Plot44 – The Story so far

 

 

So the growing season.

What can I say. It has been a delightful mix of amazement, weather and success.

For a first year growing at home id say its been more than what I had imagined it would be. The picture of a fine sunny day, sitting in the back garden and being able to see the fruits of your labour has always been an appetising one.

I set myself a few challenges this year with the main one being to grow as much quality food as I possibly could. There are more methods than growers in this world and I’m no different. For me I use a mix of 2 methods, no dig & square foot gardening. I’m happy to say it’s worked a treat.

October 2016 was the start of the project for me. The box was built using reclaimed materials from my previous allotment. The box dimensions are 3m x 3m x 1ft deep. Built simply by building a box on the surface of the grass, filling with leaves, grass and paper then topping off with aged manure.

 

Quite a bit of work initially but well worth it 🙂

Fast forward a few months and the initial sowings were planted.

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At the height of summer the growth was amazing and lush. For me this is the proof that what I’m doing works.

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So in a nutshell the season was amazing and best of all I had a brilliant little helper that made it much better. Everyone meet junior miss plot44. The future of organic growing 🙂

 

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Coming Soon!

So first off all it’s been a while and I apologise.

The growing season goes so quick. With that in mind what a season it has been.

The first year growing at home has been a fruitful one. Luscious growth, first time pumpkins and a good planting plan are just a few things that have gone well.

Over the next few months a lot of vast changes will be done to the site to make it more friendly for you. Any feedback and your patience Is appreciated.

 

SF60 – Supercharge your soil

Like something out of a science fiction movie SF60 so exciting and interesting. SF60 is a new product from Soilfixer which boasts to improve your soil to the best it can possibly be.

 

Made from a few elements, the main ingredient Biochar is proven in the growing world to have huge benefits to your soil including its ability to hold onto nutrients, water and nutrients.

 

Rather than a feed, SF60 is a soil improver formula that exploits these abilities and brings them in an easy application package to provide you with all of the benefits Biochar can give.

 

Benefits:

 

Taken as an extract of Soil Fixer website, SF60 offers some of the following benefits

 

  • It keeps hold of water for a long time – excellent water retention
  • It re-absorbs water very quickly after drying – excellent re-wetting ability
  • Macro nutrient (NKP) supply – has both fast and slow release nutrients
  • Micro nutrients (Ca, Mg, etc) – contains micros nutrients in plant available forms
  • Improved nutrient supply to roots – builds and supports bacterial/fungal roots associations that increase nutrient supply to roots (eg mycorrhizal fungi, AMF)
  • Reduces nutrient leaching – colloidal humus has high CEC reducing leachate losses on irrigation
  • Improves soil aggregation leading to improved tilth and aeration (essential oxygen flow to roots and microbes).
  • Results are long lasting – colloidal humus and biochar typically survive in soil for over 100 years (note nutrients transferred and removed via crop need replenishing)
  • Positive environmental impact: colloidal humus and biochar both sequest carbon and help offset carbon dioxide and hence reduce impact of green-house gases

 

So What Exactly is Biochar?

 

The official terminology is – charcoal produced from plant matter and stored in the soil as a means of removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

 

With that in mind it is possible that you can also make your own biochar. The quality & the way in which it’s prepared can vary massively between companies and individuals. This allows every recipe to be unique.

 

SoilFixer have used one type of biochar & their own powders along with their unique hot composting process to create SF60.

 

The initial impression is really quite good.

 

As you can see from the above image the Biochar is very consistent in size and seems to be of good quality.

 

How Do I prepare it for use?

 

You don’t.  SF60 is ready to use out of the box.

 

Is it a feed?

 

No. Although it does contain compost, trace minerals and elements, these are in slow release forms. This product has been designed as a long term amendment rather than a feed.

 

How much do I need to use?

 

Inserted into the planting hole, Target 10% by volume (10 parts soil to 1 part SF60)

 

Best results 20% (5:1), minimum suggested application 5% (20:1)

 

The biochar and colloidal humus in the SF60 product remains in soil year after year. You can top-up and build towards 20% target by adding a bit more each year.

 

So with this in mind SoilFixer has asked me to trial this product along with the compost humidifier to see in a real world application how SF60 can improve your crops.

 

The Test

 

Back in October I was provided with SoilFixers compost humification agent and given the challenge of creating my own supercharged compost. You can read a full review HERE

 

I was then asked to trial growing the same plant in 4 different mixes to highlight any effect the products may have.

 

The sequence is as follows:

 

1 Control Soil (Garden Soil)

2 Normal Compost + Control Soil

3 Control Soil + Improved Compost

4 Control Soil plus #SF60

So the containers I will be using for this test will be 30 litres and all situated next to each other in the same area of the garden.

The area chosen receives 10 hours of sunlight throughout the day. Watering will be the same amount once per week.

The plant in question is Pumpkin Small Sugar provided by Seedparade.

This wasn’t initially first choice for me but I had the opportunity to do two things. Test my own compost and also grow something I have never have before but always wanted to try.

What are my expectations/ Goals?

For me being Organic & sustainable I am always looking for ways I can increase the effectiveness of what I do along with minimal impact on my surrounding environment.

My main goal this year is to see if Biochar really does have a positive effect on both the growth and taste of my crops.

Let’s be honest, as well as a good hobby the real reason we grow our own is for the taste.

I am also very interested in seeing what effect if any, that the compost provides after a full season of growing. Will it still be rich? Will it still perform?

Follow my journey on Plot44Organics for all up to date live results and progress.

If you are interested in giving these products a go for your own needs you can buy it from HERE or if you have any further questions the FAQ can be found https://www.soilfixer.co.uk/Super-soil-improver-SF60-Detailed-FAQ

Back to your roots 

Let’s be honest, no vegetable garden is complete without your roots. Mine is no exception to this rule.

 

Roots play a vital part for me when growing, both aesthetically and necessity. Nothing beats the excitement of not knowing what you’ve grown until you pull them. It’s a lottery without the risk.

 

After downscaling from a quarter plot, space has now become a valuable asset. Where I would normally grow a few varieties to try them out I now have to get my best bang for buck.

 

Based on this a few varieties have shone through. My goal this year is to get the best crop I can in the space I have available.

 

So let’s have a look at the varieties I have chosen:

 

Beetroot – Only one variety has ever been good to me here. Good old ‘Boltardy’ Beetroot. First sowing for me will be April direct. This beetroot has never bolted on my plot, even after a fortnight of dry spells with no watering. Space wise any beetroot can be grown very close together or spaced apart depending on how you like them. For me it’s small sweet beetroot no bigger than a golf ball. They can tolerate a bit of shade but for best performance full sun is required. And best of all the leaves are great to eat too. A perfect crop.

 
 

Carrots – Nante’s Out of the two types I tried, these were the only carrots I grew with good results. First sowing in April under cloches. Not so much a long carrot, Nantes’s have given a reliable crop of good size roots around 6” in size. They also have proven to be quite resistant to carrot root fly, much more so than my resistafly. I find these are best germinated when placed on soil surface and covered with a small dressing of seed compost. They have taken a few weeks to get going but have always cropped.

 
 

ParsnipsGladiator The only parsnip I have tried growing and I’m glad to say they all germinated. Sown in February, I simply place on soil surface and cover with a bit of leafy brash chippings. 100% germination rate and they are simply sow and forget. Parsnips do best when left to their own devices. Last year on an undug bed, one grew to a mere 1ft in length with no problems. A good variety for beginners.

 

Onions Turbo (Sets) A new one for me this year. In Previous years, onion harvest were very hit or miss often producing average to poor yields. This time around I’m starting them in spring. First sowing is mid-February followed by another sowing mid-March. After a little research, ‘Turbo’ stood out due to its heat treatment process which helps prevent bolting. I will be keen to test this out this year. Sown direct in February I’m hoping for a crop around July – August.

So as you can see not many varieties. This is my less is more approach. I will be sowing in succession to ensure I have enough supply for the upcoming season and will cover how I preserve my gluts in a future post.

As a personal note, I have focused more on getting the best performance so for me these varieties work. All links to the seeds have been placed there with no obligation to purchase from the suppliers and are not affiliated links. These are available from a vast majority of suppliers, so buy from who suites your needs.

The Master Crafter – LolDeanTimber

WHO STARTED IT

Dean and Liam Stanborough, a father and son, family led business.

LoldeanTimber started as an idea from the love of wood and being able to create useful, innovative and bespoke products for all our customers.

every one of our handmade products we use; From our poultry perches, to our garden trugs to our trough planters.

We have supplied personalised garden trugs all over the Uk and have sent a few to the USA.

It fills us with enormous pride seeing our trugs being shown off with so many gorgeous homegrown harvests.

I (liam) was never very interested in veg, until Dad (dean) started growing tomatoes and peas in the garden and I tasted a pea straight from the pod and I was won over from then.

I would always watch river cottage and dreamt of the life that Hugh Fernley Whittingstall was living.

We grew more and started to consider becoming self-sufficient.

First stop was chickens and we have been making chicken coops for customers for years.

So, we decided to build out ‘Cluckingham Palace’ and soon enough our girls were laying their eggs.

We’ve always had a keen interest in cooking so it goes hand in hand with our allotment growing, cooking dishes, preserving jams and sauces, even making our own elderflower wine and apple cider from all our homegrown produce.

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We have expanded our growing area over the last couple of years by relocating up to Norfolk.

Which allowed us to expand loldeantimber and push on with our business and create more exciting products.

Also, allowing us to expand the amount of chickens we have. And adding ducks to our smallholding
we have even hatched a few of our own chickens fertilised eggs.

We purchased a polytunnel to match our ambitions of growing more veg and creating more exciting dishes and sauces so we can feed not only us but give them as gifts to our friends and family to get their feedback on the food we make.
We love taking our nephews and niece for a walk down the garden and picking some of our plot produce that they helped us plant.
so they can see what they planted is what they grew and be able to eat what they grew and learn about each veg and how tasty it is.
They have always been brought up around the chickens, playing with them indoors when they were just chicks to playing outside in the garden feeding them and collecting their eggs.

We built our own compost bins last year and fill them through the year with food scraps, and chicken and duck manure which acts as a great fertiliser so will be using all our well-rotted down compost on our raised beds this coming year.

Very much looking forward to growing as a business and as a self-sufficient family for many more years to come.

Guest Author: Liam Stanborough is a master craftsman specialising in creating some of the best trugs in the business for that perfect personalised touch. You can find his excellent work on Facebook or Twitter

 

The Legendary Dasfuxi -Our very own steward of the land

Gardening links people around the globe. We all care for our little part of Earth with the same sincerity, we all wait impatiently for the first strawberry of the year, we all curse the slugs with the same exasperation.

But connecting with gardeners from around the world on Twitter showed me, we can also learn a lot from gardeners in other regions. So I hope I can give you a glimpse into my approach to nature and some of the ways gardening, especially allotment gardening, might differ from what you are used to.

Despite growing up in the Ruhr region, Germany’s largest urban agglomeration, I have always been drawn to nature and was lucky to have friends and family members that kept that enthusiasm alive. What got me to start gardening myself were the books by John Seymour, which gave me a taste of the (probably quite romanticized) life on a homestead.

I took every opportunity to learn and forage. I seed-bombed some neglected public land with pollinator-friendly plants. I used some of my holidays to help on organic farms in Ireland via WWOOF and started a container garden on my balcony. Soon I outgrew the space with my pots, mini-pond, worm composting bin, and quail cage, so when I finally found an organic allotment association, I immediately applied for a plot.

The German “Schrebergarten” allotment system is a lot more regulated and organized than other countries. It was implemented during the industrialization to combat malnutrition for the growing population in the cities but also to provide public recreation areas.

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The official patronage means German allotment gardeners have to comply with a host of rules about how much of your plot has to be used for what purpose, how big your shed can be, and even how high your hedge is allowed to be. But it also protects the allotment associations from urban development, real estate speculation and exorbitant tenure fees.

The jump from a balcony to a plot of about 300 m², even if only a third is meant for vegetable gardening, was a challenge. In the first year I tried to do everything and accomplished little, but then I stumbled upon permaculture. Stumbled upon and dove in head first.

I buried myself in textbooks, took a permaculture design course and became a certified permaculture designer in 2015. The course taught me a lot and helped me to plan ahead. It also reaffirmed my beliefs that we have to work with nature and led me to utilize companion planting, no-dig gardening, and mulching on my plot.

I still never have enough time for the allotment but this past year it finally felt like I found my footing and had my first decent harvest – and without any kind of pesticide or chemical fertiliser. Is there anything healthier or more rewarding than enjoying a meal made with vegetables from your own plot, fruit from your own front yard, and eggs from your own poultry?

Now I am in the process of turning my enthusiasm for gardening, foraging, and a certain measure of self-sufficiency in urban and suburban settings into something that can infect others, inspire others, and empower them to do the same.

If you have questions about the German allotment system or any of my projects, feel free to contact me on Twitter.

 

Guest Author: Damaris Reinke is a permaculture designer and gardening consultant in her local allotment association. She is part of the team that runs the German board selbstvers.org for self-sufficiency, gardening, homesteading, and low-tech solutions. You can also follow her on Twitter.

Sowing the seeds of summer

So first official grow blog for me. And I’m hoping to cover a few things. Firstly this year’s goals, followed by the varieties and then the method of attack.
So without further due, let’s get started.

For the few of you who didn’t know for 2 seasons I had an allotment. Not a great size one, it was classed as a quarter plot which translated into a space around 20m x 10m. It was over-run with every weed known to man but over 2 seasons I got it to be very productive.

Then last year a few things changed which forced me to spend less time down there and as a result it got too much. Disappointed, I came up with the plan to grow at home like the good old days. I mean the benefits are endless. More time to grow, family get involved, no travelling, easier management… the list goes on.

On-top of this, growing in your garden has phased out vastly in the past few years, but in my opinion is one of the most valuable assets you can have. It’s also easier than people think.

So September 16 I started to plot and build which I’m hoping will be the start of a good future. I’m very fortunate to have a south facing garden which gets between 5-7 hours of full sun (when we have it!) in the winter and around 12 hours in the summer. The spot also happens to be the bottom right corner which is also very handy.

Dimensions of the box are 3.6 x 3.6m resulting in 12.96m2 of growing space or 139sqft!


The box is arranged as a keyhole design allowing me to gain access to the middle section. It’s a little wide at the back and right hand side for access from both sides but nothing a plank of wood can’t resolve.

The box itself is built using the no-dig method and is made up of cardboard, leaves, grass clippings & farmyard manure to a total depth of 1ft.

Perfect rich soil ready for growing in.


So after all this as you can guess I have a few key milestones I want to achieve:

Organic

At least 100kg of food

A wide selection of food

Season long growing

 

So let’s expand on them a little bit.

 

Organic

Simple. I want all of my food to be grown using both organic & sustainable methods. No chemicals. All fertilisers I need will be made using 3 ingredients. Nettle, comfrey & seaweed. Simples.

 

 

At least 100kg of food

More of a challenge of my growing skills rather than a goal. I want to help demonstrate that a small space can yield a large amount of food if planned correctly. My ultimate goal will be to inspire you to do the same.

 

 

A wide selection of food

Rather than my usual crop of broccoli, sprouts, potatoes, carrots and parsnips I want to experiment with a much wider variety of crops. From pumpkins grown vertical (for my first ever time) to trying new varieties such as Romanesco, I want to try it all. After all the experience is the best part.

 

 

Season long growing

One of my main goals this year. Every year I have a mad season where I grow a lot of food in one go and then the plot dies back. Rather than an all or nothing growing season I want to focus on a more consistent crop, meaning smaller more frequent sowings. Add to this seasonal varieties and there’s no reason I can’t be picking fresh veg in winter J

 

And last of all I want to pick my Christmas dinner. Yes I know its January but it’s all in the preparation!

 

So what am I growing?

 

Carrots – Nantes

Peas – Douce Provence

Broccoli – Calabrese F1

Cabbage – January King

Parsnips – Gladiator

Onions – Turbo (Sets)

Kale – Dwarf Curled

Beetroot – Bolt hardy

Tomatoes – Montello F1 bush variety

Pumpkins – Jack be little

Sprouts – Flower sprouts & Red Bull

Courgettes

Garlic

 

Not a bad list I would say 😉

 

The method of attack:

 

Ok so I have a basic plan for this, some of which has been highlighted above. I believe that if I plan a little more into sowing times there’s no reason why I shouldn’t accomplish what I want. The biggest factor I can see is space. As you can imagine I will be cropping quite close. For this I have a plan. For years I have devilled into the fascinating world of square foot gardening.

I have a separate blog detailing the method.

By using the simple guide for spacing, if done correctly, I will be on to a winner.

Remember to follow me on twitter @homegrownwxm or Facebook plot44organics for up to date posts 

 

Steve