This year I have made a proper hotbed using horse manure. It will be for the cauliflowers again because they did so well on the hugelkultur hotbed last year. As there was no brushwood or logs to bury, hugelkultur couldn't be used this year. However, there has been two or three very big loads of horse manure delivered to the allotment and this could be used to make a big traditional hotbed.
I have been turning a big pile of manure over for about two weeks now, watering it with dilute comfrey liquid to heat it up. Unfortunately the cold weather and the cold drying wind has meant that the manure pile has not warmed and keeps drying out. I made the decision to make the hot bed regardless and set about it today.
Topsoil was needed to cap the hot bed and the only way to do this was to dig a trench out where the hot bed was to be placed. The bed was four foot across twelve feet long and one spit deep. The top soil was set to one side and the bottom of the trench was forked over to a depth of one spit. The horse manure was stacked in the trench until it was about one foot above the original soil level and trodden down. More manure was added until the height was restored. The top was leveled and the sides made vertical. The manure was watered with dilute comfrey liquid again in order to keep it moist.
I needed a 6-8 inch layer of top soil on top of the hot bed so that the cauliflower plants could be planted directly into the soil. With such a wide bed it was quite easy to achieve and rake level. I will be able to plant two rows of cauliflowers here and hopefully get some fairly large ones. On one side of the hot bed I have put a slope of topsoil and will grow some cabbages here. The whole area will be covered in scaffold netting supported by blue water pipes as a barrier against cabbage white butterfly caterpillars. The scaffold netting will also keep the pigeons off the cauliflowers. The hot bed is four to five feet across, one foot above the soil level and about twelve foot long stretching right across the brassica bed.
The cauliflower and cabbage plants are about 4-5 cm tall now growing in three inch pots in the greenhouse. They can stay in their pots until they are twice that size and if the weather remains this cold then that is what will happen. When brassica plants are ten inches tall slugs and snails are much less likely to be attracted to them.
I have erected four rows of canes. One row will be for the runner beans and the other three for sweet peas. I will need at least another three rows of canes for the sweet peas but I have run out of canes. I bought two hundred canes during the winter but they need to be brought to the old allotment. I need about fifty canes for the new allotment's runner beans but the rest can be used for the sweet peas.
This will be the next job.
The sweet peas are not really growing at the moment. Most have been pinched out but they have not developed their side shoots yet. I will probably allow two shoots to develop into stems because I will not get a good show of flowers this year. I will get more flowers but much smaller than usual.
I had the seed to sow the parsnips and Hamburg parsley but it was still very cold and the wind bitterly penetrating so I thought I would leave sowing seeds until later in the week. I probably will cover the parsnips with a cloche when I do eventually sow them. There is still snow on Penn hill by the cricket ground which is lower than the allotment site.
The potatoes need planting at the new allotment and there is less danger from frost because the new allotment is a lot lower altitude and it is sloping to the south. The potatoes should develop quite quickly in these conditions.