Friday, 30 March 2012

Using turf on the allotment.

Although it might be too early and they might be caught by the frost,  I have planted all the potatoes.  I have ridged them up so that they will not emerge for a couple of weeks but this may not protect them after they have grown higher than the ridges.  I will have to make sure that they are protected in some way later in April.

A friend of mine has left a big pile of turfs on the allotment.  I was considering what to do with them until Ed came over.  I asked him if he wanted my left over potatoes. He said that he always put left over potatoes on the compost heap, not to rot down but to grow on.  He said that he got some really big potatoes that way.

The compost heaps had been cleared out and used during the winter digging so there was nothing in the compost bins.  However, I did have some turf and there was some bits of cow muck, leaves and lawn mowings in the bins by the gate.  So, together with weeds from another allotment I proceeded to make a new compost heap.  The allotment society had just had a big bonfire and the ashes could be used by anyone.  Ashes are alkaline and are said to have a lot of potash in them so they would make a good substitute for lime.  The turfs would provide the top soil and the cow muck, leaves, lawn mowings and weeds would make up the organic layer.  It took me about an hour to fill one of the compost bins putting potatoes near the edges as the layers were built up.

I am hoping to get a good harvest of potatoes when I take the compost apart.  I may put a pumpkin on this compost heap as well.

I finished constructing the supports for the climbing French beans.  These supports are poles made from tree branches.  As I have been cutting poles from the hedge running down the side of the allotment, I had far too many.  I think that I might need some for the runner beans so I will have to store them somewhere.  The allotment is filling up and there is little space for storing anything.

Two rows of peas were planted and watered in with some of the bamboo charcoal.  I put chicken wire up for one of the rows but the other row is right under the winter cauliflowers so I just put some plastic cloches over them.  I am letting the peas climb up the outside of the chicken wire this year just to see how they do.  They are more difficult to harvest if they are inside the chicken wire supports.

The winter cauliflowers are growing remarkably well now but they have not formed cauliflowers yet.  They always take much longer than I want them to.  I need the space now.  It is a good job that I am trying to grow peas in succession because otherwise I would need the ground to plant peas in.
Winter cauliflowers are looking much better
than this now.
I made the protective barrier for the alliums out of blue plastic water pipe and a large piece of enviromesh.  The enviromesh was very expensive but it had to be bought to get any onions at all.  My other pieces of enviromesh, I bought over 20 years ago, are still very useful.  This makes it sound a lot more economical.  The mesh is covering the garlic and I will plant the shallots underneath it in the next couple of weeks.  The onions are still growing on in the greenhouse.  They will have to be a lot bigger before I put them out.

I cut two big branches off an overhanging oak tree to give the allotment more light.  The larger ones are about 5 inches in diameter.  I was going to give them away to someone who uses them in their wood burning stove.  However, I have changed my mind and am going to make a new Hugelkultur bed with them.

The trench will be about three spits deep and a layer of couch grass and dock turfs will be put at the bottom.  The branches and brushwood will be put in next and the gaps filled with shredded branches.  Leaves and lawn mowing will be put on top of that and finally a layer of turfs will top it off.   The top soil will be sieved back into the trench. Inoculated charcoal and chicken manure will be mixed in as the soil is being sieved. I may use some of the lime to mix in as well.

 If there is any subsoil in the trench, I am going to remove it and put it in the empty compost bin to be mixed in with the compost,.

I am glad the weather is getting colder because it stops me from sowing seeds and planting too early.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Seed sowing and potato planting.

The carrots, parsnips, salsify and scorzonera  seeds have been sown with bamboo charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi added to the drills.  This is much earlier than I usually sow seeds.  I am just hoping the good weather does not change.

Initially the ground was prepared by hoeing; using the long armed, three pronged cultivator and raking.  The ground was shuffle consolidated and raked again to make a fine tilth.    Shuffle consolidation is where you walk along the lines in a shuffle gate.  It is demonstrated admirably in: "The Victorian Kitchen Garden" for May on U Tube

Being taught gardening by my grandfather and father, this is the way we always prepared a seed bed.  How do you do this on a little raised bed?  Seeds seem to germinate much better in firm ground with a good tilth.

Two rows of Kestrel potatoes have been planted with a little inoculated bamboo charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi in each of the planting holes.

I planted the potatoes using a trowel, digging the holes about 20cm deep.   After planting, the soil was pulled up on top of them to make ridges.  I never used to earth up the potatoes like this until I saw the potato plants poking their heads above the soil.  Doing it straight after planting does seem to save time, although I do like to earth up at least two more times during the season to cover the potato tubers that poke their heads out of the ridges.

I still have some more potatoes to plant but I have made a really good start.

I took six trays of pea plants up to the allotment to plant out.  I did not get a chance to plant them because I was replacing the roofing felt on the store shed.  It took quite a time because I wanted to remove all the other damaged roofing felt.  It turned out there were four layers of felt, all with their own set of nails.  The roof itself was not in a very good condition because water was being trapped under the felt, rotting the wood.

When the felt was eventually removed the wood was painted with preservative and new felt put on.  It took all day but it was done with a little bit of care and hopefully not need redoing for a long while.

Some very strawy cow manure has been delivered to the allotment site and I have had a little to make some hot beds with.  I may use some more to construct a really good compost heap.  A good friend has left some fine turfs on the allotment and I will use these in the compost heap as well.

I am working again tomorrow so I will not be able to do much but I will have to go and water the pea plants or I will loose them all.

"Golden Acre" Cabbages and "All the year round" cauliflowers have been put out to harden off.  I will be taking these to the allotment to plant out soon.

The Alium ascalonicum have grown a little too big for their pots.  I don't want to plant them out at the moment because I have no protection ready for them.  I am potting them on into larger pots so they can grow on with the greenhouse as protection.

There are plenty of seeds and seedlings developing well in the greenhouse.  This remarkably unseasonal weather is bringing everything on so much quicker than usual.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Allotment photographs March 2012

I think that it is important to show the allotment how it is and not particularly tidied up.  This blog is more of an allotment diary than a how to.  This is how I grow things.  I hope the blog does help others to grow plants but it is not the primary purpose.  So don't expect the photographs to show a pristine allotment.

Allotment looking up the hill.
The sundial will stay in the comfrey bed this year.  It keeps good time.  The old metal watering cans are full of wood ash.  I am going to use it as a top dressing for various things. The tree in the foreground is a pear.  I don't really like pears but three were given to me so I planted them.

The comfrey is starting to grow back now.  I am hoping that it is in straight lines.  If it isn't I will take it all out and replant.  I can't be doing with it all over the place.  There are lots of things being left on the allotment where they will be used in the next couple of weeks

It looks fairly straight at the moment.  I will take the Pulmonaria officinalis out and plant it somewhere else.  I thought that it was comfrey because it did not have white spots on its leaves.  This variety does not have white spots.  Three watering cans are full of wood ash ready to put on as top dressing.
I still haven't got round to putting new roofing felt onto the store shed.  It really needs doing but I will be busy over the next few days planting and sowing.  This area will look a lot tidier when I have put up all the supports for the beans and peas.

I have put in one and a quarter rows of Red Duke of York and another early potato.  I will be planting the kestrel potatoes soon.  The gooseberry bush and cuttings are growing strongly now. I may even get some gooseberries this year.  The bins at the back are over the rhubarb to force them.  I took one off the Champaign rhubarb and picked some of the blanched stems.  I haven't eaten them yet but I expect them to be very sweet.

The raspberry canes' buds are bursting.  The canes have survived the winter well and none of them have broken off in the wind. I have been using the water out of the blue butt.

There is not much water left in the bin and there does not seem to be any rain in prospect.

 The tulips are flowering in March!  The pink ones are early but I think that this is earlier than I have ever had tulips.  How can you be a gardener and see things like this and not be convinced that there is global warming?
You can't have too many tubs and baskets.

The garlic is not growing too well at the moment.  I have given them some comfrey liquid and a good watering to see if this cheers them up.  I will cover them with enviromesh supported by the black tubing. The rocket and American land cress are both past their best now and I am leaving them to flower.  I am hoping to get some seed from them to plant this year.

My herbs have survived the winter.  I have parsley, thyme, lemon balm, fennel and mint.  The tub is just useful to put things in.  You can never have too many tubs.
This is where I crush the charcoal and you can see the residues on the slabs in front of the shed.
I have already taken out a row of leeks.  These are not doing too bad but I know that in April they will start to get eaten by the Phytomyza gymnostoma.  Although they are not very big, I will take these out to eat during the next couple of weeks.  In any case I need the ground to plant my runner beans.  I will probably plant three rows of runner beans.  As I collected my own seed, I have plenty to sow.  They will also aid in increasing the fertility of the soil when I dig them in at the end of the year.  I have put in a new drainage pipe alongside the allotment here.  That is why the trackway looks so untidy.

I have planted out all the sweet pea seedlings.  I planted them with some inoculated, crushed lump charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi.  This is probably why I am running out of fungi.
There are about 187 plants in 11 rows.  I think that I have already written this but I will repeat myself so that I will remember the order.  Pale lavender Honeymoon and White Supreme on the far left near the sheds.  Next are cerise Restormel and mauve Eclipse.  After that are rose, pink Angela Ann and orange pink Lizbeth.  My favorite ice blue Oban Bay and cream Jilly come next. A very robust, bright pink Gwendoline with pink picotee Anniversary are in the next row and finally salmon cream Nora Holman.  A few too many pinks this year but these are the varieties that grow strongly and produce good flowers.
 The Rubus fruticosa buds are starting to burst now.  It has kept its leaves throughout the winter although it did loose a lot during the few cold snaps we have had.  The sweet cicely is beginning to grow quite large now.

The new brassica bed has had both lime and wood ash added.  I have just raked it to incorporate the fertilisers.  The brassicae seedlings are starting to get quite big and will need to go out into the allotment quite soon now.

 The Ribes nigrum have had a really good mulch of old horse manure.  This will give them a good damp root run.  They are "hungry feeders/?"  and take a lot of nutrient from the soil.  With this in mind I am applying some diluted comfrey liquid fertiliser once a week.  I am still finding a few big buds on the canes.  Cecidophyopsis ribis  can be a persistent little beggar but I seem to have removed the major infested branches.  As I cut the bushes so hard back last year in order to get rid of big bud mite all the new growth is fruit bearing.  Hopefully,  I will have a really good crop this year.

The Fragaria ananassa  have had a mulch of straw.  This is the first time I have ever put straw down for strawberries.  I  doubt that it will have any effect on the crop but it will keep the mud off the strawberry fruits.  It also looks quite impressive.
This is my viburnum, primula and grape hyacinths.  I planted them mainly to keep the soil from washing through holes between the slabs.  However, they are a pleasant splash of colour this time of year.
  Too much ground,  too big and too little to harvest from it.  I am not impressed with this purple sprouting broccoli.  One small row near the shed for this year.  I am going to crop it until I need the ground for peas or beans but it is not a very economical crop at all.  I think that the ground is far too rich for it.  It needs very poor ground to produce a lot of purple flower clusters.
The winter cauliflowers on the other hand are growing large and will produce very big cauliflowers in a couple of weeks.  I am very happy with these.  They are being given comfrey liquid fertiliser and being watered regularly.  They have also watered some of the anti slug nematodes Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita underneath them.  They are in the ground for a long time but they do reward you well.  Also there are no cabbage white caterpillars in them which is a big bonus for cauliflowers.
The wire is ready to put up to support the peas.  They will be going out very soon.  I will be putting up some poles for the climbing French beans on the right of this picture.
Carrots seeds have been sown and covered with enviromesh supported by cloche wires.   This is to protect the carrots from Psila rosae. I bury the enviromesh in the soil all the way round the seed rows.  This keeps the enviromesh securely anchored to the ground even in very windy weather.  The mesh can be removed for weeding whenever. The time to do this during the day is on my blog about carrot root fly.  The carrot seeds were watered in with some inoculated bamboo charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi was put along the rows.  There are four rows under the protective barrier very thinly sown.

I will be planting other roots near to the carrots but this end of the bed will be the leaves.  This will include parcel, celery, chard, lettuce, fennel and celeriac.  I have watered Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita over the whole of this bed and have had to keep it damp by watering with rain water.  I am hoping that there will be little slug damage because I have been putting beer traps under the tarpaulin all winter.  The bucket is full of stone and rubbish and I am using it to weigh the tarpaulin down.  You can never have too many tubs.
The allotment looking down the hill.  There is a path running left to right just at the end of the carrot mesh barrier.  You can't see it because the allotment soil is raised up.  It looks like the roots bed runs right into where the brassicas are.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

The start of the busy period on the allotment

I have planted all the sweet peas now and still have room for the runner beans.  It has taken me several days to get them all in but I have impressed myself with the patients I have undertaken the task.  I have not written down the varieties in my book which will cause problems if I loose the small labels.  I usually do a sketch to show the row each variety is in.  I will have to do that tomorrow.

I think that the reward of lots of flowers will be good enough to compensate for the aching legs.  I am getting too old for this crouching down to plant bit of gardening.  Why can't plants grow at chest level?

I planted two early potato varieties.  One was "Red Duke of York" but I can't remember what the other one was.  I put some bamboo charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi in each of the planting holes.  I am seriously running out of mychorrhizal fungi now.  I was going to put tomatoes in ring culture pots alongside the path but I don't think that I will have room now.  However, I have a cunning plan and will put them elsewhere.

I have watered the winter cauliflowers with comfrey liquid again to keep them growing well.  I also put some on the leeks, the garlic and strawberries.

Believe it or not the tulips are beginning to flower now - in March!  I watered these with comfrey liquid too.

The carrots have been sown - before the parsnips!  I was going to plant the parsnips as well but I ran out of time.  Not to worry though because thinning and watering will give me large roots regardless.

The carrots were planted with a little of the bamboo charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi.    The old, wire cloche supports were put in over the carrot seed drills and covered with enviromesh to act as a barrier and keep the Psila rosea off the seedlings.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Just planted the sweet peas.

Plans go out of the window when other things get in the way.  I had several jobs to do in the morning but got round to preparing the Brussel sprouts for dinner.  I also washed some broccoli and potatoes.  This is really all that is available from the allotment apart from some manky parsnips and carrots.

It took me quite a while to fill the car with the sweet pea seedlings.  I could not put all the pots in the car so had to leave four varieties behind.  When I got down to the allotment, several people wanted to chat about allotmenty type things.  This took up at least 45 minutes.

Only then could the sweet pea seedlings be planted.  Honeymoon, Lipstick, Jilly, Gwendoline, Epicure, White supreme, Lizbeth, Angela Ann,  Eclipse and Anniversary.  I have still to plant Oban Bay, Nora Holman and Restormel.  Lizbeth has a particularly good scent.

When they were planted some inoculated charcoal and mychorrhizal fungi were added to the planting hole.  I would like to say that these helped the sweet peas to produce large amounts of flower last year.  However, this is just anecdotal evidence and needs to be tested scientifically before any major claims can be verified.

Planting sweet pea seedlings takes up a large amount of time but I do not resent it particularly if they all come well.  It does mean that there was no time to plant anything else.  It's a good job I have so much on the go in the greenhouse.

Now that I have planted out the sweet peas, I have a lot of pots and labels which will be washed and used again for various seedlings that need to be transplanted or potted on.  I reckon that I will have used all the pots and labels at least twice this year.

This is what allotment gardening is all about.  Growing vegetables and flowers with the least expense possible.  Someone has left some plant pots by the gate for anyone to have.  They need to be washed carefully to make sure that they are not carrying disease.  I reckon that I will have some of them and wash them with the empty sweet pea pots.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Putting up the sweet pea canes

It was raining this morning so I went into the greenhouse to do a little more transplanting.  I needed some more Bedfordshire Champion onions so I put these into sectioned trays.  Winter cauliflower and broccoli was sown, although this may be very early to do this.  I also put in some runner beans to see if I could keep them alive until they go into the ground at the end of April.

Then I went down to the allotment where I spent the rest of the day putting in sweet pea canes.  It takes an interminable time to do them all but now they are finished I can get on with planting the sweet pea plants.

Tomorrow I will plant some carrots and parsnips.  I will cover the carrots with enviromesh using the wire cloche supports.  I will take the enviromesh off the leeks because I am going to use the leeks.  I will also plant one line of 20 early potatoes.  These will be red Duke of York.

I have weeded between the tulips, which are flowering now about a month earlier than they should be.

Today it sleeted, hailed, rained and was very warm in the sun.  Typical English weather.

Time for a cup of tea.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Seed sowing and transplanting.

Spent most of today sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings.  I have put the Mammoth onions into large pots to grow on.  The Vision onions were put into smaller pots because they will be put into the allotment sooner.  Vision is a good storing onion and can last throughout the winter if they are treated correctly.  The large onions will have to be eaten quite quickly because they will not store very well.

I transplanted some turnips into sectioned trays.  This is the first time that I have done this because I usually plant straight into the allotment soil and thin out.  I am going to try to get some big turnips this year so that I can give one to my daughter when she is reading "The Enormous Turnip".

Apart from this, last year they were particularly well eaten by cabbage root flies so I want to see if I can grow some better ones this year.

I have sown both swede and kohlrabi into sectioned trays for similar reasons.  The celeriac seedlings have been  transplanted into sectioned trays as have the second sowing of celery.

More lettuce and All the Year Round cauliflowers were sown for succession. Regardless of the fact that I have far too many already.

Other brassicas sown today are calabrese and "Trafalgar" Brussel sprouts.  I still need to sow the winter cauliflowers and the broccoli.

I have sown some French climbing beans to see if I can get an early crop.  Most would say that it is far to early for French bean sowing but I collected my own seed last year and have a surfeit  I can experiment with.  Similarly, I have kept my own runner beans and can experiment with an early sowing of these.

I have also sown several different herbs including dill, marjoram, sage, basil, cumin, etc.  I am not too sure whether they will come very well because they were last years seed being sold off at half price in the garden center.

This has filled the greenhouse again.  However, the potatoes that are chitting will be planted soon and the early sowing of "Golden Acre" cabbages can be taken out to harden off.  I have some early Duke of York potatoes which I will plant tomorrow.  This will allow some room for new seedlings to be transplanted.  I will only plant more pea seeds when the present ones are planted in the allotment.  This should give me a good succession of peas.

 The parsnips will go in tomorrow.  So too will the sweet pea seedlings.

It is a busy time of the year.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Transplanting Onions and Wood ash

I have begun to transplant the"Mammoth" onions into larger pots today.  They were in sectioned trays and growing very well but the sections are quite small and the onions needed to be put into something bigger.  I am still transplanting "Vision" onions into pots.  I am hoping to keep them in pots until they grow quite big for a several reasons.

  • I want to see how large I can grow all the onions and if I keep them in the greenhouse I can regulate the watering and addition of liquid comfrey fertilizer.  
  • I will keep them away from the Phytomyza gymnostoma allium miner fly until they are quite large. However,  I will probably still need to put them into the allotment during April when the fly is still laying eggs.  I will use a barrier of enviromesh to keep them off.  The adults will be hatching out round about now and laying eggs and they will continue to do this until 20th. May.  
  • Hopefully the warmth in the greenhouse will bring the plants on and they will be able to gain some growth.  I have eventually worked out how to leave the paraffin heater on at the lowest setting and this is keeping the greenhouse relatively warm.  
The tomatoes are surviving, although they are not growing very fast.  They really need a little more heat.  I have celery and celeriac on the go and growing remarkably well as are the early sown leeks.  I would like to see the second sowing of leeks germinating a little quicker.

In order to get some big turnips this year, I have sown some in a pot to transplant into individual pots later.  I intend to do this for the swedes and kohlrabi  too.

The committee had a big bonfire earlier in the week and I got some of the ashes from the fire to put onto the allotment.  The ashes have a large number of plant nutrients in them, although a lot of the wood nitrogen nutrients have gone up in smoke.  In comparison with other fertilizers wood ash has an NPK of 0:1:3 which is quite good.  The potassium is in the largest in proportion and plants use this for producing flowers and fruit.  I am not quite sure of the biochemistry of this statement but I expect it is a good rule of thumb.  I may use some for the sweet peas and tomatoes.  

There is a large amount of calcium carbonate in ashes and because of this can be used as a substitute for lime.  Charcoal has a relatively high pH as well.  

As I have been adding charcoal to the allotment soil, this is probably  keeping the pH of the soil higher than I would have expected.  

Wood ash is often recommended to be put onto onion beds probably because of the micro nutrients that are within it.  With this in mind I put some on my onion bed and raked it into the topsoil.  I have also put some on the brassicae bed for the cauliflowers.    

I have put up about half of the sweet pea canes but still need some time to put others up.  I am not sure when I will be able to do the rest but the sweet pea seedlings really need to be planted in the allotment now.  

Some people have started to plant their potatoes.  I still think that it is a little early.  However, I will have to start to think about planting things out now.  The serious planting and sowing should start now to make the job a little easier and not a rush later in April.  

Also, planting early, thinning out to correct spacings and watering all help to produce large vegetables.  With any luck I will be able to do all three this year.  

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Liming the brassica bed

Following the instructions very carefully, I have found that the new brassica bed has a pH of about 7 and the new onion bed has a pH of 6.5.  This surprised me because of the amount of organic matter I have been adding to the soil.  Also I have been using the X Cupressocyparis leylandii shredded leaves and branches to add to the subsoil. There seems to be some thought that this would make the soil particularly acidic.  It does not seem to be having any effect on  the pH of my top soil.   I purposely took samples from the beds with the largest amount of leylandii on them.  So, is this another myth busted?

Using the leylandii and other woody material when triple or "bastard" digging 600mm in depth seems to have some good effects.  Some due to the addition of woody material and others because of the digging.

  • It improves the drainage whilst allowing some water retention.  Thus plants with deep roots can access a reservoir of damp decomposing vegetation during the driest months of the year.  
  • The woody material does not decompose very quickly making it a long lasting method of water retention in the soil. Some of which can reach medium rooted plants by capillary action.  
  • There is a large amount of vegetation slowly decomposing and giving off a certain amount of heat.  This forms a hot bed warming the soil and encouraging root growth.   
  • Triple digging breaks up the subsoil and any iron pan that restricts plant roots.  This will also improve the drainage of the allotment.  
  • The addition of organic matter to the subsoil slowly changes the subsoil to a more top soil consistency.  
  • With the addition of other organic matter such as leaves, weed turf and lawn turf, nutrients from their decomposition can be worked into the sub and top soil after a year or two.
  • Any nitrogen depletion brought about by decomposition of the woody material may be using that leached from the top soil.  This nitrogen will be captured by micro organisms and fixed until they themselves die and add them to the soil through their cells being decomposed.
  • It prevents the woody material being burnt and releasing the locked up nutrients into the air as gaseous oxides.  
  • It helps to sequester a small amount of carbon in the soil. A long journey starts with a small step.   
 The only disadvantage is that you have to dig deep trenches.  However, Hugelkultur suggest that you do not have to bury the woody material.  Hugelkultur involves laying woody material on the surface and covering with topsoil.  I would rather use the trench method.  This is what the indigenous Central and South American  civilizations did in the past  and I have a great admiration for the great horticultural knowledge of these ancient peoples.

Do I lime the brassica bed or not?  I had already bought the lime so I thought that I would still add some lime to maintain the high pH and ward off the dreaded club root Plasmodiophora brassicae.  Also do I lime before or after watering on anti slug nematodes?

Before making these decisions the green manure and weeds needed to be dug into the topsoil.  The soil on this top allotment is very friable because it has been worked for a great number of years.  It did not take me long to dig over all the green manure areas.

The strawberry bed was weeded.  The only weed was the poached egg plant that had seeded two years ago when I used it as a companion plant for the sweet peas.  I would have kept some of the plants but they are more yellow than poached.  They went into the worm bin.

As I needed the ground to be moist and it was a fairly warm day drying out the soil, I watered the ground with very dilute comfrey liquid manure before watering on the nematodes Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita.  This was a process made much easier by the water being turned on again.  I am hoping that the liquid manure will act as a base dressing and not be leached out before the plants can make use of it.

I limed both the brassica and the onion bed.

The Rheum raponticum var. "Timperley Early" was planted next to the var. "Champagne" in the rhubarb bed.  I thought that I had lost it but it was throwing up some small leaves.  I planted it with a little mychorrhizal fungi and watered it in with dilute comfrey liquid .

The scraps of manure that were left were put around the rhubarb and along the raspberry canes as a mulch.

Things to do tomorrow.

  1. Remember to take an AA battery for the clock.
  2. Get some more straw for the strawberry bed.  I doubt if it will make a bit of difference to the crop but it does look good.  
  3. Put in the posts to support the sweet pea canes and then put up the canes.
  4. Plant the sweet peas, parsnips, carrots and hamburg parsley.  Cover the carrots with a fine mesh barrier to combat Psila rosea. 
  5. Cover the garlic and the shallots with a fine mesh barrier.  By all accounts the Phytomyza gymnostoma begins to hatch out around the 15th to the 18th of March.  The barrier will go over the onions too.  
  6. Cut supports for the fine mesh from the blue, plastic water pipe.  
  7. Crop the purple sprouting broccoli.
  8. Put new roofing felt on the two sheds then paint with preservative.   

Friday, 9 March 2012

Testing the allotment soil pH.

I only went down the allotment to get some soil samples to do some tests and found that a big pile of horse muck had been delivered.

Well you cannot miss out on something like that so I have spent two hours getting a few barrow loads of muck and putting them onto the black currant (Ribes nigrum) bushes as a mulch.  This keeps the blackcurrants growing well and the ground moist.  I also put some horse muck onto the rhubarb (Rheum raponticum), whilst other people put custard.

The Champaign rhubarb is throwing up some good petioles and leaves under the black bins but the Victoria is still asleep.  The horse muck might warm the ground and encourage the Victoria to make more of an effort.

The Nemaslug nematodes (Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita) have come and I am keeping them in the refrigerator at the moment.  I am hoping to put them onto the ground tomorrow - Saturday.  I have enough to do the leaf and roots bed; the peas and beans bed and the brassica bed.   I have used this very successfully for about four years now.

Now, the problem is that I have green manure growing on two of these beds and brassicas on the other.  I will want to dig the green manure in and at least fork where the brassicas are.  If I put the nematodes on now will I cause them a problem when I dig the ground over?  I don' t really think so especially if I dig very shallowly.   Forking should not cause any problem at all.  I will not have to do any digging or forking for a couple of weeks yet because the ground is still a little cold to put plants out. 

Having said that I will be planting the sweet pea seedlings as soon as the cane supports have been put up.  

The nematodes will have time to start their work before I start to disturb the soil.  

I have transplanted both Brassica oleracea var. capitata  "Golden Acre Primo" ; Brassica oleracea var. botrytis "Clapton" (Club root; Plasmodiophora brassicae resistant) and Brassica oleracea var botrytis "All the Year Round, into three inch pots to bring them on.  I still have a lot to do on the brassica bed before I plant any of these out.  I still have some February sown onions to plant as well particularly Allium cepa var. "Vision" which is supposed to be high yielding and can be stored for most of the winter.  I will plant these in sectioned trays.  

I still need the leeks, celeriac and the celery to germinate.  They are taking their time.   

So, why have I decided to test the soil on the allotment? 

I have used a lot of X Cupressocyparis leylandii shreddings dug 600mm deep in the soil as a kind of Hugelkultur and they are reported to be very acidic.  I want to know if they are causing the top soil to be acidic. I am going to put lime on some of the beds  this year particularly on the brassica and onion beds anyway, but I might need to put some on the other beds too.  Most vegetables grow well within the range of pH 6.5  to 7.  I will be able to find the allotment soil pH  quickly with a simple  test.  

However, it would also be good to know what the major nutrient potassium, phosphorus and nitrogen levels are and whether they need to be altered in any way.  The test I have bought should give me an idea of the nutrients in the soil too.  I don't have very much confidence in these test but they might give me a rule of thumb nutrient level.  

I need to demonstrate that I can use a simple soil test for the RHS practical gardening course so I might take a few photographs while doing the test.  I need some distilled water to do it with and I will be able to get some from the college - I hope.  

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Late winter jobs.

I have sown some more celery and celeriac.  The celeriac did not germinate very well  and I have only a few from the first sowing.  I hope that these ones come because I do not have any more.

I have transplanted all the tomatoes, leeks, onions, cauliflowers, cabbages and celery into pots of their own now.  This will enable them to grow on in the pots and I will not have to plant them out until the weather becomes more clement.  I have sown some first early peas in sectioned trays using a pinch of mychorrhizal fungi in each of the planting holes.  These peas will start the succession of peas throughout the spring and summer.  I usually plant four rows of peas more or less at the same time because they all come at the same time no matter when I plant them.  I have never planted peas this early though so I may well get a difference in cropping time especially as I am using four different varieties this year.  I transplanted another tray of lettuce and used mychorrhizal fungi in the planting holes again.

I have finished the Hugelkultur trench for the climbing French beans.  This time I layered weed turfs, holly branches and brushwood, leaves and turfs, putting sieved soil and manure mix on top.  It made very friable soil.  I used the rake to level off the ground as much as I could but their will be a mound there for the rest of the season. It will slowly go down as the organic matter decomposes.  The ground around the winter cauliflowers was tidied a little because there were a lot of dead leaves on the ground.  The old red Brussel sprouts were harvested and taken out.  I put them into a plastic bag so that I could bring them home and put them into the green bin.  There was no disease on them at all but it is best to be safe especially as they could be harboring club root.

I thought that I had club root in the ground again last year but, looking at the roots, I think that  they were probably damaged by cabbage root fly.  I don't usually have any trouble with cabbage root fly Delia radicum brassicae.

I am still cropping the allotment and took some purple sprouting broccoli home today.  I still have some parsnips, carrots, leeks and celeriac to crop.  Later on in April I will have the winter cauliflowers developing.

Six of the sweet pea support posts were put up today.  I have put cross pieces at the top of the poles to enable me to keep the canes horizontal.  I may have to change their position because they may be too close together and I can use the trackway to get to the plants so I don't really need to leave a path on the allotment as well.

Once all the posts for the sweet peas are in, I will need to get on with putting the roofing felt onto the sheds.  The store shed is the worst; letting in a lot of rain.