Monday, 3 January 2011

Early January Jobs

I went to the garden centre to have a look to see what onion varieties they  had in their seeds.  I think that I am going to stick to the traditional  Ailsa Craig but I didn't get any so I can change my mind if I want.
I already have some peat free potting compost so I can plant straight away when I get them.  I will probably germinate them inside because the greenhouse is not heated.  I will put the tray into a transparent plastic bag and leave it near the window.  Now it is my understanding, although I don't know where I read it, that onions can stand quite low temperatures once they have germinated.  So, I am going to put them out in the greenhouse and hope for the best.

We have been having a very cold winter here in the UK and temperatures in my garden have gone down to -16oC several times.  This means that I have lost a lot of my stored potatoes.  I store them in large paper bags and cardboard boxes.  Once they freeze they go soft and begin rotting.  I might still have enough to last until the spring but I have lost about half of them.  I was not expecting the weather to be so severe this year.

Over the years I have forgotten how bad winters can get.  Each year the winters have been warmer and storing vegetables has become much easier.  Still nothing goes to waste and they were put onto the compost heap.

In the 1950s and 1960s I put my potatoes in a clamp.  This is where you have a heap of potatoes or root crops protected from the weather that you are going to eat during the winter.

Its been a long time since I put potatoes in a clamp and it is only worth it if you have a great many potatoes.
You will need 2 cm layer of gravel on the driest part of your allotment. Onto this you put the potatoes to make a pile that goes up to a point at the top. My father and I left them like this for a couple of days to dry off. Then we covered them in about 10 cm of straw. Finally we put about 4cm of soil over the straw. The soil has to be patted down carefully to make the sides of the heap smooth so that rain will run off it and not into the pile.

I do not remember whether there was any slug damage but you are storing during the coldest months when slugs and snails are not so active. If you make sure the potatoes are fairly clean then I doubt if you will get much damage.

I went up to the allotment yesterday with the intention of moving the black currant bushes. Needless to say I didn’t move them.  

Some free horse manure had been delivered to the allotment site so I decided to get some more to put onto this year’s potato bed.  Most of it had been taken so I was reduced to raking it up into piles and shoveling the piles into the barrow.  I got about 4 barrow loads of scrapings and it is all grist to the mill.  

I also emptied the comfrey tea out of the comfrey bin and put it in the charcoal bin so that the charcoal would take it up. Or that’s the theory anyway.  I also emptied the tea out of the worm bin and added some more kitchen scraps. I have put the worm bin in the bottom shed just to give the worms a little more protection.  This went into the charcoal bin too.  

Then it was starting to get dark.  I had intended to measure all the beds so that I could make a plan of the allotment and start to see what I needed in the way of seeds.  I got the whole allotment measured out but I realised that after a lot of hard work, the beds are not all the same size as I wanted them to be.  They are very different.  
 I doubt if I will change the paths at all now because I have made them part of my drainage system.  
The spring was just infront of the shed.  I removed all the top soil from the path and from under the shed and replaced it with stones.  Covered the stone with a little subsoil and then laid the slabs. 

I thought that the topsoil under the paths was just going to waste.  So I dug it out and put the soil onto the beds.  Then all the stone that I removed from the allotment and could glean from the allotment site, I used to fill the trenches.  I put a little subsoil on top of the stones to level the ground to put the slabs on.  This means that all my paths are soak aways.  This was necessary because I have two springs on the allotment that were flowing for most of the year. Now the water runs underneath the subsoil and into the soak aways and then into the drainage pipe that runs down the side of the allotment.  There was no water on the allotment or down the trackway yesterday, until the carpark.  First time ever I think.
Reluctantly, I came home.

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