June 2012

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. June 24th, 2012)

June 24, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

I'm home alone this weekend. No 4 son who's still at home has gone to London for a week to stay with his Thai friend Kriss' family. Kriss' mother's partner Paul has a gardening & landscaping business. Teifion & Kriss are supposed to be working with him over the summer. Kriss is in a Military Academy - during term time- in North Carolina. Apparently Paul does gardening for a few of the stars down there in the London area - including Jonathan Ross apparently (not that I'd consider Jonathan Ross to be a star - he's definitely NOT my cup of tea - but that's another story).

Josie is over in County Wicklow in the Irish Republic. She's been over there since last Wednesday, helping Jan, an old friend of hers, to move house & decorate. She's coming home tomorrow. Woo-Hoo - I'm glad - can't stand housework or cooking! And if the truth be known I DO miss her

 

As for me, I've done NOTHING on the lottie today, even though the weather has been quite kind. I seem to have a nasty muscle strain that's like a cross between a bad stitch and a cracked rib! It's hard to breathe without pain so any physical work was out of the question today. I hope it will have eased off by tomorrow, because according to the weather forecast it's supposed to be a nice sunny day. Just my luck to go "crook" (as they say in Oz) when the weather changes!

So I went to visit my mother today, and whilst I was there I popped in on Ian - an old friend of mine who lives down the road from my mother. He'd done a little job of drilling holes in an old stainless steel hoe that I've adapted as a hand hoe for weeding onions etc. It's a little tool I cooked up that is about 18" long with a half width sharpened hoe at the one end and a 4" wide rake on the other. I used to have a similar tool but somehow I lost it - the funny thing is I never found it. Having given up looking for a new one to buy, I decided to make my own. Here's the result:

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So if I feel up to it, some weeds in my onion beds might meet their maker tomorrow!

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From My Allotment Diary (Fri. June 22nd, 2012)

June 22, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

What a week this has been. Rain, rain & then when you thought there was no more left in the sky we had MORE rain!

It's very serious here because we haven't fully recovered from the first two floods, this is now our third major flood in a fortnight. So we're supposed to be preparing for sub tropical weather with annual water shortages and the ability to grow coconuts in Wales? Yeah right! (These apocalyptical global warming freaks have to be humoured, otherwise they'll join up with the posh empty-heads in the Government and convince them that they have to legislate to stop us doing this or that for our own good!)

Sure, the weather is a bit muddled, but I'm sure it's been more muddled over the billions of years our earth has been in existence and WAY before man appeared. My theory is, there's only so much water on earth and as matter cannot be created or destroyed (by man at least) then roughly the same amount is permanently in circulation and will turn up sooner or later - the H2O that didn't appear last winter has turned up - a bit late, but better late than never eh?

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There ARE changing weather patterns across the globe (as there always has been) with an expanding desert here, or a shrinking ice cap there. It's NATURE folks! Live with it!

I'm being philosophical because otherwise I'd be crying! I went down to close my poly-tunnel doors yesterday evening at around 8.30. As some of you know, John, the 82 year old ex Paratrooper Sergeant, opens my poly-tunnel doors for me every morning. I give him bits for his garden at home - like pelleted chicken manure, plants, runner beans for sowing etc. Now he takes his dog for a walk past my allotment at the crack of dawn (50+ years ago he would have been drilling his men on the parade ground every morning at 6.00 a.m. Old habits die hard and he now gets his dog up for exercise at the crack of dawn!) Anyway John, being a stickler for carrying out orders, opens my doors EVERY morning - regardless of the weather! So I have to go down to close them every day - whether I intended going down there or not, hence the reason I was down yesterday evening in my weather-proofs! But I don't mind, I don't want to confuse the old gent by making things too complicated for him! As it happens, yesterday I also had my camera in the van so I took some pics. This is what greeted me on my lottie:

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Today I'm tempted not to leave my desk - I've got loads to do, including putting the finishing touches to the latest news-letter, but the lottie (as usual) is always beckoning. I've actually got a really nasty pain from what I think is a pulled muscle in my side & chest - it feels like a cross between a bad stitch and a cracked rib! On the other hand I have plenty I could get on with in the p/tunnel. We'll see how it goes. It's not particularly inviting out there. It's stopped raining now but the wind has picked up. It's a woolly jumper day. If I didn't have a calendar in front of me I could swear it was autumn! It really IS that cold here on the west coast.

From My Allotment Diary (Thurs. June 14th, 2012)

June 14, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (2)

Playing at home today! Can't go out to play with my friends because Mam says it's too wet! :(

Actually I WILL have to go out in a minute (between showers) to close my polytunnel doors. I expect they're open, as my good ol' 82 year old ex-paratroop sergeant friend has probably opened them as he went past for his early doggy walk (old habits die hard - parade ground at 6.00 hours sharp and all that)! It was sunny first thing this morning when John would have been around, but dead on 1.00 pm the first shower came - EXACTLY as predicted  by the weatherman this morning - not often does that happen.

In fact we'[ve had a yellow alert warning for heavy rain here over the next few days. Someone said that they've forecast three months rain over three days - if that IS true then it's flood time for us again.

So it's a quick dash to the lottie to close the doors and back again. I could get side-tracked to do some work inside the polytunnel, but I've actually got some kind of tummy bug & feel quite nauseous and out of sorts - Josie seems to be starting with something similar. Under the circumstances the heart is willing but the body has other ideas! Not to worry. I can actually do with the rest and I have stacks of other things to do that have been stuck on the back-burner for a month or so. In fact, if we ARE to have a deluge from now to next week, it might be a good time to think about publishing another edition of the newsletter - hmm that sounds quite a civilised plan . . . .

From My Allotment Diary (Sun. June 10th, 2012)

June 10, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (1)

imageWhat a week (weather-wise). As most of you who live & listen to the news in the UK will know, parts of Ceredigion, in mid-west Wales, got the worst flooding in living memory early yesterday morning. Fortunately my family & I live in the southern half of the county, but the poor souls who live in the northern half - from Aberystwyth up - have had a torrid time of it. Over 1000 people have been evacuated from their homes and nearly 100 had to be rescued by the emergency services during the early hours of the morning - not nice!image

Global warming  is certainly having an effect on us at this time (click on the link if you have a real interest in the subject), but I'm still not convinced that it's all man's fault. Sure we contribute an amount - most creatures do, in varying degrees, but in the overall BIG picture of things, our contribution is a gnat's wee in the ocean. In fact the combined Methane output from all the  herbivores (cows etc. to you and me) of the earth is probably just as big a contributor to the so-called "greenhouse effect". Actually it's a little arrogant & conceited of us as humans to take the accolade for what is nature's natural cycle of things. A bit like those tree-hugging allotmenteers who leave weeds & sprouting broccoli plants to flower - to help the world's ecology to recover and encourage bees! A huge contribution that, when you look at the vegetation that's on the earth! So one flowering broccoli and a clump of nettles is going to do the trick? Yeah - right! HARDLY - even if every human on earth did it - but man is conceited enough to think like that, we have difficulty with proportionality. Do these people actually sit down and think hard about how big the south American rainforests alone really are? Now I wonder what proportion of that mass of vegetation a clump of nettles or 3 broccoli plants in flower actually represents? Even if you multiplied that clump by 7 billion - the current population of the earth. No more so is this fuzzy logic coming to the fore than with the argument against the use of peat in gardens. Suffice to say that I don't think I'm the only one cursing "non peat based composts" when my seedlings fail to appear! I won't even get started on that one!

In only the last 1000 years  we've gone from ice age to a balmy warm period for a few hundred years during the middle ages. It's often called The Medieval Warm Period (MWP)/ Medieval Climate Optimum, or Medieval Climatic Anomaly which was a time of warm climate in the North Atlantic region, it lasted lasted from about AD 950 to 1250. It was followed by a cooler period in the North Atlantic termed the Little Ice Age. So after going back to a mini ice age things are now warming up again . What we are experiencing is the cyclic nature of Mother Earth's climate, that's CONSTANTLY changing, but with such minuscule life spans and the past inability to monitor over a prolonged period (we've only been doing it for a few DECADES), WE run away with the apocryphal notion that we have destroyed our earth! Loony tunes I conclude!. These phenomena were in existence when man's only contribution to C02 emission was smoke from his tiny camp fire and flatulence from eating too much woolly mammoth meat & brassicas like sprouts - as a so called "hunter-gatherer".

Right I've stepped off my soap box now - back to local weather and it's direct effect! On Friday evening I went down to my lottie with Stephen Parry to see how the storm was effecting things. I say "storm" because it was very similar to those Caribbean or Pacific squalls that blow up out of nowhere, uprooting palm trees, flooding islands & causing mud-slides - you probably get the picture!

Anyway it was a sight worse than we expected. There were virtual "rivers" flowing down across the allotment site, my plot was submerged under a lake of water (being the low point of the site). All the beds that I'd worked so hard to prepare over the last month were out of sight. Quivery lip time! Nothing we could do (apart from tie down Phil Harris's fruit cage that he had erected from netting and bamboo canes - it was no match for the storm, so I just tied the structure to a nearby post).

All the plants in trays outside my polytunnel (that were being hardened off ready for planting out) were under water, as the trays they were standing in had filled to the brim! So I quickly took all the plants out , tipped out the water, turned the trays upside down and stuck the plants back on top of them. We then beat a hasty retreat in the dying sunlight and gale force winds - drenched to the skin.

Yesterday morning was quite spooky. We had blue skies with a steaming hot sun. Where I expected a lake with flattened beds, what greeted me was amazingly quite normal! Sure lots of things had blown over - or half blown over (like Phil's fruit cage), the ground was sodden, but the "lake" had miraculously disappeared! By mid afternoon even the drenched soil was starting to change colour in the hot sun! Amazing how resilient things are, and yet one little tiny slip with a hoe - through lack of concentration - and a prized plant is lying on it's side - gone forever. Talking of hoeing, looking on the bright side of things, hoeing will be a pleasure after such a soaking and those weeds will be much easier to pull up as the wet soil loosens it's grip on their roots!

Life could be a lot worse. A great pity I didn't take some pics of our allotment site, but a camera is the last thing on your mind when you're on a lottie rescue mission in a tropical squall!! The following morning was too late.

I'm having a semi day off today - having worked non-stop playing catch-up with nature over the last few weeks. We're going to pick up a clematis from the local nursery (a present for one of Josie's friends who drools over our Dr Ruppel) and then tomorrow morning we're going to visit my mother, who by now thinks she's been abandoned because I've been so busy on the veg. plot. I can't remember such a topsy turvy season. Everyone seems to be doing April jobs in June and with poor germination rates, schizophrenic weather and generally an ultra late start there's constant pressure to get everything done before it's too late. Strangely though, some weeds - like docks - and left over plants from last year (like the lettuce and broccoli on our world saving eco-warrior's plot) are thriving! I've never seen seven foot lettuce before and the average dock height is about six feet!

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From My Allotment Diary (Sun. June 3rd, 2012)

June 3, 2012 by BigGee   Comments (3)

What a month May was! I've lived, worked and slept the lottie for the whole month! NOT because I really wanted to be THAT engrossed and obsessive, but simply because we've had such a rubbish spring I've had to pile March, April & May work into 4 weeks! It's gone from winter to summer (March) back to winter (snow in April) & then FINALLY summer in May - who the hell cancelled the spring? The worst bit in May was that scorching wind again. I really get annoyed at that sting in the tail. Just as you're ready to harden things off they turn brown and shrivel up in the sun and chilly wind. It doesn't help being located by the sea - those scorchers blow in straight off the Atlantic and across Ceredigion Bay then straight across my allotment! Added to the natural problems is the fact that I'm only running on three cylinders, so the work gets done at a much slower rate than in the past. However I get a lot more tired, so I've not had time to do anything meaningful - apart from my allotment for the whole month!

This year has been a total disaster, not just for me, but a lot of the other allotment growers on our site that have experienced the same problems. Seeds refusing to germinate, others dying off after germinating, some growing weakly - just not a very good season I fear!

As a rule - peas are usually grown by little children in school, with simple success. Me - a supposed veteran vegetable gardener with nearly 40 years experience nearly gave up on them this year! First the mouse (now deceased) dispatched four trays full, with 20 peas in each tray. Only ONE pea got away, it's now quietly growing on it's own by the fence that should be holding up around a hundred of it's brothers & sisters.

imageThe next batch just rotted in the compost on the poly-tunnel staging, as did the third batch! I'm now in the humiliating position of having to make do with other's left overs! Although by now I have put rows in directly into the soil - fingers crossed! Many of the melon, pumpkin, courgette and cucumber seeds have done the same - just rotted in their pots before germinating. I have now purchased more bags of compost  - this time from Aldi (in desperation). Surprise, surprise it's fantastic stuff. It puts the Levington crap that I bought to shame. I say "crap" because a pattern is emerging here. Nearly all the other gardeners that have had bad germination results have used exactly the same compost. It was on offer at our local Farmers Co-operative Country Store (210 Litres for £11.99). To add insult to injury the lovely Aldi stuff (from a firm called "Gardenline" that you wouldn't normally cast a second glance at) works out at £11.94 for 240 Litres - don't you just hate it when that happens?

I've used Levington compost for years but from now on Mr Levington has off-loaded his last bag on to me! He can stuff his compost where the sun doesn't shine! This rubbish has appeared since the big debate about organic/ inorganic material from the anti peat use brigade came to the fore. I notice the Levington bags say the content holds 25% more water and has "organic non-peat" material added to it. What exactly is that supposed to mean?

 

On a brighter note at least I managed to get one little trip in on Saturday the 19th of May - and hugely enjoyable it was too.

Josie & I went to the Smallholders and Allotment Growers Show at Llanelwedd just outside Builth Wells. It's now called the Royal Welsh Spring Festival. Why the name change boggles my mind (probably an idea thought up by a bored twerp in a grey suit with lily white hands I guess). If you click on this URL address link you can see what it's all about: http://www.rwas.co.uk/en/garden-festival/ 

What is a Spring Festival anyway? It's the same as Mr Levington's "organic non-peat" material ! When the show was called by what it represented EVERYONE knew what it was about. Now, they call it The Royal Welsh Spring Festival and then have to add a tag line underneath so that people know what the hell they're on about! Common sense is becoming so rare that it will be extinct in a few years.

Anyway, to get me off my Victor Meldrew soap-box, here are some snap-shots of the event. This is only a taster of what was on show - I'll post some more in an album on the Chat-Shed site as soon as I get a minute (quite a rare thing at the mo.!). I recommend you all try to get to this show at some time - you won't be disappointed I promise. In fact I'll circulate details in good time before next year's event. We hope to get a bus trip together to see next year's - you really need two days to get around everything.

Here are some of the quaint garden furniture that we saw on display & for sale.

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Below, some traditional restored tools for the allotment and garden - at extremely good prices e.g. £5.00 for a hoe!

 

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All kinds of veg & flower plants for sale

 

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A clever design display of a raised bed made out of nothing more than plastic bottles filled with soil.   Definitely one to copy in the corner of the garden - IF I can muster up the patience to fill the bottles!

 

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Flower stands - all plants for sale after display.

 

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They had all kinds of unusual breeds of animals (no - on the left with the horns!)

 

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Some cows!

 

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Pretty girls in period costumes, singing, dancing and playing instruments.

 

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And finally one for "Fergie" to drool over!

 

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Right I'm now off to the lottie to close my polytunnel doors. I know a lovely old gentleman who walks his dog past the allotment site every morning. I supply him with pelleted chicken manure and he opens the polytunnel doors for me.

 

The only trouble is John is an ex paratrooper sergeant - although he's well into his eighties now, he still carries out orders to the letter. So I've given him an order to open the doors every morning - so that's exactly what he does with clockwork reliability - REGARDLESS OF THE WEATHER! I don't want to complicate things for him, so I say nothing, instead I sneak down and close them again. He'll then open them the next morning. It's a brilliant arrangement in hot weather. In colder, wetter weather it means a trip down the lottie regardless. Ah well who said life was perfect?

 

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