I’d forgotten what you looked like…!

So, the allotment is still there…

I had slightly tweaked my back shifting some furniture so hadn’t managed to get to the allotment for a month or so – I drove over there today with a boot full of compost and some very good intentions.

A clear, bright and mild December day lifted the spirits and connected me back into the Earth. It all looked very much the same but actually less work to do, given the recent cold and frosty weather, meaning fewer weeds and very limited grass growth.

Allotment 16.12.12 - 09

Still a few pests hanging around though – fair play, it can have the last bit of the cabbage!

The compost was duly dumped and spread out, with a good helping of ash from our wood-burner. Ash from wood is a great source of potassium, which regulates plants’ water balance (so tissue is firm and juicy), and has a part in transporting food within the plant and creating sugars and starches. Without enough, vegetables are more vulnerable to drought, frost, pests and diseases.

Allotment 16.12.12 - 15

The ash will create a more alkaline soil, but peas, beans, fruit and most root vegetables will do well with some extra ash. The area where i’ve just spread the ash was just used for growing all the potatoes and this season will be the main pea and bean growing area, to rotate the crops and improve the soil.

The other thing was the very healthy looking rainbow chard and spinach – the toughest boys on the plot! A good clump of that was harvested and eaten an hour later for lunch – very nice and full of iron.

I also spread out a blue tarpaulin over the central part of the plot, which will be another useful growing space for the coming season.


Planting cabbages…

Bit of a random blog post but there is a lot of planting to do at the allotment and I need to make sure I don’t put the cabbages too close together. So, just checked out a couple of websites and apparently cabbages like an alkaline soil, so i’m going to add some potash to the soil first and dig this in.

Red Cabbage (rodeo) – from http://thegardensmallholder.wordpress.com/

The ash from our wood burner contains potassium carbonate (potash) and sodium carbonate (soda ash), both of which are very similar. We have already added the manure over the winter and it’s nearly ready.

I’m going to put them in 20-30 cms apart and i’ll see what happens…


Time for the allotment to wake-up…!

We’ve been slowly waking up to the fact that now is the time to kick start our allotment ambitions. If we had been making great progress with our growing this past year, we would now be pulling up all the plants and turning over the compost etc.

As it is, we’ve just been over to the allotment and done an hour of digging, but there wasn’t much to pull up out of the raised beds. Claire and I had a very rare opportunity to spend a small amount of time out of the house together without the boys, so we legged it over to the allotment.

We took up all the raised beds, got the last tomatoes and rainbow chard out, pulled out the canes, stacked the raised beds behind the shed, dug over and cleared a section of the corner of the plot measuring 2 x 2.5 metres (5 m2).

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Not a bad start and given how much we got done in only 1 hour, we’re now thinking we can do the whole plot with forks and spades, rather than using a friend’s rotavator, which obviously uses petrol. The whole plot is roughly 100 m2, so it would only take 2 people about 20 hours to do the whole thing. This could easily be done over a few weekends and we’re going to try and go up there for at least 2 hours every Saturday and Sunday.

The rough plan until the start of winter, is to clear the whole plot of weeds, raised beds, dead plants + move the raspberry bushes, pull back the black sheets and move the logs, branches and wood away.

Next is the digging and rotavating, which we’ve now started. We’ll come back and do a more thorough dig and weed removal, but it’s a start and will help to get the process of the weather breaking down the soil going.

Next is to add manure / fertiliser / compost, which is essential to improve the soil and boost the somewhat limited productivity. Based on what we’ve one today, we might keep going with the digging and clearing then add manure as we go. It’s all a learning process and we’ll just see how it works out.

Another thing we’re going to try is green manure, which could be mustard, which is grown during autumn and winter, then dug into the soil, which then breaks down and adds nutrients back in. It also helps to retain the nutrients from the compost and manure over winter.

We’ve got a long way to go but it was an amazing feeling doing that small amount of work there today. Very inspiring and really good exercise! There’s something about working the soil for a productive end which is just amazing.


Garden autumn clear out…

It’s all change in the garden, getting ready for the winter.

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We’ve now managed to clear away all of the dead plants and have finally sorted out the old compost bin and moved it to the other side, next to the one we’re using right now. I’d been meaning to do this for a while and we’ve got some really good compost out of it, after I sifted all the large pieces of baby wipes and wood!

Anyway, about half of that has been dug into the raised beds and potato patch as well as all of the pot ash which i’d stored from last winter. They’re all ready to plant up in the spring, or sooner if there are any amazing ideas for winter plants. The Rainbow Chard is still going strong + Claire discovered a rogue ‘baby’ cucumber stuck down behind the wooden container – it’s massive! Claire features in one of the pictures ‘proud fisherman’ style!

Grass has been cut today and the patio area has been swept. The new rotary clothes dryer is also up and it had 4 loads of washing on it today + 1 on the clothes horse! The rain cover for that is arriving soon, so we’ll be able to hang out washing in any weather.


The Gloucester incinerator…

The future Gloucester incinerator. Good news or very bad news?

This late-night angry rant (before I watch Liverpool getting spanked by Blackpool (!!) on MOTD2), was inspired by Baz Kirby’s Blog post about it. Thanks to him for getting me to re-look at this. It’s an important issue which needs more attention.

There is no definitive conclusion, given the different weights which each person will place on each aspect of the debate, but, sometimes you just have to jump off the fence and put your flag in the ground!

There are a number of positive aspects, otherwise it wouldn’t even be an issue. Just to get these out of the way first, there is a very short term cost saving, in that little or no waste will be dumped in land fill, therefore saving most, if not all, of the landfill taxes. The electricity produced by the system can also be used or sold to the grid.

Ok, that’s about it.

Here are the negatives:

More new material has to be manufactured to replace that being incinerated, whereas this material could be recycled, therefore massively reducing the energy and raw materials needed.

In terms of the waste hierarchy, there are a number of important steps before this stage which should be developed and put to use. These are prevention (not using the material in the first place), minimisation (using less of it), reuse (repair the thing or put it to a different use) and finally recycle (use the various elements which make up the product in other products).There are many different types of pollutants found in the waste ash + there is the waste emissions from the chimneys.

Fine dust particles and dioxins are a real medical issue. Fine particles are repeatedly correlated to infant mortality.

The very existence of a large incinerator encourages more waste production and less recycling, given that these large incinerators need to be fed rubbish constantly.

Waste materials from the incineration process will end up in landfill, which costs a lot of money, in terms of management, land take and taxes.

The waste fly Ash needs specialist toxic waste landfill disposal elsewhere, also leading to further transport miles.

Long contract periods needed in order to recover initial investment costs, causing a long-term lock-in (operational lifetime is roughly 20-30 years). Even if better and more sustainable alternatives are chosen in the short or medium term, the incinerator will remain operational.

There already are better alternatives and this issue will become more and more pronounced as time goes on, with better technologies being developed. One example is the MBT method – Mechanical Biological Treatment, which can produce a fuel source or recovery of individual components, such as plastic, glass and metals. The biological treatment part of this is currently in use via Gloucester’s brown bin collection system and gets sent to a farm which processes the food waste in huge anaerobic digestion containers. The product is fertiliser, used in farming.

Incinerators can produce electricity but there are many other cleaner ways to produce electricity that doesn’t involve incineration – tidal, hydro-electric, wave, solar, wind etc.

Visually undesirable, with prominent chimney stacks and associated industrial structures.