Early Sowing

I didn’t think I’d get to the allotment this weekend but while I was in the park, trying to squeeze in a long run for my half marathon training, it struck me what a great gardening day it was. Didn’t take much for me to cut the run short and head off to the plot.

Beauty and the Beast

What a lovely day, plenty of signs of spring, vibrant colours bursting out of the soil.

My legs were aching a bit too much for digging (I’m full of excuses) but I did do something productive – seed sowing has commenced! I know I am way too early but I’m working on a tip off from my Dad who has suggested I might get away with an early batch of spring onions, radish and greyhound cabbage.

My early broad beans and peas have quite a spacious row between them so I’m trying to utilise the cosy spot under the cloche for bringing on the seedlings. Hopefully the existing crops will provide some protection for my seeds and not grow so quickly that they turn in to the neighborhood bullies.

January Sowing

I left with another sack of rocket. It’s starting to taste very strong though and I’m not such a fan of bitter salad leaves so I may check out some cooked arugula recipes, I’m bound to be able to do something pasta related.

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Leaf Feast

Not a great weekend for allotment pottering but I can enjoy a cup of tea in a nice dry shed even on the worst of days.

The ground was too wet to dig which is a bit of nuisance as there is only a smallish patch left to complete. I opted instead to do weed tickling but this was half-hearted, I am not convinced of the usefulness of hoeing weeds when its damp – you just end up transplanting them in clumps.

Sack o Salad

The 7-year old rocket is beginning to look as though it has run its course, so I took the shears to part of it and came back with this sack load.

Along with an early plucking of onions I think I have the makings of a fine leaf feast.

There are signs of spring approaching around the pond, the primulas have gaudy red buds and the hellebore (planted at Christmas) is already flowering. I wonder when the frogs are going to move in.

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Log Making

It was a bit soggy on the plot today but I spent a couple of hours in the shed, drinking tea, giving myself a headache with the meths fumes and making a recycled paper brick. I’m pretty impressed with the logmaker, I got it from ebay (ekomania) for about £17 and its a sturdy machine.

Here’s the logmaking process in montage:

Logmaking

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Cuppa Char Anyone?

Room of Ones Own

I woke this morning with plans of allotment pottering on a slightly more sophisticated level than I managed yesterday. I still wasn’t feeling on top form so my plans centred mostly around my new chair and dreams of a hot steaming mug of tea.

My mug of choice was A Room of One’s Own – Virginia Woolf, so apt for the shed I think, and my stirrer is a little family heirloom from my Gran.

However, these were just dreams. I actually woke to an email from a freecyclist offering me a gift of a 9ft extendable ladder. Now as I’m in need of a ladder to apply some roofing felt to the shed I was very happy to take him up on his offer, but herein started a 2.5 hour challenge to claim the goodies.

The ladders lay 6 miles to the west of me, an easy enough cycle but it was quite an ordeal to lug them back. My trusty revolution cargo trailer proved its worth again though and really took the weight off me. Most of the route was along the thankfully straight dual carriageway – it is understandably tricky to steer a rigid 9ft bike around tight bends.

06012008046

I was knackered by the time I arrived on the plot, so stopped for the first in a long line of cuppas. After this essential revival, I started on the roofing task.

Applying roofing felt is quite tricky, I made a fair old mess of it all and am choosing not to illustrate the point as its too embarrassing. I even had a barracking from someone waiting on the train platform opposite, who informed me I had put it on upside down. He’s probably right. I daubed the edges with bitumen paint so it should do the trick anyway.

Talking of bitumen, I met my closest plot neighbour today, seems we keep missing each other. Anyway she was just passing by with her kids to pick up something from her shed and popped over to introduce herself. We shook hands and I’m afraid she left covered in the black tar that had somehow spread itself across my palm. I know how to win friends and influence people!

Bird Box

Just before the day ended I started on another task. I have a stack of wood offcuts lying around that either littered the plot when I took it on, or came with the freebie shed. I’ve had my eye on one of the planks for a bird box.

Rather like the roofing task, I rather botched this one as well, cutting the base too short. Still, I was able to wing it by substituting the roof. I then fashioned a new roof with some extra thin ply, covered it in an offcut of roofing felt and bashed nails in liberally.

I was at the bashing stage, feeling rather hopeless about the future of the box when a little Robin came and settled on the doorstep of my shed and watched my progress for a while.

I hope he comes and lives there.

*UPDATE*

I’ve just found what appears to be the definitive guide to designing bird boxes for specific species and it informs me that Robins like open fronted boxes, not tiny squeeze threw hole boxes. Maybe I’ll make another one just for my digging pal. It also looks like I might need to enlarge the hole a touch, at the moment it is 22mm but it seems that even tits like a minimum of 25mm.

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New Garden Centre Opens

New Garden Centre Opens

The seed order has arrived on the plot and it looks like I might have gone a tad overboard.

Having laid the exciting little packets out on the bench I was tempted to throw a sign up on the front door of the shed and declare my very own garden centre well and truly open.

Where the heck is all that lot going to go?

I’ve developed a bit of a head cold over the last few days so I only planned to do a little pottering today. Ended up buying a bargain foldaway chair from Homebase (£7) on the way down so my couple of hours pottering turned into a couple of hours reading the paper in the shed. A hot cup-a-tea wouldn’t have gone amiss but other than that I think I have this gardening malarkey pretty much sussed.

Log making Step 1

After finishing with the paper I tore it up, along with the cardboard from the chair, chucked in a few of my manky tissues for good luck, stirred them up in a bucket of drain water and left to soak into pulp. I’ve just ordered a cheap logmaker from ebay so the pulp is to make my own recycled paper logs. Apparently they make pretty good firestarters and it is certainly satisfying to see all your junk mail go up in flames.

I don’t have an open fire at home but I need something substantial and hopefully flammable to get a good roaring fire going on the plot, the couch grass roots just don’t seem to incinerate that well on their own. If they work out well, I’ll make loads and offer them up on freecycle, minus the manky tissues of course.

Muck spreading

Just before I left the plot I managed to stir myself to do a bit of muck spreading. Five of these sacks didn’t seem to go that far but I’m sure the spuds will appreciate what little I can offer. I don’t think we can get deliveries of the loose stuff on our plot which is a shame as I think my Dad managed to get a couple of tonnes of the stuff for the price I paid for my sacks.

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Free Lights – Amnesty

Next weekend sees London’s first light bulb amnesty.

Apparently you can take up to two traditional light bulbs into any London B&Q store between the 11-13th January 2008 and get them replaced for free with a couple of long lasting, energy efficient bulbs.

Not a bad offer I think. Check out details at london.gov.uk/lightbulbs

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New Year, New Structure

There’s been stacks of progress over the New Year break and I’m sitting here at the end of the day with a labor intensive back ache. Good job I’m going back to work tomorrow, I need a rest!

I popped into a garden centre on my way back to London yesterday and I was tempted by yet another variety of potato – Kerrs Pink. This cultivar is now 100 years old and much favoured by the Scots and the Irish who ought to know a thing or two about spuds.

Climbing Bean Support

The potting bench in the shed is now laden with chitting potatoes, I’m digging like crazy to clear enough space to house them and I’m left wondering where the heck I am going to put the rest of my planned crops. Which brings me to the rather impressive structure in the photo. It’s my space saving, climbing bean/sweet pea support structure.

It seems that most plot holders here grow their beans as a fencing crop and it strikes me as a great way to squeeze in a whole family without having to set aside a specific bed. I don’t think they will cast much shade (at least not on my plot) and may even benefit the remaining crops by providing some wind protection and by discouraging the fox from running through.

Digging has proved to be painfully slow. I’m dealing with the patch in front of the shed, which the previous occupant had formed into a long ridge. There have been a couple of similar ridges across the plot, one of these comprised numerous mango pips buried in the ridge and covered with layers of newspaper. This one appears to contain nothing but couch grass roots, it’s so dense in there that not even soil has managed to find its way in. It is so tough to dig, I can get my fork in but can’t get it back out. I’m having to loosen the whole ridge and then go back over and peel it back like a decaying, detritus covered roll of axminster. No wonder my back hurts.

I had cleared quite a bit of the weed pile yesterday by bagging it up and tipping it but its mountainous again today. I had to shift it to a new location so that I can dig under it, maybe with all this turning it will rot down in to a perfect pile of compost. Not that I’d ever dare use it.

New Year Scene

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