Saturday 28 March 2015

Constructing My New Composters

One of the bigger jobs planned for this Spring is the construction of a multi-composter.

I was lucky enough to get my hands on a dozen unwanted pallets, two of which were double size, and began the build one sunny morning towards the end of March.

Step 1: Creating the main frame of the composter, using one of the double sized pallets for the back, using standard pallets for the end and interior walls, screwing them into place through the back.

Step 2: Mounting the second double sized pallet into place for the top, screwing it down into the top struts of the end and interior walls.

Step 3: Stripping a couple of pallets back to its component parts, use the slats to clad the back.

Step 4: Covering the roof with a black plastic liner will provide basic waterproofing. We then used more of the pallet slats to secure the liner and frame the roof.

Step 5: We lined the middle section with black plastic to create a leaf mulching bin.

Step 6: Covering the roof with wooden slats, overlapping them slightly to allow rain to run off, has completed the initial build programme.

Step 7: Paint the composter with your chosen colour, mine was Cuprinol 'Rich Berry'

Friday 13 March 2015

The Little People's Plot

After visiting a local model village, my two daughters wanted to have a miniature allotment on our plot, scaled down for their little hands, so we looked at the planting scheme for this year and agreed that one of the smaller raised beds would be perfect for them.

We began by making a scaled down decked area at the end of the plot, along with a fence...

Once we had completed the decking, I made a miniature shed, complete with opening doors,

The first time the girls came to the plot to help with the weeding and see how their seeds were coming along, they bought their Sylvanian Families with them.

Whilst the mum and children relaxed on the decking and in the shed, father mouse inspected the growing salad shoots and radish...

Saturday 21 February 2015

Sowing Seeds and Spring Sunshine

February saw warm sunshine and clear skies, with many of the allotment holders getting back onto their plots in earnest for the first time this year.

The rhubarb tunnel has done its work, with the first crop picked before the end of the month, and the first dig of the plot completed...
 The Rhubarb is looking good, planters filled with topsoil for planting, and foxes digging once again.

My little helpers have been busy on the allotment this Spring, mostly handing me tools and nails/screws as I need them. On the cooler days, Serena insists we have a flask of hot tea with us and seems to spend half of her time sitting in the shed, giving directions and sipping her brew...

The new little greenhouse has been erected in a wind free location alongside the shed, benefitting from long hours of sunshine we hope to nurture the early seedlings through the last cold nights before raising peppers and chillis in it through the heat of the summer months...

Saturday 24 January 2015

New Year, New Goals, New Rules

After a few weeks away from the plot over Christmas and New Year, then back to the allotment to begin the early preparations for 2015...

With the Rhubarb starting to show new shoots, I embarked upon an experiment to try and force an early crop under a black plastic polytunnel. After edging the rhubarb patch with decking board, with a thin cover of wood chip, I added some tubing arches and a black plastic covering...
The idea is to keep the temperate up and let the rhubarb seek the light from small holes punched in the tunnels roof...

Just ten days after the tunnel was in place we had a surprise covering of snow, not something you get too often on the balmy Dorset coast... The site looked beautiful in the early sunlight, covered in a fresh white blanket...

The winter whiteness last just 12 hours and the following morning everything was back to normal...

Saturday 15 November 2014

Raspberries, Raptors and Really Cold Mornings

We have reached a milestone in everybodies allotment year...
The clock's have gone back, nights drawing in and the long lazy evenings gently tending the plot are coming to an end. Our allotment now loses it's sunlight by around half past four, meaning a dry weekend become more precious than ever...

This weekend dawned cold but bright, mist covering the allotments as the early sun crept over the trees. Making the most of the break in the weather I got on with one job that has been on my 'To Do' list since we first took over the plot.

The raspberries that were being choked by weeds, (Rasberry Squash), have been propped up with runner bean canes for the last couple of months and desperately in need of a little love and attention.

First we pruned off all of the old woody stems, leaving just this years growth, then transplanted what was left into a more manageable layout.The next task was to construct a wooden frame around the fruit. The uprights were erected using metal post holders for strength and protection from the damp soil, whilst the cross beams being held in place with old shelf brackets.The next job will be to install crosswires to support the fruit and cover the frame in netting,

...and Finally... One of the great things about having a green oasis amidst the town, homes and traffic is the variety of wildlife that gravitates to it.
The latest visitor to our plot is a male buzzard. Local residents have seen him around for the last couple of years, but my fellow allotment holders report that he has taken quite a liking to our new shed.

Sunday 19 October 2014

Rest, Rainwater and Rubbish Removals

October started calm and clear, allowing me to clear the rest of the plot and start the process of putting it to bed for the winter. Final weeding was completed early in the month, followed by a gentle dig to turn over the topsoil, before raking everything level once more.

With near monsoon rains forecast, and the plot liable to flooding in such conditions, I covered the whole area with thick black matting to protect the soil and remove light & water from the weeds below.

The rains arrived as forecast, almost a week without any relief from the deluge, but finally the sun returned to reveal little damage to the allotment. The plastic matting did it job well, allowing us to get on with a few jobs that needed doing while we had some nice autumn weather.

One job on the list was to cover the compost mound at the end of the plot and prepare it for planting in the Spring. Imagine our suprise when we visited the plot, only to find that our initial request for clearance had now been carried out, three months after the request and weeks after we gave up asking...

The compost mound, along with all the wood i had put in place, had completely vanished...
It transpires that Mike Gotobed (Poole Borough Council) visited the site for his monthly inspection, along with Angie Mason (Allotment Administrator for Continental Landscapes). They noted that our request to remove the weeds from the intial clearing of the plot had not been completed and had everything removed.

The final job for October was to ensure the rainwater collection system was up and running before winter.
For this task I had my daughter Penny along for support, and to record the day with her own style of photography...

After putting up guttering along both front and back of the shed, I installed the downpipe into the water butt that we have on the plot to collect the rain that falls onto relativley small shed roof area.
Within 24 hours of completion, the rains returned and in less than two days the water butt was already full...

Friday 10 October 2014

Wet Winter Weather and The Year Ahead

Almost as soon as the last weeds were hoed, plot raked and covered for the winter, the long warm summer evenings gave way to winter storms and torrential rains, seemingly missing out autumn entirely.

And so thoughts turn to next year, crop rotation and planting schemes for 2015.

The compost heap/weed pile at the head of the plot is going to be put to good use and have a variety of marrow, squash and courgette grown on it.

 The currant rhubarb crop is to be split and planted amidst a sea of lavendar. I read somewhere that this is a perfect growing combination, but we'll have to wait and see...

After having potatoes in the allotment this year, standard crop rotation dictates that we have legumes the following season.
With that in mind we are planning a mixed crop of borad and runner beans where the 'pink fir apple' were this summer.

The main area of the allotment was given over to sweetcorn, peas and beans this summer.
Next year we will split this area between root vegetables and potatoes.

Planting carrots and parsnips in short rows, seeded a few weeks apart, will extend the crop throughout the year.

Adding a twin crop of earlies; providing salad potatoes from May, overlapping nicely with the lates, which should be available right through to October.

The small planters will be filled with shallow rooting fruit and vegetables.

The strawberries we have produced a number of young plants this summer, giving us a new crop for the allotment next spring.

The main planter will have flowers in a central pot, with the rest quartered between radish, rocket, spring onjons (scallions) and mixed leaf lettuce.

The girls will have an area of their own, where they plan to make a miniature model of our plot, complete with shed, little planters and veg.
The raspberries will be lifted and split into a more manageable arrangement, in a new fruit cage.

There is a small area at the rear of the shed, alongside the new waterbutt. Over the winter I plan to build a basic cold frame, allowing the seedling we grow in the shed at home to be brought on and hardened off at the plot reading for planting out.