Monthly Archives: October 2010

First frost

Last night in Liverpoool we had quite marked ground frost – I heard that in the region we may have experienced the lowest overnight temperatures in October for some time.

Arriving at the allotments this morning, the impact was clear to see on our neighbours’ plots: the Chinese family’s melon patch looked as if it had been torched, with a lone, unharvested melon now visible; and Billy’s dahlias, bright and colourful yesterday, now brown and withered.

A solitary melon surrounded by frost havoc.

Billy’s dahlias have suffered, too.

 

First raised beds

On a beautiful Sunday under a clear blue sky we assembled the first of the raised beds. It took a bit longer than expected because it turns out to be quite time-consuming getting the boards level.  So by close of play I had got four of the first six beds in place.

As soon as the first bed was done we could see that we’ll need quite a bit more material to fill up the beds.  We can obviously add a certain amount of manure. Under allotment rules, once we’ve paid £2.00 we can take as much manure as we like from the pile at the entrance that’s replenished regularly from the police horse stables (though rumour has it, that with the public spending cuts, the number of police horses is to be reduced).  Beyond that, the advice we’ve been given is that there’s a cheap source of bulk mushroom compost.

Painting the boards

This week, between rain showers, I’ve been painting the scaffold boards with fence paint, in preparation for assembling the raised beds.  We’ve also managed to finish digging over the area where the first six beds will be located.

Today we made the final preparations for assembling the beds – drawing out a line for the end of the beds and driving in the first corner posts.  Tomorrow, if the weather is fair, we’ll start fixing the boards and constructing the beds.

Yesterday, walking around the edge of the allotments, I encountered a colleague from the days when I worked at the college, and today we discovered Pete, who we knew close on 40 years ago, a friend of friends who was also a teacher – at John Lennon’s old school.  This afternoon a heron flew low over the plot.

This week I’ve also been looking into the history of the land on which these allotments are located. There’s always a sense on city allotments of the ‘fields beneath’ – the land as it was before it was urbanised.  But here, it seems especially so.  At one end of the allotments the plots tumble down the sides of fairly deep declivity and I was intrigued to discover that this is the Dingle – the once-picturesque valley that ran down to the Mersey at Knott’s Hole, and which gives its name to this part of the city.  The photo above reveals what it looked like around 1900.  The allotments came in 1923, and this is roughly the same view now. I’ll write about the history of this place at greater length some other time.

Scaffold boards and digging

On Monday I ordered 48 scaffold boards – enough to make 16 raised beds.  Each one is 8 foot long, so you need 3 to make one bed, 8 foot by 4 foot.  I got them from a local supplier at what seems to be the going rate of three quid each.

They were delivered on Saturday morning, so I spent a couple of hours hauling them from the main gate down to our plot.  On Sunday I borrowed the generator and the rather terrifying power saw to cut 16 of the boards in half to make 32 short sides.  Today I started painting them with fence paint.

We also needed corner posts – which will be driven into the soil, and to which the boards will be attached.  One of the great things about being on the allotments is that you can tap into a wealth of local knowledge.  Alan, the secretary, told us where to get the scaffold boards and screws cheap – and also told us about a used-timber yard where this morning I was able to get 2″X2″ cut into 64 lengths of 18 inches (scaffold board is 8 inches wide).  It was in a a lost corner of the city, beside a railway bridge on an orphaned stretch of dockland street above the brewery, the 1913 stables for the dray horses and a stranded Georgian semi.

So we’re making headway with the preparations for constructing the raised beds.  Meanwhile, we’ve continued digging the ground where the first beds will be located.  We’re making good progress because the weather has been mainly dry, apart from the odd spot of drizzle.

Lazy Sunday

This dog looks like we both feel – I’m exhausted after two days of strimming and rotavating, and R is recovering after two days laid low with a cold.  So we spent a quiet Sunday morning not really doing very much.  Importantly, we marked out where the first deep beds will go and worked out how many 8 foot scaffolding planks we’ll need, so that I can phone and order them tomorrow.

Then we just sat baking in the hot sun, under a clear blue sky, watching a flock of birds wheel and turn endlessly above us.  We planned a patio in font of the shed and imagined sitting here on summer evenings with something to eat and a glass of wine.

The recent work has uncovered the footings for a 6 foot by 8 foot greenhouse.

Bucking rotavator

Borrowed the rotavator and spent a strenuous couple of hours working on the section where the first deep beds will go.  I’d imagined that I’d be pushing, walking along leisurely behind the machine as it did the heavy work.  I hadn’t expected to be pulled by a bucking bronco, using all my strength to hold it back so that it dug more deeply into the soil.

Still, although exhausted by the end, it was good to see the area looking like this.  Today was as hot as some of the days we’ve had this summer, and this spell of good weather is giving us a great head start.  I was able to burn the cleared bramble, and also sprayed the cut brambles beyond the shed with weedkiller, so that in a couple of weeks, hopefully, they’ll be weakened sufficiently to start forking the roots out and clearing an area for the raspberry canes.  I also sprayed the cut brambles along the fence a second time for good luck.

Strimming starts

Driving  along Ullet Road to the plot, an old fox crossed the road in front of me. Faded ginger and silver back, heading from Princes Park to the rubbish bins and back gardens of Linnet Lane, no doubt.  It reminded me of the Sunday morning three or four years ago when we were woken by strange cries, and, looking out of the bedroom window, saw a female fox with two cubs running along the back wall of the garden.  Later, I’d sometimes see a lone fox crossing the avenue late at night when I took the dog for a walk.

A fine, dry day with more to come in the forecast.  Down at the allotments I managed to get hold of the strimmer and cleared the area which is largely clear of serious weeds and brambles.

Washout

The weekend’s been a washout as far as the plot is concerned: heavy rain on Friday and Sunday, while we other commitments on Saturday, which was mainly dry.  We’d planned to start strimming the cleared area.  Oh well – one day at a time.