Friday, 18 September 2015

Thinking about egg shells on the compost heap.

As the soil is not full of undecomposed egg shells from thousands of years of not decomposing and the probability that reptile and dinosaur eggs are of a similar composition,I find it very difficult to imagine that the egg shell is not recycled within the soil.

Really it comes down to what we mean by decomposition. The communition of material such as egg shell by soil animals like earth worms is a major contribution to the recycling of materials. I would argue that this is an integral component of the decomposition process. Increasing the surface area of materials such as egg shells means that they can be more easily processed by microorganisms.

While egg shell, lime or chalk are all mainly calcium carbonate and not organic molecules, they will add calcium to the soil as they are broken into smaller and smaller pieces.  Technically they do not decompose like organic matter.  I suppose that they weather in a similar way to other minerals in the soil.  Calcium is a nutrient for plants and they need to have a constant supply dissolved in the soil water around the roots. 

Calcium is a nutrient for most if not all living organisms and in a soluble form would be incorporated into the cells of many micro organisms and higher life forms so I cannot believe that egg shells would not be exploited for their calcium content. The calcium carbonate within the egg shell would be slowly dissolved in carbonic acid produced from carbon dioxide, acids produced by microbes, acids produced by plants and atmospheric pollution.

There is, however evidence of recalcitrant calcium from organic sources such as in limestone and chalk and it could be a component of complexed humus molecules. Indeed, teeth and bone composed primarily of calcium phosphate can take a very long time to decompose.   However, bone meal is used as a fertiliser.

Whether particular people use it or not, bone meal is a fertiliser that contains calcium phosphate which decomposes relatively slowly – not unlike egg shells containing calcium carbonate, but bone meal must decompose or it would not be a fertiliser.

Whether we compost egg shells or some way else dispose of them, they will decompose, albeit relatively slowly, and add nutrients to where ever they have been added to the soil.

Why give those nutrients away to someone else when they could be used in your own soil?

What else would you do with them anyway?

To judge a compost substrate on how long it takes for it to decompose seems to be a very arbitrary way to select items for the compost. However, to base compost making on the proportions of carbon and nitrogen within micro organisms seems to be quite arbitrary as well. Deciding on what is green and what is brown not to mention whether the ratio is volume or weight seems a little ridiculous particularly when considering the rate of decomposition of different components – such as egg shell. Suberin, lignin hemicellulose and cellulose all decompose at different rates and some may remain in the soil for thousands of years before they are decomposed.

If compost substrates are not decomposing or decomposing very slowly, micro organisms will not be using nitrogen or using it very slowly.  So is there a problem with nitrogen being scavenged from surrounding soil?   

So carefully working out your ratio of brown to green, whether by weight or volume, while some of that brown will not be of any use in producing nutrients for plants, seems pointless to me. However, the brown will be essential to increasing the potential CEC – compost and other organic amendments to soil, such as egg shell, do a lot more things than just add nutrients.

Monday, 31 August 2015

August Allotment Garden Photographs.

Well, I came fourth in the town and first in Tettenhall in this year's allotment competition.  Not bad for a new allotment.  I was also in the Express and Star newspaper with my grandson.  He is eating one of the greenhouse tomatoes.
Celebrity at last!
They asked me a lot of fatuous questions about growing but how do you get over to journalists the amount of work, skill and techniques needed to produce year round vegetable growing?

This is a working allotment designed for maximum diversity and abundance of vegetable and fruit production which means that it is not particularly pretty.  But I like it.

Anyone can garden. I mean anyone can garden, however increasing  skills means a greater chance of success; a widening of diversity and an abundance of vegetables and fruit available for harvesting. And I use the word chance advisably because of the vagaries of the weather and the timing of  tasks, only marginally tempered by the use of plant protection, means the difference between success and failure..

So, what is growing on the allotment?

Runner beans. The Salix alba var. vitellina cuttings have just been healed in alongside the
path and covered with a mulch of woody chippings.  
Quite a few pounds of beans have been harvested, top and tailed, sliced using my new bean slicer and put into the freezer.  The plants have really thickened out and will probably fruit well into the autumn.  It shows you what triple sieve digging and adding copious amounts of farmyard manure will do.  They had a very thick mulch of woody chippings earlier in the year but this had to be replenished several times because the soil wildlife kept on decomposing it.  It is remarkably damp underneath the chippings and I have not had to water or feed these beans this year.

Aluminium bean slicer from Germany.

The Victoria plum is fruiting very well but is suffering quite badly from brown rot.  I am cutting off the bunches affected but I still have enough plums to freeze.

Victoria Plum Tree laden down with fruit.
Any fruit that falls to the ground is being collected and put into the compost bins.  I am slowly thinning out this tree but I will have to make more of an effort because the brown rot will only be cured if I can get air circulating through the tree.  The tree was one of three that were on the allotment when I took it over.  It had not been pruned very well and I will never get it back into proper shape. However, why should I bother when it fruits like this?  Having said this, I will do more pruning after the fruit has been harvested, making sure that I remove all of the mummified fruit.   Pruning should only be done during the early autumn to avoid silver leaf disease.

The Salix alba var. vitellina has thrown up quite a few good branches after I cut it hard back.  It is sometimes called the Golden Willow because of its gold coloured bark.  As with all the other willows, it is very easy to strike from cuttings just stuck into the ground.  I have always wanted to grow a willow sculpture using pleaching so now might be a good opportunity to have a go.  It is about the most ideal time to take hardwood cuttings -  the middle of August.

It has been decided to extend the carpark next to my allotment and I don't really want car exhaust fumes near my vegetables.  I have wangled a buffer zone between my allotment and the car park where I could plant fruit trees to be shared with the rest of the allotment holders.  It is not really part of the culture of allotment sites to share things like this as it is in community gardens; each allotment tenant fiercely defending their boundaries against invaders.

However, I have now a piece of land which I can use to put a willow sculpture on.  All I am going to do is put willow cuttings in at an angle criss crossing each other, Where each of the cuttings cross I will pleach them together.

This time of the year is consumed with harvesting all the vegetables that are maturing now.  It leaves little time for doing other tasks and keeping the allotment tidy.  The sweet peas have had to be left to their own devices and, although flowering profusely, they are getting very untidy.

Although I would like to keep some seed from the sweet peas, I am going to dig these
into the soil and sow a winter green manure.  
The sweet peas are turning out to be a very effective break crop. In other words giving the soil a rest from growing food crops.  They are legumes which means that they will have Rhizobium bacteria nodules on their roots that fix atmospheric nitrogen and convert it into amino acids that the plants can use for protein synthesis.

I began to layer the sweet peas, however it coincided with harvest time and harvesting won.  I had to let the sweet peas look after themselves.  While they still produced lots of flowers, they were not as big or straight as they were when I was side shooting and removing tendrils.  Now I am leaving them to produce seed for next year.  I will still buy some seed -  probably from Rodger Parsons (, but my own seed will enable me to plant more and increase the area of soil covered in legumes.

Digging the sweet pea plants into the soil will increase the organic nitrogen of the soil as they decompose.  It will increase both the amount of organic matter and nitrogen in the soil.  Apart from this they have produced copious amounts of cut flowers.  Taking a crop of flowers from the sweet peas might seem to be removing some nutrients until you realise that these nutrients will be returned when the flowers go over and are put into the compost bins.

Compost bins.  The compost is being turned every two days.  I am still using perennial weeds
to make compost.  However, I have not dried these rhizomes so they
are taking longer to rot down.
The bins have been sited at the highest part of the allotment so that any nutrients in the liquid run off will drain into the allotment soil.  After a couple of days of heavy rain this seems to be working because there are no puddles of standing water left  in the composting area.  I am composting weeds from the new car park as well as tops and such like from harvesting vegetables.  It is hard work turning the compost every two days but it does eventually produce some really good looking friable compost. Still got a while before this batch of compost is ready though.  I don't know why the green bin leant over like this but it shows you at the bottom what is in the bin.  The bins are not really necessary to make compost; they are just there to contain the organic matter and make it look a little more presentable.  Some of the plums that have been affected by the plum moth are on the ground ready to be included in the compost bins.  I turned all the bins after taking this photograph.

There is a myth that you cannot compost cooked food because it does not rot down very quickly.  I can assure you that anything that has been alive can be composted and used to produce nutrients for plants especially when you are turning the compost every two days.  Any cooked foods or dairy or any of the other things they tell you not to put into your compost will break down particularly quickly because they are full of nitrogen, an essential nutrient of decomposer microorganisms. So the other myth that cooked food will attract rats and foxes is also false because of the speed they decompose.  Furthermore, I have had rats in my compost even though I never put cooked food or dairy into it.  The only thing that is going to discourage a discerning rat is to turn the compost frequently.

When compost is turned, the colour changes quite dramatically from predominantly green to predominantly grey black.  I would suggest that, early in the composting process,  many of the easy to decompose substances are broken down and assimilated by bacteria and fungi leaving the more recalcitrant darker coloured material.  There is a loss of volume due to metabolism of the organic carbon to carbon dioxide.  I have found the change in colour and the reduction in volume to be consistent whenever I have made compost.  The speed of decomposition greatly increases when the compost is turned and the activity of microbes leads to an increase in temperature.  However, to maintain the increased activity of microbes, the compost must be kept moist.  The process of turning, including the teasing out of compacted components,  allows aerobic decomposition throughout the pile.  As the compost is turned and teased new areas of compost are exposed, surfaces are uncovered and made vulnerable to the enzymes of micro organisms.

So, is this analogous to what happens to the soil when we turn it over?  It has long been known that digging produces carbon dioxide and a loss of organic matter.  Digging does not introduce more oxygen to the soil but it does break down aggregates and exposes previously hidden organic residues to the enzymes of decomposers.  The breakdown of this material will produce a nutrient flush which can be exploited by ephemeral annual plants.  Many vegetables are either annual plants, plants that can utilise high nutrient flushes or plants that are adapted to grow in soil with high levels of nutrients.

We have known about the effect of digging on the soil for thousands of years and exploited it in agriculture.

If we adopt a "no dig" approach, there is still exposure of organic matter by the action of soil animals and infiltration of fungal hyphae.  However, this leads to a much slower decomposition of organic matter and mineralisation of nutrients.  Decomposition of surface mulches does seem to be quite rapid, however the washing through of nutrients by rainwater will be quite measured.  If the mass flow of water is slowed by the use of thick mulches and ditches allowing for a soak rather than rapid run off, nutrient flow will be similarly slowed.  The reduction of evaporation from the surface of the soil by the use of mulches means that there is less "salting" of the top soil whereby soluble nutrients salts are concentrated to a relatively toxic state.  A problem more associated with dry land climates.  However, in our temperate climate, we may achieve a more homologous distribution of nutrients and avoid leaching if thick layers of mulch are utilised.  Soluble nutrients follow the water.

Going back to the sweet peas, I will take all the canes down and put them behind the shed ready to clean them for next year.  All the ties will be kept and put into the ties tub and stored in the shed for next year.  I have used a considerable number of ties this year using up several rolls of wire I found on the allotment. I put woody chippings between the sweet pea plants and now I have decided to dig these into the soil.  As they are very woody, they might take some nitrogen out of the soil as they rot down.  However, at this time of the year immobilization of nitrogen means that it will not be leached away during the winter.  To capture as much nutrient as possible I will use a winter green manure of rye grass, winter tares and crimson clover.  This green manure will have to be dug into the soil in March next year so that it can rot down before I plant the brassicas.

Brunswick Cabbage growing quite large

The Brunswick cabbages are growing quite large now.  It would be interesting to see if they will grow any bigger before the winter.  They have had a woody chippings mulch all summer and are covered with a net.  I have put some Holand Winter White where the calabrese was earlier in the year.

While the vine is not being shaded from the east side even though the Brunswick are quite big, the sweet peas are shading the vine from the other side, which is another reason for digging in the sweet peas.  The vine has grown the way that I wanted it to this year and produced some small grapes.  I am not bothered about the size of the grapes because I am more interested in learning how to train and prune the grape to the guyot system.

The vine has several small bunches of grapes which I am not expecting to get much bigger.

The calabrese and cauliflowers have been brought home and processed.  The 24 cauliflowers and similar number of calabrese, that have not been eaten' are now frozen.  Some of the stone head cabbages have been eaten and one frozen.  The others will probably have to be frozen because they have started to split and go over now.

Red cabbage.
Some of these red cabbages will be pickled in vinegar but I will use some of them to cook as ordinary cabbage.  I will harvest them later in the autumn when the other cabbages have gone over. I planted these cabbages two feet apart and they have grown much better at this distance  from each other.  I need to remember to do this next year.

Curly Kale.  
I have planted kale where the cauliflowers were and they are growing quite well even after being eaten away by slugs.  The netting does not seem to keep slugs off the plants.  When all the brassicas have been harvested, I will dig in the woody chippings.  They have been on the bed for six months and have rotted away really well except for the very top layer.  I will sow some green manure on this ground too.

 I am going to move the bay trees to alongside the greenhouse to give them a little more protection.  I am pruning them to a standard form to give them a stick and ball shape.  I will also move the box plants to the path running up to the greenhouse where they will be a little more protected.  They will be replaced with laburnum trees and lupins grown from seed.  I will espalier the laburnum and try to pleach them with each other to give a continuous hedge alongside the trackway.  I will be planting at a high point on the allotment and the nitrogen fixed by these leguminous plants will be washed into the allotment fertilising the soil for other plants.

Savoy Cabbages.
The savoy cabbages are beginning to heart up now.  I am hoping that they will stand during the autumn and early winter so that I can harvest them in December and January.  I am keeping the scaffold netting on the brassicas because cabbage white butterflies are still active until October.

With the tinge of orange on the apples I think that this could be a cox's orange pippin but
I'm not too sure.  

The Ribstone Pippin in the centre of the row is the first successful graft that I made.  
The only reasonable way that I can have a lot of different apple trees on the allotment is to prune and train them to espalier.  They may not look very good at the moment but they are growing more or less the way that I want them to.  Apples seem much harder to train than pears.  The pear is on the far side next to the vine.  I may have these too close to each other but they are on dwarfing stock and I can prune them back when they get too long.

Espaliered fruit trees at Tatton Park.  This is what I want my trees to look like.  

Six lines of peas have been picked and the tops dug into the soil.  I have already replaced these with three more rows of peas with the rest of the bed sown with green manure.  The last time peas were followed by peas, it was not very successful. Although there was good growth initially, now the plants seem to be much slower growing.  Whether this is due to nutrient depletion or the effect of slow decomposition of the dug in pea tops, I am not sure.  The ground was fertilized with chicken manure before I planted the pea seedlings.  ( I started the pea seeds in sectioned trays in the greenhouse.)

Green manure germinating on old pea bed.  
Some of the grazing rye has been eaten by the pigeons so I will have to protect the next sowings in the old onion bed.  I will cover them with fine netting - either scaffold netting or enviromesh.  The green manure will capture soil nutrients from the decomposition of the dug in pea plants and secure it in their tissues until next year when I dig it into the soil.  Or that's the theory anyway.

Loganberry ly654 thornless.
Lots of fruit has been harvested although there was no time to harvest it all and some have gone over. Many of the loganberries have been harvested but the pigeons have had more than I have. The pigeons have a really good diet on my allotment!  I have left the loganberry, blackberry and wineberry until they finished fruiting.  They have produced a lot of new growth and it needs to be tied in. I didn't want to do this until the old canes had finished fruiting.  Now that they have gone over  I can cut the old fruiting canes out and tie in the new.  The problem is that the supports are far too low now especially for the ly554, which is very vigourous.  I am going to get some 6 foot posts to go along the row and use wire to support the canes.  I will leave in the original supports.

I dug out the path alongside the loganberries, put the top soil on the growing area and, after adding chicken manure, filled the ditch with woody chippings.  This is to catch and slow surface water run off allowing it to soak into the soil rather than to cause erosion and leach nutrients.

Other side of the row.
It looks a bit of a tangle at the moment but it will be relatively easy to cut out the old canes and tie in the new.  It will form a bit of a wind break, although it looks a bit threadbare in the winter.

The parsnips are continuing to grow well, although they are still smaller one end than the other probably due to unevenness of the soil fertility.

I only have one row of parsnips but this will probably be more than I can eat.  I will use them in soups and stews mainly, although I do like them roasted particularly at Christmas time.I will not harvest any of these until the first frosts.  I have never tasted parsnips before the frosts but they tell me that they taste much sweeter after they have had a cold shock.

There is a line of lavender alongside the path grown from cuttings.  They flowered really well this year which I was not expecting.  I have cut the spent flower heads off with a pair of garden hedge shears to keep them a good shape.  They will help to retain the soil and prevent it from overflowing onto the path.  The path seems to have disappeared here.  The oca and mint have covered it for most of the summer.  Lovely scents when you walk along the path from crushed herbs but it gives you wet trousers after it rains.


Carrots and beetroot have been thinned harvested and now are beginning to get full sized. I have taken off the envirofleece; something that I don't usually do, leaving it on well into the autumn.  Some of the carrots have the red tinge of carrot root fly but it does not seem to have affected the majority of the plants.  They were heavily mulched with woody chippings after they were sown and this might have protected them a little.  I will continue to harvest the carrots during the autumn and winter.  When I was younger, my father and I would always carefully construct a clamp for the carrots but this seems to be unnecessary nowadays.  All the roots seem to survive the winter without any particular protection.

Beetroot row.  
Even when thinned there are far too many beetroot for me to eat - and I do like beetroot.  They are not wasted though because any that go over and get woody will go onto the compost while others will be given away.  It is amazing how much good will you get when you offer people a few vegetables. I have been given seeds, sions, cuttings and plants in return which are much more valuable to me than money.

Celeriac and celery stunted because they were over shaddowed.  
I put lettuce between the celery and fennel between the celeriac and these seem to have overshadowed the plants too much.  I will get a harvest from them but the plants will not be as big as I would have liked.  Next year I will not plant anything between them and give them as much light as I can.  I will use them primarily in soups and will have an acceptable harvest.

Lettuce and radish.  
I have had a really good harvest of lettuce this year.  These are just one more of the succession.  I have planted some more Robinson lettuce but now am going to sow green manure in the vacant areas. I am going to use the cold frame for lettuce now so that I can give it protection during the autumn. .  The woody chippings have done their mulching job well but are now rotting away to expose the top soil in areas.  I am not going to put any more on because this will be the potato bed next year and I want to add lots of farmyard manure rather than woody shreddings.    I am going to cut back and root out the mint.  It has grown away from the pond and into the growing area.

The pond is getting a little overgrown.
I still haven't bought a bubbler for the pond but there are a lot of plants so it may be getting enough oxygen.  Oxygen is notoriously bad at dissolving in water so I hope this is the case.  I have Bog Bean,  Menyanthes trifoliata, Yellow flag Iris pseudacorus, Mentha aquatica, Elodea, Water Soldier,Stratoites aloides, Water plantain  Alisma plantago-aquatica and several more.  Frogs and newts visit the pond regularly.  The whole pond needs cutting back and thinning out.  During the winter I will empty it and replace the water with rainwater from the water butts.  Pond sludge is a major source of plant nutrients and a useful addition to the soil on growing areas.

I have harvested the potatoes using the bread tray sieve to make sure all the tubers are found and removed.  It is really annoying to have rouge potatoes coming up between the strawberries and onions. (These will be next years crops.) As the potatoes were being sieved out of the soil, I put a couple of handfuls of chicken manure into the sieve with the soil.  Most of the potato bed will be sown with Landsberger mix green manure.  I am going to plant in drills rather than broadcast to make it cover a larger area.  The mix is scarlet clover, winter tares and rye grass.  The potato bed in front of the big shed will probably be covered by the big Atlantic Giant pumpkin if I go by previous experience.

Green manure on old early potato bed.  

I got seven half hundred weight paper bags of potatoes harvested from these beds.  That is about 392 lbs of potatoes.  Six bags are in the little store shed and one has been taken home and being used. I should be self sufficient in potatoes for most of the winter.

Broad bean crop for green manure as well.
I have used the last of last years saved broad bean seeds to give me a late crop of broad beans and as a cover crop.  They have beans on them already.

Potato bed on the other side of the path with pumpkins over shadowing the green manure.
I want to mulch the green manure with compost and farmyard manure and I will be able to do this between the lines of seedlings.

Coppiced blackcurrants
The blackcurrants have been coppiced with the hope that they will produce a lot of new wood to fruit next year.  All the coppiced branches were carefully cut up into about 5 cm pieces and added to the compost bins.  I did the same with the old summer raspberry canes after tieing in this years new canes.  Although it is a cold year, the blackcurrants have August, September and October to replace the wood taken off.  The plants have been given some blood fish and bone watered in with dilute comfrey liquid to encourage new growth.  Once the branches were taken off it was much easier to harvest the blackberries.  Most of this woody shredding mulch has rotted away now but will be replaced with farmyard manure as soon as possible.  I would have got some farmyard manure but I am still making compost in the bins where I would store the manure.  Once the compost bins are emptied I will store them away and use the composting area for farmyard manure.

Little pear tree.
The pear tree has some brown rot on the pears.  I have taken these off and composted them.  I am going to prune this tree to take out most of the leaning branches using some more vertical ones.  It means that I loose all of the fruiting branches but gain easier access to the ground underneath.  I am leaving the teasels to flower next year and give some seeds for the birds.

There is also a couple of different varieties of Michaelmas Daisies growing behind the pear tree mainly to hide the little shed.

I have at least four different varieties of rhubarb on the allotment.  Timperley Early, Champagne, Giant Victoria and the heritage one growing beside the little shed.

Heritage rhubarb - I don't know the variety though.
The rhubarb was struggling when I transplanted them from the old allotment at the beginning of the year but now they seem to be flourishing.

Champagne rhubarb planted in March.  
I don't think that I can tell the difference in taste between the varieties - it all tastes like rhubarb to me but it is fun collecting them if you have the room.

I have left the peppers outside primarily because the greenhouse is chock a block. Lots of green peppers on them but they will not change colour at the moment.  Not a lot in the cold frame at the moment.  I have just cleared out the last of the lettuce because it had gone over and was starting to go to seed.  I have put Elaeagnus pungens cuttings in the cold frame so that I can use the plants as nitrogen fixers.  I will plant them with the laburnum and lupins alongside the trackway.

I tried to make a hot bed using shredded woody chippings but it did not work very well. However, I will use chippings again under the cold frame; more to raise it up a little than to make a hot bed.

Although quite a few onions went to seed, this is the best year I have ever had for onions.  While they are not quite as good as other growers can achieve, I am dead chuffed with the ones that I have grown.
Onions, shallots, garlic and giant garlic drying in the Sun.  
I put them to dry on the old bread trays, although they were right in the way when I came to dig the area over.  So, I have moved them all over to the "patio" by the big shed.  Here they will not only get dried by the Sun, they will also get some reflected heat from the paving slabs.  The drier they are the better they will store.  I will string them up this year and hang them in the small store shed.  I dug in the woody mulch that I covered this bed with.  I will sow some green manure to cover it as soon as possible.
Leeks with a thick compost mulch.  
The compost mulch that I put on the leeks seems to have had a lot of weed seeds in it that are now beginning to germinate.  Mostly it is fat hen, Chenopodium album, which is very easily dealt with and would not affect the leeks particularly anyway.  As I dug over this area I used some of the soil to earth up the leeks even more.  This will give me a longer blanched stem.

Green manure
Green manure has been sown where the strawberries were this year.  I have move the strawberries into the old potato bed.

While I was digging over this area of the allotment, I took another look at the espalier trees between this bed and the sweet peas.

Espaliered Egremont Russet Apple
 I cut off any branches that were growing outwards and tied in the horizontals.  I took back the branches that were better placed to two or three leaves to encourage the production of fruiting spurs.  The tree looks much better now.  This is the first time that I have tried to graft and prune apple trees to espalier and I am further chuffed that I have achieved fairly good results already.

Espaliered Doyenne du Comice pear
 Although it might not look it, espaliering pears is much easier than apples.  This is Doyenne du Comice which is quite vigourous.  I will mulch these with farmyard manure and cover this with woody chippings.
Cordoned Discovery Apple.
The "Discovery" apple grew into a cordon itself so I decided to keep it that way.  It has produced a lot of apples but maybe I should have thinned these out.  The nasturtiums are the ones that Janet gave me after I complained that all my nasturtiums had been eaten by slugs.  It seems that Janet's ones are much better adapted to the allotment than mine were.  I have not used any of the flowers or new leaves in salads but used it for ground cover.  There are some chrysanthemums in there as well - somewhere.
Melons growing in the greenhouse
This is the first time that I have grown melons and they have not done very well.  The yellowing of the leaves is because of the cold nights we have been having in July and August.  While this does not seem to have bothered the tomatoes and peppers, it has really affected the melons and cucumbers.   This is Blenheim orange and should be harvested when the fruit comes away from the vine easily. Not worried about harvesting - just pleased that I could get some melons.
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Even though the cucumbers suffered from the cold they have produced a lot of fruit.  
One of the longest and straightest cucumbers I have ever grown.  Usually they curl everywhichway.  I think that this will be one of the last of the year but I might be wrong.

Tomato Shirley
I think that the tomatoes have gone a little yellow leaved because of poor watering rather than the cold.  Regardless, they have done outstandingly well which has caused a problem.  How often can you say that you have too many tomatoes?  I have tomatoes in the small greenhouse and lots of outdoor ones that are just beginning to ripen now.
Sweet Pepper

Different variety.

Another variety.
The sweet peppers have done well but I like them to change colour.  You know that they are very sweet when they turn red.  They are taking their time and will be eaten soon regardless if they don't change.
Malins Admiral and Glen Ample Raspberries 
 There is some evidence of root rot in my raspberries and the new canes have not grown very well.  Phytophthora fragariae var. rubi maybe responsible.   I hope not.  I have cut out all the infected canes and just left the healthy ones.  These do not seem to be affected yet.  Malins Admiral is resistant to root rot and there were no infected canes in this part of the row.
Variety of raspberries that were already on the allotment.
The summer raspberries on the other side of the greenhouse path are fine.  They are not very big because I only planted them in February.  I'm not too sure of the varieties of these raspberries.

I clipped the hedge and the council then came along and did the other side which has made the hedge look very tidy.  It is starting to grow back where I cut it hard back filling it out.  It may well look like a proper hedge next year.  I am putting woody chippings under the hedge and around the comfrey to discourage weeds cutting the ivy and bindweed off when I see it.
Fan trained redcurrant
Even though I transplanted this redcurrant to this position in April, it still produced a lot of berries.  I will be giving it a mulch of farmyard manure and a good watering of comfrey liquid.

Fan trained gooseberry.
As the mint was overshadowing the gooseberry, I cut it hard back.  I will not let it grow up and flower next year.  There is also a yellow/orange astrolomaria in the border too.  The gooseberry is properly fan trained and I will keep it trained tightly to the shed on the concrete reinforcing wire. This gooseberry is a green gooseberry I think, however it was one of the gooseberries on the allotment already and I have not seen it fruit yet.  

I have a plant under the Victoria plum that could be a Jostaberry, however Jostaberries are supposed to be thornless and my plant has thorns.  So could it be Ribes divaricatum?  I can't remember the colour of the flower but Ribes divaricatum has white flowers and Jostaberry has small pink ones.   I'm going to take a closer look at it next time I am on the allotment.

Autumn strawberries
Several different varieties of autumn strawberries are along the path.  I gleaned these from the new allotment.  They are just beginning to fruit heavily now even though they were only planted in March and are very small plants.
Atlantic Giant Pumpkins.
The Atlantic Giant pumpkins are beginning to grow over the green manure on the old potato bed.  I doubt that they will grow as big as last year but they are already the size of footballs.
Pumpkin bed.
Although the pumpkin plants are producing a lot of fruit, they don't seem to be very healthy.  This was the last area that I dug over earlier in the year.  I had run out of chicken manure and  farmyard manure so I put nothing into the soil.  The plants were watered in with comfrey liquid when they were planted but that is all they have had.  I think that the yellowing is a symptom of lack of nitrogen. I am not going to give them any fertiliser even though I have some blood, fish and bone because they are taking over the allotment without any help from me.  If I feed them then most of Wolverhampton will be in danger.  (The outdoor tomatoes are not too far behind them.)

It has been suggested for several years that the three sisters system of growing sweet corn is worthwhile.  I have tried it several times with little success.  Sweet corn, pumpkin and french beans are grown together.  They are supposed to be of benefit to each other.

I decided to give it another go this year and remarkably...
Three sisters, sweet corn, pumpkin and french bean.
it is producing some good results.  The corn has some good cobs on them even though they are quite small plants.  I finished digging this area on the 31st of May this year, did not put any amendments in the soil and planted the corn plants.  A couple of weeks later I planted the pumpkins and finally put some french bean seeds in between the plants.
Corn on the cob.
The cobs have grown much larger than this now and remarkably the badgers have not found them yet.  I am wondering if the cobs are being disguised by the other plants.  Next year I will plant the whole bed like this.  The theory is that the pumpkin shades the soil and keeps it moist, the beans provide the nitrogen and the sweet corn provides a support for the beans to climb up.
Oca plants alongside the path.  
I am expecting a lot of oca tubers this year.  I might even be able to use some of them in the kitchen.  Although the ridge cucumbers are being well overshadowed by the oca and tomatoes they are still producing cucumbers.  How many cucumbers can you eat?  Some of the tomatoes are turning yellow which is good because they are yellow tomatoes.
The Atlantic Giant pumpkin is muscling in too.  
I think there is a little late blight on the tomatoes.  They may ripen in time but I will not hold my breath.  I have been overwhelmed by the greenhouse tomatoes and don't really need many more.  I  think that chutney is the solution.
Giant Victoria rhubarb

Giant Victoria rhubarb from the other side of the row.
Although this rhubarb has only been planted since February, it has done remarkably well.  It has not achieved the height that it had on the old allotment but give it time and it will.  I dug down particularly deep here adding lots of organic matter, farmyard manure and chicken manure.  During the autumn or winter I will give it a thick mulch of farmyard manure.

One of the reasons why it has done this well could be that I removed all the yellow leaves as soon as I saw them.  This meant that slugs and snails had less habitat to hide under.  Mulching with a thick layer of woody chippings seems to have helped too.

Heritage french beans.
The french beans are producing beans now but I am only going to use them for seed.  I have multiple margarine and ice cream tubs full of runner beans in the freezer and can't cope with these too.  I need more seed for next year so will keep these for seed.  Similarly with the dwarf french beans; I will keep the seeds for next year.
Cobra french beans.
I have taken some Cobra french beans to eat but I haven't frozen any of them.  Any pods that go over will provide seeds for next year.

I have dug in the tall climbing peas and the broad bean tops and planted green manure where they were.  This should capture any nitrogen that come from the decomposing legumes and store it over the winter.  It will be dug in for the curbits next year.
Green manure 
I have two named blackcurrants by the path and am debating whether to move them or not.  I will probably leave them and plant an apple in the middle espaliering it.
Fan trained redcurrant.

Fan trained white currant
These currant bushes have been fan trained more or less correctly but the ties have slipped and they have grown considerably bigger than I expected.  I will have to put in higher supports.  They did not fruit this year but I was not expecting them to because I only planted them in April.  They have grown very strongly though and produced some good fruiting wood for next year.

Brussel Sprouts 
A poor crop of Brussel Sprouts this year.  It is my own fault.  Last year I planted out some of the brassicas here and this meant that there has been no rotation for this bed.  Also I put top soil from the back of the shed on this area.  I think that previous tenants of this allotment used to throw all their diseased brassica behind the shed and now I have club root.  I have had to remove the winter cauliflowers and the purple sprouting broccoli.  I have planted some more spinach and rocket on one side and green manure on the other.  I will lime this soil carefully next year and not grow brassias here for six years. (My current rotation)
Fan trained peach.

The fan trained peach in the little greenhouse has established itself and again I will have to put higher supports for it.  Mostly it is tied in properly and there is not much growing in the wrong place.  I might have to thin the stems during the winter but that is not an imperative.  I have budded the peach onto the two peach rootstocks in the foreground.    Several of the apple rootstocks have been budded with Cox's Orange Pippin apple and the rest are the grafts I did earlier in the year.  I will be planting the grafted apples out during the autumn but the budded apples and peaches will be left in the greenhouse until next spring.  Not too sure where I am going to plant the peaches if the buds grow.

Closer look at the budded peach rootstock.
The peach buds are on the new branch just above where the cut is. You can see where the earlier unsuccessful graft was, just below.  This is the good thing about grafting; you can reuse the rootstock until you get a successful graft to take.
Mamande tomatoes.
The rest of the greenhouse is full of ring culture tomatoes like this Mamande.  They are producing large numbers of tomatoes.
Cherry tomatoes.
On the other side of the greenhouse I have the cherry tomatoes.  They were the first to start fruiting and they will probably be the last.  Very productive.

So  that is the allotment at the moment.  Now can you see the difficulty I had talking to the journalist about allotments and what they involve.  To garden effectively you need a knowledge of biology, biogeography, chemistry (plant nutrients and biochemistry); physics (gas and water flow through the soil); meteorology and climate science; soil science, geology, not to mention art, history, design, surveying and careful, careful observation.  Today I have been using maths to work out problems based on the Michaelis Menten growth and population kinetics of soil bacteria looking at the limiting factors of organic substrates.  Now tell me that gardening is for people with a poor education.