tinyⒶllotment

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


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22nd May Allotment update

No specific subject today just some photos and a quick write up on how the allotment is coming along.

 

Seedling waiting to be planted out

Seedling waiting to be planted out

Plenty of seedling waiting to be planted out. That will be this weekends job. It is raining at the moment which will do no end of good at the allotment. I expect the plants -and weeds- to go crazy over the next few days.

We were given three broad bean plants by a fellow plot holder so they went straight into the ground

Wombled Broad Bean Plants

Wombled Broad Bean Plants

I am not a great fan of broad beans but I never look a gift horse in the mouth and it is great to get to try things you don’t normally eat.

There was a blueberry bush on the plot when we took it over and there is plenty of fruit growing on it even though it is a small plant

Blueberry

Blueberry

I will add more fruit bushes in the future. I am also keen to add nuts to the plot.

We planted out a few of the larger turnip plants and scattered egg shell about to deter the slugs

Turnips

Turnips

We have plenty more turnips to go in the grown this weekend.

Most of the Runner Beans have been planted out.

Runner Beans

Runner Beans

We love runner beans and always try to grow a lot of them each year

We have planted an Apple tree on the allotment.

Apple Tree

Apple Tree

It already has small apples on it so I am hoping to add a few of our own apples to the cider later in the year. There is also a cherry tree behind the apple in this photo.

Can anyone guess what plant is in the next photo?

Radish

Radish

This is a radish from last year. Very pretty little plant.

We have also planted out on of the Globe Artichokes.

Globe Artichoke

Globe Artichoke

I am not sure what to do with them but they do look impressive when they are fully grown.

That’s it for now. I will post more at the weekend once we have put more plants in the ground.

aman

 

 

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We have added another ‘No Dig Bed’ to the allotment

Last year we didn’t grow that much veg because we started  late in the season and we didn’t really have anywhere to bring on seedlings etc but this year we want to grow a lot more so we needed another raised bed.

We decided to build it in this unused part of the allotment that had an old plastic composter and a pile of rubbish left by the last plotholder.

This is where we are going to build the new bed

We are basically extending an existing bed which was really interesting because I needed to remove the blocks forming the end of one of last years beds and it gave me a chance to see a cross section of a year old no dig bed.

 

Year old no dig bed cross section1

Year old no dig bed cross section1

You can see that the cardboard and the manure has completely broken down into a lovely rich soil and the original topsoil from the allotment has been drawn up into the raised bed presumably by worms.

Year old no dig beds cross section2

You can see the original soil level and the lighter coloured soil has been drawn up a good 4 inches.

I started by cutting the grass and weeds with the shears, I left all the cuttings in the bed as they will rot down and add to the fertility of the soil.

I then added a good layer of wilted nettles

Nettles added to new raised bed

Next I put a good 6 inches of well rotted manure.

The manure layer

And a very thin layer of grass clipping. It is important not to put too much grass on at one time or they wont rot down quickly enough.

The grass layer

And then a couple of inches of compost which gives a nice layer to plant into.

The finished bed

So this is the finished bed complete with canes for the runner beans.

The bed was given a good drenching between each layer.

This bed will be planted over the next week or so

Here is a great video on how to build a no dig bed.

aman

 


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Free Organic Fertiliser Number 1 Nettle Tea

You may have gathered that my favourite price for anything is FREE! There is no point spending loads of money growing vegetables when you can get the same results by spending nothing.

I am going to make a variety of free fertilisers over the next few weeks but to start off I am going to make one that anyone can make today, no matter where you live.

Nettles are everywhere and many people see them as a nuisance and something to be pulled out and thrown away. In permaculture there are no waste products only resources so with this in mind I decided to turn a patch of nettles at the allotment into a fantastic, nitrogen rich fertiliser.

Nettles tend to grow in very rich soil which is why you often see them growing on manure heaps. There is an area of our allotments where everyone discards there resources I mean waste and of course the nettles have gone wild.

 

Nettles growing on a compost heap

Nettles growing on a compost heap

I am only making up a small batch of Nettle Tea so I gathered a good bucket load of nettle tops. Now is a good time of the year to do this because the nettle are young and full of life.

One bucket of Nettles

One bucket of Nettles

You want to damage the nettles as much as possible to create a large surface area. I used a pair of shears to finely chop the nettles.  This reduced the volume of the nettles in the bucket to about a third so I got another bucket full of nettles and repeated the shredding stage until I ended up with the bucket about two thirds full.

I then cut a spare piece of chicken wire into a disk slightly larger than the bucket. I will use this to keep the nettles below the surface of the water.

Chopped up nettles ready to add the water

Chopped up nettles ready to add the water

Then I pushed the wire down onto the nettles and covered with rain water from the water butt.

Nettle tea brewing away to make fantastic nitrogen rich plant feed.

Nettle tea brewing away to make fantastic nitrogen rich plant feed.

I have put a loose lid on the bucket to stop the rain from diluting the mixture too much and now I will leave it for about a month to ferment and get really smelly.

Once done you can bottle it and add a splash to your watering can when watering your veg or tomatoes.

Over the weeks I will make some other liquid feeds from such things as Seaweed, Comfrey, Horse Manure and Chicken Poo.

aman

 

 

 


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Guttering and a vent in the far end of the polytunnel

Spent an hour or so at the allotment this lunchtime. Yesterday was the Allotments Association Open Day and I met a lot more plot holders and spread the word on no dig gardening. I’m not too sure they were all that convinced but time will tell. They have asked me to give a talk on the subject at one of the committee meeting so I can’t have bored them too much.

I met Pete from the plot next to mine. He had some old guttering down the side of his shed that he no longer needed and a piece of pipe I could use as a down pipe. This was really handy because the rain has been coming into the tunnel off the roof and flooding the seedlings.

I used some old shelf brackets I had in the shed to support the gutter -or launder as we call it in Cornwall- and attached the down pipe with a screw as it was not a tight push fit. Everything was just the right length and nothing needed cutting. It just went together in minutes.

Wombled Guttering for the shed at the allotment

Wombled Guttering for the shed at the allotment

Here is a picture of the down pipe going into one of the water butts

Down pipe into water butts

Down pipe into water butts

I have three water buts in the polytunnel. They take up a lot of room but I am hoping they will help regulate the temperature both day and night.

Water butts in Polytunnel for watering and temperature regulation

Water butts in Polytunnel for watering and temperature regulation

I need to find a way to link the three butts together so they all fill evenly but at the moment I just use a bucket to transfer water from the filling one to the other two.

Cost of the guttering and water catchment system = zero pounds

Next job was to put some sort of vent in the far end of the tunnel to get a through draft and safeguard the tunnel from being blown away in the high winds we get around here.

As always I didn’t want to spend any money if I could help it so decided not to use hinges, catches or stays and to just work with what I had on the plot

I started by building a framework for the vent and then cutting the plastic and stapling it around the frame. Looking at this picture I may have pulled the plastic a little too tight and I have deformed the blue plastic hoop a little. Not to worry it will still perform OK

Vent in far end of polytunnel

Vent in far end of polytunnel

Next I built a window frame to go in the hole and covered it in plastic. This was then fixed in place with just one screw half way up each side acting like a hinge pin.

Vent closed

Vent closed

I then added a baton to the vent surround near the bottom to act as a stop and a baton to the vent to act as a handle and stop

Vent open

Vent open

So that’s that another couple of jobs finished

I also planted some onion seeds and started thinking about the next project of fixing the leaking roof on the shed. More on that in another post

aman

 

 

 

 

 


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No Dig Gardening

One thing I hate about gardening is digging and it turns out the garden hates it too. It occurred to me a number of years ago whilst driving in the car that the hedgerows and the verges looked lush and vibrant all on their own without much effort on the part of humans. No one is out digging the verges over every year. They are not out there fertilising, watering or weeding  the hedgerows. How come they just do their own thing and do so well.

This just remained  a weird thought rattling around in my head until I started to listen to Jack Spirko at The Survival Podcast going on about Permaculture.

Until I heard Jack talk about permaculture I thought it was some hippy dippy nonsense involving the phases of the moon and dancing naked around the compost heap but Jack is definitely not a hippy and what he was saying really made sense. I don’t want to go into Permaculture too much in this post as I’m sure I will cover it more in the future.

So I decided to start using Permaculture principles  on my allotment and the fist thing we tried was not digging the soil. All the other plot owners think I am nuts and and think you must dig the soil every year. When I ask them why they just say something like “It’s always been done that way”.

“So how do we plant plants if you don’t dig?” I hear you ask. Good question. You mimic what nature does and you add material to the surface and then you plant into that. We do have to watch out sometimes with this approach. In the tropics -where a lot of permaculture is practised- they don’t have a slug problem like we do here in damp Cornwall. If you mimic nature and mulch with leaves etc you may end up with a huge slug problem. Because of this I will be using composted material and or manure as a mulch.

We have  tried a couple of methods with our grow beds. One with cardboard and one without. It is much easier if you don’t use cardboard and we didn’t end up with more weed in the beds we didn’t use card.

All we did was build some raised beds using whatever we could find for free locally. A couple of beds were made from broken scaffold boards and another was made using discarded breeze  blocks from a garage that had been knocked down. I then cut the grass and weeds inside the beds with a pair of shears and filled the beds with a mixture of home made compost and manure from a local stables. We then planted straight into these and the results were amazing considering we didn’t get the allotment until August last year.

Benefits of no dig gardening are

  1. A lot less work
  2. Instantly great soil
  3. Better water retention
  4. Soil life (worms, bacteria, fungi etc) benefits from not being disturbed
  5. Soil erosion is eliminated
  6. Damage by UV reduced

This is still at the experimental stage for me but so far I am really pleased with the results. We have not really done much to the beds except occasional mulching over the winter and there is very little weeding to be done before re planting.

The best source of information on “No Dig” gardening in the UK is Charles Dowding’s Website

I will be re visiting no dig and other alternative growing methods throughout the coming season.

Here is a great video on constructing a No Dig Bed

aman