Friday 31 May 2013

Weedol wonders

Weather: perfect day. Warm sun, but with a cooling wind. 18-21 degrees. Forecast fine for the next week.

Up to the allotment, past the Stoke-on-Trent City Council Civic Centre. Strangely very quiet at the Civic Centre, and no sign of the usual Council lot in Sainsbury's. I suspect that the combination of the half-term school holidays, a Friday, and the fine weather have combined to give a 90% "Out of Office" / sickie rate. Almost no-one on the allotments, either.

The apple tree has shed all its blossom, and I can only hope it's been pollinated. There haven't been many early bees around this year. A bluetit was showing her babies how to fly, from branch to branch in the apple tree.

The 31st May was the date I set for the Weedol to take effect, and it more or less has. Although one tough dock looks untouched. So here's a "real-world" test for an application of one litre of standard Weedol, after 17 days, on couch grass, buttercups, and assorted other weedies. You can see the contrast with the verdant grass above, and the sprayed square...

I'm still going to dig out this third section of my plot, and have made a start on that today, but will now live in hope that most of the roots left in the ground will be effectively dead.

Broad beans, potatoes, onions, garlic, all coming through nicely. Gooseberries forming on the largest gooseberry bush already, and no sign of any sawfly yet on any of them.

Here's the little walled section I dug out. I think it deserves something a touch more expensive than courgettes. A lot of strawberries in here, perhaps...

Herbs coming on nicely. I need to get something more to continue the "herb row" along the wall. I planted some seeds which I hoped would come up, further along the wall — but they're not doing anything yet.

Looks like I might have to get a strimmer on the top 'wild' section sometime in June.

Tuesday 28 May 2013

New Hartshill heritage trail

A new heritage trail leaflet has been launched for Hartshill...

"The trail was designed by Jordan White, a final year student in Geography at Staffordshire University. He has produced an A3 leaflet describing the heritage of Hartshill and detailing an hour long walk around the area. The trail is 2.5 miles long and covers the broad history of Hartshill."

Pictures of the leaflet, but sadly no PDF copy online so far.

Monday 27 May 2013

Rank holiday

Weather: sunny and bright, light wind, 9-10 degrees.

Up to the allotment for three hours in the nice bright sunshine of the early hours of Bank Holiday Monday. The top section getting very rank now, but the rhubarb and currants there seem to be coping. I pulled some rhubarb, which is now looking as though it might win the battle with the surrounding grass if treated right. There's a nice foxglove coming through at the base of the apple tree, and the tree is scattering blossom with every wind gust.

The currants and the gooseberries are looking healthy. I think there may even be a line of gooseberries forming on one of the more vigorous bushes. Maybe the cold and gusty start to the summer has kept the gooseberry sawfly away.

I did a total hoe of my two growing sections.

I weeded and de-crapped my little square brick-raised bed, previously growing only bin-bags, leaving it as a nice fine tilthed seedbed. Not sure what'd going to go in there, yet. Maybe a courgette, but it seems a bit of a waste when something more exotic might benefit from the shelter and the "heat-island" effect.

At home, my little courgette seedlings are coming up on a south-facing window. The strongest of them should probably be ready for planting out in a few weeks...

The weedkiller-ed top bit of my allotment is definitely seeing the grass dying back and yellowing off, but it looks as though it may still need another litre of Weedol laying down on it the next time there's little or no wind. Some of the plants are obviously not succumbing. I'll have to see if Tesco still have any Weedol at the £3-a-bottle offer.

The broad beans and potatoes are coming through nicely, with only one or two "no-show" gaps in the lines.

Sunday 19 May 2013

Sunny Sunday

Weather: fine and warm, sunny and slightly humid after all the rain. Wind picking up through the morning, high sparse cloud flitting over. 8 degrees rising to 14 degrees.

A lovely early Sunday morning. The apple tree now in full blossom after the thorough soaking of the ground...

The little oak at the top of the plot also coming into leaf nicely...

I did a full hoe of the plot, the hoe edge going nicely through the thoroughly damp soil. The potatoes are starting to come through, hurrah!

I transplanted the sorriest-looking rhubarb down to a corner of the bottom plot, in the hope that in time it'll thrive there. If not, not much lost.

The big "third section" patch I weedkiller-ed five days ago has started to look patchily yellow, but there are no signs of serious die-back yet. But the process takes two or more weeks, so there's time yet. 31st May is the die-back target.

I covered the broad bean rows with some basic netting that I hauled out the shed, as the tips should be coming through soon — and I want to dissuade the pigeons from pulling them out. I think I've got some stiff hoops somewhere in the shed, so as the beans grow I may have to try making a netting tunnel.

I cleared out the bottom brick-square "seed bed", and did a basic weeding of what had remained lurking under the black plastic. Namely, four giant albino dandelions with tap-roots like sausages. I forked it over, but a fine-grained weed picking will have to wait for the next visit.

Got some pots and planted up half my courgette seeds at home.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

London Rd Festival, Stoke town

Massive London Road Festival coming up soon, in the town below my allotment. It's an independent community-organised festival, with a heavy arts component...

Sun 'n spray

Weather: fine and dry after a week of heavy showers. Warm in the morning sun. SW breeze.

Up to the allotment, after being kept away by a week of heavy showers and high winds. The thoroughly saturating rain has brought the apple tree's blossom out, and made the "jungle" bit at the top look scarily verdant. So much so that I fear that the poor ol' rhubarb is going to get swamped. I might have to look at transplanting some of the rhubarb down into a lower open section.

I took advantage of a dry patch in the weather, and the relatively low wind speed, to get Roundup weedkiller onto the couch grass on my third section. With hopefully five dry hours for the plants to absorb it, before yet another wave of rain hits it. I emptied a litre on it, which was the last bottle on the shelf in an excellent half-price offer at Tesco. Got to be worth a try, for just £3. Apparently it takes 2-3 weeks to do its deadly work in gumming up the roots. But... it is mostly couch grass, so if nothing has happened by 31st May then I'll dose it with proper "ultrakiller" Roundup Ultra 3000.

Next door has put up a new low plank fence, which will usefully protect the top of my plot from the north wind. Not sure if he's going to go all the way down with it, or not.

Hoed out all the microscopic weed seedlings that the rain has brought up. Blackbirds and sparrows flitting about, coming very close.

The garlic is coming through nicely, but still no sign of the potatoes or broad beans. Gooseberries, chives, and lemon balm doing well...

I want to get courgettes and perhaps a few short lines of lettuce in, to complete the planting on the lower sections. But judging by this morning's temperature, and the brisk wind this week, it's really still too cold for them.

Sunday 12 May 2013


Now that's what I'd call rhubarb! Got to get me some seeds for those. Picture: Stoke town artist and allotmenteer Kate Lynch explores an especially lively bit of Cheshire...

Wednesday 8 May 2013


Weather: last of the hot sunny spring days before a week of showery rain rolls in. 25 degrees at 6 o'clock, lessening to 19 degrees by nine o'clock in the evening.

Up to the plot for a pleasant evening yesterday. I cut back, to the roots, all of the emerging bramble suckers up in the 'wild' top section. They'll come again I know, but at least they won't get a head start re: swamping the rhubarb / fruit bushes / oak sapling as they had done when I took over my plot.

I got my "too weedkiller" section marked out with bamboo pegs and coloured string. I now just need to wait until this showery weather passes. It needs a day when the weedkiller can be applied without it being washed off in a heavy shower, before it can do its deadly work.

The first leaves and flower buds are out on the apple tree...

And the chives that Gareth gave me are looking as though they may pop flowers any day now...

Planted two rows of microscopic herb seeds against the south-facing wall, and pegged the lines with string.

Some of the garlic lines I planted a week or so ago have shoots showing along them. Not much sign of the potatoes emerging yet, but judging from adjacent plots that's normal — since they have nothing showing on their potato ridges either.

Pulled more rhubarb! Yum. Gotta luv the antioxidants...

Sunday 5 May 2013

Multi-level pond

Excellent DIY multi-level pond, made out of simple wood and cheap plastic (replacable) containers. Seen at the Bird Yarden at AirSpace gallery in Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent...

Saturday 4 May 2013

Beans meanz greenz

Weather: 12 degrees, another sunny day. Ground quite dry.

Up to the plot, after a week or so away. It was not the forest of dandelions and weed seedlings I though it would be. I think the weeds must be being kept down by the sparse rain.

Both sections of my plot had a thorough hoe-ing, to keep future weeds down.

I put a whole lot of fresh woodchip down, everywhere where it was needed.

Moved a few of the "weed bags" (winter weeds being left to rot down for two years in bin-bags) up to behind the compost heap. It's surprising how much they're "reducing down" in size already.

Planted four lines of broad beans ('The Sutton'), in the dusk after the bean-hungry pigeons had (I hope) gone home to roost for the night.

Filled up the water barrel, and watered the lower sections of the plot. I'm still on the lookout for a decent thin watering can.

I think it's now about the right time to get the super-powerful weedkiller on the couch grass in the upper sections, as its fresh leaves are coming up.