zombies

Zombies Allotment Survival – 5 Essential Seeds

Zombie Allotment Survival – 5 Essential Seeds  

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

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

1 Oriental Greens  

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

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Pak Choi, Potatoes Strawberries Broccoli and Kale

2. Beans

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

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

 

3 – Kale

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

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Curly kale

4 – Berries

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

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Strawberries

5 – Potatoes

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

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Spuds
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Purdys

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

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

 

 

 

 

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 !

Allotment Update June 2016

Hello growfans, you may have noticed that we havnt blogged in a long time, truth be told we have both been very busy. We havnt neglected the plot tho. While I sat in France during some of their worst flooding in recent times, back home in Belfast from what ive heard,and from a few dodgy looking tan lines, I believe it was almost tropical. Everything started to grow massively, espically the weeds and you know what they say “1 week away, takes two weeks to catch up” in fact I dont know if people say that, its just how long it took me, so you heard it first here folks.

Just these last few days have we started to sample the goodness from all the hard work with, out first harvests of broad beans, and kohlrabi. Im going to do as separate blog about the kohlrabi, as I was experimenting and made a                                                                                     slaw I was particularly pleased with. 2016-06-12 11.09.09

The potatoes must have grown about 1 foot in a week, and are now far too tall and starting to fallover in places. The first earlies look strongest, and fingers cross some of the growth had been used underground growing some fat tubers. They have just flowered so  roughly 3 weeks from   now they will be ready to eat.

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When the potatoes are fully dug up and devoured, ive decided to use the space for growing fruit, and im putting in some canes, of variety’s that work well with alcohol, sloe berries, gooseberries and one im particularly looking forward too, one all Ikea shoppers will know, Lingon berries.

The strawberries are starting to ripen, and I will be putting down a layer of hay soon, to stop the heavy strawberries rotting on the damp ground, and helping to protect them from pests.

The legumes bed is growing strongly with all the peas and beans growing nicely. 2016-06-12 11.13.37 I also have a few quick cropping salad vegetables growing in this same bed. Firstly butterhead lettuce and pak choi. As I thin out the seedlings im potting them up to plug any gaps or to simply fill up space and maximise my yield. These also made great little gifts as they will grow enough to eat in the small pots they are in, or are easily transplanted into a flower bed.

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We realise that the blog was unavailable for a period of time and for this we apologise, we will be working hard on the technical aspects of the blog, including how it shows on android and ios devices.

Lets hope we get back to the good weather soon, and I can top up my farmers tan, and watch my dinner grow.

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 ?