Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Using the 3 foot by 2 foot paving slabs.

I unwrapped the tomato seed pot from its plastic bag today to be pleasantly surprised to find that the seed had germinated. Pleasing as this might be; it is only the beginning and I will have to try to keep them alive now until they can be safely put out into the greenhouse or in pots at the allotment.  Not bad for seed given to me. 

I like freebees. 

The great thing about having early plants is that you get a longer cropping season. 
I will leave the seedlings in their pot until they get their second leaves and then prick them out into 3 inch pots.  They will stay in the pots until they are about 6-8 inches tall.   

The Ailsa Craig onion seedlings are doing well in the cold greenhouse.  They will be pricked out in a couple of weeks’ time.  They will be fine in the seed tray for a while.  The Bedfordshire Champion onion seed has not germinated very well.  I don’t know how old it was but it was given to me so I cannot be too disgruntled.

After digging over the potato bed and replacing the curbing with big 3 foot x 2 foot paving slabs, I decided to do all the niggling jobs that you leave because they are not priorities.  The bottom path that leads to the water butt was not really finished off because I ran out of paving slabs.  I decided to use another of the 3 foot x 2 foot slabs to finish off the path.  They are big ugly pieces of concrete and they will break your leg if one falls on you.  Phil my good friend had left them on the allotment.  Again, they were free so I could not turn them away particularly as I had asked Phil if he had got some.  Well, I smoothed the ground well with the rake and made sure that the slab would fit into the area I wanted.  Although I have a very useful trolley that works on the soft ground of the allotment, I decided to walk the slab up to the path.  
Luckily, I got it there in one piece – me I mean not the slab.  I dropped the slab into the space I made for it and as far as I am concerned it will stay there for as long as I have the allotment.  A gap of about 1 foot was left and I filled this with a small paving slab.  

Last, but by no means least, I needed to finish off the bottom roots bed curbing.  Now that I have these big 3 foot beggars I might as well use them up to finish the curbing here as well.  

I planted the grape here because the soil was the poorest on the allotment.  The trouble is I did not measure it quite right and it was about 1 foot out of alignment.  Also, if I put the curbing along this side of the bed, I will have to raise the level of the soil slightly.  I did not want to move the grape especially at this time of the year so eventually I made the compromise of putting a square of curbing paving stones around it to keep the soil back from around the grape’s stem ( at the original level of the bed) while allowing me to increase the soil level to the tops of the buried paving slabs everywhere else.  

We have had some quite blowy weather recently and it blew over the trellising that I had put up for the grape.  I needed to take it out to put the curbing in but I needed to make a decision about whether to put it back afterwards.  Having taken down two of my compost bins to give me space for the new shed, I still needed to reconstruct them somewhere else.  To kill two birds with one stone, I decided to construct the bins next to the curbing so that one of the pallet sides would be next to the grape.  I could use the side of the bin to grow the grape up.  

Now I don’t know how many slabs my mate Phil left on the allotment for me but there were plenty to make a paved bottom for the compost bins.  This time, though, I got the trolley out to move the slabs.  I am not sure whether it would be frowned upon to have a concrete slab base for a compost heap but I know from experience it is very much easier to empty with one in.  Before I started, I began to think that if I made the compost bins higher than the rest of the comfrey bed then any leachates from the compost will naturally flow into the soil in which the comfrey is growing.  This bed is already at the bottom of the allotment site and all the runoff from quite a large area flows through the comfrey soil.  
The theory is that the comfrey is utilizing any leached nutrients from the rest of the allotment site and now could have the leachates from the compost as well.  Notice all relationship to proper compost bin construction has now gone completely out of the window.

Not wanting to waste any of the soil – even though it was the very poor stony soil that the council used to replace the contaminated soil, I dug down one spit and, leaving the soil on one side, filled the hole with stone from the stone pile.  I put some of the soil back again to level the ground and this had the effect of raising the concrete slabs about 3 or 4 inches above the surrounding area.  That was enough for me. 
The slabs were placed on top of that and the pallets were wired together to make a 4 foot square compost bin.  I did not wire in the front pallet because I wanted to store the comfrey charcoal dustbins on the slabs.   This has tidied up this corner of the allotment very well. 

I still have enough slabs and pallets to make another 4 foot square compost bin and this will butt right up to the other one.  I will raise this one up too.  

While I was constructing the compost bins, I had to take out the comfrey that was growing in this area.  I just put it on one side and I will replant it when I have finished making the compost bins.  Comfrey is tough as old boots so leaving the roots exposed like this will not hurt it very much.  It is only the wild comfrey Symphytum Officinale and I can easily replace any that die from waste areas around the allotment.  Someone might be kind and let me have some of their Russian comfrey if I get around to asking them.  The comfrey rows are not parallel to the curbing of the roots bed so I will move them all when I dig over this bed. 

The soil here is thick clay and even the cow manure I packed into it does not seem to have made much of a difference.  I am not looking forward to digging in this area.  However, I have been walking all over it and it is now very compacted so I cannot avoid it.  

I will make a path alongside the other compost bins to the new shed to use up some more of the slabs and to keep me from treading between the comfrey plants.  This will finish off the whole of the allotment in the slab department and anyone who wants the excess slabs can have them.

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