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Allotment Blog

Allotment Blog (7)

Monday, 11 April 2016 09:56

2016 Update

Last time I wrote in this blog, I had an allotment in Ipswich. The allotment took lots of time, lots of hard work digging and weeding and ultimately, didn't return much food to our ttable. It did, however return some good food to someone elsees table when the best of the crops were stolen.

Well this spurred me on to make something that I thought would help lazy gardeners everywhere, I made a vertical allotment system of tubes that mounted on my fence at home so that I could keep an eye on it and it took up a bare minimum of space in my small garden. I knew that if I took the water from my pond I could utilize the fish waste as the water went through so I made sure that the vertical tubes had some filter medium in them to act as a biological digester and turn the ammonia to nitrate and constantly pumped the water through the tubes and returned the water to the pond. It turns out that this method of creating nutrient in the vertical tubes and recycling it is called aquaponics and also saves 90% of the water usually used in growing food

The method I used also left the roots of the plant in the air inside the tubes and they were sprayed with the pond water as it circulated but also got lots of oxygen to the root which produces faster growth, bigger yeilds and real flavour as getting the roots to breathe and giving the plant all of the water and nutrient that it needs allows the plants to fully produce their oils and sugars. The water is sprayed for ten seconds every 20 minutes so the 12v pump can easily keep up with this energy drain just using a solar panel to top up the batteries.

This is now a patented product and we are exporting to Kenya, South Africa, France, Holland and Australia with other countries now catching on. We can create urban farms and industrial growing right in the heart of towns to grow low carbon, almost zero food miles, predictable, secure food that has never been sprayed with a herbicide.

The product is called the Aponic Vertcal Aeroponic Growing System and is catching on fast with flower growers, food producers and gardeners because of its low labour requirement, low water usage and bery low energy footprint.

This is it at my house, I can't tell you what we call this particular system but it rhymes with bucket and it is where we will give anything a go so you will see some beans, crocuses, tea, Lettuces, onions, garlic and potatoes growing in there and a few other trials. This one I started on the 5th of March 2016 and this is how it looked then.

2016-03-05 14.13.32

I have just taken some pictures for a client and this is what it looks like today the 11th of April 2016:

2016-04-11 10.25.23

The beans flowered yesterday with more flowers and buds than I have ever had and the potatoes have gone beserk! The wood in the foreground is for an elaborate outside system I have planned but we are still getting very cold nights and I forget the rigors of growing outside after growing indoors for the last three years.

We won some awards too, the Creating the Greenest County awards for greenest product and the best adaption to climate change award and we also won the greenest product award at the Greenest Essex Awards last christmas.

2016-03-31 19.13.59

We have installed the systems all over the place now and they are being used in universities as the perfect test bed because the nutrient solution can be adjusted so that a constant feed rate can be lept to estimate exactly how much experimentation in other areas has had an effect.

I have added a couple more images of a commercial wall at a chilli farm in Newark and a nice 1m tube unit at Mudchute Farm on the Isle of Dogs which is the only operational farm in London and sits just below Canary Wharf.

2016-03-10 15.18.36

2016-03-24 11.42.02

2016-03-24 13.32.56

Anyway, that is what I have been up to in case you wondered. I hope you enjoyed the read.

Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:19

And today we planted

Yep, today we planted an assortment of beans, red and white onion sets (I can smell the soup already). We also planted some more of the beetroot that went so well last year and some of those strips of carrot seed. Such a good idea.

 

I really must get around to drawing up a garden plan and adding it to this blog so I can remember where I put everything!

 

Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:13

Then we tilled

We decided to spend a couple of hours at the allotment and see how much of the newly dug soil we could get raked and tilled to start planting. In a little over two hours again we had levelled and tilled the whole plot apart from a square under the netting and the garlic patch that the veg theives had left us.

 

Again this seemed like a doddle, I think it was because I had not been battered by the sheer toil and exhaustion of digging the soil.

Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:08

This time we dug it in 2 hours!

And here is the result, two hours worth of digging, one small blister on my thumb and arms left feeling used but not destroyed.

Sunday, 18 March 2012 21:47

Then we found this spade

One day whilst weeding and sorely regretting ever starting the allotment thing, one of our fellow allotmenteers came over and had to show us his toy he had borrowed from a friend. He led us to his plot where his 12 yearr old daughter was turning a plot similar to ours weed and neglect wise with ease.

 

We tried it ourselves and it seemed very good for a few spadefuls and I took some pictures with half a mind to get one made as they were not being built any more.

 

A year passed and it came around to the end of the winter and the beginning of the gut wrenching digging again. I was left so damaged by this last year that it had taken a year to get my back half right again. I said I probably couldn't go through this again and Helen even said that if it came to it she would do the digging! I decided that the only way to go on with the allotment was to try one of those autospades we had seen. I scoured Ebay and found a second hand one with all of its attachments for about £50. I sneaked the purchase through and waited for it to arrive.

 

The day it arrived, I was so excited and wanted to try it out as soon as possible. I knew that if this didn't work we would have to think seriously about giving up the allotment and this goes against our nature totally. I had it delivered to the office and when I got it home I announced that I had a present in the car for us. She twigged immediately, knowing the dread the digging held for me. I reminded her of her promise to do the digging this year....

 

We got it down to the allotment and it looked every bit as threatening as we had left it the previous week but a little lighter as someone had stolen our broccoli, cabbages and leeks that we had over wintered...

 

I started the first corner which had not been dug the previous year because it looked too nasty. It was where the previous encumbant had placed his shed and was a mass of spear grass and weeds. I started to turn the soil and it all went swimmingly. I started to dig a long trench and it flicked and inverted the soil as easy as pie. I made another cut, then another, it was so easy! Helen popped up at this point and had plucked up the courage to ask the million pound question, "Well, does it work?", "It was worth every penny!" I beamed. And it was too. In two hours I had dug the whole allotment from end to end including the really bad areas that we had left the previous year because you couldnd get a fork in it. We went out that evening and had a lovely time at a dinner party. the previous year when I had dug and rotivated the thing we went to a quiz night and we were nearly dead.

 

Sunday, 18 March 2012 21:30

So we dug until our backs broke...

...then we dug some more...    Then we rotivated...

 

I am not sure if the rotivator was easier than digging but at least it provided a different set of blisters, aches and pains to take my mind off the digging marathon. It took us two days of solid graft to get this plot half dug...  I could have cried.

 

We struggled through our first year fighting a losing battle with the rampant weed fauna and for our efforts we grew:

Courgettes (too many)

Garlic (yummy)

Lettuces (gritty)

Tomatoes (well, three actually)

Asparagus (three)

Parsnips (not bad)

Beetroot (Awesome tubular variety)

Purple sprouting broccoli (stolen)

Leeks (stolen)

Romanescu broccoli (stolen)

Red onions (kept us going all year)

Artichokes (good but a little thin)

Kohlrabi (very good)

Spring onions (good)

 

In all not too bad for a first attempt but the weeds and thieves really took it out of us.

 

Sunday, 18 March 2012 20:53

How our allotment started

This is how it looked when we started