Growblogs – Award Winning Horticulturists.

Growblogs – Award Winning Horticulturists 

Our Awards

 

Every winter when there is nothing to sow, idle gardeners with itchy fingers reach for the notepad. Refreshing on crop rotation rules and making a list of allotment achievements for the year ahead. Being award winning horticulturists was a very distant plan. During winter the greatest of plans are created, sketched, laminated and as soon as something doesn’t seed well, forgot about. How long the plans are stuck to is a different matter. Often our beds are filled with what ever we have managed to propagate, and what will live together without fuss.

We did exactly the same thing last year and set ourselves a list of goals we wanted to achieve with the allotment and blog. Physically working on the allotment had taken prescience to the little spare time that we have had. Our output, unfortunately, has suffered and we have been producing much less instructional blogs than intended. We also wanted to put out a few instructional videos to accompany posts but that has also had to take a back burner until next year. One of the many goals we set last winter, was to enter our produce in a local village fair. Well, we had no intention of entering anything until just a few weeks ago, when I was leaving the allotments I noticed a small sign on one of our neighbour’s fences. Upon further investigation, I discovered it was a flyer for a local Horticultural Society’s annual village fair… it’s like the start of a dodgy film. There will be no montage with 80’s music and .gifs of me sweating over a few turnips while frantically weeding and watering consecutively. But it did get me thinking.

Preparation

Runner Beans

The next day I went up to the plot early to see, if I was going to, what could I enter? Not knowing what a prime vegetable looked like a lot of googling was done. Intimidated by the pristine condition of some of the entrants online made me think again. Being the friendly type I was chatting to out plot neighbours and mentioned the fair. To which she was delighted as not only a member but the reigning champion over all winner. I was assured of the amateurish element of the competition and that my entry would be greatly appreciated.

Award Winning Horticulturists
Last of our carrots

What have we got to lose, and it will be good to make a contribution to the society. The day before the fair, I went to the allotment to see what we could enter. pickings are slim this time of year as we have been harvesting throughout and gifting produce to our friends. We lifted our last tub of carrots but was unable to get three similar enough to enter, so they went in the pot. We were a little more successful with 3 handsome beets, and 6 slightly too far gone but straight runner beans. Our cucumbers were two weeks too young but we entered one anyway. The one thing I was slightly hopeful was of our courgettes. I planted some courgettes as ground cover so ad a lot to choose from.

 

Our entrants

 

The Day of the Fair

The morning of the fair I was unable to attend so Conor brought the veg up and entered in the correct classes. To our astonishment and delight, we actually won one of the classes and got two seconds and a third. While it might not be up to Harrogate standards to say we were both delighted with ourselves was an understatement. And did we milk it, you bet we did? Rosettes in the post. 

Overall it was a great experience and one we both thoroughly enjoyed. It was also great in rejuvenating our passion for our allotment, as tho despite torrential rain Connor was raring to go 9.00am the next morning.

 

 

 

Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Summer Harvest

Summer harvest is one of the most exciting times for the kitchen. The allotment has enjoyed the early summer sunshine, followed by heavy rains. This season our successes are greatly outnumbering the failures, and we are starting to get to grips with the polytunnel. At this time of year, there is an excellent variety of fruit and vegetables available at the plot. It’s the time of year when the outdoor vegetables are maturing, and the first signs of ripening tomatoes and chilies are appearing in the polytunnel. 

Summer Harvest

Recent weather has provided perfect conditions for blight. Which luckily so far seems to have avoided our potatoes and tomatoes. So far from the few plants that we have lifted the potatoes seem to have done really well. Early Pink “Duke of York” spuds taste as good as they look. Our main crop “Maris Piper” is providing some excellently sized baking potatoes and perfect Sunday roasties. Having received them in a novelty Christmas gift I didn’t hold out much hope for these Purple Carrots. I’m delighted with the results and the deep water tank with a 50/50 sand/mpc mixture has worked a treat. 

Summer Harvest

One of my personal favorite parts of the summer harvest is the pea and beans glut. One bit of advice don’t bother growing Asparagus Peas. They do have a lovely red flower but they taste bland and 1 day late in picking and they are hard as a rock. Gathering enough of the same size for a meal is a chore. In conclusion, if it comes free with a magazine doesn’t mean you have to grow it.Summer Harvest Since every day is a learning day and the best way is by doing and trying. My first every runner bean crop is excellent with some whopping beans must look up those record books.  As always the ever reliable “mange tout” is starting to come to an end and have accompanied some great meals. 

Another steep learning curve for us this summer harvest is managing the polytunnel and greenhouse. There were a couple of days this summer when Conor was out of the country and I was too busy to get to the plot. Within 36 hours of the polytunnel door being closed and window vents being closed, we lost a lot of seedlings and damaged many plants. Hence now we try to open the polytunnel and greenhouse each morning to allow the air and insect to circulate around our plants. Having spent a sweltering few hours in the polytunnel removing excess foliage and removing suckers to increase the airflow around the plants. This not only makes it easier to navigate and water the polytunnel but reduces the risks of blight.

Summer Harvest

With some crops starting to come to an end and some spaces starting to fill up in the beds. We are replenishing them with fertilizers and using plug plants that we started from seed in the greenhouse. It is also possible to make some late sowings this time of year. Salad veg e.g. beetroot, lettuce, radish can still be sown. Along with a large variety of Asian greens, and early or dwarf veg. 

Summer Harvest

Living in Belfast it’s not every day that you come face to face with a live Dinosaur. Due to a long and boring training course about protected species, I knew not to touch or disturb it. Having taken a photograph and contacted  Ulster Wildlife, we soon learned that it was a Smooth Newt, Northern Irelands only native and protected species.

Summer Harvest

While the rain is great for the plants it’s not great for the plans that I had made to build a potting area and workbench for the allotment. May the sunshine return.

 

Late Spring – The Joys Of

Late Spring

Spring

Late Spring and for once the weather has been on our side. The end of the season has been pretty wet but no signs of blight yet. Almost everything we have planted has been doing well. In fact, we ended up losing a few seedlings due to sun scorch. Pretty much most of May was glorious sunshine.  

Late Spring

Early Sring is about hardening off seedlings and keeping an eye out for the lasts frosts. Mid Spring you start to plant out your seedlings and protect from pests and the elements. Late spring is when you realize all the hard work was worth it. You start harvesting early greens. Lettuce, rocket, and spinach. Spring

 

Berries are starting to ripen and fruits are forming on the fruit trees. Eating as you work, picking the specimen fruits for yourself.  Spring

The brassica bed is starting to fill up. Cabbage heads are forming big and hefty. The legumes are starting to climb tall and flower. The first of the mange tout will be ready to harvest anytime now. We’re trialing a variety of pea called “Asparagus” this season and will keep you informed of the progress.  

Late Spring

The potatoes are starting to flower and will be ready to harvest in a few weeks time. This is definitely one of our favourite times of the allotment season. Irish men do love their spuds. 

Late Spring

 

 

In the Polytunnel

Late Spring

 

Inside the greenhouse, it’s fair to say that as usual, I have over done it with the tomatoes. At last count, there were 30 plants in the polytunnel, and 6 in the greenhouse. I will start gifting them to anyone who will take them. 

Late Spring

Our Aubergines seem happy enough and growing steadily. 

Late Spring

As too are the cape gooseberries and sweetcorn. Out of 50 sown corn kernels, these were the best 12 I could manage. Corn is a firm favourite to eat for myself but I have terrible luck germinating. 

Late Spring

Our chillies plants are starting to show signs of bushing up. Being hardy plants and enjoying being neglected we have been watering just once a week except when temps are high.

Late Spring

 

Courgettes inside the polytunnel and outside in a bed are both doing well and starting to produce. The end of spring does great things for your salad containers.

 

SO basically nothing to learn here it’s just me showing off all my wares so enjoy what’s left of the spring and roll on summer.

Happy growing everyone. 

How are your crops coming along ?  Subscribe now and leave us a message or send us a picture of your produce.

Polytunnel – Our latest plot edition.

 

We have always planned on getting a large polytunnel. http://growblogs.com/polytunnel-2/ 

The construction of our first polytunnel was a fun project and was helped along by some great weather.

Preparation

poly1

Before we had even ordered the polytunnel we dug over the ground underneath where our polytunnel was to sit. We took out as many weeds as possible, much like if we were planting directly into the soil. This area is riddled with mares tail so the weeds removed were dried and burned. We then covered the area in a thick black plastic, to prevent sunlight reaching the ground.

We were talking to a fellow plot holder whose polytunnel skin took of like a kite and ended up damaging some closed by roof tiles. Our plot is close to a set of railway tracks, and safety is utmost. Conor can often be found waving at trains while enjoying his black coffee. I decided to build a fence next to the polytunnel, to provide some additional support.

 

polytunnel

 

 

Polytunnel Construction

 

The frame went up relatively easily. Our skill sets complemented each other well on this task. Our love of music lead to some strange looks from the neighbors, but on the whole, a good day was had.  poly4

 

 

With the exact area of growing space now visible, 18 square meters. Strong and highly recommended weed proof membrane was purchased and placed on top of the ground. Growing directly into the ground is not an option due to the annoyance of mares (horsetail. So raised beds on top of a strong weed suppressant it is. This definitely adds to the costs, with additional materials and soil to fill the beds being required.poly5

It’s always best to skin your polytunnels on a calm day, in fact, it’s almost impossible to do it in strong winds. It is also better to do it with a few spare hands floating about. But it is possible to do it alone as I managed if you’re smart about it. Initially digging a trench and covering the skirt with soil was the plan. But on the day it seemed something more substantial was required. The decking was initially used to hold the skin down and stop the wind from making it flap. I decided to skirt the edge of the polytunnel. with the decking to add weight and help hold the skin down.

poly6

This also seemed to allow the corners to sit well over the frame. The front door of the polytunnel is one large zippable flap. At the minute I secure it by tucking under the frame and applying weight with a pallet. It is definitely something I have been thinking about and something I might have just cracked this very evening.   poly8

After a few days of tweaks and fixes and retrenching one of the corners I am finally happy with the way it turned out. 

Polytunnel FitOut

Having already blown the allotment for this year on the polytunnel, the fit out needed to be thrifty. The hoarders in us last year salvaged some fencing and we had some timbers left over from Conor’s new decking at his home. If we use them a couple of seasons then they owe us nothing. 

poly9

I’ve never used grow bags before, but as our local DIY store was running low on decently priced MPC I thought I would give them a go. 

polytunnel

In preparation for the polytunnel completion, we started a crop of tomatoes, chilies, and peppers. Also with the added benefits of extra heat, light, and space. We will soon be enjoying some new variety to the plot including, okra, and cape gooseberry.  

polytunnel

Being new to polytunnel gardening, I haven’t got much advice to give. except that if you’re planning to work inside your polytunnel and the sun is shining? Shorts, sun cream and water are a must. 

Please send us tips and photos of how you have laid out your polytunnels?  And lettuce know what you are growing in yours.

 

zombies

Zombies Allotment Survival – 5 Essential Seeds

Zombie Allotment Survival – 5 Essential Seeds  

ZombiesSo you flick on the television and every channel the same. Zombies Allotment Survival is on. But your prepared and have already built a walled perimeter even Trump himself would be proud of. You have enough water and growing space and 2 months worth of supplies. Unfortunately, you only have the choice of 5 fruit or vegetables to grow. That’s the rules. Zombies are coming. What 5 Essential seeds would you choose?

Here is the top 5 essential seeds I would choose, for the climate I live within here in Belfast.

1 Oriental Greens  

 Oriental Greens such as the ones we have grown in the past, including pak choi, choy sum and tat soi. What’s great about these greens is that they can be grown all year round. They are also great for growing in confined spaces. In UK conditions, best sown in Autumn and late Spring. Asian/Oriental Greens are great sources of Vitamin A, C, E B vitamins. They are also a great source of fiber, iron, calcium and potassium. With the zombie population still at large, these veg are quick cropping and tasty. They also come often in mixed seed packs. Full of variety and textures to keep you fed and nourished.

Zombies
Pak Choi, Potatoes Strawberries Broccoli and Kale

2. Beans

 Thrust into a time, when you have been forced vegetarian. You take solace in the fact that contained in your seed box is a pack of mixed beans. Whether broad, split, kidney, or soy. Beans are an excellent source of protein, with Soybeans coming in at 16.6g of protein per 100g. Also containing metals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and are a source of antioxidants. Climbing beans are great on saving space. They also are great for storing and drying to reuse the seed for continuous planting. Beans can be sown after the last frosts and will fruit until September. Some of the hardier Beans can be overwintered e.g. aqua dulce Claudia Broad Bean. 

 Thrust into a time, when you have been forced vegetarian. You take solace in the fact that contained in your seed box is a pack of mixed beans. Whether broad, split, kidney, or soy. Beans are an excellent source of protein, with Soybeans coming in at 16.6g of protein per 100g. Also containing metals such as potassium, magnesium, zinc and are a source of antioxidants. Climbing beans are great on saving space. They also are great for storing and drying to reuse the seed for continuous planting. Beans can be sown after the last frosts and will fruit until September. Some of the hardier Beans can be overwintered e.g. aqua dulce Claudia Broad Bean. Zombies

 

3 – Kale

Kale is not only a hipsters best friend, it may help preserve your life until rescued. It is widely regarded as a tough plant and will gladly keep you fed and company during the long winter. Kale comes in two forms, Kale and Curly for obvious reasons. Varieties include Nero di Toscana, purple scarlet, dinosaur etc. Kale is very low in calories while remaining high in fiber. Low in calories is that a good thing? Well yes because hunger and boredom will soon set in. Kale can be grown after the last frost up until the early summer. Plus everyone knows zombies hate kale.    

Zombies
Curly kale

4 – Berries

Berries are well known for being superfoods and also amazing tasting. Being well know sources of Vitamin B as well as antioxidants. They are packed with fiber and great for your digestive system. Either juiced, jammed or eaten straight from the bush, they are a great boost to mind, body, and soul. Straw, blue, black and raspberries are all Uk and Irish favorites and a great sign of good weather. All berries are sun lovers but with so many different varieties liking different varieties. Especially blueberries who appreciate an acidic soil. 

Zombies
Strawberries

5 – Potatoes

 This one is a no-brainer, like much of the population by now. Not only are they versatile and great tasting. But is there really much point is you haven’t got the option of spuds for tea. Baby, Boiled, Roasted or mashed they are little bundles of joy that might just get you through this ordeal. Potatoes are great for storing through winter and high in carbohydrates. Planted around Mid March, a succession of first, second and main crops will keep you well spirited and full of energy. 

Zombies
Spuds
Zombies
Purdys

With a continuous supply of veg to keep you healthy and fed throughout the year. Zombie groans ever present at the boundary wall.  Its sit back and try to refrain from talking to your veg, all day. 

We would love to hear what 5 fruit  or vegetables will you grow when they come???

 

 

 

 

Allotment Construction

Allotment Construction

allotment construction
New raised Beds

We may have been quiet on the blog front but we have been busy concentrating on allotment construction. Its defiantly been more of a fence post, than a blog post last few months. A month or so Connor said something very profound during one of our many coffee breaks.

“Wont it be really nice when we can just come up here and plant a few things and relax” and for once he was right.

Allotment construction
Chris skiving in the shed

So we decided for one big push to finish all of our allotment construction projects. Hail, rain and shine we have had the lot. But it didn’t stop us and we played a blinder.

Due to the slope of our plot raised beds helps us keep our land from washing away and allows us to create level paths. The only bare ground left is where we grew our last season potatoes and some late kale and brassicas. The ground is generally good, and has been turned well by the potato roots. The top bed is heavy with sand so we removed a couple of wheelbarrows and topped up the carrot water container. Carrots are font of sandy ground and we replaced the earth with some multi-purpose compost and manure to the top bed. For the top beds we used decking boards, as they are a good depth, and are pretreated to survive the rain and damp conditions. The reason one is shorter is to allow us to push a wheelbarrow throughout the plot.

allotment construction

Sowing Seeds

We have been busy sowing seeds and getting ready for the final frosts to lift. We erected a few mini greenhouses within our main greenhouse. This is allowing us to reach temperatures, suitable enough for heat-loving seedlings such as chilies and tomatoes. So far it is working well and we are starting some of the more heartier veg such as cabbage and onions within the main greenhouse. http://growblogs.com/sowing-seeds-indoors/

allotment construction
Propagation Station

Poly-tunnel

We finally made a decision and purchased the poly-tunnel. We decided to stick with a 3m x 6m and have started to level ground. The ground underneath has been covered with black PVC since last autumn and was dug and turned to allow the frost to penetrate. We have been busy researching the best tips and tricks to erecting a polytunnel and will be hopefully showing our results soon. When the polytunnel is erected that is all the major allotment construction complete. Well.. until I get a new idea or project. 

Spuds

Its also time to get our spuds in the ground and off my windowsill. This season were planting http://growblogs.com/potatoes/

  • First earlies – Red Duke Of York

  • Second earlies – Kestrel

  • Main Crop – King Edward

  • Main Crop – Maris Piper

So in a few months get ready for more photos of us with our feet up and hopefully a few homegrown cocktail recipes.

allotment construction
Onion Sets

Sowing Seeds Indoors – The Do’s and Donts

Sowing Seeds Indoors.

sowing seeds indoors
Seedlings

The first of our Seed Sowing guides will focus mainly on sowing seeds indoors. Whether it be on a sunny windowsill, heated propagator or in a seed sowing greenhouse, the principals are basically the same.

Why do we sow seeds indoors?

There are many advantages to sowing seeds indoors/ under glass. The added protection they gain from the cold and windy weather at this time of year allows for some of the more tender seedlings to establish themselves. When the outside temperatures rise enough to start planting seeds outdoors (normally around May-June), the seedlings started indoors, will be sturdy enough to plant out. Meaning the seedlings will ultimately spend less time reaching maturity when they are eventually planted out, allowing you to maximize yields and save on space.

sowing seeds indoors
Mini Propagators, Seed Sowing tray, and Compost

When can I sow seeds indoors/ under glass?

If your lucky enough to have a large warm windowsill, heated greenhouse/ propagator, then it is possible to start some seeds as early as January. When sowing seeds indoors it’s important to make sure the temperature is consistently around the 13° – 22° mark. When planting any seeds, it is important to pay close attention at the information/ growing guides printed on the packaging. These guides normally provide you with an Indoor sowing date, an outdoor sowing date, and a planting out date. While the temperatures in parts of the UK and Ireland can vary greatly, these are often just a rough guide, and you will soon learn how to work with the weather in your local climate.

What seeds can I sow indoors?

You can technically grow any seeds indoors, but some will appreciate the extra heat and warmth more than others.

  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Okra
  • Aubergine
  • Chillies
  • Lettuce
  • Kale
  • Swiss Chard
  • Khorabi
  • Herbs

All of these seedlings are susceptible to a cold frost and are often much better starting indoors at least until the last frosts have cleared.

It is also possible to start garlic and onions bulbs in sets indoors. http://www.growblogs.com/alliums

sowing seeds indoors
Garlic Bulbs

What can I sow my seeds in?

There are any number of different sized plug trays, pots, and containers designed for sowing seeds. Basically, if you can put soil in it, and it is not too small then you can sow seeds in it. A garden shop bought seed tray will work just as well as an empty yogurt pot. Seed trays are  inexpensive and we tend to get ours from discount/pound shops. They are also reusable, noting it is important to clean them thoroughly after each growing season, to avoid cross contamination and spreading any diseases. Using designated seed trays and plug trays are handy, as it’s possible to purchase existing plastic or glass covers to the correct size, and are often designed to fit the shape of a standard windowsill.

The size of the seeds often determine the size of the container that you sow your seeds in.

Small Seeds e.g. herbs, cauliflower, broccoli. I often sow these randomly over a seed tray, and once the seedlings have started to develop a true leaf, are often pricked out into larger containers.

Medium-sized seeds e.g. Peppers, Chillies, Lettuce. I often sow one or two at a time into an individual plug. The reason why I sow two at a time instead of one is in case one of the seeds doesn’t germinate. If both seeds germinate then one is removed. I often use these individual plugs to keep trays of lettuce and salad crops ready to fill up any gaps or empty spaces I might have within the plot.

Large Seeds e.g. Courgettes, Pumpkins, and Sweetcorn. I often sow these into small individual pots ( 3” – 5”) as they require more growing space for their root systems to get well established.

sowing seeds indoors
Sowing seeds

What is the best type of soil to sow seeds in?

Seeds can be sown in any soil, buy you are much better off starting your seedlings in a seed sowing & cutting compost. These composts are sieved well and contain fewer larger pieces of bark and stones, anything that may restrict a seedlings growth. They often contain large quantities of loam, allowing the compost to retain moisture while repelling nutrients which can be harmful to seedlings.

sowing seeds indoors
Heated Propagator

There are no right or wrong ways when it comes to sowing seeds. And you will soon realize that some just work better than others. The winter can be a very long period for keep vegetable growers. Starting some seeds indoors and caring for them, helps take the edge off until Spring time comes. Over time you will find your own preferred methods, containers and sowing compost that works best for you.

Our Greatest Successes/Failures on the Allotment of 2016

Success/Failures
Growblogs Plot

Success/Failures 2016

A look back over our success/failures on our allotment in 2016. Having good success in the garden is what keeps us interested. Fueling our desires to return each year to expand and improve. Failure is the catalyst that makes us more determined, to work harder and smarter. Each growing season is unique. So here we are going to show you our 3 greatest successes and failures of 2016.

Successes

  1. The first big success and new key part of our plot, is the new greenhouse. Last year we used it to grow crops, as we were behind schedule on construction. But next season it will be mainly used for seed germination, and early 2017 we will be constructing shelving and a seed sowing area. Check out our previous posts, about how we constructed the greenhouse from, base construction to glazing. Garden Structure/Greenhouse Base – How to do it yourself DIY Greenhouse Construction, Proper Job !

    success/failures
    Next years seed house
  2. Our second big success of the year I would say is our blog. While we are not snowed under with subscribers, we have been working hard to improve the content of our posts. We also try and deliver content, that people want to see and will find useful. We have also been learning the tech skills to make the blog more available to people that might find it interesting. While at the same time meeting and making friends some very helpful and informative individuals through social media. http://www.facebook.com/growblogs http://www.twitter.com/growblogs
  3. Our third big success of the year would have to be some of the wonderful crops and produce that we have been producing throughout the year. 2016 has very much been a year of firsts. Some crops we were growing for the first time, with great success. Out top 3 new vegetables that we grew this year were Kohlrabi Kohlrabi & Kohlrabi coleslaw recipe , Sweet romano Peppers   and White Cauliflower.
    success/failures
    White Cauliflower

     

    These three are all great tasting and versatile crops. 

The cauliflower could have ended up on either success/failures list.  After an absence from the plot for a fortnight. I was pleasantly surprised to see that, the critters has left me the biggest and best-looking cauliflower on the plot. Another veg to cross off my ever decreasing, to grow and eat list.

When it comes to success and failures,no matter what there is much to be learned. We at growblogs had a motto even before we seen our plot for the first time. To learn from doing, and learn from our success/failures. Getting stuck in and having a go is wild craic. If it all goes wrong ? Sure you can try again next year.

Failures

  1. Outsmarting the critters. Once again we waged war on every manner of beast, all shapes and size, determined to devour our crops. We built, protective nets, cages and kept a strict bug picking diary. But yet the came, and they ate and what they didnt eat they pooped on.

    success/failures
    Damm Caterpillars
  2. Basically, it  took us much longer to build the greenhouse than it should. I bought the greenhouse frame in a water damaged sale. The greenhouse frame itself is obviously waterproof, that’s why I bought it. I’m smart like that. The instructions for the greenhouse frame, however, were not waterproof and had disintegrated. The crops we had been growing, for eventual transport into the greenhouse, were growing bigger and bigger and starting to fruit by the time they were ready to move. Whilst it was a relief to get the plants out of  my cramped flat, they took a bit of a battering and some had to be shortened for transport. Some of these plants, mainly the tomato plants never fully recovered.

    success/failures
    Tomatoes “Gardeners delight”
  3. Disease. This will probably be on our list every year. Early in the summer conditions were perfect for blight, and we link all the plots on our allotment, suffered. Our potato crops held up pretty well, but we lost all of our outdoor tomatoes and peppers. Some signs did show inside the greenhouse but we were quick to remove those infected plants to stem spreading the blight. Later nearing the end of summer our cucurbits suffered badly from an attack of  powdery mildew. This while didn’t massively affect the produce that was well established and producing. But with the early destruction of the leaves it certainly stunted growth, and shortened the season. 

    success/failures
    powdery mildew

Next year were sure everything is going to go swimmingly. 

 

 

December Allotment 2016 – Jobs we will be getting on with.

December Allotment 2016
Chris looking smug with his carrots.

December Allotment 2016

December allotment diary 2016… and its going to be a quiet  month for growblogs. We are both normally very busy preparing  for the Christmas rush in work. Evenings start in the afternoons generally pitch black by 4pm now. So, apart from a few fleeting visits to harvest some of our hardier vegetables, and to replenish the bird feeders, the December Allotment 2016 Pages are going to be pretty bare. That is up until the end of the month at least.

This doesn’t  mean that we haven’t been planning tho, the end of December I will have a full week of work off, and intend to make the most of it up at the allotment. I started a low fence along the front of our plot a few months back. The reason it is so low is that the sun crosses along the front, and we wanted to allow for maximum sunlight. I dug holes and positioned the posts to the edge of our boundary and fixed with postcrete. I will be digging a trench an under pinning the chicken wire fence beneath the ground to deter any burrowing creatures.

december allotment
Next years seed house

The second job will be to securely fix the greenhouse, to the greenhouse base that I installed in the summer. With the weight of the PVC paneling that we used to glaze the greenhouse, currently holding the frame in position. I didnt fancy taking the risk that a possible high wind might cause some damage. So i will drill the bottom of the frame and use plugs, screws, and washers to securely fix the frame to the concrete slab base.

Should I Cover Raised Beds Or Leave to the Elements OverWinter ?

Ive been asked a few  times since the growing season has slowed to a freeze, are you better to cover your raised beds to deter sunlight and starve the weeds. Or are you better to leave the beds to the elements and let the frost penetrate the ground,  and kill off anything that is still growing. On our plot we have two identical size beds which were made at the same time, so we have decided to cover one with a thick black builders pvc, and the other we have left to the elements. Come February or March when we come to work the ground again, we shall show which we think worked  best. 

December Allotment 2016
Bird feed

 

Our Allotment Wishlist for Santa

Dear Santa Claus

Connor and Myself have been really good boys all year. We hope you and the missus and all your reindeer’s are keeping well. We would please like the following if not too much to ask. A 6x3m polytunnel with a window, loads of sunshine and it would be just dandy if you could do something about the mares tail please.

All the best 

The lads at growblogs

Green Manure – Its Benefits, and how to use it.

 

green manure
Sowing Green Manure

This is a quick blog to show the benefits of sowing Green manure at this time of year.

Its got cold, really cold and I have conceded and finally got my winter clothes box from the attic. Last weekend at the allotment, we were constantly taking off and putting on our jackets, every time the sun was going behind a cloud. But this week has seen the first frosts, and the temperature consistently hitting zero at night. The evenings are starting to go dark roughly 5.00PM, and the allotment is looking bare.

Only the hardiest of vegetables will survive at this time of year, in fact we are down to just our leeks we are saving for Christmas, a few cabbages (pointed sweethearts) which I will no doubt pull this weekend, both variety’s of kale we are growing, and a few pepper plants in the greenhouse.

With the beds all cleared and weeded, there are three options you can take for preparing your beds for winter.

1) The first is to simply just leave the beds and let the freezing winds and winter temperatures freeze and thaw the ground, and kill all the weeds naturally.

 

2) The second is to cover the bed with a suitable material, we use black PVC, (damp proof membrane, available at all hardware shops). This creates a barrier between the soil and the sky and suppresses any weeds by starving them of the sunlight that then need to photosynthesise.

Green manure
Covered Bed

3) The third option is green manure. Green manure is a term used for any plant that is grown, normally over winter or at the end of the growing season, which is returned to the ground as a rich fertilizer. Green manures are generally fast growing plants that provide good ground coverage that suppresses light to other weeds. They also have good deep penetrating root systems, which are ideal for aerating the soil and breaking up tough ground. Certain variety’s are also high in and important sources of nitrogen for your soil.

  green manure

There are many different types of green manures available for differing soil types. Some are better for ground coverage e.g. Field Beans or Mustard Seed, while other green manures are nutrient-rich and great for improving soils e.g. Tares or Alfalfa, while a third group of manures are particularly good at attracting beneficial insects to your plot, e.g. Red or White Clover.

As we try to extend our growing season as long as possible, we are only freeing up most of our beds now, when the weather is very much wintry. This means that attracting insects is not of importance but ground coverage, and enriching our soil for the next growing season is important. The best choice for us to use at this time of year are field beans, which provide excellent coverage and will add much-needed nitrogen to the ground in Spring when they are returned to the soil and fertilized.

We sowed our field beans roughly 2.5 inches apart at row 20 cm apart, and roughly 1 inch deep. After sowing, the seeds are well watered in, though it was necessary for us as the sky was turning black, and heavy rainfall was predicted. This is our first time growing field beans but we have been told of their rapid growth even in these poor growing conditions.

green manure

What are you all getting up to at your allotments this month, why not let us know by sending us a comment below?