Monday, 26 November 2012

Getting rid of the hedge bindweed.

Hedge bind weed is a particularly pernicious weed which can spread great distances with very tenacious stolons,  rhizomes and almost any other part of the plant that it sees fit to use.  I have decided that if I ever have to teach plant propagation, I will use this plant to demonstrate that you can use absolutely any part of it to generate new clone plants.  This is why I am spending so much time removing it from the new allotment. Even tiny pieces of rhizome can regenerate to make a new plant. A lot of the allotment is clear of it but you cannot be certain so I am sieving all of the soil to at least two spits down.  The rhizomes are white and cylindrical and the growing ends can have a purple tinge.  The stems can be stoleniferous making new roots when they touch the ground.
Calystegia sepium rhizomes  
With all the dead tops and rhizomy stolons from the hedge bindweed over the top of the soil it does not look very tidy.  However, it looks much more presentable when it has been dug over.

The only way that I can ensure that all of the rhizomes are removed from the soil is to sieve soil through the bread tray sieve.

Calystegia sepium rhizomes  being sieved out of the top soil.
I must admit that the rhizomes are growing in the top 30 cm of soil and I am finding very few lower than this. I was skeptical when others said this would be so but it does seem to be true.  However, I cannot be sure so I am going down two spits and checking.  When rhizomes have been buried up to 60 cm deep, some have regenerated.  The rhizomes seem to throw  up weakened plants that are easily hoed out but the fact that they do regenerate from this depth and there is a need for constant vigilance means that I am very reluctant to bury the rhizomes without being sure that they are thoroughly dried out. Too much nutrient locked up in these rhizomes for them to be thrown away so I am carefully drying them out ready to bury in the trench. 
Calystegia sepium rhizomes can be seen in the clod of soil.
Once the soil is sieved, it produces this lovely loamy mix.  I am not stupid enough to believe that I have removed all the bindweed but I have taken out a substantial amount and the soil is much cleaner now.  As you can see I have an elaborate method of sieving using four tubs and two planks to raise the bread tray sieve off the ground.  Even with the large holes in the sieve, the sieved soil breaks down and becomes very friable and easy to work.

There is a plum tree in the background -  you can just see the trunk.  I am trying some forest gardening with this tree creating a glade using comfrey, gooseberry and blackberry plants.  They are forming concentric semi circles around the tree.  The comfrey is on the inside and the fruit bushes are around the drip line of the plum.
It means that the ground under the plum tree is used for planting even though it is shady.  The comfrey can be cut in situ and left on the ground as a mulch for the plum and the fruit bushes.  I have planted both the comfrey and the gooseberries with mychorrhizal fungi. When this trench is filled again I will be planting the blackcurrant cuttings.
Calystegia sepium rhizomes
This is what I have sieved out at the moment but there is a great deal more in the soil.  I am drying these out on some old carpet I found on the new allotment.  Eventually I hope to bury these in one of the triple digging trenches.  I will have to make sure that they have dried completely otherwise, as I have already said,  they will spring to life again and grow even at a triple dug depth.  They are packed with plant nutrient so I am loth to bag it up and dispose of it elsewhere.  Burning it means that some of  the nutrients go into the air as gaseous oxides and are blown away onto someone else's garden.  I would rather keep the nutrients on the allotment even though burying these rhizomes may cause them to spring back into life.  I have read that they need to be dried for two days before burying but these have been drying for a week or more and they still seem to be full of life.  I will not bury them until I am sure they are dry and that might take some time with the very wet weather we have been having.  The cold damp autumn has meant that the ground - and everything else - is thoroughly saturated with water.

The only things that I want to remove from the allotment are the vegetables that I am going to eat.  Even the peelings are brought back and put onto the compost heap to be dug back into the soil.  In this way nutrients are locked into the cycle of vegetable, compost heap and soil.  Very little nutrient is lost and that which is can easily be replaced using imported animal manures, leaves, wood chip, comfrey, green manure and shreddings.

Aporrectodea rosea
This is an irritating worm because I keep mistaking it for bindweed rhizomes.  It seems to be a very light form of Aporrectidea rosea because the pictures that I have seen give it a much more redder hue.

Friday, 23 November 2012

Seed order has arrived.

All the seeds that I ordered in October have come now.  I have sorted through them and put them into groups according to the rotation beds.

I did order some garlic and shallots (I didn't think that I had)  so I have quite a few of those to put in.  Ed gave me quite a few and I bought some because I thought that I had not ordered any.  The ones that I have left over will be planted on the new allotment.  As most of the old allotment is covered in tares and grazing rye green manure, I don't really have the room to put the garlic in so I have potted them up in some of the old potting compost.   The elephant garlic that Mick gave me together with the large ones I got from Ed are making some good root growth but not produced any tops as yet. Some of the small garlic have produced both tops and roots.  The potted garlic will be planted out on the old allotment but I am not sure when.  I will put them outside preferably in the cold frame until there is some space to put them in.

The new allotment has quite a few plants in pots ready to be planted.  There are about ten small bay trees, eight asparagus plants; a rhubarb plant; a vine that Ed gave me; two apple trees that were really cheap at the garden center; and several herbs.  I will  plant these over the winter putting some mychorrhizal fungi in the planting holes each time one is dug.  There is room now but I am not sure where to plant things at the moment and it would irritate me no end if  I planted one of the perennials only for it to have to be moved later in the year.  I will  probably use the asparagus to divide two of the beds and I could use the bay trees to do the same.

I might sow some of the giant cabbage, leeks and mammoth onions.  I doubt that I will get really big ones but I would like to try.  The sweet peas should have been sown during October and it is a bit late to start planting now.  I will leave the sweet peas until the early spring now.  They will flower a little later but I am happy with that.

The new summer fruiting raspberry canes have arrived too and I have put these in a large pot and covered the roots with the old potting compost to keep them  damp until I have the time to plant. The autumn fruiting raspberries will be taken out and put onto the new allotment.  They do not grow too big - about one and a half metres - so will not need any supports constructed.  I will put these at the north end of the allotment along the pathway.

The summer fruiting raspberries will be planted where the autumn fruiting ones have been taken out of the old allotment.  There is some suggestion that this is not a good strategy and new plants will not do very well.  This seems to be a similar thing to rose sickness.  I think that I will replace the soil with new from another area of the allotment and use mychorrhizal fungi to help to ameliorate the sickness.  I will also use some sequestrene in order to add some micro-nutrients.

Digging over the new allotment is coming along quite well.  I am bastard trenching  the whole allotment sieving the soil through my trusty bread tray while I  am doing it.

There are three different types of digging.  Single digging, double digging and bastard digging.  Single digging is more than adequate in most situations but sometimes a more serious technique needs to be used.

  • Single digging is where the soil is turned over usually with a spade to one spit deep incorporating well rotted organic matter.  Annual weeds and green manure can be turned in as well.  When done well the surface weeds can be cut off with the spade and put at the bottom of the trench.   
  • Double digging is where the top soil is taken out and a trench one spit deep is made.  The bottom of the trench is forked over, with added organic matter,  one spit deep but the soil is not taken out.  I usually add skimmed off annual weed turfs to the bottom of the trench.  This is why I call it skim digging.  If the ground adjacent to the trench has been skimmed then the ground is clear when you are digging.  A wider area of ground can be skimmed and put into the trench so that the surface weeds do not need to be cut off with the spade and get in the way when you are trying to fork the bottom of the trench.  Perennial weeds would probably be able to grow at this depth so it is best to remove them.  
  • Bastard trenching is a bastard to do.  Now you can do this by continuous trenching, working, backwards, but I find that this creates a vast hole and is quite hard to control. So I remove the top soil of the trench to a depth of one spit, sieving it and adding well rotted organic matter.  That goes on the dug side of the trench.  Next I remove one spit of subsoil and put that on the undug side of the trench on ground that has been skimmed of weeds.  The bottom of the trench is forked over to one spit depth but the soil is not removed.  This will mean that the soil is dug three spits deep.  I then search around for any organic matter I can lay my hands on.  Rotting wood, shreddings, hedge trimmings, perennial weeds (except for bindweed and horse tail), prunings, leaves, grass mowings, in fact anything that was once living can go at the bottom of the trench.  Today I was using perennial weeds from the track way covered with  shredded hedge clippings.  The subsoil is sieved back into the trench with well rotted organic matter being added at the same time.  The top soil is then replaced and, just to make sure, this is sieved back into the trench too.  

You don't have to triple dig.  For many people single digging is too much and they can garden just as well using mulches and the minimum of forking over. Triple digging is not necessary for most allotments and gardens but I have several reasons why I am doing this now.

  1. I like digging holes.  One of the reasons why I like gardening is for the exercise and fresh air that it gives me.  
  2. I am triple digging a new allotment and this will give me a good idea of  the top soil and the subsoil  structure and texture.  Luckily, at the moment there is no indication of hard pan or consolidated soil except where the pathways went.  
  3. The new allotment has a lot of organic debris that can be buried such as old compost heaps that are more weeds than compost; overgrown hedge branches that need to be cut back, rotting wood, perennial  weeds, tree branches and trunks.  All these can and are being put at the bottom of a bastard trench.  
  4. I am also putting hedge and tree shreddings into the trench.  I have a large pile of shreddings and it is steaming away during these cold months.  This is an indication that it is producing heat from micro organisms breaking down the organic matter into plant nutrients.  Putting a good layer of shreddings at the bottom of the trench will produce heat, albeit not as well as when it is heaped on the topsoil, and this will keep the soil warm for planting next spring.  Or that's the theory anyway.  
  5. I will have a large sponge of organic matter that will regulate the drainage over the allotment allowing water to run away when in excess but retaining water during drought times. 
  6. The allotment is infested with both Calystegia sepium (bind weed)  and Equisetum arvense mares tail and triple digging will help to remove them at least from the top 60 cm of soil.  This is another reason for sieving the soil.  
I still have a lot to do and triple digging is not a speedy way to clear a weed infested allotment, however it is a fairly effective method of removing pernicious weeds.  I am not foolish enough to expect the soil to be clear of all the bind weed and mare's tail but I will certainly have given it a bang on the head.  I am an advocate of slow gardening and would rather have a good well mixed homogeneous  top soil that has taken some time to produce than a quick fix heterogeneous top soil with layers that are more or less fertile.  

Digging the allotment in this way will take me most of the winter and possibly beyond, however there is no point in complaining.  I might as well just get on with it.  It will be finished when it is finished.  

Friday, 2 November 2012

Seed for 2013 and October photographs

Late October and the leaves are beginning to turn.

I keep loosing this list so I will write it here so that I know where it is:

Wodan Beetroot *

Perpetual Spinach

Rainbow Chard

Curly Kale*

Broad bean*

Broccoli Red Arrow*

Brussel Sprout Trafalgar*

Cabbage Bruswick*

Cabbage Stonehead*

Red Cabbage Red Drumhead*

Calabrese Green Magic

Cauliflower All the year round*

Carrot Flyaway *

Carrot Sweet Candle*

Carrot Autumn King*

Celeriac Asterix

Celery Victoria*

Cauliflower Aalsmeer*


Courgette Jermore*

Cucumber Crystal Lemon*

Cucumber Bedfordshire Prize*

Florence Fennel Rondo

Florence Fennel Romanesco

Good King Henry

Garlic Wight

Kohn Rabi Purple Delicacy

Leek Mammoth Blanch*

Leek Pot *

Leek Blue Solaise*

Lettuce Web's Wonderful*

Onion Mammoth Improved*

Onion Armstrong*

Onion Santero*

Parsnip White King*

Pea Douce Provence*

Pea Early Onward*

Pea Progress No9*

Pea Lincoln*

Pea Onward*

Asparagus Pea

Runner Bean Liberty*

Squash Metro*

Pumpkin Kills Atlantic Giant*

Sweede Tweed*

Sweetcorn Early Extra Sweet

Shallot - my own*

French Climbing Bean "Trail of Tears"*

The ones with large asterisk will give 12 points and the ones with small asterisk will give me 8 points.
The early potatoes this year will be
I am only going to grow Latah tomato this year.
I will be planting several of the saved seed including Cobra French Bean, Broad Bean, Telegraph Pea, Runner Bean and Trail of Tears climbing French Bean. I would have liked to collect and keep a lot more seeds but I haven't had the time this year.
Potatoes for this year will be;




Red Duke of York


Arron Pilot

And the second early will be:


I have finished off sowing green manure.  Experience shows that planting it this late in the year does not really give it time to thicken up very well.  I will probably not plant any more now until the Spring. I have used quite a bit of pigeon manure this year because it was free and left by my allotment.  Having said that I have been careful to use it sparingly digging it in now to allow time for it to decompose a lot more before the spring.  It does produce quite a bit of ammonia and this could burn the roots of plants.  However, it does not seem to have done my green manures any harm.  Maybe this is due to the care I took not to put too concentrated amounts in any area.
I have quite a lot of well rotted compost now but I am not too sure where I am going to use it yet.  There is a rat in this compost heap and I want to make sure that it does not stay there during the winter.  I keeps on throwing out the compost when it digs its burrows and the compost is being banked up against the shed.  This might make the shed rot.
The comfrey bed is not very tidy at the moment because I have been taking the pigeon muck and the compost out and trampling over the plants.  All of the pigeon manure has been dug in now.  The remnants have been put along the rhubarb plants.  I am going to give the rhubarb some of the well rotted manure next.
These comfrey leaves will be taken off now and put into one of the big water butts to rot down together with the nettle tops.  I will probably keep this until next year and use it to water in the seeds and seedlings for next season.  Some of the comfrey bed is covered in horse manure which is mostly wood shavings.  I will spread this out a little better when I deal with this area a bit more systematically.
The green manure on the new onion bed has really grown thickly covering the soil and blocking out light to weed seedlings.  The rye grass and tares were sown directly the potatoes were taken out and have had plenty of time to grow large.  I am hoping that the later sowings of green manure will fare so well.  It is producing lots of carbon and nitrogen to dig in next spring. All this will be dug in just before Alliums are planted next year.  As I have planted all this green manure, I have not got any room for my garlic so I have started them off in pots in the greenhouse.  I have the room because I am sowing sweet peas in early spring this year.  I usually sow sweet peas in autumn but I have not even got the seed yet.

The worm bin is still on the go.  I have virtually filled it with dock and bindweed roots.  Hopefully the worms will devour them with relish, however if they don't then bacteria and fungi will do an equally good job.
If you look carefully you can just see the green manure beginning to germinate.  This area will probably be used for broad beans next year.
I dug in some pigeon manure and I am hoping not to have to put much more onto this bed because the green manure should add enough nutrient for broad beans.  I am hoping that the green manure will take up nitrogen from the pigeon muck but at the very least it should prevent nitrogen from the pigeon manure from leaching away during the winter.  

This is where next year's runner beans and a few rows of sweet peas will be put next year.  I like to grow the green manure in lines so that I can weed between the rows.  They close over and form an impenetrable canopy eventually.  I have got two plants of oca in here somewhere and they will have to be taken out soon. They did not flower this year but I still hope there will be some tubers.  I will not eat any of them though because I am trying to build up a stock.  Last year I lost a great deal because I did not store them properly.  This year I am going to put them into paper bags and keep them in a frost free shed.  
 Some of the leeks are quite big but others are a little ropy.  You cannot tell when they are in soup or stew.  They will be used over the winter.  

This will be where the new summer cauliflowers will go.  This soil has had the sweet pea tops dug in and compost and pigeon manure added.  The green manure will protect the soil until next spring.  Hopefully it will grow much bigger and form a canopy.

The rest of the new brassicae bed which will be limed fairly soon.  I did get some club root this year and I would like to avoid it for next.  The cauliflowers and cabbage seem to be particularly susceptible but the brussels, calabrese, winter cauliflowers, kale and broccoli seem to be more resistant to it.
 These are the old runner bean plants ready to be dug in and which has now been done.  Guess what, I planted green manure here as well.  You can't have enough of a good thing.
Winter cauliflowers in the background with the remnants of the cabbages.  I have sown rocket and lambs lettuce here but they do not seem to be germinating very well.  It might be because this area of the allotment is a little shady.
A rather atmospheric photograph of the Trafalgar Brussel sprouts.  In other words the low Sun is making a mess of the photograph.
The strawberry bed looks a little untidy at the moment even though I have  hoed through it and raked it.  I dug in quite a lot of comfrey leaves and, when these decompose, the soil level drops unevenly and leads to undulating soil.  It might not be very aesthetic but why worry if they produce lots of strawberries.
The blackcurrants have been mulched with pigeon manure and horse manure.  The horse manure does not have very much body in it so I fortified it with the pigeon manure.  Blackcurrants are very hungry plants and withdraw lots of nutrients from the soil so I like to mulch them really well in the winter.  They are loosing their leaves now and I will keep an eye out for any sign of big bud.  I tend to cut out any branches that show signs of this mite.
This is the new roots and leaves bed.  In the background are the climbing French beans "Trail of Tears".  They have been taken down from their supports and the supports put down by the store shed.  The beans were dug into the soil here and green manure sown.  The carrots will be planted where the beans were next year.
This is the new potato bed.  It looks very untidy in the picture but I have just finished digging it over adding pigeon manure and sowing green manure.  The carrots, parsnips, beetroot, Hamburg parsley, salsify and scorzonera will be harvested during the winter so they were left.  They will help to cover the soil and keep the rain from washing away too many nutrients.  The asparagus pea, which I have now dug in, has been quite successful and would be a good candidate for sowing after the potatoes or onions have come out.  You have to be careful only to harvest the very young pods because they get very tough and inedible when they get a little mature.  Believe me cus I was there.

So the allotment has been put to bed for the winter.  The only things now that I need to do are to empty the compost bins and to construct new ones opposite the store shed with new fence panels I have acquired.   After I have done this I can take off all the comfrey leaves and then dig over the comfrey bed.

Then all I will do is harvest the leeks and the roots and use up the stored pumpkins, potatoes, onions, squashes and marrows.

Not bad for a poor year.