Battling the elements

This is the place to discuss not just allotments but all general gardening problems and queries which don't fit into the specific categories below.
(formerly allotments and tips, hints and problems)
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Green Aura
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Battling the elements

Post: # 261124Post Green Aura »

We've not had a huge amount of success with our veg gardening since we moved up here. For various reasons.
1) the tiny growing season due our latitude! Reponse, we put in a polytunnel, with a heat sink, to try and extend it a bit. We start our tomato and similar, indoors, in January to give them a bit of an advantage.
2) the shifting Gulf stream - never noticed it down south (it either rained or it didn't) - has an enormous effect up here. The last couple of summers have disappeared behind gail force winds (I'm talking 60mph+ on a nearly daily basis) and horizontal rains that nearly slice you in two. Some days we literally didn't leave the house. Response, we have several cold frames and cloches to protect outdoor crops .
3) Livestock - not of the sheep or cow variety but snails! Huge, hungry snails that strip a garden overnight. When we moved up here we scoffed at the regular use of slug pellets (we're organic dontcha know) but I confess that this year, in desperation, we've resorted to the same.

And to Tomorite! We've carefully gathered seaweed and comfrey and nettles, in previous years, and made wonderful teas that just don't seem up to the task of giving our crops the advantage they need over all the other growing conditions.

We really need a decent crop this year. Not just to boost our flagging confidence but also to get back something from the huge investment (financial and personal) we've made in this polytunnel etc. I'm hoping that once we've got to know it better we'll be able to revert to (for us) a more comfortable gardening style. But in the meantime any advice that may help us get there would be welcome.

Ah, confession is a wonderful thing :lol:

Edit: I forgot to mention that we've started the windbreaks by building fences and growing willow but it'll take a few years for it to get to a reasonable height and thickness.
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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gregorach
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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261128Post gregorach »

Sorry, no advice, only sympathy... It's pretty damn tough up in the north west. People really don't realise just how wild it can be, or how much difference the latitude makes. How are you coping with the almost total darkness in winter and the almost permanent daylight in summer? Even here in the (relatively) mid-latitudes of the central belt, I go a bit crazy around mid-winter and mid-summer...
Cheers

Dunc

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Green Aura
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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261132Post Green Aura »

Light lamp and Vitamin D supplements, Dunc, but that's just us :lol: The cats seem to like it too.

I'm hoping we might get some winter crops in the polytunnel - things like the mustard greens don't seem to mind the dark - in fact they didn't seem to mind the polytunnel having no skin either! But we'll get mightily sick of them if that's all we can grow so we're looking for other hardy, less light-needy options. Hopefully, with a small upgrade to the heat sink we should be able to keep it above freezing, without the need for heating.

And when we finish all the fencing we might even be able to get to the polytunnel. It's only above 20 yards from the bag door but when we get the winter winds it's difficult standing upright for that distance and opening the door without it being wrenched off it's hinges is fun (think forearms like Popeye). Closing it again is a whole other game :lol:

But I love winters up here, I think I may have been a dormouse in a previous life - hibernating suits me. And when we do get a bit of sunshine, which we do quite often despite my moaning, it's so stunning it keeps you going until the next time.
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261160Post oldjerry »

OK, to be honest,I wouldn't live up there,but heyho,re my wind break stuff,that wasn't so much horseshit,ergo,willow wont do it up there.Secondly,and here I know this is left field,but it seems to me that you've got the best polytunnel the world's ever seen,so the only thing you're without is LIGHT easy,and cheap,, given the wind
,and a small genny,as we once had on a boat, Happy days!

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261171Post oldjerry »

Sorry,abstain from alcohol for a week,then hit it 'cos the Olympic torch is coming through the village,and buggering up my Thursday,result..... total incoherence.
What I think Iwas trying to say was, the only thing shortening your season within that tunnel will be the light and a couple of growlights would sort that(easily available online,but expect a visit from the drug squad).Sounds complicated but it isn't,'specially when you've already gone to so much trouble.

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261178Post Green Aura »

Maybe we should stick the light lamp in there :lol:
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261226Post phil55494 »

I can't offer any advice, other than OJ may be right in his idea of getting lights in the polytunnel.
Your description of the conditions you get make me thankful we get much less wild weather - though of course when you're watching things blowing round the allotments and the next weather front is advancing along the valley while you watch, it doesn't seem like it.

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261231Post Green Aura »

It's definitely something we'll look at. The problem is we're hoping to run anything off the small deep cycle battery that drives the heat sink. Would lighting be too much for it? It only gets topped up by the 5W solar panel although it can be brought into the house and recharged if necessary.
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261252Post gregorach »

I don't see much hope of running meaningful grow-lighting off solar in northern Scotland in the winter. You'd need about 100W of lighting per square meter of growing area, which is probably about 120W - 150W of actual demand once you account for the ballasts (unless they've improved a lot since mine was made). In winter, your solar panel is probably going to be producing less than 50% of its rated output for a few hours a day. In terms of demand matching, it's exactly the worst possible option - you'll need the most power at the time when you're producing the least.

Have you considered eating the snails? No, I'm not joking!
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261253Post oldjerry »

Wind Turbine?

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261255Post gregorach »

That would seem a much better match, provided you've got the right location.
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261257Post gregorach »

Of course, a new installation isn't cheap...
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261263Post Green Aura »

We have seriously considered eating the snails - the thing that has stopped us is the problem of getting a glass tank from round these here parts. I keep the occasional eye on Gumtree and the local rag but I'm guessing fish in the house isn't a big thing up here. Any other ideas for a tank?

I'd love a wind turbine, but until the planning regs change we stand no chance of getting a house sized one (oh and then there's the small matter of finance) and one small enough to sneak in, to feed the polytunnel battery wouldn't be able to stand up to the winds, it would shut down more often not through the winter :roll:

I think we may have to resign ourselves to the fact that the polytunnel will provide minimally during the winter, protecting our less hardy potted plants, a few salad leaves, early peas etc. and broad beans did really well in it from an autumn planting.

And fortunately we love kale and PSB which seem to be the main brassicas that survive here. Of course we grow a variety called Sutherland Kale :lol:
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261265Post gregorach »

Aye, kale and tatties is the standard Scottish rural survival diet.
Cheers

Dunc

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Re: Battling the elements

Post: # 261268Post Green Aura »

Yup, can't quite bring myself to grow neeps though - they seem to take up so much space! :lol:

As an aside (who me? :roll: ) I'm currently reading a book called The Goods Scots Diet - splendid reading if you can get a copy.
Maggie

Never doubt that you can change history. You already have. Marge Piercy

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. Anais Nin

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