Clicking on any of the pictures will open them at full size in the browser window, which means you will have to use the 'back' button to return to the main pages, whereas clicking to the left or right of any picture will open them in a new window, if you fancy a closer look at any of the piccies we've posted! We've included a Google Earth satelite picture of our plots and this years planting plan at the bottom of the page, next to each other. If you choose the Earth view on the satelite image you can rotate the image until it is lined up with the planting plan, then use the arrows in the plan to scroll from Plot 2 to Plot 1.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mad dogs and Englishman go out in the midday sun!

Well, another hot, sunny and dry day, not the weather for hard physical work, but needs must!

Today we were at the plot before 8am (trying to get as much done before it got too hot), with plans to finish topping off the bark chippings on both the plots! After feeding and watering in the greenhouses and polytunnel, we set to, barrowing over 60 barrows full of bark chippings about 300 meters across the plot!

As you can see from the piccies, we managed to finish the job, at about 5pm tonight! Hot, sweaty and sunburned, but a good job done by us both!

With the new bark chippings down, the whole plot looks great, they really sharpen it up, making it look a lot neater and tidier, plus the smell (of pine resin) is fab!

We've now got the plot almost sorted. a couple of small beds to plant up, a single bed to clear and a bit of work on the raspberry 'fedge' (that runs between the 2 plots), and it will be looking great!

As we're now looking good, we can go away for a few days to Shell Island and relax, knowing that there will be plenty of weeds ready for us to tackle when we come home!

Hope your plots are looking good, that the weeds arent being a bother, and that the harvests are going to be bumper ones!

Be back in a couple of days with some more updates, until then enjoy your growing!

Friday, June 25, 2010

Another hot day at the plot!

Well, it certainly looks like we chose the right week to be off work! Its been glorious again today, hot, a light breeze, perfect sunbathing weather ........ unfortunately, we were'nt sunbathing, but working hard on the allotments again! Lol!

Our plans for today were to get the pond area planted up, the front flower bed planted with some more flowers, then to clear and rebark the paths on both plots! We started with a trip to our local independant garden center, for supplies of flowers (another £28 to add to the plot budget), which I then planted in both of the beds!

With more salvia, verbenna and some bedding plants (to go with the existing foxgloves, lemon verbenna and herbs) the pond area is now looking good, and once the new plants fill out a bit, it should be fab!

Just the pile of wood at the back of the pond to sort out here now!

The other flower bed at the front of the plot (beyond the courgette bed) is also now looking good, again once the plants fill out a bit (and the existing poppies and foxgloves grow on a bit more) then it shuld be looking really good!

Whilst I was planting the flowers Lee continued with clearing the weeds from the path edges on plot 1, a big job! Once I'd finished my planting I started to fetch some new bark chippings (by wheelbarrow from the far corner of the allotment site where they are provided free), and then started filling up the paths on Plot 2, as you can see from the picture below, it makes a big difference, really making the plot look a lot neater!

20 barrows later and the first set of paths are done! Not a job to be doing on a hot sunny and humid day! Mind you, with the hosepipe now permanently laid (with 4 points where the pipe can be split and plugged into with a smaller watering hose) and covered with bark chippings I've got to say that it looks a lot better and makes it easier to water by not having to drag around a long and unwieldy hosepipe anymore!

If you look at the path aove, and then compare it with the one in the picture below you will see what I mean about it looking much better!

After 20 barrows I'd had enough, so with the time getting on towards 7pm I started watering (using the new watering system where the permanent pipe can be split and linked into with a short length of hose for watering that part of the plot) whilst Lee finished off clearing the paths on Plot 1, ready for us to bark them up tomorrow! Watering now is far easier and takes about 1/2 the time it used to, which is a great saving of time!

Just before we came home I managed to harvest some more strawbs, enough for strawberries and icecream for supper tonight!

Hope your plots are looking good! More updates and piccies tomorrow, hopefully with the rest of the paths topped up with fresh bark chippings!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Long hot day of weeding, plus first signs of blight!

Well, another long hot day on the plot! We've been concentrating on weeding the veg beds and the path edges in preparation for putting a new layer of bark chippings on in the next day or so, which should make the plot look a lot neater and tidier!

Lee concentrated on Plot 1, whilst I concentrated on Plit 2! The borlotti, runner and climbing french beans are all now weed free, and seem to be growing nicely!

The late sown broad beans are also doing well, plenty of flowers, so cropping could be good, but we did spot some blackfly on them today, so we sprayed them with diluted organic washing up liquid, it helps stop the blackfly and saves having to pinch out the growing tips yet!

The swede and turnip bed is also now weed free, and they are going great guns, much further on than this time last year, hopefully we'll have some ready to eat soon!

Whilst Lee was doing plot1, I was concentrating on Plot 2, starting by clearing the rest of the pond area, I'm hoping to get some plants to put in there tomorrow and get it finished off and looking good! The onion beds are looking good, as are the potato beds, though we did notice the first signs of blight today, so after weeding the spuds and treating with bordeaux mixture I removed the affected foliage and brought it home to go in the green bin!

I managed to clear most of the paths on plot 2, along with the last bed (at the back of the plot to the left of the fartichokes), so hopefully we'll be able to get them nice n tidy with more bark chippings tomorrow!

The first early spuds are looking great, no signs of blight here, but we've treated them with bordeaux just in case!

The second early spuds were the ones that were showing the first signs of blight, so the affected foliage has been removed and again treated with bordeaux!

The maincrops are as yet clear of blight, but have also been treated, just in case!

Hopefully a timely application of bordeaux solution will stop the blight from taking hold, but only time will tell!

More updates to follow!

Yayyy! Holiday Time! 2 weeks off work & time to play on the plots!

Well, the Solstice has passed, summer is officially here and everything is growing well! We're on holiday for 2 weeks now, so should be spending a lot of time on the plot, weeding, sorting the paths out and rebarking them to tidy up ready for the judging in 2 to 3 weeks time! We're also hoping to get a couple of days away at Shell Island (

Plot 2 is virtually full, with only 1 small bed to clear and plant up, and all the crops are growing on really well! As you can see here the broccolli at the front is really coming on well, the spuds behind are flowering and growing really well (with no sign of blight as yet), the onions and garlic (behind the greenhouse to the right) are looking good (should be harvesting in the near future), and the sweetcorn n squashes are looking fab!

As you can see here, the sweetcorn is thickening up really well, anytime now they will shoot up and start to produce cobs, with any luck we should get a couple of cobs per plant, so hopefully this year we'll have lots to harvest (with 140 plants), and the sunflowers and squashes/pumpkins that are also in that bed are doing well! Hopefully the sunflowers will keep the local squirrels occupied so they leave our sweetcorn alone!

The area surrounding the pond has again been a bit neglected, some of the plants we put there last year have done really well, especially the lemon verbena, variegated sage and some of the foxgloves and mint, but there's also a few weeds and nettles, so one of the jobs I want to tackle this week is to clear the weeds and plant up some other useful plants, especially ones that the bees can use for food! Any suggestions?

Plot 1 is also looking good! The broad beans and peas are cropping well, the borlotti, runner and french beans are growing well and should start to flower soon, the brassicas are doing really well, the strawbs are cropping well and the courgettes are beginning to produce fruit! We've a bit of work on here to get the paths weeded and rebarked, plus a bed to clear and some weeding to do, but hopefully by the time we finish our hols then we should be looking really good!

The first sowing of broadies is cropping nicely, and the second sowing of 24 plants is now flowering, so we should have a good successional crop from these!

The first courgette! We've 2 at about this size, and another 12 or so smaller ones forming, hopefully they will again produce a bumper crop of tasty frsh organic courgettes! With 13 plants growing, its possible we may well face a glut this year!

The peppers, aubergines and chillies in the hot house are also growing well, with plenty of flowers and the first few pepper and chilli fruits forming, along with a few volunteer spuds in the bed! The 2 greenhouses and the polytunnel are also doing well, the weed control fabric we've planted through seems to be doing a good job at keeping the weeds under control, and the first few toms are now golf ball sized, with plenty more flowers also present! Hopefully we'll be eating fresh toms soon!

The final planting of cabbages is growing on nicely, the earlier sown ones are also going well, with the first batch not too far from beginning to heart up, hopefully we'll be harvesting some of these soon!

The brussell sprout bed is also looking good, the 27 plants are growing nicely, should have enough sprouts to see us through the winter, but still a long way to go before they are harvested!

So, ontop the veg plot balance sheet!

Total Veg Plot Costs 2010

Rent + Subs for 2 full plots £100
Seeds £20
Seed Spuds £20
Onion Sets £6
Growbags £15
Chicken Manure Pellets £8
Plastic 'wannabe' Polytunnel £61
Bamboo Canes £8

Total Costs £ 238

Total Veg Plot Harvests 2010

Rhubarb £ 25
Fartichokes £ 4
Volunteer Spuds £8
Lettuce £2
Radish £2
Garlic £15
Strawberries £10
Peas £4
Broad Beans £4

Total Veg Plot Harvests £ 74

So we're still £164 short of breaking even for the year, but a long way to go until we've even really begun to bring in the harvests!

Beekeeping Update!

With us now having 6 hives for ourselves and 1 nucleus that will be going to a new beekeeper in the near future we've found that its best if we split into 2 teams to do the inspections (usually the girls team of Pat, Sarah - Pat and Colins daughter - and me doing apiary 1 (our original apiary with hives 1 and 2 plus the nucleus in it) and Lee and Colin doing apiary 2, with hives 4, 5, 6 and 3 in it), as that way we can do both apiaries in about an hour and a half, rather than it taking all of us about 4 hours to do the inspections!

Apiary 1

Sarah started to do Hive 1 (Smiths hive), with Pat and myself assisting, she was stung within 5 minutes (through her jeans), but soldiered on to complete the inspection! This hive was the first one we got, and has been a worry since we got them, as the Queen doesnt seem to want to build up the bees numbers as well as the other hives. We've had the bees tested for disease, and nothing was evident, so we've not taken any action other than feed them and give them already drawn out frames. This week we found that there are now bees on 5 frames, and plenty of stores being laid down, plus 2 play cups (the start or a queen cell that they produce ready for swarming or superceeding the existing queen), which are the first that we've ever seen in this hive! Things are looking up in here, so its possible shes decided to get a move on and we may have to change her nickname from 'lazy queen'!

Hive 2 (another Smiths Hive) is our most prollific, the queen in here is a fantastic layer (again this is one of our original colonies, but not the original queen as we lost her in a swarm last year), last week we decided to give her more room to lay in, so put another super on, but this time below the queen excluder to allow her more room to lay. In the space of a week its been almost completely drawn out and filled with eggs, grubs and stores! This hive has 4 supers on it now, with 2 completely full and partially capped (once fully capped we can take some for harvest) supers of honey!

We found lots of play cups, but also 2 fully developed (but not capped) queen cells, so given that its possibly getting late in the season for a division to build up ahead of the winter we decided to put these plus some eggs, brood and stores into a nucleus, giving us another split to hopefully pass onto another new beekeeper! This may be our last chance to get a division this year, tho our Hive 3 was a late swarm last year (mid august), so the old adage of 'Aswarm in May is worth a field of hay, a swarm in June is worth a silver spoon and a swarm in July isnt worth a fly!' isnt always correct!

The nucleus in this apiary (which was the split left behind when Hive 3 swarmed a few weeks ago) is doing really well, we rehomed it into a hive last week, and the bees are calm and very productive, now occupying 6 frames and having already capped a full frame of honey! The queen had been nicknamed 'speedy' as she is a very fast mover on the frames! We recon this is going to be a great hive for the girl who is having it next week when she gets back from her holidays!

Apiary 2

Lee and Colin started in Apiary 2 (which is on plot 1, confused yet?), with hives 4 and 5 (4 to the left in this pic and 5 to the right) both of which are Smiths Hives and contain splits from Hive 2. Both have 2 supers on and have bees on 7+ frames, they both seem to be doing well, with a full super each and the second super filling up nicely!

Hive 6 (to the left of this picture, a National Hive with 3 supers on, contains the first split we took from Hive 3) is the hive thats been nicknamed 'stingray', its stung one of us the past 2 times we've been doing an inspection, and today it struck again, with Sarah getting it twice (again through her jeans). Although the bees are a bit feisty in here, they are good producers, so we're keeping the queen in there for the moment, but if things become bad, then we may have to consider requeening them!

Hive 3 (to the right of the picture, another National Hive and the original queen that swarmed from Apiary 1) is also going really well! Since being rehomed in the new National only 4 weeks ago they've completely drawn out the brood box and 2 supers, and today had another super put on it as the other 2 are now full of uncapped honey!

Watching the bees come and go is absolutely facinating, all of us agree we could stand and watch them for hours at a time!

So, the 6 hives we are keeping now have a total of 15 supers on them, in varous stages of being filled and capped. Once they are capped off then we'll be removing some to harvest, and at 22lb (on average) of honey per super, then there's a potential 330lb of honey currently on the hives. With the late flows of ivy and himalayan balsam still to start (at which point the girls could fill a drawn out super in a week - weather depending - for about 4 or 5 weeks), then its possible we may yet get a significant harvest from the girls this year, although we are definitely going to leave them with a full super of capped honey per hive for the winter!

Our Beekeeping Balance sheet is beginning to look a bit healthier, with an total outlay of approx £3000 and a total income this year of £300 (once the 3 nucleii have gone), plus the 3 new colonies we've been able to split into hives this year, (worth in effect £450+) and factoring in the 18lb of honey we harvested last year - worth approx £90, then our total equivalent yield so far is £840, with the honey harvest yet to start! Even if we dont get any more supers filled this year (a highly unlikely scenario), then we should be able to harvest 9 supers of honey (leaving 1 super per hive for the winter) which should yield about 200lb of honey, worth about £900 to £1000, which will bring our yield to approx £1740, or just over half way to breaking even!

Hope your veg is growing well, your fruits are setting and your crops are growing well!

More updates to follow soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Balance Sheet so far!

Total Veg Plot Costs 2010

Rent + Subs for 2 full plots £100
Seeds £20
Seed Spuds £20
Onion Sets £6
Growbags £15
Chicken Manure Pellets £8
Plastic 'wannabe' Polytunnel £61
Bamboo Canes £8

Total Costs £ 238

Total Veg Plot Harvests 2010

Rhubarb £ 25
Fartichokes £ 4
Volunteer Spuds £8
Lettuce £1
Radish £1
Garlic £15
Strawberries £2
Peas £2
Broad Beans £2

Total Veg Plot Harvests £ 61

Still a long way to go to break even (another £177 of crops yet before we break even), but with most of our crops still to harvest, there should be plenty of time for another years decent haul!

Beekeeping Balance Sheet

Well, our first viable Nucleus went to its new home last week, and the second Nuc has a buyer waiting (till they come back from their hols in a week or so), so as these are both going to folks who were on the Cheshire BBKA beginners course with Pat and Colin (we wanted to do the course, but the timing is impossible with our current rotas), we sold them at a reduced rate of £100 each, normally a nucleus of 5 frames of bees with a laying queen go for upwards of £150 each!

The 6 hives we are allowed in the apiaries at the plot are all now viable, the original 2 are very busy with 3 supers on 1 and 4 supers on the second (we had to give her a super to lay in aswell as the brood box shes so prolific!), and the other 3 new hives all seem to be doing well, with 2 supers on each! Hive 1 has picked up, even if shes not any busier than the new hives, but there are honey stores in all of the hives, some of which is beginning to be capped off, which should mean we will be able to take our first honey harvest from them in the near future!

Lee has named Hive 6's queen as 'Stingray', cos her bees are feisty and have stung one of us during both the last 2 weeks inspections, the other hives all seem a lot calmer than this hive!

So, with an total outlay of approx £3000 and a total income this year of £200 (once the 2 nucleii have gone), plus the 3 new colonies we've been able to split into hives this year, (worth in effect £450+) and factoring in the 18lb of honey we harvested last year - worth approx £90, then our total yield so far is £740, so we are still currently a long way in the red, but that should become a lot healthier balance sheet once we start to be able to harvest honey this year! If we have a bumper harvest of 550lb, then we could in effect break even this year, but with 3 of our hives being new and the existing ones still having to finish drawing out all of the super frames, the likelihood is that we wont have a bumper harvest this year, but that should change next year as all the super frames should then be drawn out allowing the bees to concentrate their efforts into honey production rather than wax production!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The invalid is recovering, the weather is hot and the plants are growing!

Apologies for the lack of recent updates, but trying to stay on top of the 2 plots, up to date with bee inspections and look after Lee is hard going! Lee's ankle is slowly improving, its still badly bruised, and painful, but at least hes able to do without the crutches most of the time now!

So, as you can see from the piccies, our days off this week dawned hot and sunny, so we were early to the plot, to tackle the weeds that the recent rain had germinated! We also needed to cut back the comfrey from the middle of plot 2, as its started to fall over now, so a haircut (and pop the cuttings into a sealed barrel to rot down to make comfrey tea - a great if foul smelling tomato feed)

Plot 1 had 3 beds at the front that needed sorting out, the big onion bed behind the hothouse to sort and a fair bit of weeding all over!

I started by weeding the autumn sown onion sets, when I started you could hardly see the onions, but now they are nice n clear (if a bit floppy)! As you can see behind, the lettuce, radish and greenhouse are all doing well!

Another task that needed to be done was to plant out our first batch of leeks, only 110 of them (perhaps I went a bit overboard with the seeds! lol!)

Next was the sweetcorn squash beds to hoe, lots of small weed seedlings popping their heads up, with some timely hoeing it should be able to keep them under control!

Next jobs were 2 of the 3 beds at the front of plot 1, as you can see here, the first of them has now got poppies and foxgloves planted in it! The bed closest the camera is the second courgette bed, which now also has 5 red salad bowl lettuce in it!

The other larger bed was where we out the lavender we got cheap last year, and also contained 'volunteer' garlic, 4 bulbs that we missed last year (and grew this year!) Its now cleared and the lavender has had a nice haircut, with 3 more courgette and some 'volunteer' celery planted behind it!

The garlic/onion bed in the middle of the plots is also filled with 'volunteer' crops, this time foxgloves, poppies and spuds, the foxgloves and poppy were carefully moved today, the spuds we harvested a couple of plants, which have given us enough new spuds for tea tonight!

We seem to have more volunteer crops that we've ever had before, not sure why, but the photo below shows the 'volunteer' garlic, a welcome bonus crop!

We've also begun harvesting the first strawbs, raddish and lettuce, all of which are tasty, but nothing compares with the taste of fresh strawbs from the plot! (Especially if they are eaten on the top of a scone with jam and clotted cream on it!)

Other crops that are growing well............ the first sowing of cabbages is looking great under its protective netting! We've got a lot of brassicas growing, 60+ cabbages, 60+ broccolli, 27 sprouts and a few caulies, hopefully this year we'll be able to preserve some by making our own sauerkraut and pickled cabbage!

Yup, brassicas a plenty growing away nicely!

The spuds are growing well too, there's been a couple of blight alerts, with full 'Smiths' periods recently, but (fingers crossed) so far we've been lucky, lets hope that this year the blight gives us a miss! Beyond the spuds you can also see the broad beans (2nd sowing) and the peas, both of which are doing well!

The french beans inside their protective cage, surrounded by peas, all of which seem to be doing really well!

As can be seen here, Lee has had to take it easy with his poorly ankle, sitting with it raised whenever it gives him grief! Hopefully it wont be too long until hes back to full fitness!

I managed to catch this piccy of one of our bees at the watering station we set up for them at the front of plot 1, the bees are doing well, 7 hives all producing brood and a couple already have 3 supers of uncapped honey! Hopefully we'll be able to take some to extract in the next week or so!

Hope your plots are growing well, the weeds arent proving to be too much of a problem and the harvests are starting!

More updates soon, we're on holiday in a weeks time, so should be able to get the plot all spick n span for the judging, and Ill share some piccies of what we've been up to then!