Thursday, 6 September 2012

Allotment photographs for September 2012

It is always a little sad when this years vegetables have been harvested and the ground is empty.  Even looking forward to next season is no consolation.  However, there are still seeds to sow and seedlings to plant but these will not take up such large areas of the allotment.

 This is why planting a crop of green manure is ideal.  Green manure will cover the ground during the winter protecting it from heavy rain and preventing excessive leaching.  The grazing rye has particularly fibrous root clumps, while tares have root nodules containing nitrogen fixing bacteria. When the tares are dug in they will add extra nitrogen to the soil.  The green manure will take up nutrients from the soil and sequester them in their tissues during the winter and prevent them from being lost from the soil.  It will eventually form a canopy over the soil preventing light getting to weed seedlings.   Hopefully, this will prevent germination or, if germination does occur, the weed seedlings growing.  Finally, green manures  rot down relatively quickly when they are dug in releasing nutrients into the soil for the new crop.

Winter tares and grazing rye green manure mix.
I got a winter green manure mix of grazing rye and winter tares to cover areas of the allotment that would not have vegetables growing on them until next spring.

As the ground would not be cultivated for a while, I took the precaution of careful single digging with consolidation and raking to make a good seed bed.  I also added pigeon manure at the same rate I would with chicken manure.  Although I was very careful to bury all the old strawberry plants, several stems and leaves were dragged to the surface when I was raking.  They will not hurt the seedbed and will decompose during the winter. Having said this,  Strawberry stems and roots take quite a while to decompose.  I am still finding them where I have dug in strawberries before three years ago.

After digging over I shuffled over the area consolidating the ground.  This helped to break down the lumps of soil and enabled me to get a good tilth.  The RHS advice is generally to sow green manures broadcast and their video advice is very good.  However, they do say at the end of the video that if annual weeds are a problem then  growing in lines enables you to hoe between the lines.

I have news for the RHS.  Annual weeds are always a problem even on an allotment as clean as mine - so I always grow green manure in lines.

If you look closely weed seedlings are growing between the rows of green manure. Several years ago I sowed poached egg plant Limnanthes douglassii as a green manure.  It continues to germinate even though none has seeded itself since.  This seed must be three years old.   I will take the hoe between the rows to keep them clean.  Eventually the green manure will grow large enough to shade out weed seedlings and the ground will not have to be hoed any more.

Green manure on old pea bed
I will be hoeing until October though.   The lines of tares and rye mix are about 30 cm apart.  They will still make a canopy and cover the ground completely.

Green manure slowly covering the

As the ground has become free I planted green manure.
Green manure covering the old potato bed.
This means that I will have to dig again in the spring.  There are some times that you can avoid digging but I don't think you can when using green manure.  Some say that the green manure can be cut off and left on the surface of the soil to rot down.  Others suggest that green manure can be covered with black plastic until it has rotted down, however to avoid slug and snail problems I find it much easier to dig it in.
Celery has a little rust on it.

This has been the first time I have grown celery in over twenty years.  Remarkably it has done quite well and I will be trying it again next year.  I have already eaten most of it particularly in soups.  One thing is for sure it has had enough water this year.

Asparagus pea

First time ever that I have planted asparagus pea.  It has grown about 30-40 cm and produced a lot of small pea like pods.  They are a welcome addition to stir fry.  Quite successful. Although it does flop about a little it does support itself and does not need anything to climb up.   

As the summer has not been so pleasant, I have not really been having much chamomile tea.  That is why there are still lots of flowers on the plants.  The fresh flowers make the best tea so I do not want to dry these ones.  I will use the best ones for tea and collect the others for seed.
Russian tarragon
The Russian tarragon does not really have much of a smell and tastes a bit bland.  I have tried to transplant a couple of plants but it does not seem to like being moved.  I will still try to put it along the path to form a little hedge and maybe I will use it in salads just as an additional leaf.  It germinated very well and the plants have grown quite big now but it would have been better if I had grown the french cultivar.

Too many beetroot again.  I thought that I would not have enough because of the poor germination in the spring.  I should not have worried.  I have given quite a lot away and will still have more than enough.
Net over the carrots
I am still keeping the net over the carrots just in case carrot root fly is still about.  I took the net off about this time last year and the carrots were infected by root fly.  I bury the edges of the net in the soil so I am sure there is a good seal and the flies cannot get in.

Second sowing of carrots
Having to sow the carrots again due to the very wet spring, these are now producing a good crop.  They will not be as large as last years but they will be adequate.  This second sowing was "Resistafly"
Trail of tears climbing french bean
The trail of tears beans are just coming into their own now and producing prodigious amounts of excellent beans.  The flower is purple and the beans are purplish too.
Trail of tears beans
More trail of tears beans.  
Trail of tears flower

I am growing them up some old branches that I cut off the hedge and some that I got from birch trees.  The birch tree poles are rotting away now and I will need to cut some more.

I have fed the black currants with pigeon manure and mulched them with horse manure.  Hopefully, I will be able to mulch the others before the winter sets in.

Another of the allotment holders had a trailer of horse muck delivered and put on the path by my allotment.  After they had moved the pile I raked up what was left and put it on blackcurrants.  You have to make use of any free stuff like this.

I am going off horse manure because of its lack of nutrients.  I think it is very good for mulching and use it all the time but I would never buy any.  We are lucky to get free deliveries of horse muck and I don't mind putting this on the allotment.

It will be the pigeon manure that gives the blackcurrants the nutrients and encourage them to produce next years fruiting stems.

I am still cropping summer cabbages although I am coming to the end of them.  They are a little slug eaten but this is just on the surface and if the outer leaves are removed it will leave a good hearty cabbage.

The allotment and plants tend to look a little untidy at this time of the year regardless of how much work you put in tidying up.  While I will keep the allotment clean by weeding regularly, I do not worry too much about appearances.

The winter cauliflowers in the background are beginning to be eaten by cabbage while caterpillars but they  will not take too many of the leaves and I am taking them off by hand.  They have been given a top dressing of pigeon manure but they don't really need it.  It may make them put on new growth that will be susceptible to frosts.

Brussel sprouts are getting some height now and should be ready just before Christmas. They are getting on to be about 1 metre tall.  I like to keep all the brassicas together like this so that I can regulate club root infection.  I did get a little clubroot in the summer cauliflowers and the calabrese but this ground will not be used for brassicas for another six years and by then there will be few spores in the ground to infect the plants.  The new brassica bed has the sweet peas on at the moment.  These will be dug in to give a little more nitrogen to the soil because they are legumes and have root nodules that fix atmospheric nitrogen.  The new bed will be limed in the spring to make sure that this soil is not a good habitat for the club root fungi.  The new brassica bed has not had brassicas on it for about six years.  Rotating strictly like this enables you to eradicate diseases like club root.

The brassica plants still need to be netted against pigeons, cabbage white butterflies and cabbage root fly.

The transplanted strawberries seem to have taken a long time to establish themselves.  They are planted on the Hugelkultur trench that I did last year.  I dug in quite a few comfrey leaves to give them an additional boost and when I did that before they really perked up.  I will just have to wait for them to grow a few more roots.

I like to make a new strawberry bed each year using the new plantlets from the stolons that the old plants produce.  There are always far too many new plants produced and these cover the strawberry bed so you cannot tell where the rows are.  A new bed allows you to plant at whatever distances you think are appropriate and into clean ground that has been prepared specially.  I also watered in these plants with comfrey liquid and used a little mychorrhiza to aid in their establishment.
Hopefully these strawberries will grow on and establish

The sweet peas have definitely gone over now.  They got the dreaded yellow disease which starts on the lower leaves and gradually works its way up the plant.  I think that it is a viral disease and affected them particularly this year because they were under stress from the cold wet weather.

Virus infected sweet peas

Not much you can do about this.
I am not worried about digging these into the soil because a viral infection will not affect new sweet pea plants from the soil.  I think that the vectors are aphids.  Also, I will not be growing sweet peas in this ground for at least six years.  

I planted some gladioli between one of the sweet pea rows and they have produced some good flowers.  I want to grow some big corms and get even bigger flowers next year.

Taking down the sweet pea canes is the next big job on the allotment and will take some time.  I will have to carefully store the canes so that they do not rot during the winter.  I try to keep and reuse all the wire ties that I have used to tie up the plants.  Inevitably, some of them break or are lost on the ground but keeping them is a saving that allows you to spend money on some other more important items for the allotment.  

The runner beans will continue to flower and produce beans well into October so they will have to be regularly picked and watered.

Although the squash is yet to fruit, the pumpkin has produced several very good fruit.  I will let some of them get bigger while using the others for pies and soups.  

Apart from the squash and the courgettes, I have grown marrow again.  Something I had neglected for over ten years.  
Squashes are slow to flower this year
Although they are slow to flower, the squashes are taking much more room than they did last year and are starting to overwhelm the leeks.  

The sweet corn has produced quite a few cobs although neither the plants nor the cobs are very big this year.  Sweet corn is a C4 plant and needs a lot of sunshine.  Unfortunately, these plants have not received nearly enough light to produce good cobs.  

I am just glad that I have got some sweet corn.  

The leeks on the other hand have really enjoyed the dark wet weather and produced some good plants.  I have only cropped one of the leeks up to now but they will be used during the autumn and winter.  

They will do fine if they are not too swamped by the pumpkin and squash.  

I have cut out this years fruiting canes from the raspberries and tied in the new canes.  These are the summer fruiting raspberries although somehow some autumn fruiting ones have sidled in somehow.  
Glen Prosen  raspberries
Not sure which raspberry this is.
I don't know where these autumn fruiting raspberries have come from but the fruit grows remarkably big.  They are a little more bitter than 'Autumn Bliss'.  Needless to say I have eaten all the red ones  already. Raspberries rarely go home.  

Victoria rhubarb
I put quite a bit of farmyard manure of the rhubarb in the spring and it seems to have done them a lot of good.  They have also liked the cool wet summer we have had.  

I have three varieties of rhubarb; Timperley early, Champagne; and Victoria.  The slugs and snails have had a really good go at the Champagne but it has recovered and is growing well now.   
Victoria rhubarb
In order to grow herbs really well, you need to make sure that you keep picking them whether you are going to use them or not otherwise they will loose their bushy shapes.

The mint really needs to be cut back
Rainbow sage (Salvia officinallis 
Variegated lemon thyme
Thymus x citriodorus 'Variegata'  
Mentha × piperita 'Chocolate Mint'
 I will tidy up the herbs when I have a little more time.

 Both the comfrey and the nettles are ready for cropping and putting into the large green bins to make liquid fertiliser.

That is the allotment in September.  There are a lot of spaces that have been filled with green manure ready for digging in next spring. Crops are still being harvested and we are slowly moving towards autumn.