Monday, March 27, 2006

Rain :(

This week we will mostly be in the pub!
(discussing seeds, cloches, slugs and future pond prospects!)

Can you guess the weather for the weekend? least it's not freezing!

Friday, March 24, 2006

Caffeine & Slugs

I've recently read an article in New Scientist which talks about how caffeine affects slugs and snails (our enemies!). I thought I would post it here as it's quite fascinating!

Dilute caffeine solutions repel and kill slugs, say researchers in Hawaii. The chance finding could lead to a new environmentally friendly way of controlling the crop pests, the team says.

Robert Hollingsworth and colleagues at the Agricultural Research Service in Hawaii were field-testing caffeine as a toxin against a non-native frog. But they discovered that 95 per cent of large slugs were killed by a spray containing two per cent caffeine.

The team then tested lower concentrations of caffeine on cabbage leaves. At a concentration of just 0.01 per cent, caffeine reduced slugs' feeding by one quarter. A cup of instant coffee contains about 0.05 per cent caffeine.

Bill Symondson, a molecular ecologist at the Pest Management and Ecotoxicology Centre, Cardiff University, says the finding is interesting. "Slug control is extremely important economically - more so than any single insect in the UK. There is very little public tolerance of slugs. People make a huge fuss if they find one in their lettuce."

Uncoordinated writhing

The researchers say that they do not know why caffeine killed the slugs. But they suggest it may act as a neurotoxin, since sprayed slugs fell to "uncoordinated writhing" before dying.

"Caffeine is present in coffee and cocoa beans to protect the plant against insects, but it is pure chance that it has a toxic effect on molluscs. It could be very useful because coffee is not likely to harm people so it's far better than spreading the traditional products, which also harm insects," Symondson told New Scientist.

Luckily enough there is a huge pile of coffee at the allotment for everyone and we have covered the soil around plants most at risk to slugs with some coffee already. With any luck it should work! Fingers crossed!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Day Eleven & Twelve

WOW! It's a miracle! The broadbeans are Alive-O! They sprouted under the fleece after we forgot about them and assumed they had rotted! They look fab! We've built a temporary shelter to keep the birds off them from an unused greenhouse table frame and some netting. We had a very productive weekend this week as we manged to get a lot of jobs done. Karl has planted some shallots and also some onions with the garlic already growing nearby. I've moved all the top soil to the back of the allotment to make space for a sitting (and drinking beer!) area by the greenhouse and to also put some built up tyres which we will grow potatoes in. I cleared the weeds by the greenhouse and moved back some plastic to expose the soil to some sun. We'll put mulch down here at some point but not until we've shifted the weeds which have slithered along during the winter under the plastic. Karl has done a fabulous job too getting the ground ready for more planting as he's growing more seed at home for future planting out. It's going REALLY well!
We even visited another allotment off Colchecter Avenue (near Newport Rd in Cardiff) and saw some damaged garlic from some rather hungry rabbits! Karl has been swopping potatoes with a colleague and I think we're about ready to get the potatoes seeded in the tyres after some rather good advice. (Cheers Jimmy!) I forgot to mention that last week that Karl has sorted out the compost bin at the front of the allotment and it looks pretty smart!

Broad beans!!

8 piled up tyres ready for planting potatoes in. 4 varieties: Desire, Pentland Javelin, Picasso & Adora.

New compost bin!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Day Nine & Ten

Last week and this week I dug the ground for a couple of hours. I tried to make a bed but realised that the bind weed and couch grass have already taken over the allotment again after we dug the majority of it up back in January! It's an absolute nightmare! Stones seem to also be breading from somewhere....every movement with the fork or spade brings on a "clang!" as I hit each one. (I ended up tidying up the greenhouse instead!)
The good news however is that home growing from seed is going fantastically well! I think I'm addicted to growing anything I can from seed! I've got 8 tall and strong sunflowers on the go plus some tomatoes (moneymaker) which have just sprouted! (12 have popped up so far)
3 Rosemary cuttings are rooting in very slowly and I have some rocket & lambs lettuce seeds which I don't currently have space to grow at the mo. (Think my housemates will kill me if I plonk yet another seed tray on the windowsill!)
Predicted rain tomorrow but only a couple of weeks until the clocks go forward....not that I'm counting! (26th by the way for BST!)

Edit: I've just been given a tip about growing lettuce. Apparently they don't have large roots so you can simply put a pot in the ground for it to grow in and then when you want to harvest it - just pull up the plant and keep it indoors inside the pot and then it won't wilt.


Tomatoes - The first seedlings!