Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Seed sowning, potato planting and still digging.

I sowed several different seed types today.  I used New Horizon General Purpose growing medium.  I did not add anything else primarily because I did not have any vermiculite or grit.  The compost is fairly open in any case and does not readily cap.

Seeds sown were: lettuce Web's Wonderful;  Fennel "Colossale" and "Sirio"; Celeriac "Asterix"; Celery "Victoria" and Celery "Full White".  Tomorrow I will be sowing the brassicas and peas.

I could not bring myself to plant the potatoes in this cold wet soil so that is still to be done.  I still need to dig in the green and  horse manure on the potato beds and this can be done fairly quickly.  I tried to use the Mantis Tiller  yesterday but the ground was far too wet.  If it does not dry up, I will just fork it over.

I have dug down to the old apple tree on the new allotment which has prompted me to do a little more remedial pruning.  The apple tree did not produce any fruit last year mainly because of overcrowding of branches and a covering of Calystegia sepium.  I have already done the three d's - removed dead, diseased and damaged material.  (However, I saw some more canker on it yesterday and that will have to come out. I will need a saw for that branch.) There are crossing branches and I took out some of these together with branches that were growing in the middle to open it up.  The others will be removed next year, although they might fruit and the weight pull them into a more suitable position.  I took out a lot of the fruiting spurs because there were far to many to produce large apples.  All the spurs that were pointing down came off and that gave the tree a much more open structure.  You could throw your hat through it.  The whole tree is leaning towards the north because the hedge is on the south side and was shading it.  This may affect it later in its life but I think that it is fine at the moment.  I will keep the height about 5 to 6 foot high so that I do not need a ladder to prune and crop it.  I don't know what the root stock is for this tree but I suspect that it will be one of the dwarfing ones.  A lot of the buds have been damaged by the easterly wind but I am hoping that they have still protected the flowers.  The buds were only just opening.

Spent all day yesterday digging in a bitterly cold easterly wind.  I kept myself warm by working quite hard but I am feeling it today.  Aches and pains all over.  Not a lot more digging to do but still about 6 to 8 foot to do.  The allotment slopes along the hedge so that one side of the allotment is about 8 foot longer than the other.  This means that I will not have to dig all the way across the whole width of the allotment and this will mean that it will take no time at all once past the apple tree.  Double digging and sieving the soil has produced as finer tilth as on the old allotment.  I think that it took about 10 years on the old allotment to get as friable soil as I have on the new allotment in one years digging.  However, to make the new allotment's soil as good as the old allotment I will have to add a lot more organic matter.  Digging the black, crumbly decomposed woody shreddings into the soil has started this process but I still need to continue.

I am really struggling with the carpets on the allotment.  They are definitely not a good idea.  I think that I have several that are more than 15 foot square. They are incredibly difficult to move when they are wet and they are in the way of the digging.  I have no where to store them now and getting them down to the tip will be a right pain in the neck.

I hate carpets on allotments.

I have put out the sweet peas again to harden off after taking them into the greenhouse during the snowy weather.  I have lost a few this year due to the cold easterly winds and snow but I am not too worried, (although the temperature tonight is going to fall to -4oC.)  I seem to have a lot of Gwendoline, which I like and Epicure, which I don't.  I have pinched out all the growing tips after the first leaf to remove apical dominance and encourage lateral buds to form. The two strongest buds will be left to grow on.

The peppers and the tomato seedlings are still surviving - remarkably in these temperatures.  I think that I am keeping the greenhouse just above freezing overnight but it is really difficult.  It needs more than a little paraffin heater.  Needless to say, if I can keep them alive for this week then the forecast is for temperatures to rise and the pressure will be off.

I need to prick out the onions and leeks into trays.  I will do that tomorrow after sowing the seeds.

I need the allotment soil to dry and warm up so that I can begin to sow seed in earnest.  It will be warmer soon.

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