Browsing Posts tagged greenhouse

Sweltering in the sunshine.

I’d finished everything I had to do here at Wardian Towers by early afternoon yesterday, so thought I’d get my gardening ‘glad rags’ on and hoof it down to my plot.Hot enough for you?

This last few weeks or so, what with one thing or another, I haven’t had much time to spend on my allotment, and by the state of it, it certainly shows!

On entering my greenhouse, I glanced across at the thermometer hung on the door post, and was greeted by this.


It was way too hot to actually do much work -things like the ‘industrial weeding’ would have to wait for a cooler day.

I did however notice my sad little olive tree, now surrounded by long grass and weeds, so I thought I’d clear around it.  It would give it some light, and give the freesia around it a chance to thrive in the glorious sunshine.

Cleared.And here you can see it after I’d finished.  You can see the freesia around the outside of the ring, but you’ll have to look really closely to see the olive.  Its towards the centre left of the patch of earth.  It’s branches make a ‘Y’ shape.

You’d think from this photo that it was merely a dead stick sat in the middle of this rough circle, but on getting up close and personal with it, it shows its still alive.New shoots on the olive tree.

And to the right here is the proof!  These new shoots have only recently shown themselves, and on looking further down that same stem, I can see other buds just starting to form.

At this rate, we’ll have a massive crop of olives by about…  …Oh, the year 2045 or so.

Still, with ‘Climate Change’ (…NOT ‘Global Warming’!..), we may have to bring this date forward by a couple of years.

Whatever.  Just the sight of this tree brings back happy memories of Cyprus, and that’s good enough for me.



I know I’ve been a little quiet of late, you’ll have to excuse me, but this is just to tell of whats been happening, and whats hopefully going to happen tomorrow.

Yes, I know, Friday isn’t normally a ‘Plot Day’ -for LEAF that is- but tomorrow myself and Ian (no relation) will hopefully be down on my plot from about 10.00am.

Ian will hopefully carry on with his excellent digging (…he’s much better than me at it!..), meanwhile, I’ll be doing more work on the greenhouse door -making it a little more secure.

If I have time, I’ll re-hang the door to the shed -the bottom hinge has come away, and I fear it may need some more wood in the door frame to mount the hinge on.linux on my new server in the kitchen.

Other good news is that I’ve got my camera fixed!

To the right here is the first shot I took with it on it’s return.  Yes, I know the shot isn’t Plot related!

Instead its the new Linux machine in my kitchen as I work on it to, soon to become a DHCP server, firewall and file store.

Gobbledygook?  Yep.  Me too.

Anyway, you can be sure there’ll be loads of photos taken tomorrow, and as soon as I’ve had a shower on my return, I’ll blog them with a few words in between.

Diggin’ it.

Saturday afternoon, I went down to my own plot and carried on digging and clearing out.  Normally, I’d get pretty bored with digging, especially with no-one else to chat with, but for some reason, I was perfectly happy on my own, just chilling out.More digging.  And planting!

I dug over another strip next to the one I previously dug, then dug around the apple/pear (…Don’t know quite what this is, but I’ll soon find out when it comes into flower in a few weeks time!..) to plant some freesia bulbs that should hopefully give me some great flowers in a few months time.

To the right here, you can see the latest digging efforts, and you can see where I dug around the tree.  I did have to be really careful when digging round here because of the tree’s roots -I didn’t want to damage them and risk an apple or pear-free year!

On Sunday, I was ably assisted by Ian (no relation) and we met for 10.00 up by the shops.

I repaired the door into the wooden greenhouse -refitting it and putting an extra hinge down by the bottom.  Now, it would take a nuclear strike to knock it off!  Meanwhile, Ian carried on clearing, and managed to get all the grass and top vegetation off quite a large area.Much more dug over.

Check out this photo to the left!

There are rose bushes in three of the four corners of this area, and Ian, being something of a pruning-wizard set to work and gave all of them a ‘haircut’.  Time will tell as we wait for the first blooms!

Meanwhile in the wooden greenhouse, there was an area in the smaller ‘off-shot’ that had been worrying me.  It looked like one of the shelves in this off-shot didn’t go back far enough.  Was there something behind this wooden panel?Ammo box full of tools.

Well the answer was a definite ‘Yes!’

Inside this ammunition box was an assortment of pliers, chisels, and old drill brace, various screwdrivers, a glue gun and loads of other ‘odds and ends’ that would be useful to a plot holder.

The old man had carefully packed his tools in this box and hidden it well away from prying eyes.  He packed them well, too.  It took me a fair while to figure out how everything fitted back in the box so the lid would site properly.

As I left for the evening, I very carefully re-packed all these tools put them back exactly as I’d found them.

Anyway, I have more LEAF stuff to attend to today -grant and funding applications, then tomorrow I’m seeing the log-suffering Mr Ward Senior.  Wednesday, I have business down town, but Thursday, well, we’ll see!


Problem? Sorted!

Yes, I know I put the last two posts in the section up very briefly, only to take them down again as if nothing had happened.

Well, Dear Reader, I can now officially announce that Plot 34 is mine!

Late yesterday morning, I went to the allotments office, signed and had witnessed two contracts -one for me, the other for the council, and left the building with a happy, happy smile on my face!

I had some other business to attend to in town, so didn’t get back to the allotments ’til nearly five in the afternoon.

After a brief and happy chat with Diane, I thought I’d pop down to my plot and just have a ‘little wander’ around and check out it’s many little cubby-holes and long-forgotten corners.  (…Like did I mention that there’s an Anderson Shelter hidden away in the far corner, complete with chimney -but no stove underneath it?  Or the low ‘coal bunker’ type affair in the far opposite corner?  Or the ‘Hidden Gateway’ behind the larger greenhouse that may well lead into Narnia?..)

So when I neared my gate, you can imagine my surprise when I saw a new chain and lock across my plot doorway!

Now, some of the other LEAF volunteers who’d followed me down said I ought to break the lock and chain and force my way in, but I thought not.

Instead, when I got in last night, I emailed the very long-suffering head of allotments at the council, and told him what I’d found.  I then asked him to clarify that since I had signed the official tenancy, then surely the plot was ‘mine’?

I then said that unless I heard otherwise by noon today, I’d go down there and take the lock off myself.

Well thankfully, he emailed me first thing this morning and said that as far as the council are concerned, the plot is indeed mine!  Obviously, it’s not; the land is still owned by the council, but as a fully registered tenant, I have the same rights as I do my little flat.

So, after a very enjoyable lunch with my long-suffering father, I sauntered over to the site, happily swinging my large hacksaw, an evil glint in my eye.

Today’s volunteers spotted me from the LEAF allotments, saw my swinging hacksaw, and a couple of them put thumbs up.  They knew what was about to happen!

In the end, it was Matt, our artist & chef and myself who went down there, and on arriving at my gate, still padlocked, I handed over the saw to him.  He really wanted to be the one who cut the lock, and I wasn’t about to stop him!

It only took a few seconds to cut through -I suspect it was a ‘Pound Land Special’- but with great ceremony, we undid the chain and entered…

…And found my allotment much as I’d last seen it.  All the buildings were still there, but the guy I mentioned last post had taken all the hand tools. (…Well, there were his friend’s I guess, and its not like I’ll be short of a spade or a fork -I have the keys for the LEAF tool lock-up!..)

Some other odd bits and bobs were missing, but nothing major.

I’d got off lightly!  After all the expletive-ridden fireworks of the other day, I’d fully expected there just to be just scorched earth!

So early tomorrow morning, I’ll be back, this time armed with heavy-duty black bin bags to start clearing out the greenhouses and the fabulous shed.

And I can’t wait!

On a more sobering note, the other day, I slipped on some black ice while carrying my faithful laptop and camera.

The laptop I’ve very carefully nursed back to health -apart from some slight cracking on the corner.

My camera was not so lucky.  I’m going to have to get another screen for it!

Still, the rest of the camera works -I’ve tested it- so I’ll be able to get some pictures ‘blind’, but luckily it has a very good auto focusing system, so with a little help from Photoshop, I should be able to get some half-decent shots.

More very soon…

Area 34. The Start…

This is a new category.

I’ve brought it about because Plot 34 on our allotment site is now in my name!

I’ve been on the waiting list for quite a while now, and on ringing up the allotments office, I was told I was at the top of the list, and did I want Plot number 30?

This Plot is right at the end of the bottom lane, well away from ‘The Action’, but with it being at the very end, one of it’s sides is right next to a private garden, and the fence dividing the two is either very rickety or non-existent for much of it’s length.  Not good for security!

I had an email chat with the head of allotment services, and he said that Plot 34 further back down the lane on the opposite side had been offered and not taken up within the required time-scale, did I want that?

Does The Pope wear a pointy hat in the woods?

Plot 34 has a greenhouse and a shed -kindly left by the previous tenant.  Plot 30 has nothing.

Plot 34 has some very interesting -looking trees, shrubs and flowers.  Plot 30 has creeping thistle.

Plot 34 has an exciting-looking sculpture made of thin-gauge yellow gas piping.  Plot 34 doesn’t.

Anyway, long story only slightly shorter, but suffice to say that my acceptance form duly signed is already in the post tonight!

I’ll be going down The Plots tomorrow morning armed with my fully-charged and empty camera, so tomorrow night -after a much-needed shower, I’ll blog the photos and tell you what I find.

Exciting stuff!

But I’m still just too full of information to really relate any of it to you, Dear Reader.

Recently, there’s just been soooo much happening, all at the same time, that I literally don’t have the time to just sit down and digest it all.  Real ‘Flying By The Seat Of Your Pants’ stuff.

For instance, this charity registration stuff is far more complex than I’d first thought.  The Charity Commission’s website leads you to think it’ll all be easy and plain sailing.  They say it should all be done online and that we’d get the ‘Charity Number’ within fifteen days if it all goes through.

What they don’t mention very clearly is that you have to adopt one of their template constitutions.  This then leads to a whole world of fun as you have to add amendments to suit your particular proposed charity to make it correspond roughly with your pre-existing constitution.

Then, just as a ‘Party Bonus’, our advisor from V.A.S. (Voluntary Action Sheffield) informed Diane just a day or so ago that The Charity Commission have just changed their template constitution.  So we’ve had to change it again!Weeds in our salad bed.

Anyway, back to the plot.

Or rather, back to The Plots…

Yesterday morning, the weather was ‘sunshine & showers’, so we popped up a gazebo, then myself and David got down to some Zen weeding.  As you can see here before we had really started, this salad bed certainly needed it.Done!

After an hour or so on our knees, gently weeding this bed of spring onions and radishes, it looked like this.

Looking closely, you’ll notice that the radishes have been savagely pulled out.

Well, this is because they were ready to be picked!  And pick them we did, ending up with a large bowl full of different shaped and coloured radishes.  We all got some, but David was given first choice.  He had origianlly planted them, after all!

Meanwhile, ‘PXI Nick’ and New Ian helped Diane plant up the three planters on the bottom end of the mound with runner beans that had been getting very leggy in their pots.  I’ll get some ‘proper’ shots of them with their canes tomorrow and Blog them tomorrow night.

Weed City.

David and I then moved onto the bed behind the ‘Zen Area’ that also houses spring onions, radishes and carrots.

As you can see here, it certainly needed some tender loving care!

David took the end nearest the path which was marginally easier to weed because the young plants were more established and larger.  I took the opposing end -almost under the big hawthorn tree behind.

This was far more difficult, and if you look hard, you’ll just see the young spring onions’ first set of leaves.Done!

As you can see here, after an hour or so, it looked like this, and if you look closely, you will just see the spring onions.

I did notice as well that this end of the bed was very dry -because of the hawthorn over-hang, so when I’d done, I gave it all plenty of water.

Pretty soon it was lunchtime, so we moved the gazebo we’d put up over the seating area, and not a minute too soon because the rain started to fall quite heavily.

The session was meant to finish for one, and by the weather, we could tell it wasn’t really going to clear up much, so we all made a move, leaving Diane with New Ian to talk over his plans for ‘Art On The Plots’ and other very exciting ideas he hopes to bring down to us.

I came home to more work back here, but by 5.15pm, I had to go out again to the library for the monthly management meeting.French marigold.

I finally made it back here to ‘Wardian Towers’ while after 9.00pm to be met by a cat with his back legs definitely crossed!

Anyway, tomorrow is the ‘main’ Plot Day of the week, and we’re once again expecting loads of visitors and ‘Newbies’.

Now the thought of that seems to make it all seem worthwhile.

And that shot of the flower to the right here?  Well, that’s the first of our tagetes (small French Marigolds) we’ve grown from seed sat in the tomato/tomatillo bed in our greenhouse.  We’ve planted these alternately with lettuces, and within a few weeks, they’ll be both a riot of color and they’ll help keep ‘nasties’ off our precious lettuce and tomatoes/tomatillos.  The pollinating bees will love them, and they look pretty good too.

And yes.  It does need weeding!

Four gazebos? 11/06/11

No problem, sir.  That’ll do nicely!

Yes, because we’d had rain forecast for today, we thought we’d better get four of them up to shelter us and our tools from the possible rain.

And yes, the forecast was right, but nowhere near enough fell.Brick by brick...

Ian and I worked on the fireplace first today.  Diane has started bringing down a couple of bowls of warm-ish water -one with washing up liquid in, the other to rinse to try and encourage volunteers to wash their dishes after they’ve eaten on a Saturday evening.

So we decided that we needed hot water.  Just the act of boiling it up would ‘gently’ remind volunteers that Diane has to spend at least an hour after everyone’s gone, normally in the dark ‘making everything good’.

To do this, we needed a stable fireplace so that we could put the large aluminium pan safely over the fire.

We started off by taking out any potash and sieving it to get rid of any metalwork, then placing that in a plastic bin normally used for household compost.  Then we built up the surrounds you can see above, and eventually we ended up with this:-Done!

Then the rain started, so we dived under cover of the nearest gazebo, which just happened to be up by the metal shed and the kettle.

Funny thing, that.

As it was now nearly lunchtime, we decided to kill two birds with one stone and have a slightly early lunch.

Ian nipped from under the cover of the gazebo to get these little beauties from one of the ‘Zen’ beds behind the seating area in front of the hedge.Radishes.

These are the multi-coloured ‘Bright Lights’ we both planted only a few weeks ago.

No slug holes, and completely delicious, the red ones especially crunchy and tangy with just a slight after-kick at the back of the mouth when you’ve eaten one.  Also for lunch was lettuce and more radishes from Jon’s plot, a different kind of lettuce from Gary’s plot and loads of cheese and wraps and olives and peppers and…  you get my drift: Yum!

Lunch was soon finished, and the sky brightened up enough to allow us out from under cover and Ian and I headed straight down to our new greenhouse.Half the greenhouse prepped up.

Diane had thoughtfully emptied one of the new racks that we’d built to house new seedlings on -they’d all been planted out!

Ian then had the idea of some wooden edging strip at the side of the path, and here to the left you can see it in place.

This is after we’d given the soil some food in the form of a bag of manure, two barrows of compost and a load of calcified seaweed mix that Diane likes to use, and you can see that the level of the soil is a good few inches higher.  This will settle down in the coming weeks because its so full of air.

It also needed vast amounts of water!

Because the greenhouse is now almost totally water-tight, the soil in there hadn’t had any water for literally months, so I wasted no time in fetching watering can after watering can to douse down the appalling dust that we’d kicked up by moving the soil about.Lettuce and chrysanthemums laid out.

Here you can see Ian laying out lettuces and chrysanthemums (…which are companion plants…) along the front.  These lettuces are a variety that you can pick the outer leaves off repeatedly and new ones will grow, so we should be getting lettuce leaves well into autumn.

Now with added tomatoes and a tomatillo.From this shot to the left you may just make out the tomatoes we planted and a solitary tomatillo at the end.  In all probability, we’ll be planting another one on the opposite side of the path.  This will make the end of the greenhouse completely inaccessible in a couple of months time!

Of course, while Ian and I were having our fun, loads more volunteers arrived.  David, David and Gary planted carrots in the carrot bags at the end of the top plot near the fence, while New Simon got on with a load of digging, then Sara arrived with her girls, then Barry to do the fire, then Jon made an appearance, then…  you get my drift.  Organised but enjoyable chaos.

Still, we finished off the day eating Barry’s superb baked potatoes, then because it was Diane’s birthday yesterday, we all shared a yummy chocolate cake.

In the photo to the right here you can clearly see the huge cauldron for heating up the washing up water with the five tins of potatoes in front of it.

This fire worked really well today.  Ian reckons that we only used about a fifth of the wood we’d normally use for a fire, and because it was level and all supported, much easier to move things about on.

Potatoes and water for washing up.

After we’d all eaten our fill,  Emma announced that she had a fun quiz for us all.  This was to find out in the easiest way possible just what volunteers think of LEAF and what they enjoy doing and what they don’t enjoy doing and where they’d like to see LEAF going in the next few months/years.

All fascinating stuff, and we’ll hear back from her in a few weeks after she’s crunched the numbers and had time to absorb all that was said.

Plotting tomorrow?  Well, we’ll see.  I have a fair amount of work to be getting on with, and the weather is looking decidedly ‘iffy’ if the forecast is anything to go by.

Lets call it a ‘Maybe’ then, eh?

I arrived just before ten today to find the whole site overrun with schoolchildren, teachers, classroom assistants and a parent or two.  I’d forgotten that today was another ‘field trip’ for two classes of local primary school children.Weather and bird-proofing for our latest salad bed.

While Diane was directing things, Ian was quietly working away down in an area below the greenhouses.

He was cleaning two pieces of clear perspex that’d previously been used to protect young pea plants down on the bottom plot last year.  They were getting a new lease of life as covers for our latest planting done last Sunday behind the ‘Zen’ seating area where we’d planted the spring onions, different types of radishes and those small but chunky carrots.  If you single-click this picture to the right here, you’ll see how they are simply laid in the bed, but held apart at the top by just two cut-down lengths of bamboo cane.  A true master-stroke!  After finishing these, he went on to paint some wooden boards he’d found in one of the wood stores with that truly awful blackboard paint I’d used a few months ago on the electronics boxes for the bike controllers.Whoops!  Before... These are new blackboards for Diane or volunteers to use to jot down notes, jobs to be done and things to watch out for around the plots.

Denied a ‘Pre-Work’ cup of tea because of the children, I set to work with the remaining three openers from the greenhouse, taking them off individually so as not to get the parts mixed up.

To the left here, you can see just how badly deformed these openers had become.  This one has even ‘ripped’ a hole in the aluminium by the adjuster!Almost re-built opener.

Taking the old openers apart was pretty easy, but getting them back together again with the new ‘Turbo Brackets With Attitude’ wasn’t!

This photo here to the right shows one of the adjusters with it’s new black plates on, but if you look carefully, you’ll see that spring isn’t attached at one end.  This is because it has to have a short rod threaded on it’s end (…which you can see towards the bottom left of this photo…) then the short metal rod has to be threaded through the holes you can see in the middle at the bottom of the new plates there between the adjuster bracket and the ends of the two long aluminium straights.

At this point, I called Ian over for some help, and we scratched our heads and tried various pulling and levering tricks until I remembered my father, Mr Ward Senior mentioning something about the string he’d had to use when getting the first one back together....Cracked it!

Some strong plastic ‘twine’ was found, then we figured it!  You loop one end of the twine through the eye at the end of the spring you can see, double it up, then thread it through below those holes where the short metal rod has to be threaded.

Then, by pulling the string and stretching the spring, you thread the short metal rod through the top hole then, still under the tension from the string, you can thread the short metal rod through the end of the spring.  Then with only a little care, all the time holding the spring under tension, you thread the end of the short metal rod through the bottom hole, and the job’s a good ‘un!Back in position.

Okay, that was quite an explanation!  For the finished, very pleasing result, you can see above to the left.

All back together, and all it needed now was to sit in a bucket of cold water for a quarter of an hour or so to make the piston close down and the unit to close up almost completely.  While this wasn’t strictly necessary for re-fitting, it did make the whole job that bit easier.

The ‘fully finished’ job you can see here to the right.  Beautiful!

This was then repeated for the final brackets, and all four are now in position and working perfectly!

Towards the end of the last post, I mentioned the two holes I’d noticed yesterday on the bottom of the windows.  Well, I told Ian about them, and on checking them, yes, they did allow water straight from the outer window onto the inside ledge to overflow into the greenhouse.Window open and those two holes now blocked up.

I said did because Ian went round all four windows and very skilfully sealed them with some of our caulking we used when putting the polycarbonate in, then for good measure, I found a hole in the centre of the roof where the two greenhouses join together so filled that in.  The photo here to the left is very similar to the one taken yesterday by Diane, but this time, those two holes have been plugged with the black you can just see if you look closely.  This means that in sudden downpours, we can all huddle in the greenhouse without fear of getting wet heads from the drips!

So a very good day, overall.  More ‘long-term’ jobs finally tackled and finished.

Oh, and the two parties of schoolchildren, their teachers and some parents had a thoroughly good time, dug up and took with them loads of young strawberry plants, and we hope to see them back very soon!

Tomorrow is back to a ‘regular’ LEAF afternoon, and Ian and I have been set a compost bin to repair then a number of beds on the ‘Therapy Plot’ to empty in readiness for bean canes that we plan to put up in the next few days ready for loads of young bean plants to climb up.

All exciting stuff!

More tomorrow…

I mentioned the post before last (…’And a week flies by’…) that Mr Ward Senior had worked his magic with the greenhouse window-openers that were bending so terribly when trying to lift the weight of the steel-framed windows and polycarbonate.

Well, I saw him for lunch today, but not before he’d brought round the first one he’d fitted back together with the new high-strength steel brackets that will not bend as the windows open.New, improved window-opener in action.

Click on the photo on the right, and the black arms you can see are the new brackets in action, opening the window.

Just how much better is it, I ask you?!

Tomorrow morning, Ian and myself plan to modify and fit the final three in position.  This will be no mean feat as putting them back together with none of the flexing they previously exhibited is a nightmare!

You may also notice the two holes on the lower part of the frame itself.  I hadn’t noticed these before, but I strongly suspect these are responsible for the rain water that leaks into the greenhouse whenever it rains heavily, splattering any young and delicate plants unlucky enough to have been left beneath.

If these two are responsible, then a quick application of our magic fixing silicone, and these windows will leak no more.

I’ll be sure to keep you posted with more photos and updates.

Buzzing. 16/04/11

No, we really mean it!

Today started off in the normal, ‘gentle’ Saturday morning manner, with tea and chats (…with cats?..), but soon after Gary arrived he made some excited comment along the lines of:-

“Er… Are they meant to be doing that?!”  While pointing over the shed onto the Orchard Plot in the direction of the beehives. continue reading…

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