This weekend was rather different, no work on my allotment but some serious construction on Nicky’s plot. We went to stay with Mike and Nicky in the Lake district and Mike and myself were helping to construct a new composter bin on her plot. She got the bin from their local council and it is supposed to be excellent. We had to construct it there and then, it came with an instruction booklet and in the end it was quite easy.
The weather deteriorated during the morning and we were able just to clear the corner on the plot and place the new bin in situ. Then rain stopped play and we went home.
We took the wood home in the car and put it in Mike’s recycling bin. After lunch the skies cleared and I persuaded Mike to go back to the allotment and finish the job properly. I don’t think he was too happy with the idea but we went. The afternoon’s weather was much better and I’m happy to say that all is done. Any greenery was put in the new bin and I have raked the soil level, all ready to start planting. There are loads of stones in the soil so we picked out as many as we could and added them to a large pile in another corner of the site. Mike even managed to cut down a stump of another lilac bush – we’ll have another go at the roots in the autumn when all around will be harvested and we can dig a large hole around and keep hacking at it.
I was glad we went back and finished the job. It will be interesting to see how well this new composter bin functions.
What a difference in the weather! Today started sunny and mild, it would have been a shame not to go to the allotment but regardless of that I knew I wanted to finish what I started yesterday. The one remaining composter bin in front of the now tidy pile of weeds etc needed moving and I had just enough space for it – close to the other bins, in a little gap next to the raspberry patch. But actually moving it wasn’t so easy, it was embedded in the soil and I had to dig around to free it. I think when I put it there I thought it was going to stay there. But everything is possible, I had to empty the few stems and roots and then it came out.
Fortunately the new place for it is very close so I didn’t have to carry it too far.
It fitted in the allocated space perfectly and the hole where it was is now closed with a pallete. That gives me more room to put weeds and roots there.
Then came the real reason for my work there today – digging over the patch where the net tunnel was. I had to pick all the plastic cable ties that I cut to free the net, pull out the metal pins that were holding the net and only then the real digging could start. It was so nice and warm, a real spring day. The soil there is very good, I was used to put a lot of organic fertiliser there – horse muck and chicken poo pellets so I’m looking forward to growing some climbing beans there with a few courgettes between them. The soil is really rich, everything should thrive.
Everything will be recycled – I will use the nets to cover my strawberry beds and the posts are already in use. Because our allotments are on a slope, there is quite a drop between my plots, especially on this one. I have used the two of the stakes and have them to hold on as I step down from the path.
The morning didn’t look very bright, the sky was grey and everything looked a bit dull. But as the day continued, it all of a sudden warmed up, the sun came out and we had blue skies and a spring-like day. I wasn’t quite sure what job I was going to tackle on the allotment but Mike mentioned yesterday that he worked on his compost. He has got a different set up to me but this gave me an idea. I haven’t emptied my composter bins for some time and today was going to be the day to do it.
There are five of these black bins here and I put all my kitchen waste there in rotation. It is amazing how quickly all the material goes down. I try to leave them for at least a year, that gives the worms plenty of time to do their job. This time it was just four of these bins and I’m delighted with the result. I always keep all my empty bags from compost and reuse them time after time. Just as well, I managed to fill all of them – eight sacks in all. This will be perfect for my latest long greenhouse, I will build up the beds inside with it.
It is amazing that the worms manage to turn a load of scraps into something so good.
The day was so nice I decided to carry on working and as the soil was quite dry I started digging my last plot, the one where my new long greenhouse is placed.
I could have carried on for some time but thought better of it, I need to conserve my energy for tomorrow, the weather is supposed to be dry. I don’t mind a dull day, as long as it is dry and I can continue working.
As I could actually get to the composter bin I wanted to empty it today and use the soil in two places. One had to be the latest little greenhouse I got because the borders were not deep enough. I have changed the wood on the edges and made them much higher so I could put much more soil there. It is only a small area but I have used four large soft buckets. It looks much better and I’m sure the peppers that I plan to grow there next year will do well.
There was an amazing amount of perfect soil in the bin, it took quite an effort to get it all out. Everything was perfect.
I even had two large sacks left after filling the greenhouse beds so they went in the raised bed. Now I have everything ready for planting the garlic. I have even ordered some more, we like garlic, I use it a lot in my cooking and home grown is certainly the best.
Yesterday was a day of rest and a visit to a lovely National Trust place with our friends Lisa and John and children. Packwood House is lovely at any time of the year and yesterday was very enjoyable.
Well rested I started in the morning by taking my kitchen waste to the allotment, to feed the worms in the composter bins. As I have five of them, it takes some filling but Lisa gives me her kitchen scraps so my worms are well looked after.
The next task was a big improvement in my oldest greenhouse. When I was there last time I managed to dismantle the top of bench and the plan was to find my set of little spanners so I could detach the frame from the greenhouse structure. I was sure they would be in the shed – they were there and the bench didn’t take any time to undo. I’m delighted with the result, I have gained whole side of the greenhouse to grow tall plants, like tomatoes or peppers.
Today was the turn of the composter bins. I have got five of them at the end of one of my plots and I’m filling them in turn. It always amazes me how quickly they rot down. Some of them were easier to empty and one yielded an amazing amount of this dark brown crumbly soil. I emptied one after another and using my wheelbarrow transferred it all to my other fruit trees and bushes.
There was only one more thing to do – planting my elephant garlic. I didn’t have much more strength anyway.
There is no such thing as waste on our site. We all have a number of composter bins and I have a corner of one plot dedicated to a large compost heap. I don’t put any weeds there but everything else that I can’t fit into my bins – courgette, tomato, cucumber and other plants after they’ve finished. My friend Dave shares this heap with me, he doesn’t have one.
Today was the day to see what was under the cover. I have got two pieces of carpet to speed the composting process and after I took them off today I was delighted. A large mound of crumbly brown soil, hardly any large pieces. In all I had two full wheelbarrows and seven large plastic sacks of this brown gold. I have started to distribute it around my fruit trees in the orchard it’ll be perfect.
After all this I started putting in more old foliage and the process will carry on. It shows that Mother Nature knows best, we just have to help it on the way. I don’t use any artificial fertilisers, just the liquid from my wormery and perhaps some organic chicken poo pellets. I have lost my horse muck source so it will be just everything we can get from our bins.
Finally it all came together. First of all I managed to harvest my very first spring rhubarb – I think it is the tastiest of all the pickings.
Last year in the autumn I have acquired another greenhouse, a very old one at that. It belonged to an elderly lady who lived in a house right next to our allotments. We were very friendly, she was used to come to see me quite often . She had a little gate in her fence as her husband was used to have a plot on our site quite a number of years ago. She died a few years ago and the people who bought her house didn’t want the greenhouse so I rescued it. The structure was sound but as we dismantled it quite a lot of the panes of glass broke – it was very old and brittle. Anyway, with help I moved it all to my plot and stored it very carefully. My friend Dave said he would help me to put it together. Soon after the New Year he surprised me by getting the structure up and in position. It formed a neat group of greenhouses. Next job was harder – sorting out the panes of glass. As so much of it broke I decided to do a bit of mix and match – I ordered eight polycarbonate sheets for the side panels and decided that the rest and the roof would be glass. Had to buy some more glass but it all started to take shape. I’m delighted to say that the only thing to do now is to fix new runner wheels on top of the door – on order – and all is done. Nevertheless I have constructed my raised beds inside, filled them with the contents of one composter bin and a number of sacks of Dalefoot compost. This way I can have one greenhouse for tomatoes, one for peppers and chillies and one for aubergines and the occasional cucumber will be placed where I will find space. I am very happy but all this was possible only with a huge lot of work by Dave. Thank you Dave. A friend in need is a friend indeed.
My self isolating continues on the allotment, doing jobs that I knew should be done but unfortunately I always had something more urgent to do. Today was the day to tackle the next task – moving a composter bin. This one has been in place since I acquired this plot, never been emptied so I had high hopes for some rich soil there. I wasn’t disappointed, about half was rich and crumbly soil, that got distributed around a few fruit trees as a mulch.
Mulch from composter bin
The rest of the stuff wasn’t sufficiently decayed so that got moved into the bin after I placed it in the new position. I have had three bins at the end of one plot, beside a water butt and a compost and there was a convenient space, just for one more bin. It is there now and the uncomposted matter is the base layer, a starter in the old bin in the new place.
new place for the bin
An empty place well filled.
In the old , now empty, part of the plot I erected some bean sticks. The thinking was – the soil there was quite rich, it wouldn’t do for either carrots or parsnips so beans will be happy there.
Tomorrow’s activities are therefore sorted – finish digging this part and make it ready for sowing – it’ll be fine for parsnips. Carrots will be on the part dug over yesterday and I have got one area to do later, that’ll do for beetroot.
Almost sorted out.
I was looking at my seed collection and grew more and more frustrated. It is all fine to see that parsnips could be sown from February onwards. Well, that would have been rather difficult as the weather was against me.
Never mind, yesterday was a lovely sunny day so I made sure the piece of ground where the parsnips are going to grow is weed – free (quite a challenge, they seem to grow at the rate of knots!) and covered it with a piece of horticultural fleece. I’m sure it will worm the soil and I shall be able to sow one of my favourite vegetables.
That done I turned my attention to the greenhouse. There are raised beds on both sides and a small one at the back. I added some more soil from my composter bins and now they are ready. Fortunately I have a large plastic cloche to cover one of the beds so I planted some lettuce seedlings there. That way we can have some early Icebergs.
Last but not least I prepared another small raised bed that is beside the greenhouse, put a bag of old horse muck in and covered it with a thick layer of good soil, this is now ready for one pumpkin. I have high hopes for my latest acquisition, seeds from a Maltese pumpkin. I’ve seen them in Malta, now the challenge is to grow them as big as they were there.
In the past few years I had four raised beds with strawberries but one in particular is getting a bit old, they didn’t produce very much fruit. I have decided to dig them out, used some of the best runners to fill gaps in other strawberry beds and this one is now ready to be planted with broad beans. I have started them in the greenhouse in the back garden. They will be sheltered in this bed, I can plant them there a bit earlier.