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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 !

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    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.
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    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.

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    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.

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    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. 

 

 

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?

Success Failures 2016

Autumn 2016

Our wee plot !
Growblogs Plot

You can never rely on Irish (Happy Cas ?) weather in Autumn, to be consistent from year to year. But there is one thing that you can rely on, and that is the trees will put on a fiery display of orange and brown leaves, and the wind will do its best to help them to the ground.

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One thing we missed out on last year, and a great way to reduce costs and produce an excellent, helpful product is to create leaf-mould. This essentially means to make compost from the leaves that have fallen from the trees. This process is started in Autumn, naturally when the leaves are ready to fall. We will be collecting as many fallen leaves as possible and treating them like normal compost. We will be keeping the leaf mould in a large Hessian builders sack beside our compost bins, on site for easy access, and so that we can check and turn the compost when needed. The end quality of the compost will be determined by the quality and type of leaves added to the compost. The most desirable leaves are beech or oak as they break down easily and produce a good quality compost. Conifer Needles may take up to 3 years to break down completely and pine needles should be avoided as they produce an acidic end compost.

While overall the plot is starting to look a little bare, our Autumn veg are doing well. We are consistently feeding and weeding our Autumn veg to give them the very best chance of doing well.

Autumn veg bed
Autumn veg bed

Our pointed sweethearts have recovered well after an attack from Cabbage White Caterpillars, and are forming nice large pointed heads.

I have also now thinned the beetroot out to their final growing positions, allowing enough space in between plants to grow the beets to the size I desire. I transplanted some of the stronger plants that I thinned out as a bit of an experiment to see if they would take, and also to use up some bare ground.

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Curly kale

Curly Kale, is an absolute delight to grow and one of the best tasting and versatile veg in the kitchen. Kale is often at its best from late September until February, so now is the perfect time to start harvesting and reaping the benefits of this high protein and fiber rich, super food.

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Carrots

We have never really made a proper attempt to grow conventional looking supermarket carrots. The past few years our carrots have been consistently poor. Not great tasting and terrible shapes. Once again the carrots have been an after though in fact more of a gap filler. We had space at the top of the fruit bed and transplanted about 20 carrot seedlings. As yet, they havnt been decimated by carrot fly and at the surface seem to be doing well, so we never know we might get a fluke crop for our Christmas dinner.

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Strawberries with seperate runners in pots.

Our second batch of Autumn strawberries are now starting to fruit, which will give Conor a chance to place with his new birthday present a strawberry slicer ( I know.. thats what mates are for). We have also been busy potting up strawberry runners to increase our strawberry stocks as they are certainly a plot favourite.

What are you growing this Autumn ?, we would love to hear from you in the comments.

July Holiday Washout ! 2016

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GrowBlogs Allotment

Having my annual July holiday week, I thought I would use the good weather to get ahead of myself, and to give the plot a really good tidy up and weeding. Normally this time of year, I spend a lot of time making sure that all my crops are well watered, but this year there has been no need. It has rained everyday for the past few weeks with few sunny intervals. While not ideal at all, most of the crops are doing well, and we are recording good temperatures in the greenhouse.

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Some July Produce

July for the vegetable grower is a busy, but bountiful month. Plenty of crops to harvest, rows of spuds still nestling in the soil, hedgerows full of berries and the delightful bright red strawberries, poking from under the luscious green leaves, means that summer is well and truly upon us. There are a few gaps starting to appear in a few of the beds, mainly in the brassica bed. The romanesco cauliflower, while producing massive leaves failed to form a head. The broccoli “green calabrese” grew really well and were delicious, and we are still harvesting the kohlrabi, kale and are fingers crossed for the two massive red cabbages “red drum head”dominating the bed.

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Brassica Bed

Its time to start planning autumn and winter veg, and whats going to be on the plate for this years Christmas dinner. I transplanted some carrots “Rainbow F1”which had been started in a pot, to the bed beside the rhubarb. I also sowed some of the same seed in a deep container to compare the difference.

Something new to me and the plot, that we are trying for the first time this year is Radicchio “palla rossa precoce”. They have been described to me as a mix between a lettuce and a cabbage, with a tangy slightly bitter flavour, which grows particularly well this time of year. They are better sown directly where they are to mature. Seedlings normally show 1- 2 weeks after sowing, weather dependant, and plants normally reach maturity around 60 – 70 days also weather dependant and is harvested whole like an iceberg lettuce.

Thinking ahead and trying your best to time when to harvest your crops, and to replenish the ground and plant out new crops, is not easy but something which is important to maintain a continuous supply of fresh fruit and vegetables. To fill the gap where we were had previously grown the broccoli, I had already started some Autumn cabbage seeds “Pointed Sweethearts” that I will soon be hardening off and planting out. I have also made another sowing of Kale seeds as its been a firm favourite this year and im starting to get the room for a few more plants.

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Autumn Cabbage Seedlings
This month we sowed the last of our crops for the greenhouse, our gherkins “F1 Adam”. I started the seedlings in a heated propagator, to maintain a consistent temperature. Then when the seedlings started to form their first true leaves I potted them on into their individual pots. They are currently residing in a mini greenhouse, in my sunny South east facing bay window and are doing well.

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Gherkin Seedlings Adam F1
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First tomato of 2016
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First pepper 2016

One thing that we had been lacking up at our plot was a permanent compost bin, and we were using builders sacks to store our vegetable waste and

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Gherkin Seedlings Adam F1
materials. While not easy to turn the compost over, and sticking out like a sore thumb in a rather nice overgrown end of the allotment, they had to go! So I got some long screws a few old wooden pallets and some left over wood and banged this together. Its defiantly not going to win any architectural awards or fans on pinterest , but its sturdy and serves a purpose and has tidied up, which was a rather ugly end of the plot we dont like to talk about.

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New Compost Bin
Till next time grow fans when hopefully we will be starting to harvest our maincrop peas.

Peas Out !

Greenhouse Construction, Proper Job !

 

GrowGaff MK1
GrowGaff MK1

 

The greenhouse is complete and not a minute too soon. We ordered and cut to size, the panels for the greenhouse, we used 9mm clear PVC, while not cheap, it is strong and will with stand even the hardiest of thugs, hurled stones.

Greenhouse glazing
Glazing the Greenhouse

I had been growing some tomatoes and peppers in the bay window of my flat, to get them started to move to the greenhouse, upon completion. Unfortunately due too the of the delay completing the greenhouse, they were starting to outstay their welcome. Basically they were touching the ceiling and taking up at least 1/4 of my living space. Then came moving day and we realised that they were to tall to fit in Conors van. Out came the secateurs and off with their heads. This was unfortunate as we lost alot of the few flowers that we had. When moved into the greenhouse I was sure a good spout of sun, would soon have them back to their best and well… im still waiting on that sun.

Greenhouse

 

The flowers on the peppers are doing much better, probably due too the natural pollination from the insects that they were being starved off while situated within my fat, and were lucky as there seems to be a good population of bees hanging around our plots this year. In fact just this evening as I was doing a bit of watering that I noticed the first 3 peppers, on separate plants starting to grow, so it will be important to keep well watered and fed weekly.

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Pepper Plant Starting to Pepper
After 3 failed attempts to germinate successful sweetcorn, with just a measly 1 out of 36 successfully hitting the surface, I eventually gave in and had to buy some plug plants. Im not against this at all, but I was trying to do a whole season without. The main reason I prefer to grow from seed is simply the cost, plug plants can be dear which is why I was delighted to see this many healthy Sweet Corn “Hanna” for £1.50 on sale at Homebase. Whilst going to be a bit behind, im going to place the plugs under cloches when they have been properly hardened off and when the weather has turned in my favour.

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King Edward Left, Maris Piper Light

We have started to harvest our potatoes, with the main crops we lifted the poorest looking plant from each variety, and while the sizes of the spuds was poor the amount and quality were good so we have decoded to leave them another week or two and hope for better weather. Our first earlies, Pentland Javeline and Aaran Pilot, while also disappointing in yield made up for in taste. This will all come in a potato summary when were finished with the main crop.

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Pentland Javelin Left, Aaran Pilot Right
This past week ive been fortunate enough to have had some free time and we are well caught up on major tasks, which has given my brain time to wonder and start too look for improvements that were going to make to the plot. With all the good stalks,roots and discarded elements of the veg that we are consuming, starting to pile up we think its important that we set up a proper compost solution. We had to bring in a lot of compost and manure this year to improve our ground, and these are products that we can make ourselves, with a bit of hard word, and help get us on our way to self sufficiency.

Kohlrabi & Kohlrabi coleslaw recipe

Kohlrabi.

What is kohlrabi ?

Kohlrabi is a member of the brassica family, and is also known as the German cabbage or the turnip cabbage. They are an annual vegetable, and are edible cooked or raw. Kohlrabi boasts many health benefits and is a rich source of vitamin C.

This year was my first year of growing Kohlrabi, in fact I hadnt even tasted it before, but last year one half of Growblogs was blessed with a beautiful baby girl called Olivia, and the other half became a proud uncle. While strolling through Mr. Fothergill’s fantastic seed catalog I noticed the Kohl Rabi Olivia F1 and knew we had to give it a go. So far this year it has definitely been our first success story, so much in fact I already have another batch started in a different bed.

 

 

Kohlrabi Seedlings
Kohlrabi Seedlings

We started off our kohlrabi seedlings indoor on a sunny ledge in a mini indoor greenhouse. The seeds were sown two at at time into individual sets, with the weaker of the two being pricked out, usually anywhere between 1 and 3 weeks after sowing, depending on conditions. When the seedlings have established a good strong root system, and making sure that if they were started off growing indoors, that they are properly hardened off and aclimatised to their future outdoor final positions.

 

It’s possible for them to be started, between February and Mar indoors and May and July outdoors. If planting directly into the ground outdoors, sow roughly 1/2” deep in rows, and when fully established, should be thinned out to roughly 6” to 8” between plants to allow for mature growth.

Like most members of the cabbage family, kohlrabi are susceptible to cabbage root fly attacking the base of the young plants. This is why we provide each of the individual plants with plastic collars and their very own pet stone, for company.

 

Kohlrabi
Kohlrabi Juvenile plants

 

Olivia F1 is a fast growing, disease resistant beautiful looking plant, and has a sweet flavor and crispy flesh. Making it the perfect accompaniment to any BBQ in the form of my extra awesome Kohlrabi coleslaw.

So here goes it folks my first recipe. Im no food writer, in fact im no any writer and I think thats pretty obvious, but whilst I may not know my way around Microsoft word, one place I certainley feel at home is in the kitchen.

Food processors are coleslaw fans best friends, making a tedious task, done in seconds allowing more time to get the combos of amounts and seasonings correct, it is possible to prepare the veg with a good sharp knife or a mandolin but who is going to risk their pinky tips when the whizzer (food processor) will do it better and quicker… so heres what you need

  • 1 kohlrabi (skinned)
  • 1 large or 2 medium carrots
  • 1 red onion
  • ½ cabbage either white or red (the red makes it look dead fancy)
  • cider vinegar
  • mayonnaise
  • ½ an orange
  • wholegrain musdtard
  • salt and pepper to season to taste

Remove stalks and skin of the onion,kohlrabi and cabbage,peel the carrots and plug in the food processor. Slice the kohlrabi and cabbage and grate the onion and carrots to provide different textures. Once everything is cut, put into a big bowl and give it a good mix up and add enough mayonnaise and mustard to provide a generous but not over powering amount. Mix in 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar and the juice of half an orange. Add salt and pepper to taste.. et voila.

Kohlrabi Coleslaw
Kohlrabi Coleslaw

So simply and so delicious and when your getting quizzed on the ingredients it gives you a great excuse to get your phone out and show off photos of your own Kohlrabi patch.

If you have any great kohlrabi recipes please drop us a message as we would love to make the most of this great vegetable.

Pest Protection – Protecting Your Crops

Pest Protection

Net Collage

When it comes to protecting your fruit or vegetables from pests there are a few important questions to ask, before deciding on the best method.

What Fruit/Vegetables am I trying to protect, and what are the most likely pests, that will be attracted to them ?

Different crops will attract different pests, and its important to be aware when and what is likely to attack your food. Its important to have a grasp of the local wildlife, in the surrounding area where you grow your crops. If you are growing in the countryside, then you are going to face a much more diverse group of pests, than someone who is growing in say, an inner city urban balcony. I have read blogs about people In England/Wales having to defend their produce from large animals like deer, badgers and moles from devouring or demolishing crops. Thankfully the largest animal I have had to chase from the plot was a Grey Lag Goose that was making light work of my neighbors lettuce. If you have just gained a new plot and you are unsure what pests you are likely going to have to defend your crops against, then you should take a good walk around, and have a look at others peoples plots, and see what means of protection they have undertaken. You should also get chatting and talk to other plot holders, as they will keep you up to date about what has been lurking in the area. In fact just by talking to a few of the more attentive plot holders I like to call the the “PlotFlys” in the nicest possible terms, that we have a bit of a rat problem at the plots at present. By getting together and informing the council who run the allotments, and taking some precautions ourselves hopefully we will be able to eradicate the problem before the main harvest.

 

The most persistent pests that I will have to deal with can be split into 3 different animal classes – Birds, Insects and Mammals. In this blog I am going to describe the methods I am using to protect my veg, and as my plot evolves and as I start to grow different vegetables and fruit trees I will keep updating this page.

Birds will eat many different types of vegetables, ive seen ducks destroy patches of lettuce in minutes and pigeons strip strawberry plants and raspberry canes bare. One of my raised beds is half filled with strawberry plants and they recovered well after the winter and are now flowering. The other half has some rhubarb and an early crop of spinach, which when harvested will mainly be used for salad crops, lettuce, beetroot etc. The two main pests that I will need to provide protection against, on this bed will be birds and slugs. When protecting against birds the best way is to build a cage or use protective nets. There are many ingenious ways I have seen being used on allotment using many different products and techniques. Here are a few different methods that we have used, that seem popular with other growers.

  • Half Loop Method – This basically means using any materials to build an arch over a vegetable bed then draping a protective net over it. Materials often used for this product are plumbing pipe, which are ideal as the plastic pipe comes in coils and are already the correct shape and easy to cut, and will never weather as they water proof. To attach the semi hoops to the beds I simply took a hammer and flattened one end before screwing the ends firmly into the raised beds.2016-05-05 17.13.23 Its important at this stage to remember to leave enough room to allow yourself to be able to lean in and be able to work the ground. When the protective nets have been placed over the frame there are many different ways to attach and hold the nets in position, popular methods include tent pegs, weighing the nets down taught with stoned, purpose built pipe clips or cable ties, basically whatever will do the job.

 

 

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  • Cage – Well this basically means building or creating a structure and covering it with whatever material is needed to complete the job. This first cage I created I am going to use for keeping birds and small mammals from getting at the seedlings. Until the seedlings are well established and to increase the temperature and help protect them from the frost, slugs and snails I will be planting the seedlings under plastic bottle cloches. I made this from a wooden frame basically as it was going cheap and I knew I could have used it for something. It was built to the height of the chicken wire to maximize height.

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  • Flexi Ball/Bamboo Structure – What can I say about Flexiballs apart while not being the cheapest product, are very easy to work with and very time efficient. Flexiballs are designed to work with bamboo canes or metal piping. They are perfect for net protection and they provide a smooth corner for dragging the protective layer over without damaging the net, which makes them easy to maneuver and install by one person.

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There are many products that you can buy straight off the shelves that will provide protection for your crops. Some that I find useful are the prefabricated netting tunnels. I so far this year have used these to protect some broad beans from frost.2016-03-20 13.30.57 I will also use them when I plans out my peas, until they get them well established. The only real disadvantage to these protective nets is that they do cut out some of the sunlight for hungry seedlings.

Another vital tool, that I just would not be able to cope without, is slug pellets. Whilst these pellets are not the naturalists favorite product, they are essential for us who are not able to attend the plot every evening to pick slugs and snails by hand. Beer and larger traps are often advisable too, when the rain comes after along dry spell and you can guarantee, that the slugs and snails will be out in force, with hungry slimy bellies.

Have you seen any ingenious methods of pest protection around your allotment site, or are you a master scarecrow maker? Or do you just know someone, who has a face that would keep even the hungriest of gastropods of your iceberg lettuces. If so please send us a photo or email us with your ideas ?

Allotment Etiquette, Sure its nice to be nice !

allotment etiquette
Our Plot

Allotment Etiquette

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.Weeding the Allotment

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.

Coldframe
Coldframe