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.

Monday, 7 November 2016

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Putting The Compost To Bed

Pallet Compost Bin
Pallet Compost Bin - Full and Ready to Shut Down

For me composting is one of the foundation stones of a good allotment.

Recycling cleared crops and weeds to provide nutrients and soil conditioning to the growing beds year on year.

I have three compost bins on my plot - the idea is that one  or two are "live" at any given time - while another is closed down and left to rot down into good quality compost.

These are built from old wooden pallets - which are wonderful for constructing compost bins if you can get hold of them.

Pallet Compost Bin
This Autumn I've emptied one that has been full and rotting down all through Spring and Summer, spreading the finished compost onto the growing beds. I don't bother digging this in, I just leave it for the worms and weather to work it into the soil naturally.

This is now my "live" compost bin that I'm filling with the green waste from Autumn harvested crops and weeding.

Pallet Compost Bin
A second bin - which I've been filling up through Spring and Summer - has now been closed down and put to bed. I'll give this a full year to mature before emptying it onto the growing beds next Autumn.

To do this I've put a layer of cardboard on top, then covered this with a layer of wood chips. This will help to keep the heat in and the compost to rot down and mature more quickly. At the same time it will let the rain in - as some moisture is needed for the process.

So next Autumn I can empty out around half a ton of rich compost - all for free - and the whole natural cycle begins again.

Saturday, 5 November 2016

Allotment Growing - Crops - Jerusalem Artichokes

Allotment Crops - Jerusalem Artichokes
Allotment Crops - Jerusalem Artichokes

A crop that I've been meaning to add to my allotment for some time is Jerusalem Artichokes.

So I've been out today, dodging the rain showers, to do just that.

They grow tall, like sunflowers, only taller - up to eight feet or more. The edible part of the plant is the tubers, that develop underground like potatoes.

I love eating these - best cooked roasted in the oven, unpeeled, with a little olive oil and seasoning - just like roast potatoes. They have a subtle unique taste and texture.

One of my allotment principles is growing things that I like to eat - so these fit in nicely for me. However - they are not to everybody's taste - so maybe try some beforehand if you're not sure.

They are not seen that often in the greengrocers - and are an ingredient valued by chefs - so a relatively high value crop.

Thursday, 3 November 2016

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench
Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench

A regular Autumn job on my allotment is digging bean trenches - to prepare the ground for sowing next Spring.

A bean trench is simply a hole, dug on the beds where I plan to grow beans next season, then filled with organic matter. This will then rot down slowly and provide nutrients for the growing beans. It will also improve water retention in the ground.

This is suitable for any type of bean - runner, french or broad beans - and can also be used for growing peas.

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench
I fill the trench with what is available at the time - partly rotted compost, manure or green waste from finished crops.

Manure is ideal - see my earlier post:
Digging A Bean Trench - October 2012

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench
This Autumn I don't have any manure available - but my sweetcorn has been harvested - so I've used the stalks and leaves, roughly chopped up.

A great bit of recycling - using one of this year's crops to feed another next year.

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench
To finish off I added a layer of nettles.

I've been using these all summer to make liquid compost.

They have normally died back by now, but we've had a mild October so they are still growing around the allotment site.

These are a good source of nitrogen, so an ideal addition.

Autumn Allotment Jobs - Digging A Bean Trench
I then back-filled the trench with will soil.

This can now sit all Winter and slowly rot down, leaving me with a good base to plant my French Beans next Spring.

Thursday, 8 September 2016

Broad Beans - Autumn Sowing

Autumn Sown Broad Beans - Aquadulce Claudia
Autumn Sown Broad Beans - Aquadulce Claudia

Between now and the end of October is a good time to sow some Broad Bean seeds.

This will get the plants established before Winter sets in - hopefully leading to an early crop next Spring.

You need to use a specific Autumn sowing (not Spring) variety such as Aquadulce Claudia.

These can be sown direct into the ground - but this year I'm starting some of mine in pots.

Last season my seeds were robbed out by mice - see my earlier post:
Broad Bean Robbery

So I'll get these growing on well, safe in a corner of my back garden.

Then I'll take them out to my allotment in October and plant them out in their final position, with some protection from a net cloche.

Its great to be preparing for next Spring already, with the final Summer crops coming in and my allotment starting to look a bit empty.

Tuesday, 2 August 2016

St Ives Allotment - July - Photo Gallery

Allotment With A Sea View - July 2016
Allotment With A Sea View - July 2016

A busy July on the allotment with lots of crops growing beautifully - including sweetcorn, french beans, peas, turnips and carrots.

Should be a good harvest this year.

I've posted a gallery of photos for  July on my Facebook page -

Allotment With A Sea View - Gallery - July

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Allotment Growing - Sowing Turnips

Allotment Growing - Sowing Turnips
Allotment Growing - Sowing Turnips

I like to try a few new crops every season on my allotment - and oddly enough I've never grown turnips - so I'm giving them a go.

Allotment Growing - Sowing Turnips
An allotment staple for many growers - I've considered turnips to be a bit boring. But watching a few cookery programmes on TV has convinced me that sweet baby turnips might be quite nice on the plate. If I grow them to full size they can be harvested and chunked up to add to Winter stews.

I've sown two rows to start with - in the brassica bed on my plot. For crop rotation this is the group that turnips fall into (cabbages etc.) - as opposed to root vegetables (carrots etc.).

Allotment Growing - Sowing Turnips
I scraped out a shallow drill with the trowel - about half an inch deep. Then scattered the seed thinly along the length. and gently backfilled.

Finally I marked out the rows with string and added a dated plant label.

I'll sow a couple more rows at the end of the month and harvest them from late Summer through Autumn.

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

Visit my website - Allotment Growing
- for lots more information, growing tips and photos:
Allotment Growing

You might also enjoy:
Allotment Growing - Crops - Turnips

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sunday On The Allotment - Sunday 24 April

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - April 2016
St Ives Cornwall Allotment - April 2016

Pleasant and sunny - if a little chilly - in Cornwall this weekend.

I was pleased to get out to my plot and continue my Spring preparations and sowing.

First some seed sowing. Last year my French beans - Borlotti Firetongue - did really badly. We had an unusually cool Summer here in Cornwall. The temperature rarely rose above 20 degrees (C) - and the beans just didn't grow or crop well.

So - without a crop worth eating - I decided to dry and store the beans as seed. In Autumn I dug a bean trench and filled it with compost.
More - Digging A Bean Trench ...... 

I sowed a few seeds in modules in my greenhouse in March. these have germinated - so I know the stored seed is viable.

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Sowing Borlotti Beans
This year - under my crop rotation plan - beans and peas are going into the bed where I grew potatoes last year. I cleared this bed last Autumn - and added a mulch of compost - so there wasn't too much preparation to do.

I just hoed over the soil to remove weeds and made some small repairs to my bean cane "wigwam".
More - Allotment Calendar - Clearing Beds

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Sowing Borlotti Beans
Then I watered the ground - and simply sowed a bean at the foot of each cane.

It may be a bit early to sow French beans - seed packet instructions generally advise waiting until May. But Spring here has been fairly mild - and the soil is definitely warming up - as shown by my pea seeds starting to germinate and throw up shoots.

So I've taken a bit of a chance - and as usual maybe my impatience has gotten the better of me. But I've got plenty of seed left - and its free - so I can easily sow more. I'll also sown some more in pots in the garden at home - so I'll have some "backups".

More signs of Spring's advance elsewhere on the plot.

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - Potatoes
My potatoes - planted in early March - are finally beginning to show through.

Every year - around this time - I have an attack of "potato anxiety" - wondering if the shoots will ever emerge.

They always do. The next thing I'll need to worry about is blight - but not much I can do about that - we'll see.

St Ives Cornwall Allotment - April 2016
So - a nice Sunday on my plot.

More soon - on sowing peas, getting my "Three Sisters" bed ready and general progress through a lovely Spring in Cornwall.

Allotment Growing - Sweetcorn

Visit my website - Allotment Growing
- for lots more information, growing tips and photos:
Allotment Growing

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Allotment Growing - Three Sisters