My Plot

Plot 46, Burnside Allotments, Cambridge

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Rhubarb rhubarb...

I could not go to the plot this morning as I was out, but decided to go at lunchtime thinking that I might be able to catch a little of the sunny weather - well of course it started sitting as soon as I left the house! Carried on anyway. The site was pretty much deserted, but when I took Buddy for a walk round the site I bumped into Dominic & Andy, started chatting about their new plot, which they are making great progress with. and was offered two Rhubarb plants that they did not want - they have loads at the other end of their plot. This was a result and I hot footed it back to mine to collect the wheelbarrow & a spade and here it is....
I was then left with dilemma of where to put it......Of course that required a complete rearrangement of the area in front of the shed, so now the plan is to move the muck area to the bottom of the plot where the compost area is and make a long bed for the rhubarb. The bed that you can see will eventually be the same length again and there will be an arch way between the two front beds, making a nice entrance to the plot. Of course, this will also need me to change the entrance to the greenhouse, which will consist of me taking both ends out and switching them round, so that the shed and the greenhouse are accessible from the same path.
Once I had split the rhubarb I ended up with 10 plants, so there will be 9 in the long bed and the other one I have planted into the other rhubarb bed to replace the one that was dug up.
When I got home I decided to have a go at making spiced apple wine. First assemble all ingredients.....
Then plonk into a sterilised bucket with pectolase, leave for 24 hours, add yeast & nutrient, cover & leave in airing cupboard, stirring daily for 5 days....
This smells gorgeous! Mmmmmm
I also strained the elderflower wine into a demi-john, which is now fizzing away nicely.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

a little while later......

Sun was shining so off to the plot I went. Started digging over the second long bed. This had been covered in plastic so it was dry enough to dig. The soil was pretty compacted though and I managed about 1/4 before my back had had enough.
Dug up last gooseberry bush (I thought) but found the stumps of one that I had inadvertently strimmed. On closer inspection I saw that it had started to sprout again so dug that one up also. Potted up both of them & they are now in the greenhouse. I now have 6 gooseberry bushes, 1 redcurrant & 1 blackcurrant. I also sowed some carrot (Paris Market) into a tray for hopefully early carrots.
Once I had finished that I pricked out the lettuce (little gem) into modules, and sowed some more into a tray.
The first batch of broad beans I sowed into loo rolls are starting to germinate.
All the seedlings in my greenhouse looking perky!
Coffee break..... it's a dogs life!
I have not had flowers on the plot before, but I have decided to put in a flower bed at the front, The edges are in & I have laid cardboard on the base. I will add topsoil & council compost when I have collected it.
View down the plot
I met some more new people at the site today, one of whom (Lois) lives just round the corner to me - I realised that I had only just picked up some 'freecycle' root trainers from her the day before.

Now where are my glasses?

All is not lost on the wine front, re-took the specific gravity of my elderflower wine & Hazel (at the Hill) came to my rescue showing me the error of my ways - It was my inability to read the hydrometer correctly that had caused the problem - it was not a faulty hydrometer after all......

The SG of the wine is 1.126 and it is fizzing away nicely!

Might just tell a white lie to the shopkeeper rather than expose my complete incompetence when I take back the replacement hydrometer that I bought this morning!

On a good note - I found some bungs on the internet that are for the plastic type of demi-john, so took a gamble and ordered 4 at 48p each & the postage was 1.90. I also got 4 one gallon bottles of water from ASDA at 95p each. The bungs arrived this morning & they fit perfectly, so this means that I have got 4 plastic demi-johns for 1.90 each. The cheapest I found them for on the interweb is 3.55 including p&p so I think this is a bargain!

I have also worked out that if I bought 10 bungs (7.30 inc p&p) plus 10 one gallon water bottles (9.50) then each demi-john would be 1.68 - even better still! because the p&p does not rise drastically for lots more bungs. The cheapest you could get 10 for on the internet is 2.57 each.

Specific Gravity & yeast

When I measured the specific gravity of my fledgling wine last night it was 1.021, I took it this morning again and it seems even lower (which is what I would expect) but the reading is nowhere near what it should be - Is that because I have not put in enough sugar or have I done something wrong?
These are photos of the hydrometer
and this is the yeast I used - perhaps it is the wrong sort, but it was the only one available in Wilkinsons, however, a trip to Cutlack's showed me that there was what looked like ordinary dried yeast also available - I am now thinking that I have got the wrong sort.
I might need another trip to Cutlacks to get the right sort of yeast.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Elderflower wine - first attempt

It was raining loads today and was wondering what to do & then the post man arrived - through my letter box dropped a parcel - I only ordered the elderflowers yesterday & they arrived today - what fab service!
Well of course I had to get on with some elderflower wine!
This is what I did today:

Sterilised all the equipment I was going to use.
Weighed out the elderflowers (25grammes for 1 gallon of wine) & put them into the fermenting bucket.
Then to that I added a small can of grape concentrate.

Plus 3 pounds of sugar.
Added the zest of 2 lemons and boiling water up to the gallon mark on the bucket.
Gave it a good stir until all the sugar had dissolved.
Left it to cool (& made dinner - vegetable lasagne for daughter & beef lasagne for rest of us)
When the concoction was blood heat I then added lemon juice, a table spoon of strong tea, yeast nutrient, gave it a stir & then added the yeast, gave it another stir, took the specific gravity (1.021), popped the lid on & sat it by the radiator. I have no idea what the SG is meant to be and I averaged out the amount of sugar that the recipes used - they ranged from 2 1/4 to 3 1/2 pounds in the recipes that I have.

I have got 4 different recipes for elderflower wine, so have sort of guestimated & amalgamated them & therefore this wine is a bit trial and error!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's my birthday!

Well today I have reached the ripe old age of 21 again! and look at the fabulous bunch of flowers that my son gave me.....Thank you Francis!
Spent the morning looking at home brew recipes and then set off in search of equipment, Initially went to the local hardwear shop which had everything you could have wanted, but it was very expensive, so took a trip over to Ely, where the nearest Wilkinson's is, to see what they had.
Came away with some seeds (Runner bean- Bunyards Exhibition, Climbing french bean - Blue lake, Carrott - Paris Market, Beetroot - Boltardy, some more sweet peas & some stocks) & more greenhouse most of the equipment I needed to start making my own wine.
I had hoped to get a beginners kit, but they did not have any, so got all the component parts and then returned to Cutlack's to get the siphon hose, smaller bucket (Wilko's only had ginormous ones) and a hose clippy thing to make it easier when siphoning. Cutlack's will be great to replace things when I run out, but for the initial buying of the equipment it made sense to further afield. Unfortunately they had run out of dried elder flowers & will not have any in until next week. Also scouted round the charity shops to see if any of them had any demi johns......there were none to be had, so as I have not had any replies from freecycle, I might resort to large water bottles courtesy of Tesco's but I don't need them imediately.

Impatient as I am - I hot footed it home to order some dried elderflowers on line, and now I must wait until they arrive - might get on with sterilising equipment..........

Monday, February 21, 2011

Plotting again!

I am on annual leave this week and because the weather has been so grotty & I have also been feeling grotty, today I have been forced into watching TV, reading books and browsing the internet - It's a hard life! - The trouble with this is that my mind goes into overdrive & I start planning all the other things that I would like to do - Then my husband starts groaning!

I fancy the idea of having some bees on the plot, thinking that my new orchard would be a great place for them to sit.......Might have to think again as it might be difficult to steer clear of the hives on just one plot. I think I will need to find out a bit more before any decisions are made.

I have been reading Hazel's Blog & she has been making all sorts of wine - This is something else I fancy having a go at. There does not seem to be a home brew shop in Cambridge - too full of designer clothes shops! But there is a great hardware shop nearby so I am off there tomorrow to see if they keep items for brewing your own. I am also going to see if I can get some home brew items from Freecycle.

Best laid plans....

I heard from the Allotment Sec today - apparently the bottom half of the next door plot has already been offered to someone who particularly wants a plot at our end of the site so I can't have it for an orchard.........Oh well - back to plan A then....

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Updated Blog

Introducing the updated blog - I went through all the links and took out all the out of date blogs, those that had not been updated in ages have been replaced with links to those blogs I look at. Hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Greenhouse weather

Nasty wet horrid day today & I am definitely feeling grotty, managed to prise myself out of bed, after spending most of the morning browsing the internet, looking at other people's blogs, some of which I have not seen before.
I had eventually had enough of vegetating & went of to the plot planning to build a new compost bin. First I transplanted the final tray of onions into modules and potted up the shallots I bought from poundland.
I am not sure I have potted up the shallots correctly, but some of them were looking a bit iffy, and out of 2 bags of shallots I only got 20 that were ok to plant.
I noticed that something is definitely munching my rhubarb, so I have put mesh round them to prevent them being nibbled. There were 4 plants but one got dug up by an animal. The two neares are the best plants, but I thought I would protect the other one to see if it recovers.
I am planning to put a poly tunnel and fruit at the bottom of my plot, but then my imagination went wild and wandered what I could do with an extra half plot. I am not sure if the half plot next to mine has been taken, but I e-mailed the secretary and am waiting for a reply.
My plan would be to put fruit trees on this plot and keep the poly tunnel and fruit bushes on the bottom of my plot. Fruit is always so expensive to buy, so it makes sense to grow more of it.
The plot is covered in brambles and has not been touched in ages, so will need some clearing, but at least under the brambles there will not be much else.
After using up all that energy sowing & planning, I did not get round to building the compost bin....oh well there will be another day!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Roots - the remake

I think I am coming down with a cold as I feel absolutely awful, but I made my self go to the plot today as I think this will be the last fine day we have for a while, as the forecast is for rain for the next few days. I managed to finish the second bed for strawberries, taking out a load more couch grass roots. There were 8 buckets like the one below full of roots from this bed, compared to 3 from the other strawberry bed & it was much harder work!
I put the last of the manure onto the beds, and now they are ready to be planted up.
I now have 5 of my long beds left to dig.
I also had a bit of a rearrange of my shed, which is now better organised and it is easier to get at things, it also means that there is more space to sit and have a cuppa!
And from the other angle - you can see my refreshment preparation area - Vitally important!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dig that!

Today, although much colder than last week, after a murky start, turned into a lovely sunny day. So I donned the wellies & headed off to the plot, laden with my camping stove that I had unearthed from the camper, replenished stocks of tea, coffee & biscuits and my freshly scrubbed out kettle.
I used to have the stove at the plot, but took it home to use when camping, and have since taken a flask with me, but last week I heard my plot neighbour's kettle whistling, which reignited my pleasure for making coffee & tea in my shed. The great advantage of this is you can always make cups of tea for allotment friends & neighbours, which is a great way of getting to know people & improving the community atmosphere, which our site could do with.
So tea making facilities installed, I got on with the main task of the day, which was to dig the next bed. Again this bed had been covered for over a year and all the grass had died off. The only thing with this one is that I don't think I weed killed before I covered it with cardboard then compost & black plastic & the couch grass roots were rampant, although fairly near the surface, whereas the previous bed had far fewer roots left. This is as far as I got, as I was trying to be careful about taking as many of the roots out as I could.
I was going to use this bed as a salad bed & nursery bed, but I am now thinking of putting more strawberries in here instead & intercropping the other main beds with salads etc. I start most thing off in pots & modules, so the need for a nursery bed is minimal. Once I have finished digging it I will put some more compost & manure in & plant up with strawberries.
My garlic plants seem to be doing well. They have grown loads since I planted them out, They have had a fleece shelter but I have now opened the ends up to harden them off more.
The Rubarb I bought from the garden centre, which was already potted up appears to have taken and is now putting out shoots.
As you can see, the sweet peas have now started to send out shoots from lower down the stems, which was the reason for pinching out the growing tips - I like it when a plan actually works!
The lettuce seedings I have had in the greenhouse are coming along and I will transplant them soon into a bigger tray - to carry on growing as indoor plants.
The broad beans I sowed in december are finally showing their faces - there are a few gaps, but I have some I sowed indoors that hopefully I will be able to slot in once they have germinated.
This is the other rhubarb plant that I bought. These plants were already potted up when I bought them, however I also bought 2 that were roots in bags & neither of these have done very well at all. In fact both went squishy, then they seemed to recover & I planted them out, and now they look very sorry for themselves. One has been dug up by something - probably the fox, and the rhubarb plants both looked chewed, strange that they went for the plants that came in bags rather than the ones that came in pots, which have not been disturbed at all.

Friday, February 11, 2011

A nice day at last!

After the lovely day we had on Tuesday, I was so disappointed when I saw that it was miserable on Wednesday. By lunchtime though the sun had managed to break through so off I toddled to the plot, with dog & waste veg in hand. I had only intended to take the dog for a walk & put the veg waste into the compost, however once I got there it was so nice I decided to stay. I added the veg wast to the compost heap, checked the beans & garlic - both growing nicely. The leeks & onions look slightly better & the sweet peas seem to be sprouting from lower down the stems.

I then started digging what will be the strawberry bed. It was fairly dry as it had been covered up and I only managed to dig out 3 buckets of bind weed & cough grass roots, and most of these were fairly near the surface. All I need to do with this bed is put in some manure & compost, then I will plant through some sort of mulch - Just need to buy the strawberries.

Plotting on

These are the leeks and onions I sowed and germinated on the windowsill at home. They need potting up so that is what I got on with today.

In the picture above they look quite perky, however once I had transplanted them they looked decidedly bedraggled - hopefully they will perk up a bit!

I planted up the rhubarb that I bought a few weeks ago. One of the plants was looking a bit dodgy in that it was a bit slimy on top, pulled off the slimy bits & found a decent bud so hopefully it will be ok.

Sweet peas - all a bit leggy but I have pinched out the tops and apparently if you do that then they bush out a bit more.
These are the fruit bushes I bought from homebase - 3 for 10 pounds
one red gooseberry, 1 redcurrant and one blackcurrant. I potted them up because I will not be able to plant them out for a while as I need to get the ground rotorvated first.

Wednesday, February 09, 2011


Moved the wood pile from in front of the greenhouse, burnt the rubbishy wood and have put the rest down at the bottom of the plot, then strimmed around it so it all looks nice & neat.

I have been strimming the long grass and look at the difference it has made!

This picture shows the bottom of the plot after I had removed the majority of the brambles & roots, but.......
This picture shows the bottom of the plot after I removed the old bushes and transplanted the ones that I wanted to save and then strimmed all the long grass. It looks so much tidier and much bigger than I thought... The only thing is that I can now see very clearly that the ground is so uneven that only a rotorvator will do the trick.

Next jobs are to transplant the last gooseberry bush, dig out the few remaining bramble roots and then rotorvate.

As my plans are to put fruit in this area I am toying with the idea of buying some more bushes and trees and potting them up until I can plant them out.
Any ideas?
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