Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Things that can be composted


Organic matter that can be composted or added to the soil is anything that once was alive and embraces all the following,

1.       Garden waste.  This will include composted crop waste such as bean and pea stalks, beetroot, parsnips, Hamburg parsley, salsify, scorzonera, carrots, swede, turnip and celeriac tops, potato haulms, tomato, sweet corn, pumpkin, cabbage, Brussel sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, and kale plants.   Compost can include cut flower plants like sweet peas (which are poisonous), dahlias and chrysanthemums.  Even poisonous rhubarb leaves can be composted because they certainly are not poisonous to microbes that rot them down very quickly.  The prunings of soft fruit and top fruit cut into 5cm pieces.   Unwanted wild flowers plants.  I compost all weeds regardless of their reputation.  However, I think that I would have to dry Japanese knotweed for a few months before adding this to the compost but I would give it a go if I had it on the allotment.  With the way that I make compost, sieving it carefully before putting it on top soil, I think that anything that regenerated would quickly be seen and removed.  Drying seems to be the best method before composting.  Anyway, it would be a very resilient weed that could recover from being turned every two days for over two months.  All these sources of organic matter will be decomposed by the compost microbe community.  

2.       Kitchen waste including all vegetable and fruit peelings, kitchen absorbent paper used to mop up normal spills, coffee and tea dregs, egg shells, bones and corks.  Egg shells are calcium phosphate and a little calcium carbonate; the same compounds that are in bones, rock phosphate and limestone all of which contain valuable plant nutrients.  The organic matter in eggs comes from the small amount of protein inside the shells. 

3.       You can use cooked food residues too but it probably be best to put this material in worm bins that can be sealed.  I have used sour milk in worm bins together with rancid yoghurt with no noticeable effect except to increase the population of worms.  They say that cooked food attracts wildlife like rats but no one has told the rats on my allotment because they infest my compost cooked food or not. 

4.       Farm waste including animal manures, straw, hay, broken eggs and feathers.  If you can get hair, hoof and horn clippings all the better because they contain proteins like keratin and proteins contain the important nutrient nitrogen.  Horse stable manure mixed with combings, trimmings and clippings can be put onto the compost heap. 

5.       Leaves from forest trees and leaf mould even from walnuts.  Walnut leaves will contain juglone which will inhibit the growth of plant seedlings.  It is noticeable that there are no enormous piles of walnut leaves undecomposed under these trees.  This is because juglone is just another organic compound as far as microbes are concerned, which they will eagerly devour.  Conifer needles are more of a challenge for microbes to digest because of the phenols in them.  However, the specialist decomposers will devour these given sufficient water.  Tree leaves can be composted on their own to make leaf mould, a very good soil conditioner and potting compost.  However, this does not mean they cannot be used on the general compost heap.  They will rot down wherever they are put.

6.       Charcoal, although some would say that this is mostly inorganic carbon.  I like to marinade it in comfrey liquid and urine for about three months so that it is thoroughly infused with nutrients.  It can then be crushed and applied to the soil.  I doubt very much that charcoal on its own increases the fertility of the soil. 

7.       Wood chips and woody shreddings are very valuable compost and mulch materials.  When used as a mulch they make the allotment soil surface like the forest floor and introduce many benefits.  I am experimenting with woody shreddings as an addition to the compost bins.  For years I have been telling people not to add these woody shreddings to the top soil because nitrogen is depleted by  micro organisms that decompose them.  I'm not so sure now.  So I have filled one of the dalek bins with shreddings and will be turning it every two or three days with the other bins.  I want to see whether this material will decompose as quickly as some of the other compost ingredients.  

8.       Organic wastes from industrial processors such as hops, fleece, wool, hoof and horn, blood fish and bone, hair and fish meal. 

9.       Shredded paper waste and, even better, organic shredded paper waste.  I would compost this because it will tend to remove nitrogen from the soil by immobilisation if added in too large amounts. 

10.   I love card and cellophane.  They both rot down so quickly especially the corrugated card.  Lots of this brown card has been recycled several times leaving fibres exposed to microbe decomposing enzymes and acids.  Card is useful to use as a mulching material under woody shreddings but be prepared for it to rot away quickly. 

11.   Clothes made from wool, leather and other animal skins, silk, cotton, linen, nettle and hemp.  Any clothes made entirely from plant or animal fibres are fine to put onto the compost heap.  At the moment I am composting some leather gloves, leather boots, a cotton shirt, woollen socks and woollen trousers.  I do not expect them to decompose quickly but they will decompose.  Carpets made from jute and wool.  Leather shoes, belts, straps, hand bags, saddles and horse tackle will all eventually rot away and form a rich compost. 

12.   Scum and sludge from gutters and drains preferably composted.

13.    Shavings, sawdust, husks, chaff and stubble are best composted because they will immobilise nitrogen in the soil. 

14.   Urine added to comfrey tea or compost. 

15.   Guano from birds and bats.

16.   Stems, branches and brushwood from shrubs and trees.  These can be shredded or used in Hügelkultur beds.

17.   Sea weeds are best composted until excess sea salt has been washed out.  Shells from the beach, which are mainly calcium carbonate but do contain some protein. 

18.   Composted bark, cocoa shells, peat and coir. 

19.   Mushroom compost is mainly very well-rotted horse manure, hay and straw and can be added straight to the vegetable garden soil. 

20.   Worm compost – although it’s not just worms – and worm tea. 

21.   Lawn and weed turfs stacked for six to twelve months and then composted or added straight onto the vegetable garden.

22.   Lawn mowings which can be added straight onto a well-made compost that is being regularly turned.  They rot down very quickly helping other ingredients of the compost to decompose rapidly too.  This is probably not because they have more nitrogen in them than any other leaves but because they have been shredded and have a large surface area exposed to bacteria attack.

23.   Herb teas such as comfrey, nettle and sweet cicely or mixtures of them. 

24.   Green manures such as field beans, alfalfa, clover, fenugreek, lupin, field peas and vetch, which will add nitrogen as well as organic matter. 

25.   Perennial legumes like lupins, laburnum, wisteria, broom, gorse, together with Frankia infected plants like Elaeagnus x ebbingei, which can be used as chop and drop or cut up and put on the compost heap.  The exudates and secretions of perennial legumes together with their composted seeds, stems, leaves and branches all will add organic matter and nitrogen to the soil. 

26.   Cover crops such as mustard, grazing rye, buckwheat, forage radish, turnip, and caliente mustard which will immobilise nutrients over winter and prevent them from being eroded or leached away before they are dug into the soil in the spring.

27.   Water butt, pond, stream, lake, canal and river silt are all rich in organic matter but I would still compost them for a while. 

28.   Vacuum cleaner fluff if you have a woollen carpet and fluff out of washing machines.  Vacuum cleaner waste can contain a lot of hair particularly if you have a pet. Hair is mainly keratin which is a protein and relatively high in nitrogen. Dust is primarily very small soil particles and not flecks of skin. However, if it were skin, this too is high in protein and thus nitrogen. Also the flecks of soil particles still contain nutrients and would be a valuable addition to compost heaps. Household sweepings from hard kitchen floors are always worth adding to the compost heap as well.

29.   There is a constant rain of leaves, dead twigs, flower buds, flowers and fruit debris from overhead trees that fall onto the allotment throughout the year and all this can be swept up and composted. 
A rich compost will be made if just a small proportion of this organic matter is used.  The diversity of ingredients will be reflected in a varied microbe community and pest and disease suppression due to competition for nutrients and space. 

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Writing a book

There were several things in gardening that were confusing me.  So in order to sort them out in my own mind, I have decided to write about them.
 
I'm going to  start with where plant nutrients come from in nature, how they flow through the biological system and how they are recycled.  I am not interested in unsustainable industrial fertilisers.  I am interested in the nutrients that were there before.  They must have come from somewhere.  I have an inkling that they originate from the parent rock but how do they get from  rock to plant?  The geologists would have us believe that this is purely a physical process but biology plays a much bigger role than they are letting on.

I have read a lot of books about the soil in the past year but very few of them have really answered my questions clearly and none of them from a gardener's perspective.  Gardening books just seem to repeat the engineering geology of soils rather than anything of interest to the gardener.  The vast topic of the biology of the soil has only been scratched at.

Just repeating over and over that there are a lot of microbes in the soil is not really helpful either. There are a lot of microbes everywhere - what is special about the soil microbe community and how can it be affected by the chemicals we spread on the soil?  How can gardeners influence the soil community for the better and produce abundant yields while doing it?

Soil takes a long long time to be made naturally so leaving it to worms is not really an option for a gardener.  So this is where I am going to start.  Following the nutrients and where they go.

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Allotment photographs for July 2017 third post.

Still more photographs of the allotment.
Sweet Peas 



I have left the sweet peas to grow where they will now that they have reached the top of the canes.  I could have kept taking out side shoots and tendrils but I did not have time to do this properly.  They are from seeds I kept from last year.  I think that I will buy some new seed and plant varieties in rows next year.  The plants grew much better this year.  I sowed them much later than I usually do - in March and planted them out late to miss the flea beetle damage.  Although the soil is quite fertile, I don't think that the right Rhizobium bacteria has colonised the ground. The plants are not as good as those on my old allotment.  I reconsidered the effort I was putting in to produce four and five flower stems and it was not really worth it for cutting for the house.  I don't exhibit so it is not quite so important.  I have shown to myself that I can grow really good outdoor sweet peas and that is all I wanted to do.

They are a break crop, flowers for the house and a green manure; all of which are of great use for the allotment.

However, I might put in a little more effort next year.  I will trench the rows, use compost and woody chippings as a mulch and possibly use some hoof and horn to fertilize them.  The hoof and horn is very slow acting nitrogen fertilizer.  This will provide a little nitrogen but also allow Rhizobium to colonize the roots of the sweet peas without being inhibited.

I have started to collect some dahlia plants 
One of the plants I liked to grow to exhibition standard when I was younger was the dahlia.  I have started a new collection with the five planted here.  One of them was eaten back by slugs but it seems to have recovered.  I am not sure whether it will flower though.  I got some seed from a strikingly red Canterbury bells I found on  the waste ground at Shrugborough Hall when I was gardening there. I am hoping that the seedlings will be as good as the parent.  They are planted around the dahlias.  Lots of borage here which has self seeded.  It has been very good for the bees and other pollinators.

Leeks under the enviromesh.
There are few people still bothering to cover their leeks on the allotment site.  It would seem that Phytomyza gymnostoma  is not as prevalent pest as it has been.  I have leeks that are obviously infected but most are very healthy and so are other people's unprotected ones throughout the site.

I will continue to cover the leeks until I am sure that it is not going to cause the leeks problems.  I took the covers off during the summer last year and did not put them back on soon enough to prevent the fly from laying eggs so this year the covers will stay on.  The flies emerge at the end of summer and lay eggs through September and October and these are the ones that cause the damage in leeks.
A weedy patch of leeks.

This shows what would happen to the allotment if I did not weed and mulch the ground.  There are lots of weeds under the scaffold netting because I have not taken it off to remove them.  I need to do it fairly quickly so that they are not infected by leek miner fly.  As I spend little time on weeding the allotment because I have strategies to suppress their germination, people think that I do not have a weed problem.  I am not daft enough to think that there are few weed seeds on the allotment.  There are lots but I try to suppress them with mulches and getting the vegetables to form a shade producing canopy.  However, the weed seeds are there just waiting to germinate as this photograph shows.

I got an email from someone whose new allotment had been reinfected with couch grass after having to leave it for four weeks.
Well, you can't leave the allotment for four weeks and expect to come back to a pristine allotment. Weeds grow, get over it.  Gardening consists of 99% weeding and is hard boring work.  That is why we try lots of strategies to reduce the amount of weeding we have to do.  The paths alongside the leek beds are covered in a thick layer of woody shreddings.  This helps but is not the final remedy.  I find that it is a very long way along the track though.

These leeks are quite large and could be used now but I have so many other vegetables that it would be a waste to use them now.  They will just get bigger during the summer and will resist the frost so I might as well leave them well alone, except for weeding them, until I need to use them during the autumn and winter when there is little else.
Onions under the scaffold netting.
All the onions are falling over now indicating that they are ready for drying and stringing up.  There is no longer any use for the net and this can be taken off now.  When the garlic and shallots have dried and been stored away, I will have room on the shed roof to dry these off even more.  The drier they are the longer they will store.
Clary sage, lemon balm, rosemary, mint etc alongside
the path.  The apple is Winter Density.  
The giant Victoria rhubarb has not recovered from the move during last autumn.  However, they are beginning to show their true colours and producing two to three foot petioles.
Giant Victoria Rhubarb
The potatoes have gone over the most where the top of the plum and pear tree were buried in a Hugelkultur.  It is similar to what happened on the bed on the other side of the path.  The potatoes are fine if a little smaller than last years.  They have not liked the really hot weather, particularly as I have not watered them at all.  I am hoping that the Hugelkultur will mature a little more during the summer and winter, rotting down and making a water sponge.  When the potatoes have been taken out, dried and stored in the large paper bags, I will cover this bed with rows of clover for the winter.
Kestrel potatoes
This redcurrant and the white currant beside it have been fan trained and this pruning procedure still produces an abundance of currants.  They are later than the other currants on the allotment and this means that I have no room to store these in the freezer.  I will just have to start to make jam or jelly.  This has shown me just how successful fan and espalier training can be.  
Red currants
I counted five immature black birds trying to get to the currants.  Netting them has shown me just how many they take each year - I don't usually net them.

Fan trained redcurrant.

The white currant next to the red currant.
The sorrel is ready to make some soup with and that is what I am going to do for the weekend.  I have not thinned the parsnips because I don't like the really big roots.  These will come in for vegetables during the winter.
Sorrel and parsnips
I am not sure that the construction over the carrots has been particularly successful.  It is falling apart and there are lots of holes in it.  
Carrot protection 
There are carrots in the frame and they are growing well.  These frames were given to me at the beginning of the year so I used them more as an experiment than anything else.  The wood has really rotted away in places so I will ether add it to the compost heap or bury it in a Hugelkultur.  The ripped scaffold netting will have to be taken to the tip.  
Beetroot and chard
I have just started to harvest the beetroot and having them in salads.  I have been using the leaves of both the beetroot and chard in salads but they are getting a little  large for that now.  Not really bothered about having chard when it is this big so I will take it out and resow for the autumn.  I have left the chard because I was going to see if I could keep the seed but this is a bad idea and I should wait until the plants flower next year before taking seed.  I do not want to select for chard that bolts in the first year.  
Second sowing of rocket and spinach
Has lots of rocket and spinach for salads.  I have sown some more but they really needed to be watered regularly.  The germination of spinach is very erratic.  The florence fennel is growing well and I should have some soon.  
Some radish and lupins
Radish and mizuna growing together.  Not sure that I am going to get much of either.  I am growing the lupins as perennial nitrogen fixers.  And they look quite good too.  

So that is the allotment in July.  Everything has grown well this year despite the very hot weather and me not watering.  

Monday, 17 July 2017

Allotment photographs for July 2017 second post.

As I have quite a bit on the allotment at the moment I thought that I would divide this post into two.  I got down to the first potato bed.
The black berries and loganberries are next alongside the mini swale path.
So the three sister and carrots bed.
Potatoes gone over.
and
Herbs down the path. Sage, lemon balm, mint, marjoram,
rosemary, hyssop, chives, garlic chives, fennel, chamomile, etc.  
I have let the herbs grow over the path which is a bit irritating in the wet weather especially when I have my best trousers on.  You might say that I shouldn't go down the allotment in my best trousers but I am not going to change just to water the tomatoes.  I will let them flower because they seem to attract a lot of pollinating insects.

The loganberry and blackberry have thrown up a lot of
long stems.
The loganberries and blackberries have virtually finished fruiting and the old stems will be cut out and the new will be carefully tied in.  I will be using the old stems on the new windrow compost heap.  The canes will be cut into small -5cm -10cm pieces before adding to the compost.  The new canes will fruit next year so I will give each cane about 6 inches of space above and below and then cut out all of the extra canes.  If I try to tie in all the canes then they get even more crowded than they are now.
The shallots, red onions, elephant garlic and garlic have all
been harvested.  
I have put the harvested alliums on the shed roof because it get really hot up there.  It is in full sun for most of the day and if that doesn't dry them off, so that they store well, nothing will.  The onions don't need the net now but I will leave it on until I harvest them.  They are all bending over now.  I will dry them on the roof of the shed then tie them in strings and hang them up in the little store shed.  Where the garlic has been taken out I have planted four lines of celery and two of celeriac.  The rest of the bed will be sown with clover as a green manure.  I am going to scrape off the woody shreddings mulch and put it to one side.  The whole bed will have a top dressing of compost so that I can empty the Dalek bins for space for the new windrow compost heap.  The clover seed will be sown into the compost.  I will not dig the bed.  I have hoed it and this will be sufficient cultivation to allow the clover to thrive.

Celery and celeriac. 
Oca under the King of the Pippins apple tree. 
Last year the oca spread itself right over the path so I expect that it will again this year.  I have some apples on the tree but not that many.
A few hanging baskets round the shed.  Fan trained red
currant on the concrete reinforcing wire cropped well.
I water the pots and the hanging baskets but nothing else except the greenhouses and cold frames.  You can see the shallots drying on the roof of the shed.
The birds are throwing all the mulch onto the path.
The summer raspberries have gone over now and the autumn ones are just starting to fruit.  I will cut out the old canes and tie in the new ones for next year. I will cut up the old canes and put them on the new windrow compost heap.   I have cropped the comfrey about three times this year and it is growing back strongly again.  The hedge is looking much better this year and a lot of the big holes are being filled with new hawthorn stems.
Not sure what variety of apple this is but it does not keep
so I will be eating this straight from the tree.
This tree has thrown up some water shoots from the trunk which are more vertical than the old trunk.  However, if I cut the top off down to the water shoot, I will be cutting off all these fruiting spurs.  The strawberries have fruited well this year.  I will probably move the bed though or make it much bigger planting new plants where the sweet peas are now.
I have netted the strawberries this year and got more than
I usually do.  
The water plants have taken over the pond and need to be
thinned out now.  The excess plants will make 

Still got a few more photographs to put onto the blog but I will do that tomorrow.  Not feeling too good at the moment.
Lettuce in the aluminium cold frame.  
Tomatoes in the big greenhouse.

Cucumbers and melons

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Allotment photographs for July 2017 first post.

July is the month for harvesting and reaping the benefits of all the hard work  done earlier in the year. I have already filled the freezer with soft fruit and I will be making most of this into jam. The only disappointment this year were the raspberries.  I still think that they are affected by the raspberry blight and will probably need to be replaced - but not in the same soil.  Either I will have to dig out the soil and replace it with new from somewhere else on the allotment or not to plant them in this bed again.
Brussel Sprout plants under the netting.

The Brussel sprouts are growing quite large now showing that the broad bean green manure that was chopped and dropped under them has done some good.  The broad bean plants have begun to regrow and are forming their own canopy under the Brussels.  There is a little brassica white fly on some of the leaves but this is not serious and I have seen ladybird beetles crawling over the plants.
Dwarf kale, winter cauliflower and red cabbage under the
enviromesh.
Although I planted all the brassicas two feet apart both ways they have filled the space and formed a canopy which excludes the light from weed seeds under the plants and prevents them from germinating.  These plants, together with the Brussels, will be in the soil for some time so I will leave them alone except for putting some shredding mulch around them.  They had a feed of comfrey liquid in June and this should suffice them without any additional applications.
Summer cauliflowers that will flower later in July and
August.  
The net wooden frames were given to me earlier in the year and I decided to put them over the cauliflowers.  The net has a one inch mesh and this is obviously not small enough because I have seen several cabbage white butterflies flying inside the frames.  How they get in I don't know but they can obviously get out as well because I don't see any in the photograph and I didn't take them out.  I will have to check the plants for eggs and caterpillars because I have seen some characteristic leaf damage.  Getting the frames off the plants and stored safely so I can weed and check for cabbage white caterpillars is a pain in the neck.  I put one on top of the other but they are very heavy and awkward to maneuver.  I will have to reconsider how to use these next year remembering that weeding, mulching and checking for caterpillars will have to be done.
Calabrese 
I took the net off the calabrese to weed and mulch and did not cover them very well when I put the net back.  However, the pigeons do not seem to have taken any notice.  Either they don't like the taste of calabrese or the net is more effective than I thought it was going to be.  The plants are a not two feet apart but I had this many transplants and only this amount of ground to put them into that I thought I would squeeze them in.  They will be throwing up flowers fairly soon so I will keep checking because calabrese goes over very quickly.
Lollo rosso lettuce in the wooden frame.
Even though I have been harvesting the lollo rosso lettuces frequently, I still have quite a few left.  The frame is on a bed of almost neat woody shreddings I used last year covered with compost.  They have been watered once with comfrey liquid and I have scattered a few chicken manure pellets around them last month.  All they have had this month is rain and tap water.  I have not been cutting them and leaving the roots  to come again.  I think that I will start to do this now because these will come in for using during August.  However the aluminium cold frame is full of lettuce too.


Rhubarb next to the cold frames.
I was going to pick some of the rhubarb last week but completely forgot about it even though it has grown very large and is something quite difficult to miss.  I was just going to stew it with a little ginger and lemon juice and have it with some yoghurt.  This is Champagne rhubarb and does taste quite good even at this time of the year.  I am not going to eat too much of it though because it does have a little more oxalic acid in the stems this time of the year and I don't want kidney stones.
Bay trees alongside the greenhouse.
I find striking cuttings from bay trees very easy.  They throw up suckers with roots on them too.  So  I have quite a few plants.  I am pruning them to standard ball headed trees and I am nearly there with some of them.  I find that the harder you cut them back the better they look so this is what I do.  It is a bit late for cutting back hard now because they will produce a lot of new sappy growth that will not be able to ripen completely before the winter.  This wood is very susceptible to frosty weather in the winter.  I will just trim back the longest shoots but I will not compost them.  I will put them in a pot with some gravelly potting compost and see if I can generate some more plants.  

I have used up all the rainwater stored in the blue bin earlier in the month and the little rain we have had has not collected more than about ten centimeters at the bottom.  This means that I have been forced to use tap water to water the greenhouse and the hanging baskets.  I have not watered any of the other vegetables even through the very hot weather.  It indicates that the water conservation scheme I have designed on the allotment seems to be working. This uses mini swales, planting fruit trees and bushes on the mounds, mulching carefully with both compost and woody shreddings and harvesting hard surface run off.  
Blackcurrants under the netting.
These are the blackcurrants that I coppiced last year, cutting them down to about two or three inches from the soil surface.  They have cropped quite well this year but I expect them to do even better next year.  I am going to thin them out a little because they are too close together.  I will take out every other one so they will be about a meter apart.  The gooseberries had some berries on them but they are getting covered by the rhubarb.  I will have to move these to give them more room.  The raspberries in the background have not done very well at all this year.  
The pear tree is not leaning any more.
The pear tree is one that I inherited with the allotment.  Due to growing under the hedge, which was about 15 feet tall and as wide, it had a distinct leaning tower of Pisa syndrome.  However, it threw up several vertical water shoots low on the trunk.  I selected the best one of them and cut the top of the tree off just above it with a bow saw.  The top of the tree was Hugelkultured with  other woody material earlier in the year.  The water shoot has certainly grown well this year and is throwing up a lot of wood.  This will probably fruit next year.  No fruit this year.  

There is another empty blue bin here, even though it is collecting water from the store shed.  I have taken up the spinach and good king Henry that had gone to seed and hung it up in the shed to dry.  When it is crispy, I will put the seeds into brown envelopes with the name of the seeds written on the outside.  I wrote the name of the seed on slips of paper and put them inside the envelopes with the seed.  I forgot I did it and, when I took the seeds out, lost the names somehow.  Why I did this, I don't know when it is so easy to write on the outside of the envelopes.  

I put all my cuttings under the clematis.  
The one thing I find about striking cuttings is to leave them well alone for at least a growing season. The only way I can do this without poking them about to see if they have produced any roots is to hide them away under the clematis.  Then I forget about them until all the plants have died back. Then I am surprised by how many have survived when I eventually find them.  

Sunflowers and cherry tree by the path
I doubt that the sunflowers will grow as big as they did last year and although they were good to show off  about, it was quite a chore to compost them after they had gone over.  I have taken the net off the cherry tree a little prematurely because the pigeons have started to eat the leaves again.
Cherry leaves eaten by the pigeons.
I am amazed by the things that pigeons will eat.

Loganberry at the back of the store shed.
Purple hazel next to the storeshed.
Espaliered pear and apple

I have done some summer pruning but still need to do a lot more.  I was keeping as much wood as possible to fill in vacant spots throughout the tree.  The pear and the apple have fruited this year and there are quite a few fruit on them.  

Egremont Russet espalier not summer pruned completely

Espaliered Doyenne du Comice

The espaliers are not perfect but they are good enough for me.
Flowering runner beans.  

I planted a range of different runner beans this year.  I am going to try to increase the diversity of varieties so that if one of them does not do very well then maybe the others will be alright.  No beans on the plants yet though.
Tall  peas - mostly Alderman.
The tall peas have gone over now and I have picked quite a few and put them into the freezer.  It looks a little untidy because I have taken the nets off to pick the peas.  The nets are not only for the peas to climb up but also to keep the pigeons from eating the plants.  There is a variety of tall peas here.  Champion of England, Telephone,  Rosakrone and Alderman plus are all growing here.  I will leave the plants until they go yellow and dry off then collect any seed that I have not frozen.  After the small peas have not cropped very well again this year, I think that I will only grow tall peas next year.  

Onward peas.
These peas were sown straight into the soil and the germination was relatively good.  They have not grown very tall probably because of the hot weather and the fact that I have not watered them except for putting some comfrey liquid on them in June.  They have cropped quite well though and they are my best small peas.  There are still some still to be picked on these plants.
Climbing French beans 
The climbing French beans have not fruited yet.  They have put out some good flowers now so I expect to see pods soon.  These are all transplants from seeds sown in sectioned trays in the greenhouse.  

I forget which of the modern small peas this is but it has
not fruited as well as the Onward

I probably planted these rows of peas too close together but they have not produced as many pods as the tall peas and the Onward.

More poor pea varieties.

However the broad beans have grown very tall.
As I have picked quite a few broad beans from the brassica bed, most of these seeds will be kept for sowing next year both for cropping and for green manure.  These plants will be dug into the soil when I have taken off all the pods.
Gooseberries alongside the car park path.
Although it is not really very clear, there are four big gooseberry plants under the comfrey and mint.  They were not netted in the spring and I have not got one gooseberry on the plants.  Just shows  you the importance of netting the soft fruit unless you like feeding the pigeons. I have cut back the comfrey to use on the compost heap but there is still  a  lot left. 
New windrow compost.
I don't think that allotmenteers have the luxury of being able to carefully select the ingredients of their compost heaps.  This was certainly true for my new windrow compost heap.  I went on the course run at At Old Lands, Dingestow Court, Monmouthshire with the land gardeners Henrietta Courtauld and Bridget Elworthy. An excellent course but I wish that I could use hay and animal manures to make compost.  

This compost was made with chopped up blackcurrant prunings, annual weeds from the allotment, loads of comfrey, clematis prunings, calendula plants that had gone over and about five barrow loads of strimmed weeds from an abandoned allotment.  I found a dead rat in the comfrey liquid bin so buried this in the middle of the heap.  Probably totally dangerous because of the germs associated with rats but I'm hoping that the heap will get hot enough to destroy anything that might cause a problem.  The heap was very well watered with diluted comfrey liquid and some of the old compost was added just for good luck.  The whole lot was covered with a horrible red tarpaulin that someone gave me and left for two days.  It got very hot and was steaming when I turned it two days later. Really the first time that I have got compost this hot.  I have turned it again after two days and I must admit it did not seem to be as hot.  However, it is obvious that the material in the heap is decomposing.  I will keep turning it whether it is hot or not every two days like I do with the Dalek bins.  After pruning the raspberries I will probably have enough to make another windrow.  I would like to empty the Dalek bins and store them away before I start a new windrow.  
Dalek bins.
The Dalek bins are full of fairly well made compost.  Some of it has been sieved and put onto the  allotment between the runner beans and tall peas.  Quite a lot of leachate has come out of the bins and the windrow but as the compost area is at the top of the allotment the leachate will soak into and flow down the slope and into the grow beds.
Sieved compost on the allotment.

I will continue to sieve the Dalek compost but put the sievings onto the new windrow rather than back into the Dalek.

Gooseberry fan trained onto the compost pallets.
Although this gooseberry was strictly pruned to a fan, it produced a lot of gooseberries.  It was carefully covered with a net earlier in the year and this kept the birds off it.  It has thrown up a lot of new wood most of which will be pruned out.  I will use some of it to replace old wood and make it a better shaped fan.  
Salix alba vitellina
I will take off these shoots from the Salix to add to my will sculpture hedge down the side of the carpark.  Quite a few of last years cuttings have taken and are growing well.  They will be transplanted later in the autumn.  I will try to pleach them as well but all my efforts to pleach have not been successful.  I have high hopes for the willow sculpture though.
More climbing and dwarf beans.
There are some of the heritage French and runner beans here but I cannot for the life of me remember which is which.  I know that some of them are "Trail of Tears" and I will have to look at the seed to find out which.  The Opal plum behind them has got some plumbs on it because I threw a net over the top of it.  Other plums on the allotment have been completely denuded of leaves and fruit because of the pigeons.
French beans and mange tout peas
I have harvested all the mange tout peas now and I have to admit they stretched to two meals.  I think that they were a little overshadowed by the broad beans.  Having said this the dwarf French beans have thrived.  The broad beans, mange tout and French beans are all on my home made compost.  Seems to agree with the broad beans - but also with the sweet corn.  
Perennial legumes planted along the track way.

Lupins and laburnum
The perennial legumes lupin and laburnum have been planted alongside the track way at the top of the allotment.  The exudates and turn over of fine roots will add nitrogen to the soil and this will be washed down the slope into the grow beds.  

The squash are growing over the lupins.
May queen apple graft which I thought I had
lost.  

Difficult to show you how high the sweet corn
has grown.  
I have grown the sweet corn with squash and climbing French beans again and the sweet corn is about five feet tall now.  The Sorbus has got in the way a little bit.
This gives a bit better idea of how big they are.
Lots of people have said that the three sisters does not work but this must give the lie to that.  The sweet corn is bigger than this now and has flowered.  No squash fruit on the squashes but the French beans are up to the top of the sweet corn.  They will be flowering soon.  The bed had about five barrow loads of compost as a mulch and the sweet corn and squash transplants were planted into this.  The French bean seeds were added to the sweet corn holes.  The whole lot were mulched with a thin layer of woody shreddings.
I put the courgettes by the side of the squashes.
The three sisters have had no watering except when they were planted out.  I did water the carrots though.
Carrots under the enviromesh.
I sowed the carrots under the mesh to keep carrot root fly away.  All the edges of the mesh are covered with woody shreddings.  The carrots had quite a bit of the compost too but I have not put woody shreddings between them.  
Globe artichoke or is it a cardoon?
The potatoes have gone over mainly because of the very hot weather and me not watering them.  This is where I did the Hugelkultur trenches during the winter.  I don't think that I added enough green to the logs and brushwood.  It is good to know that maybe this should be added next time.  However, I did add lots of compost and top soil to this bed so I thought that I had it covered.  The crop of potatoes is good if smaller than I usually get and I am already eating them.

Potatoes have gone over due to drought.  
The allotment is far too big to water with watering cans so I don't do it.  These potatoes have only been rain fed, although I know that they would still be green if I had watered.  How many potatoes can I eat anyway?  Well this is about a third of the allotment and I will try to post all the other photographs in a new post tomorrow.