tinyallotment

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


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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 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