Tuesday, 30 August 2011

You might think that digging over the potato bed has become a long term project.

Still doing a prodigious amount of cropping.  A good harvest this year.

Now you might think that I am taking an interminably long time digging over the potato bed but you are disregarding the opportunity of putting a lot of unwanted stuff in the bottom of a large trench.  If you take out a trench about 2ft wide and 2 ft deep then you can bury an awful lot of stuff in it.  However, I think that I have overdone it a little again.  I have a lot of tourists from the rest of the allotment site coming to look into my trench and ask how much higher I am going to make the allotment beds.

Double digging

I would take a photograph if I hadn't lost my camera.  That just reminded me to look for it again and I have found it in my desk draw, so there may be a picture.  I just need to remember to take some photographs now. The allotment has started to look a little untidy because a lot of vegetables have been harvested and I have not been able to plant green manures - because I have been double digging the potato bed.

It has been taking me so long because I have been looking around the allotment for things to bury while I have a big trench to put them in.  I have buried all of the three year old strawberries and, while I was at it, I planted some of the stolon offsets  in three inch pots using bought peat free compost.  I am going to move the strawberry patch up to where the brassicas are now. They don't seem to survive under a canopy of potato foliage and that is what is going to be planted in the strawberry and roots bed next year.  It helps to sort the strawberries out if I move them.  I can put them into neat rows about 1ft apart, give them a little fertiliser in the form of comfrey inoculated charcoal and maybe a little mychorrhizal fungi. They really  need to be moved now  because I want them settled in before the weather gets too cold.  I'll move them with a large clump of soil so that they will not get too much of a shock and plant them immediately.  I usually get a good crop of strawberries even when treating them like this.  I am hoping to get at least two rows of brand new plants from the plantlets in the pots.

I also cut out the old fruited raspberry canes, cut them up and put them in the trench.  I had several of the canes that grew over seven feet tall.  Is there something about this height of plant and my allotment?  The pink fir apples were this length as well but they were flopping over each other so they did not look 7ft tall.

So I will say again there is absolutely no substance in the internet myth that raspberries and potatoes should not be planted close together.  The only disadvantage that I can see is that the raspberries may shade the potatoes and even this can be alleviated if the raspberries are planted north to south as mine are.

The new raspberry canes were tied onto several wires stretched across the row.  I have three tree stakes, one at each end and one in the middle, holding up the row and two bamboo canes,  got from the inside of rolls of carpets, tied across the top.  Putting the canes across the tops helps to stop the tree stakes from leaning in when the wires are tightened.  Although you don't need to, I reduced the tops to about six inches above the bamboo canes.  I don't need to be greedy  and the unsupported tops will probably break off during the winter anyway.

I don't know how but perennial hedge bind weed, Calystegia sepium  a pernicious weed, reared its ugly head in the raspberries.  There was nothing for it but to take three raspberries out and dig around until all the bindweed rhizomes were discovered and removed.  I doubt that I have found them all so there will be a continuing battle to remove it all over the next few years.  The raspberries are right next to the path so I think that I may have to lift the slabs to see if rhizomes have gone under them.  This is where I put that 3ft x 2ft two inch thick beggar of a concrete slab, which I vowed never to move again, and I am not really inclined to give it another opportunity to fall on my foot.

I replanted the raspberry canes straight away not giving the roots time to dry out and then watered them in with rainwater.  The shed butt has nearly filled up over the last week or so now that it has rained a little.  Several of the canes were ones that I kept from the old row.  These were given to me in 1982 when I took over the allotment and they were a diverse range of raspberry varieties.  I thought that I had only kept the best ones but it seems that one of the varieties I kept produces very small raspberries.  They taste pleasantly sweet but they are very time consuming when picking so I decided not to replant this raspberry and plant another that a fellow allotmenteer  had given me.  I am not sure of the variety.  It was only one plant but I am told that it begins to fruit in July and carries on until the autumn.  Needless to say, it did not fruit at all  this year.

I healed in some Autumn Bliss next to the tap butt last year and they are producing raspberries now but I do not have any room to put them with the other raspberries.  They don't seem to grow as large as the summer fruiting raspberries so I think that I will keep them apart.

I went down the trackway cutting back the hedges and the trees overhanging.  These trimmings went into the bottom of the trench as well.  There is an oak tree that is beginning to shade my allotment with its overhanging branches so I would like to get up a ladder and take them off.  If I do they will go into the bottom of the trenches too.

The next thing I did was to cut out the fruited canes of the blackberry.  It has done very well this year so I am keen on training next years fruiting stems onto the climbing frame supports.  This will prevent the stems from being blown about in the wind and getting damaged. I might buy another blackberry so that I can say to my daughter I have a brand new blackberry and it only cost me a few quid.  Much better than an iphone.

The cabbages that were left over have gotten rather moth eaten - or rather slug eaten, so I decided to take these out and put them in the trench.  I cut off the roots because I never bury them and took them home to put into the green bin.  There were some with club root which I think has come from the compost from the compost mountain.  This has taught me a lesson - do not take home made compost from alien allotments -just in case. Please note I am not being jingoistic - all allotments except my own are foreign and I should have remembered my rule of not accepting plants, compost or soil from other allotments.

The cabbage tops went into the bottom of the trench with all the other unwanted organic matter.  Some of my part rotted compost went on top and then the bottom spit of soil was replaced with the good topsoil on top of that.
If all that woody material does take nitrogen out of the soil then I don't care at this depth because it is much lower than my top soil.  My own brand of Hugelkultur...

Now I have a problem.  I am running out of things to bury so I am resorting to the shreddings left in the bins by the front gate.  They are mostly laurel shreddings but there are other hedge plants in there as well.  It is all grist to the mill.

You might be wondering why I dig deep trenches two spits down and fill them with woody material.  I could tell you that this is to improve the drainage of the allotment,  or to introduce a large amount of carbon to the soil which can be incorporated into the upper layers  when it has decomposed, or to prevent this material from being burnt and releasing valuable nutrients to the atmosphere or a number of other very valid reasons.

But the truth of it is, I just like digging big holes.

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