Tuesday 26 May 2009


After what seems to have been a few weeks of continual rain since the greenhouse arrived we finally got three days of glorious sun over the bank holiday giving us the perfect chance to put our building skills to the test.

In many ways it was far far easier to build than we expected, in fact erecting the actual greenhouse frame and putting the glass on could have been done in a single afternoon really. What took the time was building the foundations and, oddly enough, building the door.

As you can see from the pics in the previous post we'd already got the area of the garden it was to be built on all marked out so the next thing to do was dig a trench for the foundations. We didn't go too deep, about 10cm seemed to be enough, although the garden is on a slight slope which meant we needed to dig a bit deeper at the far end.

Then we filled the trench with concrete and levelled it all off with the aid of a long plank of wood and a spirit level. Written down like that it sounds like a simple job but it actually took an age as mixing concrete by hand is small wheelbarrow loads isn't as easy or quick as it sounds! It didn't help that I underestimated how much concrete mix we'd need. Twice. Meaning two extra trips to Homebase to pick up additional supplies. D'oh.

When funds allow we'd like to run a power cable from the house into the greenhouse so we can put in a heater/fan. With that in mind I had the bright idea of sinking a couple of bits of tubing into the foundations so we don't have to drill holes into the greenhouse base to get the cable inside when we get round to doing it. You can seem them on the side nearest the fence, hopefully they'll come in very handy at some point.

Once the concrete was dry (we left it for 24 hours, it probably should have been a little more in an ideal world but we wanted to finish it all in the three day bank holiday) it was time to get to work with the greenhouse itself. First off we build the base and put it in position making sure it was level as well as perfectly square. Then we started building the four sides of the main structure under the watchful gaze of our parrot Monty who kept an eye on us while he enjoying the warm weather.

As I mentioned earlier it was all remarkably easy to put together once we got started and it wasn't too long before we had the sides all up and attached to the base as well as each other. Suddenly it was looking very greenhouse like.

The roof was next and proved just as easy to add, although we did have a little crisis when the central beam slipped as we were bolting it in place catching Melanie on the hand leaving a nasty bruise and sliced finger. A big plaster and some TLC later and it was time to start putting the glass in place. Again this was nice and easy, simply a case of laying the pane of glass in place and clipping it down with the supplied wire clips. Despite being easy enough to fit the sheer number of clips needed did leave us with very sore hands by the time we'd finished, not a job we want to do again in a hurry.

The door was the last thing to build and proved to be the worst part of the entire process because the supplied screws were simply impossible to get into the metal door frame. After over an hour of huffing and puffing I'd only managed to get 4 of the 16 in place. So, with the light fading and a growing sense of frustration, I poured a beer gave up for the night.

Monday morning and call to my parents enlisted the help of my Dad who, as all Dad's seem to, owns a seemingly endless supply of different sized screws. A quick rummage through his box of delights and we found a selection of slightly shorter screws with stronger heads that did the job in about ten minutes. With Dads help we completed the job by getting the door onto its runners and added some silicone sealant in strategic places to keep things a bit more waterproof then we were finally finished.

Well, almost finished, a quick trip to the garden centre later and we had some bags of compost and edging to build the 'L' shaped bed inside the greenhouse we're going to grow in. Once this was built we finally planted our many (slightly leggy) tomato plants as well as the cucumbers, peppers, chills and melons we had growing in the house and stood back to admire all our hard work.

Next weekend we're going to put some paving slabs down to create a proper floor and then there's the entrance area outside the door where I want to put a step in and make it look nice and tidy so we're still not quite finished, but it's up and operational now which is the main thing and we're pretty chuffed with how it's worked out.

Tuesday 12 May 2009

The Greenhouse arrived...

We came home yesterday to find the lovely people from ‘The Greenhouse People’ had delivered our greenhouse just as they said they would. As you can see there's a lot of glass and a couple of boxes full of all the bits and bobs needed to build it. And a cat, not that she was part of the delivery...

Over the weekend we started clearing the ground ready for building the foundations next weekend. I've lived here for almost 8 years now and the garden hasn't really changed much in terms of layout since I moved in so it was weird to embark on such a drastic change. Here's a before pic followed by one showing our progress so far.

Up at the plot we managed to get some work done Saturday morning. Nothing too drastic, got a second sowing of peas and mange tout in the ground and we also planted out the first batch of sweet corn seedlings which were in danger of getting pot bound at home. We also sneaked another load of asparagus in (Jersey Knight from the fantastically helpful Victoriana Nursery) which he hadn't really planned but you can never have too much of a good thing.
Most things seem to be growing well, the chard, kohl rabbi, turnips and Swede we planted a couple of weeks ago are all showing above ground. The courgettes are looking a little fragile though, I'm thinking they've perhaps found it a bit cold so I'll keep an eye in case I need to sow some more sharpish.

We also pulled our our first proper batch of radishes which made a nice addition to our salad sarnies at lunchtime.

Tuesday 5 May 2009

What a difference a week makes

A combination of rain, a horrible cold ('man flu' if you prefer...) and a day out at the Tewksbury Food and Drink Festival on Sunday had kept us away from the plot for over a week by the time Bank Holiday Monday rolled round. Thankfully the dull dreary weather didn’t stop us finally managing to get up there for a couple of hours. While we'd been away it seemed that everything had got busy growing, including the weeds, and the plot looked suddenly far more alive than it had the week before.

The first row of peas had all appeared along with the mange tout. All the early spuds have appeared above the mounds of soil I earthed them up with last week and we even had a few of the main crop ones showing their faces as well. The onions and shallots had gone from being small shoots to about 4 inches tall which made the massive quantity of them we'd planted even more apparent.

All the salad crops seemed to be coming on well too; we even had our first harvest of sorts when we thinned out the row of radishes taking home the baby shoots to add to a salad. The first two rows of carrots are still a little threadbare but the ones that have germinated are now all getting their first true leaves which are making the rows look a little better.

The downside of all this growth is that suddenly the weeds have appeared. In a bid to keep on top of things we spent most of our time on this visit hoeing the entire plot, picking out the bigger weeds and leaving the rest to (hopefully) die now they've been uprooted. The onion bed was the worst, probably because they were one of the first things planted and the soil hadn't been disturbed since. With any luck I'll get chance this week to go up and do a second, more thorough, hand weed through them to stop it from getting bad again.

As you can see, it wasn't all weeding. We also managed to plant the three courgette plant we're growing this year (not making the same mistake as last year and growing six...) as well as a marrow, pumpkin and winter squash that had been in the cold frame at home. I've planted the courgettes closer together than I did last year as despite obviously spreading out they didn't seem to need all the space I'd given them, we'll see if they still grow ok a bit closer this year.

We also got a phone call while we were up there from our greenhouse supplier saying that they'd be delivering ours on the 11th, next Monday, which was about two weeks earlier than we were expecting meaning clearing the bit of garden we're going to build it in is suddenly top of the list of jobs for the weekend.

Monday 27 April 2009

A good weekends work

Waking up on Saturday morning to see rain pelting down wasn't the best start to a weekend. Thankfully things soon began to look up and by lunchtime I was up at the allotment sweating under the warm sun. It was one of those lovely plot sessions where I didn't feel like I was playing catch up or trying to control something that had gone wrong, instead I was able to potter around, do the jobs I needed too, have a general weed and come away feeling that for probably the first time in the 15 months we've been doing this everything was on track and going according to plan.

Among the jobs that got jobbed was the first sowing of some Swede, Turnips, Kohl Rabi and Chard. Not many of each as I'm going to try to sow these a few times throughout the season to try and avoid any kind of glut.

Also in the ground was the second sowing of sugar snap peas, another row of carrots and a few beautiful looking little gem lettuce plants from one of my plot neighbours. These are well ahead of the ones I sowed a couple of weeks ago meaning we should get to eat some earlier than expected which will be nice.

The carrots, beetroot, radish and lettuce/salad leaves I'd already sown have all sprouted with varying degrees of success. The radish, as expected, have done wonderfully as has one of the rows of carrots and the little gem lettuces. The second row of carrots, the beetroot and the salad leaves haven't exactly flourished leaving some patchy gaps in their rows which is a bit of a shame. Perhaps I'll sow into the gaps and see what happens...

The broad beans seem to be doing ok after their very slow start although the edges of their leaves look like they've been nibbled by something which is a puzzle. I don't know if they should be covered or anything as I'm new to broad beans but the plants look strong enough at the moment so I won't worry too much. I've also put in some wooden edging salvaged from my parent’s garden around the asparagus bed which you can see in the top of this pic.

The early spuds are also well on the way, each time I go up the plot there's more sprouting through needing to be earthed up. To be honest I'm not quite sure when to stop earthing up and just let them grow. I know last year I didn't do much earthing up at all as I was fighting fires elsewhere on the plot which meant we didn't perhaps get the crop we could have done so I want to get it right this year and I'm hoping somehow all will become clear at the time.

Back at home there's also a lot happening and the cold frame is now full to bursting after a mammoth sowing/potting on session on Sunday afternoon. A first sowing of all our summer beans are now in pots hopefully busy germinating. This year we're going for more variety than last year starting with a couple of climbing French beans (Fasgold and the exciting deep purple Blauhilde) as well as a lovely looking golden climbing bean called Goldfield. We’ve also started off a load of Wisley Magic runner beans, which we grew with great success last year, and a few dwarf beans called Borlotto Firetongue which I bought simply because of their amazing looking red pods. Also happy in their new home in the cold frame are the freshly potted on courgettes, marrows and squashes as well as a few cabbage which I've had been growing on the window ledges in the house.

That hasn't left the windows empty by an means, with the impending arrival of our new greenhouse we've had to rush sow some plants to fill it with so there’s a slightly late sowing of tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, chilli’s and melons still filling the window along side a first sowing of sweet corn which sprouted a tad quicker then expected.

Friday 17 April 2009

We're getting a greenhouse!

We're getting a greenhouse! We're getting a greenhouse! We're getting a greenhouse!


As you may have guessed from my excitement, we're getting a greenhouse. It's Melanie’s Dad's fault really, we went to visit him over Easter and he gave us a tour of his garden which includes a lovely greenhouse full of seedlings and stood there, in the warm amongst thriving tomato plants, greenhouse envy simply got the better of us.

Now don't get me wrong, we'd thought about getting one before, a few times actually, but a combination of the room it would require in the garden (we're not allowed to put one on the allotment), the cost, and a nagging worry that all this veg growing may just be a 'phase' we're going through, had put us off each time.

This time though, as we stood back in our own garden, tape measure in hand, and examined all the pros and cons once again it seemed suddenly far more possible. It wouldn't take up that much room really, and we don't actually 'do' much with the area of the garden we'd put it in anyway. My parents had given us some money for Easter which brought the price just about into our range and we've both realised now that growing veg has become a way of life rather than a temporary phase.
So we set to work scouring the internet till we found one we liked the look of and settled on this 6 foot by 10 foot one. The only snag is the 5 week waiting time for delivery (which will mean we'll not get the full benefit of it this year really) but it'll give us time to prepare the site and sort out the base we're going to stand it on.

Here's a pic of our back garden with the rough idea for the greenhouse location marked out with some spare wood (sorry the rest of the garden looks a bit of a mess, it's not had much done to it this spring as we've concentrated on the allotment).

It's not an ideal greenhouse location being so close to the fence which will mean that side won't get a huge amount of sun. But we want it to work with the garden rather than take over it and I figure if we use the fence side for any shelves and staging then we don't need to be growing much at ground level there anyway.

So now the wait for delivery begins. I'm spending the time mulling over the base options which is causing my some headaches. I know it comes with a steel base included but I don't want to sit that directly onto the soil so I'm thinking of laying a kind of concrete border about a foot wide to put it all on but I'm not sure. Does anyone out there have any ideas or opinions?

Wednesday 15 April 2009

Busy Planting

It's been a busy week or so up at the allotment with planting and sowing in full swing. We've almost got all our main crop potatoes in with a row each of Cara and King Edwards in the ground and one more of King Edward still to go in this week. On the other side of the plot, next to the early spuds (in the foreground of the below pic) we've got a couple of rows of carrots and one each of beetroot, radish, salad leaves and little gem lettuce. After hardly direct sowing anything last year I've taken the plunge and am going to try and do far more that way this year, if nothing else it will stop the house getting overrun with seed trays.

The radish is the first through the soil with a decent number already showing their faces a week after sowing.

Down near the asparagus bed, in the bottom half of the plot, we've put in the 28 parsnips we started off at home. These survived the chitting/potting in loo rolls/planting out process fantastically, I wish we'd had more loo rolls so I could have done a few more really. Assuming the pests don't get them we're on course for a lovely crop later in the year all being well.

Next to those we've put our onions, roughly 250 of them (including 30 shallots) which seems a huge amount now I'm typing it but we found that we'd got through the 120 we did last year by February so thought we'd do more this year and see if we can be as close to self sufficient in these as possible.

Just when I'd given up hope of any broad beans there's signs of life in the seeds we put in a few weeks ago. Not all have come through (yet?) but it looks like we'll get 6 or 7 plants which has to be good as they were a bit of a last minute addition to the plot plan (he says as if there's actually a plan of some kind to the madness...).

With any luck, weather permitting, we'll get some of our pea varieties sown this week as well as that last row of spuds and then we'll be scarily on track for the year. Hope everyone else is doing well too...

Tuesday 31 March 2009

At last, something planted.

Although it probably shouldn't have been it's turned out to be a quiet week or so allotment wise. Thankfully now the clocks have gone forward there's going to be time in the evenings to work on the plot, starting tonight all being well.

Having said that, the allotment hasn't been completely without activity, we got our early spuds in for a start. One row each of Red Scarlet and Annabel planted in individual holes rather than a trench (will do the main crop in a trench I think, was just giving this a go as an experiment). We've cut back on how many we've sown this year, only ten tubers of each, as we found we had far too many last year and we don't actually get through that many new potatoes compared to main crop so it made sense to cut back a bit and save the space for something else.

As you can see at the top of this pic we've also planted the ten asparagus crowns we got from Victoriana Nurseries as well as some broad beans (closest to the camera) I accidentally chitted at home. I say accidentally because I'd been trying out a tip I'd heard about soaking the seeds in some water overnight before planting, unfortunately circumstances then stopped me from going to the plot for a couple of days so I ended up leaving the thoroughly soaked beans on some damp kitchen paper and by the time I get to plant them a couple of days later they'd all started to sprout. With any luck they'll not mind the change in environment and carry on growing, if not I'll know not to do that again next year...

The parsnip seeds I started off in the airing cupboard have been something of a success too, pretty much 100% germination which doesn't seem bad for an old packet of seed. I've potted up twenty eight into loo roll's full of compost to give the roots a good start before they go outside. The plan is to sow a row of this years parsnip seed direct into the ground one night this week to see if there's any big difference between the two methods come harvest time.
Sorry for the horrible quality photos by the way, I used my phone in not great light. I'll use the proper camera from now on....

Thursday 19 March 2009


One of the regrets from our first year on the allotment was that we never got round to sowing any parsnips so this year we plan to make up for it in style.

Since parsnip seeds are notoriously picky about germinating it's generally recommended to only use seed sold for the current growing year. However, never being one to let considered logic put me off I'm going to try and get some results with the unopened packet I have left over from last year.

So, last night I emptied the packet of seeds onto some damp kitchen roll, put it in a Tupperware container and placed it in the warm of the airing cupboard. All being well this will allow the seeds to germinate easier and will provide me with the added bonus of being able to see which ones have 'hatched'.

As soon as I see shoots I'm going to take the individual seedlings and pot them up into loo rolls full of potting compost and let them grow on a little more till they're established before planting them, loo rolls and all, out onto the plot when they're big enough. I imagine I'll run out of loo rolls before I do seeds (assuming any sprout at all) in which case I'll try planting those little seedlings directly into their rows on the plot and see if they survive. I may even dig a bit of a trench for all of them and fill it with fine compost to give them some easy growing space if I get chance.

Since this is all a bit of an experiment I'm also sowing a packet of this years seed direct into the ground as per the instructions as a backup. In an ideal world we'll have a bumper crop when all growing methods work out but if not we should at get a decent return from at least one. We hope...

It's also that time of year when chitting potatoes are looking at their bizarre best so here's a quick snap to celebrate them in all their knobbly glory.

Monday 16 March 2009

A Beautiful Sight

Considering the location of our allotment, nestled at the bottom of a hill amidst beautiful Cotswold countryside, it takes a lot for the view inside our plot boundaries to match the one outside it. However, under the beaming Sunday afternoon sunshine my Dad, a rotovator and I managed to create one of the most pleasing sights I've seen in a long while. A beautiful fully dug allotment.

It turned out that rotovating was actually far harder work than expected (ok, not as hard as digging the whole thing, but tough none the less). The rotovator, quite naturally I suppose, was always keen on taking the path of least resistance which meant it'd be perfectly happy to skip along the surface blades spinning at a million miles an hour dragging me along for the ride if I’d let it. To keep it actually in the ground doing its job required me to rein it in all the time a job that needed the upper body strength of an Olympic rower especially over the bits of harder more compacted ground.

Once done however it looked fantastic and by the time we’d gone over it all picking out any weeds that had got churned up and giving it a final rake over we were left feeling very pleased with ourselves.

This week after work I'm going to lay some paths out with some weed suppressing fabric ready to start the planting at the weekend.

Friday 13 March 2009


It's looking, weather permitting of course, like Sunday could be the day we christen our new rotovator. I'm really looking forward to it if I'm honest, not just because it's a big red petrol powered boys toy but also because I know that once the plots been rotovated then the sowing and planting can at last begin in earnest (is it too late to sow broad beans direct into the ground?).

There is one thing troubling me though, having never used anything petrol powered other than a car I'm a little worried I'll somehow kill myself. I've read the instruction manual and it seems to be just a long list of things to avoid doing if you don't want to die while operating it. It's a 4 stroke engine which means I don't have to worry about getting the petrol/oil mix correct so I was thinking it would just be a case of adding the oil and patrol into wherever they're supposed to go, turning it on and bingo, rotovation.

I know the manual has to cover all the possibilities for legal and safety reasons and it's probably not as complicated as it sounds, but I was just wondering if anyone out there in blogland had some experience they could reassure me with...

Wednesday 4 March 2009


It was a quiet weekend allotment wise, we were away for the weekend visiting friends so didn't get to take advantage of the good weather and get any work done. However, just because we weren't physically up there didn't mean we'd stopped thinking about it.

The end of the plot that contains the increasingly rickety fruit tunnel, a million strawberry plants run wild, a black current bush and a couple of rhubarb crowns was the part of the plot we effectively left to nature last year and although we harvested a massive load of strawberries and raspberries by the end of the summer it was pretty much a weed ridden mess.

This year we want to get it under control and the first step is going to be to abandon one half of the strawberry patch since it's become ridden with couch grass. The plan is to simply cover it with some weed suppressing fabric and turn it into the seating area we've wanted since day one complete with some pot grown fruit bushes (just to keep the space productive) and, of course, a seat.

So, late last week we ordered a couple of fruit bushes from the lovely people at Victoriana Nursery and last night I came home to find an exciting looking parcel awaiting me. A flurry of unpacking later and I had a healthy looking and surprisingly large Red Currant bush (Rondom) as well as a nicely potted Blueberry bush (Bluecrop) all safe and sound and guarded by one of the cats.

As well as the fruit bushes we also ordered their 'Asparagus Lovers Kit' which consists of ten crowns and a scary looking asparagus knife as now seemed a good time to start the asparagus bed we've promised ourselves since day one.

The plan for the weekend is now to get the two new fruit bushes up to the allotment and pot them into the big plastic potato tubs we used in the back garden last year then prepare and plant the new asparagus bed before making a start of the seating area.

Assuming it doesn't rain or snow of course....

Tuesday 24 February 2009

We're back!

Blimy, so that’s over seven months between posts. We're very bad blog owners.

I'd love to say that despite the lack of posts the allotment has been a hive of activity since we last posted and already we're ahead of schedule for this new growing year. Unfortunately, while I could indeed say that I doubt I'd be fooling anyone and the sad truth of the mater is that a combination of getting married (which went very well thank you), going on honeymoon and the horrible weather we had in the second half of last year meant that other than harvesting what we'd planted the plot has been pretty much untouched since the middle of September.

However, all that is the past, we're in 2009 now and anything is possible. Thanks to my wonderful Granddad we're now in the possession of a brand new rotivator and with it a renewed sense of enthusiasm to be better organised and prepared this year. The clearing of the plot is underway (forgot to take a camera with me so no pics yet, oops) and we're hoping to have enough done to rotivate in about three weeks time all being well.

I saw a post on
Allotments 4 All which asked what peoples aims were for the 2009 growing season which seemed a good idea so I thought I'd re-post my entry here as it fits the nature of this post pretty well, and then you can all remind us when we don't keep to them...

1) Grow more onions, thought about 100 would have been enough, but nope, almost run out already...

2) Write down the variety of the spuds we grow so we don't end up stood at the Potato Day next year wondering which the lovely ones we grew last year were.

3) Get round to sowing the root veg rather than just talking about it.

4) Grow less courgettes, never again will we grow six plants.

5) Not go on holiday slap bang in the middle of August

6) Use black fabric rather than wood chippings for the paths. It may look nice but it's a bugger to keep weed free when it's not thick enough.

7) Dismantle and re-build the rickety fruit tunnell we inherited with the plot.

8) Build the 'seating' area complete with bench and flower tubs I promised myself when we took the plot on.