Thursday, 1 May 2014

Spring is always the most busy time of the year.

It would seem that I have passed the examinations for two of the four courses that make up the 'Level 3 Certificate in the Principles of Plant Growth, Health and Applied Propagation.'  I have no idea how I did that.

The examination venue was completely unsatisfactory; the weather was atrocious with both wind and rain;  I was certainly discombobulated; and I even forgot the latin name of nettle.

After a great deal of preparation, there were a lot of questions that I was not expecting; which also threw me a little. I was not pleased and certainly not confident.

However, I have passed but now muse on how well I could have done if the conditions were much better. The course is run by Darren Rudge at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in their classrooms.  The classrooms are quiet, well lit, familiar and with outstanding views of the Garden.

Why can't we have the exams there?

Remarkably, we have now been told that we can take the exams at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens and a good job too...

I am far too old to be surrounded by hundreds of noisy teenagers ( nothing against the exuberance of youth but not when I am nervous and in an exam situation ); be told to take my hat off inside the building and to be squeezed into a small classroom just to take an exam that I am doing as a hobby project.

I look forward to the exams in June...

Let's get back to the allotment.  After finishing the clearance, I have begun to fill the beds with seedlings and seeds.

Shallots, garlic and elephant garlic bulbs keep from last year have been planted and are doing well.  There is some signs of Phytomyza gymnostoma, the allium miner fly, but not as much as I had expected.  I have not had time to net these alliums so they have been exposed to the fly during April when it is laying eggs.  One of my next jobs is to plant the onions grown from seed and these will certainly be covered with enviromesh.

The onions grown from seed are not growing very quickly so I will have to plant them out much smaller than I would have liked.  This will be an experiment but I do not have any worries about it.

The strawberries that I transplanted in the winter seem to be growing very well.  I need to get some straw to mulch them with and that is another job that I need to do soon.  About half of the strawberry plants have flowers on them.

The sweet peas have been devastated with flea beetle again this year.  I have lost about five, which is not as bad as last year but still irritating.  Last year and this, I sowed the seed during late winter and early spring and this may be why the beetle attacks them.  With October sown seeds, the plants have time to harden off during the winter so that when they are planted out they are much more robust.  This year I will sow the seed in October. I have some plants to replace the ones that have succumbed to the flea beetle but I will have spaces in the rows if any more die.

I am going to plant the tall climbing peas next to the sweet peas.  Alderman, Champion of England and Telegraph are the three I am growing this year.  They have all germinated and will be planted out as soon as they are big enough, which will probably be at the weekend.   I will grow them up the old fishing nets as I did last year.

I have cut the sage right back to one bud and now they do not look scraggy at all. I am hoping that they will grow into big, dense bushes because they give off an amazing herby scent during the summer.

The kohl rabi, swede and turnip seed has germinated well and is growing on.  I need to net these with scaffold netting to keep the cabbage root fly off them.  They do not do much damage to the kohlrabi or the swede but they devastate the turnips.

My big blackberry bush Adrienne has died but I have a well sized cutting that has survived being moved.  The old loganberry has established itself and is coming into flower now.  I will not be surprised if it fruited well this year.

I have been given two rooted cuttings of Loganberry 'Ly 654', which is thornless and suitable for small gardens being not very vigorous.  I have planted these where the blackberry was.

All the green manure on the brassica bed has been dug in now to prepare for the seedlings.  Again, the brassica seedlings have not grown very fast because the greenhouse is too shaded in the garden.  I can't wait to put it down on the allotment.

I have two rows of broad beans on the pea and bean bed.  'Bunyards Exhibition' and a black podded field bean that someone gave me as seed.  Both sets of bean are doing well except that they have had neat scallops taken out of their leaves by flea beetle. Pesky little beggars.  Two rows of peas are growing well.  'Douce Provence' and 'Early Onward'.  The 'Early Onward' were planted today with a little mycorrhiza.   I have put chicken wire around them again this year, supported at the ends with concrete reinforcing wire. Canes have been pushed into the soil along the rows at 2 foot distances and secured to the chicken wire to support it.

This will give the peas a good support for them to climb up and keep the pigeons from eating them.

I need to show a succession of peas for the allotment competition so the next pea to go in will be 'Progress Number Nine' which is a second early.  It was originally know as 'Laxton's Progress number 9' and is a low growing variety.  'Lincoln', which is described as an early maincrop, will go in last.

Various herbs including rainbow sage; variegated thyme; fennel, chocolate mint, chamomile; sweet cicely and parsley have been planted along the pathway.  I still have margarum, chamomile,and  thyme to plant out. The rosemary has been planted alongside the greenhouse path.

Four rows of carrots, Flyaway, St Valery and Autumn King, have germinated under the enviromesh. Hopefully the net will keep the carrot root fly away from them.  The parsnips 'Tender and True' have eventually germinated with the beetroot 'Boltardy', however the Hamburg parsley does not seem to have woken up yet.

I have celery, celeriac, camomile, basil and florence fennel growing on to put into the leaves bed.  The salad burnet and sweet cicely have already been planted.  I need to get some annual spinach seed.

I have put up the canes for the runner beans but still have to erect the canes for the climbing french beans.  They are going either side of the potatoes.  I have only planted 'Kestrel' this year because I still have far too many bags of potatoes left from last year.  By this time they are starting to grow and going too soft to eat. They will go into the dalek composter though.  The cold frame is going next to the greenhouse but I need to get it from the old allotment and repair it.

I have watered the whole allotment with the slug nematode, Phasmarhabditis hermaphrodita,  to prevent too much damage.  They don't eat too much of the cabbages, cauliflowers and lettuce but I would like to keep them away so they don't lodge themselves inside them.

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