Friday, 27 March 2009

A progress report is overdue, but here's the news form last week. With it being mother's day weekend, we didn't get down the allotment, but the fine weather on Tuesday meant I managed to drag Corinne out to finish digging out the fourth bed. They are all dug over now, but two of them need breaking up a bit.

Bad weather for this week has hampered my progress, but this morning I made best use of a dry, if blustery day, to get two hours in down the allotment. I finished my first raised bed, made entirely from reclaimed pallet wood (reclaimed by me, out of a skip- see earlier entry). Bob Flowerdew will be proud.

I also prepped another bed ready for the seed potatoes. I haven't planted them yet because I am hoping for a dryish day tomorrow, because I feel it is something all the family will want to be involved in. The first planning in the Bresnen Plot deserves to be something of an occasion.

Seedlings continue to trouble me. The cabbages keep dying, and I don't know why. The leeks and onions are progressing very well, and the butternut squash have shot up like triffids! They have been in the compost for two weeks and are already seven inches tall!

Monday, 16 March 2009

What a weekend!
We have had glorious spring weather, and have manged to spend some quality family time down the allotment. Saturday morning Eleanor had swimming lesson, and so Charlie and I were going to go down the plot, but he preferred to go to watch his sister swimming, and so I went on my own.
I was delighted to see that the beds I have started to dig over have dried out a bit, although the rest is still a boggy mess of weeds and mud (With scenes reminiscent of the Somme. Only with out the trench foot. Or the artillery.) I was a bit under the weather and I didn't feel like digging, so I dismantled one of the pallets I pinched out of the skip earlier in the week.
Saturday afternoon saw a dinner date we had arranged cancelled, and so I leaped at the chance of dragging the whole family down to help out down at the plot. Eleanor as weeding, Corinne digging and Charlie was making the sides of the raised bed while I... well, I was over seeing. The art of good management is delegation after all.
Charlie got frustrated at not being able to use the electric screw driver but was able to take that frustration out bashing clods of earth up in the newly dug over bed. He did a grand job too, and the bed almost looks good enough to plant into.
Sunday was fine too, and Corinne took Charlie off to his Grandad's, so I was left with Eleanor. We had some quality father-daughter bonding/retail time down B+Q, buying compost and sand (and ice-cream). Then we moved the seedlings to the cold frame, and Eleanor made herself useful cleaning the cold frame while I forked the sand into the beds to improve the drainage of the heavy clay soil. She lasted a whole twenty minutes before she asked to go home.
That's real progress!

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

I did my first bout of skip-raiding today.
I was driving past a skip on the drive way of a local house, when I noticed a couple of intact pallets poking out. I pulled over. It took me a few minutes to pluck up the courage to do anything about it- after all, someone rooting though your skip must be weired, right? With a deep breath, I got my story straight and walked up to ring the bell.
No answer. Damn.
Looking around, I could see that there was a "To Rent" sign in the garden and there were no curtains up at the windows. A quick glance up the street to make sure now one was coming, and I furtively skulked up the driveway towards the skip. Still no one challenged me, and so I slipped the pallet out of the skip and carried it over to my car. The point of no return.
I pushed it into the back seat of the car, dived into the driving seat and shot off, heading to the allotment before anyone noticed.
Having been brought up to be law-abiding and honest, it seems strange to take something that does not belong to me, even something that someone had thrown onto a skip and would soon be land fill.
That said, it didn't stop me going back for the second one.
There is no turning back now. I have started on the slippery slope of reclaimed materials. What next: Hey mate, if your not going to use that bath tub I could make a nice water feature?; Hey Buddy, don't throw that old tire out, I could grow potatoes in that. It's a short step from fishing pallets out of skips to becoming a fully fledged member of the Order of the Sandal-wearing Hippy Vegan Flowerdew crowd.
Are you going to throw that away?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

Another week has passed since my last blog entry, and the slow but steady progress continues at The Bresnen Plot. In the week I began work on laying out where the raised beds are going to go with string and stakes. As I was working some of the old hands stopped by to give me tips and advice, and as a consequence I ended up changing my design as I was going along. More than once; That said, the benefit of their experience was welcome, and the allotment is slowly taking shape.
As the soil is quite waterlogged I decided to dig a couple of drainage ditches down either sided of the plot, and across the top to take away the run off from the road. Most of the other allotmenters think this is a sound idea, and worth the effort, and we can always use the soil we dig out of the ditch to top up our raised beds.
I spoke to Christine, the lady who has the plot below mine on the slope, and she agreed that the idea of added drainage was good, but then it occurred to me that the nice new raised bed she has just built for her asparagus could end up getting washed away by the run off from my plot. I suggested that she could always plant rice instead, but she didn't seem taken by the idea of a paddy field allotment. We decided that the best bet for both of us is to dig two deep holes at the bottom of my drainage ditch and to fill them with gravel to act as drain-away. Now that I am committed to the idea of only using reclaimed or recycled materials in our plot I have to find some where that sells some suitable rubble or waste material for me to use.

On the topic of recycling, I now find myself peering into skips in the hope of finding a pallet or timber to use on our plot. My wife thinks I am very strange. I have not had much luck so far. We did find one at the back of an old building, but I couldn't fit it in the car because the kids were in the way. I did consider leaving Charlie behind, but Corinne gave me 'The Look', and so I dropped the idea. Shame though.

Work continues this week on the seeds in the propagator. Truth be told, I don't think the windowsill is light enough, but I haven't got much choice. The seeds that have come up have a tendency towards legginess. I have put them out in the garden to catch a few rays on the warm days we have had this week. I have pricked out some of my cabbages, but some others I have left a bit too late, and so I have just thinned these out a bit. Hopefully the next batch I sow I will be able to catch before they run wild.

This morning I went down to our local garden center to get some toy tools and gardening gloves for Eleanor to use down the allotment, in the hope of engaging her in the idea of gardening. Below is a rare picture of Eleanor helping with the weeding. After this was taken she told me it was too cold, and she wanted to go home. She spent the rest of the time playing in the car. Well it's a start.

Today's task was to make a start double digging the ground where the raised beds are going to sit. Blimey that is hard work. We made some progress, but there is lots more to do because the ground is very impacted, and has a heavy, clay consistency. It's going to need lots of good organic stuff adding to it to improve it's consistency. It's good to get the spade in the soil though. It feels like a real step forwards.

It was nice to get down to the allotment as a family, even if only for a short time. Although Eleanor still thinks the whole thing is a bit pointless, Charlie remains very enthusiastic, if not actually that helpful. Even Corinne managed to get her new spade Christened by helping to double dig one of the beds.

Corinne looking windswept and interesting.


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