Monday, 30 April 2012

Taking Candy from a Dog - Video and Book

I've not written this - but a good chum has...

It's been out a while but a new video accompanies it so I'm just posting a link to that.

Taking Candy from a Dog

It's mesmerizing and brilliant.

the book is available from blackheathbooks

Sunday, 29 April 2012

Washout - paper pots

Well, I'd love to post something interesting but it's been such a washout few weeks, with very little going on that I have nothing.

Well, apart from paper pots. If I made one pot last week I made 100.

Which basically means, that's all I did last week with all the classes that I joined.

So - paper pots. There are loads of designs but I've found that the best one is this:

Take a sheet of A4 paper. One that is for the scrap box, naturally.

Have it on the desk or table in front of you - portrait style

fold in half - the bottom comes up to meet the top.

 Then fold in half again, like a book.
 Half open up and bring the crease of the fold down to meet the table to make a triangle/arrow

Like this.

 Then flip the paper

 Do the same again with the other crease

 And you have an arrow with folds visible.

 You need to refold the triangle so that no folds are visible, which means turning the page like a book on one half - flipping it and turning the other page like a book.

You should have flat paper on both sides

 Then - and there are various methods of doing this but the simplest is: Fold the right 1/3 over to the middle, and then the left over to the middle leaving the middle strip.
Like so:
 And so:

Flip over and do the same again.

If you now fold the top flaps down, and into your pot, and open the inside up you have a paper pot.

You can either fill it immediately - like so [with seeds or plants]

Or you can make a larger pot by folding less to the middle and store all your pots 'flatpack' style until you are ready to use them.

Monday, 16 April 2012


If you don't know what this is - then perhaps have a quick read of this link

So, we had some spare old wood and this part of the plot is at the boundary with the neighbour who has put spiky trees right up to the boundary [why we don't know but anyhow] spikes us every time we walk up our path so I wanted to do some work on making at least one into a permaculture bed. Putting 2 and two together - I opted for a Hugelkultur style bed.

I dug the soil out of this bed [strip by strip] and put the old wood underneath. The wood had come from some stuff they were chucking away [well, were going to burn] at Ryton last year, and stuff from our decking at home that had rotted and wouldn't take screws [I originally wanted to use the bits to make 2 raised beds] so under this soil is, basically, rotting wood. I have put the clay soil back on top of the wood, and used home made compost on top of that. The crops that are going in here are mainly ones that can be furtled and some left insitu to grow back next year. So, Yacon, potato onions, and Egyptian walking onions are in first. I'll nab some Jerusalem Artichokes, and I'll plant it up with some perennial herbs as well and we shall see how it fares. I've put 3 potatoes in as well, as they were found in the compost heap and had already started sprouting.

Photos of the plot

These are about 4-5 beetroots that grew from old HSL seed last year [Dobbie's Purple] and were the biggest beetroots I've ever seen.  Size of a football - so I left a few over the winter and one, my lottie neighbour wanted as he kept ogling them and wants to save the seed from them - you can see his in the top right on the next plot. So, I've built a frame round them and will let all of them flower and go to seed. We shall see later in the year just how much seed these will give us.

 Elderflowers at the back of our plot - last year the council cut this bush back without us knowing so we lost out on the flowers or berries so fingers crossed they keep off this year.

Gertrude Franck bed - leeks and onions in, and lettuce and swede just waiting to go in. 

 My first completed netting - this was 20 loops wide [using a ruler as a guide] and once untied, will reach to the ground over my Munty frame and the climbing French beans will hopefully clamber up later in the year. Can't wait!

 My Munty frame in the second bed, and a vertical squash frame in the first one. This top bed is where the contaminated manure was stashed and the soil underneath still isn't right so we are using it as a composting bed this year and we shall see what grows. Hence, I'm putting squashes in there as they should get a fair amount of nutrients from the decomposing compost - all we will have to do is to keep it well watered this summer.

These are netted peas; about 35 plants in there. They are mainly Goldensweet Mangetout and I'll put a taller cane in and bigger nets to keep the dreaded pea moth out.

Using a heated propagator

Sometimes, using a heated propagator can lead to a reduced number of resulting seedlings, rather than an increased one.

This is how a heated prop works: It heats the soil to a temperature that ensures a seed will germinate. Some don't need heat [brassicas, lettuces for example - hate heated propagators in the UK - really there is no need]. So all you are doing is 'prodding' them with enough heat to kick them into action. Then you must remove them from the heat unless you are planning on growing them under heat for the duration of their life.

So when you see the above [or earlier if you can], [scuse the photo - it was on my phone but needed to be captured pronto] take them out of the heated prop! If you even leave them in for another day - you will end up with lanky soft seedlings, that can flop and die as soon as they experience any cool air or wind - and you set yourself up for stem rot on that long floppy sappy stem esp on cucurbits.

The same goes for any other new seedlings - as soon as you see some green - this means the heated prop has worked - so get those newly germinated seedlings out and into fresh air.

I see so many 'what has happened to my seedlings, they were in a heated prop for a week and now they are dead' posts - it really is a waste of time having one if it's not used properly.  Also, seedlings can be set back hugely if they get too much heat at the start as they need more hardening off when you want them to go outside.

It's a heated PROPAGATOR so if you are using it to propagate seeds, whip them out once they are no longer seeds.

#they can also be used for cuttings, but this advice is for seeds only.

Oh, the above seeds were sown on Saturday, went into the prop yesterday and came out today. With squashes it can be that quick. Don't make me tell you again!

Sunday, 15 April 2012

Gertrud Franck Bed Planner

I've been drawing out and making loads of notes and changes to my Gertrude Franck bed planner, and my good pal VVG thought it would be good to put this online - I didn't agree so I've done one on photoshop which is the actual end result of my scribblings.

So far: the steps have been:
a - prepare the bed raking it to a fine tilth
2 - mark out half metres
3 - sow mustard at each half metre and leave to germinate
d - mark A B or C for each bed and sow a green manure into each A and B bed
5 - sow beetroot into a C bed, and transplant beetroot and lettuce into another C bed
f - put leeks into a C bed and onions into another C bed
g - put 2 presown pots of peas into a B bed

I have seedlings - swedes to go in with the leeks, and lettuces to go in with the beetroot [once they have germinated] and will sow parsnips and carrots soon.

My two planners are below. The first one started out really neat, honest!

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Tasmanian Chocolate Dwarf Tomato and Beijing Yellow

I've potted on loads of the previously sown tomato seedlings now and just wanted to make a mention of the Tasmanian Chocolate Dwarf Tomatoes and the Beijing Yellow. They have grown significantly faster and bigger than the others; even considering they have all been in a cold greenhouse for a few weeks now.

Some of the seeds included in this circle have been added to my 'Heritage Box' which is basically a tray of 12 seedlings which included a mix of about 4 chillis/peppers and the rest tomatoes. All are open pollinated and will be sown tray by tray over the coming weeks. Each tray £5. £5 for 12 Heritage/Open Pollinated seedlings I think is quite good - and the money made will [of course] be put towards more seeds for 2013.

 A pic of some sun drenched daffs for you. Happy Easter [yes, I'm 2 days late, what of it?]

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Update - Sat 7th April 2012

Quick update:
I held a training session last week and many of the tomatoes and peppers were transplanted by the attendees and taken back to their schools to grow on. One of the workshops was a small quiz on seedlings and one teacher took a shine to a pot of Egyptian Walking Onions that I had put in as a red herring, so I presented it to him at the end as a prize.

Now, It's been a bit of a manic few weeks so I have lost track of every single seedling but I am repotting later today so will have a tray of this circle's toms and peppers to photo later. I'll be keeping one of each and the others will be grown in schools, given away or swapped. I will potentially take some to the Nottingham Organic Gardeners' annual seed and plant swap in May as well.

Oh, and the Golden Sweet Mange Tout are in the lottie with a net over them against pea moth - and the Bijou pea are in a pot in the greenhouse and will also go to the lottie under a net - possibly later today if the weather picks up.

I've attached a photo of some White Snake's Head Fritillary that I saw at Anglesea Abbey last weekend.

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Seaweed/Revive/mycorrhizal fungi trial

So, last year I did a little trial.

I split my leeks into 4 batches - and by split I mean I got the tray they were growing in, and tore them into 4 quarters. I ended up with 15 in each batch, with an odd one or two left over.

15 watered in with seaweed feed
15 watered in with revive
15 with revive and used mycorrhizal fungi on the roots
15 with mycorrhizal fungi on the roots and watered in with water

They were all in a patch next to each other, with about 6 inches between each plant, in 3 rows of 5 for each batch.

The best all round results were the seaweed food. Second was the mycorrhizal fungi on it's own. The two with Revive were both pretty much the same.

My results are based purely on the number that have been harvested which means hitting about an inch diameter.

I wish now I'd tried the seaweed and fungi together. Next time maybe

Gertrude Franck

I'm doing one, or maybe two, Gertrude Franck beds this year.

I don't want to go into too much detail as there is a whole book on it but the basics are:

You sow spinach [I'm using mustard] in 0.5m strips and leave it to grow
You cut this down when it gets big enough, leave it on the soil and use it to walk on.
In between, you put your crops - which are graded as As, Bs or Cs [more of that later] and you interplant them [companion planting] so that you get more than one crop from each row.
The next year, you sow your spinach where last year your crops were, and plant where your spinach was - so effectively having half your plot green manured each year whilst maximising space, and companion planting to avoid pests and diseases.

The rows are alternated as such:
A - is crops that you only get one harvest from each year [tomatoes, peppers, squashes, runner beans etc]
B - is crops that you can sow twice in a year [beetroot, kohl rabi, dwarf French beans etc]
C - is crops where you can succession sow or get 3 or more crops from each year [Lettuce, rocket, spinach [for eating] etc].

So - my little trial plot is currently:
9 rows of mustard which is growing nicely.
The A and B rows have been sown with a mix of green manures so that they are covered with something whilst I wait patiently for the last frost to go in about 5 weeks. I'll chop this in when I plant my As and Bs out.
The Cs I am starting to sow - tonight in the first C I sowed Detroit Beetroot.

I'll take and post a photo of this first bed tomorrow, and plant out some lettuce and beets that I already have on the go.

However, the bed is already a talking point among my lottie neighbours - the neat rows of mustard make the plot look amazing and well cared for [even though other beds are still being harvested and look a little 'well worn' and one chap has gone out and bought mustard and is sowing this inbetween all his brassicas.

Video of the bed taken yesterday, 6th April 2012

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Weekend in Cambridge

   We popped over to Cambridge this weekend - to give the camper a run out, to visit the Botanical Gardens and to visit Anglesea Abbey on the way home. A bit chilly on Saturday, nicer today and lots of photos taken. These first photos were taken at the Botanical Gardens.


The rest were taken at Anglesea Abbey - well worth a trip just to experience the winter walk...