Tag Archive | Runnerbean trenches

Homemade Compost From Perennial Weeds And Couch Grass

During the last week I have been catching up with some overdue jobs at my allotment.

With Mr Thrift’s help over the weekend, I have managed to spread some compost over the beds where my brassicas will be planted this year.

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I haven’t bothered to dig the beds as I don’t walk on the soil (as I always walk on my paths) and brassicas like firm soil anyway.  I will let the worms do the hard work for me.

When I first took on plot number three in March 2010, it was covered in couch grass and weeds.  You can see a photo of it below:

I put all the weeds (couch grass, perennial weeds etc) in a compost bin which I made out of pallets tied together.   I then covered it with weed suppressant.  Over the last four years everything has been rotting nicely and it has now produced the most beautiful, sweet smelling compost:

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Books and magazines are constantly telling you that you mustn’t add perennial weeds to your compost bins, but I do this all the time and produce lovely compost.  I think the main reason they tell you this is because it is sometimes hard to kill perennial weeds (but starving the weeds of light will eventually kill the hardiest of weeds) and because of the weed seeds.  I hoe each and every week at my allotment to remove any weed seedlings and so weed seeds have never really been a problem for me.

  I love making compost as it has so many nutrients in it, which makes it great to add to vegetable beds and it is also free to make.

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Over the past week I have been clearing some areas of my allotment.  I started by clearing my wildflower area.  I had to use an old plank to walk on as the ground is still so wet:

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I also cleared away the canes and straw where my tomatoes grew last summer:

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I am planning on growing my tall peas in this bed soon, which is why I have left the weed suppressant in the middle.

I have moved the old straw that was around my tomatoes to my globe artichokes.  If you surround the crowns it gives them added protection over the winter (though I am a bit late doing this, but we haven’t had a really hard frost yet luckily).  Last year I planted two new globe artichokes that I grew from seed and I have been told that they don’t always make it through their first winter,  so I have built a cold frame around them out of old glass windows:

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I have also cleared the old flower foliage from around my old swing and on the bed next to it.  Incidentally, the clematis that I planted last year should have some lovely flowers on this Spring time, as it grew well last year.

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Everything I have cleared has gone into my compost heap at the bottom of my plot:

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I know it looks like I have put far too much into it, but it will rot down and then I will cover it for three or four years before using it.  Below is a picture of a compost heap that is now just about ready to use that was actually higher than the one above when I first covered it and now you can see how much it has rotted down:

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Another job I did last week at my allotment was to build a more permanent runner bean support.  I dug down a couple of feet and put two old metal posts in the ground.  I then tied some canes to the supports.  You can see from the photo below that I have started to fill my trenches with old peelings etc.  As they rot down they will help to retain the moisture in the soil, if we have a hot summer.  When the trench is full I will cover it with the soil I have taken out and start to fill the trench on the other side.

Runner beans can stay where they are year after year as they require little nutrients, but they do need lots of water, which is why I use this trenching method.

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Over the last few months I have been trying to think of a way to change my fruit area, to make it more low maintenance.  It was a real pain to lift the nets of my two fruit cages every week when we needed to mow.  You can see my fruit area in the photo below (the cages aren’t in the photo as I take them down after I have removed all the fruit):

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I decided to have just one fruit cage this year and bring the blueberries in their pots into the middle and remove two gooseberry plants that really haven’t given me much fruit over the years.

I firstly covered the area with weed suppressant:

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I thought long and hard about how I was going to do this area and in the end I decided to make my edges out of old sticks and hazel that I have at my plot.  This way insects like ladybirds can use this area to hide in over winter.  I just bundled the sticks up and tied them with wire and then pegged the wire down into the ground.

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I used some small lengths of hazel pushed into the ground to ensure the bundles of sticks didn’t move and then I covered the whole area with woodchip (most councils sell woodchip cheaply).

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It looks much neater now and it will be easy to put my fruit cage over it in Spring (incidentally I make my cage out of old handwash bottles and canes).

I’m very pleased with the area now.

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I have also been busy in my kitchen this weekend too.  I decided to use up some of the fruit from my freezer.

I made a ‘Blackberry soaked cake’ which is delicious served with a drizzle of the left over blackberry syrup.  It is a River Cottage recipe which you can find here.

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I also made my daughter some strawberry flapjacks, by just adding a cup full of defrosted (and drained) strawberries to the recipe.  You can find the Flapjack recipe here.

…and they were delicious too.

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I froze the flapjacks on a tray and then put them into an old container when they were frozen.  This stops them from sticking together so you can take them out of the freezer one at a time.  I pop one into my daughter’s lunch box in the morning and it’s defrosted by lunchtime (or even break if she is hungry).

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That’s it for now.

Thank you for reading my blog today.  I will be back on Friday at my usual time.

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Holidays And A Good Harvest

It’s lovely to be back blogging again and I have so much to tell you, but equally I have had a lovely break.

At the beginning of the school holidays we went to Scarborough and had a wonderful time.  We stopped in a Travelodge again for six nights and it cost us just £230 for two adults and two children with breakfast included…..what a bargain!

We were so lucky with the weather, as it was really hot the week we were there and we spent every day on the beach.  The sea was so calm and clear, we could even see little fishes swimming around in it.  With the heat, it felt like we were abroad.

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My friend at my allotment watered my polytunnel for me while I was away and he did a grand job, but I must say I was worried about my other crops as it was so hot and I had told him not to bother watering them, but they all seemed to be ok.  I was very pleased that I had planted my runner beans on top of a runner bean trench, that I had filled with old peelings, etc. during the winter, as this would certainly have helped to retain the moisture.

My Runnerbean Trench

My Runnerbean Trench

You can read how I made my runner bean trenches here.

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Since we came back from our holiday I have been frantically harvesting all my crops at the allotment.  What a difference a year makes!  This time last year it was really wet and crops were struggling to grow, but this year is a bumper year for most things, though I have found that some things are still behind due to the cold spring we had e.g. pumpkins, butternut squashes and my early apples.

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I’ve tried to remember to take photos of the things I harvested over the last couple of weeks, but I did keep forgetting.  So here are the few pictures that I did take:

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Remember the ‘cauliflower stomp’ I do before I plant my cauliflowers, to tread the ground down so it is firm (as this helps to stop cauliflowers from ‘blowing’)…. I thought I would show you proof that it works:

I'm very proud of my cauliflowers

I’m very proud of my cauliflowers

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My runner beans have been doing well too.  I thought I would show you a picture of some of the beans the plants have produced as I think they are amazing.  One of them measured nearly 15 inches, which I know isn’t a prize winner, but I think it’s great for every day runner beans.  This variety is called ‘Enorma’, which is supposed to be one of the most successful exhibition runner beans, which has been given the R.H.S. Award of Merit.  I can see why, as they not only grow to a good length but they also taste delicious :

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I don’t know if you remember, I planted Nasturtiums next to my runner bean plants, as blackflies prefer Nasturtiums to the beans.  My runner beans are showing no sign what so ever of blackflies, but the nasturtiums are covered.  This shows that companion planting really does work, as I really don’t need to spray my runner beans with any pesticides:

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My second early potatoes were ready when I got back from holiday, so I dug them up and brought them home.  Early potatoes won’t store as long as late varieties, so I make sure we eat them first.  As I couldn’t stay too long at my allotment, I brought them home and laid them on my table to dry out and then I put them in sacks ready to store until we use them:

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I noticed my early potatoes did have a lot of slug holes again, though they can still be used.  I wonder if there were so many slugs around in the soil after last year, that we are bound to see lots of holes?  I would love to hear how your potatoes are and if your earlies have also suffered from slug holes?

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My flowers have been beautiful this year too and have the added bonus of attracting beneficial insects onto my plot:

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It’s been a pleasure taking some cut flowers home too:

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The only job I have really done at the allotment over the last few weeks other than watering and picking, is to plant a few more lettuces in my polytunnel, to keep us from running out:

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I’m really amazed I managed to get them to fit in my polytunnel as it’s full to bursting point inside of it:

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I still have so much to share with you, but I think I better finish for today.

I really hope you have enjoyed reading my blog.  I will be back on Monday as usual.

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.