Saturday, April 30, 2016

And for my next trick...

That's the SW bed, home of carrots & onions this year. Most of the earth is what was taken off the southern edge of the concrete structure, which had been an earth path, proving to be a concrete path beneath. Anyway, earth that's not been gardened in a long time. The rest is earth hacked out from what was the floor of a nettle jungle. Probably high in nitrogen then. So it's been hacked-at with the hoe, and thrown over with the spade, so it just needs levelling with the rake (and some ingenious footwork on the planting plank), and I can get it planted out, (albeit rather late) with onions, carrots, & parsnips.

A Path Runs Through It

Sometime ago, one of The Predecessor's daughters paid a visit. She told me that she, and others would say to him, "Dad, an allotment should have a path right through the middle of it. Why don't you get a path through the middle of it?" But he wouldn't. "He's a stubborn old man. A stubborn old Irish man." She was right about the path, of course. South of the old greenhouse foundation area, there were no discernible paths. Until this morning.

The "before" and "after" photos are taken from the POV of the old greenhouse/concrete structure, facing South. What the left hand photo doesn't show very well is how hillocky the ground is. This part of the plot was partly a hollowed out area, partly a thickly infested nettle bed. It was all lumpy because I'd hacked into it with the Libyan hoe. I had to level the course of the path first, about an hour, taking it easy, and then lay the path, another 40 mins or so.

My philosophy of allotment paths is that they should be made of bricks. Then, each brick has a story to tell, probably of tenements a century old when they were demolished in the 60s. It feels a bit shoogly at first, but it'll soon settle down with walking and rain, when it gets earth between and beside the bricks, and when I get the creeping thyme planted between, and the comfrey planted alongside.

Plenty of tripping hazards. But that's ok. If a late night, uninvited visitor takes a header in the dark, well dear me, what a pity. I know the hazards, and can point them out to invited visitors - few in number, anyway.

Only about 15ft of path, I know, but now I have a path from end-to-end, like a proper allotment. That was a good morning's work.Here it is in its entirety. Got rid of two big piles of bricks I'd dug out lately, too.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Farewell, bye-bye, winter field beans

I planted these, probably, end of October last year. Tough buggers. Took them several weeks to germinate but once they had they kept growing throughout the winter, and really took off in Spring. Their time has come though, and I chopped them down with the sickle this morning, composted the upper parts, (the leaves are rich in nitrogen, apparently). I can turn over the whole bed now. I've kept a few WFB stragglers by the path, see how they go to seed.

Old Greenhouse Area: Khalas!

That's enough. And it'll look better when it dries out a bit, and I brush the earth off the top. But take my word for it, that whole flat-ish area around the structure in the middle is a mosaic of concrete and bricks. The bed immediately adjoining it is a bit higher, so I'll need to get some kind of edging, and maybe do a bit more levelling next spring. But enough for this one. Last night I had an obscure nightmare in which levels featured in some metaphysical way. Just the NW corner bed to do now, and then it's digging and planting.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Vinegar Weed Killer

Now that I've given up the glyphosate as a weapon against the ground elder, I need some alternatives. Bristol City Council are trying vinegar, so I'll keep an eye on that trial, and have a go myself. Naturally, it won't be as effective as glyph, (duh!) but the idea is to keep weeds in check, not necessarily eradicate them. And it depends on how often you spray, too.

Getting vinegar is not a problem. A few years ago, I got kilos of strawberries from the fruit and veg shop. Dad used to go there to get whatever they were throwing out, for his chickens. I made several gallons of strawberry wine, but a vinegar fly must have gotten to it because I ended up with several gallons on strawberry vinegar. So any fruit will do, just make the wine and don't worry if some of it goes to vinegar, it will find a job with the weeds.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Ulex europaeus II

Last night I sowed several hundred seeds, in 2 trays (recycled tin foil, about 7x10x1ins, holes in bottom with old vegetable knife). I used John Innes seed compost from B&Q.


  • take seeds from polythene bag in fridge, put into a plastic measuring jug after shaking around in a metal flour-seive to get dust out;
  • pour 300ml approx boiling water;
  • leave about 10-15 mins until water was lukewarm;
  • drain through the flour-seive. 
  • place on paper kitchen roll to dry, (when wet the seeds stick together in clumps);
  • by hand, a pinch at a time, sprinkle seeds onto trays, attempting to get them as evenly spaced as possible, (this isn't easy because they're a similar colour to the compost, therefore difficult to see - they are shinier than compost, so catch the light somewhat);
  • sprinkle on a layer of compost by hand, about 2-3mm deep, (checking to see that no seeds were shining through;
  • the two trays were put into a cat litter tray;
  • water well from the bottom, (although the compost appeared moist coming from the bag, the two trays between them absorbed 1L of water). 
Now they're on a S facing windowsill. I expect them to begin germinating in 3-4 days, so that's Saturday or Sunday.

With the near, or total, failure of the the alder, and hawthorn, respectively, the gorse is assuming a lot of importance if I'm to get the hedgerow started this year. So I'm thinking of investing in trays of plugs and compost to prick them out into, rather than putting them into a seed bed.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Winter Field Beans - Job Done For Now

Tuesday night, and I've not been to the plot since Sunday. Should get a couple of hours tomorrow. 3-4 ragged rows of winter field beans at the north end, I was going to grow for seed. But I've got a couple of bags of field beans for seed, to sow in the autumn, so I'm going to compost the plants still growing, and level & dig right to the hedge.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Hedgerow Update

As of this morning, I've got 9/10 gorse seeds germinated. Of those, 2 seem to have a problem shedding their seed coats, But let's say a 75% germination rate, and I've estimated I've got 400+ seeds, so that's as many as 300 plants for 280ft of boundary, (250 for now, actually: the S boundary is shaded by its fence, so gorse probably won't do; I'm thinking holly and yew, eventually).

I counted up the soft fruit bushes and other odds and ends of plants already in the hedgerow, and 31 have quickened. The hawthorn and alder have been disappointing. Zero hawthorn germinated, so there's something clearly wrong there: even without stratification, I've noticed in the past, you get a 1-2% germination rate; these buggers had 2 months in the fridge. The alder, I've got maybe 6 germinated of several hundred.

I'll prepare a finely riddled bed for the hawthorn and alder. They can go in there any time soon. I'll have to keep a close eye on the weeds. Some may come up this year, and more, inshallah, next spring. Clearly, the whole hedgerow is not going to be planted out in a single growing season, which is fine.

I've got 200-300 rose seeds. They came from a rose on a neighboring plot. I think it was probably a standard rose, though unpruned and ignored. I can't find the link now, but I seem to recall reading - or maybe someone told me - that you can't be quite sure what you're going to get with roses from seeds. Beasts with plenty of thorns growing lots of hips, I hope. We shall see. I'll start them out (as I have with everything else) on the study windowsill at home.

And there's also the scots pine, which I've forgotten to stratify. I may as well get it started this year, given it 2 months in the fridge, it can still be sown and on its way before the season's over. It's not a great hedge plant, in my opinion, but there will no doubt be invertebrates that thrive only on conifers.

SW Corner - Photo from Archive Suggests Progress

This is from October last year. In the foreground is the 'Old Greenhouse' area, which I'm now nearly finished excavating. Beyond that is mostly rubbish stacked on top of bits of tarpaulin I'd laid to keep thistle down (etc) from landing and storing up problems. Now, that area looks a bit of a mess because it still needs levelled, but I've hacked out all the nettle roots, and it could be ready to plant in a few hours. The foreground area, oh my God, I've lifted I don't know how many tons of bricks out of there. I'll have to remember to get another pic from this vantage point when I've got that bed dug over, and the foreground finally levelled.