Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

Officially 806

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Removing the old shed sign Carving a recess in the old sign Recess carved for our new number New number glued in place Our plot number finally up on the shed

806, standing proud Tractor ploughing next door Our new salad bed and strawberry patch Salad and onions Brick edged strawberry patch

A carpet of pretty blue flowers Wind had broken the fence I've re-enforced the fence now New buds on the apple trees Old and new working together

Spinach and salad coming up Not much use any more Garlic's getting bushy Ladybird on my leg A surprise opening

Lucy raking in the grass seeds The grass seed's now protected from birds Onions uncovered Re-edging the bed Lucy hard at work as usual

Rusty old tank filled with rubbish Testing for leaks There's one

I finally managed to get the carved sign that I was making finished and back up on the small shed at the front of the plot. I removed the original sign board that was on the shed and carved out a recess into which I glued the smaller green sign that I’d carved out, painted and then varnished. It’s been there for a week now and it holding up relatively well, although there are some streaks in the green paint which suggest I should have been a bit more patient and applied another couple of coats of varnish.

Back to the important stuff now…I’m happy to say that the snow we had a short while back doesn’t seem to have killed off the majority of our salad crops. The spinach, Mizuna and Iceberg lettuce (Or Batavia as it is also known - A horrible set of McDonald’s TV adverts recently used this name to make whatever swill they were peddling sound a bit more credible) all came through the cold well and have sprung to life. Unfortunately the lamb’s lettuce is still nowhere to been seen, so we’ll have to replant that. It was in the same area and planted to the same depth as the other seeds, so I can only assume that Lamb’s lettuce isn’t very hardy.

The fence near the shed had been blown over by strong winds when we arrived, so I rearranged it a bit and then used some of the iron poles we have laying around to pin it securely in place. There was also a lot of weeding to be done, a lot more of that than anything else in fact. The leafy vermin seem to be thriving with the recent spells of warm weather interspersed with showers. Our biggest enemy seems to be Groundsel which is springing up absolutely everywhere on the plot. We’ve tried to make as big a dent as possible on the population before all the plants go to seed (they’re carried on the wind which is why they’re so prolific).

After I’d weeded the paths at the top of the plot Lucy raked over the soil and coved the area with grass seed to try and encourage that to take the place of the more intrusive weeds. We removed the chicken wire cage from over the onions (which are now big enough to fend for themselves) and place it over the newly seeded area to give the grass a chance to get going without becoming bird food. Our biggest issue will be keeping it moist enough to germinate given that the weather’s been on the hot side. We might experiment by covering it with newspaper to stop it drying out in between waterings.

In between weeding and watering I investigated whether our empty water tank would be salvageable with a bit of hole patching. It seems that it won’t. After clearing it out and checking for large holes I took a piece of scrap hose that Old Bob had left us and siphoned some water from the full tank sitting beside it to see where it would leak from. Annoyingly it began to leak even before any water reached the level of the larger holes, meaning that the flaky, rusting interior was hiding smaller and more insidious leaks that would be difficult to find and patch. Let us know if you can think of a good use for the tank, besides being a rather heavy and inefficient sieve.

Exciting things are afoot in the potato patch! That’s right, this weekend saw the emergence of our early potatoes from their cosy beds. Lush green leaves have begun to spring up in pleasing rows along either side of the beds. We planted the rows of Arran Pilot & Kestrel potatoes around 60cm apart (the width of our beds is 1.2 meters) and left around 10 inches between potatoes (I can’t help mixing my metric and imperial, sorry). We’ve read in various books that we should pile the earth up around the shoots as they grow above ground so that only a short section is exposed. This is supposed to increase the number of potatoes per plant (due to more of the plant residing underground) as well as protecting the potatoes from diseases such as blight, to some extent.

Picture extravaganza

Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Chitting the potatoes in apple packaging Potatoes chitting away Kestrel earlies Moira digging for victory Free labour

A quick shed break Using our new Hoe New salad beds dug Garlic's doing well Healthy garlic

Elephant garlic Watering in the elephant garlic A new tap! Another gift from the ground Our new onion sets

Onion trench Tobacco tin for spacing the onions Onions all in a row Red Baron onions in Interesting shoot colours

Potatoes coming along well The shoots are getting longer Chicken wire protects the onions from bird attack Onions have begun to sprout Weeding the paths

Interesting moth/butterfly in the greenhouse Preparing trenches for our potatos Potatoes ready to be covered over An onion overview Long violet aubergine seedling

Sweet peppers in the propergator Art or scrap? A figure emerges Ghostly goings on Our small toolshed

806 faintly visible Painting our hand-carved plot number All painted up Time for some weatherproofing First coat of varnish being applied

I promised new pictures, and I think I’ve delivered more than my fair share. As the Brief(ish) update below suggests, quite a bit has happened with the onset of spring, including a surprise bout of snow today! The ground is covered to about 10 Inches deep in places here, but unfortunately we’ve not been able to get down to the allotment to check on the fruits (and veg) of our labour. I’m not too hopeful about our newly planted salad crops surviving the cold…The garlic, potatoes and onions should fair better, with any luck.

Back at home the aubergine plants are doing well in their new individual pots. Most of them suffered a bit of leaf damage before they came out of the propagator when we left them to their own devices for a week and went on holiday. When we got home from our neglectful stint in the sun the aubergines had grown quite vigorously and the large leaves had become covered in condensation. This sitting water seems to have ‘burned’ the leaves somewhat, but at least they didn’t go the opposite way and dry out. I think that would have proved more fatal.

The new residents of the propagator are the sweet peppers I planted a week or so ago. You can see these in one of the pictures above sprouting up quite happily, so I’m quite positive about those giving us a good crop in the future, provided they make the transition to the greenhouse without too much trouble. It’ll be time to pot them on soon enough, then we’ll have to start thinking about what’s next to go into the nice warm propagator for germination.

We measured up the internal dimensions of the greenhouse recently to see if it will accommodate a cheap pasting table. I was going to remove the top surface of the table and then replace it with some cheap wooden batons, spaced a centimetre or so apart. Then I was going to soak the whole thing in wood preserver to give it a slightly longer life. This will give us a nice workspace on one side of the greenhouse, while the other side can be given over to the actual growing of tasty veg.

Our plot’s needed a sign for a while now - one stating the plot number, it’s a requirement of the allotment. It’s taken me a while to get round to it as I’ve had quite a few ideas about how I wanted to do it. One version was going to be etched from copper, another was constructed from brass Meccano gears all linked together and driven by a solar powered motor. Our plot number is 806, meaning that a number of round gears and a small ratchet arm for the top part of the 6 would have worked together quite well. However, even on ebay brass Meccano gears sell for quite a lot of money, so in the end I decided on a simple carving on a scrap piece of wood (as you can see in the pictures above). I printed the numbers out then transferred them to the wood using a pin to pick the outline. I then used a V-Gouge to carve this outline. I’ve now given it a coat of green paint and one of a hard wearing Yacht Varnish. It’ll get another coat and then I’ll fix it to the small shed at the front of our plot. I’m still going to keep an eye out for cheap gears…

Ah yes, the tap! I’ve forgotten to mention it up until now. We went up to the plot one day (I think it was last month) to find 4″x4″ post with a tap fixed to it, driven into the ground next to our compost heap. To our delight the tap worked and now we have an incredibly handy water supply. Although we’re very lucky to now have a tap so close to hand, we’re going to try avoid using it seeing as we have perfectly good rainwater collected in the 2 large old water tanks that Old Bob left us. There is a third tank on the plot but it never fills up due to the rusty holes. I might have a go a patching these up to some degree if possible.

Before we left the plot last time we were there we dug another small triangular bed next to cold frame, this is now the new home for our strawberries. We’ve been growing these at home for a while now with varying success. Our losses to the local wildlife tends to outnumber the amount we actually eat, but I’m sure with some effort we can get the odds back in our favour. This bed is different to all our others so far. We dug in lovely compost from our heap as usual (after removing the crisp packets, which inexplicably, haven’t broken down yet…What was Old Bob thinking?). The difference with this bed is that we went for a classy brick edging! Unfortunately I’ve not got any pictures of that yet, but that’s a treat for the future. The result is quite nice though and we’re now considering the same finish for the opposite bed, which is also triangular and now full of very frosty lettuce thanks to the snow. We’ll need to get hold of some more bricks first though and that’s a whole different matter.

Lastly, I decided to have a bit of a go at chicken wire sculpture given that we have so much of the stuff. I went for the ghostly figure of a monk in robes and I think it came out reasonably well. It sits at the top of our plot looking towards the greenhouse. I’ve been thinking about moving it closer to the bottom of our plot, nearer the main path and then growing a climbing plant up the inside to flesh it out a bit. I think I’ll wait until we’re a bit less busy with the planting first…If that ever happens.