Sunday, 15 January 2017

Winter On The Allotment - January

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - January
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - January

I've finally made it out to my allotment after the Christmas and New Year Festivities.

All is looking fairly neat and tidy - like last year I'm seeing the benefit of the work done in Autumn clearing beds and generally getting things set for a new growing  season.

I also still have some crops in the ground.

The weather in Cornwall has been relatively mild as well - which helps.

It felt great walking across the fields and getting out there again.

Green Manure - Winter Field Beans
The Winter Field Beans that I sowed back in October as Green Manure are doing well - providing ground cover and (to some extent) keeping down the weeds.

This will make it easier to clear the ground in March ready for sowing.

The beans will add nitrogen to the soil and when I cut back the plants they will be added to the compost bin.

Winter - Leeks
I still have some leeks growing nicely - but they will need to be harvested in the next few weeks.

When the weather gets warmer they my "bolt" - forming flowers and becoming less edible. The flowering causes the plant to form a hard core.

Leek and potato soup will be on the menu - with stock made from our Christmas turkey.

Autumn Sown Broad Beans
My Broad Beans - sown in October - are looking a bit bedraggled - and need some attention. That is normal for this time of year and they should soon recover as Spring approaches. I've had them growing under a net cloche for protection.

I think I made as mistake leaving them under cover for so long. Some have started to rot in the damp. Should have removed the cloche earlier. Now done and the beans are staked up. Some air and sunlight should help them to grow on.

So - all looking pretty good on Allotment With A Sea View - can't wait for Spring!

More on allotment growing

Allotment With A Sea View - Website

Allotment With A Sea View - Facebook

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Leaf Mould

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Leaf Mould
Autumn Allotment Jobs - Leaf Mould

Since September I've been collecting fallen leaves to make Leaf Mould for my allotment.

I've gathered them in black plastic bin bags and then transported them out to my allotment plot.

On the plot I've built a simple leaf mould bin - from four wooden stakes and chicken wire.

I've now filled this, with some of the leaves still in plastic bags, which will be added as the leaf mould composts down and shrinks.

The finished leaf mould will be ready to add to the growing beds in around 12 months time.

More on making  leaf mould on my website -
Allotment Growing - How To Make Leaf Mould

Monday, 21 November 2016

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Planting Garlic

Allotment Crops - Garlic
Allotment Crops - Garlic

Garlic needs a long growing season and so needs to be planted in Autumn, before Christmas, for a crop the following Summer.

It is Winter hardy and so will survive the weather once its established and has roots down.
In fact it will benefit from cold weather later on, as this will encourage the growing bulbs to split into garlic cloves.

Opinions vary as to the best time. One old saying goes:
"Plant on the shortest day, harvest on the longest day."

But it can go into the ground earlier in Autumn.

This year I decided to get mine in early, in September, to help it get established before the Winter weather.

You can buy garlic from seed /plant suppliers - and this may deliver the best results.

Allotment Crops - Garlic
This year I saved a little money and bought two nice looking fat garlic bulbs from a local greengrocer. One thing I checked was that this was a British grown variety. European bulbs,often from Spain or Italy, may not do so well in our weather conditions.

I split the bulbs into individual garlic cloves. I then planted these in rows, about nine inches apart and with the tip of each clove about two inches under the ground.

Allotment Crops - Garlic
I covered these with a net cloche, mainly to protect them from birds pulling them up.

This is not absolutely necessary if you don't have cloches.

Garlic - Grown In Pots
If you don't have an allotment, or have limited space, garlic can be grown in pots in the garden.

In fact you could do this in addition to your allotment crop, as you will have a supply outside the back door in easy reach of the kitchen.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Building A Wooden Pallet Compost Bin

 Wooden Pallet Compost Bin
 Wooden Pallet Compost Bin

Compost is a cornerstone of organic allotment growing - as I've stated before on this blog.

An allotment or garden should have at least one compost bin - and two, or even three even better.

If time or space do not yet allow - a simple compost heap is better than nothing.

You can then recycle weeds and the remains of crops back into the soil over time. Basic sustainability - weeds and crops take nutrients out of the ground, compost puts them back.

The advantage of having at least two bins is that one can be filled then left to rot down into good compost, while the second is filled day to day. Bin one can be emptied of compost when ready, the contents of bin two turned over into it and so the cycle starts again.

Composting Starts At Home
I have two compost bins in my garden at home.

This allows me to recycle kitchen and garden waste without having to transport it out to my allotment.

 Wooden Pallet Compost Bin
I also have three larger wooden bins on my allotment. I've constructed two of these from wooden pallets.

These are generally fairly easy to get for free if you ask around local businesses - they often have these hanging around and are glad to get rid of them.

 Wooden Pallet Compost Bin
The method of construction is fairly simple. You'll need four pallets, each roughly the same size, although they don't have to be identical. If possible - six wooden tree stakes, roughly one inch square and five feet in length. A roll of medium to heavy duty garden wire. Some fairly heavy duty cardboard in large sheets - old house removal boxes (which I used) or large cartons are ideal.

 Wooden Pallet Compost Bin
First choose a spot where the bins can fit on your plot, somewhere around the edges or corners is usually best. If you are only building one bin to start with, try to choose a spot where another will fit alongside in due course.

Think about it carefully because, while they can be moved later, it will be a major pain. Clear and level the chosen space as needed.

 Wooden Pallet Compost Bin
Starting with the pallet at the back, dig a trench about 6 inches deep, wide and long enough for the pallet to drop into. Place the pallet in the trench, then place wooden stakes in between the two faces of the pallet at either end. Hammer the stakes into the ground, deep enough to be secure. Get the pallet roughly level and vertical (you don't need to be 100% precise) then use wire to secure the pallet to the stakes. Back-fill the trench, again keeping the pallet as level and vertical as possible.

Repeat the above process for the two sides of the bin. Use additional lengths of wire to secure the three pallets together.

Line the three inside faces with cardboard, secured with wire and /or short galvanised nails.This will improve insulation, retain heat and so speed up composting.

Before adding the front pallet, load in any compost material that you already have.

Add the front pallet, dug into a trench, but you could leave out the stakes as it will make removing this side easier. You might want to remove the front later when you dig out the finished compost.

Monday, 14 November 2016

Sunny Days On The Allotment - Just Enjoy!

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day
St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

Sunday was a remarkably sunny and mild day on my allotment in West Cornwall (UK).

Sometimes I head out there with a list of jobs in my head, dive in to weeding and digging (or whatever) and forget to just enjoy it!

So today - I headed out early - enjoyed a lovely walk across the Cornish countryside - and just pottered about a bit.

For me one of the joys of my allotment is that is an escape from day to day work and worries.

So sometimes - I'll just enjoy!

So - simply - this post is just some photos of a lovely sunny Autumn day on my little plot.

Hope that you enjoy them as well.

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - Sunny November Day

Saturday, 12 November 2016

Saturday On The Allotment - November Update

St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - November 2016
St Ives Cornwall - Allotment - November 2016

I headed out to my allotment this morning - a nice walk through Hellesveor and over the fields.

The overnight rain had cleared and it was relatively warm for November in Cornwall.

Also - a mention for my lovely daughter - and blog folower - Dorcas.

Today is her birthday - and she is celebrating in London with my other lovely daughter Steph.

Happy Birthday!

Living Willow Structure
I spent much of the time working on my new Living Willow Structure. I'm building a "bender" from green willow harvested from the plot.

This will actually root into the ground and grow on to form a strong willow framework.

More on that in a future blog post.

Leeks - Black Salsify - Mustard Green Manure
Looking around the plot - not much to do in November - after the work I've done in September and October. All is mostly done ready for next Spring.

Remaining crops still growing include Leeks and Black Salsify. The Mustard Green Manure is still growing and in flower !

Brussels Sprouts and Red Cabbage
Also still in the ground - part of my planned Christmas Dinner - Brussels Sprouts and Red Cabbage. These have been attacked a bit - by rabbits or pigeons - not sure.

I may have to harvest these soon and store them in the freezer, rather than harvesting them fresh on Christmas Eve as I'd hoped.

Allotment Crops - Broad Beans
Broad Beans - sown back in September - are growing on well.

Protected from the birds under net cloches.

I wondered whether to uncover them to allow a bit more space to grow. But I've decided to keep them under cover through Winter.

Allotment Crops - Garlic
Garlic - also planted in September - is growing on well - also under the protection of net cloches.

Leaf Mould
Leaf mould - which I've collected though September and October, is starting to rot down in the bin.

Some of it is still in black bin bags, which is a bit unsightly.

But I'll empty these into the bin in due course as space is created.

Allotment With A Sea View - Cornwall
Finally - as this is an Allotment With A Sea View - the sea!

The north coast of Cornwall as seen from my plot.

Winter is coming - but I'm still enjoying venturing out to my allotment - and still plenty to enjoy.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Sowing Green Manure

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Sowing Green Manure
Autumn Allotment Jobs - Sowing Green Manure

Green Manures are grown to improve the soil on the allotment - rather than for edible crops.

They can be sown at any time of year on an empty growing bed, to occupy the space before sowing or planting at a later date. Particularly useful if you have cleared ground on a new allotment, but are not yet ready to use the space for crops.

But on an established plot - late Summer and Autumn are good times to consider Green Manures - after crops have been harvested.

They can help to improve soil quality in a number of ways:
  • Providing cover and holding the soil together to prevent winter rains washing out nutrients.
  • Keeping down weeds by crowding and shading them out.
  • In some cases - particularly beans - fixing nitrogen into the ground.
  • Providing organic material for the compost bin when eventually cut down - or ......
  • ...... providing organic material to be dug in to improve soil structure.

Mustard Green Manure
In August I dug the last of my potatoes.

I sowed Mustard Green Manure into the beds.

This germinated quickly and provided good ground cover,

It won't last through the Winter, but I will cut it down for compost when it starts to die back.

Green Manure - Field Beans
In October I started clearing other beds of the last crops.

I then spread my finished compost onto the growing beds. On top of that I've sown Winter Field Beans.

The first time I've grown these on the plot - they can be sown from September through to the end of November and should provide ground cover through the Winter.