Sunday 27 March 2011

Potatoes are in, a planters guide for 1st earlies

Today is Potato planting day, the Anya (an early salad type) & Hunter (2nd early) have been 'Chitting' since late January and were desperate to go in.

First I marked out the first row, 24" (60cm) from the boundary, next I dug a narrow trench about 6" deep along the string.

I then sprinkled a good handful of Chicken Pellets onto the soil dug out, so when raked back over mixes in with the soil.

Each Potato tuber placed in the bottom of the trench is 12" (30cm) apart along the trench, each trench 24" (60cm) between, this is the best spacing for early varieties.
Main crop should be 15" (38cm) apart in trenches 30" (75cm) between.

When each trench has been planted, using a rake, carefully draw back the soil over the potatoes from both sides, leaving a mound of soil the length of the trench, I gently tamp down the top of each ridge, with the back of the rake, to give a flat not peaked top, so when it rains, rain soaks into the soil not runs off.

Other jobs done today on the plot:
Planted Carrots 'Early Nantes' & 'Sugarsnax' under the net tunnel in picture and a row of Parsnips.
Harvested last of last years Parsnips too.

Oh and yet another Bonfire, the Potash from previous bonfires was raked over the area earmarked for Peas & Beans, a free source of soil improver :)

Chickens at Home News:

Even though we do a daily quick clean in the Hen House, today a week after our Chickens were released from their Battery existence, we did a full clean out, so when we finished our Hens had to inspect, but were soon out again to enjoy a treat of Kale harvested from the Allotment.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Saturday 26 March 2011

Potato patch preparation

This year we are planting almost 200 seed Potatoes:
23 x Anya, 1st early (2 rows)
40 x Charlotte, 1st early (3 rows)
43 x Hunter, 2nd early (3 rows)
10 x Rocket, 2nd early (1 row)
80 x Markies, Main (7 rows)

Here you can see the before shot of the Potato patch.

Yesterday (Friday) I moved the Kale, as shown in photo above, because we wanted to keep growing it for our Chickens, they love it.
I also scattered Manure over the soil.

Here I am with my favorite piece of Allotment equipment, my trusty Rotovator, makes turning the soil & incorporating manure a much quicker job.

So a few hours later both areas left & right of path have been Rotovated, just for the record the Potato patch (on left) is 35ft x 14ft, try digging that over just with a spade in only an afternoon.

So tomorrow I'm planting the 1st & 2nd Earlies, Anya & Hunter, will plant the Charlotte next weekend, to stagger harvest.

Chickens at Home News:
Here you can see one of our Hens attacking the Kale, they love it as a treat and can strip it of leaves in no time.

As you can see our Hens now only a week since release from battery existence, are looking good, they have good colour in their feathers & comb, and all 4 are laying an egg each a day, a bonus and taste so good too.

Thanks for reading/returning, check out tomorrows Blog for Potato planting tips. Ian.

Wednesday 23 March 2011

The Plot beckons and there is much to do

Lovely sunny day today, so I did a couple of hours on the plot this afternoon,
Weeded the Potato patch in readiness for Manure that was delivered last yr so it is now well rotted.
Planning to Rotovator it too to mix the manure in, then to plant the 1st Earlies, Charlotte & Anya

Looking over the Rhubarb, which is marching upwards every day now, you can see I had a bonfire, managed to burn most of the weeds pulled up today as well as some pulled at the end of growing last yr.

Chickens at home News:

Here is the 1st Egg laid in the proper place, the nesting box, we've had 15 so far since rescue, 3 on day two and 4 every day since, which are laid on the floor of the hen house. So our 'girls' must be happy in their new home.

Thanks for reading/returning, look out for next update, with news of Potato planting. Ian.

Tuesday 22 March 2011

Chicken Day four - Settling in well

A Chickens eye view from the hen house, looking out of the 'pop hole'

But already on day four, Betty, Peggy, Maud & Hetty (in pecking order) are settling in well. They are already showing signs of normal hen behavior, scratching soil, pecking up grain, eating greens & sunbathing too.

They are almost putting themselves to bed at night too, hardly had to coax t
hem last night, unlike night 1 & 2 where I had to lift them into the hen house through the 'pop hole' but as I said they are learning fast.
And they are laying an egg each a day.

Here you can see them Dust Bathing, but in forest bark, not ideal, but they seem to like it.
The Kale was a hit and they have already finished off the Chickweed, I gave them an extra treat too, a handful of Supermix Corn and they went wild for it, will try Mealworms tomorrow, have been told the same reaction will be observed.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 20 March 2011

Chicken Day two - Eggsellent News

Got up early today, 6:30am, to let the chickens out, but to our surprise they had layed 2 eggs.

But not surprising they would not venture outside, maybe it was due to earlier rain, or more likely they just did not realise they could go out, so we coaxed them out and one went straight back in. So we left her to herself.

Later on we checked on her, now named Hetty and she had layed an Egg too, so 3 in total :)

We do realise these are from their previous Battery days (only yesterday) so don't expect any more until they are settled in properly.

But actually they are doing very well, Hetty finally came out all by herself and joined in the feed fest.

But there is a definite pecking order set up and we've named the dominant one Bossy Betty the other two Peggy & Maude slot in nicely in front of Hetty.

As you can see we got them some Chick Weed & Kale (hanging up) as a treat
from the Allotment and the Rhubarb is doing well, it's shooting up all over the place.

But the next important job to do is prepare the Potato patch, the 'Anya' , 'Charlotte' & 'Hunter' that have been 'chitting' since January are ready to go in.
Sadly the Chicken house & run construction had taken up most of my time lately and the Allotment has been neglected, but now the Chickens are in residence I can crack on now that 'Spring' is here & the clocks go forward next week too!

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Saturday 19 March 2011

Chicken Day One

Finally the Hens arrive.

So may I introduce you to:

Hetty, Betty, Peggy & Maud.

Dont know which is which yet, will observe their behavior over the next few days and decide.

The pick up from the British Hen Welfare Trust, at the Oswestry branch, went well. They were re-homing 450 hens today, a military operation they said, and it was, so well done them.

You can visit the website here:
Or follow them on Twitter @BHWTOfficial

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Friday 18 March 2011

Chicken House & Run finally finished, just in time

A full nine hours of work done today on the Hen House & Run.

But it's finally finished and just in time too.

As you can see in this picture, I have put half Forest Bark and half Turf, to give the Chickens 2 places to search for bugs etc.

I also placed some off cuts of branches for them to perch on during the day. I was told to provide something for them to play with and hope they like what I have done.

Here you can see the inside of the shed, sorry, Hen House.

'Pop Hole' on right, Nesting Boxes on left and Perching poles at the back.

Plenty of room for our 'Girls'

We have already chosen names, but you will have to wait, not telling just yet :)

Here you can see the Perching Poles close up.
I made them from branches salvaged from a tree that blew down in the recent storms, when we went on the Poultry keeping course at Reaseheath College we were told to use rounded poles not square, so when I saw these branches thought they would be ideal.

Here's a close-up of the Nesting Boxes, where our Hens should lay their eggs.

I made these from old signs I had on my old shop front, but saved them as a reminder of better days. But thought they would be ideal to make the nest boxes from. The way they ended up was purely coincidental & not planned.

I hardly bought any wood, except for the run frame, and made all the interior fittings & pop hole from salvaged & saved wood, chipboard & MDF. Even all the screws used were left over from other jobs/projects, oh and I bought 2 hinges for the run door.

Well the Chickens arrive, well we are collecting them, tomorrow (Saturday 19th March) so expect increased Blogging from me :)

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 13 March 2011

Chicken Run finished

Superb day today, sunny too.
So a perfect day to some work outside and with only 6 days till Chicken arrival day I had to get a move on finishing the Hen House & Run.

Well as you can see the run is finished, just the door to put on, which is built, but only just painted so not in place yet.

Next job is to fit out the interior of the Hen House. I have sourced lots of salvage wood & tree branches, added to what I have stored in the garage. So Nesting boxes, roosting poles etc still to make so hoping to get it done over the next few days, weather permitting (but forecast does look OK).

Other jobs done:
While I was busy my wife visited the Allotment to weed the Garlic, pot up some Strawberry runners & check things over. She told me the Rhubarb has grown some more, so if I get a chance will pop down myself to photograph it.

So only a short Blog this week, but big news coming. Arrival of Chickens!
So watch this space.

Thanks for reading/returning. Ian

Sunday 6 March 2011

Perfect day for doing stuff

It was a lovely day today and even the sun came out in the afternoon, so Allotment bound we were.

1st I prepared a patch in the fruit cage, that originally had an old Blackcurrant bush (but not producing much now), ready for 2 Blueberry bushes. One we had in a pot last year, which produced many fruits, so acquired a 2nd plant so they will be happy together, but now in open soil, should grow rapidly as we also dug in 'chicken pellet' fertilizer. The variety is: 'Bluecrop'

Other job: To cut back the autumn Raspberries, & weed them too.

The Rhubarb 'Stockbridge Arrow' is taking shape, last time hardly a leaf was visible but now should shoot up.

A Twitter follower asked me what Rhubarb she should grow, I had no problem in recommending this variety as it is prolific & very tasty too, maybe you should try it.

Here you can see the Garlic bed, all cloves planted in January have rooted and are growing well.

The only thing harvested today was Parsnips, which are going in, as the main ingredient, to a Veg Casserole for dinner tonight.

Chicken News:

Not a lot of time left to get the Chicken house & run ready, as we are picking up our 'Girls' in less than 2 weeks (19th March), so I cracked on with painting the run's frame 'Cuprinol Garden Shades - Barleywood' for the record. Next job is to attach the netting, make a door & fit out the hen house interior.
The 2 rolls (under plastic) are rolls of Turf, I have decided to make the run floor half turf and half forest bark, to give the Chickens 2 sources for finding bugs & creepy crawlies :)

Thanks for reading/returning, hope you revisit soon for more Allotment & Chicken news. Ian