Go find some bargains!

This point in the year is a great time to grab a bargain at your local garden centres and DIY shops. Thinking for the winter and following year ahead you can pick up all sorts of tools and materials that will be sold cheap as it is the wrong season to be selling them.

For example, we have grabbed some mini polytunnels of varying materials that we can use to help warm a patch of soil next year and protect those seedlings next year from frost and predators, and they were better than half price! Fertiliser is another good bargain find, as it’s not used as much this time of the year, so large buckets go cheaply.

So do get hunting now as it’s never too early to start prepping for next year.

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Failing tomatoes

Tomatoes are probably one of the most rewarding crops to grow yourself. Not because they make it cheaper than buying in the shops, we’ve definitely learnt that is not the case this year! But because unlike the shops you get amazing tasting tomatoes and can get all sorts of varieties ranging from beef tomatoes to black cherry tomatoes. For us it was one of the first crops to be allocated space in our plot.

 

We have since learnt the hard way that growing tomatoes outside is a tricky affair.

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Every single tomato in our allotment got blight! Being the first time planting tomatoes we didn’t know you could get blight on tomatoes, and thought maybe we were silly to have planted some next to potatoes, but that turned out not to matter as other tomato crops that were planted nowhere near potatoes got it! So each one has come out.

There is hope for us yet though as we have also planted some in our garden at home. These too are outside but they are isolated from anything else growing in the garden and are planted against a wall in a sheltered area. So far they have an abundance of green tomatoes on them and no sign of blight, so we still have a chance of getting homegrown tomatoes.

So we’ve learnt for next year to invest in some tomato greenhouses, and keep them away from everything! You’ve got to try everything once I guess!

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions www.laboromarketingsolutions.com

The planting begins!

My apologies for this late post, but it’s been a bit busy around the home.

IMG_0917IMG_0918Planting has started down in the allotment and everyone is excited. The other week we transplanted all our onions, shallots and garlic. I know there are some people who directly sow their plants into ground but we decided to grow them inside first then transplant them out. So far this has seemed to have worked very well!

To transplant them we used a pencil to ease them out and then using a dibber, we made holes in turned over soil. To get a straight line we used string.

Along with the onions family, we have planted out early potatoes and sown a row of carrots. As an experiment we are also starting some carrots inside and transplanting them out. We have heard that transplanting root crops can be risky, but thought we would give it a go and see the difference between techniques.

Again being warned off by many people we are going to try Asparagus. I shall be writing a full piece on Asparagus and the steps we took to plant it, so won’t say anymore here.

We were a little late with the beans and peas but have managed to get in our first batch. The broad beans were looking a little sorry for themselves in the greenhouse but have now perked up and are doing well. The runner beans however have flailed a bit. We think it may have been due to a frosty night and us not protecting them, so we are keeping an eye on them to see if we can still use them, otherwise we may cheat and buy some seedlings from a nursery!

 

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions http://www.laboromarketingsolutions.com

 

Update on the Berwick allotment

With the height of allotment season just around the corner I thought I would let you know where the Berwick plot is in its preparation stages! 

As you can see from the picture, our plot is finally dug over! It may have taken us a little longer than intended but lazy Sunday mornings got in the way! Plus there was no real rush for this. We added manure to two thirds of the plot to add that extra bit of nutrient to the soils, but keep in mind not all vegetables enjoy the manure.

 

Storage area

Our compost/storage area is near completion. We have levelled the area out as much as possible and added a layer of geotextile and wood chippings to ease long term maintenance of weeding, and this stops it from becoming a mud pile!

We have assembled a compost bin, and left room for another one next year and bought in our pea sticks and canes ready for use on the plot.

The only thing left to do is to make a storage box for all our tools as we are not allowed a shed on site, and to also find a couple of chairs so I can sit there with a beer on a hot summers evening!

 

Potatoes

Last weekend we got round to chitting our potatoes. This was done late but it’s fine as potatoes do not have to be planted straight away and they do not technically have to be chitted, it just gets the process started quicker then it would underground.

They are currently sitting in various points around our house where they get some natural light but stay warm.

 

 

Seed

 

As we don’t have a greenhouse and much room inside we have done the next best thing and bought some pop up greenhouses. For the price you pay you get a lot for your money. We have been able to get crops started as early as possible thanks to these contraptions, and it will certainly help us down on the allotment.

So far we have sown everything that we can plant in March, the one thing we did forget was to stagger the sowing of crops to stop them being ready all at once, but we can tackle that hurdle when it comes to it!

 

 

Propagator

Another little handy tool is the propagator. Because we do not have access to constant warmth inside the house we have hold of a couple of small propagators, not the electric ones just the basic. In these we have planted the more exotic crops such as peppers, chillies and aubergines. They need a little extra push to get started as they are not used to our climate and the propagators really help with this, as we can leave them inside in a sunny spot and they will gain that much extra heat.

 

That is it for us for now. Come the end of the month we will have our plot fully ready and begin the first batch of planting. Once the current seedlings are moved to the allotment the next round of later crops will be sown. I hope that everyone else is on track with their plot and do let us know what you are up to.

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions  http://www.laboromarketingsolutions.com

Make your own compost bin

To save money we are trying to make as much as possible ourselves. This coming weekend I will be making a storage box for our tools (We aren’t allowed a shed on our plot), but last weekend I constructed my compost bin. With a bit of muscle and squashed toes we did it!

There are a few different ways you can tackle a compost bin, but the best results have been the ones built using wooden pallets. These are good because they are normally hardwood so will last longer, and are well constructed as they have to take a lot of weight.

Ideally if you can get hold of a pallet with sides it makes it a lot easier, but you can use flat pallets too. Your best bet to find pallets are to pop down to a local builders merchant or nursery. They tend to have an abundance of pallets lying around as they can’t use them all, so you will normally be able to take them for free.

This guide is based on pallets with sides.

 

Step 1

Source your pallets. You will need two for this. Don’t worry if it comes with bits of plastic or other material on it, it doesn’t need to be spotless! You want to get two pallets of the same style so they will sit on top of one another comfortably.

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Step 2

Find bits of wood to place in the bottom of the pallet. It doesn’t have to be a perfect fit, and can overlap. It gives the compost a base, so when you come to putting waste in or turning it over there are no holes for it to fall through.

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Step 3

With the second pallet remove its base. Use any tools you feel will do the job. We used a saw, claw hammer and crowbar. Most pallets will take a bit of elbow grease to remove the bottom, but they should come off as one lump. Try and leave it so there are a couple of strands of wood overhanging. This will help connect the two pallets when you put this one on top of the other. Also check for any nails left, as you don’t want any potential for catching yourself on them.

Once you’ve removed the bottom then depending on the final height of your compost bin cut away a bit of a door. We did this for ours as the bin would have been too tall to make it accessible.

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Step 4

Place the pallets on top of one another. It’s up to you whether you secure them to one another with screws or not. We haven’t done this at the moment as it means we can lift the top pallet off when we want to gain access and while the compost is low the top pallet isn’t needed.

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A compost bin can be a very easy and cheap thing to make for your allotment. Be inventive and use any materials you find. If you’ve made compost bins using other methods let me know and I can share it with other people.

Edited by Laboro Marketing Solutions. http://www.laboromarketingsolutions.com