I was the only idiot down the allotment today. It was very cold. I went up to finish off digging in the manure into the sweet pea bed. The soil here is very good now but it needs levelling out . I have still to put up the supporting posts for the sweet pea canes but this can be done later. I am going to put cross pieces on the posts so that the canes can be attached vertically rather than sloped. After some thought, it is better to keep the tops of the plants away from each other because they just grow into each other and this encourages pests and diseases. Also it is more difficult to take off the side shoots and and tendrils.
There is some thought that you should dig over roughly and leave the weather to break down the clods of soil. Well, I religiously did this year after year until I suddenly realised that the weather was not having any effect on the soil and the person who broke up the clods of soil was me.
If I am going to have to break up the soil, I might as well do it while I am digging rather than later on in the early spring. So I have broken up the soil with a fork and raked it over to make it fairly level and presentable. It will have to be done again in the spring but it will not take a lot of time to go over it once or twice more with the rake.
There is a bit of horse manure left on the sweet pea bed band I am going to dig this in where the celery is going to go. I am going to take out a trench and sieve in horse and pigeon muck. I will plant the celery at the bottom of the trench and keep the trench as damp as I can during the spring and summer. With any luck I will get some good celery plants.
Rather than start on the top allotment, I decided to go down and tidy the comfrey bed. I wanted to plant some autumn fruiting raspberries here so I decided to do this too. It was not the best time to transplant the raspberries because the temperature was about 2oC. However, it was either plant now or throw the plants away. The raspberries were planted with a good dose of mychorrhizal fungi but nothing else. Although it was very cold, the wind was drying the roots out and I wanted them covered as soon as possible.
I didn't water them in because the soil was very wet verging on waterlogged.
Along the side of the comfrey bed I am planting a small 150mm hedge of Locinera nitidia one of the shrubby honey suckles. I am putting some mychorrhizal fungi on these plants' roots as well. The theory is that these mychorrhiza will form associations with the Locinera nitidia and grow out to the comfrey making associations with them as well. The hyphae will then forage for nutrients from the surrounding soil passing some of them to the comfrey. As this part of the allotment is at the bottom of the hill, all the nutrients leeching out of the other allotments will pass through this part of my allotment and the fungi will be able to tap into this. My comfrey will potentially be fed by all the nutrients that other people are putting on their allotments. Thus I will get comfrey liquid fertiliser fortified by other allotment holders. I doubt very much if this will happen but I like to think that it will.
I then when to straightening the lines of comfrey plants which was quite difficult because they have died right back and I could not find them. Eventually I found some of the roots and put them in the line. Any that come up in the wrong place later in the spring will be moved onto the correct line.
I just threw in the original lines of comfrey so they were all over the place. The new lines of comfrey just followed the old ones. They were fairly straight but going a little diagonally across the bed and this was annoying me. Now they are straight and parallel to the new potato bed.
I have mulched the Vitis vinifera with some of the stones that I took out of the soil. I have chosen stones that are smooth and about the size of my fist. It looks just like Ground Force.
A black dustbin has been put over one of the Victoria rhubarb plants. I have put some horse muck around the bin to warm up the soil around the plant. I will do the same for as many of the other rhubarb plants as I can. With any luck I will have some forced rhubarb for the early spring. The rhubarb is not showing yet. It really needed this cold snap to prod it into growth. Unless February is particularly cold, I will expect to see some buds developing fairly soon.
I have ordered the Nemaslug nematodes and they will probably be coming in March. I will have enough nematodes to cover the whole of the top beds. I am hoping that they will reduce the population of slugs and snails enough so that I can get some fairly large plants this year. You can tell where they are at the moment because they are eating the green manure. All around the edge of the allotment the green manures are stunted and eaten back. When the beer runs out, I am going to try the sugar water and yeast trap to find out if it is better than beer.
JBA potatoes has just sent an email saying that the seed potatoes will be delayed a little due to the frosts and cold weather. I am not worried at all because keeping them alive during cold spells like this is quite difficult. I would rather have them later and be able to put them out into the cold greenhouse to chit.
The celery and the tomatoes are growing on now but they are a little drawn. I will plant them quite deep in three inch pots and see if they develop a little more robustly. Regardless of the weather, I will still carry on planting seeds through February.
The weather is getting decidedly colder and little can be done when the ground is frozen. I think that I will be shutting the allotment down for the next week or so. In other words, I will be keeping in the warm until the weather decides to get a little warmer.