Archive for June, 2012

Wolf Cultivator

I am a great fan of the Wolf multi-change tools, instead of trying to carry three or four different tools to the plot all with handles you carry one handle and a couple of heads.

The Wolf cultivator speeds up the process of breaking down the soil after forking the soil, probably by as much as half, it will even produce a tilth fit to sow into in no time at all.

The cultivator comes in three sizes, the two smaller ones have prongs, the largest has a small blade on the end of each prong, and is ideal for breaking up bigger lumps, and cutting weeds off in their prime.

You will probably say that Wolf tools are expensive, and that may be true, but they come with a lifetime guarantee, and the largest is around £25.99

I use the medium size cultivator straight after forking ground over, I find it good for tilling the soil to a depth of three inches, in doing so it will also pull those stringy weed roots to the surface, and the larger stones, which can be picked out, unlike a rake however you tend not to pull all the stones and large clumps of earth toward you.

The smallest of the cultivators is good for getting in between plants, to loosen weeds, and expose their roots to the sun, it can also be used as a hand tool with a shorter handle for flower beds.

Slugs ‘n Snails

There is nothing any can love about a slug or snail, they are the bane of the gardener, and the war against slugs has been waging since man started to culture plants.

Coming back off holiday we found that our runner bean shoots had fallen victim to these pests, we had omitted to put pellets where they would emerge.

So what exactly are you up against ?

Slugs are a gastropod and love moisture, during dry spells they have to find moist damp places to hide, they are mainly water, and secrete a mucus which can make them difficult for birds to pick up, the mucus can also be distasteful for birds.

Slugs are hermaphrodites, and as such can mate as a male of female, when mating is finished the one slug chews off the others penis to separate, in so doing that slug is then only able to mate as a female. The female can lay 30 eggs a few days after mating.

Believe it or not most slug species survive by eating leaves, fungus and rotting vegetable material, unfortunately in the UK, the majority of species prefer tender young greens !.

So how do we stop these pests ?

The easiest answer is to make the area around your plants as dry as possible, the ground will act like a dessicant and dry out the slug, common remedies are pellets, egg shells, sand, grit, and lately used coffee grindings from coffee shops, as well as the old fashioned approach of beer traps, ( if you’re male this can be the perfect excuse to get a few bottles in), salt, and going on a nighttime hunt, where you find them and send them to a soapy water end !.

Copper tape is also supposed to be good, especially for container grown plants, the best solution however is diatamaceous earth, which can be found on Amazon from around £6 for  100g

For a long term but somewhat expensive solution to the  problem, you could put gravel paths around all your vegetable beds, over time this will reduce the amount of eggs being laid in the plots, so reducing the slug population.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/s/?ie=UTF8&keywords=diatomaceous+earth&tag=googhydr-21&index=aps&hvadid=6177293096&hvpos=1t1&hvexid=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=3336473661519242828&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=b&ref=pd_sl_lmljbd0me_b

The most friendly way is remove lower leaves to reduce the amount of moisture in the soil around the plant.

Essential Tools – A Spade and Fork

A spade is a spade as the saying goes, but in this day and age that is not so true !.

These are the workhorses of any garden, and should last any gardener or allotmenteer a lifetime, so it’s wise to choose them well, and spend as much as you can afford.

SPADES

Lots of spades these days are made from pressed steel, and have those small tabs on the top, which I find seem to trap a lot of soil and make the spade heavy and more difficult to clean, which is a consideration as they are mainly mild steel and will soon rust, if they are not cleaned and oiled after use.

My choice would be stainless steel blade, with a good strong hickory shaft, not the plastic or metal ones, look for a spade that is well balanced and has a good long throat where the wood enters the metal shaft, the blade should have a slight curve, and fairly sharp at the business end.

Look also for seamless welds, smooth join between wood and metal, make sure the handle is smooth and is firm, the shaft and handle should be all in one piece, avoid a spade with a plastic handle riveted to the wood at all costs.

 

FORKS

There are various types of forks, the main one you will see is the digging fork, about the same size as the spade, the two will look like a pair, take the same things into consideration when buying a fork.

Try to find one with thick square tines, thin round tines will easily distort and bend in heavy soil.

 

Like everything else in life you get what you pay for, my medium priced Spade and Fork cost around £30 each, chances are they will last 4-5 times longer (if not more) than the pressed steel versions, and will pay for themselves.

Essential Tools – A shed !

Unless you are fortunate enough for your home to be literally a step away from the allotment, your first tool should be a shed, saying that, you may be fortunate enough to inherit one from the previous owner as was our case.

A shed is essential to store all those things you will need on a daily basis, and somewhere to shelter on those showery spring and summer days.

The ideal size would be 8′ x 5′ in old money, don’t ask me what the metric equivalent is.

At first you may think that a new shed is in order, but unless the shed you are inheriting is practically falling down, there is a lot you can do to save yourself a bit of hard cash, especially if you do not take to the grow your own way :

Firstly a coat of preservative does a lot to make a shed look good, most allotment associations only specify a “recognised preservative”, and most would go for Dark Brown or Cedar Red, bu there is nothing stopping you choosing a bright blue or green.

If the shed is a bit rickety, then bracing it diagonally will give a few more years of life, or at least until you are sure that you will get value out of a new one.

It’s fair to say that sheds are not the most secure of places, so it’s advisable not to keep  anything like mowers or rotovators in there, which would attract thieves, a good strong padlock is still advisable as a deterrent though.

In our shed we have two chairs, essential for those little breaks between digging and weeding, we have also invested in a single ring gas hob, bought for £9.99 from a hardware store, just to give us a fresh hot drink while we are working. The walls are used for hanging tools, and some old containers are utilised as storage for string and the like, we even have room for the wheelbarrow to be tucked away at the end of the day.

Hello world!

Hi there!

We are Carol & Graham, and at the end of April 2012 we were finally given an allotment after a two year wait.

Follow us as we share our experiences, both good and bad, in the ever popular grow your own veg.

We hope to share with you some hints and tips that we have found useful, and real ways to get things done properly and quickly, whether like us you are just starting out, or you are a seasoned allotmenteer, we are sure you will find something of use in our pages.

Happy digging

Carol & Graham