Sunday, 22 June 2008

Existential angst

There are certain rites of passage we must all pass through on the route from spotty-faced oik to grumpy old git (I'm doing well on the grumpy and git components of that particular equation, at least). These include, but are in no way limited, to:

* waking up, realising that it's sunny, and saying to yourself "Cool, I can get the clothes up on the line today"
* waking up, realising that it's raining, and saying to yourself "Cool, I don't have to water the garden today"
* realising that you now listen to Radio 4 more than anything else
* realising that you are not, in fact, going to score the winning goal for Northern Ireland in the World Cup Final
* and so on, ad infinitum, a well-worn list of crushed dreams, financial responsibilities, and epiphanies that up to now you have, in fact, been a complete idiot.

Well, I have recently passed another milestone: I want a shed.

Oh sure, I could rationalise it with lots of sensible "It will be good to store the tools on the allotment" guff, but I think it speaks of a far deeper and more meaningful step on the path to manhood. I see myself sitting on a garden chair, the rain pattering lightly on the window, as I pop the tab on another beer and settle down with a good book.

I'm even toying with the idea of trying to BUILD a shed. I am hopelessly, irredeemably, undeniably, and irretrievably useless at DIY, but this noble goal stirs something in my breast (I am, of course, speaking figuratively here - my man boobs aren't that well developed yet).

I have also searched the interweb for plans, got a couple of woodworking books from the library, been to B&Q to look at their sheds, and SWMBO has been checking Freecycle and EBay for anything suitable.

Only time will tell how this pans out, but I have a religious fervour burning in me, the stars of my destiny have been realigned, and whole new vistas are opening up before me.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Wise words (on slugs) from Hard

Our good friend (and avid Blog reader) who we shall call 'Hard' has been conducting some extensive and thorough research on our behalf. We thought it too selfish to keep to ourselves and decided to set his wise words free, here on the blog:

"There was a special on slugs on bbc1 breakfast this morning. Apparently this year they're going to be worse than ever because of all the rain, so you're doomed. ;-)

They mentioned spreading oyster shells around the base of plants (they don't like the scratchy texture). Don't know if it works, but you should have a good night working through all those oysters (actually you can buy the shells pre-crushed, but probably not as much fun). Also, they apparently don't like copper, so you can put copper rings around plants (maybe connected to any nearby overhead HV power lines?) They also mentioned hedgehogs, and thrushes, and you can buy an active biological ingredient in the form of nematode worms that you water into the soil! Sounds vile.

Sorry if you already know all that. I've become quite interested in slugs on your behalf."

Thank you Hard!

If you would like to hear more wise words from Hard, please post a comment.....

Sunday, 15 June 2008

Things we have learned #1: addendum

Amanda tells me I've also had trouble differentiating between 6 inches and 8 inches. I don't know what she's talking about.

Things we have learned #1

1. You need 6' of cane for beans to grow up.
2. If you buy 6' canes, by the time you push them into the ground, they become 4' canes.
3. You need 8' canes to have 6' above the ground.
4. I'm not entirely clear on the differences between the ' and " designators for feet and inches. That probably explains my issue with 4 inch canes.

Friday, 13 June 2008

Evolution of the slug beer trap: Part I

To us ruffty-tuffty gardening types, slugs are the spawn of Satan. They appear silently in the dead of night, devour everything, and retreat into some hinterland of the ninth circle to plot their next onslaught. You can practically hear their nasty, slurpy little laughs as they discuss the devestation wrought on their previous sortie.

So you lay traps for them. And as it turns out, they have one thing in common with yours truly - they're really quite partial to a beer.

Our first effort at a slug trap was a jam jar with a little of the cheapest crappy lager we could find in it. We buried this in the ground so that the top was level with the soil. The onrushing hordes of slithery swine would get distracted by the delicious fermented hops, dive in head first, and drown. Result.

The problem: when it rains, the jam jars fill up, diluting the beer and eventually spreading it out over the area they're meant to be protecting.

Curses, back to the drawing board...

Thursday, 12 June 2008


Is this thing on? Can anyone hear me?

This is my first bog post on the interweb - She Who Must Be Obeyed has decreed that henceforth I, too, shall burn my musings into the electronic ether to confuse and confound the lost and weary travellers who stumble into this little corner of the metaverse.

I don't know much about gardening. Or allotments. Or blogging. This should be fun :)

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Identity crisis!

Oh yes, and apparently they're not red currant bushes, they're black currant.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

My bean poles are too short

Last night I popped up to the allotment to put a few bean poles into our newly prepared bean trench. I had purchased these poles, specially for the job, at the weekend. They looked very long when I bought them (and put them in the car) but it turns out they are not long enough. I pushed one end of the first pole down into the ground and realised that the top of the pole would not reach up to my higher support. I looked at everyone else's and realised that mine were about two foot too short. This was confirmed by our allotment neighbour (who has managed the plot for 30 years!) who called across: "you want 8 footers in there you know". He also explained that the two pumpkin plants that we have planted in Abi's Patch (in fact the only two non-flower things we've planted to date) are too close together, much too close apparently. Never mind, he's drawn a mark in the dirt so I know where to move the second plant to in order to correct my mistake (I couldn't actually move it there and then because I hadn't taken a trowel with me). I didn't feel at all stupid as I headed home with my too-short bean poles, leaving behind two inappropriately spaced pumpkin plants.

Monday, 2 June 2008

Stealth progress

Of course, from the main path of the allotments, it looks as if we have made absolutely NO progress at all - the couch grass is hiding all our activity!

End of day 2

Another couple of hours on Sunday resulted in our two trenches being extended.

We are quite chuffed with our progress and determined to get both beds planted up as soon as we can.


No, we're not that quick, they're not ours but an allotment neighbour very kindly brought a box of strawberries he'd just picked along for Abi today, they were absolutely lovely (I was allowed one!).

We met a few allotment neighbours today, they all seemed very nice and were very encouraging, with stories of progress they had made in a few years. Fingers crossed!

Abi's Patch

Abi's patch currently comprises about 6 bright coloured flowers/plants and two pumpkin plants (grown from seeds given to us by a friend and expert allotmenteer). We have attempted to defend against slugs with:
  1. An organic anti-slug gel which is kind to anything (I remain cynical about whether it can therefore deter slugs!)
  2. Good, old-fashioned beer-traps (fashioned out of plastic milk bottles)
Abi has painted her own sign (as can be seen below) onto a white ceramic tile.

Day 2 - extending trenches

The second day involved planting things to create Abi's Patch and extending the two trenches we began yesterday.

Here's Abi in a red-current bush!

In the trenches

So, after one and a half hours of digging and edging (with our edging hoe - we know it is an edging hoe because it still has a label on it....fortunately!), we produced two small trenches that looked like this:

Sod heap

Right, I've read the book (it's brilliant - despite a generous smattering of typos) so this weekend we decided to start on the allotment. We're going to spend a few weekends putting in a couple of hours a day (contrary to The Book's advice) until we're up and running, then we plan on following the half and hour a day principle (perhaps with the odd weekend splurge).

So on Saturday, Alan and I headed to the allotment for some good, hard digging. Alan was very keen to do some digging, he wasn't too bothered where, he just couldn't wait to get into some decent digging.

We spend an hour and a half digging and edging two small areas. One is to be Abi's Plot - we need to get this sorted pretty quickly to trying and keep her interested. The other area was formerly a bean trench and we intend to grow beans in some of it again.

Following advice from our allotment neighbor, we decided not to cut/strim the couch grass first, we just dug up manageable sized sods. The Book suggests that we pile the sods up, grass-side down and cover the resulting heap in dark plastic to reduce light and increase heat, we are assured that: "The couch grass will eventually die and rot down, and you will be left with a beautiful pile of topsoil and well rotted organic matter to use on your plot" - we'll let you know when that happens.

Here is our sod heap, which we decided to position in a gap between the red current bushes which we thought might be hard to utilise in any other way (need to get hold of some thick black plastic now):

Always read the instructions

Anybody who knows me will smile at the heading of this post, knowing only too well that things have to be going pretty disastrously for me to resort to anything as desperate as reading the instructions. However, on this occasion, I have felt the need to buy a book.......Actually, this is not unusual, what is unusual, however, is that I have actually read it, prior to embarking on any allotment activity. The book is called 'The Half Hour Allotment', written by Lia Leendertz and published by the Royal Horticultural Society. The inside cover talks of: "...for busy people...half an hour's work a day, with weekends off....make life easier for yourself..cut down on the graft..enable you to enjoy the satisfactions of tending a glorious bountiful allotment without becoming a slave to it, and to eat the very best." - sounds good, we plan on putting it to the test.