tinyⒶllotment

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


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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


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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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Creating soil for the Barrel Garden

As you well know, I hate spending money so just popping off to the garden centre for some compost is not really an option. Last year some kind sole -who’s identity seems to have been lost – dumped about 10 tons of well rotted manure at the allotment for anyone to use. This was great and it allowed me to fill my raised beds without having to worry were I was going to get materials from. This manure pile has now all gone so now I will have to be a little more inventive.

I went up to where the manure had been and noticed that the earth was very dark, almost black but it was full of hard dun dried lumps of manure, rocks, sticks, bits of plastic etc but there was a good couple of inches of nice soil

I filled a wheel barrow with this mixture and took it back to the plot. This is what it looked like.

What was left of the manure pile

I decided to sieve this stuff to see what I ended up with and the results were great.

Sieved manure

Nice rich dark and crumbly. Lovely.

As I sieved the mixture I took all the plastic and stones out and what I was left with was lumps of dried manue, twigs and leaves etc. I put this in the compost.

This will be added to the compost heap

I wanted to add some more organic matter to the soil so I turned to the composted leaves from last year. These have really broken down nicely and was full of worms.

Rotted leaves from last year

This is natures gold. People rake their leaves off the lawn and the drive and take them to the dump and then drive to the garden centre and buy compost. Leaves are the best thing you can compost. It is the what nature makes nice new topsoil. Everybody should compost their leaves each year. I am now composting other peoples leaves as well.

This stuff really hold onto water so the barrel will not dry out even if I don’t water it for a week or so.

I mixed the composted leaves and the sieved manure together in a roughly 50/50 ratio before putting it into the barrel

It really does look like a fantastic growing medium but time will tell.

Soil ready to go into the barrel

Next I have to decide what I am going to grow in the barrel garden. I think I will put some of my onions on the sunny side of the barrel and we do have a lot of strawberry plants that need putting somewhere. I really want it to be a random mix of plants.

I noticed our little raspberry plants we were given last year have produce a small amount of berries. They will be better next year.

Raspberries

I hope you had a good Haloween or Allantide as it is called in Cornwall.

Happy Allantide

More soon


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55 Vegetables in 4 square feet? Part 4

I make these mistakes so you don’t have to.

I decided to fit the legs today and then fill it up with growing medium to await planting but as with all things DIY things don’t always go to plan.

I thought it was going to be a simple matter to drill the holes in the legs, then drill the holes in the barrel and then just bolt the legs on. I thought it would take a hour, tops. Oh dear. I drilled the holes for the first leg and pushed the bolt through the leg and into the barrel but then I hit upon the first problem. I could not reach down far enough into the barrel to do the nuts up because I had already fitted the compost tube. I tried and tried but in the end I had to drill out the pop rivets and remove the compost tube.

This meant I could access the nuts through the hole in the bottom of the barrel but still working blind with my arm in the hole I scuffed my knuckles on pretty much every turn of the spanner so I think it might be a good idea to fit the legs after you have marked out and cut the grow pockets but before actually forming them. You live and learn.

Here are the legs bolted on at last.

Legs bolted in place

I used nice big washers on the inside of the barrel

Large penny washers on the inside of the barrel

I used 40mm M8 bolts with big penny washers

40mm M8 nuts and bolts with large penny washers

The next problem was getting the compost tube back in the hole which is a very tight fit because the flange at the bottom of the barrel had been heated and then shrunk around the tube. After a bit of chamfering of the tube I managed to get the tube back in but I couldn’t line up the original holes for the pop rivets so I had to drill new holes all of which took time.

All of this took at least a couple of hours and what with the idiotic concept of putting the clocks back I ran out of daylight before I could fill the barrel with soil.

I don’t know how true this is but apparently when an old native American  was told about daylight saving he said ‘Only a white man would believe that you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket and sew it to the bottom of a blanket and have a longer blanket.’ I really hope that was true.

So here is the finished barrel garden in it’s final resting place.

Finished Barrel Garden

I have a few bags of expanded clay pebbles that I am going to use in my future aquaponics system but I am going to use a few handfuls in the bottom of the barrel to stop the soil getting waterlogged.

Expanded clay pebbles

Pebbles in the barrel

I have started filling the barrel with soil but I ran out of light so had to knock it on the head for today but for all intent and purposes the project is finished.

The next instalment will consist of filling the barrel with soil and planting it up.

paul


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Lovely relaxing day at the tiny allotment

After a physically tiring day yesterday working on the barrel garden today I just spent a couple of hours chilling out and doing some odd jobs.

It was a beautiful day and quite warm for the time of year and the allotment is looking great in the sun

Tiny Allotment in the October sun

I cut the grass around the outside of my plot just to keep it looking tidy and I thought I would show you my grass cutting equipment. For long grass and nettles etc I use a small single handed scythette which id great when you get the hang of it, For shorter grass I use a manual push mower and now I have sharpened the blades and adjusted it it does a really good job. For around the edges I either rip the grass out with my hands or use shears.

Push mower, Scythette and shears.

I also got a chance to just sit in the sun with a coffee and play the Ukulele. Got to enjoy the weather while it lasts.

Ukulele in the sun

I did also cut the legs for the barrel garden project but I didn’t have any suitable bolts at the allotment so they will have to be fitted in the week sometime.

Legs for the barrel garden

More soon


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55 Vegetables in 4 square feet? Part 3

If you haven’t read them already you will need to read Part 1 and Part 2 of this series before reading this part.

This part mainly covers the making and fitting of the compost tube and the completion of the grow pockets.

I started out by marking out the hole in the bottom of the barrel to accept the compost tube. I am going to try a completely different way of doing this. Normally people glue a fitting to the bottom end of the compost tube that takes a screw cap or some other way of closing off the compost tube. I didn’t want to buy any more materials that I needed to so expensive fittings were out of the question. After seeing how the blue plastic of the barrel behaves once it had been heated I decided to mark out and cut a hole that was about 15mm smaller than the radius of the pipe. I would then heat around the hole to make it soft enough to force the compost tube through the bottom of the barrel. This would also form a flange though which I could pop rivet the compost tube fixing it to the barrel. I wanted to cut the hole in the bottom of the barrel before finishing the grow pockets because I thought I may be able to access the lower pockets through the hole but it wasn’t really big enough. No harm done.

Here is the hole marked out

Marking out the hole for the compost tube

And then I cut the hole.

A view of the compost tube hole from the inside of the barrel

Next I went back to forming the grow pockets. This is a bit of a laborious job and the bottom two rows involves leaning into the barrel whilst heating the plastic with a blowtorch. This is not a pleasant job and in future I will use a heat gun to heat the plastic from the outside but I wanted to do this one using no electricity. I did a row of ten and then took a break to make the compost tube. I cut the tube to 1000mm. This is long enough so that the botom of the tube is flush with the bottom of the barrel and the top is about 100mm above the soil surface when the barrel is filled.

I marked a line 100mm from the top and another about 50mm from the bottom. In between these two lines I will drill holes to allow water to flush through the compost tube and let the worms travel between the compost and the soil.

This is the finished compost tube.

Compost tube with holes to allow water to flush through the compost and let the worms transit between the compost and the soil

Here is a picture down through the pipe. Just because it looks funky.

View through the compost tube

Once I finished forming all the grow pockets I heated up the area around the hole to allow the compost tube to enter the barrel. This took ages and in the end I had to slit the hole all the way round to get the tube in. It still worked OK but it was not perfect. I didn’t get any pictures of me fitting the tube as there was a lot going on and I only have two hands.

Here is a picture of it fitted.

Compost tube fitted to barrel

I then drilled through the tube and the flange inside the barrel and fixed the tube to the barrel with pop rivets.

Tube riveted to barrel

Here is a picture of the barrel so far with all the grow pockets formed and the compost tube fitted.

Barrel so far.

The next job was to make some way of closing off the bottom of the compost tube that can easily be opened to remove the compost once it is done. Normally people have some sort of screw cap or compression bung. I don’t like either of these ideas for a couple of reasons including the cost and the fact that you will have to scrabble around under the barrel trying to screw the bung back into a filthy tube with gunged up threads etc.

I wanted to make something that was free and also easy to use and this is what I came up with.

I used the top of the barrel I cut off in part one to construct a sliding ‘Gate Valve’. It worked really well because the the top of the barrel had a kind of curved lip which formed the handle of the sliding part of the valve.

I cut strips of the lid material to form the sliders and riveted them to the bottom of the barrel

This is a picture of the valve closed

Compost tube emptying valve closed

And this is it open

and the valve open

So that is it so far. I just need to fit the legs and fill the barrel with soil. Then I can start putting kitchen waste and worms into the composting tube and plant it up.

More soon

paul