Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Sowing seeds and transplanting seedlings.

There were several different things that I wanted to sow, plant  and  transplant so this  morning was spent in the cold  greenhouse.  I started a little late because I had lost my seeds.  I forgot that I  had put them  into an old tin.   I should  get one of these commercial tins that  are labelled SEEDS.

The  first things that were planted were the potatoes.  I have some Swift that are supposed to grow quickly.  I planted them in fairly small pots  mainly because I am using the  larger pots  to  support  the trays under  the staging.  (Using the large trays gives me another shelf to  keep pots on.)   The potatoes  were planted  into Gro Char multipurpose compost  which contains  both charcoal and mychorrhizal  fungi among other things.  As they get bigger, I will transplant  them  into the big pots.  I am growing them as an example of a South American crop rather than  to get a big yield so I think  that my large pots will be  big  enough.  I will keep these in  the  cold greenhouse because I  do not want them  to grow  any faster than  they would do normally.

Next to be  sown were some  more Aintree Phaseolus vulgaris.  I thought that the show  garden border  would be  1 square metre but it turns out to be 3 metres square,  which  means  that I will  need more plants.  Also, to be  able to select the best plants,  I will  need a number of plants to  choose  from.   This all goes to encouraging  me  to plant a lot  more than I really need.  I will put these in the heated greenhouse to bring  them  on  so that they are at least flowering in June.  I would  like  them to have some fruit  on them too if  possible but this  is unlikely.

There was still some of the Gro Char general purpose compost left and the  bag was torn so  I decided  to  use it up by sowing the rest of the sweet peas.

Finally I pricked  out the cabbages into  a sectioned  tray.  I have no small  pots left at all and  will  have to transplant into sectioned trays until  I eventually plant out some  of the  vegetables in the allotments.

I am meeting the RHS people tomorrow to chat about the show  garden; to  see what  is involved and consider whether I still  want to take this on and to consider a design.  I am the first  to  admit  that I am  not a very good designer so the whole  process will  be quite a challenge.

I also have to plant a  tree, to demonstrate that  I can, for  my level  3 Practical  Gardening Certificate.  As I have three trees waiting to be planted,  I will be  waiting with bated breath for any feed back on  my feeble attempt.  It will be  good to  know whether the technique that I have been  using  over the  past 50 years is  up to  scratch.

I also have  to identify some seeds - something that I  was quite interested in doing.   However, it involves  identifying  things like conkers and acorns.  I have to  know the Latin name for them - but even  so.  (It is Aesculus hippocastanum and Quercus robur respectively.)

Completing  the  greenhouse work and  after having another  cup of tea, I started to do  a little more pruning.   I use the RHS 3dxu formula  for pruning,  which  is as effective  as any.  It certainly makes me remember what  to do.  Remove dead, diseased  and damaged then crossing branches  and  finally untypical  foliage. However, just  as I started so  did the  rain.

Rather  than get soaked,  I  decided  to  come  in and  learn  my seed ident.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Winter digging.

It is all right getting  over to the allotment early but it means that you have to dig for even longer.  I arrived at the allotment round about 8:45 and inspected the digging done yesterday.

I am still trench triple digging adding brushwood to the  lowest layer.  However, I have run out of brushwood to bury.  I have  taken the hedge back as far as is  sensible and even worked back behind the old compost heap.  I have also used most of the old compost and all of the pigeon manure.

I still have a little pruning to do in the garden, however after this there will be nothing to bury.  I am not  too bothered now because it  is getting towards the planting season and I want to finish before the end of February.  So, I have decided  to carry on double trench digging.  I will still sieve; primarily to  get stones  for the path  and shed foundations but I will  not worry about burying.  If prunings come  to  hand then  it  will  be easy to revert to the triple digging.

One of the beds was quite heavily manured before I took on the allotment and this is being mixed into  the top soil.

Having so much Calystegia sepium and Equisetum arvensis is  really slowing me down but the sieving using the bread tray is very effective in removing the rhizomes.  They seem to be growing through an old pile of leaves that has virtually rotted away.  I do not want to loose any of this fibrous leaf mould so I am carefully extracting rhizomes wherever I find  them.

I cannot stop using the sieve because there are so  many rhizomes  growing right into the beds  and you cannot be  sure where they are.  I will just keep going regardless.  

I had walked over to the new allotment and  gotten myself tired  so I  was not inclined to bring home the bindweed and mare's tail rhizomes which I was going to photograph for this blog.   However I will at some time.

It is all right me talking about these rhizomes but, if you don't  know what they look like, it will  be difficult to  make sure  you get them  out.  They are very pernicious and spread everywhere.

I have taken the  tarpaulins off the soil and put them  into the lean  too next  to  the shed and I am slowly putting all the carpets onto  the next door  allotment.  I am hoping that this will keep the weeds from growing and spreading to my allotment.

The next door allotment does not seem to have been done for about three years at least.  I think that someone is paying rent for it but I  will dig it over if they do not do anything with it this year.

I pricked out all the tomatoes, sweet corn, pumpkins, squashes, and beans into Gro Char charcoal compost.   They are still in the hot house and will stay there until  they get a little bigger.  This is the first time that I have sown some of  these tender vegetables this early in the year but I need them to at least be in flower for the show garden in June.  Whether I  will be successful  remains to be seen, however I am quite enjoying having  a go. It is not whether you can get these seeds to germinate; it is whether you can keep them alive during the cold weather.  I really need  some propagation lights to ensure that they  are  flowering around  the middle  of June.  I am  going to give them a good dose of comfrey liquid twice a week to  see if that will  bring them  on.

I pricked out the cauliflower in the cold house and remarkably they seem to have survived the cold  weather.  I am hoping to grow  these quite large.  My big cabbages still  need to be pricked out into three inch pots.  I will do that tomorrow.  Also, I have some Swift early potatoes that I was going to put into charcoal compost for  the  show  garden and  I really should plant  them now and keep them  in the heated green house.  Swift will grow very quickly and  possibly be in  flower for  the middle of June.  I will also plant some  later to  make  sure that they do not come too  soon.

The rest of the onions need to be  sown  now and  I will make  a second  sowing of leeks.  If I can keep the Phytomyza gymnostoma  off them I might get some decent sized ones this year.  I am going to cover them all with a large enviromesh supported by water pipes.  It looks a bit unsightly but  it is effective.

I really need to get up to the old allotment and plant the broad  beans, shallots and  garlic.  I have some plastic cloches so these will be used to give them a little more protection.

Now  that the weather has got a lot warmer, I will plant the rest of the sweet peas.  I might even have a go  at sowing them in some of the Gro Char charcoal compost.  The sweet peas that I planted in December have started to  germinate.  The cold  weather did not do them any harm.

So lots to do and the season has not really begun yet.

Thursday, 17 January 2013

Snowy weather at the allotment.

I went down to the old  allotment to get some vegetables and a load of horse manure had been left.  Well you can't look a gift horse in the mouth; so I set to work taking as much as I could down to the compost bins.  As the snow gently fell,  I eventually got about seven barrow loads and capped the lot with two barrow loads of mixed leaves and lawn mowings.   I have now filled two compost bins with manure and lawn mowings.  I will probably use this later on the potato bed.

I raked up as much of the horse manure as I could but what is left will be barrowed up when I get the rest of the leaves and lawn mowings.  I thought that I would leave these down in the communal bins until I needed it mainly because there is no space on the allotment to store it and nobody else seems interested in it.  I could put it on top of the green manure growing on the potato bed but this will just waste the green manure.  I would much rather allow the tares and rye to grow on until just before I plant the potatoes.

So much for not doing very much down the allotment.  However, it only took me about two hours to barrow the manure. This is probably just as well because the ground was rock hard with frost and it began to snow heavily.  I had already slipped on the ice in the roadway and I did not want to slip over again.

I have also got a new plum and pear tree for the new allotment.  The new allotment was always going to be mainly fruit so the trees will be planted down there.

Now that I have seen the Birmingham borders photographs, I don't think that I have enough plants to fill them.  So, I went down to the garden centre and bought some dwarf french beans 'Yin Yang' and 'Purple Teepee' ;  climbing french beans 'Cobra' ; tomato 'Tigerella'  and pepper 'Numex Twilight' seeds.  Together with some 'Swift' potatoes, that should fill the border quite well.  It is always good to write the names in this blog because I am sure to forget what they are by the time I plant them out.  I will sow some of them now for the show border but the majority of them will be sown at the proper time for the allotment.  The trouble with growing for show like this is that you have to count back from the show date to find out when to sow seed.  This will give you mature plants that are either flowering or fruiting at the time of the show.  I would like all  the  plants to be flowering or fruiting in June and this is quite difficult with these South American plants.  I may also be doing a show border at Shugborough ( ) if I get a chance and I would like to do a 'La Culture Maraîchère'  technique using some of the old cloches they have there.  I am hoping to get some manure from the farm to make the bed. If the seeds for the Birmingham bed germinate, then I will probably have too many and I will be able to use them for other projects or just down the allotments.  

Actually, I would be planting the tomatoes and peppers now anyway.  I will be planting all my onion seeds this week if the weather warms a little more.  I have some 'Red Barron' red onion sets to plant as well.  If they do not fit in the old allotment allium bed, I will plant them at the new allotment.  I like red onions in a salad sandwich  

I bought the seed at Ashwood Nurseries ( ) because I wanted to have a cup of tea and a bite to eat in their cafeteria.  I like to go around their displays because the plants are really good and well labelled.  It helps me with my identification using Latin names.

I am going to make some charcoal soil with some marinaded charcoal and some New Horizons multipurpose compost to grow them on in.

So, even with the cold weather - the temperature this afternoon was -1oC,  there is still lots to do.  I am still trying to revise for the RHS level 2 diploma exams in February.  I really must get on with that.  

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Allotment Garden Planning for 2013 (Old Allotment)

These are the plans for the old allotment for 2013.  If you look at the plans for 2010, 1011 and 2012 you will see that everything moves on one bed each year.  This give a really good rotation and allows me to remember where to put everything.

The top bed of allotment 25 will be filled with early potatoes.  I have ordered Sherine, Rocket, Red Duke of York, Premere and Arron Pilot.  I have only grown Red Duke of York and Arron Pilot.  Arron Pilot seems to have been around since Pontius was a pilot. It was certainly a while ago that I grew it.    The Kestrel second early potatoes will go on the new allotment.

I will have to put some additional fertiliser onto this top third of the allotment because it has only had green manure, which will be dug in

The roots and leaves bed will have carrots, beetroot, parsnips, Hamburg parsley and salsify for the roots and  Dill, sage, chamomile, lettuce, coriander, tarragon, fennel,spinach, Swiss chard, celeriac and celery.
This is a lot to fit in and if it can't be done some of these will be sown on the new allotment.

The blackcurrants have been pruned and mulched with copious amounts of horse manure.  On the bottom third of this half allotment, I have already planted the strawberries.  I will be relying on these strawberries because I am still transplanting the ones on the new allotment which means that they will not fruit well this year.

Six lines of peas and two lines of climbing french beans should be enough this year.  There are still Brussel sprouts and winter cauliflowers in this bottom bed but they should be out long before I want the ground for the peas and beans.  I am a little worried that I will have a lot of slug and snail damage on the beans because they will be right next to my neighbour's shed and compost heaps.  We will still give it a go though.

Allotment number 26(a) will have the brassica bed and the sweet peas.  I have already got the summer cauliflowers and cabbage sown and germinated.  It is just keeping them alive over the cold weather now. They are tucked away in the cold greenhouse and they should survive, if there is no prolonged cold weather.   I sowed some of my saved broad bean seeds in the autumn and they have made some good plants now.  Again, I just need to keep them alive over the winter in the cold greenhouse.  I planted some new raspberry canes last month replacing the soil to avoid raspberry soil sickness.  I am hoping that most of them come but they will not fruit this year.  The old canes I have taken to the new allotment where I will put them in as part of my permaculture area.

The alliums and the curbits will go on the bottom bed of the allotment.  I have already sown some leeks and onions.  The rest of the onions will be sown before the end of January.  I doubt if I will have four rows of garlic and I will be planting more rows of onions.

A long time ago, when I first started to grow seriously, my next door neighbour put scaffold planks alongside his leeks and filled the inside with soil to blanch the stems.  I have earthed leeks up but I have never put planks alongside to hold the soil in.  I might give it a go this year.

This is the planning for this allotment for 2013, however I have not even though about planning for the new allotment.  I have been putting in permanent things like fruit trees and rhubarb but even these may well be moved if they do not fit in with the planning.  When I have a clearer idea about the size and shape of the beds on the new allotment then I will put the planning on this blog.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

January jobs on the Allotment

I went up to the old  allotment primarily to get some vegetables for the week but I knew  that I really should start to dig in the green manure (winter tares and grazing rye) sown when the potatoes were harvested.

The very wet weather has battered the grazing rye about and it looks a little unsightly now.  The green manure needs to be dug in because I will be planting out the alliums soon.  I have a greenhouse full of garlic, elephant garlic, shallots and onions.  All these plants can be put outside if the winter is not too extreme.  I was thinking of covering them with a plastic cloche anyway but the cloche will be squashed if we have a lot of snow.

The other option is to leave the alliums in the greenhouse until the weather changes in March and this will restrict what seed can be sown now.  If I do not have any space to put seedlings then there is no point in sowing seeds. However, if I can put the alliums  somewhere else, I can get on sowing tomatoes and peppers.

The other option and one that I am seriously considering now  is to repair the cold frame and use that. I was given the cold frame but it had very little intact glass.  Almost all the glass needs to be replaced and this is expensive.  Regardless, I do need the space to put plants and to protect them a little.  A glass cold frame would be ideal because it is less likely to get squashed or damaged by snow.  Apart from replacing the glass, I need to find a permanent position for the frame.

The most ideal place to put it is where the green manure is growing.

So that is another reason for digging in the green manure.  I dug about four feet by eighteen feet into this bed today and will continue to dig whenever I go down to the old allotment.  I am just single digging  because this bed was triple dug and sieved last year.  All that is needed is the green manure to be dug in and left to rot down for a couple of weeks before I begin to plant out the onions.

I am planning  to plant the broad bean plants next to the new raspberry canes and this area need to be dug as well but not at the moment.  

In order to get some big plants the All the Year Round cauliflowers and the summer cabbage were sown.  Tomatoes and sweet peppers sown in three inch pot and brought into the house to germinate.

Some leeks, Brussel sprouts, carrots and parsnips were harvested from the allotment and onions and pumpkins taken from the store shed.  They were put into some plastic crates which will be used as  surfaces to put seedlings on in the green house.  I can carry the harvest home in plastic bags so I can use the crates for other things.

I have been triple digging the new allotment for some weeks now.  It is time consuming because there is so much bindweed and mare's tail deep in the soil.  Mixing in the pigeon manure with the top soil and home made compost is very time consuming particularly as I am using the sieve.  It does make very good friable well mixed soil though so I am loath to stop sieving.  I get rid of all the bindweed rhizomes, mare's tail and large stones by sieving. 

I am mixing into the soil what I think is an old compost pile under the hawthorn hedge.  It has a lot of organic  matter in it and it sieves down to a fantastic crumbly compost.  I have dug down into the subsoil under the compost heap to get what is probably quite infertile soil; sieved it; and added it to the digging trench to plant my grape vine into.  The poorer the soil the better for the vine. I am  not sure that the vine has survived but I planted it anyway.  It has got a sunny position at the west side of the allotment. 

The hole that I dug to get  the subsoil will have to be enlarged because there is a large oil drum on the allotment that needs to be buried.  I am using it for a dustbin at the moment for rubbish plastic and glass which will be buried with the oil drum.  I would have kept the drum as a water container but it does not seem to be water tight. Once it is buried I will fill it with stone  sieved from the dug soil and use it as a soak away under the shed.  More of the stones will be used as a foundation for the shed; covered with a little subsoil with slabs laid on top.  This will give a sound base for the shed; get rid of the stones and position the shed under the hedge where it is too shady to grow vegetables. 

The scrap metal man came past the allotment so I gave him the metal drum and some other metal off the allotment.  This got rid of the problem much faster than trying to bury it.  I will fill the hole with stone.

I really need to get on with the triple digging because I have a lot of plants to put into the new allotment.  There are the new raspberries, blackcurrant cuttings, asparagus, gooseberry cuttings, an apple tree and the bay tree cuttings.

I have buried all the brushwood  two spits down and really need some more.  There is still a lot of brushwood that will come from the hedge at home.  I will also continue to take out the shrubby Locinera and bury that as well.  I have already cut back the hedge at the end of the allotment and buried the brushwood but I am thinking of making the hedge a little thinner still.  It is all grist to the mill. 

My neighbour allotmenteer has given me some woody stuff that he was going to burn together with his old runner bean plants.  Lots of nutrients in these. 

So tomorrow  it  is digging again.  I am  beginning to ache.