Archive for the ‘Allotments / Community Gardens & Plots’ Category

Strawberries do need some frost protection during Winter and the harsh weather sometimes felt in Late Autumn and Early Spring, the mulch will gradually break down so an Acid producing material is needed due to Strawberry plant requirements.

strawberries.jpg

Pine Tree needles are great for Strawberries in that they are acidic, and take a longer than broad leaf acid leaves to decompose, one much needed benefit from the mulch is also for it to ”puff” around the plant maintaining a stronger structure which keeps the frost and snow off of the crown. Another benefit is keeping the actual berries off of the ground when they are growing / forming.

Some pine trees produce short needles which are 2.5 Inches / 5cm long which are perfect yet a little harder to rake up and collect sometimes (they are able to pierce through the gaps in your garden gloves and prick your skin, it doesn’t hurt but can be quite annoying).

The rest are much longer at about 12 inches / 30cm, these are much easier to rake and collect but they will need cutting into smaller pieces to fit around the crown and base of each plant – this is easily do-able with secateurs or even scissors.
These shorter pieces will be the base cover which will also be the first to rot due to the direct ground contact, the further topping layers can be longer pieces if you have the patience to work them around the plants nicely … Or just collect branches of Yew (Taxus baccata) and other similar coniferous trees, let sit in a dry area and merely bash the branches over a tarp once the needles are brown and dry.

straw pine mulch.jpg

Pine Needle Mulched Strawberries

You should also Collect Oak tree leaves and leave them in a bag with some other composting materials for a couple months (longer in colder months) such as some grass clippings, brown cardboard and other fresh leaf clippings – will create an acidic compost which can be used as a feeding mulch before applying the pine needles (ensure the bag gets sunshine and shade, with holes poked in the bottom so worms can enter).

 

Many people use straw but forget to ensure an acidic (PH) environment, if straw is your preferred choice, then follow the step above with Oak tree leaves, then simply mulch with the leaf mold before adding the straw as a top layer, used tea bags (cut open and leaves poured out) either in your acidic compost pile / bag or directly around the plants will help too.

The Mulching options above are also useful for Blueberries and Cranberry. I highly recommend creating a acidic soil raised bed in which you could plant 2- 5 Blueberry Bushes, 4 – 6 Cranberries and the rest of the space covered with Strawberries as a general ground cover / living mulch. This bed would need a re-application every year of some kind of acidic organic matter as in the above paragraphs, other than that, the only maintenance is harvesting and perhaps some bird netting / slug & Snail control methods

Advertisements

I have been meaning for ages to post some photo’s from the last season, with the recent chilly weather, this couldn’t have come at a better time to post!

Thing’s that I have been up to regarding preperations for the upcoming season both in the garden as well as on the allotment include Fruit tree grafting (attaching other varieties of Apple for example onto an existing tree making the tree dual / tri fruiting). Digging and maintaining Bean trenches (I will be sure to create a post on this in the future), planting loads of Garlic, Developing Two (2) yes, T W O new Hugelkultur (Hugel Mounds) that are reasonably sized and now I can say that I have good experience with Hugel Beds after creating four over the last 3 or so years.

This last summer wealded a big increase in dry bean production, I like to grow runner beans both for fresh pods but also for the dry beans, some people may say that this is impossible in the UK climate, I say don’t listen to them! It is possible with certain varieties …

The harvest photo is of the best single harvest I had during the whole summer, unfortunately I got Tomato blight so my ‘Purple Ukraine’ variety suffered before they were ready to harvest 😦

SONY DSC

All Organic Permaculture Allotment Harvest 2017

I also, at some point during the hectic busy summer I had, managed to go around counting the amount of Perennials I have on site. Including tubers which re-sprout if you leave one in the planting space, I counted 22 species and this excludes the fruit bushes I have waiting planting! The compost bins have had a good part of my attention as I would really like to completely become self sufficient in terms of compost either by Summer this year or next Spring, this has included turning regularly and continual adding of some fresh greens to keep the worms fed, a compost bin can do with additional insulation this time of year and I highly recommend a black bin liner placed over the opening before putting the lid back on, this seals the heat in.

Finally,a large section that was overgrown with bind weed was lasagne / sheet mulched in preperation for a dedicated berry / fruit area.

I have been making Apple Cider (even a semi Pear Cider) and Cider Vinegar using a very very very veeerrrry simple recipe now for 3 years running, so simple in fact that you Do Not Need a Fruit Press!

Young Organic Apple Jonagold on an urban Permaculture Farm

Organically Grown Jonagold Apples – Cider & Vinegar Making

What you need is: Apples, Water, Container/s (5ltr / 1 Gal), Sugar (1 Cup), Knife with Chopping board … and Time – That’s It!

What I recommend is to get hold of a few different varieties of apple (even some pears), try your best not to use only one apple variety.

Click the Link Here for the full recipe with explanation between Cider only and Cider Vinegar as the final result.

This should be the second, perhaps the third video I have posted with Mike Feingold (an Old-School UK Permaculturist) Here he gives a tour of the Allotment he manages in Bristol.
I like this guy’s style, a friend of mine told me about the Permaculture gardens at the festival and so it is now good to be able to see what she was talking about … follow Mike around the site which includes explanations of eco construction, Heugelkultur beds, raised beds etc.

 

I’m not entirely sure why it is filmed with almost 90% black and white filter (it must have been a hipster filming! 😉 but I’m sure you can sit through it till the end as it is worth it.

glast perm

For more info:

 

veg-patch-view

Mandy and her partner run a section of a cooperatively bought piece of land and run their Incredible Vegetables enterprise, as much as I would like to explain some details about their project, I will most likely be mirroring exactly what is already in the interview. Here are a few previous posts (Post 1) & (Post 2) regarding Incredible Vegetables for those who haven’t seen them yet.

What was your inspiration to create your enterprise? did you already have this in mind when you obtained your little strip of land or was it later on?

We didn’t have an enterprise in mind when we first obtained the land. We wanted to be self sufficient in vegetables, that was our main priority. The enterprise essentially developed from sharing what we were doing on social media and people starting asking us about the plants we were growing. There is such an interest in perennial vegetables that once people heard we were experimenting with such plants we had a huge number of requests. We thought why don’t we try and grow and supply a few of the harder to find edible perennials? It all developed from there and Incredible Vegetables was launched!

What is your reason for concentrating on unusual / bizzarre vegs and edible plants?

We spent many years as  ‘regular’ growers. By that I mean growing stuff in the back garden, including all the things you would normally find in a vegetable garden. We thought there must be more to eat and grow and there must be a different way of doing it. There are a myriad of edimentals and perennial vegetables out there and once you start researching them it is pretty hard to stop. Also we wanted to move away from enormous amount of work that annual growing involves.
(more…)

This past Summer (Yup it’s Autumn already) I finally got around to growing some plants which I failed in previous years to cultivate properly, namely Okra and Aubergine (Eggplant / Brinjal).

I will however, have to stop experimenting too much with germinating times! While I have had good success starting sun loving annual veg’s and fruits as early indoors as Late January, this last Spring with the very last minute April shock frost took out more than half of my pre-germinated seedling stock and severely damaged at least 30% of the remaining half! From now on, I think it’s safe to commit perhaps 20% of all planned varieties / species to early sowings which can be sacrificial in the case of more late frosts.

Lettuce and Okra (2).jpg

The Beatuiful Okra Flowers in Mid Spring

Out of 4-5 Okra plants, I managed about the same amount of fingers! I attribute this to worrying too much about cold as well as pest damage and got around to planting them far too late, But the flowers are awesome!

On another note, I promised myself that this is ‘The Year Of The Salads’ and in the below photo, you can see how easy it is to find random suitable spaces to squeeze them in around your garden or plot, please stop regimentalising yourself thinking everything has to be monocultured in rows … NATURE DOES NOT WORK LIKE THAT!        Rant over 🙂

Lettuce and Okra (1).jpg

‘Jack ice – Crisphead” Lettuce at the base of Pepper Plants

Lettuce are shallow rooted and short seasoned from germination to harvest, hence why greens (cooking, salads etc.) do outweigh heavier crops such as maize, tomatoes etc. in yield due to the amount of plants you can successionally grow in one space during the full season (There are winter Lettuces and other greens like Kale which overwinter – but no Maize, Pumpkins, Tomatoes etc etc.). Being shallow rooted, they need less nutrients compared to the heavier croppers so can be grown at the base of other plants as well (Pay attention though to Companion Planting Guides).

Soon I will post about Aubergine success and tips I got from side-shooting which seemed to increase yield! I got these tips from the awesome Charles Dowding, I do recommend to get a book or two of his if you are interested in growing your own vegetables! From a person who has around 34 years growing organically in no dig systems, you would not be making a bad move in following his tips and advice in my opinion …

 

I just wanted to say that with only a few years under my belt growing Onions, I can personally claim that Onion from seed (Preferrably from a good Heritage seed supplier) does far better than from sets (mini bulbs pre-grown to a small easy-to-handle size).

Yes, onion from seed are (or at least Seem to be) quite finniky / delicate to handle but Don’t let this put you off! The results are far better in my opinion.

Onion seed vs sets

Heritage Onion from Seed (LEFT) vs Commerically Available Onion Sets (RIGHT)

Take note that in the above photo, I grew Two types of Onion set and both were just as bad in terms of bulb swell and overall failure (Red Karmen and Stuttgart)

Why do (did) I still grow Onion from sets if I seem to have such better results from seed? Because this was my first proper season from start on my ‘new’ allotment and I came across a good deal in Lidl I think it was, for a bag of around 100 bulbs it was something ridiculous like $0.69p. So I decided to do a comparison test since I now have a much larger space to play around in.

Pros and Cons for both parties (Pro’s highlighted in Bold):

  • SETS:
    Can be contaminated with fungal growth or spores from storage or the production facility,
  • Most (probably 50-80% in my experience) didn’t get much larger than the little bulb that went in! (Don’t throw them away, make pickles!),
  • Need netting in the first weeks to prevent birds etc. from pulling them out before they establish,
  • Will need constant watering until they establish,
  • Are convenient if a Gardener is overwelmed with small seedlings on all available windowsills etc,
  • Save on plastic pots and compost,
  • SEEDS:
  • Are quite delicate when small,
  • Need one pot and compost per plant (or group of plants if following Multi Sowing),
  • In one year I had all of my onion seed attract aphid really early (February / March if I remember correctly?), however, that was well before I found out how to control them,
  • Have a much more well developed root system and romp away shortly after planting,
  • Swell up quicker too,
  • Far more disease resistance when compared,
  • Better options to choose from (such as storage length, taste, size etc.),
  • Establish quicker so need less tending,
  • Do not need netting,
  • Higher bulb-swell success rate as per observation (larger bulbs),