Allotment, Craig, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Creative Watering on the Allotment

As I mentioned before, we share our allotment with some good friends who also happen to be our neighbours. Our plot is no more than 150 yards from where we all live and this allows us to visit daily without any great inconvenience. We find that we are able to each do our bit and there are no cross words as to who does the most. If nothing else we work as a team and are all looking forward to seeing a good crop this year having started most things from seed way back in the depths of a cold March.

Those puny looking threads of green we saw poking their heads tentatively out of the dark earth are now starting to stand tall. We are inundated with tomato plants, many varieties from Cherry to Beefsteak and I am looking forward to a good summer harvest. We should be taking our first ones off within the next four weeks — exciting times ahead.

One of the many challenges we, like many gardeners face, is getting the balance right when watering our crops. During the recent hot spell, we had to water the greenhouse plants twice daily; they were crying out for as much refreshment as we could give them – not unlike ourselves, having spent any time under the hot glass panes! However, where our thirst could be quenched with one or two well earned cold beers – our little friends need more than that.
Craig's Water Butts
So, as they say – desperate times call for ingenious solutions. Or something like that. As I often say, the keen allotment keeper is akin to a scrap man – always on the lookout for items that would be of some use. Our greenhouse is home to a selection of water butts and piping that has been gathered over the last few months. During the months of rain they filled nicely and we are now seeing the advantage of harvesting rainwater – we are able to freely fill our watering cans and keep of plants replenished.
Recycled pipe trellis to grow beans
One of the best uses we found for some old hollow pipework was to create triangular frames for our selection of broad, dwarf and runner beans. It is an age-old trick to create frames for climbing plants, so I am not professing any new revolutionary gardening technique. However, and here comes the clever part, we did find that the hollow pipe served a secondary purpose. We found that they held a good amount of water and by filling them up to the top they would slowly seep the water under the ground and directly into the bundles of roots that are beginning to take hold under the soil.

This in itself gave us another solution to the problem of how to avoid damage to plants when watering in full sun. Directly watering into the roots prevents any sun damage or burns occurring on the leaves and stems.
Watering through a pipe trellis
The next step could well be a remotely controlled or timed watering system and there are many of these available. We have certainly got the space to warrant that investment and we have the water storage solution so maybe…
Until we have decided, however, we will keep on using our initiative and turning one man’s rubbish into another man’s watering solution.

Craig

Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts, Victoria

Victoria’s Garden Buzz

You should hear my garden, humming and buzzing with activity. You’d have thought our coldest April would have put paid to anything I’d planted early, but it’s as if nature simply went to sleep and woke up so fresh and revitalized that the herbaceous plants and vegetables are reaching double their usual height and you can almost watch them growing. How does your garden fare in this crazy weather?

What a difference a mow makes! After the cool spring rain the garden looked more like a meadow lush with daisies, buttercups and cowslips – it had been so long since it was cut. It was hard to see where the lawn ended and the borders began. Then, one hour with mower and strimmer, and it was a picture framed. Which garden task do you think makes the most difference, especially if you are short of time? Perhaps it’s weeding or pruning or hedge-cutting . . .

More rain! Never mind! The plants do so much better when nature waters them – somehow the rainwater penetrates plant and soil far more efficiently than a hose can. Plus, weeding is easier when the soil is wet and everything smells so nice. The downside? I can’t excuse myself from housework . . . although, there’s always something to do in the potting shed! How do you prioritise your time around your home or allotment?
Victoria's Veg Patch with Sprouting Broccoli
The purple sprouting broccoli lasted so much longer this year. It’s early June and I’ve just stopped picking it as it is in flower and will be too tough to eat – but just in time for the first broad beans. I have the baby pods whole and when the
first ones have set I pinch out the tops and eat those as greens – yummy stir-fry! I saw that one or two pea pods have set too. What spring vegetables do you look forward to most? How do you like them prepared?

Early last year in a bid to rid bindweed, I had my whole long border up. I divided and potted up perennials, put bulbs aside, pulled up as much of the pernicious root systems as I could and left them to wither and die! Then I dug in lots of my lovely garden compost and replanted. Last summer, the border looked glorious – this year even better – however, of course, the bindweed is back! Such is life. What is your worst weed? Have you managed to beat it?

Composting, I maintain, is a form of alchemy! Taking raw, base materials and turning them into black gold! I wonder who first thought of it – in primitive times, perhaps. My heap is six feet by three and growing as the garden matures.
Synergy, perhaps? I love the fact that the garden feeds itself and it’s a good place to put any slugs and snails I catch to help the process. Life, death, decay and life again: primordial recycling.

Victoria

Charlotte, Gardening, Grow Your Own, Guest Posts

Planting out Potatoes and Beans

Plants in potsHaving returned from a week away, I was delighted and yet shocked to see how my beans and potatoes had progressed.
Beans growing on the trellis
The bean seeds had been planted just a few weeks ago and placed in my newly constructed growing rack. Thanks to a week of extraordinarily hot weather, they had not only germinated, but grown a good 6 inches! They were looking pretty leggy so I promptly planted them out in troughs. It was a hasty decision and I’m sure they would be better planted directly into the ground. However, they were desperate for support and the troughs allow me to position them against some wall mounted trellis.

Admittedly, the freshly transplanted beans look rather limp and pathetic, but having settled in they already have some healthy new growth.
Charlotte's chitting potatoes
The other matter requiring urgent attention was the potatoes which have been chitting on the spare room windowsill for some considerable time. After a slow start (I think due to the cold environment I originally had them in), they’d formed lovely purple sprouts and were ready to go outside. I’m aware that many people follow the tradition of planting potatoes on St Patrick’s Day; meaning I’m falling well behind schedule this year. But having moved house in the spring, I hope I can be forgiven for my slow progress in this area.
Repurposed potato barrelPotato barrel
Not wanting to use up too much ground space I chose to plant the potatoes in an unused compost bin. I already have 2 full ones; how much compost does one girl need? I’m not sure how suitable a vessel this large black container will be. I have in the past found potato peelings sprouting in my compost bin so it should provide a reasonably appropriate environment. The plastic monstrosity is not something I wish to have on display so I’ve hidden it behind some dense shrubs at the back of the flowerbed. It’s a sunny spot so I don’t think it will suffer too much from lack of light. To inhibit weed growth I lined the base with some old cardboard and then covered it with a layer of compost. The seed potatoes went on top and were covered with another layer of soil.
Seed potatoes in barrel
After a good watering I crossed my fingers and left them to it. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be harvesting bin loads of potatoes to feed my sons; who are themselves sprouting up!

– Charlotte

Share!