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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Bees, Bees everywhere!

Sorry, no piccies today, I forgot to take the camera with us!

Ok, the plan today was to spend most of the day on the plot, with a trip to a local Beekeeper who sells supplies in the afternoon to pick up a few bits n pieces (more brood frames and foundation, some oxalic acid - for treating them for varroa mite while they are still without brood -, a feeder so we can give Dave the one we had borrowed back, an uncapping fork, 2 honey storage buckets and some smoker fuel, this beekeeping lark aint half expensive when you first start out), then to meet Dave (our beekeeper friend) at the apiary where our hive is along with Pat and Colin (plot neighbours and partner aspiring beekeepers who have come in halves with us on the set up) to check on the girls and give them a feed!

Plans started to go awry when we awoke to rian and wind, not a day to be sowing seeds on the plot, so we went shopping instead, then went to pick up the apiary supplies, then to meet up with Pat, Colin and Dave.

On arriving at the apiary it was to find Dave just finishing the gathering of yet another swarm within the apiary (he has a feeling they've come from another beekeepers hives who hasnt been seen for a few weeks), they were put into a cardboard box (as Dave had nowhere else to put them, all his nuc boxes and all the hives on the apiary already being full!)

Well, quick as a flash Lee offers the use of our other hive, the one we still had in our apiary at our plot, and Dave readily agreed, so Pat and Colin shot off to fetch it while we checked and fed the colony in our first hive (who seem to be settling in well, they're feeding well and are even beginning to collect pollen!)

As soon as Pat and Colin arrived back with the other hive we got it set up, then shook the swarm into the hive and set up the feeder (darn good job we got it, tho now we are going to need another!), Lee is going to go back tomorrow and top up the feeder, then at the weekend we are going to treat both colonies for Varroa mite with the oxyalic acid and feed them!

So, in the space of 3 days we've gone from none to 2 hives of bees! Looks like we are going to have to get the second apiary set up and some more hives sorted out this year rather than next as we were planning!

I'll get some piccies of the hives and the allotment at the weekend and hopefully will get an update done!

Hope your growing year is going well!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Bees are a swarming at a local Allotments!

Well, our friend Dave (the beekeeper) has been having fun with his bees recently at another local Allotments (about 5 miles from our plots), on Friday he had 2 swarms, and another today, so after filling all of his nucleus boxes with existing colony divisions he rang us today and asked if we could take one of our hives down there, to take a large swarm that they had captured!

After loading up the MINI with a brood box (complete with frames and foundation), base, varroa floor, an empty super, queen excluder, crown board and roof, we made our way down to the other plot to meet up with Dave. We donned our bee suits for the first time (to use with the bees), then made our way into the apiary to assist Dave with moving the swarm from its temporary nucleus box into the hive that we set up down there!

As we wont know for a few weeks whether the swarm has a viable queen (one that is mated and capable of laying fertilized eggs) we've left the hive on the other plot for the time being, as if its a new 'virgin' queen, then she will have to have several 'mating flights' where she becomes fertilized by the drones, and as there are quite a few hives over there, then that is the best place for fertilization to occur!

Hopefully the swarm will find the new hive to its liking, we should know over the next few days whether they decide that they are going to stay in the hive, hopefully the feeder that we set up in the empty super will encourage them to stay and start drawing out the foundation to allow the queen to start laying! Once we are sure that the queen is viable, then we will move the hive to the apiary on our plot! With any luck (if the weather remains favourable), we may even get another split from our first hive to enable us to set up a colony in the second hive in the apiary, if this is successful, then next year we will need to set up the second apiary on our other plot and get hives set up on there!

We were both quite excited at the prospect of dealing with the bees, but once in our suits and down there, we were both surprised at how calm and restful the bees were. Very well behaved girls indeed, no aggression, calm and serene, not what you would think at all from a swarm of 10000 bees!

So, finally a piccy of the set up hive! We'll be visiting it every couple of days on to check on the girls and feed them, and once we are sure that the queen is fertile and laying capped brood, then we'll be moving them back to their new home on our plot!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Update - 20th May 2009

Well, a day spent dodging the showers, but overall a productive day at the plot! As you can see from the panorama, things are growing at a pace, the first peas were harvested today, the broadies look like they are going to produce a bumper crop (if the flowers are anything to go by), the tomatoes are flowering, as are the first of the chillies and peppers, the onions are growing well, the artichokes are now 18" tall and the brassicas are coming on strong!

We managed today to get 3 of the 4 squash and sweetcorn beds dug over and planted, which are located in the central bed on plot 2, 80 sweetcorn (3 varieties, Applause, Swift and Tender and True) and 24 squashes and pumpkins (6 varieties, Mars, Hooligan, Jack O Lantern Pumpkins and Winter Festival, Avalon, Sunshine Squashes), we've another 2 types of cucurbits to plant yet, 3 Hundredweight Pumpkins which are going to be planted into the compost bins and 9 that are going into the last of the squash beds (which is still to be dug yet)

We also took the cloches off the courgettes today, they were suffering from the lack of water udre the cloches and the heat, so we've given them a good drink and feed, and now hope they will grow away apace! The comfrey beyond the sweetcorn and squashes was absolutely buzzing with bees today, just hoping some of them decide to move into one of the hives in our first apiary!

Last piccy for today, showing the first early spuds with the sweetcorn and Mars pumpkins beyond it.

The other news we had today was from our beekeeper friend, Dave, he's been hoping to split one of his hives for us, and today he found a swarm, which may well become the nucleus of bees for one of the hives in the apiary! We'll know more tomorrow, but fingers crossed that we'll soon have bees in the apiary!
Well, apart from 2 1/2 beds to dig (1 last bed for pumpkins, 1/2 a bed for climbing french beans and 1 bed for borlotti beans) and another 2 prepared beds to plant (1 for turnips and swedes, 1 for carrots and parsnips) the existing beds are now dug and planted, we've still got 1/2 of the onion from seed bed empty, with another batch of seedlings yet to be transplanted (and plans to put some peppers or tomatoes into the back of the bed if theres any room left after the onion seedlings are planted), but after that we're fully planted in the existing beds! At the side of the fedge on Plot 2 (where the strawberries originally were) we've a space for another bed, which we're hoping to use for outdoor toms and peppers, as its a nice sheltered spot, and possibly another bed that we could dig on Plot 1, (where the 2 pallet compost bins are at the far end, next to the plastic greenhouse), which would give us a little bit more growing room, but before we could tackle that bed we'd need to move the compost bins to the side of plot 1. Other than that the only other area we're hoping to tackle is the pond surround, which hopefully will be done sometime this summer!
Hope your growing season is going well, and your planting is happening despite the showers!

Friday, May 08, 2009

Update and Piccies 6th May 2009

Well, after a weeks holidays we've managed to get all but 7 1/2 beds sorted and planted on the allotments, unfortunatley the weather hasn't been brilliant, so we didnt manage to get quite as much as we'd have liked done, but whats left to do shouldn't be too difficult now! As can be seen here, the first earlies are now breaking through, the overwintering celery, garlic and onions are doing well, salad is coming along nicely, and the broadies are flowering well, so we should start harvesting in the not too distant future!

Another panoramic view looking accross the plots, everything to the green netting (on the brassica beds) is ours, 2 full plots next to each other, set up with bark chipping paths and wooden edged 'no dig' raised beds (that still get dug, tho as they arent walked on they are much easier to turn over than they were when we took on the plots!)

So, a more detailed view of plot 1, the beds to the right of the picture (in front of the greenhouse) contain overwintered celery at the front, with broad beans behind, the perspex glazed shed extension (behind the white chairs) has 3 large tubs, 2 of which contain sweet potatoes and the third has 6 pepper plants in it! The greenhouse has been planted up now, with 9 tomatoes, 2 aubergines, 4 chillies and 4 peppers + french marigolds to keep the white fly away! Directly behind the greenhouse are the strawberrys, blueberries and herbs, in individual beds, both the strawbs and blueberries are flowering well, and most of the herbs are flourishing. Beyond this is a row of 5 beds, each of which has an end bed to the right containing flowers and fruit trees, conference pears, branley apples and an eating apple. The main 5 beds (which are 4' by 10' each) next to the fruit trees contain (from front to back) Runner beans, peas and broad beans in the first bed, french beans (under netting) in the 2nd bed, another bed of runner beans and peas (still to be dug and planted), a bed for turnips and swedes and finally a bed for borlotti beans and more peas / mangetout (still to be dug and planted)! Beyond this is the plastic walk in greenhouse, that was put back up this week and planted with 5 growbags of peppers, 4 plants each of 5 varieites!

The second run of beds contains (front to back) 140 overwintered garlic plants, 120 overwintered sturon onions from set, 140 overwintered red onion sets, 120 spring planted onion sets, 140 onions from seed (some spare space in here than may take some of the outdoor toms too), then a bed for carrots and parsnips (still to be dug) and finally a large bed of maincrop spuds, containing 40 tubers!

So, only 3 beds left to dig and plant on this plot!

The view down plot 1 from the plastic walk in greenhouse! The beds still to be dug are the one with the black plastic on the corner, and 2 to the left of it!

Plot 2 Panorama, from the front! Again the beds are pretty much planted up!

On the right of the picture, the greenhouse contains 11 tomatoes, 1 cucumber, 4 aubergines, 10 chillies, 6 peppers and some companion planted french marigolds! Beyond the greenhouse is a small bed of salad, beetroot and spring onions, then 3 beds of spuds, 2 first early beds (20 tubers each) and 1 larger bed of 2nd earlies (40 tubers, 20 each of 2 varieties), beyond this is the raspberry fedge!

The middle row of beds contains 9 courgettes (under the plastic cloches) edged with flowers (for the bees), then 3 large beds (still to be dug) for squashes and pumkpins which will be companion planted with our sweetcorn and some sunflowers (for the bees and to try and keep the squirrels away from the sweetcorn), then the comfrey bed, another bed (still to be dug) for more sweetcorn and squash, then a bed whick is half full with Jerusalem Artichokes, the other half of which will take our overspill of brassicas!

The final run of beds (to the left of the piccy, beyond the muck heap and pond) is our brassica bed this year, 6 beds all netted, containing 20 sprout plants (2 varieties) 20 broccolli plants (3 varieties) 20 caulies / romanesco broccolli, 20 Golden Acre Primo cabbages, 20 Red Drumhead cabbages, 20 Greyhound cabbages!

At the bottom of the plot is the Apiary, with the 6 crowns of rhubarb growing in front of it and blackberries behind it!

To the immediate left of the fedge (behind the grey compost bin) is the area we had the strawberries in the first year, unfortunately it proved to be too weed infested, so we had to move the strawbs, so the plan here is to dig another bed, 15' by 4' and use that shelted area this year for our outdoor toms and peppers, quite a big job to dig and edge it tho, so this will probably only happen after we've got the other beds dug and planted!

So, a closer up shot of the greenhouse on plot 1! Looks very bare atm, but give it a few weeks and it'll be like a jungle in there!

Plot 2's greenhouse, with the outdoor toms on a tray on the center path!

The interior of the walk in plastic greenhouse, 5 growbags with 4 plants each of 5 varities of peppers! Big Banana, Sumer Salad, Chocolate Pepper, Worldbeater and Sweet Pepper! We've had much better success with pepper germination this year, so have had to try and find homes for almost 100 pepper plants, but as we're hoping to dry and freeze enough peppers to see us through the year, it shouldnt be too much of a problem for us to deal with a glut!

Inside the perspex shed extension, showing the sweet spuds growing away nicely and the newly planted 6 peppers!
The pond on plot 2, teeming with tadpoles and looking much better after we did some work, rebuilding the edging walls and relocating the liner (which had slipped down on one side, limiting the depth). Our plans here are to get a solar powered pump and to build a small waterfall in the bottom left corner, perhaps planting the area with wildflowers and a small almond tree, this will involve removing the damaged dacking and clearing the area, rebuilding the retaining wall between the muck heap and the area and generally building up the soil depth, fortunately the 2 compost bins at the back of plot 1 look to be ready for use!
The 6 crowns of rhubarb (Timperley early) growing next to the apiary! We've had huge problems with bindweed at this end of the plot, so we've used some recycled car mats (free from another plotholder) to cover the ground between the rhubarb in the hopes of helping to keep it under control, fingers crossed it works!

So, the front of plot 1, the overwintering celery is going to be allowed to go to seed so we can harvest it for celery salt, and the broadies behind are going great guns!

The first runners are just poking through (next to the bamboo supports), the first peas are now podding and the last sowing of broadies have just been planted! The area towards the rear of the bed next to the peas wil be used either for catch cropping or for some of the outdoor toms!

Lee decided to pick me some flowers, so first he grabbed some mint (was lovely on the morroccan style lamb chops), then he brought me an armfull of rhubarb! Typical man! Lol!

Have to say tho, the rhubarb was lovely in a crumble! We'll have to get harvesting and freezing some more soon, lots of folks on the plot have had their rhubarb go to seed this year, so we've fingers crossed that ours doesnt go to seed yet!
The greenhouse at home is now getting a bit more empty, I'm going to be sorting out the grow bags in there this afternoon and planting up the 18 tomatoes in them, then potting on the 3 aubergines and masses of peppers and chillies into pots to allow us to move them in and out as required!

So, what exactly have we got growing this year? You ready for a mega list??
Parsley, Coriander, Basil, Rosemary, Mint, Chives, Sage, Thyme and Peppermint.
6 crowns rhubarb, 65 Raspberry Canes (in fedge), 5 blackberry canes (around edges), 6 blueberry bushes, 2 pear trees, 3 eating apple trees, 3 cooking apple trees, 1 cherry tree, 1 grapevine (trained up the front of the shed, we've plans to build an arbour type extension to support it a bit better, hopefully this year), 160 strawberry plants, 40 in the plot, 100 in planters and 20 in hanging baskets!
3 varieties, 140 plants
140 Sturon from set (overwintered), 140 Red Barron from set (overwintered), 120 White onions from set (spring planted), 100 Ailsa Craig from seed, 25 Bunyards Exhibition from seed, 50 red barron from seed. 60 spring onions (so far) Total 575 maincrop onions!
Musselburgh, 120 seedlings growing away nicely to be planted once the first early spuds are out!
40 first earlies, 40 second earlies, 20 early main and 20 late maincrops! Total 120 tubers!
Sweet Potatoes, 3 tubs full, 9 plantlets in total!
20 brussel sprouts (2 varieties), 20 broccolli (2 varieties) 20 caulies / romanesco broccolli, 60 cabbages (3 varieties, golden acre primo, red drumhead and greyhouse, 20 each)
Broad Beans
70 plants (3 varieties)
Runner Beans
24 growing, another 24 to be planted!
Borlotti beans, 24 to be planted!
French Beans
50 plants of 3 varieties!
20 planted (1 variety), another 3 varieties + mange tout to be planted yet!
9 plants (2 varieties)
Marketmore (1 plant, we lost 2 others of another variety!)
Jerusalem Artichokes, 1 bed full!
Swedes (2 variety), Turnips (2 variety), prsnips (2 variety) carrot (4 variety) all still to be planted!
80 plantlets of 3 varieties in total, poor germination this year!
Squashes / Pumpkins
50 plants from 8 varieties, waiting to be planted once the weather warms up a bit and the frost risk is passed!
60 plants (overwintered) Lathom self blanching!
25 beetroot seedlings, 6 lettuce salad bowl, 8 lettuce little gem, 6 lettuce iceberg.
Radish, 4 varieties, still to be planted!
38 in the 3 greenhouses, 12 specific blight resistant outdoor toms, another 40 to be planted out once the weather improves!
36 on the plot in greenhouses, 68 still to be planted up into pots in the back yard greenhouse! Total 7 varieties!
54 plants of 9 varieties in total!
Nicotiana, Foxgloves, Sweet Peas, Marigolds, Asteria, Fuschia
So, even before planting carrots, parsnips, swedes or turnip, or even the rest of the peas and beans, radish and further crops of lettuce etc, then thats over 2200 plants already growing on the plot!!
And so, onto the Balance Sheet!!
Total Costs 2009
Rent + subs for 2 plots £100
Debris Netting £70
Seed Spuds £20
Compost £20
Seed Compost £5
Seeds £20
Miracle Grow feeder / feed £12
Growbags (4 for £5) £15
Total costs so far £262
Harvests 2009
Rhubarb (£1 a stalk in Sainsburys) £35
Spring Onions (£0.99 a bunch for organic) £1
Total Harvests 2009 £36
So, we're out of pocket by £226 so far this year, but that should soon start to change!
The Apiary Costs
Hives £140 for 2
Frames & foundation £75
Beekeeping suits £25 each, total £50
Apiary construction £60
Smoker ??
Total Cost approx £325 so far!!
Setting up the Apiary hasnt been cheap, but if we can become self sufficient in honey, plus aid pollination AND more importantly help to safeguard the survival of bees, then it will be a worthwhile addition to the plot!
Hope your growing year is off to as good a start as ours seems to be!

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Update - Sunday 03-05-2009

Well, although the weather wasn't quite as good as yesterday (more cloud around), we still managed a full day at the plot, and seemed to get plenty done again!

Lee started off with planting out another batch of onions from seed, another 108 in total went in today, after which the onion and garlic beds were topdressed with potash and chicken poo pellets! Overall the onions are looking good, some of the overwintered sets are looking really good! The overwintering garlic (the bed nearest the camera) is looking great, we've hopes for another bumper garlic harvest this year! The beds nearest the greenhouse to the right are the broad bean beds, another 54 were planted out today, mainly here, but 18 of them went into an overflow bed near the peas and runner beans the other side of the greenhouse!

A piccy of plot 2, showing the brassica beds that we planted and netted yesterday, along with the 2 beds of courgettes (under the plastic cloches at the front) which have been edged with lots of flower seedlings! (Yes, I know you cant eat flowers, but they'll be good for the bees, encourage pollination of the crops and look pretty too!)

Planting Onions, Dobby Style!!

Does his bum look big in this? Lol!

In addition to planting the onions and garlic, we also noticed that the 'May' at the front of the allotment site is 'Out', (explanation, 'Cast Ne'er a Clout Till May Be Out!' is an old rhyme that warns the impatient gardener not to plant too early, locally tis believed that once the Hawthorn flowers then there wont be another frost and you should be ok to plant out the less hardy seedlings), so we decided to plant up the unheated greenhouses on both the plots! The soil was bone dry, so after digging it was then enriched with some well rotted pony poo, then watered and finally we planted 19 toms, 1 cucumber, 6 aubergines, 8 chillies, 14 peppers and a lot of french marigolds into the greenhouses!

We also managed to make a nice rustic (heath robinson more like) warning sign for the apiary, and I also managed to get a pic of how the hives look inside the apiary! Hope you like them!

Ok, so thats all for today (and my aching back says definitely enough!), we're not at the plot tomorrow, but going to visit some close friends and to meet their new daughter for the first time! Can't wait to see them all! Mind you, with the forecast being for rain tomorrow (typical Bank Holiday weather), its probably fortuitous that we arent down there tomorrow!
Only 4 1/2 more beds to plant up on plot 2 ( 3 are cleared, 1 1/2 need clearing, 4 of them are for pumpkin/squash and sweetcorns, the half bed will take the brassica overflows) and 3 beds on plot 1 (2 should be easy to clear, 1 needs some serious digging, 1 bed is for borlotti beans and toms, 1 for turnips and swedes and 1 large one for carrots and parsnips), plus the walk in plastic greenhouse to put back up for more peppers anc chillies, so with any luck we should be almost fully planted by the end of the week (depending on weather and also whether we choose to risk the pumpkins / squash and sweetcorn outside as yet, tis a tad early yet methinks!)
As to this years balance sheet, well, here we go!
Total costs 2009
Debris netting (2mx50m + 4mx50m from ebay) £70
Seeds £20
Seed Spuds £20
Seed Compost £5
Rent £84
Subs £10
Total costs £209
(Apiary not included, but amounts to approx £200 including 2 hives)
Rhubarb (£1 a stalk in Sainsburys) £24
Total Harvests £24
A long way to go to break even, but plenty of growing season in which to do so!
Hope your growing year has got of to a good start!

Friday, May 01, 2009

Building the Apiary!

Well, after lots of computer problems and having to reload windows gods alone how many times, I think we're now at a point that I can start posting again! Last years complete harvests came to about £2000 of organic fruit and veg, and this should be a better year, as it will be our first year with both plots fully under cultivation for the whole year!

As can be seen, we've not been too idle over the winter, most of plot 1 is now clear and dug over, and over half of plot 2 aswell! We've 130 bulbs of overwintering garlic and over 200 overwintering onions doing well, spuds are in and growing (2 types of first early, 2 types of second earlies, 1 type early maincrop and 2 types of late maincrop, a total of 120 seed spuds in 4 largish beds), we've 30 cabbages (2 types) planted out and covered with netting (to keep the wabbits off), overwintered celery is doing well (hoping for a crop of seeds to make celery salt with this year) and 18 broad bean plants flowering, with lots more planted in the back yard greenhouse to go out this week!

The main thing we've been concentrating on recently is getting the apiary up, ready for the bee hives and the nucleus of bees that another local beekeeper is hoping to be able to provide us with sometime in May! The following series of pictures detail the construction of the Apiary, with Pat and Colin, fellow plotholders who are going to be beekeeprs along with us in the apiary!

So, the area before we started, we were fortunate enough to be given a load of car mats by another plotholder, which make great ground cover!

The cleared and levelled site, plastic laid to stop the weeds!

Support posts in and the bamboo and willow fencing starting to go in!

The bamboo end wall we put in at first, unfortunately this didnt last, as it was bought from the bargain bin by Lee and the wire had rusted, so we've since had to replace this with a new set of willow type!

Finally, a piccy if the completed apiary, from the bottom of the middle bed on plot 2! The Hives have now been sited within, and the door is finished, it looks really good and is a testament ot the hard work of Pat, Colin and Lee! Hopefully we'll soon have the nucleus of bees on site and have the apiary fully up and running!
We're on holiday this week, so weather permitting are hoping to have most of the rest of the plot planted up, look out for further updates and info in the near future!

Hope your planting is going well, and that you have a succesful growing year!