Monday, 31 August 2015

'Project Greenhouse' completed.

It's done, I have myself a greenhouse. I couldn't have done it without my friends, whether it was taking it down from it's original home, moving it to the allotment, building the footing, putting it all together and being able to borrow a cordless drill to secure it in place. To all the people who have helped me, I thank you. Even with the self inflicted trouble of the brick work, it looks like that's how it should be, it gives it a bit of a quirk. The first time I saw the Shard, I thought it wasn't finished, turns out that's how it should be, so why should mine be any different, aside from the fact that I already pointed out I cocked up.

From the photo you'd never guess that some of the panes aren't glass. One pane was already broken, two broke while dismantling, two more broke in transit and one more because I stepped on it. I haven't got very big feet, I'm just very clumsy. As luck would have it, a few years ago, we were having a clearout at work and I saw nine sheets of clear perspex that was going to be thrown away, with permission I took them and they've been sat in my shed since then. I checked the size and with just a bit of a trim, they made a perfect fit and a lot more easier to flex into place as well.

I've already put it into use, the tomato plants that I've grown from some supermarket tomatoes are already in residents. I do have to remember to keep them watered now though. Small price to pay don't you think. All in all, I'm pleased with the way it all looks, the small path leading to it and the raised bed, it's how I pictured it, but I never expected it to look quite how I wanted. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Phase two and three of 'Project Greenhouse' complete.

Bloody hell it's been a long time since my last blogpost. I could give some lame excuse like 'I needed time to find myself again'. I was there in the bathroom mirror. No, the truth be told I just got lazy. So, apologies aside, I actually have been quite the opposite of lazy. Weeding, watering and harvesting at least twice a week. I have, as the title indicates, made progress on Project Greenhouse. As you can see in the above photo, there it is leaning against the plum trees. A friend at work, his father-in-law past away, he was a very keen gardener and the family wanted his gardening tools and equipment to go to people who would put them to good use. So I'm hoping that I can do it justice.

My friend did ask for £40 for the greenhouse, but I haven't quite got the hang haggling and gave him £50. I have been on the look out on the web and have seen that £50 was a fairer price, also I would have to see him every day at work and I'm a good catholic boy.

It really didn't take that long to dismantle it, yes a few panes of glass were broken, but that wasn't an issue, if only I had measured the dimensions of the two courses of bricks that the greenhouse sits on. I do have some brick on my plot, but needed more. I managed to get some more by jumping in a skip, with permission. I'm not in the building trade, so this was my first time brick laying. I did Google what to do and how to get the morter mix right. I measured the frame as best as I could in it's dismantled state. All seemed great, I even had a friend, who has a plot on the site and who does know how to lay bricks, who came over for a chat and layed a few brick as quickly as clicking Lego together. A week later, with help from another work mate, we put the frame together, put it on the bricks and it was then that I found out that my measurements were wrong. It was too short by width and length. It's a good job that I still have a few more bricks to do another course, offset slightly on both sides and a whole brick width at the back. Now if you know the difference between 'Jerry built' and 'Safe as houses', please don't look too closely at my handy work in the photos. Until now, there was more chance of me laying an egg than a brick.

This is how it's been left. I'm hoping to get the thing in place this weekend so I can concentrate on gardening rather than being an extra for the next series of 'Auf wiedersehen Pet'. Till next time (let's hope it's not too long away) and thanks for reading.

Monday, 8 June 2015

Still learning, always learning.

I had started a blogpost a while ago stating how pleased I am that I have a lot of crops doing quite well, but on closer inspection, things aren't as rosey as I thought.

Firstly, the potatoes in bags. On the surface, all looked great. A nice full healthy green foliage. You couldn't ask for anything more. On emptying one bag out, I found out you could. The soil was very dry, it needed far more watering than I was giving it. There wasn't many potatoes either, some hadn't fully developed yet, so I could have been a bit early with them. On the plus side though, they were perfect without a blemish of any description and they tasted so good. I'll leave the rest for a little while longer. 

Next up are the onions. Not a major problem, but a minor oversight on my part. The first and main bed for them are doing OK generally speaking, it's just that, come the evening, the main crop of potatoes are literally leaving the onions in the shade. The rows nearest the potatoes are a bit on the small side.  With any luck they'll taste better for being smaller. Here's hoping anyway. 

The pumpkins and courgettes have taken a beating thanks to my inexperience. Next to my new picnic area I've put a sheet of weed suppressant membrane, cut into it and planted six pumpkin plants and six courgette plants. Most of the plants had got a bit leggy or long while sitting on my windowsill, so I placed a few bricks around they to help support them. The trouble is that with a bit of a breeze, they have flapped about, rubbed against the edge of the bricks and cut the their own stems. I'm now left with three courgettes and two pumpkin plants.

The tomato plants that I have grown from seeds saved from a supermarket tomato are looking bad to say the very least. It got to a stage where I needed to pot them on, but the only option left to me was to have them at the allotment. After one slightly windy day, they went from OK to half dead. If I only get one tomato from the whole experiment, I'll be happy.

It's not all doom and gloom on the plot. The first lot of carrots in a bucket have started to come up, so I've done another lot. Just for the record, the row on the left are chantenay and Autumn Kings on the right. I will have to be brave and thin out at some point and I've yet to see what's happening underneath, but the signs are good at the moment.

This is my first time growing spring onions and I must say that they are a darn sight easier than radishes. The best part is I don't need to thin them out either, or at least that's what I read on the back of the packet

My 'And finally' message is a bit of a sad one. The robins that had nested in my shed seem to have left leaving behind four eggs, not three as first thought. I haven't seen them for a few days now. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Phase One of 'Project Greenhouse' complete.

I have been told that I'm impulsive, when I get it in my head to do something I go all out. There is the other side of the coin to this and that is if I don't finish it when I wanted to have it done by or I have another great plan I just have to start, then I'm left with a job half done. Sad but true, I still don't have any 'No Dig Beds' yet. But that's for another blogpost.

Now I've realised that I'm in need of a greenhouse and after bit of research on the web I've seen that's it's doable on my budget. I'd like an 8'x6' greenhouse, so I had made a start just over a week ago. There is a three slab path, a step up then the ground space that will soon house the greenhouse. On one side of the path I will have a more permanent spot for my Garden Connect bed and the other I hope to have a herb patch.

The reason for the step up is that the plot is very uneven and I'd have to shift a lot of soil just to keep it all level. Now the trouble with buying a second hand greenhouse is that there is a good chance the size of it will be in imperial measurements, the slabs I have are in metric. So when I measured the three together in the above photo, it was a bit shy of the six foot required. I don't have a greenhouse yet, but I don't want to do all this work and it doesn't fit right. So after sleeping on it, I made a few adjustments.

The centre slabs are now offset with stones in the gaps just because I have them in buckets all over the plot. The yellow sheet you can see under the slabs has been under the plum trees ever since I've had the plot, so now I've put it to good use and used it as a weed suppressant.

The jobs about done as you can see, but I didn't want the space at the far end to go to waste or to seed (maybe weed is the right choice of words), so  I intended to carry on with potatoes in bags and have them there with a ground sheet to stop the weeds coming through. Here is how it has been left. Rather than leave the space unused, I have courgettes on the left and pumpkins on the right.

And just like the News at Ten, I have an 'And finally' for you. I had noticed a few weeks ago that I had a robin's nest in the shed that was empty. This weekend while getting my tools I looked over at the nest and saw a robin in it. Today I saw it again, but on one of my tool surching trips to the shed, the robin was gone and I saw three eggs. When I finished for the day and put all my kit back, the robin we as back in place on the nest. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Trust me, there are 3 eggs, it's just that to take this
shot, I blocked out all the light. Sorry.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

This is how Rhubarb jam is made.

I was quite lucky that after my jam disaster last week, I was able to try it again so soon. I don't know if it's rhubarb in general or the pan I use for jamming, but I did find it sticking to the bottom of the pan very easily. Well I don't feel so much to blame for burning last weeks jam now. The rhubarb I used was allotment grown, just not my allotment. I was given the same amount as I had before, so I stuck to the previous weeks quantities. So this is what you'll need.

  • 1.5kg/3lb rhubarb (ready prepared)
  • 1.5kg/3lb sugar
  • Juice of 3 lemons
  • 25g/1oz root ginger
  1. Wash and trim the rhubarb and cut into small chunks
  2. Place in alternate layers with the sugar in a deep bowl, add the lemon juice and leave for about 8 hours.
  3. Put the contents of the bowl into a pan, with the bruised ginger tied in a muslin bag.
  4. Bring to boiling point and boil rapidly to setting point.
Now I'm no fan of ginger in any form, so it was left out, but for those of you who do like it, I'm giving you the recipe word for word. I prepared everything late in the evening and left it over night. First thing in the morning, I made sure I had everything ready, jars sterilized and labels done from last week, before I put the pan on. I also used a potato masher to break down the fruit towards the end of boiling. Once it was all done and jarred up, I made myself some toast and a cup of tea. You can't beat fresh jam on toast. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Rhubarb jam disaster.

I've had many comments and compliments on my honesty. My failures get as much of a mention as my successes, it's just that I like to shout about the successes, more astonished surprised on my part. I try not to shy away and disguise or cover up my miss haps.

This time it was in the kitchen. I wanted to make some rhubarb jam, simple enough, I've made all sorts of jam before. An easy recipe, equal amounts of sugar to fruit with the juice of one lemon to each pound or half kilo of fruit. You could also infuse some root ginger, but I'm not so keen on ginger, so left it out. All I had to do was clean and chop the rhubarb into small chunks, put them in a pan with the sugar and lemon and leave it for at least eight hours. I left it over night. So far, so good. The next morning I cleaned and sterilized my jars and put the pan on. All was fine, a nice rolling boil. I'll need some labels. Let's go all out and make some nice fancy labels with a picture of a rhubarb stalk and hand written in my best calligraphy. That's when I noticed the smell, like toffee apples but rhubarb instead. Well at least I have some nice labels ready for next time.

The sad thing was, I had tasted a bit that was left on the spoon before it burnt and it actually tasted quite nice. I'll just have to wait for more rhubarb to grow. I'd like to say 'You live and learn' but I don't. Till next time and thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

I'm in desperate need of a greenhouse.

I've said in the past that I chose the flat I live in because of the three windowsills that are south facing and so far they have served me well, but there's only so much they can take. It's not considered ideal to have a plant in your bedroom, I've lost count as to how many I have in mine. Although I realised a long time ago, I really need to get a greenhouse soon. So much of what I have here I know I can't plant outside. This is my situation at the moment.

Basil, cayenne pepper, okra and even more

All lemon cucumber, apart from the sweet peppers
in the middle.

Pimientos de Padrón.

My Tomkin tomato plants and some sorry looking
Kohl rabi and aubergine.

The only windowsill left in the flat. North facing
with plum tomatoes, another sweet pepper and even
more pimientos de Padrón.
Now you see why I'm so desperate for a greenhouse. I have searched the internet and seen a few second hand ones that are within my budget, I just need to make room on the plot for one. That was my task this weekend. I was so keen to get started, that I didn't take the before shot.

It's not the clearest photo, but again I was pulling up excess plum trees with my hands. A Portuguese gentleman from a few plots away from me, who speaks no English, has offered to prune the plum trees I intended to keep. At least that's what I understood with me speaking my best Spanish and him speaking Portuguese. The proposed site for the greenhouse is between the raspberries and the plum trees. The raspberries I was given are now in, below is a clearer photo of them. Most are doing OK and starting to bud.

The parsnips are also starting to come up. I don't want to be counting my chickens just yet, but things aren't looking too bad. Parsnip crisps are back on the menu. After looking at the photo I took below, it seemed like my plot's getting bigger. Its always been the same size, but I'm claiming back a whole lot more now. The plot does look better when the sun is shining. Till next time and thanks for reading.