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Archive for the ‘permaculture’ Category

This involves trying to scare away our feathered friends with the use of a plastic owl. I’m sure I’ve seen these amongst other wildlife merchandise in my local pound shop, but if you get stuck Gullstop can flog you one. . .

Alternatives are plastic snakes or a good old fashioned Scarecrow. I never thought I would be an advocate for arts and crafts sessions but all in a good cause…

If you combine these visual scarers with reflective items, such as old CDs hanging on string and sticks, and with something noisy, like a wind chime, you may have some luck. Well at least for a while, I guess it depends on how gullible the birds are in your area and whether your fellow allotmenteers can tolerate the clanging of those damned wind chimes!

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Quite simply erect some kinda bird bath.

Whilst flicking through a gardening book I found this interesting tip from Bob Flowerdew, a regular on Radio 4′s Gardeners Question Time and described as Britain’s leading organic gardener. He says that birds aren’t eating your fruit for the food, as they are low in calories. The poor little things are gobbling your fruit for the moisture – they’re thirsty. Therefore put up bird baths, they’ll drink from these and your fruit hopefully won’t get touched, or at least not everything totally stripped.

Sounds crazy I know, actively encouraging birds onto your plot, but maybe worth a shot… Also who am I to argue with Bob Flowerdew!

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Some of you may have read with envious eyes that we were lucky enough to be donated a fruit cage.. We duly constructed the cage, and promised ourselves that when the fruits from our strawberries, raspberries, back-currants, white-currants and gooseberries began to swell, we would put the roof on quick smart. We observed it happening, and confirmed to each other that next time we’d sort it. Yes you’ve guessed it – we didnt and our feathered friends have had a feast once again on our delicious fruit. At least it wasn’t rats or some other ‘uglier’ pest – I like birds a lot and feeding some possibly cancels out the bad karma that my cat may have recently brought on my household….

Meanwhile we are swimming in a sea of broad bean heaven, not only did we plant some might say a ridiculous amount, but the diligent pinching out of the tops of sap drenched new growth has thwarted a major attack from apids.

Our plants look very healthy and not a spray or slug pellet has sneaked onto our plot, despite a savage month of relentless slug offensives on our poor defenceless seedlings. They were tempted away with our slug pubs, but there was a high casualty rate – french beans completely wiped out. This resulted in us having to bring everything on in the green-house – to give them a fighting chance. We hope that now the birds are full of energy from our fruit they might turn their attention to molluscs… We also hope that our allotment neighbour is successful in her quest to build a pond, so that frogs can live nearby and feast on the slimey enemy.

We are eagerly awaiting some pay back from the tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet corn, courgettes, and other goodies that are nestled in out plot, albeit a little bit later than we would have liked. Our plot is looking full again and bursting with colour and flowers. The weeds continue to try and upset us but nothing can dampen our spirits – not even the rain which we are getting in bucketfuls like the rest of the country. When its raining we dont have to tear up and down the plot trying to quench the thirst of our plants.

All is good and its good to be a gardener!

keener

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How nice it it to hear we have been missed. Thank you.

Its been a busy time of late for the both of us, and unfortunately something had to be put to one side. That something sadly being our blog. But rest assured the allotment is still going strong.  We both started the RHS advanced course back in September, we took the first exam in February (soil science and plant propagation)…. It was hard going and seemed to take over our lives for a while. Glad to say we both passed. 3 more to go.  We are now working towards the next , but luckily this one is not so intense as its not theory based, its all on your practical ability.  We have a practical exam in September, so not as much of our time taken up now, so more time to get back to blogging.  Also we both have new jobs, gardening in historic gardens part time, which is a wonderful job and a great opportunity.  We have also set up on our own for 2/3 days a week. It took a while to come up with a name for our venture but after much deliberation we agreed on Gardening Angels.  That too is going well.

Its been hard cramming  everything in over the last few months,  the blog has gone down hill somewhat. The allotment is hanging on in there tho. I manage to squeeze in a couple of hours after work in the week and as much as possible on the weekend.  If you remember at first both keener and I practically lived at the allotment, now we are lucky to fit in a few hours, and boy don’t we know it when we talk to the other plot holders…”ooohh hello we haven’t seen you for a while, everything alright?” or “we don’t see you guys up here much now” I think they consider us part timers now, which we may be, but its all about how much we can get done in the short space of time we have for the allotment. We manage to cram in so much when we are both up there now, we work well as a team. We both spent 7 hours up there saturday tackling the weeds, mowing, re- edging paths, clearing out the shed and greenhouse and generally sprucing the place up a bit.  What a difference a day makes!  

Sunday was spent potting on seedlings, planting more potatoes ( Better late than never)

In our greenhouse we have, marigolds, calendula, chrysanthemum, purple kale, sprouts, broccoli, yellow tomatoes, leeks, spring onions, courgettes, melon, salsify, aubergine and more which right just now I cant remember.

I feel back on track now, and the allotment looks great again.

Top end of plot.

As you can see we have a lot of bare soil, we are lucky to have a free supply of manure, I only wish we had a constant supply of free time to pick the stuff up. We are preparing the soil by adding as much as we can. As we are adding it, its being gratefully and quickly eaten up by our crap soil.  We added tonnes of manure last year, but you wouldn’t think it when you see how bad the soil is when digging.  

Lower half of plot

Our shed…still not finished, still not rain/wind proof but provides us with a nice place to sit and shelter with a magnificent view over our plot with an amazing back drop of Bristol.  We still have out winding paths but they all need covering with wood chippings again. We were given a fruit cage which was great. Its a little old and needed some bodging. It isn’t big enough to cover all or the fruit so we have covered what we can and what is in most need of protection.

In the fruit cage we have cranberry, black currant, white currant, raspberries, yellow raspberries, strawberries and gooseberry.                                                                                                                            Outside the fruit cage we have an apple bush and blueberries and more strawberries.

Half of our herb bed

This is half of our herb bed which contains Rosemary, Lavender, Variegated Sage, Purple Sage, Thyme, Marjoram, Apple Mint, Orange Mint, spearmint, Coriander, Fever few and my favorite Lawn Chamomile which we are training into a small lawn to surround a seating area in the middle of the bed ( raised ugly drain in picture)

Young allotmenteer checking out potatoes for blight.  So far no sign.

We may of gone a little over board with the Broad beans this year….hey anyone got any good Broad bean receipes?

I took these photos yesterday on my phone so they are not the best, nor do they dont show the whole plot and what we have growing. More will be added.  Its raining real bad here today so cant work or go to the allotment.  Im forced to stay in and paint my sons bedroom which is gonna be difficult with a head filled with allotment to do lists.

Thank you for your kind words

Beane

 

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Like most of the country we have lost lots of tomatoes this year due to blight.

The done thing to do is burn the effected plants and tomatoes. Its heartbreaking picking hand-fulls of blighted tomatoes and burning them. Surely we can use the manky mushy toms for something.

What about this?………

Now that is much more fun that burning the buggers.

Horticultural therapy at its best!

Beaner

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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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As is widely reported, allotments are changing – more women, ethnic minority groups, and younger people. Crushing the myth that allotments are only frequented by old blokes in flat caps, hiding from the missis, drinking dodgy homemade alcohol and so on.

A UKTV gardens survey of 3000 adults has linked age with types of vegetables grown to produce a veg top ten. Not only are allotmenteers getting younger but they are getting more exotic. Perhaps reflecting high supermarket prices, the need to reduce food miles and our increasing multi-cultural diet. We are becoming a nation of meat and two exotic veg….

This shows once again that allotments are in tune with and reflect the needs of modern Britain.

Top 10 veg by generation:

From Thompson & Morgan

Over 55 Under 55
1. Tomatoes (60%) 2. Rocket (71%)
1. Potatoes (56%) 2. Mangetout (66%)
1. Carrotss (49%) 2. Chilli (52%)
.1. Onions (45%) 2. Purple Sprouting Broccoli (44%)
1. Cabbage (41%) 2. Squash (41%)
1. Runner Beans (36%) 2. Chinese Leaves (35%)
1. Cucumber (33%) 2. Pak Choi (29%)
1. Cauliflower (29%) 2. Globe Artichoke (25%)
1. Peas (26%) 2. Red Onion (23%)
1. Parsnips (29%) 2. Tomatoes (25%)

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It must be a common experience to see your shed standing proud on your plot of land and then to wanna move in – permenantly. To totally immerse yourself in allotment living, and the good life is so very tempting.

An article in the guardian describes a fellow who did exactly that and what I found so truly heart-warming and grin-provoking is that he got away with it and is supported by his fellow plot-holders!

My allotment shed became home

Interview by Ros Anderson
Saturday August 25, 2007

It wasn’t my intention to live on my allotment. I was renting a one- bedroom flat in south-west London, on a very low income. I needed a garden shed, so I started collecting scrap material from skips. Before I knew it, I had built a shed that was bigger than necessary. I was enjoying it more down here than I was in my flat, so I thought, “Why not give living here a go for a while?”

It was pretty basic at first – one room with a wood-burning stove. Security wasn’t an issue because I had nothing of any value to lose. A lot of the sheds have been broken into, but mine doesn’t have a lock, so it never has – it’s less tempting.

That first summer, the council came to see me. I assumed I’d be turfed off, but they didn’t seem to give a stuff – they just asked me to lower the roof. From then I started thinking about staying long-term and upgrading. I expanded to two rooms, plastered, painted and added a toilet. There’s no electricity and rainwater is collected in a butt, gravity-fed to the sink.

I’d just finished the improvements when I came home one night to find a candle I’d left had burned down the whole building. It was a shock, but I rebuilt quickly. I haven’t painted or made it pretty this time. I’ve got curtains, tables and chairs, but very little that’s personal. I didn’t want to “finish” it because of the heartache of losing the first one – I’m much more attached to this way of living than I am to the building itself. It’s the garden around it that I take pride in. The skills I’ve learned there have allowed me to earn a living as a gardener and to help put something back into the allotments – I’ve taken on a lot of maintenance and made good friends with my neighbours. They’re 70-plus and give me great strength.

It’s always been “one more year”, but I’ve lived here 10 years now. I wonder how long it can last. House prices in the area are unbelievable and I worry this is a prime bit of real estate to be sold off. I couldn’t go back to the flat I was in – that was hell: tiny, on a main road, no garden.

Because I’m here on my own at night, everything within the gates of the allotments feels like home. Living here has given me freedom not to work like mad to keep a roof over my head. It makes my life a lot freer. I do a lot of meditation and a lot of voluntary work. And, of course, I spend hours and hours every week in the garden. That’s what I’m addicted to, being near my creation.

http://lifeandhealth.guardian.co.uk/homes/story/0,,2154861,00.html

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As I watch the news and see and feel the changes that are happening in the slice of nature that surrounds me, I get a little bit anxious. The devastating floods in Gloucestershire were not far from where we live and I started to feel somewhat unnerved. Its ok though because I have got a contingency plan in place which basically involved saving my cat and then going up the allotment.

I also have a nagging worry that we will all be reduced to kinda cave people constructing make-shift shelters and scratching around in the earth desperate for food. Thankfully, I have learnt a few useful skills up the allotment.

I am doing my bit in trying to halt the progression toward this scenario. Take a look at Bean-sprouts blog for a more sensible disussion of issues relating to global warming and tips on how to reduce your carbon footprint.

Anyways, I stumbled across an article in the Online Ecologist which explains why allotmenteering is a logical and proactive step toward halting the crazy world that we live in or at the very least helps us to not feel so smothered by it. It is a rousing, humorous and comprehensive article about why everyone should have their own piece of land.

Paul Kingsnorth decribes his transition from an allotment ridiculer to an allotment junkie. He describes the allotment effect in terms that are not dissimilar to the rants and ponitifications that we have, as we proudly survey our ‘home’.

“This is when you know the allotment has really done its work on you. For at heart, this is not about growing vegetables at all. It’s not about mulching, or compost heaps, or longhandled hoes. It is a declaration of independence: here I stand, on my own plot of land. I grow what I want, when I want, and there’s nothing you can do about it. And no, I don’t have a loyalty card.”

So if you got the time and/or need to be stirred into action then read the whole thing at the Ecologist Online, entitled ‘Dig for Victory’.

The main thrust of this article really hit home for me, in these troubled and unpredictable times my allotment is my insurance policy and helps me sleep at night.

http://www.theecologist.org/archive_detail.asp?content_id=556

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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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