Sunday, March 29, 2009

Condensed dates.

Several days worth in this post.
I spent several evenings last week, well the light imbued portions thereof, weeding my soft fruit terrace, one row per evening.
Today I finished it off and dug out the three Horse Chesnut saplings I'd been nurturing, one got re-planted and two, currently hiding in plastic sacks, are on freecycle.
Had last Friday off work and spent the day sorting stuff out, mostly the back garden. Took a quantity of stuff to the tip and all the scrap wood to my friend Robert, who has a wood-burning stove. En route to the tip I thought something had shifted on the trailer and then got flashed by the Mercedes following me, so stopped and, yes, the rope lashing had come loose and half a shed wall and an aluminium window frame were about to fall off. Re-tied it and went the remaining quarter mile to the tip.
The trailer is now on holiday with Robert, who is going to do some welding around the wonky jockey wheel.
Did some odds and ends at the allotment, finishing with mowing the main path to feed the emperor of the daleks, got haild on, comprehensively, not being one to leave something once started I ended up with a second tyre of ice on the front wheels of the Hayter.
Saturday was a washout, spent relaxing and looking for some stencils, I have volunteered to re-number all the plots on my site as the council were going to get their part time handyman to do it using laminated paper signs.
Today was a much better proposition, sunny and breezy, so after watching our U15 B's play a tough well opposed match, which they won 38-0, I started by power-washing three bicycles, one greenhouse and 12' of path.
The bench in the greenhouse is a bit full now.
This is a close-up of my Banana Shallot - Piglet Willensius seeds, peer closely and they are breaking the surface.

Before cutting for her indoors, here are my meagre supply of daffodils.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Long day.

Up and out there by 9am today, a mechanical day planned so couldn't really start any earlier.
Took my chainsaw and long handled loppers, plus a rudely awakened Hacken-Slash, who has been bought a set of diddy tractor wheels with axle extensions. The digging rotor pins were fine for the axle extensions, but the wheel "dish" was too small for them to fit the wheels, so into my workshed went I and after some rootling and hacksawing I had two bolts the correct diameter cut to fit. As I was fettling the chainsaw my son turned up and asked to be given some work to do, after I had come round I set him to rolling up the carpet from Plot 17 and piling it and all weights etc in a specific place, while I went tree felling.
A ten inch diameter tree has been overshadowing more and more of plot 9 and now that David has given up half of it and cleared that half, a golden opportunity was hovering, so I took it. Barbara knows someone with an open fire, so the logs are sorted and the branches were publicised by me as "get your pea sticks here before the council takes them away". Son helped stack everything neatly.
Back to Plot 17 where son had neatly stacked everything in the wrong place, part due to be rotovated, so we moved it all and he volunteered to weed the coldframe, managed to stay concious! Gave him some tools and he got cracking, while I cranked up Hacken-Slash and got rotovating.
When son had finished and had a drink he announced he was off to "do some revision".
When I had done all of plot 17 that needed doing in two directions I cleaned Hacken-Slash and put all the tools away, then took Hacken-Slash home on his nice new wheels and woke up Slicen-Dice, who had a little operation last year at the garden machinery hospital to install a new coil, as a result he woke up fairly quickly, but needed quite a bit of oil beforehand. I think he could do with a new exhaust some time soonish as he is getting a bit LOUD. Minced up plot 17 with varying success.
These two photo's show it pretty well.
The lighter area close to camera was last years potatoes, easy digging but some weeds, the darker middle ground with a paler bit to the right was under carpet till this morning and was last years squash, no weeds hard and wet difficult digging.

The paler square middle right was last years sweetcorn and the plants were left as overwintering nature habitat, they were dug in, hence the paler colour, it's maize straw. The top bit before the barrells was two years ago's potatoes plus barrell installation overspill and was again easy digging, bar the last two feet which were waterlogged with runoff from the terrace.
Left at two fifteen to garage Slicen-Dice and go for a freecycle pick-up.
Back at three thirty to show a prospective tenant plot 9, it went.

Terry had used some of the decking he won off his sister, very neat.

Took both my newly aquired blue barrells home and cut out a tractor seat hole in the base of each.

Mooched around and chatted to a few other plotholders.

Tidied up all the mess I had generated and assembled the Emperor of the Daleks down by the path, starting his 660L stomach off with 75L of woodchip and all the weeds and redndant stuff son had removed from the coldframe.
Took these pictures for the blog, last one is my new asparagus bed, just have to wait a few years now.

Retired to a hot bath via the greenhouse, which was parched, all that lovely sun had dried out all the seed tray, so gave them a soaking.

Cucumbers, peas, brassicas all pushing up, no sign of the peppers though.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Blue Drumming

Worked from home today, so when I finished work, yay - no commuting.
Wearing my site agents hat I went to peg out the dividing up of a relinquished plot. Had viewer number two round last night and he reckoned five rod was too big for him and his wife, so they got a quarter plot of two and half rod, the bit nearest the main path. Had viewer number three round tonight, he and his wife are taking the other bit. Only found out the plot was free on Tuesday.
Viewer number one had the quarter plot that David has given up, he's keeping the half wih the shed and as the available bit was right in a corner next to the fence I was able to tell the lady where it was and she had a gawp over the fence at it on Wednesday, she's taking it.
After me allotment pimping activities i had a chat with Simon, whose plot is looking very well tended and reminded him of his offer to me of some black bamboo, he is sensibly growing more of what he likes after last years enthusiastic try everything approach.
Retrieved another blue barrell from the vacant plot, the plot is right next to the water trough, and as I was leaving Terry & Sue turned up just as I was going to snap the padlock shut their car appeared behind me. They had been round his sister's place and she was about to throw out her old deck, made of 20" square panels, guess what was in their car boys and girls. Did the trade I'd been longing to do with Terry, he got a good condition green waterbutt, complete with tap and lid, I got the blue barrell he was going to turn into a waterbutt. Just need one more and I can complete my "blue barrell terrace wall" holding up the edge of my fruit terrace. Thinking about releasing a few Daleks from the sanctuary this year and putting the Emperor of the Daleks down by the path so he can recieve its regular tribute of mowings.
Off to committee meeting for BSAGA, Bishop's Stortford Allotment and Garden Association at 8pm, usual stuff apart from the news that one of our other sites was turned over last week, tens of sheds burgled and the main gate locks wrenched off.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sinking twice now.

Today I came over all artistic and in touch with my feminine side and did some flower arranging. Being a large male lump I used a large container, lots of grit and uncut flowers.

This lovely old pantry sink used to be at my late mothers and is one of the gardening items that I removed before selling the place.
On Saturday I went to Ayletts Nursery outside St Albans, in previous years I have found that they stocked all the stuff I couldn't find elsewhere. This visit left me slightly disappointed as, although all their alpine plants were topped off with crushed rose granite, they did not stock it, so I had to make to with "Cumbrian Green" crushed stone grit. Looks OK though I think.
Every available surface had "Tete-a-tete" narcissi on it and yes, I did succumb and buy one £4.95 pot for my beloved, which on my return I potted up into one of our two nice glazed terrace pots and tidied and swept the terrace as well, before watching our 1st XV get rather stuffed by Barnes. Still nice afternoon, good company, good cold beer.......

Today was No 1 sons rugby training, followed by an hour of bar duty for me, then a shopping errand with my beloved.
Once free of all that I retrieved this sink from the allotment with assistance of son.
It contains Heather- Challenger, Heather - unamed from Wilko's X2, Heather - Ruby Slinger, Saxifrage- White Star, Arabis- Varigata and Campanula poscharskyana - "E H Frost".
Also brought back a huge "belfast" sink and started to sort it out, but have not finished it as I do not have enough plants to fill it, so it's not worth putting the grit layer on top yet. I'd saved some plants when emptying both sinks for transport the other year. This one is going at the front right (as viewed from outside) of the shed to help retain the platform the shed sits on.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Spoilt for choice?

So much so that I went to town! Working in north London I don't get to see much of my home town, so I went and had a bit of a wander, stopped at Costa Packet for a coffee, then went via the rest of the town centre to Wilkinsons, where I bought loads of seeds, two heathers, one rhubarb, three asparagus in one packet (only £2). one honeysuckle, a large net of Sturon onion sets and a large net of Desiree seed potatoes.
Went home via Homebase collecting four for price of three 20L screened topsoil, three postcrete, one readymixed dry cement and a 20L ericaceous compost.
Picked up my allotment key and dumped the topsoil at the plot, back home, changed, collected hound and taking the asparagus, went to the plot. Met Gilert and checked if he had switched the water off last year, he hadn't but we found the stopcock and I got the tool from my site agent shed and turned the water back on, three troughs had been half empty already.
Dug up and bonfire heaped the spare raspberry canes from the raised bed, dug it over, planted the three asparagus in a shallow V pattern, then topped off with a 20L bag of topsoil, three bags left to refresh the coldframe.
Departed for the back garden with two 18" paving slabs and Alan who wanted to have a look at my greenhouse, he has just got two growbag growhouses as a present and is looking forward to tomatoes.
My beloved arrived home shortly after I did and helped to move the two person swingseat up onto the grass terrace, where I set to and create four pads to sit it on, double paving blocks at the back with a straining eye set down between each pair, into the underlying 6" of postcrete. Single 18" paving slab for each front corner set on 4" postcrete and cement mix. After it had firmed up a bit the swingseat was carefully put in place.

Tidied up, then set five stepping stone slabs across the lawn from the path to the shed door, levered out the third of the redundant swing anchor blocks, homemade concrete with the bolt-on bar set in it and tipped my spoil into the hole.

Finished my gardening day with some re-potting and sowing in the greenhouse.

Re-potted what I had bought and sowed:
  • Leek - Musselburgh
  • Kale - Dwarf Green Curled
  • Calabrese - Samson F1
  • Celeriac
  • Pea - round pod sugar-snap
  • Purple Sprouting
  • Broccoli - Red Arrow
  • Brussels Sprout - Wellington F1
  • Banana Shallots - home harvested seed from last year.
  • Pepper - hot Cayenne
  • Cucumber - Marketmore 76
the last two and some of the peas in the propagator, which is now switched on.Then found the hose connector was broken, so had to fix that before watering the trays and really finishing for the day.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Chugging along

Was busily working away today, looked up and a bloke in a raincoat and trilby hat, clutching a clipboard to his chest was wandering up the main path.
"Can I help you?" quoth I
"Oh, er, yes" mumbles he, now heading a bit more purposefully in my direction.
Now at first glance I'd though "Councillor come to inspect plot cultivation levels", this quickly passed through "Cllr X has had a damm bad haircut and gone on a diet" to "ahh you're the bloke I've noticed two evenings this week going rather furtively door to door in my road".
As he drew close I read the upside down writing on the clipboard, "Well known charity name".
"Not interested in any charities" said I before the pitch could start and then endured five vague minutes about growing veg, how do you get an allotment and surprise that it was so empty in the middle of the weekday afternoon.
My refreshment order had arrived in the carrybag of my beloved halfway through this and as he wandered off my beloved said "he knocked on the door earlier trying to get me to sign up to something for Well known charity name.".
So an attempted chugging on the plot!

Anyway enough of charity muggers, I've taken Thursday & Friday off this week to garden.
Got up some three hours later than usual for a weekday at 9am, oh the unfettered luxury, coffee and croissants with the local paper, off to the plot at 10:30.
Moved a paving slab and all my remaining bits of granite by wheelbarrow to the back garden, moved another slab, the stone and belfast sinks across the path to plot 17, all these will combine with granite grit, ericaceous compost and some plants later this year to go on the terrace.
Dug up the council provided twenty dogrose and fifty hawthorn, then went a planting. Plonked quite a few in stretches of unrelieved chainlink and concentrated most of the rest along the east fence where the District Council had murdered the previous planting with strimmers, strung a few dogroses round the corner between fence and ditch. Retrieved the clear plastic spiral tubes and wrapped them round the plants in my new hedge, got some string and tied most of them to the chainlink for purposes of verticality (come over all USA military there) and security. All this took a fair while.
Finished by digging the finally empty last corner of Plot 18, which is now completely dug, barring the permanent herb patch of course. It began to rain with four rows of spadework left, happily it was only light drizle that petered out.
Damp dog and owner then took a brisk one hour walk to stretch themselves, but only one took a hot bath afterwards, now I wonder which one?

Plot 17 will be mostly rotovated this year and it is currently much too sticky for that, so Hacken-Slash slumbers on in the shed at home.

Tomorrow, I think I am spoilt for choice in the back garden, which has lots of mess from workshop building on top of residual builders mess and "lets move stuff so its out of the way of the builders" type mess.
Possibly greenhouse stuff, or at least setting slabs to make the path into it mud free, could sort out four pads to sit the two person swingseat on, two with security hoops to tie it down to, now thats an idea.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Dig that treasure.

Amazing what you dig up sometimes.
Plot 18 has been dug by me several times and rotovated several times, but this came out today. Housebrick for size comparison purposes only, grass not included, warning this product may contain nuts if the squirrels have been around.....
The plot had a failed potato crop two years ago and was left fallow with additions of glyphosate for bindweed last year. What happened was that I did not dig since the spuds, so the ridges were still there and as I dug in one of the furrows the tip of the spade caught the bit top left in the picture.
I had to use a fence post and some bricks to lever this thing out, even after excavating over and around it.
"Never mind that stuff" said my furry supervisor, "just take me for a walk, NOW."
Today I dug from where she is sat to the bit nearest camera, where my undug row can be seen.
Just out of shot to the bottom left is my heeled in hedging from last year, the loose soil spread nearby is where the heeled in brambles were dug up from. The brambles have been distributed to strategic locations on the site fence, I love fruitful security.
Roughly where I stood to take the photo above, this thing had been resting since it was removed from my late mothers place before we sold the house.
Interesting history, it was once the parrafin store between the vinery and greenhouse-complex boilerhouse at an Edwardian gentlemans country estate
Makes a brilliant water tank, heavily galvanised, brass tap, just a shame the only inlet is front right.
So this is probably not its final resting place, best place is the other side of the two trap shed, but at least I can measure from this when I make a more robust base than breezeblock on bare soil. Possibly four short auger holes linked by a six inch deep plank edged trench and run some re-bar in three long U shapes between the holes to hold it all together once the concrete sets. Really do not want it to topple when full, anyone care to tell me the likely capacity in gallons? To aid estimators, at the front left corner the dark bit is two housebricks.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Down on the ground, up in the air.

Down on the ground I actually managed some allotmenteering this weekend, Saturday to be precise.
Its OK, you can pick yourselves off the floor and have a reviving cup of hot sweet tea.

I might manage some more as the year progresses, oh dear, now you've spilt your tea, I'm sure it will wash out though.

Went and dug the poor old Hayterette out, a quick brass brush of the sparkplug, a top up of the petrol tank and "One man and his dog went to mow some allotment paths.". Something so satisfying about mowing, not needing to think, a steady pace, the noise of the machine, turn, another strip done....
The first mow of the year is doubly satisfying, the fact that the grass has started to grow enough to need mowing is a harbinger of spring and the contrast as you turn at the end of that first strip and look back at what is now a scrubby mess with a neat strip, where minutes before it was just "grass, a little unmown" is striking, you pace and turn, pace and turn, then suddenly it's all neat.

That job done, I chanced my luck with what the more pc amongst us gardeners refer to as "A single person manually operated horticultural earth inverting implement.", I call it a spade and this week the clods did NOT stick to it, so I dug a decent chunk, stopping before my back protested.

Up in the air, I digress from gardening, at length, to describe, well, a damm good reason to support air ambulances.

Son's first game for his county U15 side saw us up early for a Sunday and off to Eastleigh in Hampshire. Leaving with the assumption that the M25 would be a pig, it was not, so we were early arrivals and even after killing an hour at a local coffee shop the host club still had it's Sunday training running.
Son went off with team mates and I mooched through onto the clubhouse balcony to see a "stoppage" on the furthest pitch. About ten minutes later this yellow bird arrived, fortunately the lad went by land after loosing his new "rugby skin" to NHS scissors. Mums all looking worried, smaller kids all excited about the chopper.
Now guess what happened later.
Yes, the big yellow bird liked us so much it came back and took one of our team away to Salisbury, precautionary after a neck injury with some temporary loss of feeling.

While waiting for land crews to arrive we managed to build up to three "stoppages", a dislocated shoulder after ten minutes in game one, a damaged knee and the neck knock in game two, three little anxious clusters dotted round the ground. They then decided the chopper was needed, after arriving on the clear and open far side of the ground it eventually did a very short hop across to our lad by the clubhouse, who by then resembling an orange chrysalis was slid in the back and off he went to Salisbury A&E followed on road by Mum & Dad.
The games restarted after nearly an hour and completed without further "stoppage", but just to bring the tally up another of our team managed to come out of the last phase of play with a suspected broken collarbone. The highest injury rate I have yet seen in a single day.
A bucket appeared on the bar for air ambulance donations.
This service really is something that the NHS should provide as a basic, instead of relying on donations, but it doesn't so support your local Air Ambulance.