Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Planting out the sweet peas.

Although they were not very big, I decided to plant out the sweet peas  at the allotment regardless.  I had the cane supports already constructed so it only involved knocking them out of the root trainers and putting them into planting holes.  Before I put them out, blood, fish and bone was scattered along the rows and watered in with comfrey liquid.  This, together with the green manure already dug in, would give the sweet pea plants plenty of nutrients for good growth now that the temperatures are beginning to climb.  I put some mychorrhizal fungi in the planting holes of some of the plants to encourage a symbiosis and possibly enhanced growth and flowering.

I did not have as many plants as I had expected because some had been eaten by slugs and snails when they were hardening off on the patio at home.  However, I got five rows of fifteen fairly healthy plants with seven different varieties.  This year I put the name of the variety onto a plant label and tied them to a cane at the beginning of the row so that I would remember which was where.  When the label had just been put  into the ground at the beginning of each row, I was constantly losing them or mixing them up.

The left over double line of canes will be used for the Pisum sativum 'Alderman' and the other tall, climbing peas.  I will cover the canes with old netting and let the peas scramble up.  Doing this, it produced a good crop of peas last year.

In order to keep the rows looking acceptable, I went along each path forking the soil to erase my footprints. I'm not sure whether I will do this every time but it will help to keep weeds from growing on the paths.

I have labelled most of the fruit trees and bushes now.  I have two Malus domesticus  'Discovery'; Malus domesticus 'Egremont Russet' which I grafted myself; Malus domesticus 'Ribston pippin'; a Malus domesticus 'Cox's Orange Pippin'; two Pyrus communis unknown varieties; Pyrus communis 'Doyenne du Comice'; Prunus domestica 'Opal'; Prunus domestica 'Victoria'; a black fruited Vitis vinifera and a white fruited Vitis vinifera unknown varieties; Rubus fruticosa 'Adriene'; Rubus x loganobaccus; Ribes idaeus 'Xania' which is a red desert gooseberry and Ribes idaeus unknow green variety.

Two of the three grafts I made using the M9 rootstock and the 'Ribston Pippin' during March seem to be taking and the buds swelling.  However, I would like to see more growth movement before I admit success.

Most of the top fruit is being grown as espaliers.  This enables me to fit all the trees into the allotment, divides the beds as a partition to enable easy rotation,  increases my skill in pruning to espalier shape,  produces fruit where it is easily harvested and does not produce an overwhelming number of fruit.

Two 15 foot lines of broad beans have been planted in the peas and beans bed. One line of Vicia faba 'Bunyards Exhibition' and one line of Vicia faba a black podded field bean.  I don't really like broad beans to eat but it gives me another vegetable to sample now and again.  I will also grow these for seed and use them to grow plants as a green manure to cover the ground during next winter.

Three lines of Pisum sativum 'Douce Provence'  were planted alongside the broad beans.  I have surrounded the peas with chicken wire mesh primarily for the peas to climb up, however this has also made a particularly good barrier against the pigeons which seem to have a particular penchant for pea foliage.   I put some concrete reinforcing wire at the ends of the rows to give the chicken wire some shape and strength. Surrounding with chicken wire makes weeding a little more difficult but is worthwhile because it gives me a higher yield of peas.  The pea plants grow more upright and the flowers are more exposed for insects to pollinate.

When these legumes have been harvested, I will dig them into the soil.  The extra nitrogen that they have fixed with the help of root nodule bacteria will also be added to increase the fertility of the soil.  If the legumes are moved as part of the allotment rotation, the next crop can take advantage of  this fixed nitrogen.

I did not add any blood, fish and bone to the rows of broad beans and peas because I had added rock dust and blood, fish and bone when sieve double digging earlier in the year.  This base dressing of fertiliser should be enough for the legumes.  Hopefully, they will fix their own nitrogen using nitrogen fixing bacteria in root nodules.  I did add a little mychorrhiza to some of the broad bean and pea plants to encourage symbiosis.

I need to bring some more two foot slabs from the old allotment to finish off the path down the side of the allotment.  This will enable me to put the curbing in; which involves digging deep holes alongside the path.  I cannot sow any of the 'root' seeds until I have completed this and levelled the soil.

I have started to dig allotment 3A now.  I am only going to use this area to plant comfrey so I am not digging very deep or with as much care as allotment 2.  I am taking all the bindweed and mare's tail out carefully because I do not want to be tackling this during the summer.  Hopefully, the comfrey will grow large and healthily and shade out any weeds that try to grow between it.

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