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Updated: 22 hours 51 min ago

Fertilization 101: How to Keep your Greenhouse Plants Healthy

Thu, 04/01/2021 - 13:35

Gardening is easy, for some. However, when it comes to indoor gardens and greenhouses, it’s a different story. Tending for your plants may not pose much of a challenge when you’re working with the earth.

However, you are likely to panic when your greenhouse set-ups lead up to a nutrient deficiency. Fortunately, you can muster the process of fertilization to keep your plants in the best shape.

Greenhouse Gardens: Struggles and Solutions

Greenhouse gardening is a different approach to plant car and it come with a lot of challenges. We summarized the challenged into three main points: Soilless Planting, Nutrient Requirement and Year-round Care. Let’s discuss more on these.

1. Soilless Planting

Greenhouse gardeners mainly use organic matter mixes instead of soil. This is because a greenhouse is a micro ecosystem and any disturbance of the PH balance can disrupt the health of the plants in it. Instead of garden soil, peat, coconut coir and bark mixes are used.

In this case, it is recommended that greenhouse gardeners pot up their mixes into smaller containers instead of going large in the beginning. This not only helps stabilize the pH level of the medium, this can help in the plants uptake of nutrients. This leads us to our next point.

2. Nutrient Requirement

Greenhouse plants develop a different kind of biology once they start to thrive in this environment. While outdoor plants can be virtually left on their own for days, greenhouse plants aren’t as self-sufficient. Not only do they need to be maintained, their gardeners also have to keep an eye on their nutrition.

Since these plants can procure nutrients from natural garden soil, you can utilize of liquid fertilizers to supplement any immediate need for nutrients. This can either be in the form of synthetic all-purpose or targeted fertilizers.

Organic fertilizers are also incredibly helpful in keeping your plants healthy and nourished. You can even buy pre-made organic mixes from gardening stores if you don’t have time to make your own mix. However, if you do find the time of day, you can work on homemade fertilizers or compost teas.

3. Year-round TLC

This may not come off as a problem to some since gardening can be a therapeutic activity for people with green thumbs. However, the point stands that maintaining a greenhouse garden is a lot of work. A lot of thinking and brainstorming also goes into the process.

The greenhouse should have the ideal temperature and illumination in order to maintain its ecosystem, and it can be difficult to maintain. This is why studying your plants’ needs during every season should be taken into account. This can be done through strategic fertilizing, or supplemental lighting during the darker seasons.

3 Key Tips in Planting and Gardening with Sandy Soil

Thu, 03/25/2021 - 13:32

Growing plants has become all the rage these days. In order to have high quality plants, however, you need to ensure the quality of the soil. Ideally, when dampened and rolled into a sausage-like shape, you’d prefer soil that holds its shape then eventually breaks apart. If it breaks apart immediately, you have what is known as “sandy soil”.

Sandy Soil has several disadvantages. Some of the drawbacks of sandy soil include; it contains fewer nutrients, retains less moisture, and tends to be more acidic. Despite these challenges, there are several ways to improve Sandy Soil. After taking the soil’s salt level into consideration, you can do any of the following:

1. Add Organic Matter

Using materials such as compost, coconut coir (dried, compressed coconut hulls) or biochar (char from organic items burned at a low temperature) allow for better retention of water. You would want to begin with three or four inches of organic matter on top of sandy soil. This breaks down easily, however, so you will need to add more over time.

2. Add Layers of Mulch

Mulch, which may be made from grass clippings, shredded leaves, hay, or even straw, can be applied in two to three-inch layers around plants. This eventually decomposes and becomes part of the soil, resulting to additional nutrients.

3. Grow Cover Crops

It’s ideal to always be growing something – such as clover – on sandy soil as it reverts to sand when unused.

4. Apply Peat Moss or Vermiculite

Though they don’t add nutrients, peat moss or vermiculite increases water retention.

It’s best to choose vegetables that grow well in Sandy Soil such as root vegetables and Mediterranean herbs. Despite all these improvements, the soil is still sandy at its core. Keeping all of these in mind, growing crops in Sandy Soil becomes a distinct possibility.

Planting for the Fall: How to do Pre-seeding Properly

Mon, 03/22/2021 - 13:30

Planting seeds in late fall or early winter can be the key to strong and bountiful plants for spring. This is a process called “Pre-seeding”; Mimicking how Mother Nature herself prepares for spring harvest.

By doing this simple technique, plants are likely to grow healthier and resilient. Thus, you can be guaranteed a larger and quality yield.

But before anything else, what kind of seeds can survive this process? Because you’re planting them in soil that will be going through winter, they should be invulnerable to frost and the cold. The seeds should also be made for early spring and self-sowing.

Seeds to Plant

Some of the seeds to plant include Celery, Turnips, Onions, Broccoli, Spinach and so much more. This could also be the perfect way to start planting Perennials such as Rhubarb, Artichokes, and herbs like Sage and Lemon Balm.

Now, all you have to do is three basic steps: Pick a place, Prepare and Plant.

1. Pick a Place

First, choose a location in your garden that is perfect for pre-seeding. There should be plenty of sunshine, which can be tough as sunlight can move quite often. Therefore, planning is imperative. Also, it should be a place where soil drains well because pooling can cause seeds to rot.

2. Prepare the plot

Once you find the perfect spot, preparing the garden bed is the next step. Make sure that there are no weeds or other rubble around that may attract disease and pests. The compost you use should also be quality and has completely decomposed.

3. Time to Plant

Lastly comes the actual planting of the seeds. This should always come after air temperature drops below freezing but before regular deep freeze. Then, directly plant the seeds while following the instructions on that specific seed and water if needed without flooding. After that, add 2-3 inches of mulch to protect the soil’s moisture in case of a warm patch during winter.

Though with any process, unexpected things may happen that can stop the growth of your seeds. This may include things like rot and weather. The weather can be unpredictable and a warm winter can happen and promote rot. Constant thawing and freezing can also cause seeds to become dormant. Additionally, rot can come in the hands of still water in your garden but if you picked an appropriate place, this can be avoided.

Pre-seeding steps may be simple but it can reduce workload and produce a bigger yield. So, trying it can be a worthwhile venture.

Honey Extractors: Harvest more with the Top 3 Honey Extractors of 2021.

Sun, 03/21/2021 - 13:22

If you’re a beekeeper, chances are that you’ve already invested on some honey extractors at some point in time. This is because being an apiarist or a beekeeper also means that you are able to produce and harvest honey as a crop.

A honey extractor is an essential contraption that is both simple to use and easy to operate. If you have not invested in one, this article will help you choose the best one for your needs.

How to Use a Honey Extractor?

Basically, you just have to load it up and it can do its job. In detail, this is how the process is done:

First, you harvest the honeycombs once they are full. These combs will then be carefully placed into the baskets or containers inside the extractor’s drum. Next, switch on the extractor and it will extract the honey by means of a centrifugal force.

This will process the honey and it will be subsequently transferred from the comb to the walls of the drum. Afterwards, the honey will pool at the bottom of the drum and can be acquired through the honey gate.

Benefits of Using a Honey Extractor

What makes this equipment such a valuable addition to a beekeeper’s workshop is the amount of working time. Instead of them breaking the combs into chunks, and scraping the honey off manually, you can use a honey extractor to achieve better results.

Another benefit of an extractor is that after the honey can has been taken, the beekeepers can still retrieve the honeycombs. Therefore, you can return it to the bees, which will in turn reuse it to store more delicious honey.

Efficient Honey Extractors you can Invest In

To make the most out of your beekeeping experience, you need the right honey extractor. Here are some of the best honey extractors on the market.

1. GOPLUS Manual Honey Extractor and Separator

If you’re a beginner, you need a reliable companion like the GOPLUS Manual Honey Extractor. This extractor is specially designed for starting beekeepers, thanks to its easy-to-use controls.

Its rotating crank handle is convenient and it features a tangential design that is quite efficient. Plus, the extractor is easy to operate and the included instructions can help you can assemble it with ease.

With a stainless steel build and a built-in separator, this is a great product that will last for years. It also features a plastic lid that prevents debris and lets you monitor the extraction process.

Pros:

  • Honey separator
  • Includes carrying handle
  • Clear plastic lid
  • Easy to assemble and disassemble
  • Slim design for easy storage

Cons:

  • Not suitable for commercial use
2. HARDIN Professional Honey Extractor

You don’t need to break the bank for some top grade equipment in your shed. HARDIN Honey Extractor provides professional-quality features for small-time beekeepers. It has clear Plexiglas covers for easy viewing, and its stainless steel design allows for easy cleaning.

It is easy to use and features a tangential design. This extractor also features a honey gate for easy drainage without spillage.

Pros:

  • Comes with an optional leg/stand for comfort
  • Easy to use, extract and offload
  • Features honey gate
  • Easy to clean
  • Clear Plexiglass cover

Cons:

  • Honey gate may be low for some
  • Plastic handle may not last long
3. VIVO Stainless Steel Honeycomb Drum Honey Extractor

Beekeeping and honey processing can be easy with the right tools on your side. VIVO’s Honey Extractor is built precisely with comfort and efficiency in mind, thanks to its honeycomb drum shape. The extractor holds up to 8 frames, allowing for more honey extracted in little time.

It features 3-legged tripod steel stand, plastic handle, clear Plexiglass lid, and a honey gate that is well elevated.

Pros:

  • Durable stainless steel frames
  • Grooved plastic handle for easy cranking
  • Simple to assemble and clean
  • Great value for money

Cons:

  • Leg stands are fragile
  • Not suitable for heavy-use

The Top 4 Seed Warming Mats

Sat, 03/20/2021 - 13:19

Seed warming mats are an essential for any hydroponic garden and among the innovations that you never thought you’d need until you actually get one. Basically, it works as a heating system encapsulated into an interwoven mass and it aids in plant growth or fermentation. This is especially effective when you’re planning to continue the propagation process even during the cold winter months.

We consider this a vital component of any plant system because speeds up natural processes, which may take up months and doesn’t necessarily yield good results.  With one of the best seed warming mats in your arsenal, you can supply the boost of warmth your seedlings need to grow. In addition to all this, you can use these mats in your terrariums to keep your reptile pets warm during the winter season.

Choosing the Best Seed Warming Mat

Since this innovation is relatively new, most people may still be in the dark on what to look for in seed warming mats. So, let’s go over the factors you may need to consider before making the purchase.

Main Types

There are two main types of seed warming mats, namely the flat type and the one that comes with a humidity dome. Each is designed for a specific use. The flat type is intended for germination use and is best placed at the bottom of seedling trays and containers.

The other type is used to speed up a plants growing process. It works by the dome trapping the heat so the plants can utilize it for their growth.

Temperature Range and Controls

Another thing you need to check is the temperature range of the warming mats. You need to make sure that they can maintain 10-20 degrees, without factoring in the ambient air temperature.

Aside from controlling the temperature, having a thermostat also keeps you updated on any changes in room temperature. This way, you can determine what other external factors may cancel out the effectiveness of your seed warming mat.

Durability and Waterproof Rating

Since this will be used to warm soil and organic matter, it must be made of a material that can endure the weight and hold the moisture. A durable and waterproof seed warming mat will contribute to the stability of the conditions in your greenhouse or hydroponic plant system. Also, it is worth noting that seed warming mats should not be fully submerged into water since it is still, technically, electronic equipment.

The Best Seed Warming Mats for any Biological Set-up

Here are some of the best seed warming mats that you may choose from.

1. VIVOSUN Waterproof Hydroponic Seedling Heat Mat

VIVOSUN Heat Mats are created to make seed starting and cutting efficient. Designed with the latest heating technology, uniform heating and precise temperature control brings great success without failure.

It is designed with IPX4 splash proof water rating for easy maintenance. It also includes smart features that will considerably lower your energy bill. It is also made from heavy-duty PVC material that makes it extra durable.

Pros:

  • Precise temperature control
  • Double insulation
  • Infrared heating
  • Waterproof design
  • Durable construction

Cons:

  • Does not work perfectly alone, needs the thermostat controller (sold separately)
2. Seedfactor Met-certified Hydroponic Seedling Heat Mat

If you are in the market for a MET-certified seedling heat mat, this product is worth considering. Seedfactor’s MET-certified Seedling Heat Mat is a durable germination station built to ensure growth. With temperature regulation and waterproof design, your seeds are guaranteed to be safe.

It can warn the root area at temperatures of 10 to 20 degrees and controls the soil temperature at 70 to 85 degrees. Included with the mat is a 5.9 feet power cord. There are also instructions for easy use.

Pros:

  • Regulated temperature between 70 and 85 degrees
  • Easy to clean
  • Waterproof
  • Easy to use
  • MET-certified safety product

Cons:

  • Cannot be used with grow light
  • Not ideal to be submerged in water
3. Jump Start Hydrogram Seedling Heat Mat

Jump Start Hydrogram Heat Mats are perfect for both seasoned and beginner growers. Made for performance and durability, these seedling heat mats have double insulation to ensure the right amount of temperature for growth.

This waterproof seed warming mat is ideal for beginners as it comes with instructions that are easy to understand. This set comes included with a heat mat 2” humidity dome, watertight base tray, and a 72-cell seedling insert that is ideal for regular soil, grow plugs, or coco plugs.

Pros:

  • Uniform heating of 10-20`F
  • Vacuum-bundled and sealed
  • Useful for home brewing

Cons:

  • Needs a thermostat to pair with the product
4. iPOWER Waterproof Seedling Heat Mat

iPOWER Seedling Heat Mats can serve a variety of uses, whether it is seeding, germination, home brew, or terrariums. The multi-layer construction and insulated wires create for a safe and durable product.

It can warm up to 10 to 20 degrees above the ambient temperature of the room. This mat is also easy to use and clean. Something else to note is that it comes with a waterproof design, which is a plus.

Pros:

  • Constant temperature of 10-20`F
  • Waterproof build and design
  • Easy to clean and maintain
  • Convenient to use

Cons:

  • Cannot be submerged under water
  • May not maintain very high temperatures in extremely cold rooms

Detect Leaks Efficiently with Premium Moisture Meters: Quick Review of the Top 5 in the Market

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 13:17

Leakages can easily damage your property as much as the next inconvenience. It’s important that you are able to nip the problem in the bud before it gets worse. That is why we recommend using only top grade moisture meters for our outdoor structures, workshops and greenhouses.

What is a Moisture Meter?

A moisture meter is a smart instrument used in both in construction, engineering and building evaluation. It is used to detect the amount of moisture on surfaces and materials. This tool is essential since it can help you identify areas that may pose a potential risk, or are already damaged due to moisture build-up.

Why do I need a Moisture Meter for my Garden?

If you have a greenhouse, or an indoor garden set-up, a moisture meter is an essential device to have around. That is because your garden needs to have well-monitored temperatures, humidity and conditions to keep the plants healthy.

A moisture meter is also an effective tool to help you prevent the growth of fungi or pest infestation. It can also be efficient in tracking certain areas of the structure are starting to buildup moisture.

The Best Moisture Meters for Us

As always, finding the best moisture meter can be quite challenging. We recommend that you invest in brands that have made a name over the years. To help you make the right selection, we have provided a review of the best moisture meters on the market.

1. KLEIN TOOLS Pinless Moisture Meter

This moisture meter from Klein tools is an efficient companion for detecting moisture in wood, masonry and drywall. Thus, it gives you the value for your money. It can check the content up to ¾ inch depth, so this proved beneficial for your greenhouse and garden.

It is designed with pinless electromagnetic field (EMF) technology that ensures quick and non-destruction moisture detection. Other great features include a low battery indicator, rubberized mode and hold buttons, auto-power saving function, and a 9V battery.

Pros:

  • It comes with a clear and visible numerical display
  • The moisture range is indicated by nine LED bars
  • Device is built with shockproof construction
  • Pinless design
  • Easy-to-view LCD screen

Cons:

  • This is not the most accurate detector when it comes to wooden surfaces.
  • Should be placed on a flat surface for accurate reading
2. Protimeter Surveymaster Dual Moisture Meter

When it comes to detecting moisture content in rugged construction, this is the equipment for you. The Protimeter Surveymaster is among the professional’s favorites, since it can easily detect sub-surface moisture as well.

While this can come in handy in your greenhouse, it can also help you if you delve into construction, or handle the maintenance of your own home yourself. It has a non-invasive mode that lets it reach up to ¾ inch while the sharp steels can measure up to .4 inches for hardwood or softwood.

Pros:

  • Performs non-invasive scanning
  • Large backlit display
  • Ideal for professional and DIY contractors
  • Monitors any changes on the detected moisture content.
  • Pinless design

Cons:

  • The product may come off as too expensive for most users.
  • Not ideal for thick concrete
3. SAM PRO 2.0 Dual Moisture Meter

When it comes to detecting moisture content and tracking sources of mold, then this moisture meter from Sam Pro can comes in handy. Crafted with professional-grade and high quality material, this device is set with material modes.

This meter is highly versatile as it can measure over 100 materials. It is designed with a measuring bar to indicate high and low moisture. Plus, it can tell you whether the readings of the moisture content are low, medium, or high.

Pros:

  • Accurate readings
  • Highly versatile
  • Provides Fahrenheit and Celsius readings
  • Easy-to-read display
  • Easy to hold and grip for use
  • Determines areas of mold build-up

Cons:

  • Not ideal for extra thick hardwood
4. GENERAL TOOLS Digital Moisture Meter

This moisture meter is easy to use and a staple for mold prevention. It is also an essential device to use for your garden structures, especially your greenhouse. This digital moisture meter from General Tools comes with a readable backlit display and material selection mode for a more accurate moisture reading.

It displays the moisture content readings in low, medium, or high percentages. Overall, it is a versatile meter that can detect moisture in building materials, hardwood, or softwood.

Pros:

  • The cap of the pin also works as the calibration checker of the meter
  • Automatically shuts off when not in use
  • Viewing of data is made easier with a feature that allows the use to freeze the screen
  • Highly affordable
  • Great accuracy

 

Cons:

  • The device may not work as well with hard woods as it would in soft woods.
  • Calibrations values may have discrepancies upon displayed
  • Sharp pins are not ideal for delicate materials
5. TAVOOL Pinless Moisture Meter

Versatile and accuracy, this moisture meter is highly recommended if you have a lot of wood to work with. This moisture meter from Tavool isn’t only able to detect moisture. In fact, it can also aid in analyzing temperatures.

It has a large backlit screen and can be used with ease in the dark. It also has a memory function, automatic calibration, automatic sensor, 9V battery, and more.

Pros:

  • Bright green backlit screen
  • It comes with a memory function
  • Includes automatic sensors and calibration.
  • Lightweight design with multiple modes

Cons:

  • Doesn’t display for a longer time.
  • It doesn’t come with a case

4 Mower Blades that Made the Cut: Lawn Mover Reviews

Mon, 03/15/2021 - 11:51

A lawn mower is a machine that uses blades to cut a lawn. It utilizes one or more revolving blades to cut a grass surface to an even height. Basically, it is an essential investment for a gardener.

This piece of equipment helps a gardener achieve the perfect cut that can be achieved using heavy-duty durable steel and pre-sharpened blades. This is to ensure better cutting efficiency.

For the lawn mower to be effective, it must have reliable mowing mulching action and possess a high-lift blade.

With these qualities, a gardener can maximize cutting and bagging efficiency. This helps in delivering a nice well-cut lawn, and also helps promote lawn health.

Types of Lawn Mower Blades

For starters, there are four types of lawn mower blades a gardener can use for their mowers. While each has different functions and uses, these guarantee to help you achieve desired and specific results for your lawn.

1. Low Lift

This blade is a great option for small residential lawns. However, this may not be the best choice for taller and thicker lawns. While this blade performs well in most lawn conditions, it is particularly useful for side-discharge. When using the blade, make sure that you elevate it at a distance that is far enough off the ground. Otherwise, you may scalp the lawn

2. Medium Lift

This blade is a great cutting tool that is useful for residential and commercial mowing. It is a great option for mowing thick grasses. Also, this blade is quite versatile because it is tougher when compared to the low lift. Because of its versatility, this tool can be used to mulch, bag, or discharge grass clippings.

3. High Lift

These blades are resilient and sharp. It is for this reason that they are ideal for heavy-duty use of commercial and professional mowers. This is actually the preferred blade for bagging large amounts of grass clippings. However, high lift may not be idea for short and wet grass as its blades can be easily caught up.

4. Mulching Mower blade

Also known as gator blades, this blade is particularly made for the mulching finer grass varieties. This mulching blade also comes in different sizes that can suit a low, medium, or high lift.

How to Choose Your Mower’s Blade Size

In order to check which blade size should be used, check the specifications indicated on your mower. There are ways to know the exact blade size for your mower.

  • Check the new blade to determine if it corresponds to your mower’s item brand and product number. You should also identify your lawn mowers deck size. The sizes of the deck may range from 21inches up to 42inches or it can get higher.
  • It also helps to measure the width of the previous blade. Width sizes of the blade may range from ¼-inch to 2.25 inches or 3½ inches. When it comes to light-duty cutting tasks, a thinner blade may be a better option to use, while a thicker blade is preferred for heavy-duty cutting of grass that’s thicker and longer.
The Best Lawn Mower Blades in the Market 1. 8TEN Lawn RAZOR Blade Set of 2

LawnRAZOR sticks to its name with cutting-edge performance and state-of-the-art High Temp coating for even the toughest jobs.

This set comes in a wide variety of blade types for different mowing situations, ranging from low-lift to high-lift and mulching blades. The blade measures 20 inch long and 21/4 inch and is highly compatible with different mower brands like Sear, Poulan, Husqvarna, and more. It is also quick to install, thanks to its 5-point star hole.

Pros:

  • Easy to install
  • Produces tidy lawn
  • Great quality
  • Available in both low and high lift blade
  • Sturdy steel blade

Cons:

  • Not ideal for heavy-duty jobs
2. Briggs and Stratton Mulching Blade

Manufactured to upgrade without compromise, Briggs and Stratton Mulching Blade is the pinnacle of performance. It is designed with genuine parts made to be a cut above OEM standard equipment. The steel is tough coated and easy to install.

This blade is compatible with any Briggs & Stratton lawn mower that measures 21 inches. Use it to enhance your mower’s performance.

Pros:

  • Improves lawn’s health
  • Made in the USA
  • Great value for money
  • Easy to install

 

Cons:

  • Product does not come pre-sharpened
3. Toro Recycler Lawn Mower Blade

Toro commits to superior quality with a 22-inch recycler tooth mulcher blade that is perfect for everyday and long-lasting lawn mowing. This blade cuts and mulches grass with ease. It is crafted from durable steel and has narrow cutting design with toothed edges. This makes it perfect for cutting tall and thick grass. You can also use it to create finer mulch.

Pros:

  • Compatible with many Toro lawn mowers
  • Long blade
  • Durable steel
  • High-quality

Cons:

  • Requires to be sharpened again
4. EGO Power+ Lawn Mower High-lift Blade

EGO Power+ High-lift Blade is made with efficiency in mind, making sure grass clippings stay in the bag. It provides top-notch bagging while boasting excellence in both quality and cutting-edge performance.

It has an improved suction blade that provides better cutting and mulching. It has a high lift design that ensures good clearance when cutting thick grass.

Pros:

  • High-lift design
  • Durable and sharp steel
  • Come pre-sharpened
  • Doesn’t leave shredded tips

Cons:

  • Only ideal for Honda mowers
  • Expensive

Conserve Water with 7 of the Best Water Timers: Review and Buying Guide

Thu, 03/11/2021 - 11:38

The goal of every gardener and farmer is simple: to keep it green and healthy. That said, what better way to attain that goal than with a reliable water timer in your arsenal. But, what exactly is a water timer and is it really a worthwhile investment? Today, we’ll discuss more on this contraption, and how it can make the daily toil of gardening and farming a little easier.

What is a Water Timer?

Just by its name, a timer is used to schedule the time of day when to water your plants. This is incredibly useful when you have other things to attend to. It can also come in handy when you have a wide farming area and limited manpower to wield water sprayers all afternoon.

All you have to do is connect your water timer to a spray irrigation system, set the time, and it’ll be sure to get the job done while you lean back on your seat. With this, you can save water and energy instead of going around your garden to do the watering.

Another fancy feature of water timers is that farmers and gardeners alike can automate when to start watering and when to stop. This is especially helpful if you find yourself frequently forgetting to turn off the water source.

The Difference between a Water Timer and a Sprinkler Controller

While these two are often mistaken to be the same, they are quite different. They only share the same purpose, which is to make gardening work easier and more efficient. In actuality, a water timer differs from a sprinkler controller in how it operates.

A sprinkler controller can be operated at a distance, and it allows you to switch the sprinkler system on wherever you are within the radius. Basically, with a sprinkler controller, you have the switch.

The water timer, on the other hand, controls the water flow from the water source itself. It fits into the faucet and prevents any leakage or flow until it is time to water the plants.

The Best Water Timers for the Greenery

Setting up a water irrigation system that is fully automated and convenient to use can make your work so much easier. Here are the best water timers in the market that we can totally vouch for.

1. TACKLIFE Solar-powered Watering Garden Timer

TACKLIFE Watering Timer allows you to water your garden without worry! With solar-powered lithium-ion batteries and easy frequency programming, watering becomes quite the breeze. It comes with a PET solar panel and a large LCD screen.

It is also designed with programming functions and is quite stylish. It has a watering frequency of 2 minutes to 7 days and the duration can be adjusted from one minute to 720 minutes. It also has a capsule design, which is quite comfortable.

Pros:

  • Solar-powered
  • Efficient uses lithium-ion battery
  • Has a large LCD display
  • Comfortable capsule design

Cons:

  • Programming the timer for automatic sprinkling requires practice
2. GILMOUR Electronic Dual Water Timer

Designed to be an efficient water timer, Gilmour Electronic Water Timer now comes with a dual-timer function, capable of managing two watering tools at once. This timer is reliable and is powered by two AA batteries.

You can set the water frequency from one minute to 360 minutes. There is also a delay button and can be operated manually by On/Off function. Plus, it is durable thanks to its high impact plastic.

Pros:

  • Programmable frequency of up to 360 minutes
  • Metal construction
  • Easy-swivel coupling for quick installation
  • Easy to set-up and use

Cons:

  • Requires 2 AA batteries, but are not included in packaging
3. DIG Irrigation Watering Timer – digital, hose-end and battery-powered

DIG Irrigation Watering Timer is made to be user-friendly first. Built as a hose-end timer for convenience, it allows for precise control coupled with easy programming features and other convenient options.

Its water duration timing ranges from 1 minute to 12 hours and 59 minutes. The water frequency function can be set every week and the rain delay button helps to save water.

This timer features a durable construction and is powered by a long-lasting 9-volt battery. However, this device may be on the expensive side.

Pros:

  • Digital and LCD display
  • Rain off button for rainy days
  • Six easy-to-use buttons
  • Reliable
  • Sturdy ABS construction

Cons:

  • Costly
  • Not suitable for water pressure systems that are gravity-fed
4. RAINDRIP 3-Dial Analog Water Timer

Raindrip 3-Dial Analog Water Timer is the perfect timer for your garden, with useful features and dials catering to different water frequencies and situations.

The water cycle runs from 1 to 72 minutes while the run dial operates from 1 to 120 minutes. Plus, you can easily adjust the watering program from one to 90 minutes. Furthermore, it comes with a delay program for 24 hrs, 48 hrs, or 72 hrs.

Pros:

  • Easy programming with three distinct dials
  • Low-battery indicator
  • Retain programming when changing batteries
  • Affordable

Cons:

  • Omits LCD screen
  • Works well with a minimum 15 PSI
5. ORBIT Watering Timer with Single Outlet Hose (62061Z)

Orbit Watering Timer has a myriad of features designed to be efficient and save money. It is easy to sue and ideal for gardeners that wants to save money, thanks to it automatic feature.

It has a watering frequency form 6 hrs to 7 days water duration of 1 to 24 minutes. Another grate feature is the built-in rain delay function that lets you to pause it for 24hrs, 48 hrs, or 72 hrs. However, it is worth noting that the faucet connecting may crack when exposed to sunlight since it is crafted from plastic.

Pros:

  • Swap between manual and automatic watering
  • Programmable timed watering for up to every 7 days
  • Rain delay option for up to 3 days
  • Large LCD screen
  • Manual on/off functionality

Cons:

  • Faucet connection is plastic and is prone to cracking when exposed to sunlight

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Tue, 02/09/2021 - 21:39

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Sheep Piss Hay and Squinty Celia

Wed, 05/03/2017 - 09:41

I don’t know why we called her Squinty Celia. Well, her name was Celia, so that was one part of it. She was a bit squinty too, so that’ll explain the other bit. She also had a limp, but that wasn’t as pronounced as her squint, so it never came up in the moniker department. Squinty Celia worked at the Town Hall. I don’t know what her job title was or what she actually did. She might have told me once but I probably wasn’t listening. She was seemingly in charge of chucking away all the old shit, because she always had some old shit she wanted to get rid of.

Squinty Celia was a bit of a loner, but I always made time for a quick chat (even if I didn’t pay too much attention to what was said) or bought her a pint. I don’t know if she normally drank pints of bitter, but it was what I’d get her and she never seemed to return anything but an empty glass.

A few of the lads took the piss, asking whether I was intent on shagging a squinty lass, but the truth was Squinty Celia often would offer me first pickings over the old shit she was disposing of from the Town Hall. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t involved in clandestine rag and bone activities; I just have always had an inherent fear that I’ll pass up something useful and later regret it.

I’m not a hoarder or anything weird like that. I don’t have piles of shoe boxes filled with old combs, thimbles, bent screws and pieces of string. That would be socially unacceptable. However, I do find myself acquiring things that I don’t need or want (at the time). Deep down inside I suddenly get a feeling that the shit I’m gathering will be useful at some indiscriminate point in the future.

It’s like a sixth sense, an inner Steptoe if you like. I don’t think about it, I don’t give it any thought, I don’t even know I’m doing it. One moment I’ll be walking to the pub, and suddenly I’ll say to a random stranger, ‘What are you doing with that?’ They’ll look at me as if I’m a deranged fool who’s enquiring about a pile of old shit, and explain that they’re throwing it away, of course. Next thing I know I’m hauling it away, the panic at potentially missing out on a valuable resource ebbing away as I take each step closer to getting it home.

Okay, it sounds like fucking lunacy, and to some degree it might be. It’s just the way I’m wired.

So, what made me think of Squinty Celia this fine spring day? Lambs. That’s what! I was chatting to Farmer Giles about his lambs when the subject of eating came up. I enquired about well aged mutton and he explained he had a few Yoes that were knocking on a bit and would be off to slaughter soon. After a brief negotiation I bought one. He then went back to his work. At the time he was clearing a pile of old hay that was sodden wet, adulterated with sheep piss and pooh, and worth nothing.

Before I knew it I was asking, ‘What are you going to do with that?’

So I ended up with a huge pile of what we in the Idiot Gardening fraternity like to call Sheep Piss Hay! I piled it in a corner and let it start to stink a bit. Then what did I do? I think you know already, don’t you? I planted my onions in it. These are no ordinary onions. These are the onions that I started off last year, then ignored because I was too busy, then let die. Well, I collected them all up and chucked them into the Sheep Piss Hay.

What happened next? They started to grow again. It’s a miracle, like Miracle Gro (which doesn’t perform miracles at all, actually, but they’re allowed to call it that for some reason) but it really works.

Sheep Piss Hay. You won’t find Monty Don or the Titchmarsh pushing this shit!

 

The post Sheep Piss Hay and Squinty Celia appeared first on The Idiot Gardener.

Buffalo 3kW Induction Hob Review

Thu, 04/27/2017 - 05:02

When considering brewing, one potential waste of time has to be getting a large volume of wort to a rolling boil. Personally I use (make that ‘used’) an electric boiler. This had the added arse-ache of occasionally cutting out because the sugars would bake onto the element, making the thing think it had overheated. It also required a fairly lengthy clean process to ensure the element was sparkling to prevent cut-outs.

The electric boiler also had a limited capacity. This resulted in it being run at almost full volume, which caused the occasional boil-over. The outcome was a waste of time, as I’d have to stand over the thing watching for excessive foaming while the wort came up to temperature. It added around 45 minutes to the day, and those were minutes when I couldn’t do much else (unless I wanted to clean up a puddle of sticky shit).

After much consideration I decided to keep the boiler for strike water and change the boil vessel to a SS BrewTech shiny stainless steel kettle. I opted for the 56 litre version, allowing for plenty of headspace, even with 10 gallon batches. I then had to decide how to fire it up, with the choice of either a butane burner or an induction hob. As the former requires either plenty of ventilation or working outside, there was only ever going to be one winner!

I opted for the Buffalo 3kW induction hob for a few reasons. Firstly, it’s the most powerful one I could find that can be used with a standard 240V AC socket. Secondly, I have a heavy duty mincer and a vacuum packer from Buffalo, and whilst they’re ‘no frills’ as far as features go, they both work well. Thirdly, I purchased it from Nisbets and waited for a favourable discount day to purchase. The standard price is around £190 including VAT, but I managed to get one delivered for a penny under £80!

The hob works well, getting 5 gallon batches to a rolling boil in around 20 minutes. I also don’t have to stand over it as the excess volume of the kettle means the wort would have to detonate to come over the top! Because it’s induction it doesn’t get hot (aside from heat transferred via the kettle base) and is simple to clean. It bears the weight of the kettle and 10 gallons without any issues. It does have a marked ‘zone’ which a pot should sit within. The kettle is way bigger and hangs over the edges, but that doesn’t affect performance.

The power is variable too, so if you don’t want to use the full 3kW (maybe for small batches or to knock up a bacon sandwich on brew days) you can back off the power. Aside from a small fan, it’s silent too.

There are a couple of things to be aware of. Firstly, after two hours it will switch off. It’s a safety feature and while there will be a way of getting around it, I’ve never had a session where it has switched itself off. If it does, you just switch it off and back on again. The other thing is that it requires a ‘soft start’. I think this is a thing with all induction hobs. Basically, it needs to be switched off when power is applied, then turned on. If you’re thinking about turning it on with a timer, you’ll probably kill it.

I like it and often check the current prices to see if I can pick up a few more at a low cost.

How do I rate it? I reckon it’s worth a 9 out of 10.

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Raised Beds: Size Does Matter!

Mon, 04/24/2017 - 04:42

So, here’s the thing: I like big raised beds. The idea of making massive fuck-off sized raised beds first came about at Idiot Towers, before the move to FAoI. It happened as a total misunderstanding. Someone suggested building raised beds instead of digging out ground roots. I don’t know why, but in my mind’s eye at the very second this was mentioned I saw a bed that was approximately 0.7 metres high, a couple of metres long and a metre in depth. So I built it, and then discovered that filling it took up a lot of soil and compost.

Last year at FAoI the growing season was pretty crap. I managed to get a handful of small squash, a few heads of corn and that was it. Admittedly there was a lot of other stuff happening, such as making the house habitable. However, I vowed that in 2017 I would get my mojo back.

So, how’s that working out for me? Well, I’m running a bit late! That said, I did dig out a diary from 2014 – one of my most productive years – and I didn’t sow bugger all until mid-April then. As such, I’m not too fussed. I have planted gooseberries, raspberries and rhubarb, so hopefully next year will see a fruit mountain starting to form.

The initial plan was to plant into the ground here, as I have a lot of ground to cover. The reality is that clearing a small space showed how futile such an approach might be. Within weeks the wilderness was closing in on my cleared patch and the sandy soil lacked anything good, but had an abundance of weed seeds. As an almost automatic reaction, I reverted to the fuck-off sized raised bed.

The first in a series of beds comes in at 4.8 metres by 1.6 metres, with a depth of 0.75 metres. Carol Vorderman might beg to differ, but I make that around 5.4 cubic metres. Filling it was a bitch. I lined the base with heavy duty cardboard and then added a generous layer of sheep-piss soaked straw that Farmer Giles was going to dump in the ditch. The rest is compost. Obviously I haven’t yet managed to produce compost myself, so I ended up having to buy it in.

Here’s an interesting point: I figured buying bulk bags would be the cheapest route, but after scavenging around various nurseries for offers, I managed to fill it at a price of around £35.00 per cubic metre. Part of that was due to obtaining a pallet of sacks for £60.00.

The bed currently houses the main direct sowings for 2017: parsnips, carrots, turnips, beetroot, chard and some salad leaves. It’s a fairly basic selection, but as more beds are built the range will increase. I just needed to make certain that I got something in!

I’ve cleared an area for sweetcorn, squash and artichokes, and once the seeds are up they’ll be transferred across, leaving the greenhouse free for tomatoes. I also need to cobble together a beanage as a matter of urgency.

Oh, and there’s still a shitload of work to be done on the house, plus woodstores to build, new plumbing in the brewery and the rum-cured bacon stock is getting low…

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Breaking Ground and Raising Beds

Tue, 01/24/2017 - 04:30

It’s not long to go until we’ve been the owners for FAoI for exactly one year. How time flies when you have a list of jobs as long as your longest arm. When we arrived here it was amid an ocean of optimism. The land was great, the outbuildings added promise, and the location was top notch. The downside? The house was tired, dull, beige to the very limit of total beigeness. Therefore it took some degree of promises from my good self for Mrs IG to accept the choice.

There were other houses in a better state of decoration, but the land and outbuilding situation of FAoI was not equalled. Mrs IG saw 5-6 acres at these other places and a ramshackle stable or barn and figured that was good enough for me. However, I wanted land with character and FAoI had that in spades. I wanted a selection of usable building and FAoI had those too. Mrs IG, however, saw interiors that were not beige, kitchens and bathrooms that were not from the 1960s and water that was hot.

So, the bulk of year one was spent focusing on the interior. The ancient kitchen and pokey dining room have been transformed from a 1960s sea of dark wood and misery to a bright and open kitchen dining room hybrid type affair. The old people’s home style hallway has been modernised. Multifunctional modern fitted bedroom furniture has gone in. The fake external shutters have been removed. The terrible 1960s artificial electric fire and surround has been ditched for a woodburner, and the hot water debacle has been sorted with the installation of a combination boiler set-up (despite the so-called expert from British Gas who lied through his teeth to try and con us into buying an inferior but far more costly solution insisting such an option was impossible).

There was also a period of adjustment. I had to understand a bit about FAoI. There was wildlife, woods, water, lawns, fields and an orchard. I ended up trying to do a thousand things and getting none of them right (or finished). I managed to grow a few sweetcorn and that was about it. My globe artichokes went in too late to flower, the squash went in too late to ripen, and the onions just went dormant. On the plus side, I ended up with 50 gallons of pear and apple juice!

The plan for 2017 includes replacing both bathrooms, putting in a porch/boot room type affair, and getting the veg beds sorted. The original idea was to locate these in the back field, but now the most likely location seems to be the defunct wild flower meadow. It’s defunct because I inadvertently mowed over it when we first arrived and that seems to have screwed up its balance. Anyway, it wasn’t really wild; the previous owner, Mr and Mrs Beige, ‘created’it.

In my idiocy I have reverted to type and opted for raised beds. One thing I realised last year was that if you’re surrounded by open fields, all manner of seeds and shit blow around, and keeping a bed clear is a lot of back-breaking work. Being a lazy sod with a dodgy back, I found myself hankering after the simplicity of fuck-off big raised beds, so a timber order is imminent.

Also, it’s amazing how much space is liberated when you attack it with the right tools. For my sins, I have been using a combination of an old John Deere garden tractor thing and a Pasquali two-wheeled  tractor. The latter is like a rabid satan-fuelled motherlover and chews its way through anything (including two-year old trees as I found out by accident – no almonds for us any time soon).

The goal is to be ready for the last of the frosts; whether that happens or instead I get sidetracked by building an Argentinian grill remains to be seen!

The post Breaking Ground and Raising Beds appeared first on The Idiot Gardener.

Pressing Times: Cider and Perry

Fri, 01/06/2017 - 08:33

The end of 2016 saw a flurry of activity at FAoI as I finally got my arse into gear and addressed the ever growing mountain of apples and pears. The original plan was to split them and produce cider and perry, but as is typical of plans around here, it soon crashed and burned! Instead of cider and perry we have ciderry or perrider! I prefer the latter as it sounds like pariah, which would have been a good name for the drink had I not already opted for one!

While the idea of having proper cider and perry might sound good in theory, it did mean that I’d have to split the fruits and manage two lots of pressing and fermentation. As i was already well behind schedule I deemed perrider to be the experiment needed to retain the idiot approach.

I had apples and pears. I had fermentation vessels. I had yeast. All that was required was turning the fruits into must (that’s what proper people making cider and perry call juice; I’m fucked if I know why they don’t just call it juice, but they don’t). There are two processes in must extraction: scratting and pressing. Scratting is basically milling the fruit into a pulp so it’s more giving in the juice department, and pressing is pressing. It’s easy, that last bit.

Time is a fickle mistress, so I had time to either make a scratter or a press, but not both. The idea of scratting is to break down the fruit. I was aware that freezing and thawing tears the cellular structure of fruit because of the expansion when freezing and the secondary and greater expansion when thawing, and a quick search of the interweb identified that a freeze/thaw cycle would indeed enhance must extraction.

So I built a press. It’s simple in design. It’s a wooden frame held together with threaded rod, with a wide base unit which allows a collection vessel to be placed under the workings on the press. A sliding wooden piston sort of thing and a collection of spacing blocks (they’re really just off-cuts of wood) are used to apply pressure from a five tonne bottle jack.

The frame has a piece of cold steel plate attached to the top to spread the load from the jack. If you don’t do this the wood will deform under high pressure loads and might crack.

Once the apples have been frozen and thawed, they are cut in half and dumped into muslin bags. The bags are than placed between pressure plates (these are simply LDPE cutting boards) and the whole shotting match gets jacked up (so to speak). The juice then falls into the collection vessel (an old stainless steel catering gastronorm with a hole cut into it) which in turn fills the fermenter.

A word of caution to anyone attempting using a gastronorm (or for that matter any other stainless steel collection vessel): with a round hole cut in the vessel, escaping liquids will, when slow flowing, create rivulets across the base of the pan and drip everywhere. It’s fucking messy. The cure is simple! Take a bolster chisel (don’t use a sharp one) and place it on the lower edge of the hole. A swift twat or two with a lump hammer will create a crease that serves as a spout. This prevents liquid from flowing back on the external surface. It’s proper science, you motherlovers!

For those brew-minded, I varied the yeasts for each fermenter; as it’s the first year of FAoI Perrider I wanted to try a few options. The following have been used: Generic Champagne yeast; Safale S-04; Safale S-04 plus Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois; Wyeast 4766 (Cider); Mango Jack M02; Mango Jack M02 plus Brettanomyces Bruxellensis Trois; Yeast Bay Brettanomyces Melange.

The plan is to age the Perrider until the apple and pear trees blossom in Spring, when it will be bottled and kegged. The eagle-eyed will have spotted a Gruffalo on one of the fermenters. This is not an essential bit of kit, but serves to remind me which one in a line of fermenters holds the oldest still fermenting brew.

 

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Case Closed!

Mon, 11/28/2016 - 12:34

Having looked over the evidence provided by the thermal imaging surveillance, I now know my enemy in the Great Orchard War! Let battle commence…

The video contains a reference to the Baby Jesus. Other fictional deities are available. The value of faith can go down as well as up. Always take professional advice before committing to a full-time lifestyle based around the teachings of a blonde-haired blue-eyed white man with a flowing beard born of a virgin birth in the Middle East. Unicorns do not exist. Nor do mermaids. Nor does Father Christmas.

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Who’s been eating my pears?

Tue, 11/22/2016 - 04:23

One of the attractions of FAoI was a small but seemingly productive orchard area. The plan was simple; plant a few cider apple and perry pear trees to extend it, spend the summer building a scratter and press, and come autumn I’d be making cider from the existing trees until the new ones added to the bounty. Sounds pretty straightforward, eh? Well, that’s not how things panned out. I’m guessing you already knew that.

As the first batch of windfalls hit the ground, I hadn’t planted any new trees, and to be honest I hadn’t built a scratter or a press either. In fact, I’d managed to read half a book about cider making and that was that. Not wanting to waste the fruit I went on a well known auction website and acquired a second hand chest freezer. I was already aware that the freeze/thaw cycle ruptures the cellular structure in fruit, so I knew that freezing the apples and pears hard and then thawing them would eliminate the need for a scratter this year. It would also buy me the time to finish work in the brewery and build a press.

As I did the morning rounds of the orchard collecting windfalls, I noticed a number of apples and pears – mostly pears in fact – that had been partially eaten. They had teeth marks and some were significantly devoured. Something was eating my pears. Now, I’m not about to get all snotty over the odd piece of fruit, but this was on a scale akin to a debauched medieval feast, and that meant only one thing: war!

We considered the various options. First our thoughts turned to squirrels, only because I’ve seen a few loitering in the orchard. I really hoped it was the tree rats as they only appear on the odd occasion, and I really fancy a squirrel and pickled walnut stew. However, I knew that the elusive squirrels weren’t nocturnal, and the feeding sessions only happened at night. It was wishful thinking to be truthful.

Next suspect was Farmer Giles next door! Maybe he was crawling through the hedge at night and snuffling up my windfalls. The idea of him rolling around under the trees in his underpants, howling at the moon and scoffing my fruit did make us smile, but also was unlikely. Badgers also crossed our mind.

The truth was that we didn’t really want to think about the most obvious pear goobler: rats. The orchard is next to where Gilesy keeps his hens. Chicken feed brings in rats, and if he’d put in some extra protection those hungry rats would be looking for food elsewhere, even apples and pears would be a treat for them.

At the back of my mind I saw sleepless nights out in the cold, picking off the rat population one by one with some hollow points. Okay, the odd night ratting is good fun, but when it comes to holding back the tide of hungry vermin on a daily basis, it can become a chore. There was only one thing for it. I had to know my enemy. (By that I mean I had to find out what was eating my pears, not that I had to introduce myself and ask one of their daughters to a dance.)

I often awaken during the night. It’s the by-product of being so caring. I worry about world peace and the plight of orphans and the habitat of the lesser spotted twat. My first attempt at identifying my foe was leaning out of the bedroom window in the middle of the night with a fuck-off bright torch. This taught me nothing more than that Mrs IG doesn’t care much for me crashing around late at night trying to spot vermin. I needed a better plan.

In the immortal words of Barry Gibb, we have the technology! I resorted to that device most beloved of policemen chasing criminals in a helicopter (that’s the policemen being in the helicopter chasing criminals on the ground, not criminals in a helicopter obviously): thermal imaging. I am dedicated to finding out what goes on in the orchard at night…

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Lessons learned

Mon, 10/31/2016 - 15:03

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2017.

Oi, don’t run off to check how long you’ve been sleeping. I know it’s still 2016, but at FAoI 2016 has been pronounced dead. Time of death? 31 October 2016. Cause of death? Ineptitude and unrealistic expectations. Yep, it all sounds a bit idiotic, but what did you expect, self sufficiency at the drop of a hat? C’mon, we’ve come so far together; don’t start expecting things to work out well just yet.

So, after moving to FAoI in mid February of this year, I had somehow expected to unpack in a few days, prepare a few dozen vegetable beds, raise a polytunnel or two, fit out the brewery, convert an outbuilding into an office, extend the orchard, build a smokehouse, become proficient in hunting and be living off the land by midsummer’s day. All this while continuing to work and exploring the delights of rural Lincolnshire.

Firstly, it took around two months to unpack and work out where things should go. Having spoken to many people who admitted still having unopened boxes in their lofts or garages from a move many years previous, I was determined to make sure we emptied all the boxes, and we did. It took around 60 days, a mere 58 more than I had planned. In truth, there are still things in the wrong places. For example, there’s a knife block and a Magimix in the Den, various tools in the wardrobe of the guest bedroom, a Dyson (other shit vacuum cleaners are available) in the porch and a spare kitchen extractor fan behind the living room door.

The chaos has been further compounded by items from rooms being moved to other rooms in order to allow basic works to be carried out. I did decide that in order to minimise the impact, work would only be carried out on one room at a time. True to my word work has been simultaneously commenced in the kitchen, living room, den, three of the four bedrooms, the hallway, the utility room, the external office and the brewery.

Another plan that fell at the first fence was the idea of extending the orchard. One of my very first tasks once the broadband was connected was to order some Dabinet apple trees for cider production. Sadly, they were out of stock everywhere I looked. It seems that popular trees must be ordered in early September for delivery in early January. Pitching up in late February with a wish-list isn’t how things are done apparently. So you’d probably think I was on the ball enough to order the Dabinets for early next year? Think again. Anyway, I’ve decided I’d probably prefer Kingston Black!

The existing orchard has fruited, so there’s cider on the go. You’d think so, eh? Well, there isn’t! I didn’t have time to build a scrater and a press, so instead I’ve been piling the windfalls into a freezer. The act of freezing and thawing will break up the cellular structure thus eliminating the need for scrating before pressing. I have one chest freezer filled with whole fruit, and have just bought another via eBay to take the rest of the crop. My thinking is this: you can never have too many freezers!

So, on to the growing. Here’s the thing. I forgot what a load of faff preparing ground for successful growing was. The land was rough pasture, so I just cut it back hard, chucked down an area of fairly fresh manure and sowed some sweet corn, onions, squash and globe artichokes. They grew, as did weeds from the soil, wind-blown weeds from the fields next door, seeds from the various undergrowth surrounding the area and assorted other shit. The rabbits, squirrels, pigeons, crows, foxes, badgers and assorted other wildlife didn’t eat the weeds. They ate my stuff, which all planted a bit late anyway. The result was I ended up with a handful of half-formed corn cobs, a few miniature squash and some globe artichokes which didn’t produce heads. As a result I am going back to my roots and putting in raised beds! Polytunnels will follow…

I also learned that if you drive over a wild orchid meadow in a ride-on lawn tractor, they don’t grow back. To be fair, I didn’t know it was a wild orchid meadow, not until Farmer Giles’ wife said, ‘Oh, you’ve mowed down the wild orchid meadow’.

The brewery did produce a few brews including a very good IPA and a Saison flavoured with nettle tips. However, when the old kitchen units were ripped out they made their way into the brewery, but didn’t get fitted (yet). A number of other things ended up in there too, and beer production shuddered to a halt as the place became a dumping ground. So close, and yet so far!

The outbuilding that was changed into an office was insulated, had a new floor fitted, had power and telephony added and the interior was clad. I also purchased the stripwood to hide the joins and rough bits. I haven’t put that up yet. The place will also be the recipient of the good quality but much hated beige carpets from the house. Eventually. Presently they are rolled up in various rooms, creating a much loved trip-hazard!

With the nights drawing and a perceivable nip in the air, I have to admit that 2016 was – and continues to be – a year of transition. We’re getting there, slowly. In 2017 there will be no excuses. Okay, there might be a few, but with a little luck and a fair wind behind us, there might actually be some successes.

So, Happy New Year! At FAoI, 2017 starts today!

 

 

 

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Hey! Hey! LBJ! How many moles did you kill today?

Mon, 09/05/2016 - 04:43

Two. That’s the answer. Of course, I’m not LBJ, and this post is about mole trapping and not the slaughter or innocents, but I’m sure you get the drift. If you understand the reference to LBJ, then you’ll be aware that many years ago, before Mama Cass died in the same hotel room as a half-eaten ham sandwich that ironically had nothing whatsoever to do with her demise despite the urban myth, there was a war on the other side of the world. After that war, no one tidied up, and the remaining bomb craters, rock piles, heaps of wreckage and dead plains which still survive today are somewhat reminiscent of our lawn. Hence the need for mole trapping.

When I say our lawn, I means Mrs IG’s lawn. Before you start questioning why there is a lawn at FAoI, let me explain. Between the brewery to the North and the Orchard in the South, and betwixt the house on the East and the treeline of the woods in the West is a grass area of roughly one acre. It’s neat, and was relatively well maintained by the previous owners. From the patio and conservatory, you look out over this grass area. Mrs IG declared it her lawn, and as she only has that and 95 per cent of the house, I figured it was fair exchange for all the outbuildings, the wood and the back field.

Anyway, the ‘lawn’ was an area of beauty and relative neatness … until the moles moved in. Neither of us have ever had any dealings with moles in the past, so the first thing we did was hit the interweb looking for a quick fix. Marshmallows don’t work; we tried that. Rat poison doesn’t work; we tried that. Moth balls don’t work, because you can’t buy the old fashioned ones, but if they did they wouldn’t work anyway. Flooding the tunnels doesn’t work; we tried that.

Nothing worked, and every day the number of mole hills rose. They we taking over and turning the lawn into a battlefield. In desperation I went for mole traps, the scissor types. It wasn’t that I thought they were better than tunnel traps; it was just what I could get quickest. They’re old ones, and generally seem to be functional and up to the task of mole trapping.

One thing you’ll notice about trying to learn mole trapping is this: every interweb self-proclaimed expert decrees that there is only one way to trap moles. They insist that their method alone will work. They’ll tell you how many moles they catch and how quickly they catch them as evidence of the credibility of their methodology. But here’s the thing. They all use totally different methods, and warn that any deviation from their mole trapping masterplan will lead to failure.

I started off following the instructions of the most convincing of the snake oil salesmen, and got nowhere. I switched allegiance to the next most convincing, and got nowhere. I went with a bloke that had a photo of moles hanging from his underpants and got nowhere. I even went with the process of Terry ‘The Mole Nemesis’ McBallbag (or something like that). Nada. Nothing. Not a single mole.

I decided to take the course required to buy and use Aluminium Phosphide. Even at £225 and a day of my life it seemed cheap. However, I couldn’t just wait for the course to come around, so I sat down with a beer and looked at every bit of advice, and tried to work out which parts were snake oil and which made sense. Then using all the parts that made sense I stuck a few traps out, and caught two moles.

So, what did I do? First I cleared away all the mole hills. This meant that any appearing were on active tunnels. Once they appeared I worked around them, probing the ground around a foot from the hill with a hide pole (any pointed long stick-like thing will do) until I felt the ‘give’ that told me a tunnel was beneath. I then cut out a section of turf around 3 x 3 inches with a trowel and felt inside to determine if it was indeed a tunnel, and which direction in went in. If it wasn’t an obvious tunnel I moved on.

Once I knew it was a tunnel, I scoped out any loose earth and used a club hammer head to compact the ground under where the trap would be located. Then I dropped in the trap and once in position I checked it would freely trigger quickly by lightly squeezing the handles. Once done (and reset), I carefully replaced the sob and covered the area with a flower pot. To keep light out, I piled spoil from the molehill around the edge where it sat on the ground and over the drainage holes.

Knowing that moles are solitary but will take over empty tunnels if they find them, I popped the dead ones back into their holes and covered them up. I figured if the tunnels still smelled a bit moley, others might not move in. That’s the rational reason. In my head I was really thinking, ‘This’ll let the mole fuckers know what happened here’.

War is hell.

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Suck my plums!

Wed, 08/24/2016 - 09:46

When I was a mere lad, our next-door neighbour was Mrs Broad. She was unremarkable. Well, there were a few things that I remember vividly. One was that her husband was a baldy-head man. Another was that her dog, Quest, stunk of stale piss. Another was that she has a beard that would put Brian Blessed to shame. However, the thing I remember most was that she has a plum tree, and every autumn it was heavy with juicy plums.

Mrs Broad also had a niece or granddaughter or … well, she was some kind of a female relative child. Her name was Sharon, and at times she would visit and play in Mrs Broad’s back garden. I didn’t like Sharon. In fact, no one liked Sharon. She was a freckle-faced lump of a thing with a voice like a baboon screeching while defecating matted coconut husk impregnated with rusted wire. Worst of all, she was a ginger.

As the summer days shortened and Autumn prepared to take over our lives, the tree would produce a seemingly never-ending bounty of plums. From the very moment they were soft enough to bite into, I’d be nipping over the fence and filling my pockets with them. Green and tart, yellowy and bitter, light red and sweet or purple and spilling with nectar-like juice, I didn’t care. I loved the plums. I’d gorge on them until I could shit through the eye of a needle.

At that age, mortality wasn’t a great issue, but I feared for the death of Mrs Broad. No doubt lumpy Sharon would move in once the bearded lady was buried, and she’d be a bit more observant. If I wanted to sustain a good supply of plums, I’d have to cosy up with the ginger one. It didn’t bear thinking about.

Anyway, Mrs Broad didn’t die (well, she did or she’d be around 130 today), I didn’t have to let Sharon have her way with me in exchange for plums, and I moved away. In the interim years, I haven’t really been bothered about plums. Until now, that is.

The Five Acres of Idiocy has three plum trees, and they’re currently heavy with fruit. They’re at a variety of stages: green and tart, yellow and bitter, light red and sweet. They haven’t made it to the purple and juicy stage yet. Here’s the thing – I’m back on the horse! I can’t walk by a tree without picking one, regardless of its stage of maturity. I’ve gone plum crazy. My arse isn’t thanking me for it.

Interestingly we have three trees that all seem different. One produces light green plums that yellow. These have sweet flesh and skin and are delightful to eat. We have one that produces darker green fruit that lighten, then develop a red blush. These have juicy sweet flesh but a sharp tannin-heavy skin. The third produces smaller darker green fruit with turn red, but generally all seem to have skin blemishes. They’re sweet but the skin isn’t that appealing.

Plans are for plum chutney, plum wine (probably with the scabby tree’s fruit), plum tarts and if there’s enough left, a couple of gallons of plum jerkum.

Interestingly, we also have three damson trees. The fruit are dark purple, almost black, and soft and juicy. I know that damsons are supposed to be tart and puckeringly sour, but these are sweet and delicious. I’m trying not to eat them, however, because I want to make someone a bottle of damson gin (oi oi sis!).

So there you go, plums. Thousands of them!

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False Prophets

Tue, 07/26/2016 - 10:47

Christmas Eve. It’s the day before Christmas Day. The day before. Think about that.

All Hallows Eve (or Halloween if you’re a fat kid looking for free sugar). It’s the day before All Hallows Day. The day before. Remember that.

The Eve of Destruction. Barry McGuire unloaded his prophetic dirge about the world destroying itself in 1965. That was 51 years ago. We’re still waiting. Apparently, the Eve of Destruction breaks the norm when it comes to Eves, in that it’s not a day before, but some non-specific amount of years.

Barry’s whinging protest pop ditty warned against man’s appetite for war and called for a united human race (apart from those in Red China, eh Barry? Fuck them, because you don’t like Commies, do you?). Anyway, I’m calling the whole Eve of Destruction thing as bullshit. Sorry Barry, but you were wrong, and that’s that. You cannot have a 51 year (and counting) Eve. Barry McGuire, false prophet, no, I don’t believe were are on the eve of destruction.

What’s the time? No, it’s not Chico time. It’s time to find another false prophet. In 1947 the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists revealed the Doomsday Clock. It allegedly showed the countdown to nuclear oblivion. To highlight the advancement of the nuclear age, it was set at 7 minutes to midnight. At midnight, the party was due to start. Now, even if you’re basing dates on theory rather than the realisation of the nuclear age, the start point is around 1933.

So, in 14 years the clock sped around to 7 minutes to midnight. Since 1947, it should have been around the dial a fair few times. That means oblivion has already happened … but it hasn’t. I’m calling bullshit on the Doomday Clock, and I reckon the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists should wind the fucker up, because it’s clearly running slow. Sorry science blokes, but you’re a bunch of false prophets.

Who else should be on the list? Well, we could add anyone who worked in the IT sector 20 years ago. They ‘prophesised’ that computers, the advanced marvel of the modern age, the processing miracles that could out-think even the smartest humans, would be bollocksed when the calendar went from 1999 to 2000. Apparently, these advanced machines which could carry out calculations into the trillions and beyond couldn’t process that 2000 came after 1999. The myth (it was a lie, actually, designed to suck money from the pockets of the gullible) was that programmers had ‘forgotten’ to write calendars in computers that went past the 1900s, because they thought the machines might not have lasted that long. The old code was then used until someone realised it was too late.

Of course, the idea that someone sat there and typed in all the dates is a load of old bollocks. A simple algorithm was used which was always going to carry on regardless. The IT industry, meanwhile, mercilessly bullshitted until they’d scammed everyone they could. Then 2000 came and went. Nothing happened. Old IT blokes are nothing but a bunch of false prophets.

Who else is there? Well, there’s me.

‘What the fuck?’ I hear you exclaim. ‘How can this be? You are, after all, a teller of truths!’

Well, it’s nice of you to think so, and in a way you’re right, because I am now telling you the truth. I prophesised something that didn’t happen. In reality, it was never going to happen. Not a chance. Indeed, the eve of destruction turning into actual destruction, the doomsday clock running out and the Millennium bug eating civilisation were more likely to happen than what I foresaw.

When I first arrived at the Five Acres of Idiocy I prophesised that come summer the land would be awash with fruit and vegetables. Why wouldn’t it be? It was February and life was about to become a bowl of cherries (well, maybe not as our cherry tree is a flowering cherry so produces no fruit, but you know what I mean). I sourced manure, I planned a space, and then…

Every day there seems to be a new job that needs doing. I don’t remember it being like this at the old place. There’s house renovations, septic tank traumas, water heating conundrums, overhead power line bedlam, fisticuffs with energy suppliers, truck repairs, tree felling concerns, crashed machinery, toad relocations and a whole host of other crap to deal with.

We’ve had a procession of builders, electricians, plumbers, shit pipe experts, architects, liars (that’s British Gas, naturally) and general ne’er-do-wells traipsing through, all taking money for various tasks badly done. Well, British Gas didn’t get any money because I threw the bastard out. He told me I was passive aggressive. As he ran away I shouted after him, ‘Fuck you; I’m aggressive aggressive!’

So, I planted some corn, squash, artichokes and onions, albeit too late. I’m holding our for an Indian summer. Is that it, I hear you ask. Yes, that’s it. Would you feel like plating some cabbage after having to try and shove a garden fork up a builder’s rectum? Thought not!

I have learned something, though, and am already looking for winter’s new cider apple trees. And I’ve got to build a wood store. And have a log burner fitted. And get the new kitchen installed. And rebuild the bathroom. And finish the brewery. I mean, for chuff’s sake, I haven’t even had the banjo out of its case since I got here.

And you tell me, over and over and over again my friend, that you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction…

Piss off Barry!

 

 

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