Swiss Chard

 

 

Swiss Chard, Chard Beta vulgaris

Having armed myself with my bag for life, earphones and an entertaining podcast I was all set to do the monotonousness weekly shop. Whilst sauntering through the vegetable isle often with growers envy, I was delighted to see that my local supermarket was now stocking rainbow swiss chard. It immediately caught my attention due to the bright vibrant colours and had also caught the attention of the lady beside, me as she rather poorly tried to explain this foreign vegetable to her young son.

The product looked very fresh and enticing. Having exhausted our own supply of Swiss chard I reached for a packet until I glanced at the price. I actually let out an audible laugh much to the attention of my fellow shoppers when I saw that for the rather stingy weight of 200g they very kindly would like to offer you an invitation to treat yourself to the Swiss chard for the sum of £1.89.Swiss Chard, Green Beans, Red Onion

Our rainbow swiss chard “Bright Lights” from 2015 was definitely one of our greatest successes on the new plot. We planted our chard from seed early June. We waited till the plants got to about 10cm in height before we started to harvest some of the delicious baby leaves. While we also left half of the crop to mature to produce wonderful crunchy stalks, all colours of the rainbow.

Such wonderful looking and tasting plants and with great colours and textures when it comes to cooking. Swiss Chard is a no brainer for our plot and kitchens for next year. #

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So that when the weather turns in our favour, we can show you how to prepare the soil and plant up your very own Chard patch.

Chris

Overwintering Part 2 – learn from mistakes

Bird Feed

Bird Feed, seeds, peanut, sunflower seeds, mealworms, bird seed, suet balls, bird mix, mixed seeds

Im very much a believer in the term “learn from your mistakes” and this week it was very much prevalent, whilst I sat in my van having a builders salad (sausage roll) in the drizzle, watching the birds feeding from our offerings. I have always been a nature fan and my mother always enjoyed feeding the birds, so we would go out of our way to purchase food and collect household bird friendly scraps. My mother worked as a primary school teacher and yearly used to make suet balls and put bird feed out with her class to inspire the children, and it certainly rubbed off on me. The only difference between our back garden and the plot of  grass outside her classroom is the wildlife that we attracted.

There is a great abundance of wildlife up at out allotment (with most of it living in my shed), we are blessed to have seen hares, grey squirrels, all of your common UK birds, frogs and we even arrived one day to chase a small flock of grey lag geese from our neighbours salad patch. This is not something that we have had to contend with before.

This post is going to focus on how to get your bird feed to, well…. the birds of course !

Tuesday just gone I finished my work an hour early and having been on the right side of town to my allotment I thought I would pay a visit. 10 minutes after filling up the bird feeders and after just replenishing fresh water in the bird bath, mother nature decided to bless me with a shower of fine rain that can only be described as the type that “soaks you through !” so I decided to take an early tea. Id barely unwrapped my salad before I seen a large well fed black and white cat immediately start to skulk my plot. Not wanting to inter fear in nature my inner Attenborough said to me just observe, and as I poured my coffee I could resist narrating the scene in front of me in the style that only the great man himself could. Here we see… is said in my head filling my shirt with pastry flakes, knowing fine well if that cat had got one of my birds I would have flapped at him like id just sprayed mace in my armpits. Simple answer to this solution if you are a cat owner put a bell on your cat and give the birds a chance. If you do a google search there are thousands of article showing the correlation between the rise of domestic cats and uk bird decline.

winter-on-the-allotment

 

After chasing the cat back into the housing estate where I presume “Its Humans” live, I returned to the van to finish the crossword when only a few moments later I spotted an old friend, who we have hilariously nicknamed Sirrel The Squirrel, make a reappearance. He seemed nervous at once then just went for it. This was the first time I had hung a suet ball feeder at the allotment. It fell to the ground more to the surprise to Sirrel than to me, because I gasped but Sirrel must have jumped his body hight at least 10 times. The problem was I hung the suet ball holder on the end of the branch foe the birds but not expecting the weight of a squirrel the branch snapped.

Another quick tip I learnt this week from the internet when leaving water in a dish or bowl for birds to drink or bathe their feathers in, place a ping pong or tennis ball in the bowl to stop the water freezing. I dont know the exact science myself but I linked it on our twitter feed so it must be from a reliable site.

No doubt I will have more failures and even more successes for my quest to become one with nature this winter.

Cheers

Chris

Bird Feed

What’s in a name?

– by Connor

So you may have noticed we changed the name of our blog yesterday. Unfortunately someone else had created a site many years ago called Allotmentor. Clearly they are as smart and funny as ourselves, but because they had picked the name first, we decided it would be in ours and their best interests to differentiate the two websites. We doubt they were even aware of our existence, but when we realised the names were similar, we decided it best to move from the similarity.

Over a few glasses of wine yesterday and after a hard day’s working on the shed (more about that later), we set to work on our blog renaming. Considering I work in this industry you’d think I’d a be a dab hand at this, but when you’re working on your own project, it becomes infinitely harder. We, as you can see decided on the name Grow Blogs. This is for two main reasons

  1. We can continue to showcase our own blog and the work we’re doing on allotment 8b to make our own lives more sustainable and to eat a little bit healthier everyday
  2. Our new name now means we can open up our blog to our allotment friends from around the web and show their best practice techniques as well their own journeys to a more sustainable and healthy life.

If you want to join us on the blog for a guest post or a look at your own allotment growing story, we’d love to hear from you. Leave us a comment below.

winter-on-allotment

The Shed

Yesterday we set to tackle the shed. Frankly it had become a dumping ground for everything that might be of interest to someone or that could get lost if left out. Tackle it we must and along with shelves and hanging racks, we set to strengthen and fully waterproof the inside of the shed with panelling. Drafts and leaks are now a thing of the past….hopefully. Well except for the felt on the roof flying off in the wind last week, but we can fix that. To be honest we’ve probably spent the same amount fixing up our free from the internet shed than we would have spent on a new one, but the time and effort taken to do so has been…character building.

Overwintering and Wildlife

Autumn Blues

There’s no doubt about it there’s a nip in the air, and the media are scaring us with tales that the winter could be much worse than 2010. This means only one thing, time to tuck the plot in for the winter while trying to make it a haven for our wild animals. That snug feeling of being tucked up in your superman onesie in front of an open fire (chessnuts roasting obv), can feel even more content knowing you have done your bit for nature. If your cold and hungry imaging how that little robin at the end of your garden feels.

There are many activities you can undertake from the very simplest through to some that will take time and some expense. One of the simplest and most rewarding you can do is simply put feed out for birds. Whether you keep leftover bits of fat from bacon rinds, bread crumbs or go to the expense of purchasing seeds or mealworms you will greatly help out our feathered friends when food sources are scarce. It is also important to remember this much over looked fact, birds drink water ! And when there is snow on the ground or temperatures are below zero then this is not always easily accessible to them.

As the days started to gradually get colder and the growing season started to run out, we started to think about bugs and small animals. There is a great abundance of wildlife up at out allotment (with most of it living in my shed), we are blessed to have seen hares, grey squirrels, all of your common uk birds, frogs and we even arrived one day to chase a small flock of grey lag geese from our neighbours salad patch. We had planted some asian vegetables late end of summer and were unable to harvest it all. Our Choy sum had started to flower and was covered in bees and hover flies. As we weren’t going to have time to gain another crop from this space we decided that it would do the bees a world of good to have that extra source of food so we left it in the ground.

Choy Sum, Seeds

With little to no growing on our plot the focus has mainly turned into maintenaince and improving our structures. We gave the plot a good tidy 2 weeks ago and removed some of the rubbish that was accumulating in one of the corners. There was some offcuts of wood and various logs that were sodden and probbly no good for the fire but we didnt want to disturb them as it was probbly providing home to many wonderful beasts. It can happily sit there until next year when the weather starts to pick up and nature is back to its most energetic.

The simplest things we can do can mean the difference of survival or not for our wildlife.

Fitting a Water Butt To The Shed

Water is the most valuable resource on this planet. When summer comes round and our plants and vegetables are gasping for a drink, this is most likely the time when we’re being restricted from watering them by our local water company.

But it’s November…

Very true, but winter here is one of the wettest times and we aim to store up as much water as possible between now and next summer. Even in the driest areas of the UK, we could fill this water butt hundreds of times over, but it pays to plan well in advance. Something we’ve learnt from our first year on the allotment.

You can see from the photo, we’ve attached guttering to our “free from the internet shed”, this has two benefits. Firstly it’ll catch every drop of rain that hits out roof and secondly it’ll protect the sides of the shed from rain dripping down the side. Seeing as the shed needs all the help it can get to remain waterproof, this is a great benefit.

The water butt was from B&Q for around £50. To be fair it’s a bit of an extravagance, but we did some research on the benefits of using rain water over tap water and we came up with the following:

  1. Tap water may contain different chemicals such as chlorine and fluoride. Not conducive to organic veg
  2. Rain water has neutral ph levels
  3. Rain water is usually in abundance here in NI and we’ll be laughing mid summer.

Final say

Rain water is generally accepted as the best source of hydration for your veg, but across the board tap water seems to be an acceptable source by many experts and can be used throughout your allotment.

What’s your thoughts? Tap water or Rain water for your allotment?

Allotment Year One – Come Subscribe

Allotment Year One

Allotment Year One
Growblogs Plot

So its nearing the end of Allotment year one and we are loving it. I’m pretty sure it was a drunken joke followed by an email to the council. 8 years letter they returned the correspondence to say plot 8b was ours. It’s been our home from home for the last twelve months and it was a complete jungle before we got stuck in. Allotment Year One just like Romeo – Done !

I’d heard stories of people taking over allotments and being left with an almost ready to go plot. We weren’t so lucky and our first action was to dig up the entire plot and start to weed it. This was our first mistake. We soon realised the work involved and while we completed the first dig, it definitely seemed like the better option to use raised beds.

Now this project is not one we want to invest hugely into bar our time. Where we can source things frugally we will, where we can make something fit a purpose it may not have been intended for, we do. Where we can barter and trade….we will.

raised bed

Chris was able to salvage some floorboards from an old property and these became the basis of our raised beds. Speaking to some of the other allotment neighbours they advised filling the beds with a mix 50/50 mix and to date this has been our single biggest expense at £130. As you can see from the photo below, I may have made an error in my parking, placing the van where the soil was to go. The only way out was to shovel 2 tonne on my own. Cheers Chris.

allotment-blog

We’ve also sourced our “Free from the Internet” shed and have gotten it to be free standing and water tight, which has come in hand recently with the crazy rain of the past week.

After year 1 we’ve had some great successes and overall I’m extremely happy with what we have been able to grow. It’s also helped save on the cost of buying veg as well as ensuring we’re eating healthier. We’ve definitely eaten much more veg the past 12 months than ever before, which cannot be a bad thing.

I’ve honestly found the allotment to be a great stress reliever too. Horrible signal means that mobile data is a no go, so Facebook an twitter are out. Text and calls are possible. Barely.

I’m really looking forward to our second year on the allotment and hope we can share our experiences and mistakes. At least that way someone else will learn from them.

Drop us a message and let us know if we can help in any way.