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.

September 2016

Septembers harvest 2016

Allotment, growing, growyourown, grow, horticulture, vegetables, food, produce, harvest, purple beans, beans, peppers, pepper, aubregine, orange pepper, yellow pepper, bell pepper, courgette, yellow courgette, beetroot, kale nreo di tosca, september
Septembers harvest 2016

Whilst September may be one of the most bountiful months, often with some of the most prized and colourful vegetables, a plenty, it also has its down side. For someone who has spent as much time, planning and preparing their growing season, there is that inevitable feeling every vegetable Gardner dreads , and that is that its time to start winding up the garden for the year.

Our maincrop peas and mange tout, which excelled for us so well throughout the summer, have provided us their last pods. With the freezer full of our pea harvest, all ready for Christmas dinner, we took down the cane supports, stored for winter and composted the plants. When we had cleared all of the peas plants away, it was clear that we weren’t the only fans of our peas, and we reckon a wee mouse or two was using our pea plants as a B&B.

sep6
Cleared raised bed

Tomatoes “Gardeners Delight”

When we cleared the plants away it was time to decide, do we sow green manure in preparation for next season, or do we replenish the nutrients in the ground and try and get a late crop. Ever the optimists we did a late sowing, of mixed salad leaves, lambs lettuce and pak choi, all of which are hardier and faster cropping vegetables that may well just, with a bit of help from mother nature get us a late stir fry or salad.

toms
Tomatoes “Gardeners Delight”

We have reduced the amount of watering in the greenhouse, to just keeping the plants moist to try and encourage the ripening of the fruits, and have stopped feeding the tomatoes and cucubrits with tomato feed completely. You would be surprised the amount of people who don’t realise that green, yellow orange and red peppers are all the same fruit just at different stages of ripening.

sep5
My One and Only Aubergine/Eggplant
sep4
Bell Peppers Ripening

Our courgettes, gherkins and Jack Be little Pumpkins were hit hard with what I believe to be a case of the powdery mildews. This is a white powdery coating that covers the leaved and suffocates the plants. It is a fungal disease that attacks the foliage and stems of the plants. As there appears to be no sprays or miracle cures for this disease on edible plants, and with it being too late to take the advice to mulch and thin out the plants, I decided to cut back all the major infected stems and leaved and dispose off away from our compost.

sep7
Pumpkins and Courgettes attacked by fungal “Powdery Mildew”

 

This should give me enough time and hopefully with the good leaves left enough time to ripen, all of the many fruits on the plants. One of the bonuses of cutting back all the foliage was uncovering a yellow courgette plant that I had forgot about, which im loving the colour for cooking with. I think it might have been the climbing variety that I never actually managed to get to climb this year. So there’s the first of my next seasons resolutions, im going to have a beautiful arch of yellow climbing courgettes.

caterpillars

Our Autumn Cabbages got attacked by Caterpillars and while we are not an organic plot, I dont like the idea of spraying food that I am going to eat, so I decided to employ gorilla tactics to combat these critters. Basically they got put in a coffee cup and driven to a warehouse somewhere never to be heard off again… ill say no more. Thankfully plants are resilient and it looks like we will be eating our pointed sweethearts after all.

sep3
Autumn Winter veg

Over the winter when the plot is going to be a bit more quiet, we plan to release many more instructional blogs, and maybe a few videos to help explain things, that we would have found useful had it been explained to us at the beginning of our growing fun. I also don’t know if its just here in Belfast, but the growing bug seems to be spreading and im being inundated from friends looking advice or help to start their own vegetable patches, and im only more than willing to help, as I know how happy our plot makes us.

sep8
Marketmore Cucumbers

Peas out ! Growfans 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

20160705_170610[1]
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.

20160703_151216[1]
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.

20160626_110247[1]
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.

Mid April Update

Mid April 2016 Updateseedlings collage

Whilst being a firm believer in “A little rain never hurt anyone” there are some jobs that are impossible or just plain, too dangerous to do in wet conditions. It has not stopped raining in Belfast for nearly 2 full weeks now, and our plot is very muddy and slippery underfoot, in some areas. Both of our water butts are full to the brim. We are planning to put some wood-chip bark down to help with this, and also to help suppress the weeds and grass between our raised beds.

I am also in the process of erecting a new greenhouse and want to build a good solid and level base for the structure. The greenhouse will be sitting on a slope, so I will dig out and drop the back end before laying a weed-proof membrane. I will then level the ground and lay flag stones on a level bed of quarry dust, and point the joints by brushing in a concrete and sand mix. I will walk you through this when I finally get a dry day to do the work, its planned for this weekend.

2016-04-05 17.13.21
Potato Drills

I finally decided that the ground has warmed enough, due to the first signs of the upcoming war every gardener starts to face this time of year, and your clean worked ground starts to fill up with countless variety’s of weeds. Having managed to get a couple of dry hours one evening after work, we dug drills for the spuds lined with some well rotted manure, and laid the potatoes out to their correct spacing’s. See our potato blog. Potato

We are also busy looking after our many variety’s of seedlings, growing in their various containers. Due to the dull, overcast days, some of the seedlings had started to get a bit leggy so I was making sure to bury them as deep as I could when I was transplanting them to larger pots. I’ve been growing my seedlings in a few different ways this year, mainly because the greenhouse is not yet ready. My main light source in my flat, is an easterly facing bay window, while not ideal, it is still able to produce strong seedlings when blessed with good weather. To give the seedlings every advantage that I could, I purchased a small mini 4 tier greenhouse that I planned to keep my seedling in. I raised the mini greenhouse to the height of the window to maximize light exposure, and place all my pots and sets in watered trays to keep the seeds well watered. On warm days you can see the condensation on the inside and the seedlings seem to be doing very well. Temperature differences to come when new thermometer arrives. I also purchased a small heated propagator, for the particularly heat loving seeds, mainly peppers and chilies. Both seedlings planted on the same date, in both the heated propagator and the mini greenhouse seem to be growing very evenly so we will see when it comes to looking at their roots.

2016-04-07 20.29.29

Fingers crossed that the weather turns soon, and we can get a couple of good full days working hard, to get the now overdue greenhouse up, and get it working for us.

Coldframe Construction – Building One Yourself, DIY

coldframe construction
Finished Product

Coldframe Construction

This weekend in the midst of hurricane Desmond battering Belfast, I took to the blogs and to twitter to connect with some other allotment folk and to introduce our blog to them. Chris on the other hand got stuck in and built our very first Coldframe construction.

The wood primarily came from pallets and floorboards which had been salvaged. We are very keen to recycle as much materials as possible. The door with the glass was pulled of a skip (with the owners permission) last summer with the intention of constructing a coldframe. The only part of the structure that we had to pay for were the hinges, even the screws were free as Chris won them on a scratch card after making a purchase at Tradepoint at B & Q.

Last year Chris’s kitchen and living room windows were covered from top to bottom in sprouting seeds he had begun to grow indoors. However when it came time to plant them out, we got hit with a cold snap and months of work had been ruined overnight. it was then we agreed that making a Coldframe construction to keep our seedlings safe in the process of hardening them off for outdoor planting, was a good idea.

 

coldframe construction
Materials Used

 

coldframe construction
Coldframe Construction

Our process for hardening off seedlings will follow something like this to ensure we gradually introduce them to the elements

  1. Place seedlings into the coldframe construction to protect them from strong sunlight, potential frosty nights and less-frequent watering. This will take approximately 1 week
  2. As the temperatures start to rise, we’ll open the cold frame roof for a small time of approx 2-3 hours of sun. Another 2-3 days.
  3. Increasing the time the seedlings are exposed to the elements but closing the lid as and when more serious weather systems come into play – 1 more week

Transplanting the seedlings into the ground when they have successfully hardened off will give us the best chance of growing from seed, something Chris and I are very happy about as the cost savings will be huge.

coldframe construction
Coldframe