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 this winter. That snug feeling of being tucked up in your superman onesie in front of an open fire (chestnuts roasting ob.), can feel even more content knowing you have done your bit for winter wildlife. 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.
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 winter wildlife.
While every allotment site will have many and varying rules, there is an unwritten code of good personal conduct that allotment owners should adhere too. Most of these are common sense and common decency, and being friendly and courteous to your fellow allotmenteers can have its own rewards.
Up at our allotments in Belfast, it is practically against the law not to give a wave to other allotment holders as you drive in and out. Stopping for a chat with you neighbors, talking about the weather, complaining about the council pathways and talking about how well Big Geoff’s cabbage is doing, while in your head enviously wondering how did he did it, is very common place. Us gardeners are a friendly bunch and are often more than not willing to give advice. When starting out on a new plot it can be invaluable to gain the advise of the people that have been working the land for some time. They may very well have information on your own plot, and can give you advice on the condition of the soil.
Here I am going to list some tips on good allotment etiquette, that I have learnt from my experience.
Weed Killer – This is obviously not going to apply to people who grow organically, but is often regarded to be one of the easiest ways to clear a new plot. When using weed killer it is important to make sure that the chemical is contained within your plot and your plot alone. Do not spray weed killer on a windy day as the spray will travel in the wind. If your allotment is on a slope be careful that the weed killing solution doesn’t run down the slope into another plot. It is common practice to use a separate watering can for use with weed killer and use it for that sole purpose only.
Strimming – Strimming is an excellent way of clearing an over grown plot, or tidying up the edges of pathways or around fences. The only drawback to the strimmer/brush cutter is that it isint selective what it slices and will tear through weeds, grasses and vegetables. This is something that we learnt the hard way, when the council strimmed our pathway and covered one of my raised beds with grass and weeds, which soon started to root in the favoring conditions. Due to the position of out plot we only have one adjoining plot and the fence is not great at the minute. What we do is hold up or attach a large piece of plastic while we strim to keep the cuttings on our own plot.
Invasive or Large Plants – Your are not going to make any friends on the allotment site if you arrive and start planting very large or invasive plants. A 15 foot palm tree blocking the sun is going to gain you the most sturnest of sideways looks. Plants such as bamboo, willows and fast growing conifers are always frowned upon and often banned from allotment sites.
Car Parking – This is an easy one, but its simply courteous, good etiquette and will save you time, and if you have mud on your boots will keep your car floor carpets clean. Leave enough space to allow other cars to pass on pathways. Also leave enough room for people to be able to push a wheelbarrow easily out of the gates and do not block the entrances to their own plots. Sometimes on a busy day you may have to park closely and this cannot be avoided. As im friendly with all my neighbors, we know each others cars, but if you don’t you could maybe leave a note on the dashboard saying where your plot it. When im at the allotment on my own, im always listening to music or a podcast, so I have my ear phones in. That’s why I always tell my neighbors to give me a wave if they need the car moved or throw something at me, which lucky they havnt yet.
Rubbish – No one likes a litter bug, take all rubbish home with you, or put it in bins or skips provided. We generally keep all our rubbish in a corner of our plot until there is enough to do a run to the dump. Also remember to take all cooked food home as this can attract vermin.
Bonfires – You will soon know if you are breaking the rules regarding bonfires, or if your fire is annoying or polluting other plot holders or local residents, be courteous and careful. Do not build a fire too large and keep any fuels used to start the fire in a suitable container at a safe distance from the fire. Its also important to make sure there is no wildlife living in the materials that we are looking to burn.
Water Taps – On warm days try not to hog the water taps, particularly if you see someone arriving after work or just making a quick run up to give the plants a drink. If your planning on hanging around for a while or are in no rush, then let them go before you. Also water is a precious commodity, and while we make every effort to only use rainwater stored in our waterbutts, sometimes we do have to use the water taps and we always make sure that the tap is closed off completely.
Trespassing – Stick to your own plot, unless you have a very good reason to be on someone else plot or you are invited, then you should not be on anyone elses plot !. So far the only reason I have had to enter another allotmenteers, plot was to remove a bird that became trapped in a fruit net.
These are just some of my observations so far and as time goes on I will keep adding to this list, because if there is one thing they cant say about me, its that I wasnt a gentleman lol…. happy growing and good allotment etiquette.
Theres no doubt about it but wheatgrass is a super food, and from what my health addict friends tell me not the cheapest ingredient around. I was asked to learn fast and get growing wheatgrass ASAP, so I did and here’s my guide.
Using wheatgrass fresh is apparently the best way to get the most from the product, instead of the dried powdered alternatives or pre packaged juices which ive been told are rather expensive. If you know me you will know that I am no health addict, and while I do enjoy growing food and produce for my friends I am writing this blog purely to show you how to grow wheatgrass, and defiantly now how to drink it, as well….. tbf it is bogging ! (Although if you read this and you have some good recipes or ways of using/ growing wheatgrass please feel free to email us and we will add a link or add your input into this blog email@example.com)
Heres the science bit straight from wikipedia (Concentrate) – Wheatgrass is a good source of potassium, a very good source of dietary fiber, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E (alpha tocopherol), vitamin K, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, pantothenic acid, iron, zinc, copper, manganese and selenium, and has a negligible amount of protein (less than one gram per 28 grams).
Growing wheatgrass is easy and its a fast germinating plant, which makes it a fun and healthy way to grow with children. I purchased the wheatgrass seed from the internet and the first thing I did was to soak the seed in cool water over night for roughly 10 – 12 hours, to re-hydrate the seeds and get the germination underway.
I then drain the seeds into a colander and leave at an angle to drain the water, it is important at this stage to rinse the seeds and repeat the drainage process 3 – 4 times or until the seedling starts to grow a small tail. When the tails emerge then its time to transport the seeds to the growing medium.
I often find that the best medium for growing wheatgrass in is to use a seeding compost, although a multi purpose compost will work just aswell. I filled a tray to roughly 1 1’2” of potting compost and watered the soil in well. Then spread the germinated seeds evenly over the surface covering the entirety of the vessel you are growing in.
The seedlings do not like direct strong sunlight and for the first few days I placed them under dampened sheets of unbleached white paper. After a couple of days when the growth is able to lift the paper of the seeds themselves, then remove the paper and then slowly introduce the wheatgrass to a bit more sunlight.
Its important to keep the soil moist and I would suggest to water well in the mornings and then moisten the plants with a good spray in the evenings.
When the wheatgrass reaches the desired height roughly 6- 10 inches depending on the strength of the stocks height the easiest way to harvest is to snip with scissors along where the white meets green on the stalk. Once harvested you should continue to water the plants in the same routing and you should receive a second crop from the same seedlings. When finally complete recycle or compost the old soil and use a continual sowing technique if you plan to make wheatgrass a staple of your diet.
Your body is a temple ! And when your running around in the prime of your life with the theme tune to Rocky in your ears feeling amazing, don’t forget about your friends at Growblogs who showed you the way of Wheatgrass !
One of if not the most popular vegetable grown and consumed throughout Ireland and the UK. The unofficial National Vegetable of Ireland and the star of dishes stretching from chip vans to fine dining restaurants.
Whilst some people ask “why bother growing potatoes” when they are so readily available and inexpensive. True, they do take up a fair bit of room when planted, but it is possible to grow them, successful in containers and pots. Last year we were only working half the plot so we planted a large crop of spuds as they are really good at breaking up the ground with their roots leaving the ground good for the following years planting. Also growing your own, means that you get to choose what characteristics you want from your potato, either a delicious waxy first early salad potato like the Arran Pilot or a main crop roasting potato like the Golden Wonder or Kerrs Pink.
The easiest way to grow your own potatoes is to purchase bags of seed potatoes. These seed potatoes are grown specifically to be virus resistant. Different variety’s of potatoes develop at different stages of the growing season. All of the variety’s of potatoes will go into the ground on the same day, traditionally on St Patricks Day on the emerald isle but this year as it falls on a Thursday it will be the weekend before or after.
First Earlies – On a typical growing season it usually takes around 10 – 12 weeks from planting to harvesting, and often when the plants stop flowering is a good indicator that the crop is ready. Popular UK variety’s of first earlies include Arran Pilot, Pentland Javelin which is what we have chosen to plant this year, or Duke of York which is a great all round new potato.
Second Earlies – Again on a typical growing season second earlier will usually take between 13 – 15 weeks from planting to harvesting. First and Second early crops grow well in containers or pots and this is the approach we are going for this year as we still have a few structures to go into our plot. It also means that we can move them about when needed and we can try and cram them in every available spot. Popular second early variety’s include, Charlotte which is the variety we have chosen as we had great success with the previous year, Kestrel and Ratte.
Maincrops – Maincrop potatoes prefer being grown directly into the ground. They will need more space and the tubers often grow much larger then early variety’s. These are normally ready to harvest around 20 weeks after planting, Some of the more popular variety s include, Maris Piper which we will be purchasing in the near future, King Edward and Desiree.
Chitting – About 5 – 6 weeks before I plan to plant out my spuds im going to start the chitting process. This basically means standing the potatoes on their end with any eyes facing upwards on a tray, or anything that will keep them elevated and dry egg, boxes and seed trays are often used for this purpose. The chitting potatoes need to be left in a dry well lit and cool area, windowsills are ideal. Some people suggest that chitting doesnt benefit the growing process, but were going to do it anyway as nothing says Spring is coming that a windowsill full of seed potatoes.
When we come to planting our own potatoes were going to show you how to prepare the ground and look at some differing techniques for growing your spuds and how to care for them along the way.
Here is how us fellas here at growblogs go about sowing seeds. We’re not ones for spending frivolously on the allotment and with the average price of an onion costing us well in the £1’s last year, it was an expensive year, but many of those costs incurred in the first year were one offs or will not need replaced for many years to come. Our free from the internet shed has cost well over £200 in repairs and fixes. The raised base alone, which we hadn’t budgeted for was nearly half the total amount above.
In 2016 it’s our aim to be as economical as possible with our purchases. we’ll be attending seed swaps if we can find them and if not creating our own one on the allotment. We’ll be growing from seed wherever possible and really taking our costs down to a minimum across all areas. Any ideas you want us to go into great detail on, please let us know and we’ll put our heads together for you.
Today we’re talking about Growing from Seed or otherwise put “What is the correct method for sowing seeds”. Growing from seed is extremely cost effective especially if you are in an allotment or gardening club. Sutton seeds (http://suttons.co.uk) offer huge savings on seeds and other discounts across their product range for those in gardening clubs. This means with some careful planning you can have many years growing for very little cost.
Sowing seeds indoors allows for an early start to the season and ensures you can get a head start, especially if the weather is horrible. If you have window space, this is an easy way to get your plants started. Here’s how we sow seeds inside.
Fill seed trays 1/2 full with seed compost. Seed compost is vital here as this has a nutrient content perfect for early seed growth and development. Don’t be tempted to use normal compost as your results may not be the best. Moisten the compost, don’t soak!
Take a pinch of seeds and sprinkle them over the compost. Leave an inch or so between each seed and then add another 1/4 layer of compost on top.
If you buy a small plastic cover “propagator” to cover the seed trays, this is an inexpensive way to ensure the seeds don’t dry out. We have also had great success using sandwich bags tied with an elastic. Both should post less than a fiver.
As soon as you see seedlings emerging from the compost it’s time to remove the cover. Usually it’s best to wait until the second set of leaves grows before transplanting, fertilising or thinning.
When the plants are ready to be moved, it’s now time to consider the end goal. Plant the seeds in a pot big enough to cope with their growth until they are ready to be transplanted into the soil. We have built our own cold frame, which will be used to harden off the seedling and help them sustain their growth right up until planting. Using pallets, a free from the internet glass door and Chris’s won screws, the cold frame cost us nothing, but will help us ensure the best success for our plants.
N.B Remember all seeds are different and have different growing requirements. We always stress the importance of reading the packets for the correct growing instructions. We also take no responsibility for the growth of your seeds, no matter how awesome the results may be…
Let us know your plans for sowing seeds successfully and if you have any of your own tips to add.
Here is our guide to over wintering broad beans, check back later in the year for the results.
Back In September I read an article on the Express website titled “Coldest Winter for 50 YEARS set to bring MONTHS of heavy snow to the UK”. They warned us “Sub-zero temperatures and violent snow storms could hit as soon as late October as a freak ocean cooling in the Atlantic threatens to trigger a historic, nationwide whiteout.”
Now im no meteorologist but I do own an allotment, that means im an expert on the weather and here where I sit now in Belfast, I still haven’t seen one snowflake this side of Autumn. In fact almost daily im seeing pictures on my followers twitter feeds of veg still growing well outdoors. Brussels Sprouts are reported to have generally increased in size by a third from last year due to the unusually mild Autumn. As of Sunday the 10 Dec we still has a small pot producing delicious mixed lettuce leaves, and my friend was asking if id came across any unusual ketchup recipes because he was struggling to preserve all of his late crop of greenhouse tomatoes..
Rather stupidly I believed what I read and decided that I must get the plot ready for winter, and on a Saturday middle October I prematurely dropped my bean and pea supports, stored the bamboo canes and composted the plants which could possibly still be fruiting today.
Isint hindsight a wonderful thing. We know now that, to sow our broadbeans early November would have been the perfect time. Once again we were put off by scaremongering tales of a Winter scene C.S Lewis himself would have been proud to have described. So we held off and held off, until I decided enough was enough and I purchased some seeds and a new thermometer for the shed. I bought the seeds from Premier Seeds Direct and they arrived very quickly and look to be of great quality.
So to Over Wintering Broad Beans
Overwintering Vegetables means growing vegetables over the winter period which will often result in restricted water supply to the plant, frost and reduced sunlight. One of the main benefits of sowing before winter is that you can often expect to start harvesting the plants up to a month before those grown in the Spring. Over Over Wintering Broad Beans are also much more resistant to blackfly. Aquadulce Claudia is widely regarded to be the premier choice when it comes to Over Wintering Broad Beans , it is long podded, high yeilding, matures early and is most importantly very tasty.
The beans will be planted 3 Inches deep, 8 Inches apart in rows 18 Inches apart. I plan to plant one row half with overwintered Beans so that I can compare it with beans that I will sow in Spring.
As I had already prepared and covered my peas and beans bed for next year, the only thing I am going to lose by planting them now is the seeds themselves, and you can assure yourself that as soon as seed hits soil this Friday Jack Frost is going return with a vengeance.
So the boys here at growblogs are in the market for a polytunnel. This was a decision we made long ago but decided to hold off until the start of the next growing season to save our new purchase a harsh winter. There are many advantages to growing in a polytunnel compared to just growing in the open ground.
Growing Season – One of the main advantages of owning a polytunnel, and one that for us in particular due to our location in Northern Ireland, is the fact that you can greatly increase your growing season. It is possible to start the season from 2 – 6 weeks early, and extend it by roughly the same, dependant on location. We reckon that here in Belfast, that could give us a good 7 – 8 weeks extra growing time which will greatly increase our yield.
Temperature – The temperature inside a functioning polytunnel will be significantly greater than outside, and will vary easily. It is possible to continue growing all through the winter by introducing heat into the tunnel in various ways.
Variety – There are certain types of fruit and vegetables that are only able to be grown in greenhouses or polytunnel. Certain heat and light loving varietys would just not be possibly for me to grow without the finest of summers. Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Chillies and Courgettes all need good conditions to grow well and they just would not be an option for us to grow out doors.
Protection from weather – Polytunnels have their own micro climate and if well sealed and airtight, will keep the contents well protected from the elements.
Protection from pests – The protective film creates a barrier to the insects from your crops. However they will try everything possible to get inside and if they do find a way in, finding their way out will seem fruitless and difficult.
The only real disadvantage they we have discovered so far, is that you cant leave it up to mother nature to water your covered crops. There are ways around this with many automatic watering systems on the market and many more ingenious methods amateur gardeners have been perfecting for years.
Off to the shops.
One of the best friends to modern man is online shopping. The ability to browse countless products and have them delivered to your home all from the comfort of your pyjamas. At first when I googled “Polytunnel UK” I was slightly overwhelmed by the amount of online shops, sell many types and sizes and the greatly varying prices between some of the products. It was then that I reliased that I was gonna have to do some some research to get the most bloom for my buck.
Having spent a few hours going through all the websites and everything I could find on the subject online I came to the conclusiuon that a) there is actually very few differing products, ans b) the difference between quality and price differs greatly.
The cheaper polytunnels come with a green mesh cover as compared the the much dearer clear filmed covers.
The online sites that sell these products explain in detail the science behind the different tunnel coverings and give advice on which would be the best for your own needs.
One of the reasons why I believe there is a lack a of a good mid range polytunnel is the commitment that it takes to make the most of the tunnel. Gardening for many people can be a fly by hobby, falling into the same category as golf, fishing and many other activities of whose accessories litter roofspaces and garages throughout the country. When speaking to our fellow allotmenteers there has been countless stories of people being offered a new plot and they go at it all guns blazing for a few months, then as soon as the weather changes or the novelty has warn off, they are never to be seen again. When you receive a new plot it can very much feel like your playing catch up with your neighbours. It can be disheartening looking at a bare plot when all around you are neatly spaced rows of lettuces and gleaming greenhouses. Often the temptation could be to throw some money at the problem and purchase a cheap polytunnel to cover that bare ground and get the growing process underway. These hobbiests are unlikely to spend upwards of £800 on a polytunnel unless they are determined they are in it for the long haul.
While the smart money says “its an investment, “it will pay for itself” the best part of £1000 is a lot of money. If I knew the polytunnel was going in my garden or field where I lived it would be a lot easier parting with the money. Ive been warned about leaving valuable tools in our shed, due to thefts, that im sure occur on allotment sites all over the country. Also random acts of vandalism, that do happen, it only takes a small knife to do a lot of damage to a polythene structure, and we all know there are lots of people out there they who enjoy nothing more than spoiling other peoples fun.
Mother nature can also be a polytunnels enemy. Wind would be a particular issue. While every attempt will be made to firmly secure the tunnel accidents do happen and a particularly strong gust of wind could literally see your investment take off.
Taking all of this into consideration and at our next monthly Growblogs Directors meeting (down the pub) we will be weighing up the options do we go a) cheap and cheerful, b) costly and concerned or c) do we try and build our own like the shed which turned out, cheap and cheerful at first then turned costly and caused much concern.
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.
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.
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.
Hello Im Chris and I say this on behalf of my good friend and allotment buddy Connor, Welcome to our blog !
“Another Allotment Blog !!!” I hear you scream at you devices of choice….. Well yeah but its not just any other allotment blog, its OUR allotment blog.
“Whats the difference between this allotment blog and any other allotment blog” You hark as the veins throb on your tempels” Well the simple answer is…. we’ve got a dinosaur on our logo.
Heres a bit about me. My name is Christopher (Chris, Ging) im 31 years old, my favourite colour is purple and fav animal is an elephant. I work in construction for my fathers building firm, tho I also run my own business as an energy advisor for the domestic housing market. Im a keen fisherman love the outdoors, and love the challenge of turning things I find into useful objects or hard cash. When I was younger I was always gardening with my mother at our home, where we grew apples strawberries and peas, and my mothers love of plants. When I was at university and had my first touch at being a big boy, I realised one evening after a discussion about mortgages and a few sherries, that the rat race wasnt for me and I wanted to be one of my horticultural heroes Hugh F W, even tho at 18 I was already folically challenged. And it was while watching a show of his, Connor and myself rather drunkenly decided that if he can do it then between the pair of us we could give it a shot, and filled the form in online there and then. I think as a team we both complement each other and both bring individual skills to the partnership. We are your typical odd couple (were not a couple, connor is happily married with a beautiful new born daughter, and I while happily single will never feel alone as I know my 23 twitter followers are there for me, thnks guys x). So thats about it, please feel free to email at any time with any questions and I will do my best to asnwer, post haste.