29 June 2011

First produce from the Polytunnel!

Just over a couple of weeks after putting the tunnel up it's beginning to pay dividends. The first harvests today were one cucumber (Miniature White - OK it's only a couple of inches long, but the clue's in the name!) and three gherkins (one Paris Pickling and one Bimbostar, and one unlabeled but it's one of those two! Fortunately Mrs D is a big fan of pickled cucumbers and gherkins, so if anyone has a recipe feel free to share ;>)

Paris Pickling

Miniature White
Elsewhere in the tunnel...

First Hungarian Hot Wax chilli forming

First tomato - Costolutu Fiorentino

Is that a decent cage for the brassicas I see?

Yes, I believe it is! For the first time ever I've finally built a cage that is tall enough, pinned down all the way around it and leave room for me to get in and out of it. It is now full of Flower Sprouts and Purple Sprouting Broccoli - although quite which is which is a bit of a mystery due to a bit of a labelling mix up. There's still room at the side of the cage for a few Brussels plants I've got to go in as well.

Harvest Time!
Despite my ongoing battles with the mice, I think I'm getting more than they are at last and am hoping to make some jam from them too. The potatoes (Charlottes) are coming thick and fast, as are the salad leaves (beetroot, Little Gem and Romaine Ballon - I'm just picking off the young leaves rather than picking the whole lettuce, which is a tactic that is working really well). Not getting the variety I'd like but I've got a lot more mixed salad leaves on the go and a couple more types of lettuce, but it'll be a couple of weeks before I start getting anything from them. Finally getting a few broad beans from plot no 2 (always a week or two ahead) but the plants on plot no 1 are looking much healthier with no signs of black fly yet or mouse attacks:

And it won't be long before we're having our first courgettes:

No I know this can be a emotive issue, no names mentioned but you know who you are ;>) I however do like to find some room to grow some flowers for a number of reasons: firstly they can't help to attract the pollinators and secondly I can pick them and take them home for the wife, saving me money at the florist and scoring me brownie points to make up for her being locked out whilst I was down on the allotment!

Foxgloves up on plot no 2

Cornflowers just beginning to come out on plot no 2. I have since picked a few to bring home and they do look stunning and went down very well.

More foxgloves and some carnations (hopefully ready soon) down on plot no 1
Finally, up in the pond (aka bath at the top of the plot) a frog was basking in the sun. Do frogs bask in the sun?

Oh and I've finally updated some of my blog links on the right hand side - apologies to many of you I've only just got round to adding a link to.

16 June 2011

So, what's in the tunnel?

It's surprising how big it is in there, but fortunately I was prepared and grew a few (!) plants in advance. Because it's next to the old tree and there are 'issues' with roots at the top end, I've decided to mainly grow things in pots for now. And because I'm not sure whereabouts in the tunnel I want to grow them, I'm supporting them with canes. I know, I know, it's asking for trouble but I have got plastic bottles or pots on them.

So after potting a dozen French marigolds (from the local garden centre) to attract pollinators and deter nasty things like aphids, the following are currently in the tunnel:

Gigante Liscio x 2
Costolutu Fiorentino x 11
Roma x 7
Garden Pearl x 4
Japanese Black Truffle x 4
Chocolate Cherry x 6

Some of these are bigger than others though and probably only half of them are in there final (cannabis!) plant pots - for anyone worried about the cannabis connection, see the previous post!

Ring of Fire x 5
Hungarian Hot Wax x 5
Jalapeno x 4
Padron x 3
Cayenne x 3
Unknown/unlabelled x 7

I bought a couple of different ones from the school garden open day, only I can't remember what they were and the others are a result of my poor labelling! Could have sworn I'd sown some Joe's Long earlier in the year though...

Miniature White x 3
Bimbostar x 1
Paris Pickling x 1
Unknown x 1 (but it's going to be one of the above!)

and I planted a couple of pots of basil. Now when I was there this morning the camera gave up on me, but fortunately I went back later in the evening accompanied by my assistant keen to see the new polytunnel:

But it's difficult to capture everything with the lens I have in there, but despite having 70+ plants in there, it's in no way crowded.

Other jobs today...
I'm fighting a battle with squirrels or mice to get the few strawberries that have been ready so far, but I managed to get a couple first thing this morning.

Watered the polytunnel.

Made a frame for the cucumbers/gherkins to grow up.

Planted on some tomatoes and chillies, and the marigolds.

Planted some peas (Telephone). Sadly my dwarf ones have been eaten after I proudly boasted earlier this year that mine always grew without netting them, and then the tall ones I planted either didn't germinate or got eaten.

Planted some radish, lettuce and two types of salad leaves, undercropping the beans and peas.

Then picked up various squash plants to plant out up at plot no. 2, stopping off home for some lunch of home grown salad first.

Plot no. 2  grows weeds exceptionally well, and after the rain at the weekend I was in danger of losing the potatoes yet alone the onions!

This was taken a couple of nights ago, just as the light was fading hence the flash, but it's difficult to see the spuds in there! Fortunately I'm pleased to say it's much better now and you can see both the potatoes and onions. And the potatoes have been earthed up!

I then planted out some courgettes (All Green Bush), pumpkins (Crown Prince) and a squash (Gem Store). Then my time was up and it was time to get the kids from school, but I managed to find another four strawberries to take with me.

Around the plots
At this time of year there is a fair amount going on:

Alium bed, the giant ones going to seed, the others just coming out now

Broad beans, with potatoes behind, comfrey in flower and covered in bees and the entrance to the plot is somewhere behind there!

Blueberries, and if I don't get some netting over them they'll be going the same way as the red currants - i.e the birds are going to eat them.

Foxglove, suffering from a lack of water and only about two foot high.

Gooseberry bush - it does so well, I just wish I liked them!

Lettuce intercropped between the french beans to the left and (hopefully) peas to the right

Self-seeded phacelia
'Cottage Garden' up on plot no 2, with a cosmos in the foreground, with cornflowers behind and some carnations fighting for some space with them, dahlias (going out of shot to the left) and foxgloves and gladioli behind. This is how I always hope the garden at home will look, but it never does!

11 June 2011

The polytunnel... It lives!

Finally it's up and covered! Still needs some tidying and a few bits tweaking, bit it's ready for plants!

Stepping back a bit, it's been hard work and not necessarily as simple the instructions would have you believe - are things ever?! - but the next one will be much easier to put up. Not that I'm volunteering to help anyone, I'm too knackered for that!

So after Pythagoras, I managed to get the frame up on my own:

Hoops in place, located on foundation tubes, which in turn are located on anchor plates buried under the ground.

Ridge bar now in place. At this point I made my one and only 'support' call to First Tunnels to check on the fact it didn't appear to be that straight. Not a major problem apparently and should sort itself out when the cover is put on, so I ploughed on.

Corner stabilisers now in place.

At this stage I called in some help from my Dad, him being far more practically minded than me. And also retired so readily available. This enabled us to get most of the timber in place for the doors (and get the cover round the wrong way on them!) and for the base rails, and put on most of the anti hot spot tape:

After which all I needed to do was put on the battens to create the rebate for the cover and put the cover on. Yes that's all...! More reinforcements were called in and to cut a long and tiring story short, it's up:

As I said, it needs some tweaking with the cover  - I've still got to fine tune the base rails to tighten the cover further - and the remains of the cover needs tidying up, but it should be open for business very shortly.

I have plenty of tomatoes and chillies to go in there, and fortunately I acquired almost 70 large plant pots the other day courtesy of the house near the kids school which had recently been raided for growing cannabis plants! And the thing is my haul was but a fraction of what was being cleared out of that house :>o The compost was destined for other places, but mustn't grumble.

And now to bed...

6 June 2011


Not the usual subject for the allotment blog, but turns out the whole geometry thing has its uses after all. After a couple of attempts to put the anchor plates in for the polytunnel I was nowhere near putting them in square on each occasion, despite the recommended approach using string, etc. in the manual. Given it's a while since I used any mathematics in anger (well pure maths anyway), I must confess to having to look up how to calculate the hypotenuse of a right angled triangle.

The good news is, it worked a treat and the anchor plates are secured and in the right position. And there's no more maths talk for this blog! The help of a nine year old boy cannot be under-estimated either and he was suitably rewarded with a trip to the sweet shop.

A trip later on this evening to do some much needed watering, also confirmed that the hoops fit OK so all systems are go with the construction now. There would be some pictures with this if I wasn't so knackered! Maybe tomorrow, but now the remains of my beer awaits before bed.