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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Wet Sunday at home!



It's been a bit of a wet and windy day here in "sunny" Bournemouth! I got up early and did some sowing - not, as one friend on FaceBored wondered, a "euphemism"!


I sowed some Cerinthe seed (in fibre pots), that I'd soaked overnight. The seed are like small bits of grit! I like these; purple flowers, and bluey-green  (glaucous?) leaves. They self seed like buggery! Which is good!

I sowed the first of my squash/pumpkin seeds, (again, in fibre pots) - 3 pots of 2 each Uchiki Kuri squash; and, 3 pots of 3 each Patty (Pan) Green Tint.

6 each of some Cayenne Chili; and, Chocolate Cherry tomatoes. My 6 Tigerella tomato plants are doing very nicely, thank you!

Finally, 12 fibre modules of Celeriac. I love Celeriac. They need a very long growing season, but, I've never managed to grow ones the size that you see in the shops! The seeds are very small, and difficult to handle. I actually divided my batch of seeds in the manner of dividing lines of cocaine - NOT that I've ever been involved in that kind of thing! - but, it seemed to work!

I also potted on 18 snapdragons (Antirrhinum "Night and Day"). As I type this, I can see that they look a bit droopy! Oh! Dear! Hopefully, they'll recover.

I would have done more sowing - some Courgettes, Jack O'lantern and Butternut squash; Sweetcorn - but, I've run out out of window space! 

I'd like to have gone out to The Plot today, but, once the drizzle had passed, it was a tad windy. One idea was to erect my greenhouse! I bought it in Wilkinson's in the Autumn, when they were selling off all their gardening stuff (To make room for Christmas crap!) There was some confusion over pricing; I think that the stand said everything for £1.50, which didn't seem right. I took the pack to the till, where the price was £1! So, I went back and grabbed a 4-tier shelving unit as well! Unfortunately, a supervisor came by and said that they were £5 each! Still, not bad for a 1.2 x 1.9 m greenhouse with a cover! 

I think that trying to assemble "flat-pack" in the open, in a gale, with lots of "bits", would not have made for a restful Sunday afternoon! Something for next weekend then! Weather allowing!

Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Just a quickie!



If you look at this Blog at all, you'll know that I haven't been updating it for a while; well, over a year! I have been working on the Plot; but, not updating the Blog! This is just a quick update to say that I'm back!

I intend to Blog more regularly, here, and, in the Non-Plot Blog.

I am planning the re-jig the look of the Blogs; so, they may change a bit over the next week, or two.

I've got ideas for this Blog, including:-
  • Quick account of "our" recent visit to the Edible Garden Show.
  • Some of the gardening/allotment books that I refer to.
  • Maybe the odd book review.
  • A quick update of the progress on the Plot since the last update.
  • Plans for the future.
  • More photographs from the Plot.

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

First visits of the"new campaign!"



  

I managed two trips to The Plot this weekend - Saturday and Sunday. I paid off my annual rent - I always want to call it "annual subs!" It's a lot less this year, due to the my downsizing the plot!

Before, looking West(ish)
After, looking West(ish)
The wet weather seems to have eased off a bit (there are still flood warnings all over the country!); but, it was dry enough to do some work. Normally, my little patch off dirt dries off very quickly, but, the ground is still very wet. I stuck to my new paths, which, I need to mark properly, and spent the time hoeing off weeds. OK! De-turfing is probably a better description!

I've added the "hoeings" (I'm not sure that is a proper word!) to my compost bins and open heap. What's left on the ground, will hopefully be killed off by the cold weather, that everybody tells me is going to follow the rain! The Jet Stream from North America, and all that!
Before, looking South East(ish)

After, looking South East(ish)
I probably ought to get some more bins; because the open heap is not very efficient, or, quick; and, certainly looks scruffy! In my new regime, we are going for neat, tidy and efficient looking!

As well as hoeing, I dug up the last of the parsnips; and, a handful of  cute baby leeks! Soup anyone?
Before, looking North East(ish)

After, looking North East(ish)
I took home a load of helibore seedlings, to pot up at home. I was hand weeding around the parent plants. They had to come up, because I was trying to clear out couch grass roots!



At home, I've got a couple of pots with some leek and onion seedling coming on nicely, along with some garlic bulbs (Marco, if  remember rightly!)

Garlic

Leek and onions seedlings
A you can see, I took some before and after photos. I will try and take regular shots from the same spots on the Plot, to show progress from weedy wasteland, to (hopefully!), productive potager!

Things to do:-
  • Paint some posts that will be used to mark "bed" corners. Ironically, the wood came from an old pine bed!
  • Sort out some kind of border between my Plot, and, the plots that I have given up!
  • I have some plants (rhubarb, echinops etc.) that need to be planted up. The rhubarb will benefit from a bit of cold, though I'm not so sure about the others!
  • Sort out some mulch/s.
  • Sort out some some compost Daleks.
  • Mark out the beds/paths.
  • Generally, hoe and weed!
  • Have a fire to burn off some woody material; but, I've got to wait until it's dried out a bit, and the weather is bad enough for the neighbors to have their windows shut, and no washing out!
  • Go to the Potato Day in Whitechurch, on the 25/26th of this month?

Wednesday, 1 January 2014

Plot catch up. .... 2013 and all!


This is my first post in a long while. I've not had much to write about; because, OK! I admit it ; I've let The Plot go a bit! Last year was a wash out; literally. 2012 wasn't much better! When it wasn't raining; then the ground was still too wet to work with. When the ground was was dry; then the rain came in again! I'm not one of those whinging bores, who reckon the summer was ruined, because we had a shower in June! - the ever turning Circle of Life , and all that! But, when I was free to do some "Plotting"; the conditions were against me! I did notice that the usual weeds weren't so prevalent - groundsel, fat hen and so on. I still had bindweed, horsetail and couch ; which seems to have got a bit worse this year. I have had a lot of grass growing. See the damning evidence below!







I was given the inevitable "quiet word"; with the amicable solution of reducing my plot size. So, as of Jan 1st, 2014; I'll have 1 plot (losing 1/3rd of my existing plot.); which is roughly 16 x 12 m - 2 x 3.4.5 triangles! I thought that was neat; but, SWMBO was non-plussed! Little things please little mind, I guess!

I have to confess to being a tad annoyed; and disappointed. Not with the decision; but, with myself for letting the Plot get into a weedy mess!

Currently; I'm in the process of "re-imagining" my "new Plot - and, my approach.I've spent the end of the year trying to tidy up my "lost" plot; I wanted to leave plot in a reasonable state for the the new "owners" - they will be be my new neighbours, after all! I had to abandon this good work on New Years Eve, because (cue weather bore!) of the wet weather. I did manage to move out plants that I wanted to keep (I had a "great fun", a couple of Sundays ago,moving 23 year Box bush - it's 5th move!; and, sort out the worst of the weeds; so that I think that I've left it in a better state than when I took it over! I even let another plot holder take a clump of Echinops; which he wanted, 'cos his wife had some in her wedding bouquet! I'm a miserable git; but, even I couldn't refuse that!

So, Jan. 1st, 2014 is a new era on Plot 50 (actually Plot49/50!) As such, I'm planning to take a whole new look/approach to the Plot. Effectively, it is to work less!; work smart! I have spent too much time digging and weeding - not very successful weeding!; and not enough growing!

My new approach is threefold - the Half Hour Allotment ; No Dig; and, Mindful Gardening. Some of these, I have only considered/dabbled with before. With a smaller Plot, it'll hopefully be easier to put into action!


To start with; the Half Hour Allotment. This based on the  The half hour allotment by Lia Leendertz. Basically, the idea is that you only need to spend 1/2 each day, during the week (or 2 1/2 hours per week) - leaving the weekends free! - to maintain a standard size plot.

That half hour needs planning in advance; so, don't waste time deciding what to do when you get there.

Break up visits into 10 minute jobs - obviously, there may be some one off "big" jobs like putting up sheds. If you don't finish a job; you can do it next time.

Once you've completed you allotted tasks; then - you can go for a gossip; have a brew; plan the next visit! You can do a bit more if you want to!

Obviously, that's a gross over simplification; but, you should get the idea!


Next idea is No Dig! Basically, you ... um! ... er! ... Don't dig. Digging is BAD!

For starters, it's hard on my old back! Also, you bring up weeds seeds, which have been lying dormant, below the surface. You also bring to the surface all the good microorganisms; which die off; slow down; take time to recover; take time to get back underground, where they belong!

Instead of digging, the idea is cover in a weed suppressing mulch - preferably, well rotted compost, or, manure! You can cover the soil with cardboard, or newspaper, which rots down; or, the non bio-degradable carpet; plastic sheeting etc.!

Monty Don and Alys Fowler have been promoting this; but, the real No Dig Guru (in this country) is Charles Dowding)

Back in July, I went on one the day courses that he runs, down in Somerset. It was a really good day! Really interesting! He's taken a new plot of land, and started from scratch! (See the YouTube clip below). His No Dig beds were covered in well rotted manure/compost, earlier in the year; and, by July, he was producing loads of crops!

He experiments with dig/no dig beds, for comparison. His No Digs beds certainly do produce comparable results; in some case, better results than the Dug beds! Oddly, his carrots seem to do better; which is counter intuitive! -  they're supposed to need a well dug bed, without recent compost/manuring!


Just not sure if I can get hold of enough compost/manure! If you've got a spare lorry load ...









Finally, there is Mindfulness.  A while back, I read The art of mindful gardening: sowing the seeds of Meditation by Ark Redwood;  who's the gardener at the Glastonbury Chalice Well garden, in Glastonbury. (Weirdly, I came across it, on the Gong website! Ark Redwood is somehow part of the extended Gong family!)

It's not really a gardening book! It's more about Mindfulness; which has become very popular recently.

It's sort of Buddhist. The Amazon blurb is:-

"... guides the reader through the changing seasons. Drawing on years of both practical gardening experience and Zen Buddhist practice, he acts as an expert guide to the secret places of the garden that can be discovered through mindful practice and spiritual contemplation. Using the garden as medium and metaphor, he demonstrates that moment to moment mindfulness can bring an extra layer of consciousness to happenings that gardeners already consider magical: from the blossoming of mindful dimension to an everyday experience, this is the perfect gardener's gift and an essential for the potting shed library."

I have to say, it's a very relaxing read. I felt myself slowing down, as I read it!

So, it's now 2014! I've made my last trip to the Plot for 2013 (yesterday!) I'd like to make my first trip to my "new, improved" Plot today; but, the forecast is more wet'n'windy! Oh! Well! Hopefully, the weekend will be dry!

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Second trip to The Plot ....

I didn't go out this weekend, due to the weather. We had a fall of snow on Friday; which cleared quite quickly; but, it's still wet and cold. Not quite "The Day After Tomorrow!" Too wet to do much at The Plot, today though. Maybe next weekend, then!

Still very scruffy; but, I starting to get there!

I did manage to to some work last weekend. On Sunday, I dug over the patch, that had, had a Rosemary bush (hoicked out last weekend); and, worked on patches that I'd previously dug over, with my 3-pronged cultivator.

The day before; I did some sowing, at home.

  • I sorted through some Marco garlic bulbs; and, sorted 8 decent cloves to plant into fibre pots - so that I can get them started, even if I can't plant them out, just yet.
  • 10 Meteor peas, in toilet paper inner tubes (inner tubes??)
  •  2 Rhubarb (Champagne) in 1 litre drinks cartons - again; so that I can get them started, even if I can't plant them out, just yet.
The peas are doing fine - well 8 of them!

Yes! The outside are a little"furry"!

The Rhubarb has started sprouting, as well!


Sunday, 6 January 2013

First trips to The Plot this year

This weekend, I made my first trips to The Plot. The weather was due to be dry here, at the end of last week; so, I took a days annual leave on Friday to do some digging! I went out today, as well. Yesterday, I went to Salisbury, with SWMBO. A very nice day.

The weather was appalling last year. I didn't get around to growing much; and, to be honest, the last quarter of the year was too wet to do anything - when it wasn't raining; the ground was still drying out! The Plot is a bit of a scruffy mess (pictures below ...); so, I wanted to get out there, and do some tidying and digging - Yes! I know! I've talked about "No dig"











It hasn't been quite as dry as the the weather forecasts suggested that it would be; but, when I got out there, it was surprisingly workable. So! What did I do?

  • Dug up a Rosemary bush; that been in place for years; and, infested with Couch Grass!
  • Covered two clumps of Rhubarbs with an upturned dust bin; and, one of my compost Daleks
  • Thinned out some of my overwintering Aquadulce Claudia Broad Beans; and, replanted the bigger of the thinnings further up the row. These are doing quite well!
  • I moved some Swiss Chard plants from a bed that I was digging over; to a bed that had been dug over.
  • I cleared away (took home form the bin) some of my rubbish; and, started tidying up the existing "main" compost area -I think that I'm going to have to retire the bits of pallet, that I've been using for years; I wonder if I could get pallets from work into the back of Little Keira?
  • I've started moving the existing "compost" into one pile - once I'm sorted; I'll start some bean trenches; and, drop some of this material into those.
  • I did some digging; so, now  I'm a bit stiff ("Oooo! Matron! ..."); so; I'm now self medicating with beer! Apparently, beer isn't a good anti-inflammatory; nor, is it good as a fluid replacement!!) I have a nice blokey grid system - I want nice straight lines, thank you! of roughly 9 by 5 beds (I must get around to putting my plan here, sometime) - 9 files of 5 ranks - and, I have finished digging over File D (my Broad Beans; and, Swiss Chard are at one end; and, started digging over File E (I have some brasicas at one end - some Cavolo Nero Kale; pointy cabbage ; cauliflower ; and, some broccoli.
 Goodness only knows what the weather will really be like next week. Hopefully, dry! I'm geared up for more digging, next weekend!

In the mean time; I'll work on my planting plan for the coming year. I need to work out what; and, how much! Stay tuned!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Birthday weekend ....

We've just back from a few days away, in Bath. Myself; and, SWMBO had birthdays last week; so we decided to treat ourselves to a trip away in Bath. We both love Bath; and enjoyed a few days there in the summer. It's only a two hour drive away - not far!

We stayed at the same hotel (The Ayrlington); where we stayed in the summer. It's very comfy; pleasant walking distance from the centre of town. We enjoy the two cats who wander around as if the own the place; which of course they do! We had a "four poster!" I'm reliably informed by SWMBO that we have slept in a four poster before; but, not one this substantial!


View from the hotel room
We had a wander around the "Christmas Market"; which apparently finishes today (Sunday). We're used to the one in Bournemouth, which seems to me, to be a "Garden Shed Festival" .... selling bad Xmas tat! .... and goes on until the New Year! The Bath version had the same wooden, garden sheds; but, seemed to more about local produce - food and crafts; not just "knocking out stuff", bought wholesale!

Bath Christmas Market
On Friday evening, we had a meal in Demuths, a vegetarain restaurant, that we happened upon, in the summer. It was so good, we went back. In fact SWMBO booked, before we went! Neither of us are vegetarians; we both love a bacon sarnie, and a good sausage; but, neither of us has to have a slab of meat with every meal! The food at Demuth is truly amazing. We both had a starter of roast carrot (with goats cheese; and, a mixture of puy lentils and buckwheat) which we could have had as a main course! I can't really describe our mains - just list them, as they appeared on the menu - I had, "Roast Squash with Gnocchi alla Romano, Roast Field Mushroom, Cavelo Nero, Puy Lentils and a Cider Cream Sauce"; and SWMBO had, "Roast Curried Cauliflower with Spiced Potato, Almond Garlic Emulsion, Kale and Poached Apple" - both were stunning. For me, the portions are a tad small ("Townie Portions!"); but, I am a pig! On Saturday night, we went to Browns. The food and service were very good; but, the Demuths was better. Sorry Browns

I did manage to make to a pub - just the one! There are so many decent alehouses in Bath that I could easily, and quickly, pickle my liver several times over ..... Ah! The Salamander, The Old Green Tree, The Star, The Bell ..... This time is was the Coeur de Lion; which is next to The Makery. This is a shop selling ribbons, and thread and button and such like!! Not quite my thing; but, it is for SWMBO; so it's a good excuse for a quick pint next door!!!



On Saturday, we did the "grockle" thing; and, went to the Baths. We couldn't get in, in the Summer, because the queues (Yes! There were more than one!) We've both been going since the Seventies (separately; and, together). Each time, there seems to be new bits. This time; apart from the "museum displays"; there were video projections, on some of the walls. I think that if you were using the audio handset guides, there was some accompanying sound. I wasn't using one; but, I swear that I heard a goat bleating .... and the sound of a knife being sharpened!! I'm always impressed by the Baths.

Bath Abbey, reflected in The Great Bath



The second "grockle" thing, was to go to The American Museum ; which is just outside of town; by the University. I have driven there once. There was an exhibition of Native American art; which was very interesting. For some reason, I thought that it was a permanent exhibition. Unfortunately, it was temporary!. I didn't really fancy taking "Little Keira" up there, as access is via a nasty, narrow, rutted road - pit holes so deep, they were like "tank traps". Looking at their Web; which is probably, always a good idea; I saw that they run a free shuttle service from the centre of the City. Sorted; especially, as it was free! I know how to treat SWMBO! The rooms are laid out in the style of different periods of Colonial, to eve of the Civil War, America. The key thing here is the quilts; which are of great interest to SWMBO; who is a quilter - amongst other things!

We generally took our time (I heard a bloke in the Christmas Market telling his other half, "... we're officially mooching; so, we don't have to rush! ..."); just mooching! Taking in the sites; but not trying to do everything.


Yes! He is playing a fiddle, whilst standing one legged on a tight rope!It begs the questions, "Why?" The flash on my camera decided to deploy! Hope it didn't distract him too much!

All round, a successful weekend; apart from the fact that is was only a weekend; and, I have to go to work tomorrow!

Friday, 19 October 2012

Some Plot updates .....

There seems to no end to the rain. Oh! Dear! I'm turning into one of the boring oafs complaining about the weather. When it is dry enough to get out to The Plot; assuming that it's a Saturday, or Sunday; then the ground is still drying out from the weeks downpour/s! My patch of dirt (mud?) drains well; and quite quickly, when it gets the chance! This year, no chance!

I have managed to get out a few times to do some tidying! My "compost cairn" keeps growing; and, reassuringly, getting smaller! Hopefully, that means it's rotting down; and, not that some bugger's stealing my crap!!!

I've been moving my Comfrey around. It's been moved from a scruffy patch, which needs cleaning up; to the "top edge", to form a "comfrey hedge".

I've started tidying "the curve", by the road. I've begun to divide and plant up some of my red Heleniums. The current plan is to create a Helenium bed, in a quarter circle bed, with straight edges of about 5m.

I've grubbed out two of the Rhubarb plants. I'll use the other two to form a new Rhubarb bed. The corner that they currently sit in, needs a bit of cleaning up.

I've put in some Wallflowers, for some early colour. No matter how many I buy, I don't seem to be able to fill the space! I'll try and get some more!

I have emptied some compost from the "pallet bin" onto my "onion bed". This is supposed to help a bit, against White Rot. I've covered this over with some clear plastic sheeting; which again is supposed to help - if the sun ever comes out!

Last Sunday, I manged to get some rows of Broad Beans sown (Aquadulce Claudia, if you must know!) I got some more seeds; so, assuming that it's dry enough, I'll sow some more! I want to start some peas off, as well; but, I never have any success with peas!

Things to do:-
  • I have loads of Narcissi and Daff. bulbs to plant
  • Prep. my new strawberry bed; I have some "mulch sheet"
  • Carry on sorting out my "Helenium bed" 
  • Sow onion and garlic - I have a bed prepped
  • Carry on tidying 
  • Get my beds laid out properly
Longer term:-
  • I need to sort out some proper boars to edge my beds - not sure that you can get many scaffolding planks into a Mini!
  • I need to sort out some proper mulching scheme, so that I can keep down weeds; and, to reduce my digging/hoeing!
  • Draw a plan to put on this Blog! 


Sunday, 9 September 2012

White rot; and, green manures ...

In response to a comment in my last post; I've decided to answer here.

My plan is to try and reduce the effect of Allium White Rot; with an experiment, using "Garlic Solution". I've already spread some homemade compost over "onion bed". Today, the plan is to go to The Plot; and, water in the Garlic Solution; made with some shop bought garlic puree - I thought that would be easier than trying to crush up "dozens" of garlic cloves by hand. I may put some clear plastic sheeting over the bed - the heat (solarization!) also has an effect on the AWR schlerotia. I've bought some onion (Radar and Troy) and garlic (Marco); ready to plant in a month, or so's time. I went to a garden centre after work the other day, for pansies and violas - and, also bought the alliums. You can never find them, when you want to plant them.

As to Green Manure - what ever I can find in the garden centres mixes; phacelia (which always make me think of a Simon and Garfunkel song!!), clovers, mustard, winter tares, lupins ... I also buy buckwheat (raw; and, not cracked!) from health food shops - which van be cheaper. In the summer, small pack of fenugreek seeds (again from health food shops) can be a quick and dirty solution to gaps, when you've cleared a patch. I'll use up some peas/beans, that I want be using next year.

You have to watch your rotation (mustard mixes are brassicas!); and, you need to watch the weather! You don't to plant stuff too late; so that it gets caught by frosts, before it's had time to establish. It' OK! to let the frost kill off established green manures. The leave mulch on the ground; and, can save you time trying to hack them back, before digging in!

I'm off to The Plot; to deal with my "garlic solution"; and plant 96 pansies/poppies!


Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Getting ready for Winter ....

I haven't posted anything for a while; but, I have been going out to The Plot. I have to say that this year has been a bit of a wash out; literally! It's a bit disappointing to see how much better people have been doing; judging by some of the plots at the site; and, posts from the allotment blogs that I look at! Damn you! I have produce envy!

Currently, I'm working on getting The Plot ready for Winter. My plan is to actually grow more this winter than over the Summer!

I'm going to give onions, shallots and garlic a go; despite the dread Allium White Rot. Part of my cunning plan is to drench the "allium bed" with a solution of garlic; made with a tube of shop bought garlic puree. Hopefully, the puree contains the stuff that is exuded by allium roots, which stimulates the White Rot schlerotia to start growing. Without any onion roots to latch onto, the schlerotia die off! Then, the ground should be a bit safer to grow my onions!

I have some kale ticking away nicely on a window sill at home. Hopefully, I can pick up some other cabbagey plants to put into a brassica bed.

I've got loads of "oriental leaves" and Swiss Chard; so they can go into another bed.

Of course there is also Broad Beans - the wonderful Aquadulce Claudia. I might put some peas in with them; but, I have very little success with peas.

I want to move my Rhubarb; it's been in place for a number of years now, and could do with being divided.

My strawberry plants need moving to a permanent bed. I'll put some wee suppressing fabric stuff down first.

I've got lots of "green manure" seeds to sow; so, I'll fill some beds with those.

I'm re-jigging my beds. It's still a regimented, blokey grid of neat rectangular beds. Well, I don't actually have proper borders - I think that I need 188 meters of scaffolding planks! Not sure that I could get those in a Mini! I must get around to drawing a plan, to put on here somewhere!

Mainly, I've been hoeing off the weeds. I've got a couple compost cairns on the go! I need to consolidate my compost piles; and spread some of the finished product.