off over winter so it's best to get this done sooner rather than later.

I also gave the Buddljia a good hair cut as well. There were a lot of twiggy bits at the bottom, and I really want to encourage it to grow upwards, rather than outward.

There's a lot of other stuff thats been done as well, which I didn't get photos of. I cut down two of the three apple trees. The Bramley which is at a very awkward angle and has never produced anything worthwhile, and the small one at the back. Not sure what it is (was) because in the 5 years we've been on the plot it has never so much as flowered, never mind given fruit. The big apple tree will also get a haircut at some point over the winter as it need to be made a little more manageable, and it will also overhang the new pathway that I have to put in between us and plot 31.

This next week should see quite a bit of activity on the plot as I have a week off work. So now it's time to get lots of stuff done ready for next year.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Cape Gooseberries

The Cape Gooseberries (also known as Inca Berries by some) have gone rampant in the beds this year. But it seems that they have put more into the growth of the plant rather than the actual berries.

There have been some frosts recently which has effectively killed the plants. "Not so bad", we thought. But it was only when we started harvesting them that we realised that many of the pods had no fruit developed inside them, which was extremely disappointing.

However we did manage to get a reasonable amount of fruits. Certainly enough to keep some of the fruits for seeds next year. And possibly enough to make a small batch of jam as well.

Other than that, there has not been much done on the plot this time. Illness over the past couple of weeks and the cold/miserable weather has meant that doing anything down the plot is an unfulfilling experience. Possibly more will be done in December as there is still a lot of infrastructure work that needs doing... building new beds... making new paths... cutting trees... You know. Stuff.

The stuff which every allotmenteer has to do to get ready for next year.

Monday, 23 October 2017

Almost the end of the season

Things are coming to an end now. The plot is definitely starting to look a little worn and bedraggled. Not surprising since this year has been pretty productive.

The Cape Gooseberries outside are still pretty green. But the ones we had in pots (outside) and all those in the greenhouses have certainly ripened enough to harvest. Fortunately they do keep well. But considering the total amount (or at least the potential total amount) then we should be on course for a very good harvest, and possibly jam. i think we'll probably wait a couple more weeks for the ones outside to see if they are ready. If not then we may be forced to pull them and work with what we get.

The outside sunflowers are also starting the die back and go to seed. rather than let the seed scatter, we decided to start pulling the heads off. We'll probably make sure they are properly de-seeded then we can make seeded fat balls for the birds over winter. And of course keep some seeds back for next year.

Remember the dodgy carrots from last week? Well, the Wife made them into soup. Plenty of onions and carrots boiled up with seasoning.

Then a blitz with the blender and it made a delicious thick soup, the colour of which is not done justice in my poor photos. Purple carrots at their best... no matter how they look.

Add some tomatoes from our stock and you have a meal fit for kings. This is what allotment good food is all about.