Monday, 30 May 2011

Allotment photographs for the end of May

This is usually when the allotment looks at its best.  The hoards of summer insects have not taken their toll so there is a lushness verging on triffid like; especially the potatoes that have really grown in the last week.  Now this is a working garden and I am not really interested in getting perfect vegetables.  The reason why things are covered is to protect them from insects or the weather rather than to encourage the plants to grow bigger.  If I think that the nets can come off then I will take them off.  Unfortunately, I doubt if I will be able to take the anti carrot root fly and onion miner fly nets off.   I grow in lines in large beds.  I find that this is the most economic way of producing vegetables.  I don't know if this is old fashioned.  I know the Victorian gardeners always used to grow like this.  It is the way I have always gardened and I cannot be doing with little poky raised beds.  There is some talk about raised beds being good because you don't have to walk on them.  Well I walk all over my beds regularly hoeing and weeding.  Does not seem to do my vegetables any harm. Take a look.  With a big allotment like this you need to be able to weed quickly with a hoe and lines of vegetables makes this a lot easier.  The beds are raised to some extent mainly to help with drainage.  The allotment regularly got waterlogged during the winter.  The other reason the soil is high is because I add a lot of organic matter to the soil.  I don't really care what organic matter it is.  I bury anything from laylandii shreddings to cow muck.  Putting concrete slabs around the beds just keeps the soil from falling over the paths.
View of the allotment up the hill
This gives a good view of the north facing slope that I garden on.  You can't see the top beds though.
Comfrey has grown back and is nearly ready to be cropped
I will probably crop the sweet cicely and some nettles before I cut any more comfrey.  
Hamburg parsley being shaded by the rocket

Roots bed.
 I really think that I have planted a little too much rocket.  I know that I like it but there is no way that I can eat all this.  It is beginning to shade the Hamburg parsley so I am going to take this line of rocket out before it goes to seed.
You can see the two new sowings of Woden beetroot too.  The slugs have taken some of these but since I watered on the anti slug nematodes Phasmarhabditis hermaphorodita they have faired much better.
Same plants different view.
The salsify and scorzonera are growing well.  Their seed is quite big and can be spaced out easily in the seed drill.  They may look sparse but they will grow big and there will be more than enough here to make some vegetable curries, stews and soups.  
I am eating the spinach now.  I have had it raw in salads and in a stir fry mix.  The Boltardy beetroot is not going to be thinned out.  I don't like big beetroot so they will be thinned as they are used.  
Carrots under the enviromesh
It just shows you how important it is to cover the carrots completely in a fine mesh net. I have been using this piece of environmesh for many years so it has really been worth while getting it.  It protects the carrots from carrot root fly Psila rosae very well.  There are some holes in it and I was going to sew them up but have not got around to it.  The carrots do not seem to have root fly so I am not going to rush to do it.   You can always tell when the carrots get root fly because the leaves go red or yellow.  

Young parsnips
I put a row of Swiss chard next to the carrots and they are just germinating now.  I put a little comfrey liquid on them to give them a boost.  The thinned parsnips are about 15cm tall now.  I might thin them even more soon because there is no way I will be able to eat all of these when they get bigger.  The new line of spinach is growing quickly.  When this line is big enough, I will take the first sowing out and replace it with something else.  The final row is a line of poppy seeds. I just put poppies in here as a green manure.  It is too near the rhubarb for anything else to grow.  As you can see the rhubarb is growing over the poppies already.  

Strawberries have started to fruit
The strawberries have started to fruit and I have had about 1kg. off them already.  That is minus the ones that I eat at the allotment.  There has been some damage from slugs and ants but not a lot.  The birds do not seem to be having them and even if they are they are not taking very many.  There are so many strawberry plants on the allotment site that they probably take their pick of the very best ones.
The strawberry bed is a bit of a mixture 
The strawberry bed is becoming a bit of a mixture of plants because several people have given me runners from their plants to fill in the gaps where I lost some during the winter.  I got some pink strawberries from someone that gave up their allotment.  They are more decorative than good berriers but they add a little interest into the strawberry patch.  
The raspberries have produced a lot of fruit that will be ripening in June and July.  Everything seems to be early this year but the cold weather in May might set everything back to the correct time scale.  The new raspberries Glen Procen have grown over 6 foot tall but my old raspberries have only grown 4 foot.  I will see which fruits the best this year.  If the Glen Procen fruits well, I might take the old ones out and only use the Glen Procen.  I have not watered the raspberries with comfrey like I usually do.  They still have fruited very well.  These are summer raspberries.  I only like to eat them in the summer.  Autumn ones seem to be out of kilter for me.  I remember as a child picking and eating strawberries on hot summer days.  They are the epitome of summer.  There was some suggestion that you should not plant potatoes near to raspberries.  Does not look like they are affecting these potatoes does it?

Now I have debated on the blog whether a high NPK fertiliser is necessary for potatoes.  The advice from the commercial growers is yes.  However, my potatoes have had some horse manure and leaves dug in during the autumn; some charcoal marinated in comfrey liquid and some mychorrhizal fungi but nothing else.  I have not watered these potatoes during the dry April either.  

My potatoes are taking over the world

Large tops does not necessarily mean lots of spuds

However, I am hopeful
So why have they grown so large?  The inoculated charcoal had been marinading in comfrey liquid all winter so must have soaked up a lot of nutrient.  Whether this has helped the mychorrhizal fungi to form a symbiotic relationship with the potatoes I can only speculate.  What ever is causing the potatoes to grow this big - and remember this is only May we are talking about, they are large and this is not due to high NPK fertiliser because I haven't put any on.  I sometimes use chicken pellets and blood, fish and bone but I have not even bought these this year yet alone put them on the potatoes.    

I have just noticed I have left the swoe out.  I will have to nip down when it stops raining and put that away. Thank heavens it is a sustained period of rain.  

The Pink Fir Apple Potatoes
The Pink Fir Apple Potato took a little longer to come through so are a little smaller.  They are catching up the  Kestrel though. 

The oca was even later coming through than the Pink Fir Apple.  Only two out of the six tubers grew so I will probably keep the tubers that they produce this year and plant them next year to build up a stock.  It may be well worth eating a few of them, though, just to make sure  they are worth the effort.  

My herbs. I have the pots ready for more

Onions under the cloches
This is what you have to do in Wolverhampton to protect the onions from Phytomyza gynostoma, the onion miner fly.  When they are affected their leaves contort and coil around looking very poorly.  The onions under the cloches seem to have avoided the worst ravages of the fly but they do have some distorted leaves.  I will keep watering them and giving them comfrey liquid.  They may well recover if I persist.  

Leeks and onions under the enviromesh.
Even with this amount of protection the onion miner fly has affected the onions under the enviromesh really badly.  The leeks do not seem to be affected at the moment.  I left the onions out in their seed tray overnight and I think that this is when they were infected.  All I can do now is continue to water them and give them comfrey liquid -my cure all for everything.   
Cucumber, lettuce and celeriac
I think that I tried to plant things far too early. They cucumbers have really suffered with the cold weather but the lettuce and the celeriac seem not to be overtly affected.  Still having difficulty with germinating fennel.  Still, got a few and they will probably be enough.  
I have used the nematode Phasmarhabditis hermaphorodita twice on the lettuce now and this seems to have benefited them a lot.  There is no slug damage at the moment.  I really need to weed between the plants though because there are a lot of weed seedlings starting to germinate.  

I am not sure whether the garlic is just going over now or if it is being affected by Phytomyza gynostoma.  I am inclined to think that it is the latter.  They are quite big now so maybe it will not affect them too much.  I will continue to water them because this seems to perk them up a bit.  The tulips have gone over now so I will take them out and sort out the largest ones.  These will be the main flowerers next year.  I will store them in the shed until the autumn.  

Sweet cicely and blackberry
The sweet cicely is growing right over the path and really needs to be cropped and put into the comfrey bins.  Herbs benefit from being cut very hard back.  The blackberry Adrienne has particularly big flowers on it.  I am not too sure how good the fruit are because last year they were a little disappointing.  The rhubarb went off a little in April and the beginning of May probably because of the hot dry weather.  It has recovered now but still needs to grow on a little.  I put some anti slug nematodes around it because they seem to attract the slugs and snails really badly.  
October sown sweet peas in foreground
The sweet peas should be flowering now but there has been a lot of bud drop.  I hope that this does not carry on during the summer.  
February sown sweet peas
I am just waiting for them to flower now.  Maybe the rain we are having today will encourage them a little.  All I am doing is weeding, cutting off tendrils and side shoots and tying them up.

Lupins for green manure - but look good too.
The lupins are leguminosae and will fix nitrogen from the atmosphere. Their flowers and foliage will be put onto the compost heap or dug in to increase fertility of the soil. 

Aintree runner beans
 I did weed these beans but the weeds keep growing back.
Aintree runner beans

Aintree runner beans
Putting the netting around the runner beans has protected them from the cold weather and the high winds that we have had over the last week.  I pinched out the growing tip of each of the plants and now they are sending up two side shoots.  I may pinch out some more of the growing tips to encourage bushy plants.  

Brassicae bed
The American landcress is growing particularly slowly but I have enough other leaves so it is of no consequence.  I have thinned the swedes out to about six inches apart but I think I will have to thin them even more later.  I sowed the kohlrabi very thinly and this has meant that I did not really need to thin them.  They are a red kohlrabi mainly just for interest.  

Brassicae bed 2
The Golden Acre cabbages are growing well.  I am hoping for some big cannon ball cabbages so I am watering quite often with comfrey liquid.  The calabrese and the summer purple sprouting are next with the summer cauliflowers securely tucked under a fine mesh net.  I hate it when the cabbage white butterflies   Pieris brassicae caterpillars crawl right into the cauliflower so this is to prevent that from happening.  

There are another two winter purple flowering brocolli lines then a line of red Brussel sprouts and a line of turnips.  The turnips are supposed to taste like mellon but I will reserve judgement until I can sample them.  

The blooming broad beans are right in the way. I thought that I would have cropped them and had them out before now but they are only just forming fruit. I will be patient though.   

The Brussel sprouts and peas
Brussel sprouts and one line of winter cauliflowers.

Brussel sprouts from the path
I have taken the net off the Brussel sprouts because I think that the plants are big enough for the pigeons to leave them alone.  The nets were not good enough to keep the cabbage white butterflies away from the plants so there is no point in keeping them on.  I will be able to weed, hoe up and inspect for caterpillars much more easily without the nets on them.  The nets are stored in a big compost darlek so they will not clutter up the store shed.  The next job is to hoe the plants up.  I hoe the plants up because it is a bit of a deterrent against cabbage root fly Delia radicum and also it encourages the plants to produce roots that will aid stability when they get a little bigger.  

Again, I think that I was unduly influenced by the very hot dry April and put the squashes out far too early.  They have been affected by the cold weather and winds but they are recovering now.  The peas are about 4 foot tall now but they are not flowering yet.  

First sowing of Early Onward peas
I have had to put strings up to support them because they are growing over the chicken wire supports now.    
Second sowing of peas

Third sowing

Fourth sowing - not much difference is there?
I don't think it matters when you sow the seed for peas they all mature at about the same time.  I might get a week between each one of them but not much more.  I would just like to see them start to flower.  I think that I have made it a little too comfortable for them and they are not really inclined to start to reproduce.  I have stopped giving them comfrey liquid but this does not seem to have slowed their prodigious growth.  However, big plants do not necessarily produce the best crop.  I will see.  
Mange tout peas
The mange tout peas seem to be growing very much slower than the Early Onward.  I did give these some comfrey liquid yesterday.  
Dwarf French beans
Well actually there are two lines of Cannellini and two lines of Bortolotti beans.  After a lot of effort to get these beans to germinate I eventually got them big enough to put into the allotment.  Now I have to keep the slugs off them.  
The climbing French beans and others

Climbing French beans.  
The Cobra climbing French beans were a little devastated by slugs until I used some of the nematodes to prevent this from happening.  I planted them a little too close to the aubrietia - prime slug habitat.   They have recovered but they need some sustained warm weather to get them to climb up the support poles.  
So this is the state of the allotment at the moment.  Hopefully it will get better over the next month but it makes it interesting if I have to battle with the elements a little.  

That is what you can do without a poly tunnel (hoop house).  It is easier to protect your vegetables if you use a poly tunnel but I find it more fun to see if I can get as good from outside planted vegetables.  

Now, at least, I will be able to have a little variety in my vegetables.  

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