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Has Anyone Been To The Green Gym?

April 23rd, 2008 by Karsten

I saw a very interesting feature on the BBC breakfast programme this morning. Apparantly it’s now “in” to go to the green gym.

So what is a green gym then? Simply a number of community projects set up for people to come and do some gardening activities, and do a bit of a workout that way, rather than going to the more traditional gyms and pull some iron rods around etc. Apparantly an hour doing light gardening is as good as, if not better than going on an excercise mashine or doing “steps” for 20 minutes, and it’s free! I know which one I’d prefer.

A doctor interviewed on the program confirmed what we allotmenteers have known for ages - twenty minutes of digging every day is more than enough cardio-vascular excercise for the average person - and there’s social and psychological benefits in it as well.

Personally I love the idea! Not only for the health benefits, but also (maybe particularly) for the benefits of the communities in which this work takes place. I hope that a lot more people becomes involved in things like this, and that the powers that be will start to realise the need for projects like this, and start setting up more allotment sites in order to meet the demand.

In other news I ordered a new wormery for my plot yesterday. I can’t wait to get going again, and I’m going to get my old wormery started up again, as well as setting up some more wormeries as and when the population of worms allows it. Before the end of the season I would like to be able to set up a complete “professional” worm-bed on my plot, but we’ll have to wait and see if my time and finances allow for this. Fingers crossed! My new wormery should be here this coming friday.

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Why does it always rain on me?

April 13th, 2008 by Karsten

I must admit I’m starting to get a bit anxious, as it seems every time I plan to go and do some work on m plot, it starts pouring down. The party stops before it can even start - and by now my first seeds should have been put in the soil!

Ah well - I know my plot will be one heck of a lot more successfull this year than last year - simply because last year was a disaster :-)

This has also given me a bit of time to surf the internet - and think about what I’m going to do on my plot and on this website in the next few months - so it’s not all lost!

One thing I’m going to focus on this season is composting. This should be the backbone of every allotment plot - producing your own compost - and recycling as much of your green waste as possible. Both of these things are something I’m rather passionate about.

As you may know - I invested in a wormery last year - and all of my worms drowned in the torrential downpours! In the coming week I’m definately going to get it going again, while I’m also going to invest in another kind of wormery just to try it out, and also I’m going to build myself another two kinds of wormeries based on some studying I’ve done over winter. If you’re interested in these sorts of things at all - watch this space!

As far as surfing the internet goes - I came across a rather interesting downloadable e-book for those of you interested in organic allotmenteering. Organic Food Gardening Beginners Manual is just that - a guide that will take you by the hand and teach you about growing your food organically - but perhaps more interestingly comes with a number of bonus tools such as a garden planner / diary - a guide to collecting your own seeds - a 4-year plot rotation plan and direct email consultation with the author.

I have not yet bought the manual - but I plan to do so and give it a proper review at a later stage. Meanwhile - if you fancy taking a look at it - please do, and post your thoughts in my comment section.

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Buying Seeds Online

March 20th, 2008 by Karsten

Buying seeds for your allotment plot is probably one of the more exciting tasks you get to do as an allotmenteer. Gone are all the tedious hard work of digging over your plot in preparation for the coming years crop and making plans where to plant them.

In the good old days you’d go to the garden center, a DIY store or even a supermarket at this point, but these days there’s a new option to go with! You can now buy your seeds online, straight from your favorite seed merchant.

Buying seeds online is easy, convenient and time-saving (for some of us anyway). In just a few seconds you get the entire catalogue from your favorite seed merchant up on the screen in front of you, and perhaps this is the number one reason for ordering your seeds off the internet.

In comparison to the high street shops, where you’ll only find the mainstream crops, you can get every variety you can imagine online. Have you ever seen “Broad Bean Red Epicure” seeds in the shops? No? Well - you’ll get them online - along with a great selection other fruits and vegetables, not to forget bulbs, flowers, herbs and allotment “hardware” such as nettings, cloches, plant supports, watering systems etc., all in one place.

I have bought my seeds and plants online over the past few years, and there’s no way I would do it any different this year. Here at Allotmenteer.co.uk we recommend the following online seed merchants: Dobies, Suttons and Unwins Seeds. All these seed merchants are main players in the UK market, they have been supplying allotment plotholders with seeds for years, and all of them are known for outstanding customer service.

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New Seed Merchant.

March 19th, 2008 by Karsten

Today has seen a new online seed merchant added to Allotmenteer.co.uk.

In saying “new” - Unwins Seeds is not a new player in the market - just another option to shop for seeds, bulbs and plants for your plot from this site. In fact, Unwins Seeds is a major player on the UK market, so if you have previously bought your seeds from places like Tesco and B&Q, chances are that you’ve bought from Unwins.

Their online store at Unwins.co.uk offer seeds of all kinds and varieties, but it doesn’t stop there! If you prefer to buy your vegetables ready to plant out, if you’d like to grow all kinds of fruits, or if you’d like to get a seed collection for your kids (highly recommended - they love it), Unwins will cater for those needs as well.

To visit their store, click one of the links in this post, or the banner in the meny to the right.

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Back to work

February 16th, 2008 by Karsten

Winter is losing its grip, and today I went back to my plot for the first time in nearly 3 months. I really enjoyed being back, as did my 4-year old son, but boy did I feel out of shape at the end of the day? My goodness - if I am to achieve anything of what I want this season - I’ve got to kick it into a higher gear!

In saying that though, this year I have invited one of my friends on to the plot with me, and he was there with me some of the time today. I’ve done this mainly for 2 reasons. First of all, there’s just no way that I’ll be able to manage the plot on my own this year, so I thought it would be an idea to invite someone in to share the benefits that can be had from the plot as well. Secondly - it’s amazing what you can accomplish when you work with someone else - rather than on your own.

Between us we managed to pick up well over a ton of horse manure from the local riding school, transporting it onto the plot, and digging just over half of it in. We used my “Cheat version” of the double digging method, but as well this year I’m planning to spread a layer of manure on the top soil, before the whole plot gets turned over with a rotovator.

As far as I’m concerned, you can’t dig in too much organic matter of this kind. It would be different with stronger types of manure, like cow/pig/chicken manure, but horse manure is quite mild - and excellent to get some air into the soil. I’m hoping to see some results of my hard work last season, digging in tonnes of manure, in terms of an improved soil structure as well as a sharply increased amount of earthworms to help me do some of the hard work.

Talking of worms - I cant remember if I mentioned this before - but all the worms in my wormery was wiped out last year because of all the rain. This year I’m going to start all over again - and we may even start a proper wormery on the site - because we have found out that it can help us with composting, while it can raise some funds to improve things on our site. I’ll keep you all updated on that one.

Other than that I’ve got nothing much to say today. I promise updates to the site will start to become more regular, as I get the time I need to build it, and I’ve got something worthwhile to tell you about.

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This Time It’s For Real

January 2nd, 2008 by Karsten

Just wanted to pop in and say Happy New Year to everyone visiting Allotmenteer.co.uk.

Although it may not look like it at the moment - I’m still here - and my plans for the site hasn’t changed. I’m just tangled up in other projects right now - but rest assured that things are going to happen here in 2008.

Thanks for visiting - I hope you found some of what you came for - and that you’ll be back soon.

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Happy New Year!

October 16th, 2007 by Karsten

I hear you say “What?”. By now you probably think “This guy is off his head! Isn’t he 2½ months ahead of time?”

Well - no I’m not! In fact I’m 2 weeks late - because I’m talking about the gardeners’ and allotmenteers’ New Year - October 1st. This date is among gardeners reconed as the start of a new season - we can take stock of the season behind us - and start looking forward to a new season with everything that brings with it.

You may well have noticed that not a lot has been happening on Allotmenteer.co.uk these past few months. Those were the months where I should have told you all about my crops - rejoyced in the fruits of my hard labour - and showed off what was happening on my plot during summer!

Problem is - I’ve had nothing to show for all my hard work! As I’m sure most of you guys would agree - the “summer” just gone has been nothing less than an absolute disaster - and my allotment plot has been no exception! This doesn’t mean that my labour has been in vain - I’m sure all my digging over and incorporating truckloads of organic matter to my plot will pay off in seasons to come - but this year has been a massive let down.

My main crop this year was potatoes! They were doing fine up until the last week in July, and as you can see in my previous article I was still optimistic at that point, still digging and planting (hoping to get a good yield at the end of september), and hoping for better weather to come round. At that point most of my potato plants looked as if they were doing just fine - with exception of a few plants that I thought had been subject to slug attacks.

One week later all my potatoes were gone! Dead! Obliterated by blight - not slugs - and all my tomato plants followed suit! There has been two successful crops on my plot this year! My Squash (marrow) plants gave me a few fruits - nothing like they would have with better weather - and my son’s sunflowers excelled! That’s it! Everything else ended up absolutely useless!

Not that it was any consolation to me - and then in a way it was - I visited my college tutor and his 2 colleagues in the walled garden at Croxteth Park, Liverpool. Their vegetable garden didn’t look any better at all - and between them - these guys have got more than a 100 years experience growing vegetables, fruits and ornamentals. I guess it isn’t just me who was hit hard then!

Now - obviously - this has hit allotmenteer.co.uk quite hard as well. Not that I wanted it to - but with the summer we’ve had - I turned my attention to other projects. At a later point I’ll tell you more about what I’ve been doing - although it has nothing to do with allotmenteering - but I need to see it work first.

I will get back to updating this website more regularly, putting new information on it that will benefit allotment plotholders, but for the time being I have to keep my focus on other things - including getting my plot ready for next season. As previously announced I’m also expecting an addition to my family in about 5 weeks time - and those of you knowing what having a baby in the house means - will know why my postings will remain erratic for some time.

This is just to keep you updated on the goings on around here. Please bear with me - this website is not dead - just in a bit of a slumber. I still intend on making it the place to come for allotment plotholders and vegetable growers worldwide.

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Another month flies by…

July 31st, 2007 by Karsten

Whoaa - another month gone soon - and what a month it has been! I suspect it won’t be remembered for a lot of good things by allotmenteers in the UK at least - but apparantly there’s hope for the month of august.

What am I talking about? Well - July 2007 (not to mention June!) has been the month(s) when we have had the most rain in the UK since they started recording in 1914! In some areas the rainfall has been more than 3 times the average level, meaning severe floods in several places across the country.

Trust me to do a series of articles on watering in the midst of it all :-) . Never mind - they will probably come to good use in years to come - in fact they have helped some people out already! I must have readers from outside of the UK then :-)

The month of August is set to be quite different! I heard a guy from the MET-office use words like heatwave, mediterranean weather and blistering heat on the radio last week. Even though those guys don’t always get it right - there’s still hope!

So what has been happening on my plot then? For the time of the year - not a lot! Under the given circumstances - quite a bit! Most of it is my continued efforts to get the whole plot dug over, using my “cheat version” of the double digging technique.

As I go along I put in some plants that I still hope is going to give me a yield - for instance some of the seed potatoes I never put in in the spring - and so far they seem to do just fine. In saying that though - some of them seem to be withering away when they first get a hold - and I’m not quite sure why it is. I suspect it’s to do with my enemy number one - SLUGS! They have been everywhere this summer! I am, however, going to get one over them next year with my secret natural weapon (I hope) - so watch this space!

Last thing to report for now - my sons sunflowers! Remember I told you about my little helper? Well - he has about 30 Russian Giant sunflowers growing at the back end of my plot - and what a sight they are! He’s so proud of them, and asks me to go “to daddys lotment” nearly every day, which is great - just what I wanted! If anyone tells you that you can grow them without supports though - you can - but in a sheltered position! Some of ours are quite wonky - but my son still loves them all the same - and rightfully so.

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Wise watering: Make the most of your water

July 1st, 2007 by Karsten

While watering your plants, there’s a few things worthwhile to consider, to make your work more effective. Many people tends to go berserk in their watering efforts, and water their plots several times a day, which is totally unnecessary.

Here’s a few tips to help you make the most of your watering efforts:

  • In most cases, it’s better to give your plants a good long soak 1-2 times a week, rather than a bit of water every day. This is particularly true for more established plants and fruit bushes.
  • Use common sense. Newly planted plants and young plants needs more water than established plants, because their root systems has not yet developed enough to be able to soak up as much water.
  • Direct the water to where it’s needed - the roots of your plants! Using a watering can or a jet attachment on your hosepipe is the best options, while sprinklers shouldn’t be used at all. Yes - they make light work of watering - but also they waste a lot of water.
  • If you buy in plants in pots (for example tomatoes), dig in the empty pot next to the plant and put the water in the pot, in order to direct the water to the roots. By watering this way you beat evaporation. Also - cutting out the bottom of plastic bottles - and digging them in next to your plants upside down will do the trick.
  • Focus your watering efforts on the plants that needs it the most - particularly when they are flowering and fruiting.
  • Above all - do your watering early in the morning if you can. I know this is tricky for many working allotmenteers. Alternatively, water in the evening. Never let the sun burn away your water by watering in the mid-day hours.

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Wise watering: Beat the drought

June 30th, 2007 by Karsten

There’s a good few things you can do before a drought sets in, to conserve water on your plot, and make your watering efforts last for longer.

The following 4 tips, 2 of which takes place in the preparation stages, will all help your plants to draw up more water.

Digging

The benefits of digging over you plot has been emphasised frequently here on Allotmenteer.co.uk. It breaks up the hard lumps in the soil, and so allows the roots of your plants to penetrate deeper into the ground. While the top 2 inches of soil gets dry and hot, usually the lower layers will remain cool and moist, so your plants will benefit being able to “tap into” this ressource.

Adding Organic Matter

This is one of the best ways to conserve water. While digging over your plot, adding garden compost, well rotted manure and other degradable organic matter will help to hold on to moisture. As you know I myself have dug in tonnes if manure over the past months - and it shows!

Weeding

Never forget that weeds need both water and nutrients too! Don’t leave them in to steal any available moisture that rightfully belongs to your plants. You should be weeding your crops regularly - always keeping the hoe within reach. You’ll be surprised what 10 minutes of weeding a day can do. I do this while waiting for my water butt to fill up.

Mulching

Mulching around established plants is a very good idea. It helps to contain the water, keep down weeds and add nutrients to the soil. Use garden compost, wormcastings if you’ve got a wormery, leafmould, manure or even woodchippings (this is better round fruit bushes). Never do mulching on dry ground - but wait till after it’s been raining or you’ve finished watering. Mulching dry ground is pointless.

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