tinyⒶllotment

Growing as much food on as little land for as little money as possible


3 Comments

Things are looking good in the dome.

Despite the fact that I have done nothing in the dome over the winter things are happening all on their own.

The passion fruit is in flower and I have noticed dozens of fruit forming.

I have also noticed something interesting happening in the center the kiwi fruit flowers. I really hope we have kiwi fruit this year.

2017-05-04 08.55.44

The olive is in full flower and the fig trees are looking good. Hopefully we will get more figs this year.

2017-05-04 08.56.05

I have neglected the allotment over the last few months due to pressures at work etc but I am planning on spending the weekend there sorting it out.

We are not going to be growing an awful lot this year as we just don’t have the time but I am going to see if I can complete the fence and build some more beds for next year and sort the paths out so I can reduce maintenance.

More soon

Paul

 


10 Comments

Know Thy Enemy. Weeds. Plantain

No not the bananas!
This is another weed that I can almost guarantee you will have on your allotment or in your garden. It grows well in compacted soil so is more often seen in lawns and paths than in your beds. It can put up with a lot of abuse and seems to simply shrug off being mowed or walked upon.

Although there are over 200 species of Plantain (Plantago) in the world  I will only be discussing the two main types of Plantain common in the UK and these are Ribwort and Rat’s Tail plantain.

Ribwort (Plantago Lanceolata) has long spear like leaves with tough raised ribs running along the length of the underside. The flowers are at the end of long leafless stems and form a bullet shaped seed head surrounded by a ring of small light coloured flowers.

 

ribwort_600_zpsctwbjpmr

Plantago lanceolata

 

Rattail Plantain (Plantago Major) also known as Broad leaf or Greater Plantain produces a rosette of oval leaves with raised veins on the underside.  The flowers form along a leafless stem and look like a rat’s tail.

plantago_major_zps2vf4pz8r

Plantago major

Plantains are perennial, wind pollinated and are propagated by spreading seed. The seeds are often carried on the feet of animals and humans and this could explain why they spread along rights of way.

Plantain originated in Europe and Asia but because it is such an important healing plant it is now found all over the world. It was introduced to the Americas by the first European settlers  and quickly became established. It was so synonymous with the incomers that the indigenous  peoples called it ‘White man’s foot’ because wherever the white man walked, Plantain would soon follow. The native tribes quickly realised the benefits of Plantain and it was integrated into their own herbal traditions. Interestingly  the plant is known as ‘Englishman’s Foot’ in New Zealand. presumably for the same reason.

All parts of the Plantain are edible and the leaves and seeds have a mild mushroom taste but they are not renowned as a food although I like the taste and it does contain quite a few beneficial nutrients including Vitamins C and K, Calcium and Potassium.

Where Plantain really come into their own is as a herbal medicine.
The crushed leaves of the plantain have very good wound healing properties so are great for treating minor cuts and grazes.Tannins and Allantoin in Plantain speed up cell regeneration helping wound heal quickly.  Just chew up a couple of leaves to form a pulp poultice, place this on the wound and bandage loosely to hold poultice in place. Plantain is antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic. It also helps draw infection, poisons and foreign bodies from the wound so is great for treating insect bites, stings and splinters. Plantain is better than Dock leaves for  treating Stinging nettle rash and can also be used to calm sun burn.

I have used Plantain to relieve the pain of toothache and is great for treating gum infections and mouth ulcers. You can chew a couple of leaves and hold it in your mouth against the problem tooth or ulcer plus you can make an infusion of the leaves in hot water, allow it to cool and use it as a mouthwash. Powdered Plantain root is also useful for toothache but if you don’t have the powdered root handy you can just dig up the root, clean it and chew it to ease the pain.

An infusion of Plantain leaves can be used to treat sore throats and acts as both a decongestant and expectorant and due to it’s antibacterial properties is great for treating a wide range of respiratory complaints.

Another area where Plantain is effective is in the treatment of  digestive disorders. A teaspoon of dried leaves made into a tea or infusion is very good for treating Diarrhoea, inflammation of the colon, IBS, stomach ulcers and is said to kill worms in the stomach and intestines. Plantain is also very effective in the treatment of Haemorrhoids so next time you think all the weeds in your garden are a pain in the butt, think again.

Up until now I have mainly talked about the benefits of using the leaves of the plantain but the seed have their uses as well. The seeds can be dried and ground into flour for making gluten free flat breads and because Plantain is rich in mucilages it can be used to thicken soups etc.
The mucilages in Plantain relieves irritation of mucous membranes by forming a protective film so helps combat the symptoms of cold and flu. It also acts as a cough suppressant especially with dry coughs. The seeds are also used to treat constipation.

Plantain really is a very powerful plant that is literally growing right under your feet. It is very easy to identify and can be found all year round. I have only just touched on a few of the wonderful things Plantain can do and I hope I have sparked enough of an interest that you will do your own research into what plantain can do for you.
I am not an expert in any sort of medicine including herbal remedies so it is important that you use your own judgement on what will work for you and if you are in any doubt please consult your Health Care Professional.

 

 

 

 

 

 


7 Comments

April 2015 Update

Things are starting to happen on the tiny allotment. The barrel garden I built last year is starting to look really good with early onions, garlic, strawberries, and salad all springing to life.

Barrel garden April 2015

The bucket below the barrel catches water that leaches from the barrel. This nutrient rich water would normally be lost but we catch it and return it to the top of the barrel so nothing is wasted.

Nutrient rich water from the barrel garden

The pond is also coming to life with lots of water plants, snails and other invertebrates inhabiting the depths. We also have plenty of tadpoles swimming about so hopefully we should end up with a healthy population of slug eating frogs later in the year.
The gunera  on the island in the pond is starting to come back to life after it’s winter’s hibernation. This will help shade the pond from the summer heat and the comfrey root I planted in a pot last year is growing and is in flower. i will have to decide where I am going to plant this as I need a lot of comfrey for making liquid feed and as a medicinal herb.

The pond island April 2015

The purple sprouting broccoli is still producing well and the more the pigeons eat it the more it sprouts.

Purple Sprouting Broccoli

The Rhubarb Malcolm gave me earlier in the year has suddenly started to grow like crazy. It started out like a small green brain

Rhubarb

and within a couple of days looked like this

We also had a big delivery of manure so I managed to fill all my new beds ready for the season.

New beds for 2015

I used home made compost as a top dressing and this bed has now been planted with strawberries as a cover crop. The hope is that over the next couple of years the strawberries will spread out to cover most of the soil surface protecting the soil from wind, rain and sun and suppressing weeds and we will interplant with other crops.

I also had enough compost to top dress the bed in the tunnel where we will grow tomatoes and cucumber etc

Homemade compost

Bed for tomatoes and cucumbers

The other big thing happening is we have started building our geodesic dome greenhouse.

We have installed the base and this weekend we are going to get it perfectly level and round and paint it with wood preserver.

Geodesic Dome Base

And work has started on making the 103 triangles needed to build the dome.

Hexagon panel for geodesic dome

I will be doing a complete write up on thee construction of the dome on it’s own page here when the dome is complete.

Seeds are starting to germinate in the tunnel. This picture was taken this morning.

Chard, beetroot, pumpkin and walking stick kale to name but a few

I love this time of year. this change so quickly so i will be posting more often again.

More soon

Paul


1 Comment

Know Thy Enemy. Weeds. Dock

We all know that we must eradicate Docks from our plots right. Well maybe not.

Nature hates bare soil. Apart from earthquakes and landslides you hardly ever see bare earth in nature. Nature deals with bare earth in the same way your body deals with a wound and tries to cover it up as soon as possible. Docks and other pioneer plants are natures scab protecting the soil from damage from the sun, wind and rain. When it comes to bare soil, if you don’t put something there to cover it, nature will try to do it for you. This is why you have ‘weeds’. In some ways you are fighting a loosing battle. The more you try to clear the soil the more nature will try to cover it up so really you are just making more work for yourself.

I know you have always tried to eradicate things such as Docks from your allotments but do you know why you are going to all this trouble or is it just the way it has always been done.

Docks do have some benefits. They will grow in very poor soil and they are an indicator of poor overworked soil. This is why you see them in farmers fields. They have deep tap roots so do not compete with your shallow rooted annual vegetables as much as you think and because of their deep roots they bring up minerals from the subsoil. They are what’s known as a Dynamic Accumulator. They also benefit compacted soil aiding soil structure and drainage.

The best way to deal with Docks is to snip them off before they go to seed and either let them rot on the surface as a mulch or put them into your compost heap as Docks make great compost activators.

I tend to just snap off the dock leaves as and when I see them and let them break down on the surface thus releasing all their goodness back into the soil. If you do this as and when you see the leaves in your beds you will not give the docks a chance to thrive and they will eventually give up and die.

Another way to reduce the amount of docks is to not dig your beds each year. Docks thrive in poor soil and so breaking up the soil each year gives them the perfect breeding ground. If you refrain from digging the number of Docks will decrease as your soil improves.  Keeping the soil covered with other plants will also discourage weeds of all sorts.

If you try to dig them up you will end up spreading them about and you will end up with a bigger problem than you had before, another great reason for not digging the soil.

Dock are edible -Although I have never tried them- and are related to sorrel. They are rich in vitamin C and have many medicinal uses. They also have antihistamine properties and conveniently grow near nettles.

So, before you reach for the fork or even worse the Roundup just think why you are trying to kill that weed and could it actually be a benefit to you and your garden.


2 Comments

Increasing our growing capacity for 2015

Last year we did grow quite a bit of food on our tiny allotment but next year we want to do more. We have already built the barrel garden which will grow 60 vegetables in 4 square feet and I hope to build a few more of these over the winter. I an in talks with several organisation trying to see if we can put on workshops on how to build the barrel gardens to help alleviate food poverty in our area.

I have started planting the barrel with garlic and overwintering onions so it will be interesting to see how they turn out.

Barrel Garden planted up with overwintering onions (paris early) and garlic

I have also built some new beds and I have started filling them with soil. I am constantly on the lookout for soil and I have been getting the last of the manure from last years pile but that has all but gone so I had a look at the old compost dump at the top of the allotment. Prior to the allotment association building some compost bays near the carpark everyone used to dump all their garden waste in a big pile at thee top of the field. This has now over grown with nettles etc but if you clear the surface there is tons of good quality soil free for the taking so I am using that to fill my beds. i do expect there to be some weeds in the soil but it will be no different than if I just dug the ground so as long as I keep on top of things we should be OK.

New bed filled with free soil

Here is another view

Beds are about 150mm deep

Whilst mining the old compost heap I found a couple of marrows that someone had just thrown away!

I don’t understand people. These were just thrown in the compost

The other news is I have signed up for a Permaculture course with Patrick Whitefield. Sadly Patrick is not very well and will not be teaching the course himself which is a shame. Patrick is a bit of a hero of mine and it would have been great to meet him and learn from him directly. He does have a top class team of tutors though so I will be in good hands.

The course I am doing is the Online Land Course and is in four modules followed by a Permaculture Design Course (PDC). I am studying the soil module at the moment and really enjoying it so expect a lot of waffle about soil in the coming weeks.

Paul