Thursday 27 December 2012

Google for Plants

As I start to think seriously about the various seeds I'll need to get for the allotment, the idea of a "Google for Plants" popped into my head.

A proper "Google for Plants" would be simple unified search tool for plants, that included the ability to search by, and a designed form for results for:

* a full description
* a full range of images of different growth stages, from seed to old plant
* where to buy seeds, and/or the plants themselves
* recipes for the plant
* cultural and medicinal use
* economic uses
* folklore and stories
* history (heritage and extinct varieties)
* interactive maps of geographic distribution
* pop-out boxes for related pests, with images
* links to recent news that names the plant
* links to academic papers about the plant

All in a single handy Google Search -like interface. As far as I can tell that doesn't currently exist. There are of course conventional encyclopedias of plants, such as the Gardenonology wikipedia. While usefully free, Gardenonology does seem to be limited to mimicking an old-fashioned paper encyclopedia.

Monday 24 December 2012

Rain, rain...

I was planning to go up to the allotment today, to get the digging finished before Christmas. But "the wall of rain" that is the weather forecast seems to have put paid to that plan. Oh well, the new plan is have it "done by New Year's Day".

Tuesday 18 December 2012

23rd day on the plot

Weather: 5 degrees, a light NW breeze stiffening after 12 noon. Cloud, with glimpses blue sky trying to break through.

More digging and weeding, to the point where I should have the middle section finished by Christmas...

Also hoed everywhere. The few remaining weeds obviously didn't die of frost, even after several days of brick-hard soil at -4. The hoe also usefully served to break up any rain-compacting soil.

I also pruned the small oak sapling, trying for a nicer shape than the distorted shape which it was forced into when being swamped by brambles.

Sunday 16 December 2012

22nd day on the plot

Weather: A pleasant sunny day, with the valley's heavy fog burning off by 11.30am. 6 degrees.

Two hours at the plot in the sunny weather, and I'm starting to make progress on the middle section. Another couple of days of digging and it should be basically cleared of weeds. I took the main grass clumps out, then started in on the lower part. The frost had done half my work for me and the weeds came out very nicely...

My occasional pigeon visitor is deceased. I found a scattering of feathers across the middle plot...

The allotments committee president actually saw one of three local hawks rocket over the roofs and swoop down on the hapless pigeon a few days ago. Whatever it was that was so mysteriously attractive about the middle bit of my plot has proved fatal.

I was also kindly shown the site's bubbling spring, which comes up in a little nook that's crying out for a "spring dressing" — like the May-time well dressings that still happen in profusion every year in the nearby Staffordshire Moorlands and the Peak District.

Another six sacks of bark chippings on the path and around the shed, to prevent things getting too weedy/muddy.

Saturday 15 December 2012

December 2012 newsletter

The December newsletter is here. Thanks to Ben for his hard work on this and on the website!

Tuesday 11 December 2012

21st day on the plot

Weather: sunny with clear skies, no wind. But iron-hard frosty soil. Likely to be another hard frost tonight under the clear skies.

A quick walk up to the plot this afternoon, as an adjunct to a trip into Stoke town. I thought the sun might have been softened off the frost enough for a little digging and weeding, but found the ground frozen rock-hard with frost. Obviously the sun had had no effect at all...

Looks like we're in for a solid -2 and -3 degrees, right through Wednesday and into Thursday evening. Die weeds, die...! :)

Still, I was able to have a mooch and a sit, noticing various things that I wouldn't normally amid a session of digging. There's a seed propagator at the side of the shed that needs cleaning out at some point. Also a small hanging basket, which I might be able to put on the north side of the shed + rig up with a drip feed — so that it doesn't need to be watered every day.

I also took a better look at the shed roof. It doesn't need a complete re-roofing, just a few 3ft offcut strips of roofing felt to cover the cracks.

Saturday 8 December 2012

20th day on the plot

Weather: a cold bright sunny day with a light wind. Warming from zero to 2 to 3 degrees.

A chilly early morning start, with the sun only really coming onto lower half of the plot and softening the ground at about 10:00am. Lots of birds were around in the early part of the day: several blackbirds, a curious robin, and some swoops of green-finches, all flitting about the sheds and poles. Similar weather to a few days ago, when I tried a quick visit for an hour, but without the ferocious North wind.

I've now managed to get to the half-way point on weeding the middle plot, so hopefully by Christmas I might have the two main plots weeded out and dug over.

Wednesday 5 December 2012

18th day on the plot

Weather: 2 degrees and a very cold north wind. Bright clear sun after a cold night frost. Ice on the lower parts of the plot by the shed.

A quick visit to the plot today, for an hour in between the various icy stormfronts. I'd anticipated the cold with layers and thermals, but it was still a bit nippy. But I hoed, dug out a few more weeds, and battened down a plastic ground sheet that was threatening to start blowing around.

It seems that the new giant compost hopper isn't likely now to go on the site of my shed (there was a possibility of that), although that needs to be confirmed.

I also found I was digging out a few more potatoes. Not many, but enough to pad out a pan of curry.

Monday 3 December 2012

London Road Bakehouse on TV

Just down the hill in Stoke town, an independent local bakery, the London Rd. Bakehouse, is set to star in a new ITV show...

Love the cap!