Friday, 22 March 2013

Late season this year

Due to the covering of snow we have had last night, the prospects of sowing and planting are going to be postponed for at least a week.  The beginning of April seems to be the first week that temperatures will have risen enough to start the major planting season.

I finished off the asparagus bed at Shugborough putting mychorrhizal fungi on the roots.  Afterwards, I was incorrectly told by a volunteer that asparagus should not be planted in spring.  Looking at the RHS April magazine "The Garden"; it has two articles about asparagus: "Tips for Taste" page 92 and "Establishing and harvesting asparagus" page 28 because now is the time for planting.  Just looking at Thompson and Morgan website for delivery of one year old asparagus crowns shows that they will be delivered between March and May.  What are you supposed to do with them until the autumn if you cannot plant them when they come? To say that I was not pleased by this this comment is an understatement.

The St. Julien A suckers from the plum tree seem to be growing on now.  I am going to try to graft an apricot onto two of them.  I will have to pot them up and keep them in a greenhouse because apricot is fairly frost sensitive.  I will be using the Grochar compost to give them a really good start.  It will be great if the graft takes.  It will make buying an expensive grafting knife very worth while.

Nearly completed the sieve double digging of the new allotment.  I will have to move the large pile of stones that I have sieved out of the soil.  I am using them as the foundation for my shed and path.  If the top soil is going to be covered by a shed or path then it is going to be wasted.  This soil can be removed and put onto the growing area and the hole filled with the stones sieved out while digging.  So that is what I am going to do.

I still don't have a coherent plan for the new allotment and at the moment I am going to use it as an overflow area.  I will plant things that I cannot fit into the old allotment.  I always grow too much in any case.

Due to having two allotments and also working at Shugborough, I have bought a Mantis Tiller.  It is only a small tiller but it will save time.  I have covered the early potato bed with horse manure and this needs to be forked into the top soil.  The Mantis Tiller will be able to do this much quicker than I can  with a fork.  It also forms quite a good fibrous tilth that is ideal for planting into.  So with a little raking to smooth out the surface I will be planting early potatoes as soon as the weather changes.

I am turning over a pile of fresh horse manure in order to make it heat up for a hotbed; watering it with some comfrey liquid and hoping that this is adding a little nitrogen to help the process.  I am making the hot bed for the early cauliflowers.  I will dig out the top soil and put the horse manure in the trench when it begins to steam a lot.  This will be covered by a six inch layer of topsoil.  The cauliflowers seedlings in the greenhouse are about 2 cm. tall now but they will not be planted out until the middle of April when the hotbed has had time to cool a little. In Victorian times they made a four foot cube of horse manure with straight sides putting 6 inches of good sieved soil at the top.  Over the surface they would put some sort of glass cloche in order to capture some of the heat.  I doubt if I will use the cloches on the cauliflowers because I am going to cover them with some scaffold netting.  Cauliflowers seem to attract all the brassica pests and diseases out there.  So to keep pigeons, cabbage white and slugs and snails off them, they have to have a barrier and the most effective one that I have seen is scaffold netting.  I have got some quite large pieces  and will support them with blue water pipe.

I have already covered the shallots, elephant garlic and ordinary garlic with enviromesh in a similar way.  The red onion sets and Bedforshire Champion onions will be tucked under it as well when I plant them out.  This is to protect them from the onion miner fly which is a real pest on the allotment site.  I will have to protect the leeks in a similar way.  Hopefully, this cold snap will have reduced the population of flies for this year but I think that is a forlorn hope.

Growers are always moaning about something going wrong on their allotment; it is part of the fun...

My main moan at the moment is not being able to get out and plant.


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