Tag Archive | Earthing up potatoes

Homemade Cleaners and Homemade Cabbage Collars

I don’t really know where to start today.  After I had a rest last weekend (as I felt under the weather) I have been working in ‘overdrive’ mode ever since and I have achieved such a lot.

  The rest obviously did me some good.

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At home I made some more dishwasher liquid, using the soap nuts that I bought a few years ago.  I use the liquid for two washes and then I use a ‘value’ dishwasher tablet for one wash and this seems to stop the grease from building up inside the dishwasher.

You can read about how I make the liquid here.

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I also made some more ‘multi-purpose vinegar spray’.  I use this to clean down my work surfaces in my kitchen, our table mats, my cooker hob, etc.  It is really cheap to make and it lasts ages, but more importantly I know what goes into it.

All I use is distilled white vinegar (which most supermarkets sell for approx. 45p a bottle), and a few drops of ‘Tea Tree Oil’ (which I buy from Wilkinsons).

Distilled white vinegar is great as it’s cheap to buy and cuts through grease and dirt and is antibacterial too, so it kills most germs.  It does smell when you first spray it, but the smell doesn’t linger and no one will know you have used it.

White vinegar is milder than malt vinegar and dries odourless.

I mix the vinegar with a few drops of Tea Tree Oil which has anti-fungal, anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties too.

This makes a fantastic natural multi-purpose cleaner and it lasts for ages:

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I also decided it was time to add a couple more shelves in my pantry, in the hope that I can store more food in there (instead of our bedroom, which isn’t very romantic).

I bought a couple of cheap shelves from B & Q, put them up in a couple of hours and then painted them with some leftover white paint that we had in our shed.

I am very pleased with them and I will fill them when I do my next ‘big’ shop:

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At the allotment the poached egg plants (Limnanthes) are looking beautiful lining my centre path.  They are providing a much needed early source of pollen for the bees and it is wonderful watching them.  There are also loads of ladybirds around the flowers, which is brilliant as they are such a beneficial insect to have around the plot, eating any aphids that come my way.

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I don’t know if I mentioned this before, but at the beginning of the year I contacted Leicester City Council and asked them if I would be allowed to keep bees at my allotment.  As I have four plots, I have ample room and I had spoken to my allotment neighbour who thought it was a brilliant idea and he was quite happy for me to do this.

I wanted to make sure it was ok with the council (who I rent the plot from) before I spent money on a bee keeping course and equipment, as my garden at home is not big enough.

Unfortunately, Leicester City Council said I can’t keep bees at my allotment plot because bees are classed as ‘lifestock’ and the rules say that lifestock cannot be kept on their allotment plots, but more importantly to them – keeping bees would cause ‘health and safety’ problems.

I was dissapointed, but I felt there was nothing more I could do.

But to my surprise this week, I have found that some bees have now set up home in one of my leaf mould compost bins….I find this really amusing and I wonder what Leicester City Council would say to that?…..surely this causes a health and safety problem?

It’s nice to see that nature doesn’t bother with health and safety regulations….if it did then mankind would be in a mess!

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This week at my allotment I have been ‘earthing up’ my potatoes.  It is a job I hate as I find it really hard work….it’s the only time I wish I had the strength of a man!

‘Earthing up’ the potatoes helps to protect them from any late frosts and it also increases the length of underground stems that will bear potatoes. 

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I have also been planting things at my allotment this week.

I planted red and white cabbages first:

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I make my own cabbage collars to avoid the cabbage root fly from laying eggs at the base of my plants.  The Larvae are white, headless and legless maggots and they feed on the roots of brassicas.  This will cause your brassicas to either grow weakly or just wilt and die.

The following year, cabbage root fly will emerge from the pupae which overwintered in the soil.  This is a good reason to rotate your crops each year.

Cabbage collars cost between £3 or £4 to buy a pack of 30.  To save money I make my own by cutting out a square of thick cardboard and then cutting a cross in the middle where the stem will go.  As the stem grows it can expand because of the cross in the middle.

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I place each collar around the stem and it will stop the cabbage root fly from laying it’s eggs and eventually it will just decompose into the soil.

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At the allotment this week I also planted the last of my peas and mange tout that I sowed into guttering on the 21st April.

The birds love the tops of pea shoots at my allotment, so I make sure that they can’t get to them.

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I also planted out some more spring onions and some beetroot that I started in newspaper pots…

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…And a pumpkin plant that was getting a bit too big for it’s newspaper pot.  It is a bit early for planting out tender plants in this area, as it’s possible to get frosts here until the end of May.  However, I have planted it in my old compost area and surrounded it with glass for protection, so hopefully it will be ok:

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Another job I did was put a new sticky paper and ‘lure’ into my pheromone traps, in the hope that it will attract the male codling moths and plum moths.

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You can read about the codling moth here.

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I also started planting in my polytunnel.  I raked in some blood, fish and bone over the new compost I added a week or so ago and as the ground was so dry I dug holes for the plants and filled them with water and let it drain away before planting into them.

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I planted four melons which are a variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’.  I planted them last year in my polytunnel and they were a great success, so I thought I would have another go this year.

‘Outdoor Wonder’ can actually be grown outdoors but I thought I would have better results growing them in my polytunnel.

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Below is a photograph of one of the melons I harvested last year and they tasted lovely:

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I also planted my gherkins, peppers and basil…

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…and some more lettuces:

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Every year I like to try something different, e.g. last year I grew the melon I wrote about above and a couple of years ago I tried growing shark fin melons:

You can read about my shark fin melon plant here and here.

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….And this year I have decided to have a go at cucamelons.

Apparently, they look like grape sized watermelons that taste like cucumbers with a hint of lime and they are supposed to be really easy to grow….I will let you know.

You can read about cucamelons here.

I sowed the seeds on the 10th April and I planted two of them this week in my polytunnel:

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I will let you know how they do in my polytunnel and if the ‘Thrift’ household likes the taste of them.

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The polytunnel is fully planted for the moment, but I’m sure I’ll squeeze some more plants in somewhere as time goes by.

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I have been picking a few leaves from the salads in the above photograph and some radishes from my polytunnel and this week I picked our first spring cabbage.  I know it’s silly, but I still feel excited when I pick the first of each vegetable when it’s ready to eat.

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To finish off with, I noticed a couple of things at my allotment this week:

First my watercress that I sowed a couple of weeks ago has appeared.  You can read how I grow watercress in a pot here if you are interested.

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And secondly I have flowers on three out of four of the clematis I planted to climb up the old swings that are no longer in use.  They will be better in a couple of years when the plants are more established, but for now I am happy with a few flowers:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

 

My Back Garden And My Allotment Too

I have finally taken some time this week to do some weeding in our back garden.  Unfortunately, I don’t spend as much time as I should in our back garden as i’m always at my allotment.  So the garden really has to look after itself.

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We are very lucky as our house isn’t overlooked and there is a lovely view from my daughters bedroom window:

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You can see from the photo above that the lilac tree is in full flower.  I love lilac trees, they remind me of the first house I owned, as it had one in the back garden too.

If you look closely at the photo below, you can see my ‘clematis montana’ climbing through the photinia ‘red robin’.  I planted the clematis about five years ago and I had forgotten all about it until I spotted it this week.

What a lovely surprise:

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This week at my allotment I have been earthing up my potatoes.  I have twelve rows to do altogether and as I find it such hard work I earth up one row a day:

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I planted some spring onions that I have grown in modules.  I always had a problem getting spring onion seed to germinate in my heavy clay soil, so now I grow them in modules filled with compost.  I put a small pinch of seed into each module and I don’t bother to thin the seedlings out, as the spring onions grow in a bunch.

When the spring onions are large enough, I transplant them:

Spring onions transplanted next to my garlic

Spring onions transplanted next to my garlic

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This week I have planted my runner beans.  I sowed the seed at the beginning of May and I have been hardening the plants off.  As it is still quite cold for this time of year, I have put old panes of glass around them to give a bit of protection.

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you will remember I dug trenches in the autumn and filled them with all my old peelings, etc until they were full and then I covered them over with soil again.  My runnerbeans were planted exactly where the trenches were, so this soil will now hold the moisture and runner beans like to grow in moist soil.

The runnerbeans I planted this week

The runner beans I planted this week

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My runner beans trench in autumn

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As my comfrey was coming into flower, I cut it all down and added it to my compost bins.

Comfrey is a fantastic compost activator and anything that speeds up compost making, is good to me.  What is even better is, it is free!  You can read about growing comfrey and making ‘comfrey tea’ here.  (Comfrey tea is a fabulous organic feed that is high in potash, which means it is good for fruits and flowers e.g. tomatoes)

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I also chopped some of my chives down this week.  My daughter used to love chives so I dedicated a whole bed to them….yes you have guessed it…she doesn’t like them now, a typical teenager!

I haven’t dug them up as we still use loads of them and the flowers are so pretty and the bees love them.

I have three rows altogether and I find if I chop them down after they have flowered, then they start to re-grow again.

As my three rows were about to flower, I decided to chop two rows down and leave the middle row for the bees.  I will chop this after the flowers have gone over, so I can stagger the crop.

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Just before I did this, I managed to take a photo of the female blackbird that has been following me around for the last couple of months at my allotment.  She must have a nest nearby.  She comes so close to me sometimes that she makes me jump.  She doesn’t seem scared of me at all, which is unusual for a blackbird.

My blackbird friend

My blackbird friend

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I repotted my mint a few weeks ago and I finally planted the pot back into the ground.  I find it is better to keep mint in a pot as it helps to stop the plant from taking over, as it does spread rather a lot.

I have two mints, a normal mint and an apple mint.  I also planted an oregano plant that my local garden centre was giving away free a few weeks ago:

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I have given my strawberry patch a good weed this week.  These strawberries are three years old now, so I I have planted some new ones in a different place.  Strawberries usually only last three to four years, as their yields become less after this time due to a build up of pests and diseases.

My daughter loves strawberry jam, so I grow loads.

They are flowering well now.  I will shortly buy a bale of straw and put it all around the fruit.  The straw acts as a mulch, so the fruit isn’t sitting on cold wet soil and it also helps to keep the weeds down.  I will then net the plants so the birds don’t eat all the lovely fruit.

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One of the last jobs I have done this week, is to refill a plum moth trap on my big old plum tree.  The picture below shows the sticky paper that trapped all the plum moths last year.  As you can see there is obviously a problem on this tree:

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To finish off I thought I would show you a few pictures of my woodland area.  This area was part of my fourth plot that I took over in January 2012 and it was covered in overgrown couch grass.  I covered the area in weed suppressant straight away to kill the couch grass and by autumn it had worked well.  From then on, I planted loads of bulbs and transplanted different flowers that I had.  Afterwards, I covered the whole area in leaves to suppress any weed seeds from growing.

This is how it looks today:

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The bulbs have nearly all finished flowering now, but there are still a few around.  I have noticed it’s now the turn of the aquilegia’s, together with my wallflowers and the English bluebells (that I bought in the autumn with my birthday money).  I’m very pleased with my woodland area so far, but it still has a long way to go:

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Thank you for reading blog today.

I will be back on Monday.