Tag Archive | Laying slabs at the allotment

A Lot Of Hardwork!

I love this time of year as the harvesting of crops is finally slowing down at the allotment after a very busy summer and I can finally carry out some other jobs.

A couple of weeks ago I started to remove the old, unproductive raspberries from my plot and I laid a new path next to the area.  I have finally dug up the rest of the raspberries now and the area will provide another bed for me to use next year:

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The weed suppressant in the middle of the raspberries (in the first photo) covered the grass that I sowed a few years ago to walk on.  I covered the grass for a few months to kill it, so I could just easily dig the grass into the ground.

Weed suppressant kills the grass and weeds well, except for bind weed which just skims the surface and ‘pops’ out at the side.  However it does make it easier to just pull most of it up, though I will have to make sure I hoe this area every week during the growing season to weaken it, in the hope I can eventually kill it.

For those of you that don’t grow organically, ‘glyphosate’ does kill bindweed easily, though I choose not to use chemicals.

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After digging the area over I topped it with some of my homemade compost and I laid some paths so I don’t need to walk on the soil that I plant into and I was very pleased with the result:

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As I had a few spare slabs I also laid a path between my woodland area and my strawberries.  This area was a real pain as before I only had a small path made of weed suppressant that I struggled to walk down.  I also finished off a path next to my water tank, which will also make things easier for me:

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If you read my blog a couple of weeks ago you will remember I stripped the green tomatoes from my outdoor plants as I was worrying about losing them to ‘tomato blight’.  I put the tomatoes in my mini-greenhouse at home and they have been ripening well:

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….And I have been busy at home making lots of tomato sauce to use in spaghetti bolognaise, pasta sauces. pizza sauce etc.

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And it is a good job I did remove the tomatoes when I did, as ‘blight’ did strike a week later and you can see in the photograph below how it very quickly affected the few remaining tomatoes that I left on the plants.

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I dug the tomato plants up quickly, removing any remaining tomatoes and put the foliage into my compost bin.

The stems and leaves of tomato plants that have ‘blight’ can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material.  Do ensure that you remove every last one of the tomatoes on the plants, as the blight spores survive in the seeds….SO DO NOT COMPOST THE FRUIT. 

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I dug the area over where the plants had been growing and forked in some manure.  I again split the bed up with some old weed suppressant, so I could easily walk around the bed without treading on the soil…and this was another bed completed for the winter:

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Another area I have concentrated on this week is outside my polytunnel.  This area used to be a real problem area as it looked unsightly with a few slabs, crazy paving and couch grass and the area was full of weeds.  So last winter I removed everything from the area and laid weed suppressant, with woodchip on top and it looked lovely.

However, this is how the area looked again last week:

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Unfortunately, the weed suppressant I used was just not up to the job and the weeds had grown through it!

I bought this weed suppressant from our allotment shop and it was a different sort to normal.  Weed suppressant is sold in different grades and this was obviously a low grade, but as I have never had a problem with their weed suppressant before, I just never gave it another thought….that will teach me not to check.

So I had to remove all of the wood chip and lay some more (better quality) weed suppressant and then put the wood chip back……I have got to say it was really hard work!  Hopefully this will work this time.

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A couple of weeks ago I picked my saved pea pods from my pea plants and left them to continue to dry for a couple of weeks in my kitchen on trays.  This week Mr Thrift helped me to ‘pod’ the peas so I can use the seeds next year.

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I store the seeds in an envelope in a tin, which will be placed in a cool, dark place.

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Finally, the first of my melons from my polytunnel was ready this week.  They are a variety called ‘outdoor wonder’.

The melons aren’t really big, but they are really sweet and delicious.  I grew them last year for the first time and I know I will be growing them every year from now on.  According to the packet they can be grown outdoors, though I grow them in my polytunnel just in case we have a bad summer:

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That’s it for this week.  I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.

I will be back next Friday as usual.

  I hope you have a good week.

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Tackling A Problem Area on Plot Four (Part Two)

Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 24th February.

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Happy Valentines Day!

I did my romantic bit today and gave Mr Thrift some homemade shortbread hearts.  Shortbread is Mr Thrift’s favourite biscuit and they are so easy to make and taste really good too.  The recipe I used is here.  I just ‘poshed’ them up by using a heart cutter and sandwiched them together with buttter icing and jam to make them a bit more special.

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Well it’s been another wet and windy week, but I am grateful to say that we haven’t been suffering from floods as some parts of the country have been.  I really feel for the people affected.

In between the rain this week, I did manage to get down to my allotment a few times and finish off the area outside my polytunnel.  This is the area I began to write about on Monday, that I have been working on for the last few months between other jobs.

Just in case you haven’t seen my blog post on Monday, I took on plot number four in January 2012:

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  The area outside of my polytunnel had bugged me since I took on the plot, but I had concentrated on other areas of plot number four first.

The area was made up of a mixture of crazy paving, mowed couch grass, slabs (of different shapes and sizes) and little round pebbles which I have slipped on at various times, nearly injuring myself.  This area was also plagued with ‘horsetail’ (Equisetum arvense), which is really hard to eradicate.

January 2012 after strimming the weeds and grass.

January 2012 after strimming the weeds and grass.

At first I put my cold frame in this area, as I didn’t know what else to do here, but I found that this made it even harder to weed between the slabs, as my seed trays were in the way.

So after two years of weeding between the slabs and crazy paving and weekly sessions of strimming the couch grass, I decided enough was enough and it was time to do something about this area.

I started in Autumn by lifting the slabs and crazy paving (which is when I strained a ligament).  Most of the slabs were normal sized slabs, but one of them was enormous.  You can see it in the photograph below in front of the two blue waterbutts on the top right hand side.  I haven’t got a clue how it got there.  My brother-in-law managed to move this slab for me as I would never of managed it on my own.  He also re-laid the row of slabs directly outside my polytunnel afterwards too, which I was very grateful for.

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I used some of the slabs to widen the path near to my blackberries:

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And Mr Thrift helped me to lay another row of slabs outside of my polytunnel, so it would be easier to get my wheelbarrow into it.

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I also dug up all the couch grass.

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I then cut back my blackberries as they were becoming overgrown.

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You can see from the photo above that I had a piece of weed suppressant underneath the blackberries, which was held down with some old bits of wood.  I decided I needed to neaten around my blackberries too, so I did this with wood that I had sitting around my plot.

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The area next to my blackberries used to be an old ‘dyke’ that dried up many years ago.  Occaisionally when we have excessive amounts of rain in one go, then the ‘dyke’ runs again as you can see in the photo below, taken in November 2012:

I decided to lift all the old carpet that was in the dyke and replaced it with weed suppressant.  The carpet shouldn’t really have been there as it is banned from our allotment site due to the chemicals it can contain.

I am now planning to grow some plants through the weeds suppressant, when I get around to it, to pretty the area up.

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I had spent many hours wondering what to do with the area outside my polytunnel, now that it was cleared.  I have quite enough growing space on my other three plots for all the vegetables I want to grow, so I didn’t really want to use this space for that and after all, as I said previously, this area was plagued with weeds, especially ‘horsetail’.  I also thought about planting a tree here, but I didn’t want to shade my polytunnel either….

I mentioned on Monday that plot number four was turning into my ‘pleasure plot’, as here I have my wildflower area, my woodland area, my dad’s area, my polytunnel and my fruit tree area.  So after lots of thought I decided to have a ‘peaceful’ area, where I can have my lunch or just sit and relax when I am tired.

So I bought some weed suppressant from my allotment site shop  (it’s really cheap from there) and laid it over the area

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I used prunings again to edge the two fruit bushes that I planted here last year and made three more small beds too

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Then I laid wood chippings over the area

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I split and transplanted grasses from my other plot and added some stepping stones.  I also made a low fence all around the area made with prunings from my apple trees:

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Finally I moved my old bench from behind my polytunnel to finish it all off and I am really pleased with the result:

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I am really looking forward to sitting in this area.

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Next week is half term for my daughters, so I will be taking a week off blogging to spend some quality time with them.

So I will be back on Monday 24th February

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Parsnips, celeriac, cabbage and swede from my allotment this week.

Parsnips, celeriac, cabbage and swede from my allotment this week.

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Just before I go, I thought I would share something with you.  It was my eldest daughters 16th birthday this week.  I can’t quite believe that I’ve a sixteen year old daughter…the years have flown by.  She has turned into a beautiful, caring young lady who I love spending time with.

My daughter loves the pop group ‘One Direction’ and again asked for a ‘One Direction’ cake.  I cheated a bit and bought the pop group figures made of icing, but the rest of the cake I made and she was really pleased with it.

Just in case you are wondering, the hearts all say ‘1D’ which is short for ‘One Direction’:

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Thank you for reading my blog today.

Don’t forget I will be back on Monday 24th February.

Slabs And Planning For Next Year

My poor old allotment shed has been sitting on a bit of a slope for the last eight or nine years and unfortunately this has caused my shed to lean to one side, like a crooked house.  So this week I have been preparing a much better base for it to sit on, by laying slabs that I have recycled from a path I don’t use anymore.  Mr Thrift helped me to dig up the grass to prepare for the slabs and he helped me to lay four slabs, I managed to lay six more on my own the next day and on Wednesday my brother in law (who has the plot next to me) helped me to lay the final six and I was very grateful for their help.

Unfortunately, as I was laying the slabs on a slope, I needed to keep digging the soil from underneath each slab to ensure they were straight.   I must admit I did find it so hard at one stage that I started to wonder why I do things like laying slabs, instead of staying at home painting my nails and watching day time TV….but I suppose that just isn’t me.  I am now very proud of my square of slabs.

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Tomorrow I will attempt to move my shed over to the new slabs, again with help from Mr Thrift and my brother-in-law.  I pray it won’t collapse in the process.

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Between slabbing I have been preparing for next year by planting my overwintering onions and spring cabbage.

The overwintering onions that I planted in 2011 were not very good at all.  This was due to a fairly new pest called the Allium Leaf Miner (you can find details of it here).

In 2012 I planted seed sowed onions instead of sets, as I had read that they produce slightly stronger growth and after planting them I covered them with environmesh.  These onions were much better and I was very pleased with my crop:

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I’m not sure if the seed sown onions made a difference, but the environmesh definately stopped the Allium Leaf Miner, so this year I have planted them in exactly the same way:

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I also planted my spring cabbages this week:

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I prepared the beds for the spring cabbage and the overwintering onions by just raking in some blood, fish and bone a week or so before.

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I have also been clearing away the old plants in  ‘Calendula Alley’ next to my polytunnel.  The plants gave a beautiful display of flowers that all self seeded from the previous years plants.

I grow Calendula as they are great for attacting beneficial insects to my allotment, such as hoverflies, bees and butterflies and as an extra bonus, the petals are edible and look really pretty scattered into salads.

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It’s quite sad when the plants have finished flowering and it’s time to clear them all away for another year, but at least I can add them all to the compost heap.

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I covered the area with weed suppressant to prevent any weeds from growing:

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I am amazed to say that my outdoor tomatoes are still producing lovely, juicy fruit.  I am unable to freeze or preserve any more of them due to our building work, so I am giving bags of them away to anyone that wants them.  I have never managed to go this late in the season without them succumbing to the dreaded tomato blight, but this has been an exceptional year.  You can read about tomato blight here.

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The variety of tomato I grew was ‘Outdoor Girl’.  This week I have saved some of the seeds ready for next year.  There are different ways to save tomato seeds but I find this way easiest:

 All I do is chop the tomato in half and scrape out the seeds and spread them on a piece of kitchen towel.

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Allow the kitchen towel to completely dry out for a few days and then roll it up and pop it into an envelope ready to store it in a cool, dark and dry place.  Next year I just rip off a few seeds and plant them into compost with the kitchen towel still attached and it works a treat.

Please note:  Do NOT save seed from ‘F1’ varieties as they will not come ‘true to type’, which means you can’t guarantee what you will actually be growing.

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My allotment is still producing, but things are definately slowing down.

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One lovely thing I harvested this week was my first melon from my polytunnel.  I have never grown melons before and thought I would give it a try this year and I am very pleased with the results.  I have seven melons from two plants.  The melons are actually an outdoor variety called ‘Outdoor Wonder’, but I thought I may have better results planting them in my polytunnel.

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The melon was delicious and my daughters loved it, so I will definately grow melons again.

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I hope you enjoyed reading my blog today.

I will be back on Monday at my usual time.