Thursday, 20 May 2010

Good looking allotment

Lime Hawk moth. 

I have now weeded the whole of the allotment and I must admit that it looks quite good. I have dug all the green manure into the brassica bed and limed it. It is all ready for me to put the brassica seedlings in. I will plant them and water in with comfrey and worm tea mixture next weekend.
I planted out the runner beans with a terra preta type mixture of charcoal, blood fish and bone, comfrey, worm tea and sugar (molases). They seem to like this. Anyway it does not seem to be doing them any harm. I was thinking of putting some bush beans under the canes but this is pointless. Every time I plant something under the beans it performs very badly or dies. This year I am going to leave it free of plants and see how the runners perform. I have planted Aintree and Red Rum. Both have charcoal under them so there will be no comparison to see whether the charcoal has had any effect. I dont mind because I think that it will anyway and I have enough other experiments on the go to compare. I will talk about these later.

I went along weeding the sweet peas tying them up as I went. The poached egg plant that I planted as a companion plant seems to be liking the charcoal because it is very big this year. Several of the plants have died or are on their last legs because they were affected by the cold winter(they were planted in October). I have some more to replace them though. Most of the plants are growing very well and I have had to tie them up three times.
The lupins planted as nitrogen fixers are growing well. I will let them flower as they are the garden variety. I just want to see what colours they will produce.

The tulips flowered very well and now have dropped their petals. I will take them out later and separate out all the large bulbs. The small ones I will grow on in pots and replant the large bulbs.

The garlic and the onions still seem to be surviving even though I think that they might be affected by the dreded onion fly. I am hoping that the very cold winter has affected them and they will not eat all of my onions. I weeded inbetween them with the onion hoe - a very useful tool. I was thinking of putting some chicken pellets on them as well but I haven't yet.

Now this is important and something to contemplate Tone. I thought that several of the broad beans had not germinated. Now, I could have replanted because I still have some in the packet (which I will plant elsewhere), however all of them seem to have germinated now. It goes to show that you need to wait and see...

It cannot be the terra preta so it is probably the mychorrhizal fungi that is making the sweet cicerly grow so big. I want the mychorrhiza to infect the rhubarb so that I get better stems but it does not seem to have the same effect on the rhubarb. But remember the broad beans Tone. You might be surprised.

Potatoes are growing well. They did get caught by the late frosts this year but I have been hoeing them up with a vengence so they were not badly affected. Before hoeing up, I put some of the terra preta charcoal mix along the rows. I hoed up with the three pronged cultivator tool. I bought a completely metal one last year and it is ideal for hoeing up the potatoes. Loads of pot marigold seedlings were growing in the potatoes so I took them out and put them in a line down the side of this plot. I should have planted them with mychorrhizal fungi but I didn't so they are really only for decoration. Nice yellow plants anyway.

Strawberries are growing well. I do hope noone pinches them when they start to fruit because they are right by the trackway. Am I being selfish? I do love to eat them straight from the plants though. They will come in the next few weeks unless the frost has killed the flowers. I must admit the Thompson's Turkish Delight - if that is their name, are much bigger than the Cambridge. I think that they are bigger plants anyway but they were planted with both charcoal mix and mychorrhizal fungi.

I have planted a line of red iceburg lettuce next to the strawberries. For every plant I have put a beer trap in a plastic cup to keep the slugs off. They are infinitely better than slug pellets and they catch - or these ones have- great numbers of both slugs and snails. I was quite supprised when I checked them. I will leave them until they become very stale and then add them to the charcoal mix.

I have enviromesh over the carrots althought they are Fly Away. It is a bit of a bind having to take it off to weed but it does pay dividens when you crop them. I took the mesh off - or one side of it - so that I could weed them. They looked very sparse when I had completed the weeding. However, I always plant too many and never seem to have time to thin them out so I get far too many small to medium sized roots. This year, after sowing them very thinly, I am hoping to get much bigger roots or that is the theory. Similarly with the parsnips. Last year I got some really good ones but they were just average size for me. This year I planted thinly and I will continue to thin them out so that I get some really big ones.

The beetroot are fine and that is a good thing because they have been devastated in the previous two years by slugs. I have put two beer traps down now to keep them off. It seems to be working well.

I did not think that I would, but remarkably, I have raspberries. Even the ones that I planted in the winter have buds and probably will have fruit. I may be disappointed but I don't think so. The ones that I planted last year seem to be really growing well. They did have mychorrhizal fungi but no charcoal. I love raspberries straight from the bush - there is nothing better in the world.

I planted out three rows of Early Onward peas close to the path. I put the thick wire ends in with the silver birch poles tied in with garden wire. I will put chicken wire around them to grow up and if they go over the chicken wire, like they did last year, I will use string to keep them upright tied to the birch poles. I will put the poles every two feet and tie in the chicken wire with garden wire.

I put terra preta charcoal under half the peas so, as I said earlier, I will be able to see if there is any difference between the ends of the rows.

I have a few good winter cauliflowers. I just wish they would come a bit quicker because I need the ground to put another row of Early Onward and Hurst Green Shaft peas in. I will look at them at the weekend and take out as many cauliflowers as I can. They do have a little clubroot so I will take them home and put them into the green bin rather than put them onto the compost heap. A good year for cauliflowers this year.

The overflow potatoes are doing as well as I expected on the new "council" soil. The soil in this part of the allotment was replaced by the council because they found that it was polluted with some foul chemical. The trouble is that they replaced the soil with some very infertile soil that looked more like subsoil than top soil. Still that is by the by. I thought poor soil ... Ah! grapes. I took my two grapes down and planted them in this soil. The black one is thriving but the white one died and I have taken out. I need to put supports in for the black grape - well I wasn't going to do anything with them until I saw that they were growing.

On the same soil, can you believe, I have planted some climbing french beans. The soil might be rubbish but I thought that this would be a good test for the terra preta charcoal mix. I have planted each of the beans with a good dose of charcoal. We will see if this has an effect. I was also going to plant some bush beans in the middle without the charcoal and see if there is any difference. The slugs are eating some of the plants so I put in several new beer traps to try to stop them. We will see if they are as effective as the other ones.

I cropped the 5 lines of comfrey and put them in the digester butt. I am hoping that it will provide a lot of comfrey liquid because I really need some more now. The worm butt is really producing a lot of worm tea now so this is being used instead of comfrey at the moment.

The allotment secretary asked me to dig out a mound of compost which was infested with couch grass and bindweed. He did not have to ask me twice. I saw what the old tenant of that allotment had put on his compost. Dug it out together with some of the couch grass and put it into my pallet bins. Towards the bottom of the heaps was some fantastic compost. I put that in the bins as well. Now I have three 4 foot cubed bins full of really good compost. In the first I am going to put black courgettes, in the second I will put ridge cucumbers and in the third I will put pumpkins. However, if the squashes come that planting arrangement may alter and the courgettes may get planted somewhere else.

I bought some new rhubarb this year called Champagne. My old rhubarb, which is quite a late one, I found on the allotment when I took it over 27 years ago. I have no idea what variety it is so I decided to buy a new variety and see if it does any better than the old one. I really want an earier one. I planted the Champagne with mychorrhizal fungi but no charcoal. Having said that, I did also put a load of good well rotted compost in the planting hole with them. I am expecting great things from them but not this year.

The Jerusalem Artichokes are growing well, which means that someone will be annoyed on the allotment because they always lean over the carpark. They are hemmed in by the compost bins and the new next door neighbour's shed so they really are under control - almost. They are a really serious vegetable though.

Well that's it for the moment. I will be busy planting out the brassicas, more peas and the curbits as soon as I can. That may not be as soon as necessary things being as they are...
Never mind.
Writing this has taken my mind off other things and is good therupy Tone.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Frosty weather

After loosing my blog of about three years on another site, I have decided to continue on this one and hopefully I will not loose this one.
It is a very late year this year. Frosts on the 11th of May. Not the worst I have had. Once there was a frost on the 1st of June. It was some time in the 1960s when the weather was normal.
So, the greenhouse is full of plants and I cannot get into it. I think that I may loose the peppers but everything else will be alright.
I have dug the last of the green manure in on this years brassica bed and limed the area. This is all ready for the brassicas to go in now when they have grown a little larger. I am weeding the runner beans and the sweet peas. The sweet peas seriously need tying up. This will be done this week.
The onions are still doing well despite the onion fly still being around. I want to cover these with envirofleece but I have not gone to get the blue water pipe to make the supports yet. The sweet cicerly is enormous. I am wondering if it is the mychorrhizal fungi that I put under it. Possible.
Spuds are coming through. With the frosts I think they might get a bit damaged, however this will not be fatal and they will just throw up new leaves. I have hoed them all up quite high but I still think that I could hoe them up even more.
Carrots, spinach, beetroot and parsnips are showing now. These need to be weeded but I will leave them until I have the other beds clear. The strawberries are doing very well and I think that if the frost does not kill off the flowers I will have a good harvest this year. The raspberries are a little thin because I transplanted them this year, however they are doing really well and I think that the mychorrhizal fungi have done their work well on them.
The row of early onward is doing well. I will put up the chicken wire to support them as and when. The winter cauliflowers are coming now but I wanted to leave them until they got a little bigger. I do need the ground for more peas though so they will have to be harvested soon. The good thing is that they tend to all come together so I can harvest and freeze them together and get a big area of ground to use quite quickly. Hopefully this is what will happen this year.
The new rhubarb is champagne. I just wanted a named variety because the rhubarb on the allotment is what I inherited 28 years ago. It is good rhubarb but I don't know its variety.
I have been harvesting quite a lot of rhubarb.
French climbing bean posts have been up for a while but no beans growing up them until the frosts have gone.
I have taken my first crop of comfrey leaves and put them into the digester. I have moved the tub down to the comfrey bed - a sensible thing to do because there was no point in transporting barrow loads of comfrey leaves up to the top of the allotment for no reason. I have put the tub on a pedistall so that I can put a watering can under the tap. It is full of comfrey now but when this rots down I will put some sweet cicerly and nettle in too.
The resultant 'tea' will be used to make charcoal mix. I am attempting to replicate Terra preta soil.
The three bins at the bottom of the allotment are full with very well rotted compost and I will be planting these with cucumber, squash and pumpkin. I was going to put the courgettes on there as well but they will survive anywhere so I will put them anywthere - except where I had them last year. Far too cold to put them out at the moment though.
The greenhouse is cocker at the moment. I cannot fit anything else into it at all. I am hoping to plant out the runner beans at the weekend if the weather changes.
I think that I will loose the two gardener's delight tomatoes I put outside by the shed. I am hoping that the shed, being fairly black, would produce a micro climate that will enable them to survive. Some hope though. We will see.