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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

2 Long Hard Days on the plot - 26-27th May 2010

Day 1 - Wednesday 26th May 2010

Well, after finding ourselves behind with the plot (due to the poor weather this winter and the late frosts) we decided that we'd have a big push at getting it sorted on our days off this week, so we were up early and onto the plot at 8am!

We started with 4 brassica beds still to clear and plant up (and lots of seedlings ready to go out), the bean bed needing finishing (and planting up with the 42 bean plants we'd got growing) and the sweetcorn beds needing completely digging over and clearing ready for the 160 sweetcorn and 41 squash/pumpkin plants that were desperate to go out!

Lee started clearing the beds, whilst I watered, then as each bed was cleared, I rotovated it and prepped it for the brassicas, diggin out a small patch of earth to fill with lime, chicken manure and compost (to ensure the brassicas are safe from any chance of clubroot). Once this was done I laid down weed control fabric and cut holes to plant the seedlings through, 24 sprout plants, 26 broccolli and another 20 cabbages, the whole lot then being protected by debris netting draped over piping to keep the rabbits and cabbage white butterflies at bay!

As you can see, there were a few seedlings to plant out today, the brassicas are on the floor, and the beans in the boot of Lee's Panda!!

Once planted and protected, the brassicas seemed to be happy in the ground, safe and secure under the netting!

As you can see, there's still a bed and a half to plant up with the rest of the brassica seedlings, so hopefully they will be going in this coming week! We finished up having to dodge the showers all day, and the weather was unseasonably cold, so we decided only to do inspections on one of the apiaries (the one with 2 hives and a nuc in it), before we called it a day at 6pm, when we went home to a BBQ eith Pat and Colin (fortunately it cleared up just in time!)

Day 2 - Thursday 27th May 2010

The weather forecast for today was for improving conditions, with some sun and less of a chance of showers by lunchtime, so we got to the plot for 930am today, we had a Committee meeting to attend, which took us through to 12ish, then we started in earnest!

The 3 large overgrown beds to the left of plot 2 were our main target today, although we still had the french beans to get in and apiary 2 to inspect (4 hives and a nuc), we were determined to get them cleared, dug, rotovated and planted up with the 41 pumpkins/squash and 160 sweetcorn that were desperate to go in!

The 3 beds that we were putting these in were last years brassica beds, and hadnt been touched at all this year, so were full of weeds - at up to 18" high) and still very compacted from last year, so they all needed to be dug, then rotovated, not an easy task when they each measure 9' wide and over 20' long!
Doesnt look like much when its bunched together, but these plants need a large area, the pumpkin/squash provide good ground cover, suppressing the weeds, and the sweetcorn grow above them, giving 2 crops from one space!

In an epic feat of endurance Lee managed to dig all 3 beds (almost 600 square feet of ground - 1/3rd of the growing space on plot 2!), clearing 20 barrowfulls of weeds and filling 2 compost bins, virtually without a break (apart from when we did the inspection of the 4 hives and nuc in apiary 2), starting at 12ish and finishing at 8pm, when I commenced rotovating it and then planting it!

I managed to plant all 41 of the pumpkin/squashes, and 1 bed of the sweetcorn whilst Lee was planting the french beans out thru weed control fabric (in the bed I'd prepped for him), but at 1035pm we had to admit defeat and go home as it was by then too dark to continue planting!

I returned after work the next day and finished planting the sweetcorn and took these piccies!

The French Beans, safe from rabbits in their enclosure, and surrounded by peas!

The sweetcorn/squash/pumpkin beds, cleared, planted and growing well!

So, after a mammoth couple of days, we are now in a much better position, with only 6 small beds left to clear and plant up, plus a couple of already cleared beds ready for sowing into this week!
Hope you're growing year is off to a good start!

More updates to follow this week!

Monday, May 24, 2010

20th May 2010 - A 'wannabe' polytunnel!

Ok, piccies and update from last weeks 2 days on the plot!

As we lost all our outdoor tomatoes last year to blight (the damp british summer stuck again!), we decided that although we have 3 greenhouses (2 on the plot and 1 in the back yard at home), we still wanted more protected space to grow toms and chillies/peppers/aubergines in, safer from the ravages of blight! The chillies/peppers and aubergines have gone into the 'hothouse' we constructed last week, so all that was left to find a home for was the rest of the toms that Lee planted ('they wont all germinate, will they?) and that we havent been able to fit nto the greenhouses or the back yard!

Although we'd love a 'proper' polytunnel (the bigger the better), they arent allowed on our allotment site, so after successfully seeking permission, we got ourselves this 3.5m x 2.2m x 2m plastic ploytunnel! Its easily big enough for me to stand up in, and holds another 16 tomato plants around the sides and back (I wanted to put a further row up the middle, but Lee was worried we'd get lost in the jungle like foliage if we did that!) Around the outside (on the rain flap and to aid in holding it down) we put large pots of lavender and lemongrass, as its located next to the second apiary the bees should find the lavender of use, plus it looks and smells divine when in flower!

The area we chose to put the ploytunnel in is the last uncleared area of plot 1, the only space we arent already using for growing (or keeping bees!), and is where the compost bins have been for the last 2 years (so there's some lovely soil thereabouts!), so our first job was to move these to the walkway at the right hand side of the plot!

The 3 new compost bins fit nicely on this path, and also have the benefit of looking a lot neater (and being more out of sight)!

So, as can be seen from the front of plot 2, we've got the beanery (peas and all the beans) in this row of beds, with the hothouse behind, and the polytunnel beyond that, next to the apiary and in the most sheltered area of the plot!

We've grown 3 types of lavender from seed this year, and this has been planted in the large planters along the rainflaps surrounding the polytunnel!

Inside the ploytunnel we've laid down weed control fabric, then planted the toms in 'ring culture' thru the weed control fabric, supporting them with string from the frame of the polytunnel to direct their growth upwards!

Thought I'd also include a couple of piccies of the pepper 'hothouse' that we constructed from the frame of the plastic walk-in greenhouse (the brackets and cover were damaged beyond repair this past winter)! Its 9' long, 4' tall and 4' wide, and again we've covered the ground with a couple of layers of weed control fabric.

We've planted peppers, chillies and aubergines through this using the 'ring culture' method, lets see if growing away from the shade of the tomatoes in the greenhouses gives us better crops in here!

So, things are beginning to take shape on the plot, we've lots of plants ready to plant out this week (41 squash and pumpkin, 141 sweetcorn, 24 sprouts, and a lot of cabbage, broccolli, cauli and assorted other brassicas), all hardening off in the back yard, so we face a big job to clear the last 4 brassica beds and the 6 pumpkin/sweetcorn beds, which we are hoping to make big inroads on this week, weather and bees permitting!

I hope you're planting and clearing is going well, and that you havent fallen behind like we have thanks to the poor winter weather and the late frosts!

More updates to follow soon!

Monday, May 17, 2010

17th May 2010 - Update, piccies & More Bees!!

Well, as promised, some pictures of the plots and an update! Plot 1 isnt looking too bad, as you can see in the picture! The left hand beds are cleared and planted, and the right hand ones are over halfway done, with courgettes under the poly cloches and cabbages under the green debris netting! We've 4 brassica beds (behind the greenhouse) and the 2 small beds (at the front) left to clear, plus a bit more to plant up, then move the compost bins from the rear of the plot and a plastic walk in temporary polytunnel is going there (to take the rest of the toms that Lee didnt think would germinate!), just behind the clear plastic 'short' hothouse that you can see behind the canes (towards the back) that was made from the frame of the old plastic walk in greenhouse that 'died' this winter!

Plot 2 on the other hand is a bit more of a work in progress! The greenhouse is planted up (see next piccy), with a salad bed next to it, then the onions and garlic, and the central beds are mainly planed with the spuds for this year (and fartichokes in their usual position behind the scarecrow of course!), but the first 2 beds (for late maincrop spuds) and the beds to the left (for sweetcorn n squash n pumpkins) are still to be cleared and planted!

We've planted the greenhouses with ring culture this year, and covered the flooring with weed control fabric, in the hopes that it will keep the weeds in their more managebale and delay any chances of blight occuring! We also took the decision not to plant peppers and aubergines with the toms, and have built them a hot house (I'll get a piccy of it soon for you!)

The strawberrys we moved this year, planting up the runners into pots and completely clearing the ground, in the hopes this will make the weeds easier to control and give us a better crop! Judging from the flowers they are producing, we may do ok with strawbs this year!

The garlic once again seems to be growing really well, tho we have had some problems with the first batch of onion sets, only about half of them grew this year, hence its a bit patchy, but we planted some spring sown sets where there were gaps, so hopefully all is not yet lost!

Through the spring Lee and Colin sorted the approach to our first apiary (on plot 2) and built some really neat steps, making it not only nicer to look at, but also much safer!

We've also finished the new apairy (number 2) which is located in the bottom right corner of plot 1! After splitting the 3 hives into 7 last week we put the 4 new nucleii into apiary 2.

We thought that was going to be it in terms of new colonies for at least a month (whilst they got themselves established), but Sunday afternoon (whilst I was merrily sowing seeds) there was a tremendous buzzing from apiary 1, and as I watched a swarm came out of hive 3 and settled in the trees to the right of plot 1! Fortunately we were able to capture the bees and rehome them in one of the nucleus boxes that Lee built this winter. On checking we did find a queen cell in hive 3 (along with enough bees for it to hopefully become a viable colony once the queen has been mated) which we must have missed when we inspected them on Thursday!

Lee went to the plot to water today, only to see a swarm of bees from outside our allotment make their way into the same trees as the swarm settled in yesterday!

Fortunately we were again able to capture this swarm and house it in another nuc box. On checking we are absolutely certain that this swarm has not come from any of our hives or nucleii, so it must be a swarm from another apiary or local beekeeper! (we are aware that there are beehives at a farm less than a mile away, perhaps thats where they have come from!) It seems strange to us both that we had a swarm of bees just turn up on the plot, free bees from somewhere else, but we're not looking a gift horse in the mouth and are hoping that they settle and stay with us! Perhaps word has gotten out amongst the bees locally that our apiary is a nice place to live! lol!

This brings our total number of colonies now to 9, the 3 that overwintered, 4 divisions from them, 1 swarm from hive 3 and another swarm of unknown origins! We are going to keep our original 3 colonies, plus the swarm from hive 3 and 2 more of the colonies, the others (plus any further divisions we get this year) will be sold to local beekeepers to help them recover from the losses over the winter that many suffered!

Hope you like the piccies, more updates to foollow soon!

Friday, May 07, 2010

2010 first update!

Well, its been a while since I last updated the blog, sorry about that, we've been pretty busy!

My bad back has been ok thru the winter, but the sciatica is still there, I just gotta learn not to overdo it and to ask for help when lifting rather than just struggling on like I normally do!

Our plans to get chickens have taken a back seat at the moment, we were saving up to get a hen house and run built in the back yard, and were nearing the target we'd set ourselves when unfortunately we had a big bill come in to get one of the cars thru its MOT, so the money had to be used to keep it on the road! How I wish we could kiss goodbye to the rat race and start living an eco friendly lifestyle in a self build earth sheltered earth house, growing our own crops, raising our own animals and living off grid, but until we can do that I'm afraid we'll have to stick in the workforce and pay our way!

The plots are coming along nicely, both the greenhouses are fully planted up, and over half of the beds have been cleared and planted up, with a further 1000 seeds planted at home ready to be planted out in the next few weeks!We've a pair of blackbirds nesting in the lean to area of our shed, with 5 chicks that are already growing feathers and getting big, and the tadpoles in the pond are growing nicely!

All 3 of our beehives survived through the harshest winter around here for many a year (temperatures were down to -19C during the worst of the nighttime weather), and after we had a DEFRA inspection today, we were pleased to find that we had enough queen cells to be able to split the 3 hives into 7, filling the 4 new hives (3 of which we bought for yule prezzies to each other and one that Pat and Colin bought) with nucleus's (nucleii?) of 3 to 5 frames each with 4 to 6 queen cells in each hive! These divisions were taken in order to stop the colonies in our first apiary from swarming by removing the pressure on the very full hives, and the 4 new colonies were moved into our larger second apiary (that we built with Pat and Colin this past winter) on plot 1.

All in all things are going well on the allotments, the first flowers are showing on the tomato plants, the broad beans and peas are flowering nicely, the garlic and onions are growing well, the rhubarb is going really well (and its verry tasty too!) and the early spuds are beginning to show above ground!

All we need now is to finish clearing the last 14 beds and plant them up, weed and rebark up the paths, then move the compost bins from the back of plot 1 to the side, in order to fit in a new 3mx2m walk in temporary walk in greenhouse/polytunnel.

Hope your growing season is off to a good start!

Hoping to get some piccies of the plot ready for posting in the very near future, lookout for more regular updates soon!