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Allotment Diary

How I built a hedgehog hotel

A hedgehog hotel is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now and today I spent the day putting it together.

This is all part of the wildlife garden I’m putting together, and having a hedgehog hotel is a nice supplement to all of the other wildlife features that are in place – like the bug hotel.

You may have noticed earlier that I’m getting into the habit of using egg shells as homemade slug deterrents, and having hedgehogs in the garden is a good excuse to move away from chemically based slug deterrents.

Why encourage hedgehogs to the garden?

Hedgehogs eat slugs and snails. As a gardener and allotmenter, (for selfish reasons) that’s the biggest selling point for encouraging hedgehogs into the garden.

That said, there is a greater, wider need to encourage hedgehogs, and this is because the British Hedgehog Preservation Society in July of 2020, announced that the hedgehog is close to extinction.

To make things worse, the Mammal Society conducted a survey in the August of 2020, which discovered that the extinction of the hedgehog was close to imminent, especially in Surrey, which is where I am.

Materials

Pallet stamp: IPPC, PL 04-522, HT

As is with true allotment style, I built this with a pallet, some screws and other bits and bobs.

Now, with this particular build, pallet selection is quite important, as this is going to be home to hedgehogs, it’s best to use as friendly materials as possible.

If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see there’s a stamp on the pallet which indicates:

  • IPPC: The International Plant Protection Convention helps to reduce the spread of pests for plants products internationally. This means, this is an international pallet, intended to move around the world.
  • PL: Country of origin – Poland
  • 04-522: This is a regional identifier, and this is a region in Warsaw.
  • HT: This pallet was Heat Treated, which is preferable for this kind of project.

If you see MB on a pallet, the pallet was treated with Methyl Bromide, which is a toxic pesticide. In my opinion, think twice when using these pallets.

For more pallet advice, please see a great point of reference here.

Making the sides

The first thing I did was cut the strips off of the pallet wood, which would go to make the four sides.

I then used strips of old deck board to brace the sides together, and also to help give me something to drill into, for when creating the actual box.

I didn’t actually measure anything when I was cutting the wood, but when screwing in the deck, I did make sure that they were at a 90 degree angle.

This allowed me to cut and shave as needed to make sure it was all square… Well, as square-ish as I could make it.

Making the hole

Now that the sides were all put together, the next thing was to make a hole for the little critters to enter into.

Having done a Google search, I’ve read that the ideal size for a hole is approximately 5inches (13cm). I cut this using a multi-tool (thank you for lending me that for this project – you know who you are!).

To add extra stability to the hole, I added a brace made from one of the off from the hole.

The lid

At this point, I hadn’t really put too much thought into the lid, outside of knowing that it needed to be made from wood.

I used three deck boards, which as tremendous luck would have it, were the perfect width of the whole box.

These were actually the same pieces of board I used to create the raised beds, so I cut them to size, leaving an overlap to act as a kind of canopy. The canopy is really just for looks and isn’t really necessary for a hedgehog hotel, but it looks nice. 🙂

Next came the second piece of tremendous luck – and that’s that the piece of old perspex for the lid, fitted perfectly onto the lid, without having to cut anything. Love it when a plan comes together.

I wanted to add a piece of perspex to help keep it dry from rain water, and also it would match the bug hotel.

The tunnel

Ideally, I’ve read that a hedgehog hotel needs a tunnel at the front, and this is to help stop predators from getting inside of the box, and causing any damage.

This was easy enough to construct with some old scrap pieces of wood, and just drilled into the sides, around the hole of the box.

One thing I did make sure was that the hole of the tunnel was still that 5inches (13cm) in size to allow the hedgehogs to get in.

Placement

I placed the hedgehog hotel under the citrus fir, and next to the mini bug hotel, by the wheelbarrow bed.

The citrus fir will provide some extra shelter from the wind and rain, and hopefully the insects that the bug hotel will attract will act as a food source – I’ll also try and place in a water source nearby, out of an old bowl too at some point.

Around the back of the box and the sides, I added some old dead leaves – this is so that the hedgehogs can use this material to create a nest inside.

All in all, I think it all came together quite well, baring in mind that it was made from scrap wood and old pallet.

Hopefully, this will make for a nice residence for some hedgehog guests. Fingers crossed they go to town on the slug population too!

Have you had any experience with hedgehogs? I’d love to know what they are in the comments below.

Categories
Allotment Diary

Homemade eco slug pellets

Making homemade slug pellets/repellent is easy, cost effective and much more friendly.

Making homemade slug pellets, or a slug deterrent is very easy, and much like collecting toilet rolls for seed starters, does involve an habitual change, in the fact that this will involve putting aside and collecting eggshells day to day.

What you will need

  • Egg shells
  • Container
  • Rolling pin, wine bottle, pestle and mortar… something to crush with
  • Baking paper and tray

What to do

The first thing to do is to get into the habit of collecting old egg shells, and the easiest way to do this is to get a box or any kind of container for them to build up in. Before you know it, you’ll have a healthy amount of egg shells to work with.

Once they start to build up, you’ll know doubt look at them and think “Cor blimey! We really should start doing something with those,” that’s the time to whip out a baking tray and some grease proof paper whilst you’re making dinner.

Whether the oven is already on, or whether it’s heating up, around 10-15 minutes in the oven will dry them out dry off any gooey bits. Since I’ve started doing this, I’ve not kept to any real records of how long they should bake for, but 10 minutes plus at any usual heat seems to be the ideal rule of thumb.

Once baked, let cool and place into a container of choice and crush into tiny little bits. This is very therapeutic and very satisfying. Once crushed, spread around plants you deem to be the most vulnerable. The idea here is that this will prove to not be a pleasant path for slugs, and so will them put them off from eating any plants that are in their way.

Video

As I said in the video, I find this on Instagram and commented on the post saying what a great idea it was. If read this, and this was your post, leave a comment and take all of the credit 🙂

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Allotment Diary

VIDEO: The Snow Plot

Everything looks so beautiful when it snows

I seldom get see what the plot looks like in the snow – mainly because it doesn’t snow that often, so I couldn’t wait to get up there and have a gander.

Walking up to the plot, in weather like this really does break up the monotony of it all at the moment. It’s really just what the doctor ordered.

It brought people out of their houses, even though they were keeping their distance, a wave and a smile still travelled the distance.

What a marvel it is to see everything with a nice, frosty dusting – it all just looks so different.

The citrus fir at the base of the plot looked very festive indeed – straight from a Christmas card.

We even posed for a photo, to mark this very wintery event – which is something we hardly ever do.

Video

We didn’t stay for long, but I did manage to get a couple of shots of the plot – Enjoy.

Did you managed to get out there and build a snowman today? I’d love to know in the comments below 🙂

Categories
Allotment Diary

What to grow in Brexit Britain

The weather is absolutely freezing at the moment and it means that not a lot can be done outside… And this has got me thinking about the future.

The time that the latest lockdown brings and rumblings of things changing in the shops due to Brexit, has led me to ask myself – what should I be growing now that the UK is out of the EU.

It’s no secret that gaps are starting to appear on shelves down the fresh fruit isles, due not only to new Brexit importing rules, but also the strain covid-19 has put on staff shortages at food producers.

So let’s try and answer the question – What should I be growing in Brexit Britain.

Let’s start with some cold hard facts to help decide:

  • Approximately 30% of food in the UK arrives from the EU, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)
  • Around 50% of fresh fruit and veg in the UK, comes from the EU and most of that consists of fruit
  • Generally speaking, imports and exports of produce can fluctuate dramatically, based on season. For instance, during the summer months, the UK produces 95% of its own salad leaves. In the winter months, the UK can only rely on 10% – the rest has to be imported in
  • Since 2016, imports of fresh fruit and veg from the EU has been in decline overall – but the produce that the UK makes itself is at around 60%

So, of the produce seen on our supermarket shelves, how much of it approximately is imported in from the EU, produced in the UK and imported in from outside of the EU…

Produce most commonly
found on our
supermarket shelves
Imported in
from the EU
(%)
Produced in
the UK
(%)
Imported in
from outside of the EU
(%)
Spinach99%0%1%
Artichokes 98%0%2%
Aubergines 93%0%7%
Chillies and peppers84%11%6%
Tomatoes 21%70%9%
Cucumbers 71%28%1%
Lettuce58%42%0%
Mushrooms52%48%0%
Squash and pumpkins77%0%23%
Lemons and limes62%0%38%
Tangerines and satsumas0%55%45%
Cauliflower and broccoli 43%56%1%
Cabbages13%87%0%
Onions17%82%1%
Apples28%53%19%
Potatoes2%97%1%
Potatoes (non-frozen)0%99%1%
Sweet potatoes21%0%79%
Carrots and turnips4%95%1%
Peas3%90%6%
Leeks19%79%1%
Strawberries28%69%3%
Melons43%0%57%
Grapes33%0%67%
Green beans15%28%57%
Asparagas 10%29%61%
Plums49%19%32%
Oranges45%0%55%
Bananas10%0%90%
Blueberries92%0%8%
Pears74%15%11%
Cherries58%21%21%
Compiled from https://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2019/aug/13/how-a-no-deal-brexit-threatens-your-weekly-food-shop – Aug 2019

The above statistics are obviously subject to change as things unfold – but I think it’s a good start in knowing where our food is coming from predominantly.

What to grow in Brexit Britain

If rising prices and/or low availability due to how the UK imports goods from the EU is a concern, you’d do right to grow the items that are imported the most (70% or higher), from the get go.

  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Aubergines
  • Chillies and peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Squashes
  • Pears
  • Blueberries

The winter months, for the UK is the time where prices and availability are more likely to be affected, so ideally (and if possible) in the winter it would be good to grow your own salad items, mainly tomatoes and lettuce. Perfect if you’ve got a polytunnel.

Soft fruits (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, blackberries..etc) are imported during the winter months. With that in mind, it would be a good idea to freeze and store these as they’re ripening in the summer months. Spinach, squash and pumpkins also have the potential to be frozen or stored.

Root veg and brassicas seem to grow well in the UK – so I’m not sure if I should worry too much about those. This is with the exception of frozen potatoes (chips, waffles, frozen roast potatoes…etc) of which 0% is created in the UK

As mentioned previously, times at when items are imported can change with the seasons, and the BBC made this helpful infographic below to show what is imported and when.

Carrying out research for this post and trying to find out when the UK conducts its imports, has led me to some very interesting materials online.

I’ve also identified numerous variables to take into account in all of this, which may or may not come to pass as time goes on.

The UK will no doubt be looking toward other places to trade with and import produce from – although this can take time to materialise.

I suspect (and would like to think) that the UK will also adapt, with UK suppliers looking to grow out of season produce domestically. Growing your own and gardening has also seen an uptick in interest in the past 12 months or so.

Lastly, Brexit is still relatively fresh and so the way in which things are actually conducted at various borders are still being worked out. Hopefully, as efficiency improves, so will the cost and availability of produce.

Having researched this topic, it makes me ponder – should I grow the usual fare? Should I be growing things that I like? Should I be growing things that provide good yields and can be stored, regardless of world events? Should I be growing things that will either be hard to come by or may become too expensive?

Or – should I just not give this all a second thought? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Categories
Allotment Diary

What a lockdown in 2021 means for allotments

“It’s perfectly acceptable to go to an allotment. It’s in the very nature of allotments that there is a safe distance between people who are working on an individual allotment”

Micheal Gove, March 2020

Without a doubt allotment interest and community spirit has surged for the first time since the country was at war – which means they’re still playing a vital part in our communities.

Of course – they’re also doing their bit with regards to food supplies too.

Since posting about visiting plots during a pandemic last year, visiting an allotment is still classed as outdoor exercise – and we can still visit them.

There’s lots of documentation about keeping safe on the plot – and a Google search will most certainly send you down a rabbit hole.

I’ve picked out some of the most prevalent, recurring actions to take when visiting the plot.

  • It’s not possible to mix with other households outdoors, so this means, visits to allotments are for “allotment business” and not socialising.
  • With the above in mind, it’s not advisable for other households to mix on the one plot.
  • Social distancing of two meters (as before) needs to be observed.
  • Particularly keep distance with those who are most vulnerable (the elderly for instance).
  • Do not share tools.
  • Do not wash your hands in water troughs.
  • Taking hygiene precautions must be adhered to when touching communal surfaces – i.e. sanitising after using taps, gates, fences…etc.
  • If you’ve been tested, or have sadly tested positive it’s certainly not advisable to visit the plot (or anywhere) until a negative test.
  • For garden supplies, it’s advised, if you can to order online.

Further Reading

  • James Sean Cameron has done a nice summary of how best to approach visiting your local plot.

What happens if you do not observe the rules?

As per government guidelines:

If you break the rules The police can take action against you if you meet in larger groups. This includes breaking up illegal gatherings and issuing fines (fixed penalty notices).

You can be given a Fixed Penalty Notice of £200 for the first offence, doubling for further offences up to a maximum of £6,400. If you hold, or are involved in holding, an illegal gathering of over 30 people, the police can issue fines of £10,000.

https://www.nsalg.org.uk/news/covid19-information/

There we have it. I don’t know about you – but the above rules feel a lot more serious this time around.

When all of this is over, I am no doubt going to have a BBQ at the allotment with some close friends – just because I’ll be able to, and to celebrate the end as well. 🙂

Stay safe everyone and the best of luck for 2021.

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Allotment Diary

2020…The good bits

We awoke in 2020 in the Lake District, and we couldn’t help but visit and climb The Old Man of Coniston while we were there. The weather was great and it was a great start to the year.

I was nearing the end of my plot makeover and really looking forward to growing some real produce, for what felt like the first time in ages.

Storm Dennis was doing a number on parts of the country, especially around where we’re based, so I was prepping by creating toilet roll seed starters.

They’re really easy and therapeutic to make if you’re looking to pass the time, during these rainy and cold winter months at the beginning of the year.

Shortly after storm Dennis happened… March is when covid-19 started to take hold, and gardening, the outdoors and open spaces (in my eyes) became much more important.

After creating the toilet roll seed starters, I felt I needed a place to store them, and this led me to create Homemade propagators out of mushroom and fruit punnets.

They’re not sending anyone to the moon, but they did work, they’re fun to make, cheap and there’s some recycling involved there too.

To complete the make-it-yourself trilogy, I came up with a way to make your own garden labels out of pots and plastics that are around.

Needless to say, I’ve already started stock piling toilet rolls, mushroom and fruit punnets and plastic pots for the year ahead.

Then… A complete national lockdown was announced and that changed everything.

Can I visit my allotment during a lockdown?

How gardening will help get us through covid-19

The nation was paralysed with the imposition of travel restrictions and a stoppage on social gatherings.

Panic buying then started and this without a doubt rejuvenated the Dig for Victory spirit, to help with food supplies and anxiety about food shortages. Prince Charles even commended this can-do attitude during a BBC Radio 4 attitude.

This ethos seemed to spread across the globe, as I remember seeing this article by the New York Times.

Armed with homemade toilet roll seed starters, propagators and seed labels, I thought it might be useful to do a little how to (ish) series on how to start growing your own produce from seed – which I’m hoping people find useful.

Growing preparation

Seed
sowing

Separating seedlings

Planting
out

Leading into the summer everything became incredibly busy and this definitely did affect blogging activities.

I did a recap here on how fruitful the season was, and how all of the preparation paid off.

A lockdown can really spur on dipping toes into new interests – and so it was only a matter of time before I decided to experiment with new ways to make alcohol more interesting.

There were elderflowers growing nearby and I had seen that you can make your own elderflower infused gin – which was amazing and something I’ll do again. I feel I need to grow an elderflower for this purpose only.

Naturally, I had to compare an ordinary gin and tonic, along with an elderflower gin and tonic – just to make sure it was worth the effort.

That was a really difficult experiment…

The Vincent Hazel Project is something I embarked upon – which took up a great deal of time, energy and brain space from between the end of May and October.

The project involved cleaning up an alleyway between Vincent Avenue and Hazel Bank in Tolworth, which had been subject to years (possible even decades) worth of fly tipping, which had resulted in unsightly mounds and overgrown areas.

This project really came together with nothing less than phenomenal results, thanks to dedicated residents, Idverde and local landscaper Greenwood Paving. A big shout out to everyone who got involved 🙂 .

I’d encourage anyone, looking to get involved with a community project to do so, it can make you think differently about the area you live in and it’s a great way to make new friends and contacts, whilst making a difference at the same time.

These before and after photos of the project really do speak for themselves.

The clear up phase of that project is behind us, and so now I can turn my attention to a new allotment project, which I’ve started just toward the tail end of this year.

There’s a patch at the allotment that needs some overdue TLC and this is the year where I’m going to make a start with turning this little corner into a wildlife garden.

The Vincent Hazel Project, really did make me think more about nature, the outdoors and encouraging a more beneficial wildlife on the plot.

So far, I’ve managed to clear the area for the wildlife garden and I’ve even managed to make my first bug hotel.

So that brings us to now. Goodbye 2020 – Hello 2021. Let’s all hope for a better year and good tidings all round.

I’d love to hear how your year went, in the comments below 🙂 .