Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Mundane meanderings.

Well on Monday evening I did what I threatened to do and got some free space in the greenhouse, by moving some of the Brassica seedlings and French Bean seedlings up into the roofless coldframe on Plot 17 with a bit of anti-pidgeon netting across the front half of the top and some clear plastic sheets across the back half.
Then I spent an hour or two pricking out "Pigletwilly" Banana Shallots, so I now have about 150 of them to plant out in a few weeks.
Tonight I planted peas directly into Plot 17 as a successional sowing and to fill up the support structure I had built, checked the cold frame and neither pesky pidgeons nor cold air had got at anything, yet.
Back to the greenhouse, where I sowed Squash, Crown Prince (six seeds to the packet) and mixed Sweet Peas (20 seeds to the packet) and popped their little 3" pots in the heated propagator, watered them, then balanced the lid on the pots as they wouldn't fit inside it.
Having an early night tonight as I spent the day trawling IT trade shows at Earls Court.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Can't decide weather....

Friday evening.
Loaded the shredder I inherited from Mother into the trailer, added all the logs from the tree I felled a few weeks ago and took the whole lot to Robert, who had accumulated fifteen bin bags of horse manure for me. Had a pleasant chat with Robert over a cup of tea before taking my leave and going home via the allotment where I offloaded the bags onto the bottom end of Plot 18.
The weather took a while to make up its mind about what it was going to do and finally settled on "mostly sunny". Intended to mow the main path and the carpark in order to put loads of grass cuttings in the very bas of my bean trench, but it was not to be. I started the self-propelled grass collecting Hayter and it ran very well for ten minutes, allowing me to cut the grass near the shed, the path just outside the garden and one stripe of the new terrace before it died and would not restart. Took all the plastic housing, incorporating the fuel tank and air filter, off and inspected and cleaned the carburettor, no joy. So tried my Suffolk Punch, which refused to start at all and the the starter cord snapped. Fixed that and it still refused to start and to add insult to injury the brass eyelet in the plastic housing came adrift and the next pull of the cord cut a nice 1cm groove up through the housing.
Gave it all away and used the Hayterette and rake on the lawn instead, then mowed the car park.
Put six bags of fresh horse manure in the bottom narrower section of the bean trench, covered it wit a layer of soil, trod it down a bit and ran Sliecen-dice up and down the trench. Then added another six bags, evenly distributed and a bigger layer of soil and re-introduced Slicen-dice to the trench.
Left that to settle and slung my geometrically arranged molehills of well rotted horse manure on Plot 18 evenly across the surface and rotovated it in with Slicen-dice.
Went to the BSAGA allotment shop and bought fifty eight foot canes, ten four foot canes and another two hundred three inch square pots.
Put the rest of the decent soil back on top of the bean trench, I'm leaving the clay from the bottom spit for the moment, watered it with half a dozen cans of water to get it to settle and weather a bit quicker.
In order to do that I had to put out my membrane and carpet cover on my squash bed, so I could shovel properly, but to do the carpet etc, meant three different piles of "stuff to move, lay out, weigh down, change the arrangement....... you get the idea?
Got the Hayterette out again and mowed the main path and my side paths, planted out half a dozen more peas, but had to put up another length of pitch-roof steel mesh for them to climb, plenty of room for another sowing now.
Finished the day at the site by strimming the edges of the main path and both my plots.
Came home for tea via the greenhouse, where I potted up about forty Dahlia seedlings, forty Aster seedlings, re-potted half a dozen squash seedlings which were a bit big for their current pots and potted up ready for the terrace the Honeysuckle into a nice green glazed pot.

This coming week I need to get some free space in the greenhouse and the only way is to move some of the Brassica seedlings and French Bean seedlings up into the roofless coldframe on Plot 17 with a bit of anti-pidgeon netting across the top. Some mindless littl oick has been bunging stones and one of the last sheets of glass iin the coldframe is smashed, so I need to look around for vandal discarded estate agent boards, the plastic signs fit perfectly and the posts are very useful. Our local vandals tend to nick the whole thing and bung it into bushes in the park. With the liberated space in the greenhouse I can then resume potting up seedlings

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Teenage raider.

Paid my teenager for his assistance on Sunday, so was surprised on Monday to get a Multi-Media-Message from him on my mobile in the afternoon (school re-started today) with this photo of a weeded portion of plot and text intimating that he had been extra helpful, un-requested, and some money would be nice.

Now to be fair I had said it needed weeding, but it had my galdioli bulbs under some wretched creeping cross between couch and a pineapple and he nearly:

  • got all of this weed out.

  • turned over every spadeful of the "dug" area.

  • missed all of the gladioli bulbs.

  • didn't disassemble the Emperor of the Daleks while putting the weeds in.

  • did all of the area before getting bored.

  • didn't use all of my chicken manure pellets on a 6'x3' area.

  • took off his muddy shoes and shorts before scurrying back into his bedroom.

Aww Bless.

So I tidied up after him and re-turned the soil, getting the bits he missed etc, not a bad job for an unsupervised fifteen year old, especially as he must have spent half the time there texting his mates. I was told, at length, several times, by my other half that he had carried out a similar exercise in baking, but had eaten most of the evidence.

Tonight I planted out eighteen pots of pea plants after retrieving my steel mesh panels from the hedge, then dug stage two of the bean trench
ready for some mowings to be forked into the bottom of the thinner bit.

Sunday, April 19, 2009


EDF Cup Final all day Saturday, sons side played Bedford this morning.
Decided to take advantage of son wanting to earn some extra pocket money. so, we cleared 60' of old fence where I had already set new posts and un-rolled a new roll of 6' chainlink.
The, with extra help from the four other plotholders we carried the unrolled wire into place.
Then it took me several hours to put up the straining wires and attach the chainlink to it.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

God, grave, digging.

Talked to God quite a bit on Sunday using the big white telephone.
Damm painful stomach bug, kicked in with a vengance around noon, after I'd been to the BSAGA shpo and bought 200 3" pots and 150L of Humax, MP compost.
Completely washed out on Monday, off work Tuesday.
Trouble is prolapsed lumbar discs really do not like it when their owner lies around alot and start to grumble, so late Tuesday I went and mowed the allotment path both to stetch my back and as a test to see if my bug "followed through" with exercise, it didn't, so back to work today.
Came home, changed and dug stage one of my bean trench, 30'x3' x one spit deep, cleanly shovelled out. Any potters out there want some good clay, I've got loads to dig tomorrow. Robert is collecting fresh sackfuls of horse doings from his neighbouring farm for me and I'll take some logs to him in payment. Finished the evening nicely in the greenhouse, potting up Butternut squash seedlings into 3" pots and my supervisor disgraced herself by sitting on the peas, which seem ok, offended, but OK.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Shovelling s**t!

Today I are mostly bin shovelling manure.
Great delivery combination, Defender 110 crewcab with a twin axle electrically tipping trailer. Their terrier did what terriers do and flew around the back of the cab barking at my supervisor, who blithely ignored him.
Rough dug the inter row gap after the last planted raspberry row and liberally manured it.

Likewise all around the bush fruits, gooseberries, red and black currents.

The Elecampane is poking its leaves out on the herb patch.

Finished by distributing all the remaining manure across plot 18 in wheelbarrow load piles.
Notice the cunning use of an old length of corrugated iron to keep me down to a single footprint, used twice for each pair of heaps in the middle two rows.
On / off drizzle the whole time, I'm now out of stuff I can do in the wet on the allotment, so here's hoping for some dry weather in the next couple of days.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Noisy glass.

Firstly, what is this bug?
The photo is the best I could get on my Phone, it stayed there for a while, then flew off elsewhere in the greenhouse. Looked to me like a cross between a wasp and a beetle, very handsome in black and yellow.

Late up this morning after planting out about three hundred onion sets last night. My back was really sore after that little lot, balancing on a plank and planting each side of it to do two rows for each traverse of the plot. Booked my £40 trailer load of horse doings in chopped hemp over breakfast.
Started Slicen-dice up in the shed and reversed him out before shutting down to check: gearbox oil, engine oil, oilbath air filter and petrol tank. Then off we went to rotovate all of plot 18, bar the Herb patch.
Poor Slicen-dice had a little mishap, after doing the well weathered half we were just setting about the lumpier half and his drive belt gave up the ghost with the rubber and cloth de-laminating.
Back home to get the spare and a selection of spanners. Happily the Howard 350 is fairly civilised when it comes to a drive belt change; remove the belt guard,unscrew the L bolt holding the clutch assembly in place, swing the clutch away, remove the old belt, loosen off the pusher bolt, undo the four nuts under the main frame which hold the plate the engine is bolted to, slide the engine back on its plate, install the new belt. put the clutch back, screw in the L bolt, slide the engine forward, half tighten the four nuts, use the pusher bold to push the engine forward until the belt tension is correct, do up the four engine plate nuts and replaces the belt guard.
Finished first pass, interesting on the big clods, keeps working at some novel angles does Slicen-dice.
Pulled the depth guide up a couple of notches and did a second pass, the engine note clearly tells how hard he is working, fast and gunny the blades are skimming or in very loose stuff, slower and deeper the blades are well in and digging hard.
Cleaned Slicen-dice and took him home into the shed, must order a new spare belt as without a belt he is immovable unless a tow team are roped up.
Returned to the plot and contemplated it for about twenty minutes, then weeded the herb patch, added several bags of shredded tree mulch, then it started raining.

So I took shelter in the greenhouse and over the next few hours potted myself out of pots. Tomatoes, Peppers, Curly Kale, Calabrese, Brussels Sprouts, Peas and Sweetcorn.

The bed is covered with trays of pots, the growbag house is in and full of the Tomatoes, Peppers, Sweetcorn and Squashes.

As an experiment I have planted out nine mangetout peas in the bit of bed just by the door, hope to get some very early sugar-snaps.
From the back we have, two pots of Squash in the propagator, some rampant Peas, various Onions, some insignificant looking Savoy cabbage, an old fashioned seed pan of Onions, the remainder of the Curly Kale and my Pigletwillie Banana Shallots.
Plan for the rest of the weekend:
Saturday 10;30, accept delivery of huge pile of shit.
Distribute in wheelbarrow loads on plot 18, by teenager.
Dig rest of fruit terrace, by me, with delivery of manure as needed by teenager.
Get more 3" pots, lots of them.
Get more potting compost.
Pot up more stuff in the greenhouse, especially the shallots.
Plant out the rampant Peas, with pigeon protection.
Move Dad's apple storage rack from the greenhouse into a shed.
See how it goes.......

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Immoderate thoughts!

Why is it kids see allotments as fair game?

Some bunch of scrotes unpicked the chain link, lifted a spade lying on a plot, chopped it once into an aluminium & glass cold frame on Jacky's plot, then used it to chop and pry their way through the side of Jim's shed.

So instead of planting some of my onion sets I have spent the evening, talking to the police call centre, giving Jim & Jacky the news, fixing the fence and inspecting all of the site fence for any further damage.

Our District Council in their wisdom put an asphalt square with a single basketball hoop at one side across the cycleway from the little kids play area. Guess which side backs onto the allotment? That's right, and the current crop of aspiring Meadowlark Lemon's, when making up for lack of skill with enthusiasm have been landing their ball in our site. If they can see anyone on site they do call and ask politely if they can have the ball back, but after my fence inspection I can see that they have been climbing over, often, and the chain link was much detached from the top straining wire. Attached enough for a quick glance to say all is OK, but walk and pull gently and three to six foot sections swayed and bowed.

So I'll have to TRY to get the DC to move the ruddy hoop, any gamblers out there prepared to set the odds?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Fifteen - Nil.

Finished off the fifteen bags of manure this evening.
Dug two more inter-row gaps in the raspberries and distributed the eight remaining bags, plus around six bags of tree-surgeon shreddings.
Down at the extreme north-west of my little enclave lurks the Emperor of the Daleks, open him up and stir his guts, then watch the steam rise.

Guess what I spotted on Diddy's plot?
Yup, the first spear of Asparagus, summer is a-coming.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Fascinating, gabbing on.

Whoa, rein in that pun, all will become clear.

These are the five rows of spuds I did on Friday night, with my Land Rover lurking in the background.

Since then I have put three more in on the side nearest the camera.

This little Vegopolis is Terry's plot, he has set to with a vengance and some wood working tools.

Immaculate doesn't really do it justice. Hat off to you chap.

Medieval warfare used Gabions and Fascines to safely approach castles.

The Sappers would sap their way up to the wall of the castle using Gabions (woven wicker baskets), Fascines ( bundles of timber) and a trench. Aim across the approach to the castle at say 45 degrees and out of gun or bow shot start a trench, put a wicker basket ahead of where you are stood digging and on the side of the trench nearest the castle, chuck the spoil into the basket, reinforce or top with bundles of timber. At a sensible point, turn and go the other way, zig-zagging your way up to the walls behind your earth filled shield. Once close enough the Sappers could hand over to the Miners who would dig and undermine the wall, or in later years to the Gunners with a seige weapon to blow the walls down, a short range massive gun.
Not having a Castle to defeat on my allotments this may seem a diversionary flight of fancy, but here is one of my latter day gabions seen from the bottom.
Here I use the removed lid of one barrell as a template for the hole.

This is todays work this one, the last in the wall.

Here it sits in the almost ready hole in the bank.

Now a trial fit.

It needed several of these to get the fit just right.

Then the spoil heap behind the template/lid goes back in after a good layer of rotted woodchip.

A shot of the last layer of wood chip.

Finally a bag of Homebase screend topsoil per barrell.

And in this one five new strawberyy plants.

After the Haynes manual on medieval warfare as adapted to allotments.

I moved into the fruit terrace and roughly turned the ground between the blackcurrents and the firts raspberry row and between that and the next row, distributing seven bags of very fresh horse manure and three wheelbarrow loads of composted woodchip as a surface mulch over the clods. Hopefully the worms and weather will work it in.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Wheely useful.

Despite not being that good at "Springing Forward" on the clock change I have had a great week enjoying the longer period of light available to me after getting back home from work.
Monday, pottered a bit in the greenhouse, watering and checking progress, but otherwise "off gardening".
Tuesday, took the half dozen wavy topped concrete path edging pieces I had and dug them, wrong way up along half the path frontage of Plot 17. Should stop the edge of the path collapsing into the plot and the grass invading, just need to get another half dozen now.
Wednesday, set two blue barrells into place in the retaining wall of the fruit terrace, just one left to do. Good workout this, dig out the clay, test fit and extend hole, repeat several times, place in position and backfill the barrell with tree-surgeon shredding and the excavated soil.
The wheely useful bit? Hacken-slash's new adornments are brilliant. So good in fact that he wears his wheels to bed in the shed and can be driven smoothly to the allotments, where on Thursday he got fitted with steel digging rotors in place of wheels and his new baulker in place of the depth skid, then went ploughing trenches for potato planting. After doing four 30' ones, I rang Diddy who had asked about having some rotovating done on his plot and then admired the sky while waiting for him to turn up. Once we'd identified which bit needed rotovating I got to work and sorted it, then drove Hacken-slash smoothly home.
Friday, was a bit hectic, having seen the BBC weather forecast I felt I had to plant the spuds and did so. But Robert wanted me to collect the trailer so it was out of his way now that he had done the welding. Tip-top trailer repairer my friend Robert, the jockey wheel does not wobble at all now. As a bonus Robert had collected fifteen bags of manure from the neighbouring farms daily roadside "Free Manure" stand for me, so back home and up the allotment in the dark to offload. Good job the truck has excellent lights, scared some young teenagers on the access path, I think they thought I was The Law. Went in, dropped the trailer at Plot 18, drove to the end of the site where I could turn, turned and came back to light my workplace. Lugged fifteen very very fresh manure bags (smelly smelly) up to the fruit terrace and parked them.
Saturday, NO rain, unlike the BBC said, so could have taken it a bit easier on Friday evening.
Homebase 15% off day so went and got some more bagged topsoil to literally top off the blue barrells. Gathered five new strawberry plants while I was there and some more Charlotte seed potatoes. After off-loading the truck at the allotment, went home and took Hacken-slash with me to the plot. First job was to top off a couple of barrells and plonk the strawbs went into one. My unusually cooperative teenager volunteered to mow the main path and feed the Emperor of the Daleks. Once he was kitted out and working I adjusted Hacken-slash's baulker a bit, I'd found that my clay was blocking it and Hacken-slash kept sticking to dig to Oz, so I raised the baulker and moved it nearer to the rotors, which improved things considerably. Drove three good furrows, then went and did a bit of rotovating for Alison to mix a pile of sand into a 25'x10' bed, then took Hacken-slash home and collected the seed potatoes. Managed to set out two and a half more rows of spuds, before running out of them. Packed the mower away and earthed up my rows while the furry supervisor gained a spotty assistant. All three of us then went to enjoy the last home game of the season at the Rugby club, with a sunny walk home.