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, July 31, 2010

Stocktake results are in!

Well, after the 2 x 13 hour+ days I worked this week to sort out the mess that our computers made of my final stocktake (in my current branch, only 3 weeks till I start at my newer branch), I was a little trepidacious of seeing the results, which are posted on our internal internet on a Friday after the stocktake! The figures include the original loss on the day, the ammendments made in the 2 following days and the combined total stock loss, plus the % of turnover that the loss for the year represents!

One the day the cost loss was 20K, caused in the main by the computers loosing 10% of my count, but we made ammendments worth £17500 (entering the missed departments back in and some bits we found that hadnt been counted), so the real loss on the day was £2500! That means with the cumulative loss from theft and breakages brought into account, we lost a total of £7200 for the year, or 0.57% of our total, a great result (in comparison with the norm, though £7200 of theft and breakages isnt something I'm happy about, I'd much prefer it to be nothing! But in the environment we work and with current staff levels, anything less than 1.2% is considered acceptable)

It's an improvement over last years good result of 0.89%, so I'm relatively happy with it, and am also glad that I will be handing over my current branch to its new manager with a nice accurate stockfile!

One good thing about having to work the 2 x 13 hour days is that I as I have a full team in tomorrow, I can take the time back, so as we do a 7 hour day on a Sunday, I'm having the day off! A chance to catch up on some housework and get to the plot to do some harvesting and (hopefully if the rain holds off) some hoeing / weeding, plus plant out the next batch of leeks in the bed the first early spuds came from!

I also managed to get some piccies of all the plots on our site and some general piccies of the allotment site that I've put onto a new page of the blog, the link should be at the top of the right hand tool bar, there's the main blog posts page, an About Us basic page (I'll get some more on there soon) and a page for Moss View Allotments, take a look if you like and see how some of the folks on our site are doing!

I popped to the plot tonight to water and feed the greenhouses / hothouse / polytunnel, and have to say that everything has come on loads, so I should be able to get some piccies to share with you tomorrow!

Until then, hope your crops are growing well and the rain isnt germinating too many weeds, thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Very Highly Commended!!!!

We got the results of the Trafford Allotment Judging today, our site, Moss View in Partington has again got several plots who have been deemed worthy of mention, 4 plots have received a Commended (the basic notice that the judges liked their plot), 5 plots have received a Highly Commended (a certificate, a mention at the Gardeners Evening, and basically means you impressed the judges with the condition of your plot and had at least some great looking crops) and 2 plots received a Very Highly Commended! (A certificate and framed photograph of your plot which is presented to you by the Mayor at the Gardeners Evening, where you have your piccy taken for the local paper, it generally means your plot was very well presented, and you impressed the judges with the variety and quality of the crops you were growing!)

After 4 years of having the plots (and never even getting a commended certificate) we decided this year that we'd ensure we did everything possible (short of bribing the judges) to get at least a commended certificate (as those who read the blog will no doubt know by now), so imagine our delight when Pat rang us this evening to tell us that she'd just got the results...... and our 2 plots had both been voted as Very Highly Commended!!

We're both cock a hoop about the results, neither of us thought we'd ever get one plot to a VHC condition, let alone both of them! Pat and Colin both got a Highly Commended for their 2 plots, so I guess we're going to be buying the drinks at the Gardeners Evening! To be honest we didnt think (with our home made wonky  heath robinson hothouse and a few other bits n bobs that we've recycled for use on the plots) that we'd actually get a certificate, so I guess its a signal that they are becoming more open to folks using their initiative and reusing / reworking things on their plots!

Award winning Plot 1

Our Award winning Plot 2, good job they dont judge it now, with all the rain we've got too many weeds to win even a commended! Lol!

Well, finally we get a day off, and the weather doesnt look too great, but having spoken to Pat and Colin we decided we'd chance it and see whether we could get the bee inspections done today, leaving tomorrow (with a better forecast) to do some harvesting and planting / weeding on the plots!

The inspections went well, Sarah (Pat and Colins daughter) got stung (again) within 30 seconds of opening Hive 1 (living up to their nick name of Psycho), Hive 2 had 2 capped queen cells (which we unfortunately had to remove), but apart from that everything was fine. The wet and windy weather of late has meant though that our bees havent been able to get out to forage as much as we'd have liked, so there wasnt any more honey ready for harvesting yet, but hopefully there will be in a few more weeks!

I managed to get a few piccies of some of the crops for the blog, but as we didnt finish the bee inspections until late (and then had a late lunch sat outside Pat and Colin's shed) we decided we'd spend tomorrow harvesting and weeding!

One thing we did decide to harvest though, was our first ripe tomato!!

 There's plenty of tomato fruit in both of the greenhouses (and the polytunnel), but only a few that are beginning to ripen at the plot, though we do have some in the hanging baskets at home that are also almost ready! (And a lot more that are still growing, both in the back yard greenhouse and outside in the back yard itself)
.The other side of the main greenhouse!

The aubergines in the wonky homemade hothouse have now set fruit, we've 4 small fuits on them at the moment, this one being the largest!

And this one being the smallest! There's also a lot of peppers getting bigger in there too, and a fair number of chillies too! Looks like it may be a good year for greenhouse crops!

The brassicas are also still doing well, we've lost a couple to club root, but none (yet) to caterpillars (the debris netting seems to be working well), and the first couple of heads of broccolli are looking good! This one is about the size of a large cooking apple.......

............... and this one about the size of a tennis ball!

The sprout plants are just starting to produce baby sprouts, so hopefully (like last year) there should be plenty of our Yule feast this year!

The beanery on Plot 1 is also looking good, a few weeds that need sorting (hopefully tomorrow), but plenty of forthcoming crops if looks are anything to go by!

The borlotti beans are beginning to pod up now, with a load more flowers, so hopefully there will be a good crop of them this year!

The early planted runners are going great guns now, plenty of flowers and lots of small runner bean pods forming, we think we'll be harvesting them soon now!

The dwarf french beans are still producing like mad! These Tendergreen pods have a lovely purple marking and are delicious with no stringyness that we have found on cooking!

These are Delinel Dwarf French Beans, and are fantastic slim pencil sized pods of stringless tasty beans, another heavy cropper!

The sweetcorn have now topped 6'6", and are filling out nicely, I have a feeling we may have a good year with these this year, the underplanting of pumpkins and squashes are also looking good for crops!

One of the 2 largest Butternut squashes! Hopefully there will be plenty like this, I love roast squash mixed in with roasted winter veg, a drizzle of olive oil, a sprinkling of garlic and herbs and slow roasted in the oven!

The pond area has come on really well! Needs a few weeds pulling out, but its looking good!

Our sunflowers are also starting to flower, the tallest are almost to 7' without having the flowers open, so we've no idea how tall they are going to end up!

And finally, the grapes! There's lots of bunches on the vine, so we're thinking of pruning out the smaller bunches to ensure that the rest of them fill out and ripen properly (as last year we didnt have them all ripen)

Hope your crops are growing well, your sites appreciate your efforts and your harvests are bumper ones!

Thanks for reading, harvest and balance update hopefully tomorrow!


Just a quick post to apologise for the recent lack of blog posts, work pressures have meant a distinct lack of time recently, especially after returning to work 2 weeks ago (to find my store a complete tip - thanks to staff off sick, a messed up delivery schedule due to the new delivery center coming on line and some inexperienced new staff) and so I've been working really hard!

We had a week to get it straight before we were due (this week) to do our annual stocktake (another large piece of work and high stress time for all, but especially for the manager.... me!), so its been a bit hectic, especially with one member of our (5 person) full time team off sick and another on holiday (leaving us with only 3 full time staff to cover 9000 sq foot of 2 floor store, each of which has 2 days off a week to take, so most days its 1 ft to open and 1 to close, with a couple of part time staff to support).

We managed to get the store looking ok, and the major disaster of the wharehouse sorted out (couldnt move in there when I got back from my hols), then Friday I had to start doing the stocktake preparation, for us to count the whole store on Monday! Labelling the store and setting up the departments is a whole day job, which was done on Friday, then Saturday we concentrated on looking after customers, with a couple of extra part time staff in to get as much stock out from the wharehouse as possible.

Sunday I had a team of 4 staff start counting the wharehouse and areas of stock (display items) that we dont sell from the displays), which went well and we left at normal time with the store ready to count!

Monday I was in early, with a lot of my staff in extra to do the counting, and allegedly help from 9 nearby stores (who due to being short staffed themselves mainly didnt turn up, we had 4 helpers arrive out of an expected 9!)

Everything seemed to be going really well, until 3 pm, when the hand held terminals (the scanner guns we use to count the stock) all crashed, and we lost the departments that were in the process of being counted! A pain that we could do without (that set us back about 16 staff hours, or about an hour and a half with the number of staff we had counting), but after deleting them and resetting up we resumed by counting them again. By 6pm the store was about finished, when we noticed a department that hadnt closed its count properly, so we had to delete that one and do it again, another pain, but with 2 staff working on it we had it all finished for 630pm.

So, we then checked that every department was showing on the computer as being counted, that we had a print off for each count and that we were ready to complete, and after double checking we hit the GO button!

45 mins later the results started to come off........... normally we expect to loose (through delivery errors, shoplifting and damages) about 1% of our yearly turnovers worth of stock, or in my store about 20K, last year our loss was good at 0.89%, so I was expecting something similar........ but was horrified to see £85K of stock missing (or about 2.5% loss)!

As manager of the store, its my responsibility to ensure we dont loose too much stock, so I was mortified to see those figures, I've always prided myself on doing a good job, but I went home Monday night (after a 13 hour day) feeling a complete failure, stressed out and upset.

Tuesday I got up after a very poor nights sleep and headed in to work to look at the results and try and work out what went wrong (as I know we didnt miss any stock, the count was very thorough and the backchecking proved we'd done a good job), only to receive a phone call from our systems people at 810am asking if we'd deleted 9 of the 119 count locations!

It turned out that for some unknown reason, a systems glitch at the computer center had 'lost' almost 10% of our stocktake counts, so that was the main reason for the apparently high stock loss figure! Relief?? You bet!

In order to sort it out we had to get the print offs of those locations and then enter them in line by line as a stock adjuctment (with reason of stocktake investigation), a total of 4500 lines of stock with 4 input fields per line that had to be manually entered! In addition to this we also had to check on some of the other losses to see whether any stock had been missed (no matter how good you think the count is and how good you know the backchecking is there will always be something thats gone wrong somewhere), so I had 600 pages of stocktake gains and losses to go through and backcheck........

Well, I had to input the corrections as soon as possible (as our computer automatically reorders anything it thinks we havent got on a Wednesday night - and if it thought we had not got 4500 lines of stock it would order more of all of those lines for our next delivery, which we dont have room for and dont need), so I finished the majority of the investigations and entered them plus the 'lost' locations before I went home, but again it meant another 13 hour day!

Mind you, I came home a lot happier than I did on Monday! No idea what the result is going to be, our system isnt able to give us immediate results, but I have a feeling its going to be a lot better than the £85K, I have a feeling its going to be much closer to £25K or about 1.2%, which is acceptable!

We've still about 9 departments (that didnt have so bad a result) to backcheck, which I've left for my Sales Managers to do whilst I'm on my 2 days off), so there's a possibility that there will still be some more ammendments to make, but the majority of it is now sorted!

So, Im on 2 days off now, we're hoping to get to the plot today - even though the weather isnt looking particularly good - and I'm hoping to get some harvests (and piccies) plus do a bit of weeding, then tomorrow (with a better weather forecast) we will be doing the bee inspections, and hopefully have some more honey to process!

Hope your plots are growing well, the harvests are big ones and your working week has been a bit less stressful than mine!

Thanks for reading and hopefully another update later on today with piccies and harvesting updates!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Harvesting, piccies and the balance sheet moves into credit!

Today was a day of harvesting, with the recent rain its still too wet to hoe, so a bit of handweeding was all we managed, apart from getting some of the crops that are ready harvested!

We met up with Pat and Colin, plus 2 of the folks from Trafford Council to have a chat about the community orchard, Pat came up with the idea of either espaliered or cordoned fruit trees along the right hand side of the orchard plot would make a great feature aswell as giving us a clearly demarked boundary, so its probably the way we'll look at going with it!

One of Lee's workmates met us on the plot, to have a look at why Lee does very little overtime at work, his usual excuse is 'I've got 2 plots to look after', he ended up picking himself some rasps, and digging up some first early spuds with Lee for his tea! Needless to say when he left it was with lettuce, spuds, broad beans, raspberries, garlic and courgettes!

These are the 20lb of first early spuds that Lee dug up from one of the blighted spud beds, about 2 lb per plant, not a great harvest, but the spuds look really good!

We were going to take both the early spud beds up, but after harvesting this lot we thought we'd leave the others for a week or so yet!

More courgettes, we've already got a glut of these at home, so some courgette recipies are going to be researched this weekend!

As the GYO magazine forum (the Grapevine) has an online veg show (for fun only), I took a few pictures of some of the crops ready for entry when the categories are opened in September!

We also took 2 reasonably large peppers today, we shared one with another plotholder, and the other one is now here at home!

We also managed to harvest the garlic today, 140 bulbs of garlic from saved cloves (that have been naturalised to our region by replanting the best ones every year), about 15 or so were quite small, the majority tho were a decent size, and 1 in particular was enormous!

Just look at the size of that garlic bulb!! In total there's about £70 worth of organic garlic that we've harvested today!

And cleaned up ready for entry to the GYO virtual veg competition!

We also had a great harvest of french beans today, as the piccy shows, a rather smug trug, and the plants are still dripping with beans!

The early sowed broad beans are just about finished now, but the later sown ones are just beginning to bulk up nicely!

Another plotholder gave us a spur of blackcurrants, which are now in the dehydrator to make our own currants! We also managed to get a cutting from the spur, so hopefully we'll have our own blackcurrant bush next year!

In addition to these piccies of the harvests we also took our first (admittedly small) cabbage, another few lb of early peas, another lettuce and a few lb of rasps (the summer fruiting rasps are now coming to an end, but the autumn fruiting are looking good for a great harvest!

So, 2 of the beds on plot 2 are now empty, tho the one from which the spuds came will have some leeks in it on Sunday (after work), we just need to rake it flat and pop the leeks in! The bed the garlic was in still has some onions in it, but once they are ready, then we'll be putting some spring cabbages into it!

The toms in the greenhouses are also coming along nicely, these are in the larger 10'x8' on plot2, plenty of fruit, and the first ones do appear to be starting to ripen now!

The other side of the 10'x8' greenhouse!

And the next cucumber is on its way, with lots of flowers to produce more fruit in the coming weeks!

The late broad beans (that I mentioned earlier) are looking good for another good crop of beans! We should have enough in the freezer to see us thrugh till next year!

The (slightly skewed) repaired hothouse, next year we are going to treat ourself to a new one, a proper bought one like we've seen on another plot, but until then we'll soldier on with this one! The plants tho dont care what accomodation they have and seem to be doing really well!

More peppers coming along nicely.........

........... And chillies! Looks like it may be a good year for them this year!

The late sown runners are just starting to flower..............

................. whereas the early sown 0nes are flowering well and beginning to produce pods!

The borlotti beans are also flowering well, so there should be a good harvest from them............

.............. and the climbing french beans are just starting to flower now, so we're still hopeful of a reasonable crop from them this year!

The first sweetcorn tassles are now visible...............

......... and the underplanting of squashes and pumpkins are also setting some decent sized fruit too!

So, all in all the crops arent looking too bad at all, still plenty of opportunity for the plots to produce their best ever year of produce!

And now onto the 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
Flower Plants £28
Scaffolding Boards £100
Watering Cans £8

Total Costs £ 374

Total Veg Plot Harvests 2010

Rhubarb £ 35
Fartichokes £ 4
Volunteer Spuds £15
First Early Spuds £15
Lettuce £11
Radish £10
Garlic £85
Strawberries £65
Raspberries £25
Peas £30
Broad Beans £35
Courgettes £45
French Beans £26
Red Onions £10
Cabbages £1
Peppers £2

Total Veg Plot Harvests £ 402

So, we've managed to move from a debit to credit of £26 on the balance sheet, after a total of £142 worth of crops today, not bad at all for one days harvest!!

Hope you're crops are growing well, your harvests are beginning and the weeds arent too much of a problem! Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Hothouse disaster averted, Queen Marking, allotment judging, community orchard and some great news!

What a difference a week makes! We've had some good news this week, the permission for the community orchard we've been talking about has been granted (though we cant start work until the autumn), and I've been given a different branch at work! The new branch is 10 miles closer to home (and a much easier drive, which should halve my travelling time), a lot newer building and a better size, smaller but with the same range of stock (making it much easier to run on our new staff structure) and means I'm going back to working for my old boss, a fantastic guy whos the best manager I've ever worked for! (Originally he was my branch manager, helped me get promoted to supervisor, then when he became an Area Manager he was the one who appointed me to my first store as manager!) I'm really looking forwards to the new branch and working for my old boss again, its going to be a lot less stressful and will free up 45 mins to an hour a day!

So, we got to the plot at a reasonable time today (our first of 2 days off), to see everything has shot up! Its got to be something to do with all the rain we've had recently, but most of our crops are looking really good, full of vigour and growing at a tremendous rate (unfortunately, so are the weeds, but thats another story!! Lol!) The plots arent looking too bad at all really, a few weeds coming up in the paths and a fair number of weed seedlings in the beds (which with the ground being so wet are impossible to remove with the hoe), but as soon as we get a dry enough spell for the topsoil to dry a bit we'll soon have it weed free again! Unfortunately the second visit of the Trafford Allotment Judges (the top judge who comes to check the plots that could be on for a possible certificate) has already happened, so removing the weeds wont make any diference to the judging, but will allow our crops to grow to their full potential! We should find out the judging results on Monday, so fingers crossed that the plots werent too weed infested to negate our earlier hard work in the hopes of getting a certificate!

The garlic is now finally ready for harvest (hopefully tomorrow, if the rain breaks for long enough), the early spuds are also looking about ready too, so we're going to take them tomorrow and plant that bed up with some more leeks!

The sweetcorn / squashes / pumpkin / sunflowers are all growing like mad, looking really good this year! Mind you, Lee thought he'd try and make you think that they were even bigger, so he had me take..........

......... this picture, in the hopes you'd think they were up to 9' tall already! Lol!

Mind you, its not all good, the blight we've been treating against seems to be gaining the upper hand in a couple of beds, this one of early spuds will be coming out tomorrow, along with......

........ this bed of second early spuds! We'll be planting the last of our leeks into these beds once they've been emptied!

The early maincrop spuds however are still fighting the blight, we'll keep treating them with bordeaux mixture and see how they go!

The late main spuds are looking much better, hardly any signs of blight here!

The heavy rain and winds we've had recently have also taken their toll on our hothouse, some of the brackets that we've reused from the old plastic greenhouse (that broke last year and we cannibalised to make the hothouse) have given up, so some emergancy repairs had to be carried out! Fortunately none of the plants were damaged in the collapse!

So, some of the things we spotted today....... the first broccolli crown is beginning to form!

The grapes are fattening up nicely..........

.............. and the first blueberries are now ready!

The brassicas are looking fab..............

............... as are the maincrop onions, these 2 are 4 1/2" diameter, and still swelling! Looks like its going to be a bumper year for a lot of crops!

The Dwarf French Beans are cropping like mad, we've had french beans the last 2 nights, and theres enough on the plants to allow us to freeze a few lb tomorrow!

The turnips and swede are fantastic, another bumper crop from these this year methinks!

The early runner beans have topped the cane supports and have loads of flowers, another possible bumper crop!

The borlotti beans are just topping the canes and beginning to flower, so hopefully these too will be nice and productive!

The Climbing French Beans however are still only just climbing the cane supports, so no idea yet as to what sort of crops we may possibly get!

The new strawberry bed (from seed) has alos come on really well, although we possibly may get a few fruit from it (some of the plants are flowering), but hopefully it will be well established for next year and increase our strawberry yield!

The lavender we grew from seed (in the pots surrounding the ploytunnel) is doing really good, we'll be transplanting some of these into the front beds on plot 1 next year, to supplement our soft fruit planting plans!

Whilst dodging the heavy showers today (inbetween doing the bee inspections) we talked about our soft fruit plans for next year, we've decided that these 4 beds at the front of plot 1 are going to have (from left to right) a new plum tree (underplanted with lavender and foxgloves), a goji berry (underplanted with sage and a few flowers), a redcurrant (underplanted with other herbs) and in the last bed (next to the compost bin) another goji berry (underplanted with flowers!)

So, onto our beekeeping adventure today! Pat and Colin were away today at the RHS Tatton Park Flower Show, so as the weather forecast looked better for today than tomorrow, we decided to get the inspections done! Aswell as inspecting the hives today we decided that as our hives are all now viable, we needed to 'mark' the queens, which makes it easier to spot them and allows you to be sure that the queen hasnt been superceeded by a new queen without your knowledge!

The queens are marked with a dot of colour on their back, the colour changes every year, so the idea is that you can tell how old the queen is from the colour of her mark. This years colour is blue, and last years colour is green! The marks are made with a special paint marker pen, that doesnt smell (which could cause the colony to reject the queen as any smell could mask her pheromones), but in order to hold the queen still - to apply the dot of paint - you have to use a 'crown of thorns'!

A crown of thorns is a queen cage that can be pressed into the honeycomb in order to trap the queen and hold her still for marking!

You have to be careful not to drown the queen, so its a good idea to dab the pen before use (we know of one queen that was suffocated when the paint came out too fast), then apply a dot to her back! This queen is the one from our Nucleus in Apiary 2.

And this queen is the one from Hive 5 (the headbangers!)

Once marked its much easier to spot the queen!

So, the inspections went ok, the bees were a bit feisty (possibly due to the weather and threat of thunder), and one from Hive 4 (Hippy Hive) managed to sting Lee through his gauntlet! (His first sting, hes officially a proper beekeeper now! Lol!) One mistake we did make tho, was to bring the super of frames we extracted into Apiary 1 before we were ready to put it onto a hive! As soon as the bees discovered it, they went beserk, masses of them went to it to remove any remaining honey that was coating the comb, so we had to leave it there until they had finished!

We didnt find any frames of honey fully capped, (although there are some not too far from being capped), so we werent able to harvest any this week (and as all the hives still had space for bringing in honey) nor did we actually need to give the super to any of the hives!

So, fianlly, a couple of pictures of the area thats going to become our new allotment community orchard in the not too distant future!

Currently its being used as a tree nursery, which was set up by Groundworks and is operated by Red Rose Forest, but due to budget changes it hasnt been used much recently, so we applied for permission to take it back, and got the word today! Not only can we have it as a community orchard, but Red Rose will help us with clearing and possibly with some fruit trees! We're going to have a word with a couple of folks from Trafford council about plans and what (if any) support we may be able to get, either through the council or from any grants that we may qualify for!

Tomorrow we're off again, so will be going to the plot and harvesting, so there could be a balance sheet update tomorrow!

Hope your crops are growing well and your harvests are bunper ones! Thanks for reading!