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Archive for the ‘compost’ Category

There were several plot holders caressing their soil at the allotments today. Each of us coaxing ourselves out of winter hibernation. There we all were, lifting and chopping our soil, teasing it into an approximation to crumbs ready for the frenzied seed sowing that has started and will continue to pick up pace over the coming month…

But we had a strict plan (for once) that we were gonna stick to – the reward would come at the end of the day when we would sow our broadbeans into the delicious soil that we have been nurturing.

 First off compost duties, Both of our home made pallet compost bins desperately needed an injection of oxygen. So we turned over the compost in the first one and then added the contents of the second on top of the first.  Nestled in there was a rat that had expired whilst dashing up one of the paths on our plot. But enough said about that. All in all a good result a nicely mixed compost bin and an empty bin to fill up again. Only one minor mishap on the way, when keener splashed putrid stagnant water up her trouser leg, so there was a lovely eau de sewer accompanying the rest of the day…

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Next, we cleared all the broken glass from around the green-house. It is now more of an open plan construction, with more glass smashed than there is left in the frame. We are finished with glass – it will be smashing when we get our mitts on some perspex. We’re going to try and get some that is milky white to avoid the plant scorch house situation that occurred at times last summer. Plant torture is not big and is not clever.

We planted some more asparagus into the, well the asparagus bed. Here came the absolute highlight of the day. I opened the box where we had stored our well rotted manure and discovered absolute gold. We jumped around delighted at the lovely black crumbly bread crumbs that had been produced. We both felt that this stuff was more valuable and precious than any diamond ring or necklace or snazzy car. So I filled the planting holes with this life giving substance, before safely nestling the asparagus crowns into their new home.

Finally, we excitedly snuggled the broad bean seeds safely into their spot. Now as we mentioned we are both doing an rhs course, and this involves a practical exam to test out seed sowing skills. So in preparation for this and because we both like the allotment to look attractive, we got out our line so that we could get perfectly straight lines. We felt a little bit silly doing this but nevertheless we persevered as we continue to perfect our art… Four perfectly straight lines of broad beans, mission accomplished. I look forward to these nutty delights as they are definitely one of my favourite allotment foods.

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It wasn’t until we got back to beeners and were tucking into  the shop bought cabbage of our well earned dinner, that we suddenly realised that we’d neglected to harvest any of the veg that we still have growing on the plot – curly kale, parsnip, two leeks, swede, turnip, swiss chard, pak choi and cabbage. DOH!

But we did have the foresight to take a picture in preparation for writing this post. I’m sure you’ll agree that kale sure looks tasty!

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So we announced our grand arrival back into the blogosphere and then it all went quiet again.

That similar feeling of ‘I’m not doing the things that make me happy’ has also been in the allotment arena.

But thats all about to change, sink or swim,- we have a plan..

Each of us has made solitary visits up to the plot to survey the lay of the land. We were pleased with how things were looking. The soil is looking very weathered (at least on the surface). More seed sowing in-situ will be happening this year.

 We have not sown a single bean yet, but its still early and theres a bit of maintenance that we want to carry out first. Like I said we have plan – tomorrow is a big day:

Turning the Compost bin

Looking at soil horizons – to see what’s really going on beneath our feet

Clearing up the smashed glass from our wind tunnel formerly known as a greenhouse

Keener

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As the excitement mounts with spring approaching, we have been thinking about how happy gardening makes us feel. It seems that we’re not the only ones to have noticed this……

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There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling. ~Mirabel Osler

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses. ~Hanna Rion

You can bury a lot of troubles digging in the dirt. ~Author Unknown

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden. ~John Erskine

Let no one think that real gardening is a bucolic and meditative occupation. It is an insatiable passion, like everything else to which a man gives his heart. ~Karel Čapek, The Gardener’s Year, translated by M. and R. Weatherall, 1931

Gardening is a kind of disease. It infects you, you cannot escape it. When you go visiting, your eyes rove about the garden; you interrupt the serious cocktail drinking because of an irresistible impulse to get up and pull a weed. ~Lewis Gannit

There is no gardening without humility. Nature is constantly sending even its oldest scholars to the bottom of the class for some egregious blunder. ~Alfred Austin

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.– Abraham Lincoln

To dig one’s own spade into one’s own earth! Has life anything better to offer than this?– Beverley Nichols

The man who has planted a garden feels that he has done something for the good of the world. — Vita Sackville-West

When the world wearies and society fails to satisfy, There is always the garden– Minnie Aumonier

Gardening is the purest of human pleasures.– Francis Bacon

To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves. – Ghandi

All my hurts my garden spade can heal.”– Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you tickle the earth with a hoe she laughs with a harvest” – Douglas Jerrold

“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than Emperor’s.”– Mary Cantwell

Almost any garden, if you see it at just the right moment, can be confused with paradise. -Henry Mitchell

Where flowers bloom so does hope. -Lady Bird Johnson

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 We have decided to gingerly stick our heads up into the blogosphere again. It’s just that we’ve both been very busy, trying to learn more detail and technicalities about our craft. We have been wading and trudging through the dreaded Royal Horticultural Society 3 course. 

We have always been fans of compost and soil, sniffing and smelling it, as well as growing plants and veg in it. But how little we knew of the bio-chemical wonder-land that is going on beneath our feet.  

Our ears pricked up eagerly one day in class when the tutor described soil that had a blue/grey appearance, calling it gleying. It is due to lack of oxygen and is found in waterlogged soils and this is not good. If you dig down more than a few inches on large parts of our allotment this is exactly what you will find. We originally thought that it was due to a piece of machinery/metal kinda rotting there, we weren’t far off as it is due to iron.

Go to fullsize image

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This photo is not one of ours, because at the moment our allotment is completely saturated and we can’t do anything to the soil in these conditions because we will make it into even more of a sticky, compacted mess. But it shows how yucky and inhospitable a gley soil is to a lot of plants that an allotmenteer wants to grow. Gleying is not uncommon and could be lurking under many an unsuspecting gardeners feet.

We are currently sat twiddling our thumbs dreaming about elaborate drainage systems. Although the fact that our allotment is clay and above a substantial natural spring means that it is gonna be awhile before we get anywhere near a lovely loam on parts of our plot. But as ever we sure are gonna have fun getting oxygen into the soil and more importantly getting it to stay there!

As I write, Beener is excitedly poring over our seeds, putting them into order of month of sowing. The anticipation for spring is mounting and we wait patiently for our soil to dry out so we can get stuck in…..

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The Soil Association’s Organic Fortnight is currently running until September 16th 2007.

Amongst other things, they are running a campaign called ‘Wake up Gordan!’. Via a cheeky interactive cartoon you can feed Gordan a delicious organic breakfast and see him burp with satisfaction. The Soil Association will use the number of breakfasts Gordon eats to put pressure on the government to encourage increased consumption of organic produce.. Click here to take part.

Also if you join the Soil Association this month they will give you extra stuff for free!

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Edinburgh council opened last year the first official organic allotments in Scotland.

The lucky plot holders have access to an organic composting toilet, and there is a  rainwater collection system to be used for watering plots. The site is accessible to disabled allotmenteers too.

At last an example of a local authority decision in line with the growing number of people concerned about food quality and the desperate state that we are steering the planet toward…

Reports of the allotment’s opening can be found in  BBC News and the Edinburgh Evening News

Hooray!

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Wilko’s has an excellent sale on seeds, 75% off!

We went yesterday, it must be a popular place with allotment folk.  We saw 3 other plot holders hanging about in wilkos whilst we were there.

They also have 75% off of seed trays.  One of the other plot holders said soon they knock all the gardening stuff down to 75% off.

We bought :  Sweet Pea Blue Velvet  44p was 1.79

                        Sweetcorn miracle  37p was 1.49

                        Exhibition onions  81p was 3.25

                        Echinecea 54p was 2.19

                        Calendula   39p was 1.59

                        Courgette   62p was 2.49

We are off up  there again today as we didnt know until we got to the till that there was 75% off.       

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I just read keeners post Magic beans…..

Thats correct they are magical beans, they must be to have survived the sudden invasion of dreaded blackfly we have encountered.  Although im now pleased to say ladybirds are out in force on our plot feeding away doing there job. The thing is it seems, as the ladybirds are munching the blackfly the ants are just bringing back more and loading the plants back up with them quicker than those little ladies can eat them.

Mother nature is a wonderful thing. I find it amazing sat watching the broad and runner beans alive with various insects all feasting on each other, using or helping each other out in some way.

Anyways im drifting a bit…..Back to keeners post.

Is our allotment rubbish? No it blinking isnt!

Its easy to get caught up in the competative crap that I have learned that can go on in allotmenteering.  I wont go on about this in detail, as I really do like all of my fellow plot holders.  But It can be a little off putting when you got someone constantly compairing your plot with theres. Who has the nicest soil, who has the longest beens, oh god I could go on but as I said I like the other plot holders at our allotment, dont want to go pointing fingers and offending people.  Sometimes you just wanna get up the allotment and chill out, have a little walk around, look at your insect city on your beans maybe do a bit of weeding and just relax.  Its hard to relax sometimes though when you feel like your being watched and judged by  fellow plot holders.

What I try to remember when I look our allotment is we have only had it 6 months, in that time we have transformed a massive 110ft of brambles and solid compacted clay into a workable plot, roughly 3/4 full now.  We still have so much to do but its slowly taking shape. It is a big plot we have, having it 3/4 full with lovely veg 6 months after getting it keener is pretty damn good going if you ask me.

Yes we have delicious broads beans, but your forgetting the lovely ripe white currants we both eagerly scoffed, the blackcurrants, the strawberries from the greenhouse, the spinach and not forgetting all the lovely herbs ready for the picking including sage, purple sage, rosemary, marjoram, thyme, chives, lemon balm, spearamint, peppermint, orange mint and the wonderful (but small) chamomile lawn.

As for the veg we have growing, we have brocoli, cabbage, runners, broads, peas, mange tout, swiss chard, rocket, lettuce, courgette, pumpkin, cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, garlic, parsnip, potatoes, asparagus, carrotts, melons, raspberries, gooseberries, blueberries, cranberries, and an apple.

Now that to me does not sound like a rubbish allotment keener!

Besides all the veg we have 2 lovely mixed borders contaning herbacious plants, bulbs, and bedding. We are also trying companion planting using marigolds, nastursiams garlic dotted amongst the veg. 

So keener for 2 people in 6 months I reckon its safe to say NO our allotment is not  rubbish.

Im going to stick some photo’s on here tuesday for you all to see, so hopefully you too can reassure keener our allotment is not rubbish.

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Not being a religious person, nor one who celebrates Easter I spent a lot of this weekend up the allotment. It was wonderful, warm and peaceful.

One of our friends very kindly spent his good Friday loading up a big trailer of manure and met me up the allotment.

When I arrived there was nobody there. I was glad of this as I felt really guilty for having such a mountain of manure.. I wanted to quickly get in and get it on the plot.

We all have the same problem, up our allotments, crap soil and all desperately need manure.  I am very lucky to have a friend who is friends with a guy who has a large supply of manure.  We are able to get it free, just have to pick it up. We usually do this in a large builders bag. The thing is I know everybody on the allotment needs as much manure as possible. We have left the other plot holders small piles and will try to give them some each time we pick some up, but its not enough to make a difference, we all need shit loads!. I would love to be able to get them all more free manure but its a bit cheeky if I tell them I can get it as its only because my friend is good friend with this guy who has the manure. I don’t even know the guy, so can’t go asking if he would mind supplying all of us, as he usually sells it like a lot of farmers/stable owners.  Anyways what I’m saying is I very quickly shovelled the manure onto the plot and saved a load in a wooden crate that my friend had picked up, ready to give to the other plot holders. Not before two lovely ladies appeared and both commented on our lovely manure as if it was a huge chocolate cake: ooh that looks lovely, smells wonderful. I felt really greedy with my manure mountain, those two ladies are first on the list for a visit from the poo fairies in the morning.

We already have put lots of manure on our soil but it still needs loads more, we are so lucky to be able to have a free supply but I’m starting to feel a little bad for having it……Night time muck spreading is in need I reckon. And continue to leave as many piles as we can spare for others in need.

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I was told the other day that GMTV ran a feature on Monday about the mood enhancing effects of soil. I was dubious, but apparently we somehow absorb good ‘stuff’ through our skin and this makes us feel better.

I was happy to see that the research has been highlighted in a BBC article ‘Dirt exposure ‘boosts happiness”. Apparently bacteria found in soil can affect serotonin levels. Serotonin is the neurotranmitter which many antidepressants work upon..

The Sunday Times also carry a report entitled ‘Health and happiness is all down to a roll in the dirt’ Difficult to argue with I’m sure you’ll agree.. The article explores the link between positive mental health and a healthy immune system and dirt…

The research will be published in the academic journal, Neuroscience this week…

Therefore a perfect excuse for when people point out to me I have grubby fingernails again…

Keener

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