January is not the tidiest month on the allotment particularly when digging is taking place. This is a working allotment and not very pretty at this time of year. While some jobs are going on, other jobs have to wait their turn. At the moment stones are being removed from the new potato bed.
|Here are some of the stones I have removed from the soil|
This is probably the most untidy part of the allotment. This is the comfrey bed and most of the comfrey has died back leaving only one or two scraggy leaves showing. I need to clear the stone from this part of the allotment as well now that I can see it. The two green bins and the dust bins behind them are full of comfrey, nettle and sweet cicely tea. The new blue bin is 210 litre and I have run a pipe from the guttering to the bin. The old store shed has lost some of its roofing felt in the resent gales and this needs to replaced before the stored vegetables get wet. We had some very high winds on the allotment over the new year and this has caused quite a bit of damage on the allotment site. I got away quite lightly. The main shed was not damaged but I still think that I will cover the roof with some more roofing felt because I have enough to do that shed as well.
The blue worm bin and the pallets will be moved off this area because there is a rat in there. I need to clear it out and make sure that it has no reason to stay. I will be putting the old sundial up again somewhere on the allotment. I did select somewhere but I have forgotten where.
This is the soil I am sieving out the stones from. I am going down two spits and mixing in this horse muck and a little pigeon muck too. It is remarkable how easily it is mixed in with the soil but I am getting a little fed up of doing this now. It is worth it and you can see how many stones I am removing from it. I am surprised that the level of the soil has not gone down but I am adding a lot of the manure so this might be compensating to some degree. I always like to work with a lot of tubs. Each one has its job and they are very useful. I am using my second fork and spade because I do not want to get my best ones broken on the stones. My one and only gooseberry bush is doing well and I have pruned it as advised by the RHS website to make a bowl shape. I did not throw away the prunings and they are the cuttings you can see along the curbing slabs.
It looks like it is going to be a dry week this week so I will attempt to finish this area by the weekend. It is slow going though. Mixing in the horse and pigeon muck is the time consuming task. The mixed top soil that am getting is well worth while and I will be pleased when I finish it. Still, think of all the exercise you are getting Tone!
Still got a few herbs on the go. I am mostly using the thyme. There are some box cuttings here as well. I am going to plant a lot more herbs in pots this year. The chamomile will be planted in the roots bed though. I need to buy a rosemary bush or get some cuttings from someone. It is bit too late to do it now. I am hoping that the thyme between the paving slabs will recover from being over shadowed by the potatoes last season.
I have been using the rocket throughout the winter and the broad beans continue to flower producing absolutely nothing at all. There is a line of clover in here as well as a green manure.
You can just see the American land cress Barbarea verna behind the plastic closhes. The cress and the rocket are being used in salads and sandwiches. I have put cloches over the garlic. It doesn't need protection like this but I wanted to see if I could make it grow faster. There is more clover in the foreground. The bare patch is where the oca was. I got some little tubers from the plants. I have not eaten any because I am going to plant all of them this season and see if I can get some bigger tubers.
The slope down is north facing and this means that the plants here are a little behind. Also the germination was not as good and the lines are a bit threadbare. This soil has had a lot of leaves and weeds dug in deeply. I might add a little more chicken fertiliser where I am going to plant the pumpkins, courgettes and squashes but I am only going to lightly lime where the onions are going to go. The green manures will be dug in as well.
The raspberry canes have stood up to the winter gales very well. As you can see they are as tall as the shed and I cut them down so that they would not be more than about 6 inches above the top wire. I have kept some strawberries in pots just in case any in the strawberry bed don't grow. The wind has blown Mr S. board onto my path. I put this cloche over the broad beans but they did not like it and they are rotting off below it. I am going to leave the cloche here because it is over some tulips too. I think that the tulips will appreciate the extra warmth that the cloche will provide.
I still have leeks and celeriac on the new sweet pea bed and it will be the next area to be dug. I will just dig up to them and wait until we use the leeks. The leeks are covered by enviromesh to protect against the leek miner fly Phytomyza gymnostoma. It is not flying about at the moment because it spends winter in the larva stage but there is no harm in taking precautions. I have used the X cupressocyparis laylandii shreddings to cover the pathway to prevent weeds from growing. Furthermore, I planted box and Locinera nitidia alongside the path to keep the the shreddings off the soil. The plants are only little at the moment, however I will keep them about ankle high even after they mature.
The pumpkins rotted away in the shed so I put them out to be dug into the soil. Nothing needs to be wasted on an allotment. It is a shame that the pumpkin didn't last any longer. I was pumpkined out because of all the soup and pies I ate at the end of last year. I am going to soup the last of the big leeks.
When I have finished sieving out the stone from the potato bed, I will dig this are over. I was going to sieve this soil too. It does not need sieving but it does mix in the horse and pigeon manure really well. The sweet pea posts will be put in as soon as the area is dug over. In addition to the horse and pigeon manure this are will have chicken manure added. I will not put very much on though.
The old family plum tree has lots of bulbs and corms planted around it. The cyclamen are just coming into flower now. I am hoping that the iris will start to flower with them as they did last year.
The Victoria plum seemed to take over the family tree and, as it became very diseased, I cut off the Victoria Plum part of it. I am hoping that this will allow the other plum varieties to grow on now. There are various different green manures on the new brassica bed. Grazing rye, clover and winter tares. I planted them late so they are not very big at the moment.
There is a lot of weed on this area too and I was going to put the hoe through the young weed seedlings. However, they will be dug in long before they are big enough to flower and seed so I will use them as additional green manure. There are a lot of sweet pea seedlings in there as well and I might use these if I have any failures from the bought seed. Last year I did the same but they did not mature very well mainly because of flea beetle damage. This new brassica bed had last seasons sweet pea and runner beans dug into it. I will be liming it quite heavily because I have club root on the allotment again. The Brussel sprouts and the brocolli will not have any additional fertiliser added for them. The rest of the brassicas will have chicken manure added at planting time and then be fed on comfrey liquid.
I am getting very irritated with this post. I don't know if it is the blackberry holding up the post or the post holding up the blackberry. The post is tied to the frame using wire and nylon string. It would not take much effort to free it from the frame and reposition it so that it is not leaning over. As with all these things it is just organising yourself to do it. The black berry still has leaves on it and is growing well. I wont be adding much fertilizer or doing much else until it has fruited.
The purple sprouting brocolli is still not flowering although it is very big and lounging over everything else. Next year I must only put one row in. I put three rows in last season - why? The strawberries are doing well but they have been taken over by poached egg plants. They will be taken out when I dig this area over for the peas and beans.
I am looking forward to the winter cauliflowers producing some big curds. They have grown well and been protected by the brocolli and the Brussel sprouts to some degree. Usually by this time they have died right back and are looking very sorry for themselves but this year they are very good.
I have prodigious amounts of Brussel sprouts this year. I have given them away and eaten them since December and I still have this many left. This season I will only grow Trafalgar and only two lines of them. There is some club root in these plants and this is the first time I have seen club root on the allotment for over ten years. Liming, rotating and growing resistant varieties will help to eradicate it with any luck. It doesn't seem to have done the brocolli or the Brussel sprouts any harm. I would not have wanted the plants to grow any bigger than they did. The plant pot was blown there by the gales.
I have put the tarpaulin over this part of the allotment so that I can prepare it for the leafy veg like celery, celeriac, spinach and lettuce. I have put beer traps under the tarpaulin and used ferric phosphate pellets. I have also been lifting the tarpaulin and removing slugs by gloved hand. I will be using the nematode Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita here to prevent slugs getting onto the lettuce. I will not use the nematodes until the soil has warmed up considerably. Early April will be the very earliest I can do this. This area of the allotment is very prone to slug damage. There is a spring in the far corner of this part of the allotment which I have piped down to where I am taking the photograph. Even though most of the water is taken off the allotment the soil here can be very wet in the winter. This attracts the slugs. I will be fertilising this area quite a bit with chicken manure and comfrey liquid to ensure there is enough nitrogen in the soil for the leafy vegetables. The tubs are full of stones and water to keep the tarpaulin from flying away.
I am using grazing rye green manure for the roots bed. This will be dug in in the spring. This soil has already had last season's peas and beans dug in. I also dug in a lot of annual weeds that people have given me. It should be fertile enough now and not need any more fertiliser added.
And that is what the allotment looks like in January. It is not the most attractive of gardens but that is not what it is there for. It is a working vegetable growing allotment and that is what it is optimised to do.
I am still harvesting vegetables - today it was parsnips and Brussel sprouts. Lovely jubbly...