Sunday, 15 October 2017

Allotment update (all be it belated) part 2...

Welcome back, so if you remember I left off at the end of July, this post is from August up to now.

Not much to say about August, we harvested a good crop of onions (best I've ever grown) and other things were starting ripen up ready for picking.

Pumpkin starting to go orange -

Looks like a good one.

Started getting the plot ready for next year, this section has green manure sown into it, this will be where the squashes go next year, we also sowed some swedes, turnips, carrots, raddish and lettuce for a late crop, and we'd been letting some things go to seed, like the lettuce plants so we can collect the seed for next year.

Preparing for next year - 

Still plenty going on.

We found some Russian kale plants reduced at our local garden centre, so we put those in, they'll over winter, along with other things we'll be putting in before December, like onions and garlic.

Russian kale - 

Looks tasty.

Borlotti beans, we'd already harvested one lot, this was the second flourish - 

Looking forward to eating some on stews over winter.

Borlotti beans ready for drying - 

They look great.

The apples on our inherited trees were doing well, we're not sure of the varieties yet -

Apple 'A' - 

Apple 'A'

Apple 'B' - 

Some kind of russet maybe ?

If you read part one you'll know we put various things in our polytunnel, and I obviously under estimated how much room things would need, jungle like is a good description.

No room here - 

There's veg in there, I can feel it.

And onto September which was basically frequent visits for harvesting purposes and a lot of time spent making stuff out of the things we took home, here are a few examples - 

Apples from both trees (about 40kg in all) - 

This wasn't all of them.

Which we (mostly my wife) turned into dried apple rings, apple dumplings and wine, the rest were blanched and frozen for pie fillings and obviously we've kept a load of the best ones for eating.

Apple rings - 

the kids loved them.

Apple dumplings, a family favourite - 


Home grown rhubarb and custard ice cream - 

It was awesome.

Pickled lemon cucumbers (grown in the polytunnel) and pickled onion slices -

Very tasty in sandwiches.

Courgette relish in the pan - 

We make it with pumpkin as well as courgettes.

Grape cordial we froze a load for Christmas as well, just add some sparkling water for a homemade sparkling grape drink 

The kids love it, it's good with vodka as well.

The grapes that didn't get turned into cordial and jelly (yes we made grape jelly as well) have ended up as wine, quite a bit of it in fact, I don't know what variety of grapes these are, but they are the same as the grape vine we have in the back garden, they don't make good dessert grapes but they do make excellent wine.

Wine, it'll be ready next year - 

I need more demijohns.

This is just a small amount of what we've grown and turned into various things, every year that goes by we get better at preserving and growing, and now with the larger plot we intend to grow and make as much of our own stuff as possible, it saves money, it's better for you, it's a no brainer.

And so with that in mind onto October, we've been clearing up and sorting things out, there are plants that will over winter that we can eat, and we've started preparing for next year, we'll be putting in onions, garlic, shallots and broad beans soon, and we've started planning where things will go next year.

Our latest harvest - 

Bit of everything there.

We cleared out the polytunnel and are making use of it over winter, we left the chilli plants in as there's a chance they'll survive the winter in there, it is possible to over winter chilli plants and the ones we have at home will be bought in to see if we can do it, we have also put in some grape vine cuttings, and when I've pruned the currant bushes at home we'll be putting a load of currant cuttings in as well, and probably some other assorted cuttings.

Polytunnel cleared - 

I'll plan the planting better next year, but for now it'll act as a nursery.

grape vine cuttings - 

It's as simple as sticking a stick in the ground (apparently)

By the end of this month we should have the plot cleared and all the beds prepared for next year, yes there'll be some weeding to do in spring but hopefully not too much and we'll also have a head start with the onions and such like, I will put another crop of onions and broad beans in, in the spring.

Next year we'll be trying out some new stuff, like cucamelons here's a picture of some of the seeds, I got these for 46p a pack in a sale - 

Looking forward to the Turks turbans.

All in all it's been a good year, next year (fingers crossed) will be even better, but for now the plot is pretty much dormant apart from the things we plan to over winter, but the work will continue.

The plot so far - 

Not too much to do.

And that's it, just need to figure out what to do with this lot - 

Happy Halloween.

Thanks for reading.

Allotment update (all be it belated) part 1...

So another year done, and to be honest it's been a bit of a mixed bag for us, we decided early on to focus on the new full sized plot and we've had some good results, and some not so good, but we're still learning about the new plot, even though it's on the same site the sun hits it differently, the soil is a little different as well, but stuff grows well which is the main thing.

Rather than write large posts I'm going to post some of the pictures we've taken over the last few months, split over two posts.

Things were doing well in May (we moved the shed) -

Moved the shed, quite a big job.

We put in the squashes, pumpkins, courgettes etc and the corn, the plot was looking good - 

A vast improvement on how it looked at the start of the year.

And we put some chilli's, peppers, tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, melons and butternut squashes in the polytunnel - 

Plenty of room for everything, as it turned out no there wasn't.

On to June, I made a net from rope to train one of our grape vines across - 

Needs more support now, grape vines are heavy as it turns out.

We put in some assorted brassicas (cabbages, kale etc) - 

We netted them well, still got caterpillars on them though.

Things carried on growing well, the weather was good - 

The hard work seems to be paying off.

And so onto July (which was a busy month) the plants continued to do well - 

Corn doing well, two types growing here.

Squashes doing well - 

Should get some good pumpkins this year.

And then around the beginning of July we had some bad weather, high winds and the like and our polytunnel suffered a small set back, in fact it got shredded by the wind, whether this was because I hadn't stretched the polythene tight enough or whether it wasn't up to the task I don't know, but it did set us back a little.

Some repair needed - 

There was a lot of swearing.

The plants however continued to do well, so there was that, and as we were giving up our old plot for this bigger one we decided to make a start on moving some of the plants from the old plot to the new plot, we started with the asparagus, now generally speaking it wasn't the best time to move the plants, it should be done in early spring when the plants are dormant least that's what the books say, but we weren't able to wait.

Asparagus in their new home - 

Fingers crossed they'll be happy here.

We were worried they might not survive given the weather was warm and dry and we were concerned the crowns might have suffered too much in the heat.

However they seemed to be fine, in fact they started growing again, but we'll have to wait and see how they do over winter.

Asparagus starting to grow again - 

They seem to be fine, despite the move.

We learnt that rats like to dig up and eat potatoes, so we harvested what we had which turned out to be around 35kg.

Exhibit 'A' your honour - 

You learn something new everyday, didn't know rats liked spuds.

You're not getting your paws on these Mr Ratty - 

Bagged up and ready to go, love new spuds.

We harvested some of our grape vines for leaves to make dolma (stuffed vine leaves) - 

Another way to use things we grow.

The grapes continued to grow well - 

These will end up as wine.

Our borlotti beans were coming along nicely as well, not grown these before but they did well and we grew them for drying and storing, which again is a new thing for us, but we got a lot of beans from a small amount of plants.

Borlotti beans growing - 

They look great.

Pumpkins and other assorted squashes continued to grow well and we set about fixing the polytunnel and that was it for July.

Polytunnel fixed with slightly more robust material - 

And it's still standing, and performing well.

One of a few pumpkins coming along nicely - 

Should be a good one.

And I'll leave you with a small white butterfly caterpillar eating one of our brassica plants - 

They've all gone now and most of the plants survived.

Thanks for reading and look out for part two, which should be along shortly.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Home made fly screen door...

There are many things that come with the summer months, sun (if you live in the UK thunder storms) and bugs, mainly flies and lets be honest not many people are fans of flies, yes they do an important job, but they can do it somewhere else other than our kitchen.

Like many people we like to have doors and windows open in the summer, trouble is things will get in, so to that end I decided to make a simple fly screen door.

Here it is -

Not much to it really.
It's basic a wooden frame, I used cls timber that I cut up into more usable bits with my table saw.

The mesh for the screen I found on Amazon, I did check the local diy type stores, but they didn't have anything that was fine enough to keep out bugs, the piece I bought didn't cost much and most places let you order what you need, so you can measure up and just order enough to cover a doorway, like I did.

The mesh - 

It's quite fine.

I chose a fine mesh to stop almost all bugs, only really small ones can get, it doesn't obscure the view from the back door that much either.

You can see through it well enough - 

Can still see what's going on.

Here's a basic diagram of the frame - 

Pretty simple.

Once I'd made the basic frame I stapled the mesh to it, then using some thin pieces of wood I'd cut I covered up where the staples were to make it look a bit neater, then I gave it a coat of green wood preserver.

Although the screen is currently fixed to the wall with hinges the idea is to remove it in the winter, this is just a case of removing a couple of screws, I had originally intended to use barrel hinges so the screen could just be lifted off, but went with something a little more secure in the end, it only takes a minute or two to wind out the screws with a cordless drill.

To stop the screen opening I've just used a simple hook and eye at the top - 

It does the job.

There are different ways you could make a screen like this, I made our screen fit inside the brick work so that it closes quite tightly to the back door to make sure there are no gaps for bugs to get in.

And as this is a simple wood working project almost anyone can make it, you can buy wood at the right size from most diy shops, rather than having to cut it down like I did.

It's simple but it works, and that's the main thing, we now get a lot less bugs and flies in the house, of course you do have to remember to close it.

Bug free (ish) - 

Need to figure out where to put it over winter.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Plastic washers for free...

Recently I've found myself in need of a load of plastic washers, why? you might ask, well if you read this blog you'll know I built a poly-tunnel for our allotment plot, however due to some storms we've had over the last few months it has suffered (to say the least) in fact the polythene we used to cover it has been shredded, so we've gone for an upgrade, that being corrugated polycarbonte sheets.

Like so (you can see the remnants of the polythene) -

Still some work to do, but you get the idea.

To fix the sheets to the frame work I've used screws, now normally you'd use proper fixings which although not expensive (about £1:50 a pack)  we would have had to spend around £5 on enough to fix everything down, and me being the cheapskate I am I decided I could make my own plastic washers which would do just as well, and I'd be doing a bit of recycling as well.

To make the washers I used some plastic from a milk bottle (the polyethylene ones) and to make the inner hole where the screws will go I used a hole punch.

Hole punch, like you'd use for paper - 

It makes the right sized holes.

Plastic, with some washers already cut out - 

This type of plastic works well.
To make the washers all I've done is punch a hole with the hole punch and then using a tool I made I've cut out the washer.

The tool is just a bit of steel tube that I've sharpened, I also added a roughly turned wooden handle because after a while of using it without the handle it hurt my hands, the handle is a lot easier to grip.

The tool - 

Simple but effective.
To sharpen the tube I used my bench sander, but there are numerous ways you could sharpen the tube, files or a belt sander for example, all you need to do is grind the end of the tube down at an angle, this gives you a cutting edge, you can tidy it up by running a file or a bit of sand paper around the inside of the tube.

Using it is simple, you could use a hammer to punch out whatever you're trying to cut, but I found applying a twisting motion worked really well.

To actually make a washer all I do is punch out a small hole with the hole punch and then line up the homemade cutter over that and give it a could of twists.

Time to make some washers - 

Lets twist again...

et voila a plastic washer - 

Now to make a load more.

Washers, need a few more though - 

use an old bit of wood and not the kitchen table to cut your washers.
And that's it, what could be simpler? I've used this method before to make rubber feet for some trivets I made (trivets / pot stands - opens in new window) 

This cutter works on thin rubber, foam and probably other stuff (like leather maybe) and you can use larger or smaller tubing to make a variety of cutters / punches and if like me you have a workshop full of junk you could probably find the stuff to make a cutter or two without having to buy anything.

It's pretty quick as well, I made about a hundred washers in under ten minutes, so the time it takes for a relaxing cup of tea really.

Washers done - 

Now to sort out the poly-tunnel.

A washer in use, just to prove they work - 

Maybe I'll think of a way to make screw caps.

So there you go, free plastic washers with a home made cutter, cost no money and you'll be doing some recycling as well, can't be bad.

Thanks for reading.