Monday, 30 April 2012

Rain Rain Go Away

It's been rather wet hasn't it?  This has halted play a little with me only managing to plant some beetroot seeds and a row of atomic red carrots.

Things are starting to show though.  The tattys keep breaking the surface, and I keep throwing soil over the top of them.  This serves two purposes, it keeps them from any frost we may get hit by but also allows for the better growth of the tubers.  Stops them from going green too.
The peas have also began to break through too.  This has excited me no end, and I am hoping that the wet weather has meant that the mice stay in their nice centrally heated homes rather than create havoc on our allotment by scoffing my peas.!  Well the though is nice isn't it!

Well this weekend I am off to The Bushcraft Magazine May Meet.  This is the fourth year is has run, and it gets better and better each year.  I just hope that the rain holds off as I shall be in a tent Friday to Monday.

If you are interested in Bushcraft at all I cannot recommend the magazine and the May meet enough.  Check it all out at

Monday, 16 April 2012

Its been a few weeks since the last update, but we have been pretty busy at the plot.

All the area's we had previously dug over were beginning to come alive with weeds again. The brief sprinklings of rain that we have had allowed the weeds to spring their heads above the surface. It was time to dig again.
We had removed buckets upon buckets of couch grass rhizomes (or noodles as Philly likes to call them) when turning the soil for the first time. It's amazing though how much we had missed, and I thought that we had been pretty careful in removing it all, but on the second dig over we removed quite a lot more.

The dock, dandelions, chickweed, couch grass and red dead nettles were also creeping around our fruit patch, and that is where Phillipa has spent a lot of her time painfully removing all these terrors.

I think you will agree that its really beginning to look a lot better. The front of the picture is how the rest of the patch looked.

We had been predicted an over night frost, so I earthed up the tattys that were beginning to poke their leaves though the soil.

I have also planted the red and white onions. I would estimate that about 120 have gone into the ground and about 20 cloves of garlic.

Next 1 row of carrots and 2 rows of parsnips went into the ground. I would have done more, but ran out of seeds. We are waiting on a delivery of seeds from an offer in one of the national news papers, but it was weeks ago that we sent off for them and since then we have both forgotten what we ordered!

I managed to pick up some builders mesh and poles for a pound at a boot fair, thinking that this would be excellent for peas to grow up. Three different varieties of peas and one variety of mange tout were planted. I forget what the varieties were, but will post up next time.

I had a quick trip after work to make sure that the plot was undisturbed. I have heard that mice like to eat peas, but I think that it is as they are germinating that they are at their most vulnerable so I may have been a little early looking for signs of mice (planted them yesterday).

I was told an old rhyme for planting peas.

One for the rook
One for the crow
One to rot
And one to grow

But from what I have read you should replace both the rook and the crow by mice!

We have also had our first crops from the plot. The first being rhubarb. This was enjoyed by all three of us. Fenn had his cooked down with some pear and loved it. We had ours in a rhubarb clafoutis, and that too was wonderful.

The next harvest, which caused some upturned noses when I announced that what I had picked in my bucket was to be eaten, was a big bunch of nettle tops, red dead nettles and chickweed. These were made into vegetable samosa's, and again were very tasty.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

In go the tatty's

Today was a monumental day for us on the allotment. Today we put our first vegetables into the ground.
I spent just over two painstaking hours turning over the ground for the tatty's. The area sectioned off for them allowed for 4 rows to be planted.

The two right hand rows were planted with Desiree a main crop potato, the next row with Arran a first early, and the left hand row with Charlotte a salad variety. We only had 10 Charlotte seed potatoes, and each row had approximately 15 tubers, so the far end of the left had row was planted with more Arran tubers.

They have been fed with an organic pellet and some fish, blood and bone meal and covered in around 10cm of earth. To the left of each row is the remaining earth that will be used to earth up the plants as they grow

The runner bean frame has also now been completed, with a bottom brace at each side. All that is needed now is for string to be run for the plants to climb up, and finally to plant the beans. That's a month off yet though, but I'm glad its ready.

Next on the agenda is to sort out the marked area to the right of the tatty's for the onions to go in.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Digging the bean trench

Spring has well and truly arrived here in Kent, bringing a healthy dose of sunshine along with it, it's glorious down on the allotment. However the hose pipe ban is to be enforced as of the 5th of April so we have until then to fill the new water butts that I took delivery of last week. (Thanks to Serena and Marcus from The Kent Cider Company who make awesome cider by the way) for helping me out with a couple of nice cheap barrels :)

Today we again took advantage of the free babysitting service in the guise of Phillipa's mum. Fenn was dropped off with a bag of food and toys, and the pushchair so they could go out for a walk and we headed off to the plot for a couple of hours.

Phillipa got on with more digging whilst I marked the plot out into five sections for our crop rotation plan. When I was happy that I had spaced it out evenly it was time to erect the bean frame and dig the trench.
I had harvested some local Hazel a few weeks back and the poles were lashed together to make a frame for the beans to grow. I need at least four more poles to make another two upright sections in the middle of the frame to make it more sturdy. When covered in beans it will be like a large sail and the last thing I want is for our plot to sail off into the distance!

Once the frame was up I went about digging a trench. This was then filled with bags of vegetable peelings we had collected from home over the past couple of weeks. I also shovelled in a good few spadefuls of well rotted horse manure.

The trench was then filled back in again, the waste will compost away ready for when we plant the beans. I will be saving bags of peelings again to do exactly the same for a pumpkin plant later on in the year.

After this it was time to head back to pick Fenn up from his Granma's house, and for us all to have some lunch.

We plan on getting back up the plot a couple more times over the weekend to hopefully get some onions and early potatoes planted.

Also, both the cabbage and brussel sprouts seeds have germinated. Exciting :)

Monday, 12 March 2012

Sowing the first seeds

The problem with having a new allotment and bags of enthusiasm is that there are never enough hours in the day to accomplish all the wacky ideas that go on in my head.

I want our plot to be as natural as possible, but at the same time as cheap or as free as possible. I have so far recycled old pallets to make compost bins and raised beds. I have also thinned out some local hazel branches to make my runner bean frame. All that is needed now is the time to dig the rest of the plot over, and to clear the weeds that have grown on the part that we have already dug over. It then all needs levelling out before planting can commence.

In the meantime it's time to start sowing some seeds. Brassica's mainly, but also some tomatoes.

Brassicas don't like heat to germinate but don't like to be frozen either. Too much heat will make them leggy and you will end up with sub standard plants that you are likely to have issues with later on. Instead they just need to be sheltered, and kept out of the frost. Mine are in propagators in the shed at the moment.

I have sown
Leeks - Musselburgh
Cabbage - Greyhound
Sprouts - Green marble

I have also sown 12 seeds of 4 varieties of tomato. These however need to be warm to germinate so are coming to work with me tomorrow to take advantage of the big sunny windowsill behind me.

The tomatoes I have sown are
Money Maker
Gardeners Delight

With all of the seeds sown in propagators you need to keep an eye on them and ensure that you remove the lids as soon as the seeds start to germinate.

Exciting isn't it?

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Adding the raised beds

How beautiful was it outside today? We haven't been to the plot for a short while, but boy did we pick the right day to spend some time on the site. The sun was shining, birds singing and the worms a wiggling.

The mission for today was to build two raised beds for our strawberries. These following our ethos for the plot were made from recycled materials. More pallets to be exact.
Both raised beds are 6' x 4.5' and each house 12 strawberry plants.

I constructed the beds whilst Philly sieved earth! We have three compost bins on the plot. Two that we inherited and one that we made. One of the original bins is full of soil and stones and other old gubbins as Philly discovered. This is a waste of composting space, but at the same time provided a good supply of soil to raise the soil level in the new beds.
The beds were dug over and the weeds removed, and then the wonderfully sieved soil and some fish, blood and bone fertiliser added. it was then smoothed over and levelled out.

We have three varieties of strawberries. Earlys called Elvira, a mid crop called Korona and a late crop called Florence. One bed has the first and half the mid crop and the second bed has the other half of the mid crop and the late crop.

That's the fruit end of the plot now sorted. We have strawberries, raspberries (Tulameen), yellow raspberries (all Gold), gooseberries (Hinnomaki), blackcurrant (Ben Lomand) and redcurrant (Jonkheer Van Tets) planted. We also have a Cox's orange pippin apple tree. I have a James Grieve apple tree in a large pot in the garden that I think I am going to move to the site also.

Now that the evenings are getting longer we are hopefully going to be able to spend a little time on site after work. This will allow us to start clearing some more ground, and start planting our first vegetable crops.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Planting the fruit

Well, after all this wet weather we finally managed to get back down to the plot. It was refreshing to feel soft earth beneath our wellies rather than the solid frozen ground.

I had managed to pick up some fruit bushes from Aldi a week or so back. We had a nice mixture of yellow and red raspberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant and gooseberry canes which all needed planting. I had also picked up a Cox's orange pippin apple tree. I love apples and had initially toyed with the idea of an apple tree but dismissed it due to the space it would take up, but when I saw this for sale for not much more than a couple of quid I couldn't resist buying it.

Saturday afternoon we headed to the plot and planted the apple tree and dug a trench for the raspberry canes. This was lined with manure and all the canes were placed in a bucket of rain water to soak over night.

This morning I dropped Phillipa and Fenn off at Philly's mums house whilst I popped over to the plot for a few hours.

All of the raspberry canes were planted, and then the rest of the fruit was placed at the end of the patch around some pre-existing canes which my neighbour informs me may well be a form of loganberry.

It's not much to look at at the moment as the canes are small, but hopefully in a years time they will be more established. We may get a few fruit this year but I'm not holding out much hope.

Here you can see the apple tree and the compost bin we built a week back. I need to stake the tree, so will harvest a stake from the woods at some point soon.

As the weather was being kind I dug over a bit more earth. The ground is nice and crumbly with lots of worms and turns over pretty easily.

This week I plan on getting another good load of horse manure to add to the pile, and maybe dig over some more of the patch.

Our kind neighbour also gave us some French bean seeds that he had saved from his last years crop. It's a great atmosphere on the site, and I'm sure this will only get better as the months go on and we start to see a few more people down there.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Snow Halts Play

We had big plans for this weekend. Well, we had planned on digging over some more of the patch at least!

In the week we found a nice lady advertising well rotted horse manure local to us, so I phoned her up and arranged to go and pick some up. We made a packed lunch for the horses in return for some bags of brown gold and set off in the car. Well the mound of horse muck was rather large, and the owner said it has been there for at least 4 years. Fresh stuff was on the top so I dug deep whilst Philly held the bags open for me to fill. We filled the boot, and the horses were given some fruit. We have been told that we can go back when we want which is great!

The manure, although well rotted, is rather wet at the moment, so I wanted to build another compost bin on the plot so that we could get it mixed with some newspaper and straw to try and dry it out a bit before we add it to the plot. It's a nice rich dark brown colour and full of worms so it looks like good stuff.

I then went out the following evening to see if I could pick up some old wooden pallets. My luck was in, and I delivered 5 to the plot Saturday morning.

After lunch, Fenn was dropped off at his Granma's house and Philly and I trundled off to the plot to build the new compost bin.
The ground was frozen solid, and as a result we were the only people mad enough to be at the site. We nailed together four of the pallets in a square and emptied the 10 bags of horsey doo doo's into the new bin. This was well mixed in with some straw and a shredded newspaper. The final pallet which had a solid rather than a slotted base was placed on top to aid heat retention.

Within the hour we were back at Granma's house to pick up the boy, and the rest of the weekend has been spent dreaming about vegetables and sheds rather than doing any work.

I have however managed to put together a rough plan of how I want to lay out the allotment, with a five year easy crop rotation system.

Fruit is to the left hand side of the plot; where I would also like to site a shed.

The first bed will be brassicas, then beans and peas, then potatoes, then onions and root crops in the final bed.

This is only a rough plan, and we doubt that the plot will look anything like as smart as this, but it should give us good use of the space. Suddenly what looked like a huge plot now doesn't look quite so big!

Oh and the spuds are chitting in the attic room ready to be planted later this month or early next.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Revival - New Allotment

Well haven’t we been slack? Last post in 2009!

A lot has changed since then. We’ve got married and have a little boy called Fenn for a start, and then last week, after a three and a half year wait we had a phone call letting us know that we had a half plot at the local allotment. To say this made us happy would be an understatement.

Saturday morning straight after Fenn’s swimming lesson we headed over to the allotments to meet Brian who was to show us around, and more importantly our new plot of land.Well we had struck gold. You hear of these horror stories of people inheriting a jungle of brambles, and shoulder high weeds when they take on an allotment. Well the gardening gods were shining on us, our plot was used up until the autumn, and pretty much just needs digging and some good compost added before we can start growing some goodies.

We have been itching to get our hands on an allotment for years now, and although the small patch of garden we had turned over to a veggie patch was great, it never really allowed us to grow more than a few spuds, courgettes and beans. We were hankering for more space, and finally we have it!

As we were marvelling at the newly acquired plot, and dreaming of fresh greens, chunky soups and eating fruit straight from the bush, the spirit of the allotment sprung into life. We met one of our neighbours, a veteran to the scene having worked his ground for the last 30 years. “A fool learns from his mistakes, a wise man learns from other people’s mistakes” he said, “And I’ve made a few, so if there is anything you want to know just ask”, and that seemed to be the general spirit of the place. People were very friendly, and inviting to this new couple clutching a young baby, and I can see that the socialising will be as much a part of allotment life as the gardening will be.

We retuned the following day with our welly boots and forks after dropping Fenn off at his Granma’s house and digging commenced. Our plot roughly measured 60 by 20 feet and needed turning over and the grass and weeds removed. It gave us a good chance to take a look at what we really had inherited. There are three rhubarb plants that have been left behind which is superb as the one we had in the garden didn’t survive the snow of last year. There are what look like some fruit canes at one end of the plot, so hopefully one of our neighbours will be able to identify them.We also have a couple of homemade compost bins that have been made from wooden pallets. The compost in them is not actually compost yet, so we will have to see if we can get our hands on a lot of well-rotted horse manure over the next couple of weeks.

We managed to turn over about a third of the plot in a couple of hours. It was very quiet on the allotment today with just a few people showing their faces, mainly to harvest some winter vegetables before getting in their cars and going home. Hopefully that will be us next year!

We promise to update again soon!

Matt, Philly and Fenn