Thursday, 24 November 2011

Too wet to dig

Lately I've been at work during days when the sun has shone, but when it comes to my day off it's foggy and too wet for me to do any clearing/digging on the lottie. Last Monday was such a day.

 I went down to see if it really was as wet as I thought and I left 10 mins later with a carrier bag full of curly kale and boots that were 3 inches taller from mud sticking to the soles. So after spending every spare moment of the last 7 months on the lottie, I was at a loss - how was I going to spend my free afternoon? Doing housework? Nah! Making a gardening apron, from a couple of pairs of jeans. Yes!

Over the course of the summer I'd found that the pockets of my jeans were often too small and too few to hold everything I wanted them to hold eg twine, secateurs, penknife, seed packets etc. I'd bought my brother one for his birthday recently and I nearly kept it for myself it looked so useful. But being a handy kinda gal I decided I would have a go at making one for (practically) nothing. My daughter had left behind a couple of pairs of jeans when she first went to uni. Having graduated earlier this year I guessed that she didn't want them anymore, and she's not here to argue. So rather than recycling them I decided to upcycle them.

From this:
To this:

 First I used a leg to make a rectangular piece to form the apron bit. Then, just visible in the photo above, I used the front of one pair of jeans, having cut out the zip, studs and belt loops to make it easier to sew, and attached this.  I used the back pocket section to make a large pocket and positioned this slightly lower than the first set of pockets. I had to even up the central seam on this bit to make it lie straight as this has a curve. I used one of the remaining legs to make a waistband and sewed the front of the apron to it. A final set of pockets was made from the bottom of two legs. This was sewn onto the back of the waistband.
 I used a plastic clip for a fastener - 75p from the haberdashery stall on the local market - it was the only thing I bought.
 The back pockets from a pair make a huge pocket with 2 small pockets.

 The result? A 7 pocket apron. Cost? 75p for a clip fastener, a few yards of thread, two pairs of old jeans and a bit of electricity for the sewing machine. Now that's what I call economy.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

I have a shed!

Had a week off work this week so spent most of it at the allotment...where else? It was too muddy to clear any more weeds, but thankfully not for putting up the shed.

I didn't want to spend £150+ buying a shed, but need somewhere to store bits and pieces, sit and have a cuppa, shelter from the rain and (most importantly) have a pee in private.

Fortunately, I was able to scavenge wood from work that would have been skipped as we had nowhere to store it. It started life as an art installation by artist Natalie Gale called Purpresture, which is a medieval word for a dwelling in a wood.

As you can see, lots of ply 10mm thick and in handy 8ft x 4ft sheets, this was transformed by my wonderful OH in to the fantastic shed pictured below.

A final coat of shed preserver and it's finished. Not exactly a dwelling, but a brilliant shelter and store - can't wait to start filling it up.
 Maybe it'll win the Turner Prize...

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Things I've learnt this year.

How long have you got? I'll stick to things I've learnt on the allotment to save time.
  1. Don't sow too many courgette seeds. All of them will germinate and then, being the type of person who hates waste, there will be far too many plants and in turn far too many courgettes. You can have too much of a good thing and you'll discover just how many things can be made with courgettes.
  2. Before protecting brassicas with fine netting, check that cabbage white butterflies haven't already laid their eggs. Otherwise 3 weeks later when you check for weeds underneath the nets you will be faced with cabbage lace.
  3. Remember that rabbits do eat anything that isn't protected including onions and leeks.
  4. Planting French marigolds to deter carrot fly doesn't work if you sow the seeds at the same time as the carrot seeds.
  5. Watch out for the stubs of shrubs that haven't been uprooted yet. They lie in wait and trip you up, especially when you've got a sharp pruning knife in your hand.
  6. Using black plastic for paths is ok, just remember that they become slippery death traps when it has been raining. 
  7. When using liquid comfrey fertiliser, make sure you don't spill it on yourself. The fragrance will  make everyone around you run away covering their noses and will burn itself into your nostrils, so you smell it all day even when you've showered and changed your clothes .
  8. 5 ridge cucumber plants is too many for feeding 2 people.
  9. Shallot sets that are left in the boot of your car will remain usable up to the point that you want to plant them, then they will become soft and squishy, and you'll discover where that horrible smell is coming from.
  10. Tomatoes will not ripen if you leave them hanging from the back of the kitchen chair for three weeks. Instead you'll be faced with the 'What's this puddle of liquid under the chair?' mystery.
  11. And finally, allotmenteering is great fun, you meet great people, get lots of exercise and get to eat the results of your labours.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Pining away

After...(you can see the before in the previous post)

 I'm not sure what these trees were, Leylandii perhaps or some kind of pine, but they have the same  properties of growing very quickly, sucking all the nutrients and water out of the ground and blocking light from the neighbouring area. Anyway, they have been skulking in the far corner of the plot, lurking and looming and continuing to grow. But they had pigeons nesting in them, so nothing could be done about them till the breeding season was over as lots of fellow allotmenteers kept reminding me.

I have planned to make this area my fruit growing area, with space for a shed there too. The story of my shed will be the topic of a future post. Needless to say the shed is in pieces under the carport, blocking the drive and garage and generally getting in the way for the past month. So it was suggested that I pull my finger out and level a 9ft x 5ft patch for the base to go on. This meant getting rid of the conifers first. Thankfully I have wonderful allotment neighbours who have a chainsaw so the offending trees were soon no more as of Sunday afternoon.

Today is my day off work, so I've spent the day trimming off the branches and making a neat stack of trunks, which will be used for bean poles. fruit cage supports and failing that home to mini beasts. Once that was done I started to clear and level off the bit for the shed base.

We will get the slabs for the base tomorrow and hopefully the shed will be up by the weekend.

Phew, I'm aching a bit now. But it was wonderful being out in the fresh air, autumn sun shining and being serenaded by a robin who was after the bugs I'd excavated. Isn't nature wonderful?

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Begin at the beginning.

I've had my allotment for about 6 months now. It has certainly been hard, back breaking work but also very satisfying - especially now that I'm getting regular produce. I've progressed much further than I thought I would. I'm keeping this blog partly for my own records, but also in the hope that it will encourage other allotment newbies.

It all started at the end of March 2011.

I couldn't believe my luck, when after a year on the waiting list I received a letter saying that my time had come. Enclosed with it was a map with all the vacant plots highlighted in pink. All I had to do was choose which one I wanted. So I rushed down after work, map in hand and roamed the site looking at the 33 vacant plots.

Oh, which one to choose? I really wanted the other half of the one I have as it has a large greenhouse and shed - we are only allowed half plots at the moment because of the size of the waiting list. But it had already been nabbed by the time I rang the following morning. So I said that I would have the adjoining one 'Are you sure?' asked the allotment officer. I said yes -  though I got a gut wrenching feeling, why was she asking? What was wrong with the one I'd chosen?

I tried to remember back to the previous evening. It was a sunny spring evening, a Sunday, so there were plenty of smiling, cheerful allotmenteers around, a friendly bunch. All the plots were covered in weeds, but I didn't remember any that were particularly bad. I shook off my apprehension and went down with a camera the following day so that I could devise a plan of action while I awaited the tenancy agreement.


This is what I was greeted with.

Not so much an allotment as a shrubbery. Lots of hebes, dwarf (and not so dwarf) conifers, brambles, ash and oak saplings and other assorted shrubs. What had I taken on? I was obviously wearing rose tinted glasses when I decided this was the plot for me.

So, I made a plan of jobs to do. It went like this: chop down hebes, chop down dwarf conifers, chop down saplings and just for some variation I added dig up brambles, dig up couch grass, dig up horses tail and dig up ground elder.

I started one section at a time. The plot is about 9 - 10 m wide and about 20m long so I sectioned it of into 4m sections to give me 4 veg beds and a final bed for soft fruit and space for a shed and bench, should I ever have time to sit down.
By the end of April I'd got this far
That's one bed plus all the conifers/hebes in the next section reduced to stumps.

By the end of May:

That's potatoes in the first bed and the next section de stumped and  de weeded

By the end of June:

THe second bed was planted up with tomatoes, courgettes, cucumbers and beetroots.

And so on until we come to September:

Brassicas overwintering in bed 3 and

Bed 4 started, green manure sprouting in the background.

And this is the chap responsible for making this miracle happen; my trusty mattock

Without this bad boy the job of getting rid of all those shrubs would have been alot harder. I must add that I'm only 5ft 1 and not exceptionally strong, but I am stubborn and determined to make this plot productive. If I can do it, anyone can.