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

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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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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.




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.





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Plant those Little Suckers! Free Tomato plants.

A lot of people recommend that you remove the suckers from tomato plants to stop the plants becoming too leggy etc. Suckers are those little shoots that appear in the armpit between the stem and branch (see photo below). These suckers are normally just thrown away but I had heard that you can re plant these little suckers and have a whole new tomato plant for free!

Tomato Suckers

Tomato Suckers. Don’t throw them away. PLANT THOSE SUCKERS!

These little suckers can either be cut off with a pair of scissors or you can just pinch them out between your fore finger and thumb.

Cut or pinch out those little suckers

Cut or pinch out those little suckers

Next I pushed the suckers into some potting Compost and gave them a good watering. It is important that the suckers are not allowed to dry out. Keep them out of direct sunlight for a few days until they have recovered. I expect them to wilt but they should recover.

Tomato suckers planted into potting compost.

Tomato suckers planted into potting compost.

I then put the pots into an old mushroom container so I can keep them moist

Tomato Suckers in a tray

Tomato Suckers in a tray

And then I put another upturned mushroom container over the top to stop the water evaporating and to keep humidity high until the cuttings have taken.

I will be checking on these twice a day to make sure they don’t dry out.

Fingers crossed we should have 4 more tomato plants for zero cost.

A free little propagator made from supermarket mushroom containers.

A free little propagator made from supermarket mushroom containers.

There is no reason why you cannot continue to take suckers from plants and re plant them although tomatoes do need a decent growing season to fruit so you cannot do this too late into the season.


I will let you all know how I get on






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Hand tools for self reliance

Obviously we don’t have electricity at the allotment so it gives me a good opportunity to bring out the non powered alternatives to power tool. I know I could use a battery drill etc but they always seem to run out of power five minutes before the end of a job.

My favourite tool at the moment is my ‘Yankee Screwdriver’. This is what we used to use to quickly drive screws before the advent of the battery drill. I love using this piece of kit. It is quick, easy and never runs out of power. They do take a little bit of getting used to and you have to be careful or you can damage the piece you are working on. I slipped this week and the screwdriver went through the side of my polytunnel.

Another great piece of kit is the brace and bit. This is great for boring holes in wood, especially larger holes like to ones I did to take the hoops for the tunnel. For drilling small holes like pilot holes for screws or for drilling into metal you would be better of using a hand drill. I don’t have a hand drill at the moment but I will be getting one as soon as I find one at a boot sale.

I also have a selection of hand saws at the allotment. All of the saws I use at present are modern ‘hard point’ saws and cannot easily be re sharpened. I do have an old Disston panel saw but I need to learn how to sharpen a saw properly.

A selection of hand tools

A selection of hand tools

Keeping your tools sharp is a valuable skill and one I need to learn myself. We are so used to throwing things away these days that things like sharpening drill bits or a saw are being lost which is a shame because you can pick up some real bargains at car boot sales if you know how to bring these tools back to life.

Old tools tend to be well made and from higher grade materials so it makes economic sense to look out for them at car boots and learn how to look after them.

You can also still use them when there is no power