Hello, my name is Tim Jeffries, General Manager at D.T.Brown.
Our company began more than a century ago supplying market gardeners locally in the north west before going on to sell [...]
A couple of years ago, two friends, Damion Young and Simon Haynes, were talking about their allotments and their passion for grow your own. In their day jobs, the web is a key part of their work – Damion in web development for technology enhanced learning at Oxford University and Simon on the more creative side in web design.
Looking around the web, they were surprised and frustrated by the lack of effective tools to help them plan and keep track of their growing online, so they decided to set about developing what they needed themselves.
Allotmentor was born.
Allotmentor is your friendly and knowledgeable virtual ‘allotment neighbour’, offering advice on when and where to grow and is configured precisely to your plot and growing preferences and preferred planting layout.
The application is quite straightforward to use, you recreate your plot using the software application, using google maps if required, mark out your paths, sheds, waterbutts etc and create your preferred bed layouts. It’s then a simple task to add crops; there’s more than 50 of the most common fruit and veg pre-installed on the system with more than 900 varieties to choose from and if that’s not enough – then it’s a simple task to add your own. The planner application notes when each crop was added and plans your layout in subsequent years, so that adequate crop rotation is adhered to.
One of Allotmentor’s dedicated users – Mike Dighton of Greater Manchester – has allowed us access to his plot plan to demonstrate the power of the planner application. Please feel free to view this by clicking here
The notebook allows you to add notes to your plan, helping you to keep track of what you have done this year so that you can recall this information next year.
The calendar provides you with information and reminders on what needs to be done on your plot during this week or month and even allows you to create a personal crop calendar from your plot plan.
The crop guides provide access to everything you need to know about sowing, planting, caring for and harvesting your crops including: different approaches to growing; common problems; likes and dislikes
There’s a very useful pest and disease troubleshooter helping you to identify the cause of problems and how to deal with them.
If all of this wasn’t enough, there’s also an online community, to share your plot ideas and top tips with the rest of the green-fingered community.
Allotmentor is available via an app currently developed for the Android platform, giving you access to many of the online tools while on your plot via your mobile phone. Damion and Simon are planning to extend this to the iPhone during the coming months.
If you fancy trying the Allotmentor plot planner, visit their website and register, we understand that the application is completely free of charge – you really can’t get any better than that.
I saw ‘Cutworm’ mentioned on the pest and disease section, I’m off to have a look.
With only slightly less airmiles than the Chelsea show, we bring you the best of the show stoppers on plot 36 in Redcar.
We receive quite a few emails asking for information about Horsetail (Equisitum Arvense). Inaccurately called ‘Mares Tail’ by many people on allotment sites; it’s a stubborn weed and virtually impossible to eradicate.
Here’s a photo from our plot (to the left) and the empty plot next door (to the right). It would be a brave person to take that on.
We’ve just received an email from Hayley:
‘Hello. Just read your article about horsetail. We bought our house in September and the borders in the back garden were very overgrown …. no sign of HT. So a couple of weeks ago when the weather started to improve, my husband and I dug over the borders, feeing them up of grape hyacinth and grass and planted some nice new bulbs and flowers. We now have Horsetail growing around our rose tree (already established) and amongst all our other flowers. Any suggestions?’
‘Hi, thanks for your enquiry about this nasty little weed.
The reason that you didn’t spot this in September is that it was probably in decline by that time of year and other weeds had moved in to fill the space.
In March it would have probably thrown up some brown spears a bit like asparagus and these would attempt to send spores all over the garden. Always best to delete these with a knife and dispose of in the rubbish.
April/May – it comes with a vengeance and this is what you are seeing. It reaches full growth by July and a height of 40cms.
Assuming that you’ve cultivated the soil already to remove all other weeds, etc. Don’t cultivate any more this year. If you haven’t cultivated – then don’t.
Forget weedkillers, covering with plastic, etc – nothing will kill it. Weedkillers ‘may’ kill off some top growth but it will come back harder next year and you will feel like moving house. You can’t kill it but what you can do is to convince it to go next door.
When light brown spears show – leave them until they’re minimum 7cms tall and try to ease them out with as much root as possible, certainly before they get to 10cms tall. The trick is to let them use as much energy as possible getting to the point where they’re about to photosynthesise and then delete them. This will serious weaken the rhizome underneath. The trouble is when a shoot is pulled it triggers another rhizome to make another shoot, but it does inhibit it a little.
Meanwhile and you should do this as soon as possible – buy some agricultural lime and start to sweeten the soil. The HT is there because the soil is alkaline probably 6.3 or less and you need to gently get it back to about 6.8 and that will take 3 years. The HT will start to move on at 6.5+.
First liming is now at 300-350gms per sq metre. Work this into the soil a few cms and water in. Don’t use any more this summer else you’ll kill your other plants. Add a mulch of grass clippings this summer (5-7cms). In October add another 400gms per sq metre and work in a little deeper. No fertiliser this year else that will lower the pH again. Plant lots of French marigolds this year if you can. Also increase your planting if possible to reduce the amount of light getting to the shoots – make them work harder to get to the light, all of this weakens the rhizomes.
Fertilise in early spring with Fish Blood Bone and a month later add another 200gms per sq metre of lime. More grass clippings as mulch in the summer. In the October - lime as before. Fertilise in early spring. Etc..
Keep pulling the HT shoots as above, but don’t pull them when they’re too small, it’s better to be patient and leave them to grow to 10cms.
It will eventually go completely but remains of the roots will be there still 50cms down. If you add small amount of lime each October (50-100gms per sq metre) the soil will stay sweet and the HT won’t ever show again. Mulch with grass clippings every summer.
Don’t forget the beds in the front of the house, else it will possibly move there instead. ’
A large curtain-sided truck arrived last week with the latest addition to our allotment. It’s contents - an assignment of palletised raised bed kits from the award-winning Woodblocx company.
The delivery was on schedule, within 3 days of placing the order and within 15 minutes of the stated delivery time. It’s not often that you receive service like that.
I never managed to drive the fork lift truck.
Our raised bed measures 2250mm x 1125mm x 450mm and designed for a large collection of sun-loving herbs at the back of our plot. The area is already surrounded by raised beds also for herbs and in the process of being planted. This is the most sheltered part of the plot – a sun trap – somewhere to sit, drink tea and watch the plants grow.
The area in which the raised bed is to be installed had been cleared and levelled; we applied a small amount of fine grit to assist the levelling and finished with a damp and weedproof membrane. We were all ready to make a start and then it rained! It gave me one last chance to check the instructions from the comfort of our brolley.
The instructions were clear at every stage, the components were simple and everything appeared to be very well engineered. It could be argued that it’s only a large lego set and in effect, it is; however we’d read some stories of people having to drill out holes again as the instructions hadn’t been followed correctly.
Stage 1 is quite simple – isolate the components for the first layer of blocks and insert all the pegs before placing the blocks in their correct position. This is very logical, reducing the disturbance to the sand or grit base. Once this is completed, it was one last check with the spirit level to make sure everything was as it should be.
Stage 2 is the fitting of the second layer, following the pattern in the instructions and gently tapping home each of the blocks so the previous blocks are correctly ‘bonded’. It is worthy of a mention, that the design team at Woodblocx have provided a detailed view of each layer of blocks and the position of each wedge peg for that layer.
Each of the plastic pegs have an additional plastic wedge component which, when hammered in, forces the top of the previous plastic peg outwards to securely grip the block at the base. This method creates a strong interconnected bond between all of the components.
This continues up through to the last layer of standard blocks and finally – the last set of plastic plugs and galvanised corner inserts are then fitted. The final row of plastic plugs are then reduced in height with a simple handsaw to allow the shaped capping blocks to be fixed. In a perfect world, there might have been a separate pack of shorter ’top’ dowels provided specifically for this task; however this might add some confusion for a first-time builder.
The capping fits well and is a very solid and snug fit on the top of the bed. The mitred corners are precise and aesthetically very pleasing.
That’s it! It was extremely easy to construct, the instructions precise and informative and every part was machined perfectly. The advice that we would give is to take your time, get the first layer down onto a level base and all will be well.
The range is very comprehensive and the team at Woodblocx can easily create a unique size according to your requirements. We’ve been aware of a few criticisms with regard to the cost of the product and we would be the first to refute these. The workmanship is superb and has clearly been designed and built to last a very long time. There is absolutely no comparison between a simple raised bed made out of a few lengths of fascia board and a product of this calibre.
What a beautiful addition to any garden. It’s in a very prominent position on our plot and we will gain a lot of pleasure from it as a result. An absolute 10/10 to Henry and his team!
Hopefully, when this rain eventually stops – we’ll soon be filling it.
Please take a look at the range of Woodblocx raised beds here.
There are only around 24 species of bumblebees, 1 species of honey bee but over 200 species of solitary bees in Britain! Solitary bees are also important pollinators and as they often emerge quite early in the year (often as early as late February or early March) they can pollinate early fruit trees and bushes when bumblebees are just starting their colonies and honey bees are still hibernating in their hive.
Solitary bees do not live in large colonies and do not have any worker bees. Each female solitary bee is fertile and inhabits a nest built by herself. There are two different types of nests; ground nests build by sweat bees, (Halictids) and mining bees (Andrenids) and cavity nests build in hollow reeds, twigs or holes in wood by leafcutter bees and orchard bees (e.g. genus Osmia).
Each female constructs a series of cells, each with a food source (pollen and nectar packed into a ball) and a single egg that is laid on top. The nectar and pollen for each cell is gathered in several foraging trips, and this is why solitaries are such useful pollinators. Depending on the species, the cells are lined with various materials, including leaves, petals, mud or body secretion. When the entire nest is complete it is sealed off and the next nest started.
Depending on the species, solitary bees have one to several generations a year. In species with just one generation per year, it is usually the pupae or larvae that overwinter in the nest and emerge in spring the next year. The first bees to emerge are normally the males. They will often wait near flowers for the emerging females to mate. The males will then die and the females search for nesting places.
Here are some of the more common solitary bees you can see at the moment:
Hairy-footed flower bees (Anthophora plumipes), probably one of the fastest bees in the UK, are often seen hovering around Pulmonaria flowers. They will also visit other spring flowers such as comfrey (Symphytum), Flowering current (Ribes sanguineum) and Aubrieta. The bees are the size of a small bumblebee and both sexes look quite different from each other. The males, which normally emerge earlier than the females in late February or early March, have gingery hair with a darker tail whereas the females are black with yellowish hair on the hind legs. The females build their nest in soft mortar in walls or more rarely in the ground.
The bees are common and widespread in central and southern areas of the UK and can often be seen in gardens, parks and on allotment sites, especially if there is a patch of Pulmonaria present.
Mason bees, especially Red mason bee (Osmia bicornis), are also out now. The bees are about the size of a honey bee. The males are smaller than the females and have white hairs on the face. The females are larger, have bright orange hair on the abdomen and black hairs on the face. The females of the Red mason bee have two very distinctive black “horns” on the face which are unique to this species in the UK.
The bees are cavity nesters and use holes in woods and walls or hollow plant stems to build their nests. If you have a ‘bee hotel’ in your garden or allotment this is the species you will most likely see at this time of year.
The nest consists of a series of cells, each with a single egg and a food provision (pollen) separated by a layer of mud. The cells with the female eggs are at the back of the hole, the cells with the male eggs at the front. If you watch closely you can see the females transporting mud pellets to close each single nesting cell. They also collect pollen as food provision for the larvae which they transport underneath their abdomen. Red mason bees are good pollinators of fruit trees and bushes.
You can also see mining bees (Andrena spp.) now. One of the prettiest mining bee is the Tawny-mining bee (Andrena fulva). The female bee is covered in dense reddish hairs on the top of the thorax and abdomen and black hairs on the head, side of thorax and legs. The male looks less pretty and is a lot smaller with greyish to brownish hairs and white hairs on the face.
Tawny-mining bees are quite wide-spread in England and Wales and like to nest in lawns and short turf. The bees fly between March and June and like to visit a variety of different flowers such as fruit trees and fruit bushes, blackthorn (Prunus spinosa), buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) and daisies (Bellis perennis).
Another pretty mining bee is the Ashy mining bee (Andrena cineraria) with bands of grey hairs on the thorax and abdomen. The bee likes sunny open areas often on sandy soil. They will visit a variety of flowers such as cabbages, dandelion, roses and brambles (Rubus sp.).
Other mining bees you can see are for example Andrena nitida, Andrena bicolor and Andrena minutula but as there are many similar looking species it is often difficult to say exactly which bee you have found without consulting a bee expert.
So next time you are out in your garden, allotment or local park have a closer look at the bees you see and you will probably be surprised how many are actually solitary bees and not honey bees or bumblebees. If you want to attract more solitary bees to you garden build a ‘bee hotel’ and plant a variety of different flowers as food plants (look here for some ideas of how to attract pollinators )
Hello, my name is Tim Jeffries, General Manager at D.T.Brown.
Our company began more than a century ago supplying market gardeners locally in the north west before going on to sell [...]
London Herb Garden is a new business committed to ensuring that gardeners and allotment owners are able to try out the best herb and vegetable seed as easily as possible.
We asked Hannah [...]
London Herb Garden has launched a Spring Kitchen Garden Seed Pack containing vegetable and herb seeds to help allotment holders kick start their spring.
The seeds have [...]
We spoke with Terry Rayner, one of the senior partners at Terwins Seeds.
Terry has enjoyed a long career in the agricultural seeds trade, spending several years as a certified crops inspector.
Terry was [...]
Have you got lots of nice [...]
In my region, the North Caucasus [...]
Three weeks ago, a parcel arrived – a cardboard box printed with the words ’Golden Gark’.
On opening, all was revealed: a couple of pieces [...]
A couple of years ago, two friends, Damion Young and Simon Haynes, were talking about their allotments and their passion [...]
A couple of weeks ago, on a recommendation, we took a trip down to Helmsley Walled Gardens. The seemingly sleepy town of [...]
Hi, my name is Chrissie Gregory from Tuckers Seeds in Ashburton.
I’m in charge of producing our garden seed catalogue, ordering garden seeds and looking after many other aspects of the [...]
Allotments and Gardens: cold frames by Louise Curley
Want an economical solution to protecting plants [...]
We’ve been very fortunate to get our manure-ingrained hands on a copy of the latest book from the Charles Dowding collection.
Entitled ‘Organic Gardening – The Natural No-Dig Way’, it is a new full colour edition of [...]
Harvesting salads in March and potatoes in April, on an allotment, in Yorkshire.
It sounds impossible yet on one large allotment in Keighley, West Yorkshire; one man is doing just this – harvesting salad vegetables and potatoes in early [...]
A great tip came in from Ian Hazlehurst yesterday, thanks Ian for letting us share it..
If you’re having problems with a mole amongst your beds this simple method seems to do the job says Ian on his blog:
‘A Bamboo cane, split at the top, a CD pushed into the split & tied to the cane, [...]
it’s that time of year – Autumn – and anyone planning their veg for the following year would be wise to be thinking seriously about their compost.
Our compost bins are quietly filling during the year, with odd bits of weed, scrappy lettuce which have been decimated by slugs and the usual tidyings of veg prior to taking it home.
An outbreak of late blight in potatoes has shone a light on a quiet revolution, which aims to banish the disease from gardens.
Playing the blame game requires not only a grasp of the facts, but also an eye on the [...]
Tools and equipment stolen in allotment raid.
Thieves smashed their way into sheds and stole £1,000 of tools and equipment in a raid at Acton allotments.
The burglars struck at the site in Bromyard Avenue in the middle of the night last [...]
it’s really surprising how things have moved along during these last few [...]
A couple of weekends ago, myself and Stew packed our over night bag, loaded the boot with Christmas presents – then set off to Newcastle [...]
Hi, I’m Andrew Davidson, (I’m on the left with the hat in the photo below) one of the founders of the new independent growers website Quickcrop.co.uk. My business partner Niall McAllister and I have both been keen growers for over 20 years with many friends and neighbours asking us for [...]