Plot Notes

A personal journal, open for the world to read, recording the progress of a novice allotmenteer on his allotment.



Weed it and reap.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Gone with the wind

This is the greenhouse frame which I erected on Sunday afternoon:-

This is what I found when I came home from work tonight:-

It looks like we have had a bit of a storm blow through today. The allotment is like a swamp and, as you can see my, pride and joy, greenhouse frame is now a tangled mess of aluminium sections. I did notice as I put it up on Sunday that there was one cross member missing from the back of the frame and a couple of the nuts could not be tightened up as they just spun around on the bolts when I tried to tighten them up. I had planned to fit a cross member this weekend and replace the faulty nuts and bolts and then fix it to a base frame. The greenhouse seemed quite secure when I left it but I can only assume that the structural integrity was compromised by the missing strut and the loose nuts and the wind today took advantage of that. 

I was a bit pressed for time before it went dark tonight so I haven't been able to examine the full extent of the damage but hopefully it will be salvageable.

My 10 Grapevines arrived last night and I need to get them planted this weekend so I went up to the plot after work today to dig holes ready for planting. I put a dollop of manure and a scoop of slow release plant food into each hole and then covered it lightly with soil. I will stand the vines in a bucket of water for 24 hours and then plant them in the holes this weekend. However I am a little bit concerned that the site does not seem to be very well draining. It is like quicksand in some parts. In the picture below it is not easy to distinguish my planting holes from my deep sunken welly prints. I will just have to wait and see if the vines take to it.
Hopefully the swampy conditions and greenhouse damage will prove to be only minor set-backs. Everything seemed to be going so well last weekend. The composting boxes arrived;  I collected a nice pile of well rotted pony poo with assistance from Lucy; I also planted three rows of first early Duke of York potatoes.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Greenhouse

I have been keenly following second-hand greenhouses on ebay for the last 3 or 4 months but I have had no success with my bids. I suppose it is because I am too tight. Last week someone asked if I had tried Freegle. I had never heard of it. I had previously attempted to register with Freecycle, which is a similar kind of group, but the moderators of my local group at Doncaster rejected my application for some unexplained reason.

These groups have the objective of keeping reusable items out of landfill sites. They put people with things to throw away in touch with others who might be able to make use of those things.

On Friday evening I was accepted by the Scunthorpe Freegle group  http://www.ilovefreegle.org/ . I posted a message saying I was on the lookout for a greenhouse. Later that night I was offered a greeenhouse (without glass) by Lee, a Freegler, who lives about 8 miles away from me. I have been to dismantle and collect the greenhouse this morning. It is a beauty. 8ft x 6ft aluminium frame, manufactured by Eden. Best of all it was free!

I will re-assemble the greenhouse frame on the plot this afternoon. Now I need to source some glass or polycarbonate sheets. I will probably end up buying the glass but I can't complain about that given the money I have saved on the frame.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Chips with everything

The raised beds have not yet materialised but we have had a delivery of wood-chips to the allotment site. I have taken some for the path between my plot and Tony's plot, my neighbour to the North. Each plot-holder is responsible for the path to the North side of their plot.

For my wedding anniversary last year my wife sent me out to the garage to see the present she had parked in there for me. It was a fabulous two-wheeler in British racing green. Today seemed like a perfect day to get it out of the garage for the first time and to take it for a spin up to the allotments. If you look carefully you might catch a glimpse of it in a couple of the photos below.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Plots and Plans

I went up to the plot on Sunday morning to mark out positions for the raised beds to be installed by the site contractor this week. The whole allotment site looked pristine with the new layer of topsoil. I got the feeling I get when I see a large area of newly fallen snow; torn between not wanting to disturb the surface whilst at the same time feeling a childish urge to run around and roll about in it.
I resisted the temptation to lay down and make a soil angel and I set about the task of marking out the bed positions whilst a gang of local tearaways, in bovver wellies and armed with swords, marched up and down the plot boundary to compact the ground in readiness for a delivery of wood chippings to make a path.
There was debate amongst neighbouring plot-holders as to whether it would be preferable to have beds running North/South or East/West and how much room to leave between beds. I have laid my beds out so that I can plant in long rows running North to South. I could have saved space by positioning the raised beds closer together but I decided that I would prefer to have room to get a wheelbarrow between the beds and so my beds are perhaps a little bit wider apart than most that I have seen marked out on site.
I went back up to the plot on Sunday afternoon and erected trellis posts in readiness for the arrival of the nine Rondo vines which are due in April. I didn't have time to thread the support wires between all the posts but went home pleased that at last I have got onto the plot, got mud on my wellies and made some constructive progress.

Saturday, 13 March 2010

Soiled

The contractor is making good progress spreading the heaps of topsoil across the whole of the allotment site. We were promised an extra 4 inches of topsoil. It looks like we have got quite a lot more than that but I suppose it will settle down a bit over the next week or so.

We allotment holders cannot yet get access to our plots to do any work. The contractor is scheduled to come on site during week commencing 22nd March to install raised beds on each plot. He will require access to the plots with his machinery to fill the raised beds with soil.

I'd love to be on site now preparing my bean and potato beds and planting onions and garlic but to do so would impede the contractor and anything planted now would get crushed by tractors or the bulldozer as the site is yet to be disc harrowed and rotavated, so just a little bit more patience required.

This weekend I have got some beans to pot-on in the coldframe and I will sow a few more sprout, leek and onion seeds and maybe some lettuce/salad.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

The Return of The Loam Arranger

The village is rumbling today with the glorious sound of a convoy of tractors delivering heaps of topsoil to the allotment site. Yahoooo!

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

On your marks, get set.... err, can you come back next week?

I have just heard that the contractor's soil preparation work has been delayed due to the allotment site still being very soggy. I will not be able to get access to the plot now until 20th March. Oh well, looking on the bright side, at least I will now be able to spend Mothers' Day, this Sunday, with the girls and Mrs H without having nagging thoughts that I really should be on the plot preparing beds ready for planting.

Sunday, 7 March 2010

The long wait is almost over.

The chairman of the allotment committee has emailed to advise that the contractor will be on site next week "to subsoil to 16” then disc, harrow and rotavate the soil incorporating the extra top soil over the whole site". The contractor has then agreed to allow next weekend for plot-holders to mark out where they want their raised beds and he will then put them in place and fill them with top soil commencing on Monday 15/3/10. The contractor has asked that any obstructions be moved to the far end of each plot so as to allow him unrestricted access with his machinery.

So, the long wait to do something constructive on the plot is almost over and I am raring to go.

I have just been up to the allotments. It is a glorious Spring day; clear blue sky; no breeze; still very cold. There was quite a bit of activity going on with people spreading muck and moving things out of the way of the contractor. When I dug the plot over in December I made a couple of piles of vegetation, weeds, roots, and sticks etc which I had unearthed. I have moved them into one mound at the far end of the plot to make sure that they don't get ploughed back in next week.

Whilst I was changing into my wellies in the carpark, etiquette which would be frowned upon at a golf club but which is perfectly acceptable at the allotments, one of the old farmers from the village came over and had a chat. I have often seen him bow-legedly waddling around the village in his tweed jacket, cords and flat cap. He'll stop and talk to anyone. He has not got an allotment but is keenly following progress on the site.

He told me that this has been the longest Winter he can remember. He must be well into his 80s and says he has lived in the village for 66 years. He says Winter around here usually lasts about 70 days but this year it has lasted for not far off 90 days. I don't know what events he regards as signalling the start and finish of Winter but it is encouraging to hear that he thinks that Winter is over now.

Less encouraging for me was his opinion that carrots will perform excellently on my plot but potatoes will not do so well. Anyone who has read my seed order list might recall that I have not got a single carrot seed but I have gone for potatoes on a big scale. I have got 200 or more seed potatoes ready to plant later this month. I will still go ahead with my spud plans but I'll also see if I can pick up some carrot seeds and find a bit of space on the plot to fit in a couple of rows of carrots.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010

Marching time.


I am itching to get cracking on my plot and get some mud on my wellies but there is nothing I can do until the contractor has finished the remaining work on the site. In February he was due to supply an additional 4 inches of topsoil, and then to "subsoil to 16 inches and then disc harrow and rotavate" the whole site. I'm not quite sure what all that means or entails but I do know that there is no point in me doing anything on the plot until he has finished.

There was no sign of the contractor on site in February. I don't know why the work has not yet been completed but I suspect that it has been delayed by the poor weather. There was another covering of snow and ice this morning. I have had enough of this weather. It's March now and I'm ready for Spring.

All the seeds which I sowed in February are coming on nicely. Even the Chilli pepper seeds have germinated. I was worried that they had failed but after a couple of nights in the airing cupboard the seedlings emerged. The French Beans are really shooting up as can be seen from the photo. I will pot them on at the weekend and start putting them in the coldframe during the day to toughen them up.

Last weekend I sowed a batch of leeks and brussels sprouts. This coming weekend I will move some of my seedlings from the propagators and put them in the coldframe. I will sow more veg seeds and some herbs in the propagator. I have not yet decided exactly what.

I have got a nice list of jobs to do once I can get onto the plot.
  • collect farmyard manure from Richard's farm in the next village.
  • mark out position for raised beds to be constructed by site contractor
  • prepare bed for potatoes.
  • prepare bed for beans.
  • prepare bed for asparagus and rhubarb.
  • prepare a seed bed.
  • construct cane supports or wigwams for french beans and runner beans.
  • install coldframe on plot.
  • install water butt on plot.
  • take delivery of wooden veg crates to be used as compost bins.
  • make the compost boxes rat-proof with mesh lining.
  • construct lids for compost boxes.
  • construct plot paths once delivery of wood chippings arrives.
  • erect posts and wire for vine trellis system.
  • plant onion sets and garlic in one of the raised beds.
Off the plot I will continue with successional sowing of seeds. It looks like March is going to be a busy month....assuming the contractor completes his work and I can get started.