Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Home made fly screen door...

There are many things that come with the summer months, sun (if you live in the UK thunder storms) and bugs, mainly flies and lets be honest not many people are fans of flies, yes they do an important job, but they can do it somewhere else other than our kitchen.

Like many people we like to have doors and windows open in the summer, trouble is things will get in, so to that end I decided to make a simple fly screen door.

Here it is -

Not much to it really.
It's basic a wooden frame, I used cls timber that I cut up into more usable bits with my table saw.

The mesh for the screen I found on Amazon, I did check the local diy type stores, but they didn't have anything that was fine enough to keep out bugs, the piece I bought didn't cost much and most places let you order what you need, so you can measure up and just order enough to cover a doorway, like I did.

The mesh - 

It's quite fine.

I chose a fine mesh to stop almost all bugs, only really small ones can get, it doesn't obscure the view from the back door that much either.

You can see through it well enough - 

Can still see what's going on.

Here's a basic diagram of the frame - 

Pretty simple.

Once I'd made the basic frame I stapled the mesh to it, then using some thin pieces of wood I'd cut I covered up where the staples were to make it look a bit neater, then I gave it a coat of green wood preserver.

Although the screen is currently fixed to the wall with hinges the idea is to remove it in the winter, this is just a case of removing a couple of screws, I had originally intended to use barrel hinges so the screen could just be lifted off, but went with something a little more secure in the end, it only takes a minute or two to wind out the screws with a cordless drill.

To stop the screen opening I've just used a simple hook and eye at the top - 

It does the job.

There are different ways you could make a screen like this, I made our screen fit inside the brick work so that it closes quite tightly to the back door to make sure there are no gaps for bugs to get in.

And as this is a simple wood working project almost anyone can make it, you can buy wood at the right size from most diy shops, rather than having to cut it down like I did.

It's simple but it works, and that's the main thing, we now get a lot less bugs and flies in the house, of course you do have to remember to close it.

Bug free (ish) - 

Need to figure out where to put it over winter.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Plastic washers for free...

Recently I've found myself in need of a load of plastic washers, why? you might ask, well if you read this blog you'll know I built a poly-tunnel for our allotment plot, however due to some storms we've had over the last few months it has suffered (to say the least) in fact the polythene we used to cover it has been shredded, so we've gone for an upgrade, that being corrugated polycarbonte sheets.

Like so (you can see the remnants of the polythene) -

Still some work to do, but you get the idea.

To fix the sheets to the frame work I've used screws, now normally you'd use proper fixings which although not expensive (about £1:50 a pack)  we would have had to spend around £5 on enough to fix everything down, and me being the cheapskate I am I decided I could make my own plastic washers which would do just as well, and I'd be doing a bit of recycling as well.

To make the washers I used some plastic from a milk bottle (the polyethylene ones) and to make the inner hole where the screws will go I used a hole punch.

Hole punch, like you'd use for paper - 

It makes the right sized holes.

Plastic, with some washers already cut out - 

This type of plastic works well.
To make the washers all I've done is punch a hole with the hole punch and then using a tool I made I've cut out the washer.

The tool is just a bit of steel tube that I've sharpened, I also added a roughly turned wooden handle because after a while of using it without the handle it hurt my hands, the handle is a lot easier to grip.

The tool - 

Simple but effective.
To sharpen the tube I used my bench sander, but there are numerous ways you could sharpen the tube, files or a belt sander for example, all you need to do is grind the end of the tube down at an angle, this gives you a cutting edge, you can tidy it up by running a file or a bit of sand paper around the inside of the tube.

Using it is simple, you could use a hammer to punch out whatever you're trying to cut, but I found applying a twisting motion worked really well.

To actually make a washer all I do is punch out a small hole with the hole punch and then line up the homemade cutter over that and give it a could of twists.

Time to make some washers - 

Lets twist again...

et voila a plastic washer - 

Now to make a load more.

Washers, need a few more though - 

use an old bit of wood and not the kitchen table to cut your washers.
And that's it, what could be simpler? I've used this method before to make rubber feet for some trivets I made (trivets / pot stands - opens in new window) 

This cutter works on thin rubber, foam and probably other stuff (like leather maybe) and you can use larger or smaller tubing to make a variety of cutters / punches and if like me you have a workshop full of junk you could probably find the stuff to make a cutter or two without having to buy anything.

It's pretty quick as well, I made about a hundred washers in under ten minutes, so the time it takes for a relaxing cup of tea really.

Washers done - 

Now to sort out the poly-tunnel.

A washer in use, just to prove they work - 

Maybe I'll think of a way to make screw caps.

So there you go, free plastic washers with a home made cutter, cost no money and you'll be doing some recycling as well, can't be bad.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Propagating Wisteria...

At this time of year my attention usually turns to all things propagation, this is a relatively new area for me, I've only been experimenting with plant propagation for a few years, be it seed saving and sowing or in this case taking cuttings, more specifically layering.

We have a Wisteria plant which we bought about ten years ago, when we got it, it was about a foot tall, now it's considerably larger, it trails over our front door and kitchen window, but it is a lovely plant although it does take some work to keep it in check.

Here it is (this was taken this year) -

It's grown well over the years.

Here's another view - 

It's done flowering this year now, soon be pruning time.

Now given the plant is big and does need pruning twice a year it's very easy to make cuttings from it, and for me the easiest is layering, this basically involves laying a piece of the plant on to the soil and letting nature take it's course, if left long enough any parts of the plant touching the soil will start to put out roots.

To make life easier though I use some small plastic planters filled with soil and a couple of bricks to hold things in place.

So here's what I use, plastic planter filled with soil, it's just a couple of spade fulls from the back garden, nothing special, couple of bricks to help hold things down, some string and a knife.

Equipment - 

Lets begin.
As wisteria is a climber (it's in the same family as peas believe it or not) it will invariably put out runners, so I usually pick some that are low to the ground to make life easier, I cut off the leaves from part of each runner (I usually do three or four a tub) and then I score the wood with my pruning knife, to be honest this doesn't need to be done, but I've found it helps roots form, you can also use rooting compound, again it's not needed, with enough time roots will usually form with or without using rooting compound.

Runners chosen - 

Strip off any unwanted leaves and shoots.

Runners cleaned up - 

Ready for layering.

Once you have your runners, and you've removed any leaves and shoots the next thing to do is lay them across your tubs (or just on the ground) I use tubs as I find it easier to remove the cuttings from the mother plant without having to dig about around it to retrieve my cuttings.

Cuttings placed in tubs and covered over - 

Now for a brick.
I then place a brick on top to make sure the cuttings don't come out of the soil, in this case I'm using two tubs, so I've just stacked them on top of each other.

Cuttings done - 

And that's it.
And now the waiting begins, as long as you keep the soil damp (not waterlogged) roots should start to form after a couple of weeks if the weather is warm, I usually start my cuttings off around April / May time and by the summer they will all have roots.

I do check from time to time to see how things are getting on, but mostly I just leave them alone for a few months, occasionally watering the tubs but that's it and then once I'm sure there's plenty of root growth I cut the runners from the mother plant and then pot them up in tubs.

Here's what the last lot of cuttings looked like in the tubs - 

Pretty sure we have roots.
After a bit of careful wrestling so as not to damage the roots I've got my cuttings separated and ready for pots, I use ten litre tubs and the soil I'm using is part homemade compost and part shop bought compost.

Ready for planting into tubs - 

Plenty of roots on these, they'll grow well.
I use large tubs because they are deep it's easy to stick a few canes in and help support the plants, once they're planted up I leave them and wait for spring to see if they grow, so all in all it usually takes just under a year from layering the runners to them being in pots for the following spring and in the four years I've been using this method I've lost one plant out of around thirty, so not bad going.

This years cuttings took off really quickly and started to sprout leaves about a week after I potted them up, they are currently sitting on our patio growing well and putting out their own runners, soon they'll be getting pruned to help shape them, around the the same time the large one gets a trim.

We have growth - 

Looks healthy enough.

And that's about it really, it's really easy to do, this method works with a lot of other plants, honeysuckle, passion flower and numerous other climbers all you really need is patience and because you don't cut anything of the mother plant until it has enough roots to support itself you usually get better results with less failures, at least I find that to be the case.

The hard part comes in trying to get the plants to flower, and the best way to get a wisteria to flower is pruning, at least twice in twelve months, so prune after flowering in the summer, then again in the spring (around February time) and it will flower, it can still take some time though, so patience is needed, but the rewards are worth it.

See what I mean - 

They look good and smell great.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Homemade polytunnel...

Yes I built my own polytunnel and it only took six years, well it took a couple of days really, but it's taken me six years to get round to it, I did think about building one when we first got our allotment but if I'm honest we soon filled up the space so we put it on hold, but now that we have a much larger plot we decided to build one.

And here it is, with it's nice polythene coat on -

Hopefully it'll prove productive.
It's made mainly from wood and some bits and pieces I had lying about, to get the curve in the roof I used some old yellow gas pipe I have, which I've been using to make covers for our veggies to stop the birds and other animals getting at them.

The construction was easy enough, but if I were to make another one I'd probably do things differently, but saying that it works and it's pretty sturdy for what it is.

I made the frame work from 2.4 meter lengths of 63mm x 38mm cls timber, some of which I cut in half on my table saw.

The frame done, starting on the uprights - 

Pretty basic, I was making it up as I went along.
Better view of the work so far - 

Uprights on one side done, on to the next.
Adding some extra support to the uprights - 

I wasn't being too accurate.

Okay, pretty straight forward so far, the base is about 18 inches longer than it is wide, so the whole thing ended up being 8 feet wide by about 9 1/2 feet long and overall it's about 6 feet in height plenty big enough for our new plot, and we should be able to get a good crop of tomatoes and other heat loving plants, like melons if I'm honest I'd quite like to get a good melon plant growing, but I digress.

So I've got the base done, and the uprights and I've added some extra support, now onto the roof sections, basically for this I'm using gas pipe, which is a pretty tough plastic tube. it does bend, but not as much as the blue water pipe you can buy.

To fix the pipe what I did was to make holes in the ends of each upright using a forstner bit, a spade bit would do just as well, the idea was to use some old rungs from a climbing frame to slip the pipe onto, the reason for this is because I'm building the polytunnel in our back garden, at some point I'll need to take it apart and transport it to the allotment, so I'm making it as sort of a kit basically, one that can easily be taken apart and put back up again.

Metal tube fixed into the wood (I'll explain the metal strap in a minute) - 

Okay, now to see if the plastic pipe fits over the metal tube.
The plastic pipe fits snugly over the metal tubing - 

Well it works.
Doing things like this meant I could detach the roof section in one part, just a case of sliding it off the metal tubes, and now to explain the metal strap, as I'd cut the wood in half it was on the thin side really for drilling into with what turned out to 19mm bit, and because of this the wood was in danger of cracking where each tube went into it, so I made some straps from an old steel band (one that used to hold a packing crate together) I put a strap round each upright where I'd fixed the metal tubes in, this is enough to reinforce the wood and stop it cracking (I hope)

And that was about it really, I added a beam that runs from front to back to give more support to the roof struts, mainly because I wasn't sure how much weight it would take once the polythene went on, and I also added a door (always handy) and some diagonal supports on the front and back ends.

Here are a couple of pictures of it up on our new allotment plot, before we gave it it's coat, this should give you a clearer view of how it's made, as I said I made it up as I went along, and although it might not be built like a conventional polytunnel / greenhouse it works, and it's sturdy enough to cope with strong (ish) winds, and of course it was cheap, in the end it cost about £45 and we have plenty of polythene to patch up any holes that develop, in fact we have enough to cover it completely again.

Front - 

Doesn't really get much simpler.

Back - 

And here it is again with it's coat - 

Here's to growing a melon or two.

A couple of points before I go, I've used white duct tape to tape up the few joins in the polythene I may upgrade this to small wooden battens at some point, I also ran lengths of the tape over each roof strut and wrapped the metal straps in tape as well mainly to stop the plastic catching and tearing on any rough bits, I do also need to add some wooden battens to the door to hold the plastic on better, I used clout nails and staples to fix the plastic in a few places while we put it on, but mostly the plastic is tucked underneath the framework and I have also built up the soil all the way round the polytunnel, this will also help keep the plastic where we want it and not on someone else's plot after a strong wind.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Allotment update (part 2)

Welcome back, this is part two of my current allotment adventures, I had to break it into two posts as it seems I've done quite bit.

So this is pretty much where the new plot was at in part one -

Oh look weeds, some things never change.

The first job this visit (it's now March the 18th by the way) is to prepare some areas for sowing more seeds, and do some weeding.

Bit of digging and raking and voila - 

On to sowing.

You may have noticed that I haven't sorted out pathways and such like yet, this is because I'm taking the same approach with this plot that I did with our half plot, that being I'm letting it evolve, I will eventually put in a path that runs the full length of the plot, I'm also not having a load of defined beds for growing things, apart from the fruit, and I need to put in an asparagus bed, but that will be it for beds as I like to move things about.

After a while the newly prepared section is done, I've sown carrots, parsnips, three different types of radish, mixed salad leaves as well as lettuces, mud fruit (beetroot) pak choi, and spinach, although I suspect the parsnips won't do anything, every seed from that pack of parsnips has failed to germinate, even the ones I've sown at home to see if they'll grow.

Sown areas sectioned off and watered - 

Looking like it might actually be productive.

And now we get to April, this visit consisted of putting in some canes for beans and peas, I also rescued a few more alliums and put in some more parsnips, this time from a different packet of seeds, I'm also pleased to report that the grape vine I moved is showing signs of life, it may not produce any fruit this year, but at least it's still alive.

Pea and bean canes in, peas (Kelvedon wonder) and beans (borlotti) sown and watered - 

About half of the plot is now doing something.
Rhubarb is coming along nicely now as well - 

Quite a lot of it as it happens.

And that brings us up to date, I have recently finished the main frame work for a home built polytunnel which needs to be put on the new plot and be covered in plastic, I will write about how I made it so keep an eye out for that, and obviously there will be a few more allotment updates throughout the year, but for now I'll leave you with a picture of a hedgehog, I found him stuck between a gate and gate post on the site, I set him free and he seemed to be fine, hopefully he'll repay me by coming onto my plot and eating all the slugs that usually eat all my veg.

He's not very talkative - 

He was a good weight, at least a kilo.

Here's the plot as it is now - 

A far cry from what it was just a few months ago.

Thanks for reading.

Allotment update (part 1)

So if you didn't know already it's spring and things are racing ahead of me as usual, but I have managed to get our new plot up to scratch, well more or less, so to that end here's the first of a couple of posts on where we're at with the new plot.

A quick recap, this was January this year (the 6th to be exact) -

This is how I left it, a lot clearer than it was.
And so on a frosty morning on the 20th of Jan I set about making major inroads to getting the plot ready for growing things this year.

Early morning frost - 

A frosty start.
After five hours of burning the massive pile of rubbish I had and digging over some very hard frozen soil what I had left was a blank canvas, I put the the larger bits from the bonfire in the compost bin and spread the ash around, and I managed to dig over the top section near to where the apple trees are, and that was all I managed that day.

Slow going, but making progress - 

Digging hard soil is not fun.
I did intend to visit the plot again a few days later, but time got the better of me, so the only visit was after the strong winds we had to check for damage, luckily there wasn't any.

And so onto February and it was more digging, only this time the ground wasn't frozen which made life a little easier.

A couple more hours of digging and removing very long dock roots - 

Starting to look like things might grow in it.

Two weeks later (around the 17th of Feb) and it was the final stint of digging, by this time the ground was thawed and actually quick pleasant to dig through, although I did have to remove the longest dock roots I've ever seen, some at over two feet, very difficult to get out in one piece, most weeds I just chop up with my spade, but dock roots, dandelion roots and nettles I try to get out whole, otherwise they come back, I have special areas for nettles though as they are good for bees and make good fertiliser.

So after more digging the new plot had been entirely dug over, and I even managed to do a small bit of digging over on our half plot.

New plot done, it took some time to clear but it looks good now - 

Still some weeds lurking though.
And the half plot also being worked a little - 

It looks a lot smaller than our new one.

That was about it for February, I then didn't do anything to either plot until the first week or so in April, but most of the hard work was out of the way.

I spent two days planting various things on the new plot, on the first day I planted broad beans, french beans more onions, early spuds (also put three rows of early spuds on the half plot) and mulched round the rhubarb and fruit bushes and lastly I cut back the green manure on the half plot.

Broad beans and onions in (only a small amount, the main crops are on the other plot) - 

Sowing has commenced.

Five and a half rows of spuds on this plot, and three rows on the other plot, and I also have some more spuds for later on in the year.

Spuds - 

Much bigger rows than I'm used to putting in.
More spuds - 

These rows are about half the size of the rows on the other plot.

The rhubarb on the new plot is starting to grow (it's much further along now) and it turns out there's two different varieties, I've also started laying some old fence posts down along one side of the plot where all the fruit bearing plants are, eventually I'll move the fruit plants from the other plot down to this one as well, need some more fence posts though.

Rhubarb - 

I'll add our other rhubarb plants to this bed as well.

Green manure cut back - 

I will dig it all over soon.

And finally allium rescue, whilst I've been removing dock roots and such like I've been finding various allium type plants, these are mainly self seeded leeks, but there are some garlic and possibly a few onions, so rather than bin them I've sectioned off a small area for the purpose of rehabilitating these neglected alliums, whether I'll get anything useful from them I don't know, but that's no reason not to try.

Allium rehab - 

Waste not want not.

And that's just about it for part one of this two part allotment update, stay tuned for the next thrilling episode.

Thanks for reading.