ONE MAN’S RUBBISH IS

another man’ treasure. This was the story of my morning today. This story started some months ago. On the street where I walk to the allotment a house was raided by the police. It was a canabis growing place. The police took the occupants away and boarded the doors and windows of the house. So far so good. As I was walking to the allotment in the morning I saw a van in front of this ordinary terraced house with a couple of men carrying pots and bags out and loading them in the van. When I asked what they are going to do with the pots etc I was told that they would donate them to me – and the bags with the compost if I wanted it.. Of course I agreed, got my wheelbarrow from the allotment, which is just down a short passage, and started taking it all there. In the end it proved a bit much for me so I phoned Frank to come and help and between the two of us we finished the job. The compost in the bags was used but only once after one lot of plants grew in it so it is still very good.

I had a piece of land where I harvested my garlic and had nothing growing there now so that is my latest storage area. I’ll be able to share the pots with my friends on the site and the compost will be excellent for topping up the level of soil in my raised beds. All this has saved me quite a bit of money and effort – I don’t have to drive to a garden centre to get  the compost and the pots will be just right to grow my tomatoes or peppers.

Waste not want not and the guys from the clearing company had much less to take to the tip.

SPRING IS HERE

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.20210318_111901

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.

MAY ACTIVITIES

It is all go on the allotment now. Fortunately the weather has been good so far, so I was able to plant and build. I was also able to harvest some of my produce – lettuce, that has been going for some time and now some young broad beans. Never mind waiting for the pods to mature and then shell them – we like to pick the young pods and chop them whole and add to a salad. Delicious!

Last year was not good at all, the pigeons had a great time eating all my young plants, so this time I planted a lot in one of my net cages. I put them in the ground in October, they grew well and continued to do well in the spring. As they started flowering I was wondering if I will get any beans, seeing that they were under cover. I didn’t have to worry, they are producing lovely pods and I don’t have to share them with pigeons.

It seems I have to cover quite a lot – lettuce for example. I did have a poly tunnel some years ago but the plastic started breaking. The structure was sound so with a bit of help from Mike we covered it in green netting and it works a treat. I even managed to build raised beds in there.

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Strawberries were the next thing to cover – I have got a number of raised beds, just to make it easier to put the net over them. It pays off, I harvested my first two sweet strawberries yesterday.

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Every year I try to grow something new. This year it is water melon. I have got three plants, all inside a greenhouse and one of them is showing signs of wanting to start climbing. Keep fingers crossed! I’d be happy with just one melon.

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It is not just vegetables that are doing well – my beautiful rose and clematis are a delight.

I did a count of my tomato plants – I think this year will be a bumper year, I have 80! It may seem a lot but they are all different varieties – Costoluto Fiorentino, Long Tom, Super Marmande, Ailsa Craig, Czech Bush, just to name a few! I didn’t have this many last year and I still use the last few I bottled. They freeze well, cooked of course. A win-win situation.

MORE WORK

There was just enough wood left to build another structure in one of my net cages and also for improving an edge of one of the paths.

I wanted to make the path edge a bit higher – when I first did that one I didn’t have the right sort of wood.

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All is done now.

Even the raised beds in the last net cage are finished – can’t do any more work, all the wood is gone. I just have to hope now that the builders are going to give me some more pieces of wood.

MAY…

…is here and it is rather chilly. All the same, work on the allotment is going on – building raised beds inside one of my net cages. I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time, got a nice lot of timber from the friendly builders next door and it took a few trips with my wheelbarrow to take it to the allotment.

The tomato plants were outside already so this wasn’t too much of a shock for them as they got planted here. I used some old flower pots, cut off the bottom and embedded them in the compost, that way the tomato plants will have more depth for their roots. In the empty spaces will be lettuce Webs wonderful.

The same goes for my sunflowers – they stood in one of the net cages for a week or so ; they’ll be fine planted here as they have a bit of protection from the greenhouse.

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Last but not least – I covered four of my strawberry beds, they are flowering very well and some small strawberries are already there. I just don’t want to share them with the birds.

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The mason bees are doing what they are supposed to do, it is wonderful to see that.

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JUNE

After a fairly dismal start everything seems to be growing well – not quite everything, the carrots, parsnips and beetroot didn’t germinate well, I had to re-seed them and even that is struggling. Never mind, I live in hope.

The squashes are doing much better though. As usual I will grow my tromboncino and zucca da marmelata and I add some new ones to it – zucca Hubbard and a Maltese pumpkin.

The squashes had a lovely structure last year but as one zucca da marmelata was about 7 kilo it pulled the structure down – with the help of a fairly fierce wind. Back to the drawing board then and I have constructed a new structure this year, in fact three of them. Much sturdier and I very much hope they will last a few years.

I planted a couple of squashes beside each vertical and with a little bit of coaxing they will climb.

After this I harvested one part of the garlic plants, purely to get it out of the ground to clear a square piece of land to implement my plan.

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I have rescued two raised beds – they were abandoned on an empty plot so I thought I’d give them a chance to be useful. And useful they are for me – they are made in such a way that the corners are hinged so they can fold flat. Well, they’re not flat any more, I have put them on the plot, ready to plant with the autumn broad beans. That means that I can cover them with some netting as last autumn the pigeons ate all of my broad bean plants!!

BROAD BEANS

Last October I did what I usually do that time of year – decided to sow one long bed of broad beans. They started growing well, got to a certain size and then the pigeons noticed them. The wretched birds just stripped them completely bare, only little twigs remained in the ground. I know I should have protected them but I never needed to do that in the past.

Never mind, I had loads of beans left so I started them in little individual cells, they grew well and I had them standing in the veranda for the past two weeks, just to get them used to the weather.

Today was the day to plant them out on the allotment.

Everything could have been done quickly, the soil was just right but then I had to construct some kind of a cage to drape the net over.

One lot of the beans is planted in one of my raised beds so that was much easier. Never mind, all is done so now I can hope for good weather and plentiful harvest later.

UNDER A BLANKET

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.

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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.

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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.

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TOPSOIL

I knew all the lovely topsoil I managed to get from my two ‘forgotten’ composter bins would come handy. It was a bit too wet today to continue with digging so I had to concentrate on maintenance.

First was one path, rather the grass on it, that had to be cut. As it was so high it had to be done with the shears. Ideal job for a chilly morning. There was so much grass it almost filled one composter bin.

Talking of bins – some weeks ago I emptied a couple of them and bagged the contents – beautiful topsoil to be used to top up the raised beds in my lovely greenhouse.

I was late in the season getting the greenhouse but it is all going to be ready for an early start next spring. I know it is wishing my life away but I can’t wait. All my tomato, cucumber and pepper seeds are sorted out and I’m ready……………

 

TOO WET TO DIG….

…but good enough to do other work.

About three years ago I put two composter bins on one of my plots. I kept filling them with grass cutting, kitchen waste and all manner of things (but not weeds as i think it doesn’t ge hot enough to kill them).

I didn’t continue working this plot but the bins are still there and I was adding more material in.

A few days ago I managed to upend one of them and move it to the end of another plot, close to my shed. It was half empty and it looked brown and crumbly, just like the best potting compost you buy in a garden centre.

Today was the turn of the other bin – again upended and moved next to the other one near the shed. There was some dry stuff on top of both heaps and I took it to my bean trench, it helped to fill it up.

It is too good to waste so I decided to put it in bags and use it when I need to top up my raised beds in the greenhouse etc.

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The new spot for the bins, neat and tidy, in the corner of the plot, ready to be filled again.

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It was worth the wait – must do it more often – ‘forget’ to empty the bins regularly and that way will get beautiful potting compost.