Sunday, 20 April 2014

Fruit on the old allotment.

I have cleared off and given up the top half of my old allotment.  It was a bit of a wrench because I had had that allotment for over 30 years and it came third twice in the Wolverhampton allotment competition.
The reasons for giving it up were.

  1. Even though I had invested a lot of time and effort in trying to drain the soil,  this year saw the allotment with running water flowing over it for five months.
  2. For over a week now we have been having bitter north easterly winds that have been blowing across the allotment.  I noticed today that the black currant foliage had been burnt back by the wind and the frost we have been having.  Having a north easterly facing allotment just makes things that more difficult.  
  3. Being at the top of Penn hill  makes the allotment even more exposed.  I don't think that there are any hills between Penn hill and the Urals in Russia and when that north easterly wind blows I'm sure it is straight from northern Russia.  
  4. The allotment is about five miles from where I live and takes me a 20 minute drive to get there. 

So rather than give the whole allotment up, I thought that I could keep one half but plant things in it that do   not need a lot of fussing over.  The first things that I moved were the strawberries.  Moving them this late in the season means that I will not get much fruit off them this year.  Similarly with the black currants, moving them now means that I will not have any fruit on them.  I moved the strawberries one at a time watering them in straight away with dilute comfrey liquid.  They were moved with a large root ball of top soil and this seems to have been a successful venture.  

After inspecting the black currants carefully, I found quite a bit of big bud mite,  Cecidophyopsis ribis Most gardeners would recommend that mite infested black currants should be taken out and burnt.  However, as I was going to prune the bushes hard back in order to be able to transplant them, I would remove most of the big bud mite as well.So I coppiced all of the bushes before moving them and buried the prunings with big bud mite 2 feet deep in the soil.
The plants were very big but were still able to be moved.  I transplanted them one at a time so that they were out of the ground for as shorter time as possible.  The ground was prepared by digging over leaving holes for the currants.  I did not use any additional fertiliser because this ground had been well manured with pigeon muck last year.  As I dug the currants up, I left a large ball of roots and top soil.  They were put into the holes so that the base of the stems were just below the surface of the soil to encourage shoots to grow from the bottom and were copiously watered with comfrey liquid.  I planted them about a yard apart and staggered the planting.  The cuttings from the currants were planted alongside the comfrey bed and will be used to replace any of the older currants that do not fruit and to expand the fruiting area. 

The plants will be mulched with anything that comes to hand such as lawn mowings, horse manure, shredded woody material; leaves; straw and green manure.  If this is done properly with at least a 2 cm covering then I will not need to weed between the bushes - overly.

The green manure has produced a lot of growth and really should be dug in.  However, I thought that I would use it as a mulch to cover the ground between the strawberries and the blackcurrants.

I was given two Rubus x loganobaccus 'Lye 654' today but will plant them on the new allotment.  The blackberry Rubus fruticosus 'Adrienne' has died because it had been moved, however I have another very healthy rooted cutting that has established itself.  If I take out the dead blackberry, there will be room and supports for the new loganberries.

Three more two feet slabs were taken up to the new allotment.  They were used for the greenhouse path.  I will have to level them properly but they seem to be bedded in better than I thought.  I brought the slab trolley as well but the curbing on the sides of the path prevented me from using it.  I still need 23 slabs to complete all the paths.  However, moving two foot square and 2 inch thick slabs is not my favourite sport so there will be no rush to finish.  The slabs do add an air of professionalism to the allotment through giving me edges and straight lines to follow

Looking at some allotments, gardeners do not seem to think that straight lines and right angles are a good way to vegetable garden.  I have always used straight lines primarily because it is easy to work out planting and thinning distances.  Another advantage is that it enables you to hoe between the plants easily and keep the allotment weed free.  Neat weed free lines of vegetables look more aesthetically pleasing than a higgledy piggledy weed infested patch of broadcast seedlings.  They discovered this in the 19th century and I have not found anything different.  

Yesterday, I dug the compost and green manure into the runner bean bed and raised the level of the soil a little.  I put up quite a number of canes using wire ties.  I used three tree posts to give the structure a little more stability.  I am using the triangular method of tying in the canes with a horizontal at the top and two rows of canes tied to them.  

I have sown some runner beans in the green house but it may still be a little early for them.  The seedlings will be protected when I plant them out but it is far too early to plant them at the moment particularly with this cold north easterly wind.

I looked to see if any of my 'Aalsmeer' winter cauliflowers had headed up and found two that were ready for picking.  I also got some rhubarb.  These are the only vegetables that I am harvesting at the moment.  I am almost ready to begin growing in the cold frame where I will be sowing mixed leaves, lettuce and radish for salad.

That annoying north easterly wind defeated me and I went home for cauliflower cheese and rhubarb crumble.

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