Friday, 24 June 2011

Photographs of things growing in June

After the cold May winds June has turned out to be rather damp.  While June has been wet it has not really been warm and the vegetables have not really been growing very quickly. 

I have harvested the comfrey and filled up both of the green bins.  I am watering comfrey on a lot of the vegetables so I am using up quite a bit.  

 The salsify and the scorzonera are growing quite well but I have not harvested any of them.  I took out a row of spinach and replaced it with a row of Swiss Chard.  The Swiss Chard has not germinated yet.  Beetroot and the Hamburg parsley are doing quite well.  
The carrots are pushing against the enviromesh they are growing so big.  I have begun to thin them out and use the small carrots in salads.  
The Swiss Chard and the parsnips  are coming along well although I would like to see them a little bigger. 

I have not used any of this spinach yet and it seems to be going to seed already.  I will make sure that I get some of this over the weekend.  

The strawberries have virtually finished now.  I have only had about 18kg off them.  Not bad I suppose.  I am going to leave the runners on the plants now to get some more plants for next year.  The stolons will have little plantlets on them and these are what I use to plant up the new strawberry bed.  

The potatoes are still taking over the world.  The heavy rain battered them about a little and now they are lying  a little flatter  The tops are right over the path and make it very difficult to get to the shed.  I can put up with this if there is a big crop of potatoes under all this foliage.  The old blokes keep on trying to convince me to take a few roots up to see how they are doing but I haven't yet partially to irritate them and partially because I want the biggest potatoes I can get.  

These are my oca and I am very proud of them.  I have five plants now and I will be treasuring them until I can build up a big stock of them.  The potatoes keep trying to cover them completely so I have to keep staking them back.  
The raspberries are beginning to fruit now and also throw up really long new canes.  These will be the fruiters next year and will have to be tied in so that the wind does not blow them over.  I haven't taken any of the raspberries home yet because I have eaten them all with my cup of tea. 

The big lettuce has not gone to seed yet and we are eating quite a few.  Still got a lot left though.  Looks like salad for tea today.  The lettuce succession is working well and I have replaced the garlic with broad beans and the new lettuce.  

The leeks are fine at the moment but I will have to cover them with enviromesh towards the end of July.  The onions are now being infected with white rot.  I doubt if I will  have a good crop of onions this year.  
This is the first main picking of the sweet peas.  They are looking and smelling good now.  
These are the Blue Danube that are going to be picked next.  

I didn't take a photograph of the blackberry although it is covered in fruit.  I noticed yesterday that they were turning black as well.   I know that I have an early one but blackberries in June?  

The Aintree runner beans have nearly got to the top of the canes now and there are some flowers on them as well.  I don't think that they will produce any beans for a couple of weeks though.  
Swedes and kohlrabi are forming swollen roots now.  I hope that they don't come too soon though.  When I crop them I will replace them with another brassicae.  If I keep all the brassicas together like this then there is less chance of club root infesting the soil.  Next year they will be rotated into the next bed.  
The calabrese is starting to head up now.  I will crop this when the heads get big enough and any that I cannot eat I will freeze.  They still taste relatively acceptable after freezing.
The purple sprouting brocolli are shading out the summer cauliflowers.  I will have to release the cauliflowers from their net because it is restricting their growth.  
The turnips are not very big yet but I expect them to be a reasonable size by next week.  The red Brussel sprouts are growing well but they need hoeing up so that they do not fall over.  
I have harvested some of the broad beans.  I got about 1kg off them at the first picking but there are an awful lot more on the plants.  

Brussel sprouts are coming along well.  I have hoed them up to help to stabilise them and prevent them from falling over.  They will produce roots along the stem where the soil has been earthed up against them.  This may also help to ward off cabbage root fly.  
One of the squashes has been eaten by slugs a little so I put a sunk a plastic cup and filled it with beer.  I t has not caught the culprit at the moment but I am hoping that it will in the near future.  The squashes have recovered from the cold winds of May but they are still not very big.  

I have five lines of peas each sown one week after the last and believe it or not they are all coming more or less at the same time.  I don't really mind because I will freeze the ones that we don't eat.  However, it would be good to grow them in some kind of succession.  
The dwarf French beans are doing well and are not too damaged by slugs and snails which cannot be said for the climbing French beans.

There are some climbing French beans there but they are very slug eaten which means that the courgettes and the sweet peas have taken over a little more than I wanted.  There are some courgettes on these plants already.  

So that is the state of the allotment towards the end of June.  Not bad at the moment.  

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Partial successes

I have to admit that I am not a very good Florence fennel grower.  I have never been successful with it.  At the moment I have six plants growing - or should I say surviving? I would really like to know what I am doing wrong.  It shows you that, regardless of how long you have been growing vegetables, you still have things to learn.

I am really pleased with them but I would have liked to have more.

Together with the climbing French beans, which have been devastated by the slugs, I am not doing as well as I would like.

Still, without some partial successes it would not be gardening.

I still can't get the climbing French beans to start to grow well.  I think that it is the coolish June weather that is holding them back.  I might put cloches over the cucumbers to help them over this cold weather.  However, they are doing remarkably well and may not need them.

A big success has been the oca.  I now have five plants which I am very proud of.  I hope they taste good after all the effort I have put into them.  Five out of six is great but I am still looking to see if the sixth one is going to poke its head through.

The onions are growing well but I think I may have taken the barriers off too soon.  Some of them are showing definite onion fly damage.  I am watering with rainwater and diluted comfrey liquid so they are fairly big plants.  I hope that the bulbs swell towards the end of the month.

Peas are beginning to flower and fruit now.  There are not as many pea pods as I would like, which shows that it does not matter how big the plants grow if they do not produce the crop then it is only a partial success.
There are no failures on my allotment.  :-))

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Am I getting a profit from my allotment?

Now, if I think that I am getting a profit out of my allotment, I really know that I'm being foolish because I do not take into account the amount of time I spend working on the garden.

However, it is good to see how much I would have had to pay if I bought the produce in a supermarket such as Tesco.  All of my harvest is organic so I look for the price for each of the organic vegetables and put that on my spread sheet.

I have had about 15.6kg of strawberries off the five rows.  At Tesco's prices for organic strawberries of £0.83 for 100grams, it means that I have made about £130.  Now when would you go out and buy £130 of strawberries?

This year, over all, I have spent a total of £260 on seeds etc. So the strawberries on their own have covered at least half of my allotment costs and there are still a lot of strawberries on the plants.

On a completely different tack, I have decided to go into the town allotment competition.  You get points for tidiness, crop rotation, succession and composting but the major points are gained from the vegetables themselves.  The only vegetable I am not growing is celery but it is such a faff to get this to grow properly and keep it slug free that I really cannot be bothered to grow it.  I am not going to grow it just for the competition.

I should score quite well for my peas, dwarf French beans, cabbage, cauliflower, broad beans, winter vegetables, runner beans, potatoes, carrots, lettuce, beetroot and parsnips.  I am not too sure how they are assessed because a lot of them will not be their full size until the autumn.

There is a category for soft fruit but my strawberries and blackcurrants have been harvested and either eaten or frozen.  This leaves my raspberries and blackberries.  I could score a little on them.

Another category is flowers.  Well the sweet peas should give me some more points.   So I thought that I would give it a go.  It is good to see how well you are doing in comparison with others.  I am not going to wait with bated breath till I hear the result; I am just going to continue harvesting as usual.

I grow for food, exercise and fresh air.  Nothing else matters much.  But it would still be good to win the competition.  Chance would be a good thing.

The allotment is doing quite well now.

The peas have started to fruit and make pods.  I was a bit worried that I had made their lives very easy and that they were not going to produce any peas at all.  I weeded them a few days ago and now they are looking very neat and tidy.  I have had to put even more string around them because they have significantly over topped the chicken wire.  If the peas flop about they do not seem to produce many pea pods so I like to keep them growing upwards.  The tallest row is now about four feet tall and still growing.

All the dwarf French beans have survived being put out into the allotment.  I watered them with comfrey liquid today just to keep them growing.  The turnip row I put in here is growing on much better than the ones on the brassicae bed.  I don't think that there is as much flea beetle on the pea bed.

Brassicas are growing big.  The broad beans are just coming now.  I will probably pick a few at the weekend.  The Aintree runner beans are nearly to the top of the support canes.  They would have been at the tops but I nipped out the growing tips of the lead stems to encourage side shoots from the bottom of the plants.

The sweet peas are flowering  and producing an incredible scent.  I have some good stems - some with five buds.  I watered these with comfrey liquid today just to keep them growing and producing.

The Webs Wonderful lettuce have hearted up now and I will have to eat them quickly before they go to seed.

The onions and leeks are not growing as fast as I would like them to.  I doubt if they will be very big for the town competition but, hey, you can't have everything.

The sweet corn has decided to grow now and is getting quite big.  So too are the ridge cucumbers. They really need some warmer weather to keep them growing.  I was thinking of putting the cloches over the cucumbers to give them a little more warmth and protection.  I'll do this at the weekend if I do it at all.

The potatoes got a bit battered down by the rain and are only now recovering.  Everyone wants me to dig one up to see what they are like but I don't think I will until they stop flowering.

The raspberries have begun to fruit but I don't know how many will find themselves home. I usually eat all of them at the allotment.  I think the crop this year will be bigger than I would be able to eat so a few might be made into jam.

It seems, from what people say, that my roots will get some points in the town allotment competition.  They are doing all right but nothing particularly special.

I will crop the comfrey and put it into the digester bins at the weekend.  I am seriously running out of comfrey liquid, although I have been making significant amounts of it over the last few months.  I am going to use nettles as well so that I can get maximum amount of nutrients into the mixture.

I got some shredded paper today so I put it onto the compost heap and covered it with a generous layer of grass mowings.  The mowings were hot and steaming.  I hope that they don't set the shredded paper alight.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

General Summer Allotment Chores

The first thing I did today was to water the onions with comfrey liquid.  They are still growing fairly well and I think they will produce some big bulbs.  As I was on a roll I did the sweet corn and the pumpkins too.

I weeded around the lettuce carefully and then put my beer traps along the first line.  I have had some big slugs and snails in the lettuce but I did not see any when I was weeding.  Hopefully, they will go for the beer rather than my lettuce.

The beer traps consisted of a plastic cup dropped into a hole with some beer in it.  I covered the traps with broken slabs mainly to keep the rain out.

The rest of the onion bed was weeded and watered with comfrey liquid.

I had a cup of tea and a flapjack cake.  My favourite.

I was going to take the blackcurrants bushes out because they had big bud mite on them.  However, when I looked at them carefully they had all made some really good growth from the base of the branches.  I decided to just prune hard back to these ground level shoots.  As I pruned them back I took all the currants off the stems.  Most of them were ripe but I took off the unripe ones as well.  If you are only making jam with them the green ones will help the jam to set.

To pick black currants you need the patients of a saint.  It is incredibly pernickety.  Still I got another 2kg of currants off the pruned branches.   

Put some more beer traps under the climbing French bean supports.  The slugs and snails are still devastating the beans here.  The runner beans are fine and have flowers on them.  

I picked some American land cress and lettuce to take home.  I have had them for salad this evening.  

As part of the allotment competition you need to have compost heaps on the go.  Mine are just piles of stuff I have taken off the allotment - like the blackcurrant branches.  I thought that I might as well cover these up with some grass mowings and soil from the mega compost heap.  I got five barrow loads of grass mowings but only one barrow load of mega compost.  Looks a bit more like a compost heap now.  

I don't know why I am bothered about the allotment competition.   I just want to know whether my allotment is as good as others in the town.  I think that I will find that it is better than some and not as good as others and I will be none the wiser.  

Friday, 10 June 2011

How I treat the soil for each of the vegetable types.

There is a science to gardening, however the variety of different soil conditions and environments means that growing plants is more down to knowing and understanding your own small growing area than the generalities of ideal conditions.

Is gardening  more of an art than a science?  Certainly the better you know your local conditions the better you can grow plants.

So all things considered the preparation of the soil for different vegetables probably needs to be changed depending on the plants grown.  I cannot honestly say that I prepare the soil particularly differently for any of my vegetables.  I might get an even better crop if I did but the general strategy is to pack as much carbon into the soil as it will take - and its appetite for carbon seems to be insatiable.

So what different strategies do I use for each of the vegetable beds?

During the winter I marinade charcoal in comfrey liquid.  This infuses the charcoal with nutrient and I add this inoculated charcoal to the planting holes of most of  the vegetables - until it runs out.

I see the peas and beans to be net contributors to the soil fertility.  After cropping they will be dug into the soil to add nitrogen. When I was young I was told that you should cut off the tops of peas and beans and put them onto the compost heap leaving  the roots in the soil. The roots add nitrogen.  This is true but roots only contribute about 30% of the available nitrogen.  60% of the nitrogen is in the stems and leaves of leguminous plants (peas and beans).  So, I dig these into the soil too. This will be done at the end of the year for the roots to get the benefits next year.  

If manure or tree leaves are available I will dig these into the pea and bean bed in the autumn and winter.  I put charcoal and a pinch of mychorrhizal fungi in all of the planting holes.  Together with that, I will water the peas and beans with comfrey, sweet cicely, nettle and worm bin liquid mix during the year.  This year I have been able to put a 50 - 100mm top dressing of good home made, friable compost over the whole area. It is full of weed seeds but I can put up with this because it is also full of nutrients. Chicken manure is sometimes used as a base fertiliser along the rows before planting.  

The comfrey liquid is not scientifically mixed.  Whenever I can crop each of the ingredients, I add them to the digester bins to rot down.  What goes in the bins, stays in the bins.  Everything seems to end as a liquid.

I do not add any farmyard manure or leaves to the brassicae bed.  The bed is given a good dose of lime to prevent the brassicas getting club root (Plasmodiophora brassicae.)  The plants are watered in with comfrey liquid and given charcoal in their planting holes.  The summer brassicas are given comfrey liquid to bring them on during the summer.  The winter vegetables are given nothing because they seem to fair much better if left to fend for themselves.  If you feed Brussel sprouts too much, the buds will "blow" or open out before they can be harvested.
Cauliflowers and cabbages do like to have nitrogen in the soil and this is added in the form of chicken or pigeon manure during the winter or early spring.  

The onion bed gets as much organic matter as I can find.  That is farmyard or horse manure, leaves, grass mowings, weeds etc.  The onions seem to relish lots of organic matter in the soil.  This is another bed that I covered with a top dressing of home made compost.  Great stuff except that it has a lot of weed seeds in it.  When planting, I put charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi in the planting holes.  The onions are watered with comfrey during the year but the solution is very dilute. Onions do  not like too much nitrogen in the soil.  The do require a damp root run and just watering will do this more than adequately.  Really, for my rotation system, I should be liming the onions to keep the pH quite high -to about 6.5 to 7.5.  I will do this in 2012.

The potato bed had quite a lot of horse manure and leaves dug into it last autumn.  They were planted with charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi.  They have had nothing else.  I have not even watered them.  If pigeon or chicken manure is available then that is used on the potatoes as well.  

The roots did not have anything dug into their soil except the old bean and pea haulms; grass mowings and weeds.  This will avoid the problem with forking that manure stimulates.  I put comfrey liquid in the sowing drills and a little mychorrhizal fungi.  That is all that they have had this year.  I have watered them  during the very dry weather.

And that is it more or less.  So if you do this for 30 years or so you will get an allotment as good as mine.  

I cropped the garlic yesterday and it has white rot in some of the bulbs.  I had to throw away about 6 of them.
The others are drying in the store shed.
I harvested one large lettuce, some American land cress and some spinach.

The weather is still particularly cold and this is preventing the vegetables from growing.  There is no point in worrying about this because nothing can be done.

There are more strawberries ready to be picked.    You can certainly eat too many strawberries.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Soft Fruit Harvest

I have about 2.75kg of blackcurrants from the poor bushes.  That is quite a lot and I am really pleased about it.  It took hours to pick them and then another hour to wash them and remove all the leaves and stalks which makes them totally uneconomic but like the Amish  I do not count this as work but a pleasurable activity.

What you have to factor in is the exercise, the fresh air and the pleasure that you get from being outside.  Blackcurrant picking is pleasurable - when it finishes.  There were some green currants that I left on the bushes but I doubt whether there is more than a couple of kilo.  I don't know whether it is worth the time and effort to collect these as well or just leave them for the birds.

I picked another kilo of strawberries.

Did a little feeding and watering.  The turnips and the radish got a good soaking to make sure they continue to grow.  They are being eaten by flea beetle but there will still be enough there for what I want.

I weeded around the peas but this is more cosmetic than of any benefit to the peas.  These weeds are the few that have not been shaded out by the peas.  The peas continue to grow.  I watered them again today and hopefully I will get them to four feet tall.

Remarkably the dwarf beans are surviving and have not been damaged by slugs and snails.   I gave them a good feed of comfrey liquid.

It was a lovely evening so I decided to have a quiet cup of tea and a sit in the sun.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Picking blackcurrants

I think that anyone that can pick blackcurrants must have the patients of a saint.  I do have a special tool for collecting the currants but there were so many that had not gone black that I wanted to leave them on the branches until they had turned colour.  So there I was carefully picking the black ones.   It does not matter how careful you are you still get some green ones.  I must have gathered about 1kg of currants before I was forced to stop.  This is not bad from bushes that were infested with big bud.

I have to reconsider whether to take these bushes out and throw them away or whether to cut the branches off to ground level and hope that the new growth does not have big bud.  This is what I am thinking of doing.

I did two and a half bushes when it started to rain.  Picking blackcurrants at the best of times is a chore but doing it in the rain is just too much.

Black currant bushes await picking.
I stopped to have a cup of tea and a cake.  I almost fell asleep again but it was too cold.  I just watched the rain come down and waited for my potatoes to start growing over the shed.  There is something like the Amazonian rain forest about my potatoes.

I have another oca.  That makes four out of six that have grown.  I am very impressed.  I keep looking for the other two but to no avail.  I have had to tie back the potatoes or they would have shaded the oca out.

I watered the onions with comfrey liquid again - needless to say it rained soon afterwards.  This will help to wash the comfrey liquid down to the roots.  I also watered the newly planted tomatoes and lettuce with comfrey.

The corn on the cob is recovering from being put out too early and an attack by slugs.  I was not worried about whether it would survive because last year I bunged it into a corner on allotment 25 and it still came really well.

I put some comfrey liquid onto the tomatoes and pumpkins in pots.  The pumpkins are not going to stay in the pots.  They are going to be planted where the onions are now.  I am hoping that the onions will be out of the ground before the pumpkins become pot bound.

The garlic is going over now and needs to be taken out and dried in the shed.  The shed is all ready for them because I cleared it out yesterday.  I will do this soon but I really wanted them to go brown before I lifted them.  I will  take out the rest of the tulips and store them when I lift the garlic.

I cleared out the everyday shed and gave it a good sweep.  I have begun to move any tools that I use rarely into the store shed.  This has given me a lot more room in the everyday shed.  I don't know why I didn't do it earlier.  I may have to take them out again to fit all the canes in at the end of the season but this is of no consequence.

My first row of Early Onward peas is three feet tall and still growing.  I only wish that they had some flowers on them.  I think that I have made it too comfortable for them and they still don't want to produce peas.

The new line of turnips have germinated.  I am only going to allow them to get to golf ball size because I don't want woody ones.  My daughter wants me to grow an enormous turnip  so I will have to leave one to grow on.  I will see if I can grow it really  big without it splitting.

I may have labelled my sweet peas incorrectly because the Gwendoline sweet peas seem to coming out red.  The only red sweet pea I have is Restormel.  So how on earth have I mixed these up?

I have been particularly careful this year to label correctly.  I have a winter cabbage in the Trafalgar Brussel sprout line as well.  How did that happen?  A bit of an irritation but liveable with.

Plenty more strawberries ripening.  I gave them a miss today though.  I couldn't eat another one for a while.  This is the stage when I start to freeze them for jam.

I need to get some beer for my traps.  I will get some tomorrow.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Spent 6 hours down the allotment.

I went down to the allotment for a couple of hours and spent six hours down there.  Where does all the time go to?

I had convinced myself to making a hot bed for the ridge cucumbers with grass mowings but when it came to taking out the cucumbers they looked quite good.  Really they just needed to be fed and watered and they were fine.  So they were watered with comfrey liquid and so were the onions and leeks.  The onions seem to be standing up well and are not affected by the onion miner fly Phytomyza gymnostoma overly.  I will keep giving them comfrey liquid and watering them for the rest of the season.  

I planted some more celeriac, lettuce and tomatoes in the spaces in this bed.  There is no room for anything else now.  It is a good thing too because I came home to find that all the leeks have been turfed out of their pots by a blackbird.  I don't know what it was looking for in the compost but it had made a big mess of the leeks.  I doubt if I will salvage any of them.  

I spent the rest of the afternoon taking side shoots and tendrils off the sweet peas. They needed tying up too. The Ethel Grace and the Restormel were flowering.  There has been a great deal of bud drop because of the coldish May weather.  The sweet peas need a sustained period of warm wet weather.  

I cleaned out the store shed so that I could put the garlic in to dry.  I have slatted shelves in the shed and these will be ideal to put the garlic out on.  I don't know how the floor of the shed got so dirty.  I swept it out and tidied around so that I had two free shelves.  I still need to wash some of the pots and the demijohns.  I might even use the latter to make some wine.  

I moved the worm bin so that it is by the comfrey bins.  It is not producing very much liquid but what it does produce goes into the comfrey bin to add  to  the potency of the black liquid that is produced.  

I made a cup of tea and ate strawberries for lunch.  I have just bought home 2.5kg of strawberries today and this does not count the ones I ate at the allotment.  

Overall I have had 7.8kg of strawberries and there are still plenty on the plants. I will probably get fed up with eating them and then I will freeze some for jam making. 

Transplanting more seedlings

I have transplanted a lot of brassicae seedlings into pots and left them outside to harden off.  The one thing that I haven't got and really need is a big cold frame.  At the moment all the seedlings are on my patio.  Except for some of the lettuce, calabrese and leeks, I will probably give the rest away because there is nowhere on the allotment that I have space to plant them.

I watered yesterday but only those things that I thought would benefit from extra water.  I still haven't watered the potatoes although they do seem to wilt in the hot weather.  There are far too many to water with the watering can and we can't use hose pipes on the allotment site.

My first sweet pea flower came out yesterday.  It is in the "others" line,  an October sown one, and creamy white so it is Jilly.  It is not very good because when I brushed past it I broke it a little so now it is a little contorted.   It can flower away where it is until it forms pods and then I will take it off.  If you can get Jilly to flower really well it is a magnificent cream coloured flower.

The blackcurrants are beginning to change colour now and I will have to harvest them.  I have a special tool to take them off the branches so I will be using that in the next few days.  I am afraid that big bud mite  Cecidophyopsis ribis has severely affected most of the blackcurrants and I will have to take them all out and bury them after they have been cropped.  I will take off all the branches when I crop the currants and see if the new growth shows any sign of big bud mite.  If I can save them, I will because they are heavy croppers.  If not, I will have to replace them.  I will get Ben Hope because it is slightly resistant to big bud.

As my outdoor cucumbers have suffered due to the cold winds, I am going to pamper them a little.  It might set them back but I hope not.  I am going to dig them out, dig a shallow trench and fill it with grass mowings. I will cover the grass with soil and then put ring culture pots on the top of the mound.  I will fill the pots with compost and then plant the cucumbers in the pots.  Hopefully the grass mowings will heat up the soil and give the cucumbers a little more encouragement to grow.  This is more or less how the Victorians grew ridge cucumbers although they used cow muck to create the heat.  

I have some celeriac and lettuce that need to be put into this area of the allotment too.  The only other job that really needs to be done is to thin out the carrots.  I hate doing this until the thinnings can be used so I am waiting until they get a little bigger.  I have thinned out one row and I ate all the thinnings at the allotment when I was having my cup of tea.  I also weeded the carrots, however I noticed as I walked past yesterday that I have left one large stinging nettle Urtica Dioica.  How I missed it I don't know.  I will have to take off the net to take it out but I cannot leave it.  Maybe I will do this when I thin more of the carrots.  

Fred has given me some tomatoes.  They are a little ropey but they will probably produce some tomatoes.  I need to repot them using some of the home made compost. I have already done several.  Two are in home made compost at the allotment.  I put them next to the shed.  Another four beef steak tomatoes were taken home and put into the greenhouse.     

As it was growing over the pathway, I cropped the sweet cicely.  I put it into one of the big green butts to rot down into black liquid.  I will probably crop the comfrey in the next few weeks and put it with the sweet cicely.

So not much to do at the moment except watch to see that pests and diseases do not affect the plants.         

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Using barriers to keep pests off vegetables.

I  had covered the brassicas with netting to keep the pigeons off them.  The netting was not fine enough to efficiently prevent cabbage white butterflies Pieris brassicae  getting to the plants but I know that some people are using scaffold netting to do this job.  They use water pipe to form hoops to put the netting over and keep the net off the plants.  Both cabbage butterflies and cabbage root fly Delia radicum would be excluded from the plants.

Although this is a very effective method of pest control, I cannot be bothered with doing it.    I would rather be able to get to the plants to see how they are getting on.  I also like to hoe up the brassicae plants.  I do this for two reasons.  The first is to help to prevent cabbage root fly from laying eggs near the stems. The second reason is to encourage root production from the stems.  This will help in stabilising the plant when it gets bigger.  

Today, I took off the final net covering the brassicas.  When the cabbage white butterfly begins to lay eggs and the caterpillars start to hatch out, hopefully I will be able to remove them by gloved hand.  I have done this successfully for a couple of years now.  

I planted some radish and some rocket in the brassicae bed between the other plants.  They will be cropped long before the big brassicas overshadow them.  

I took down the netting from  around the runner beans.  This netting was not being used as a pest barrier but rather a wind break.  The runner bean plants seem to appreciate being out of a cold wind early in the season.  Most of my runner beans are Aintree.  It is a particularly early one and it has already gone up the supporting canes about 600mm.  I gave them a weeding and watering today.  

Now we had to make a decision about the onions.  I have been using plastic cloches to keep the onion miner fly Phytomyza gymnostoma off the onions and I had been advised that it was fine to remove the barriers now.  It took a lot of effort to convince myself but I did take the cloches off and put them away.  I watered the onions with a good dose of diluted comfrey liquid and they seem to be doing all right.  

I will be putting the cloches and enviromesh back onto the leeks around the end of July as a barrier because Phytomyza gymnostoma has a second generation in late summer.  While the larva are eating other people's onions and pupating, I will have a respite and the onions will be able to develop without protection - or that is the theory anyway.  

I hate having to protect the onions and leeks.  These are the two vegetables that rarely had any problems at all in the olden days and could be left to fare for themselves during the summer.  

I do not take off the enviromesh covering the carrots.  After thinning them out on Tuesday, it was too much of a risk to leave them exposed.  It seems that the carrot root fly Psila rosae does not have a dormant period as far as I have experienced.  So I leave the barrier on all season.  Weeding and thinning is a faff but worth while when you see the lovely carrots that you have produced under the netting.  

I sowed more Hamburg parsley and spinach.  I made a drill with the back of the rake then watered it with dilute comfrey liquid.  A little mychorrhizal fungi spores were put at the bottom of the drill and the seeds were sown on top.  The soil was carefully replaced using the rake and tamped down gently.  I like to water the seeds immediately after sowing and then regularly until they germinate.  

I am getting about a kilo of strawberries off the plants every time I pick them.  Maybe five 25 foot rows is a little excessive but I do like strawberries.  

I keep taking the immature Webb's Wonderful lettuce for salad leaves.  As I have taken out the rocket I cannot add these to the leaves but I am using the spinach instead.  

I have been given 6 beefsteak tomatoes by Fred.  I have bought four of them home to put into the greenhouse but two are in pots on the allotment.  I used Fred's home made compost to plant them in putting in mychorrhizal fungi next to the roots.  These outdoor plants will probably get blight before they fruit heavily but the ones in the greenhouse will compensate - hopefully.

I took another crop of sweet cicely and put it into the comfrey bins.  Hopefully this will add to the potency of the comfrey liquid.  It certainly seems to be doing everything good.  Have a look at the photographs for the end of May.  

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Now its just weeding and feeding

Not that you can feed plants because they make their own food using carbon dioxide and water in the process we call photosynthesis.

This is why I always  write that I am putting fertiliser on the plants.  Sometimes I will use the word nutrients but whatever you use it is not food.

I went along the rows weeding and hoeing and got down as far as the leeks.  I would really like to put some more leeks in but there is no room.   I may have to take out some of the onions that have been affected by the onion miner fly.  This will give me more room for the leeks.  I thought that I had lost some leek seed that I had sown in the greenhouse.  Actually I had used the pot to transplant a celeriac into.  I  have put the celeriac outside now to harden off and the leek seeds have germinated and grown in the pot with the celeriac.  I was just about to weed the celeriac pot when I noticed that these were the lost leeks.

They will be transplanted into 3 inch pots, grown on and planted out at the end of June.

I have another oca! That makes three now.  I know that it is a bit sad to be so excited about three oca plants but, in my defence, it is the first time I have grown them.  I am a very traditional gardener and all these new vegetables seem to have crept up and overtaken me without me really being aware of them.  This will change.

Oca has a leaf not unlike black medic Medicago lupulina.  Black medic is a funny name for a plant with yellow flowers but I think the black refers to the seed.  It seems that the latin name refers to where the Greeks got it from and its flowers resemblance to hops.

I planted some more turnips, however I planted these in the pea bed because there was no room in the brassicae bed.  I'm not too sure whether I am happy with this because it is Brassica rapa var. rapifera -  the Japanese turnip and I am sowing it out of the strict rotation.  Still, I am interested in whether it does actually taste like melon or not and if it does, I want lots of it.  

I took out all the rocket because it was going to seed.  Its leaves were starting to look like lace because of the damage by the flea beetle.  I will resow later but now I will put some more spinach and Hamburg parsley in.  

I wanted to sow some more radish but I cannot for the life of me find the packet of seed.  I have tried planting in a pot so that I do not have to trape down to the allotment every time I want radish for salad.  The planting radish in a pot was not successful and, to top it all, it seems that I have lost the packet of seed as well.  I will look a little more carefully in the greenhouse today.