tinyⒶllotment

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


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Interesting weekend at the dome plot.

Spent most of the weekend on the dome plot but because the weather was so nice I decided to work outside and try and sort out the small plot of land that surrounds the dome. I wanted to tidy up the perimeter of the plot as it is a mess and impossible to maintain without spraying with chemicals. I needed to replace the old fence with something that was easy to strim up to and would also form the outer edge of no dig beds. I found someone who needed to get rid of some scaffold boards as they were taking up space so I got them up the the plot. I was in the process of giving the boards a coat of wood stain when a car pulls up in the carpark and out jumps a couple of young ladies. They were from the local university and one of them was studying photography. They asked if they could do a photo shoot in the dome. So for a hour one took photos of the other in various poses in and around the dome whilst I got on with the painting.

That was Saturday. On Sunday a friend turned up with a professional quality drone and did some aerial shots of the dome and surrounding area. I was really impressed with the quality of the raw footage. Both the photographer and the drone pilot said they would send over the footage so hopefully, very soon, I should have some nice pictures and video to post on the blog.

I did manage to get the perimeter sorted out though plus I have hung the gate that has been leaning against the fence for the last year.

This is what the plot looked like before I started

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In between the posts and intertwined with the grass was old rusty chicken wire and a lot of rocks. The previous guy on this plot took all the stones he could find and placed them around the edge of the plot for some reason. It took some effort to rip up all the wire and dig out the grass, roots and stones but I think it looks a lot better now and will be a lot easier to maintain in the future.

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The plan now is to build a fence off the top of the boards so the wire will be protected from the strimmers.

The weather is becoming wet again for a few days so we will start doing more work inside the dome.

more soon

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January 2005 update

Not much going on at the allotment at the moment. It is very waterlogged and the more I walk all over the grass areas the more they look like the somme.

I have repaired the shed roof so the water no longer comes in and rusts all my lovely tools. I used materials I had lying around because as you may have realised I hate spending money. I am going to put a living roof on the north side of the roof and maybe sow some wild flowers up there just to make it look interesting. I built up the sides with some old timber I had hanging about and then put a layer of poly tunnel plastic and a layer of pond liner. I have spied some discarded plastic netting up in the carpark which I might use to stop the the soil sliding down the slope of the roof and then sow it with some sort of cover crop that will be good for the bees.

We have had a few cold nights in January and the pond has frozen a few times but the water butts in the poly tunnel have remained ice free so the thermal mass of 800Lt of water in there is doing it’s job of regulating the temperature in the tunnel.

This is my blog gnome updating the blog

We had ice in a bucket outside over an inch thick but no ice in the tunnel

Ice from bucket outside the tunnel

It has also been very windy here. The allotment in perched on top of a hill and we are at the mercy of the Westerlies that blast Cornwall off the Atlantic. If it is not tied down it will blow away. Any structures need to be really well made and properly fixed into the ground or you will loose them.

These poly tunnels from garden centres and ebay are really not up to the job and you are lucky if they last a season.

This is what is left of a cheap poly tunnel on another plot.

The wind on the allotment is one of the reasons why we want to build a Geodesic Dome Greenhouse. Geodesic domes -when built and attached properly- are very good in high winds and should stand up to the kinds of winds we get here.

I started marking out and clearing the ground for our dome and hopefully we will be building the base section over the next few weeks as and when we can afford the materials. This dome project is going to be one project where I am going to spend some money and do it right.

When the dome is finished it will look like this.

This is the same as the dome I am going to build

The ground where the dome is going is very uneven and overgrown so I have started clearing the ground ready to start levelling the ground to take the base boards

Clearing the ground for the dome1

The dome is going to be 4500mm in diameter and nearly 3000mm high and will house an off grid Aquaponics System.

Malcolm, another plot holder was so impressed with my barrel garden I built earlier in the year that he has also built one to use as a strawberry tower and he has done a bloody good job as well. Well done Malc

Malcolm’s Strawberry tower garden including an internal worm tube

He also gave me a few hundred composting worms for my own barrel garden.

The first of February so the annual general meeting for the allotment association and a very interesting talk by Jacqui Davey, a local Ecologist and Bee expert. She gave us load of information on how we can attract beneficial bees, bugs and butterflies to our allotment plot.

I was also asked if I would be on the allotment committee and I accepted. Thanks Guys. i will try to be a helpful member of the team.

Paul


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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


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55 Vegetables in 4 square feet? Part1

Introducing the barrel garden.

This is a picture of a mature barrel garden from thee tower garden project

Barrel gardens are fantastic. They are cheap and easy to build, you can grow a massive amount of food in a tiny footprint, they retain and recycle water and nutrients, they require very little weeding, they have an integrated composting wormery that automatically fertilises your barrel and deals with kitchen waste, they produce fantastic worm casting you can either  reuse in the barrel or on your garden.You can now grow vegetables and soft fruits anywhere even if you only have a small courtyard or balcony. You can even easily look after a barrel garden from a wheelchair.

“WOW, Where can I get one of these fantastic gardens?” I hear you ask. Well, I’m sure if you searched hard enough you could find someone who supplies them but the best way is to roll up your sleeves and build one yourself. (If you are having trouble finding a barrel garden and you really can’t build one yourself then get in touch and we can discuss me building one for you).

Right, let’s get started. First of all you are going to need a barrel. In this demonstration I am going to use a 205Lt ‘Tight Head’ barrel. Tight head barrels only have a couple of small openings in the top so you will have to cut the top off. You might find an ‘Open Top Keg’ type barrel that have a removable lid but it doesn’t really matter. It only takes a few minutes to remover the top of a tight head barrel.

When looking for a barrel for this type of project make sure you get a food grade barrel that has only be used to carry foodstuffs. Places to look might be large food production companies, bakeries, breweries etc. Also ask on freecycle or streetbank.

I started with a tight head barrel I have had hanging around for about 5 years.

Tight head barrel

First job was cut the top off. You could do this with an electric jigsaw but me being me plus the fact that I don’t have electricity at the allotment I used a great little hand saw that was perfect for the job.

Plasterboard saw

It only took about 10 minutes to cut the top off and it ended up being quite a neat job. I don’t think I could have done it much quicker with a jigsaw to be honest by the time I set it up and everything.

Barrel with the top removed

Next job was to drill the drain holes in the bottom of the barrel. This allows any excess water to drain away so the barrel doesn’t become waterlogged. This is also where you collect all the lovely nutrient rich water that can be put back in the top of the barrel. That is one of the great things about the barrel garden. Nothing is wasted.

As normal I use a great hand tool that has all but disappeared since the advent of the battery drill. The hand drill.

You can still buy these brand new but you will probably get a better quality tool if you buy an old one from a cat boot.

Hand drill

We just want to drill a series of holes to allow the water to drain but not to let the soil out. I tried for some sort of pattern but that didn’t work did it.

Drain holes

In the next instalment we will be marking out, cutting and forming the 50 grow pockets in the sides of the barrel.

There were some sprouts ready for harvest

Brussels Sprouts

And leeks

Leeks

And the Sedum which I used in the header of this blog is looking fantastic now it is in flower

Sedum

more on the barrel garden very soon

paul


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Pond is now filled

As I posted before  we gave up on the idea of a puddled clay pond as it was too much work on a piece of land we don’t own plus I got a surplus pond liner so we thought sod it let’s just get it done.

I filled the pond to a height so that the water level is just goes over the island in the centre. I placed a Gunnera on the island and then surrounded the pot with sods of earth removed when digging the hole.

I built up the sides with earth from the hole  and then covered the edges of the liner with sods and bermed earth.

This will all become a lot more natural looking once vegetation has re established itself again.

I noticed there was a water boatman in there this morning. How thee hell did that get there?

There are a couple of shallow areas that I am going to use for aquatic plants plus I may put some fish in there and then pump the water through a couple of growbeds to keep the water fresh.

Pond day 1

More later

aman


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New chassis/body mounts for the shogun

What’s this? Car repairs on an allotment blog!

That’s right. Although this blog is about growing food it is also about ‘Self Reliance’ and ‘Frugal Living’ and home car repairs and maintenance falls into both of those categories.

I started repairing cars as a child. I would have been about 7 at the time and there was a guy in our road who used to work on peoples cars for a bit of extra cash. He was a bit of a boffin and built things like metal detectors and his own wetsuit etc.

I used to ‘help’ him and really did learn a lot about how mechanical things worked. He gave me stationary 2 stroke engine that I used to strip down and rebuild over and over again.

Jump forward a number of years and I got my first car. It was an ageing series 3 Land-Rover that had had one owner from new. Unfortunately that one owner was a farmer who really used and abused it and knew exactly when to sell it. When I took it for its first MOT the mechanic ran out of space on the failure sheet and had to start writing in the margins and on the back of the sheet.

They quoted me nearly £1000 back in 1993 to get it through the MOT which was more money than I had so I was faced with a two options, either scrap it or repair it myself.

I bought a simple set of tools, a Haynes manual and borrowed a mig welder and set about doing the work myself. I learned a lot about simple mechanics on that project. My brother helped with the welding and I had to get the gearbox repaired by a professional but apart from that I did all the work myself.

Later I got into old VWs and that is when I really needed to learn how to maintain a vehicle. There is no way I could afford to keep a 1972 camper on the road if I didn’t do all the work myself. This is when I taught myself to weld.

Anyway, back to the job in hand. I still run older vehicles for two reasons. I can’t afford to buy a newer vehicle and I probably couldn’t repair the newer vehicles with all their electronics and non maintainable parts.

We need to run a heavy 4X4 for the simple reason that we live in a vintage Airstream Travel Trailer and it cannot be towed legally behind a normal car. We have taken it off the road for a few months so I can do some much needed repairs to the chassis, the bodywork and the fuel system.

One of the jobs that desperately needed doing was the chassis to body mounts. These hold the body securely to the chassis but a couple of mine had completely rusted away and were not hold anything securely.

If I searched hard enough I could probably source the replacement mounts but being a bloody minded self reliant frugalist I decided to make my own from some 3mm steel I had hanging around.

So todays job was to cut off the old mounts, repair the chassis, fabricate new mounts, weld the mounts back on and them bolt everything back up again.

Here is the mount as it came off the truck

Old rotten mount

As you can see there is not much left of it. In fact I didn’t need to cut it off the chassis as it was no longer attached.

It had also left a hole in the chassis itself so I had to make good before I could fabricate a new mount.

Chassis ready for repair

Chassis repaired

Then came the fun part. I do enjoy fabricating parts. I could have probably sourced a new mount but this one is of 3mm steel and has cost very little bar a bit of time.

New Mount

New Mount

New Mount

I ran out of welding wire before I could weld the mount to the chassis so I will see if I can get hold of some more wire for tomorrow


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Sorry for the lack of posts recently

Life is a bit hectic at the moment. Work is taking priority as we try to keep the wolf from the door and family commitments mean we do not have much time to concentrate on the blog or the allotment.

The allotment is being maintained and I visit twice a day to water and open/close the polytunnel. i am also keeping it tidy and weeded but most projects have been put on hold for the time being until I have a little more time.

We have taken over another tiny allotment which is going to house our Geodesic Dome and Aquaponics system. It has a few fruit trees and strawberry on the plot already and a lot of wood for building beds etc so there will be more info on this shortly.

 

Example of the dome we are going to build

Where we were going to build the dome on the original plot is now going to be a pond to encourage frogs, toads and newts etc to aid in pest control and add biodiversity to the plot.

The nettle tea is ready but I just need to bottle it and start using it. It will do wonders for the tomatoes etc.

I have some features coming up on pests and weeds and how to deal with if you even have to deal with them at all. It turns out not all weed are bad for the garden and some are down right beneficial.

Ans I am going to get started on a barrel garden and a wormery.

So there is still a lot to look forward to at the tiny allotment. Thank you for your patience and I will be posting more soon.

aman