Sunday, 27 April 2014

An April Plot Round Up & The Garden

I'm going to apologize in advance, it's going to be a long post!

The end of April is pretty much here and it's been a rather productive month (and when I say that, I mean for me, because I'm so lax when it comes to planting stuff.  I see other allotments around me and I'm way behind, but equally - I'm not that bothered either,  I'm happy to go about it in my own time).

The potatoes are now in the bags - planted up by Miss Boo - she got more soil on the floor than in the bags to be fair!

She also decided to plant up Pansies as well as sunflowers in tubs for either side of the shed:

And some pansies on the 'window box' on the chicken run:

I've also got the garlic planted.  My garlic didn't too well last year, I'm not really sure why, and to be honest I wasn't going to bother with them this year but decided there was no harm in trying:

And I must say they aren't doing too badly (so far!).  I took this picture today:

The onions are coming up slowly but surely, despite the fact that Boo was digging today and was so excited she'd found something - yes it was an onion! (Honestly between her and the hens!)

Today I've been to the plot and I planted up the peas that had grown in the windowsill propagator that Mr B planted a few weeks ago:

Even though I've had the plot a good couple of years now, when it comes to planting I still have now idea as to what to do and so I arm myself with the following:

The dibber
The age old ruler
The trowel
& The Essential Allotment Guide by John Harrison

Honestly now, this book is great it tells you everything you need to know and I have found it invaluable.  (No, I don't know John, I've never met him, he's isn't paying me to say this)

So firstly, the peas needed splitting:

It's not difficult to do but you have to be light fingered and gently prize them apart without damaging the roots:  (Thanks Boo for the good camera skills!)

Then they need planting 4 inches apart (great for practicing times tables on the plot - for Boo not me!)

(It's when she takes pictures like this without me knowing that I realise I seriously need to do something about my overactive pie-arm!!)

A good water, make sure then hens cant get them and they should be fine.  Ideally I would have covered them with small cloches just for now, but don't have any - maybe I wont have pea plants come tomorrow thanks to the slugs!  We shall see.

Now to the garden, I'm always so envious of those who have nice gardens,  for all the work I put in on the plot, the garden I just can't be bothered with.  And then , when I do bother the dog normally wrecks it!  For example, last weekend he completely trashed my Clematis running at the fence!!  This year however, I'm going to try and make a conscience effort to have a nice garden.

Today I've planted some sweet peas along the fence, an apple tree and two more Clematis, in a pot just to the left of it (with a bit of luck if the dog runs at it, he'll knock himself out!).  I've also got some wildflower seeds to plant up as well:

I've bought lots of herbs over the last few weeks in order to make Mr Husband a herb garden,  originally I was going to put them in the front, we have a huge Acer tree out there which is just taking over and the herbs wont get enough light, so over the next few weeks I'm going to put them out the back in tubs.

Here is Sargent Tazbo (the bad ass cat who needs an ASBO) looking all pleasant and cute (HE IS NOT!) next to one of the new Lavender plants:

I also have some night scented stocks to plant up and around maybe the back window, I'll have to check the best position to put them. 

And finally,  the hens are still at home, having a great time and I'm not going to lie,  I'm going to really miss them when they have to go to the plot.  They are currently living in with rabbits outside in the big run, but when I'm home and the door is open they roam around the garden with the dogs keeping guard for any unwanted cat visitors.  As you  can see they quite happily come into the house:

And drink out of the water feature:

Bye for now & happy planting Xx

Monday, 21 April 2014

Guest Blog Post - New Garden by Johnathan at Wholesome Day

Hello you lovely lot!  I hope you're having a Fabby Easter weekend? Mine has been hectic consisting of family times, re-building rabbit runs and greenhouse failures (and the most delicious Roast Beef dinner cooked by mum - as a non meat eater, due to my health, I enjoyed every moment of it!) !!  I've been so busy in fact that I've just not had time to do much over at the plot and therefore, not really much of a blog post.  However, I do have a little treat for you, instead of me harping on at y'all as usual I opened up the blog this week for a guest post from Johnathan over at Wholesomeday , you can also find him on twitter at: @wholesomeday . I hope you all enjoy it as much as I have!!

New Garden.

Last year we moved to a new house in a small Cambridgeshire village. We moved house in June so by the time we were unpacked we only had a short time left to grow some vegetables and enjoy our new garden.

This year we have the chance to plan our new garden around what we have inherited and start to put down roots for the future.

I have always loved the idea of growing fruit in the garden and have been inspired watching programs on walled gardens with fruit trees growing as cordons.

(I love this Idea - and I'm going to 'steal' it for my shed - Deb)

My plan once I have painted the fences is to create some support with wires along the length of the fence and plant our grape vine that we have had in a pot for years, a cooking apple tree, an eating apple tree and a plum tree with around 6 foot space each along the sunniest side of our new garden.

We have been very lucky to inherit a sunny area at the front of the house that is perfect for a herb garden.

The previous owners had already graveled the whole area and planted many chives, fennel, lavender and some rosemary bushes along with other small bushes.

We have now started the process of swapping anything non-edible for other herbs we can use in cooking and for making teas.

So far we have removed some larger shrubs and added sage, mint and lemon balm and moved some of the lavender bushes to line the path to create a cottage style garden.

In the back garden I wanted to keep the lawn and seating areas already in place so our pet rabbits and guinea pigs had somewhere to play.

 Around the outside of the lawn is another gravel area around 1.5 meters wide. In this area I have built a small raised bed around 1m by 2m in a corner and bought some large terracotta pots to put around the edge of the garden in summer with vegetables in when the raised bed is overflowing.

I really want to make the small raised bed and pots work for us and provide lots of fresh veg through the year so I have been busy planning the year out on paper with a rough guide to when I can plant out to get the maximum from the space.

I am going to use our window sills and pots to start off smaller seeds that can be transferred into place when space is free and have planted some early crops into the bed.

The first thing I did was plant 4 dwarf broad beans seeds in the raised bed on Valentines day. When we were younger we had an allotment and the retired gentleman with the plot next door swore by this date for sowing broad beans and judging by his results -  who am I to argue!

Since then I have also planted leaks, peas, radishes, lettuce and some carrots in the raised bed backed up by kale, courgettes, more leeks & lettuce on the window sill inside. I am using The radishes around the slower growing seeds to use the space, they have taken better than i thought so we are now looking for ways to get radish in every meal!

My plan with this small space is to eat things young and regularly to keep a good supply of fresh veg going, the courgettes will mainly be in large pots and I will keep sowing in pots in succession so I have always got something growing to make use of the space. I am hoping to keep the year rolling by planting some veg over winter so we have something fresh early next year when it all starts again.

This year is really all about finding out what we can do in the space and trying some ideas, I'm sure some things will do well and others not so well but that is the excitement in growing your own.

I will let you know how we get on!

I'll tell you why I love this? I love the fact that everything is at home on their doorstep, that you can literally walk outside and pick your tea.  The main reasons I have the plot are because I don't have the space at home and I know that if I did the dog would run ragged all through my veggies (they've already had my clematis this weekend!)!  Please if you get the chance follow Johnathan on twitter and visit his website, so you can see how he's getting on.  - Deb

  Bye for now & happy planting! Xx

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Project Hen House - Part 1

Like most chicken keepers I would undoubtedly prefer a plastic hen house as opposed to a wooden one.  They are easier to clean, they don't get red mite, they are lighter to carry, but they cost an absolute fortune! If my hens were at home in my garden I would probably consider the thought of getting one second hand plastic hen house and spending a bit more money, but because they are down at the allotment and I'm not there all the time and because some of the paths running through  the allotment site are public footpaths, I wouldn't want to run the risk of someone trying to nick it and scaring the hens.  So up until now I've had a wooden one.

I got my wooden hen house maybe last April, used protective wood paint etc.. and it started warping before Christmas, not only that despite cleaning it out regularly and thoroughly we got red mite, and if you've got hens then you know once you get them, its really hard to get rid of them.

So I was thinking and googling plastic hen house ideas and came across a proper little treat!!

Now before I continue with the rest,  I only wish that I could take credit for this design, because frankly, you'd all think I was a genius, but I cant!!  I came across this image whilst googling:

Which in turn led me to Darius's you tube channel and a guide on how to make this!!

Just look at it, I can just see my hens living happily in here, and this is what I've been doing today!!  I'm going to post Darius's video further down because not only is it amazingly informative, it's also a really good guide, if you want to do this yourself (I hope he doesn't mind),  but here are some pictures of my progress so far:

Take one blue barrel:

Measure and draw the door on, the door is 8" wide at the bottom, as stated in Darius's video (note the nail file - I couldn't find a ruler!)

Then draw 2 lines either side of the door 3 inches in from the edge of the barrel

Next, ventilation holes:  As you can see I used a cotton bobbin purely because because I thought it would be a good size.  In Darius's video, he says put the first hole 10 cm from the middle of the top thingy (now obviously he's a genius, he doesn't use the word thingy!), but the first hole there and then I've put every ventialtion hole 1 inch apart 4 either side.

I've made a little mark on either side of the bobbin so I can line the marks up with the original line.

Next I've drilled holes big enough to be able to get the jigsaw into:

Et Voila!! My ears are still ringing from the jigsaw and I think my neighbours may hate me from the noise!

Now deviating slightly from Darius's plan, I decided that I would try and incorporate an existing galvanized tray I had from the house to catch, well, poo under the perches. It did a good job at it before so...  (look at Mr husband photographing skills, he's like David Bailey!)

So I've marked on the underside of the barrel (please check and double check where the top is!) where the tray would fit in and I've cut along and around the back:

And here is part 1 complete!  The tray fits in nicely, though I'm still in two minds whether to keep it in or not,  I might just try and curve the sides in slightly to make it fit better.

My next jobs are to sand down the jigsawed bits, put some perches in, put a nest box in, re-attach the back and the door, put some wheels on and paint it up! 

Here's Darius's Original video:

Friday, 11 April 2014

Fun Friday

I have to start with some sad news today, Mrs Flora Hen (one of the new ex-batts I got a couple of weeks ago) died yesterday.  She was the weaker of the 4, and though she was eating and drinking, she wasn't eating as much as the others really, and they would push her out of the way at feed time.  So she has gone to hen heaven.  The other three are doing fine, they are still at home in the rabbit run, though they did enjoy a day on the plot with me today in their new pen.

I'm not remotely surprised that I am sporting some rather fetching tan (burn) lines (special thanks go out to Papa O for the passing down of that particular Celtic gene.  You know the one that causes immediate lobster like colouring, when a ginge steps partially out of the shadows!)  Its been glorious sunshine today and the hens have loved it.  Shall we take a moment to discuss this behaviour:

Dust bathing in my beds!! Thankfully there's nothing growing in there.

Today, I've done some planting on the plot.  I've wanted to introduce some colour to the plot for a while really, particularly to attract bees and butterflies more than anything, but with 6 main beds I've obviously not wanted to put flowers into them when I can putting fruit and veg in them.  But then I got to thinking, about the new hen pen attachment.  I could grow flowers up the side and around the bottom of that as well as putting some hanging baskets on there (when Papa O brings his drill again because mine is broke!).  This would combat a few things really it would provide the colour I want, it would attract the bees and butterflies, it would provide even more 'fox proofing' (though be it a very small amount) and finally provide some good natural partial screening for the hens in the summer as the plot is south facing, it's full sun all day long.  So, last week on my garden centre visit I bought some Sweet Pea Seeds for this very reason.  Then this morning, I went to buy milk at the local little shop and they had some Sweet Pea plants.  It was 7 for 60p BARGAIN! So I got a a pot to plant along with the seeds.  After work yesterday I also went the local bargain store and picked up a box of wild flower mix for £1.50!! I thought, it was at least worth at try and if they didn't amount to much I hadn't lost much.

Now, all my pens have a layer of mesh running around the bottom, so Mr Fox (hopefully) will be deterred from digging underneath, so I lifted this up:

Put a layer of compost underneath, then pinned the mesh back down:

(The mesh also covers about 2ft on the inside of the pen as well, so there's 3ft to have to dig under)

Next I've covered the mesh with completely with compost:

At this point, it should be noted , I ran out of compost and went to the local garden centre looking like a right trog with my unwashed hair (I hadn't done it this morning, I hadn't expected to see civilisation and frankly the chickens don't give two hoots what you look like as long as you feed them!), mud all over my face as well as clothes and wellies and my particular favourite, massive mud marks on my bum, where I'd been kneeling and resting on my heels! (I know what you're thinking - My husband is one lucky fella!)  Thankfully, Peter at the garden centre has seen me on better days and put a great big bag of compost in my car as I had spied yet more sweet pea plants this time 12 for £1.20p!!

I then planted them by making holes where the mesh was and carefully poking the plant through, as well as putting a couple of seeds in between two plants:

I then got slightly over zealous with the rest of the little plants and planted them too, so lord only knows how many of those seeds will come up! 

In front of the sweet peas, I've planted the wild flower mix -which looked a little bit like porridge oats (I think in a few weeks I might find out why it was only £1.50 and in fact it isn't seeds but porridge in a box marked seeds!)

I then had to section them off because yes you guessed it - the hens started eating them!! You'd think they were never fed!!

I then planted up some tomatoes, in the upside down tomato planter which worked great last year because the slugs and snails couldn't get to them, and found that the old chicken house table makes a great potting bench!:

And for my final task of the day?  Well, last year when I planted my peas, and made a pea support thing,  it started leaning and falling over.  Allotment Nigel and Allotment Frank, who are some neighbouring allotmenteers (and frankly, ever suffering...Sometimes, I know they just watch me thinking, what the hell is she doing now?) told me that the reason it was leaning was because the peas where too heavy for the support.  So this year, I decided, that I would incorporate a support for peas, beans and yet more sweet peas as well as some sort of tunnel down the path, and using garden canes I've come up with this:

It's not quite finished because I'd just had enough by that point of working above my head, but hopefully it should be sturdy enough.  With hindsight, you might have to bend down slightly to walk underneath it, and not put on anymore weight, but I think it will look nice with plants on, and if need be, there's always other paths to walk down.

And finally,  today has been quite momentous - PENNY ROGERS HAS LAID AN EGG!!:

(Shes the middle one in the picture)  I've had this bird two years now and frankly she has a free ride, she does nothing, nada, not a jot, gets to eat to her hearts content, isn't remotely friendly, pecks you if you try and pick her up and up until now has only ever laid one egg!  Again, another lucky hen who should be thankful I don't eat meat!  She made that much of a racket that she'd laid an egg and the other hens where looking at her as if too say ' its an egg, its what you should have been doing all along'  and in the end Martha hen got so annoyed with her that she pecked to shut up!

Bye for now & happy planting! Xx

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Allotment Days

The April showers have certainly come in with April.  This weekend, the weather has been on and off showery and warm, perfect for the allotment!  Not so much for me, the more my hair gets wet and dries, and gets wet and dries, the more I start to look like Simba off The Lion King!

I went shopping this week to the garden centre I picked up a load of seeds and things, and before I got to the till did a quick Carol Voderman style add up, then swiftly went back and returned them to the places I got them from.  This happened about 3 times until I got to an amount of money that I could justify spending, but I came away with propogators, seeds, compost, a couple of tomato plants and a kitchen herb garden pack. I have this  'miniature allotment' on my windowsill in the kitchen that grows coriander, basil and oregano.

And though my main growing area is at the allotment I've decided to make a small herb garden in the front yard at home, so that mr husband has fresh herbs on hand for when he's cooking, plus the added bonus is that the yard will smell divine!

I've never been very good at growing Coriander it just wouldn't grow and then a Sikh Lady on the allotment told me her secret.  She and her husband always have loads of it on their plot and they kindly let me go and pick it as and when I need it, but she told me if you 'bash' the corianders seeds in a pestel and mortar first, just a rough bash to open the shell of the seed up then plant them, they grow - and indeed they do!!

Yesterday on the plot I decided to plant some onions.  So armed with manure, mini fork thingy, dibber and my fabulous wooden ruler that I found in grandads garage I set to work.  I got a '50 sets' of onions (5 varieties) , I still have no idea what this means, but on the packet it said plant onion in rows 1 inch deep 5 inches apart.  It also said something about plant all one variety in one row and all another in another row, thus suggesting by the end you would have 5 rows of different onions.  Great if all the onions weren't mixed together! I could tell apart red, white little, white shallot and I have no idea about the other two it'll be pot luck as to what comes out!

And another thing, I tell you what those chickens should be counting their lucky feathers that I don't eat meat, they nearly ended up in the pot.  No sooner had I planted the onions, they were digging them up!

Saturday evening I decided to plant the new seeds up in the propogators and I had the pleasure of MR B's company helping me.

He planted, Beetroots, spring onions, peas, broccoli, cauliflowers and some courgettes.

Today (being Sunday) we've had a seed swap on the allotment.  Our allotment community is so lovely, we have get togethers a few times a year, to maybe swap seeds or produce and sometimes we might have a bbq in the summer.  This was our first get together after the winter months, so it's nice to chat to everyone and swap ideas.

This one decided to come and join too - thankfully the other side of the fence (it hates me and relishes in chasing me!)

I took my remainder seeds that I wasn't going to be using anymore and put them in the pile.

And came away with a purple sprouting broccoli plant, some Kale seeds and some Fenugreek and Coriander seeds.  As well as some rhubarb off my own plot.

And finally this afternoon, after being out in the not so warm wet weather all morning I took the opportunity to cozy up with a brew and do some crocheting:

Happy Days!!

Bye for now & happy planting! xx