Sunday, 29 June 2014

June allotment photographs.

Although the ground of the new allotment had been left fallow for at least a year, it has not produced as good crops as expected.  The soil is very "thin" and lacking in organic matter, which will have to be addressed during the winter.  A great deal of organic matter was dug into the subsoil and this will be used to mix into the topsoil when the ground is dug over, however additional organic matter primarily as horse manure or farmyard manure will be added later in the year.  There are some that swear by the no dig system and add copious mulches and there are others that like to dig in their organic matter.  I don't think that they are mutually exclusive.  I will go up adding mulches and I will go down digging in manure or compost.  The idea is to increase the soil organic matter and any practical method of doing so must be considered by the sensible gardener.  Why is soil organic matter (SOM) so important?

Although SOM does not contain as many nutrients as chemical fertilisers, it can store and supply plant nutrients by increasing the cation exchange capacity of the soil.  SOM holds soil particles together in stable aggregates and this helps the soil to resist compaction; promoting water drainage and reducing water run off. SOM promotes the growth of plant roots by improving the soil's air and water filled porosity.It makes the soil much more easily worked by increasing friability and root's ability to penetrate the soil profile.  The soil organic matter provides a source of energy and carbon for soil organisms that cycle nutrients and fight plant diseases.  

If adding organic matter to the soil by digging is completed relatively early in the autumn a cover crop can be sown to protect the ground from rain and leaching.
Runner Beans 
 The runner beans have done very well and are beginning to flower now.  These have been watered with comfrey liquid and weeded but had little other care.  The growing tips have been pinched out as they reached the top of the canes to encourage side shoots to develop.  More shreddings will be put onto the path and this will also act as a mulch for the beans.
Lots of flowers but no pods yet.
The only extra care the beans will get is to be watered regularly and once a week with comfrey liquid.
Globe Artichoke 
The artichoke has got some good buds on but it will be left to flower rather than being eaten.  Sometimes plants can be grown just for interest.  Maybe in the future the buds will be cooked, however it is not something that I am looking forward to.  It has some yellow leaves at the bottom which will have to be taken off but otherwise it will be left to its own devices.  There are two blackcurrants planted by the artichoke but they seem to be a little overshadowed.  They have a lot of berries on them which will be picked when they are ripe - if I remember.
This is a small row of Moneymaker and Gardener's Delight here being wound up strings.  The Moneymaker plants were given to me and have fruit on them. The Gardener's Delight were grown from seed and although they have lots of trusses, they do not have any fruit at the moment.  I put some straw around them to mulch them but the straw was affecting their growth.  They became very anemic and lost their vigour.  This was probably something to do with herbicide on the straw.  I took all the straw off and put it onto the compost heap where micro organisms will decompose the herbicide.  Meanwhile, the tomatoes have recovered and are growing well.  There is a lot of evidence of late blight Phytophthora infestans around on other allotments so the tomatoes and potatoes have been sprayed with Bordeaux mixture. The tomatoes are being carefully watered so that little water is getting onto the foliage. It is debatable whether this will protect the tomatoes from blight but everything must be tried.  
Old Victoria Plum Tree
The Victoria plum has fruited well again this year although not quite as well as last year.  There is still a lot of dead and crossing wood in the middle of the tree that needs to be cut out.  This is the time of the year to prune a plum to avoid silver leaf disease.  Although some of the fruiting branches will be taken out, it will make a much more healthy tree for next year.  So a little more focused pruning will be done over the next week.  
Composter and biochar incinerator 
I am going to make a proper biochar burner out of the metal drum.  I need to find a metal drum that is slightly smaller than the one in the photograph for a retort and weld a chimney onto the lid but that is a project for next year.  The black bin is full of compost and this will be used in the autumn to add organic matter to the soil.  The little green bin is just full of wire found on the allotment.  The wire will be put away into the shed when and if I get the second half of the next door allotment.
Available fraction compost heap
This compost heap is one that can be used later in the year.  It is full of weeds, clippings and lawn mowings. Compost from the old allotment will be added during the rest of the summer to store it before digging it in.  I have put the large wheelibin into this compost heap in order to cook the composted bindweed and mare's tail removed from the allotment last year.  The last year's compost was sieved and the sievings were put into the black wheelibin to further decompose.  The contents of the bin might be used this year however it might be safer to bury it deeply next year.
Recalcitrant fraction compost 
This compost is in a large, white woven plastic builder's sand bag.  It is full of mare's tail, bindweed, couch grass, hardwood trimmings and anything else that is difficult to rot down.  The bag has been very effective in preventing the bind weed and mare's tail from escaping and regenerating.  I am very reluctant to throw this material away because it represents some of the allotment's nutrients.  I will sieve out the decomposed material next year and continue to compost the rest, however there is the option of putting this into the biochar burner and turning it into charcoal to add to the allotment.  Some of the nutrients such as nitrogen and sulphur will be lost as gaseous oxides but the rest will remain as ash and can be added to the allotment soil.  The two tree posts have been recovered from the old allotment and will be used to construct some more espalier wire supports.  I have cut back all of my top fruit trees so that they will produce shoots that are suitable for espalier training and this has been quite successful.  I have left them growing relatively vertically to encourage their growth.  As soon as I put them horizontal their growth will slow considerably although they will still produce a lot of fruit.
Sweet Pea cut flowers
This is the second cut of sweet pea flowers.  There are still a lot of two and three flowered stems.  I am only interested in getting four and five flowered stems.  Still, they still make a good show and the sent is wonderful.  The old barrow is past its sell by date and will be taken down to the tip to be recycled next week.  I am going to treat myself to a new wheel barrow because I need to shift some shreddings up to the allotment paths and this will need a decent wheel barrow.  The wheelbarrow at the old allotment will be brought down to the new but it has a flat tire so I will not be able to use it until it is repaired.
Although the straw had something in it which affected the tomatoes, it does not seem to have affected the strawberries.  I have had quite a lot of strawberries off this bed even though it was not covered in netting.  The birds had their share but left enough for me.  There is a big mix up of varieties in the bed and I am considering buying some named varieties for next year.  They are still fruiting but not as prolifically as the last two weeks.  However, you can have too much of a good thing and I doubt if I will be eating too many more.  The rest will be made into jam.
Alderman Peas
The Alderman peas have done well and are now over six foot tall.  There are lots of flowers but not a lot of pods yet.  Still, these were put in as an afterthought because I put in too many rows of canes for the sweet peas so anything they produce will be a bonus.  The guyot trained grape has not been quite so successful as I wanted.  Some of the buds were killed off by a late frost and the other spurs have not grown as long or as vigourously as I expected.  However, they were only planted in March this year so I cannot expect too much of them.

White Grape
This grape has not been tied in yet mainly because the stems have not been long enough.  All three grapes will show a lot more vigour next year and much more amenable to being trained properly.

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

Sweet peas

Sweet peas
 I had just taken off all the flowers so they look a little drab at the moment, however they will produce a lot more flowers in a couple of days.  The tendrils and side shoots have been removed so the vigour in their one stem is increased especially when the flowers have been take off as well.

New area in September 2013
This is what the new area looked like last September.  We are looking towards where the greenhouse is now and the path running alongside the allotment.  The cleared piece of land is where the sweet peas are now.
New area
This is the new area which was dug over in May and early June this year.  It has lots of plants that I could not fit into the main allotment and I have constructed the greenhouse and put it on this area.  This area was planned to be a comfrey bed but it has worked much better as an overflow area.
Purple sprouting broccoli 
The purple sprouting broccoli have recovered quite well from being devastated by pigeons.  I have had to cover them very carefully with netting to keep them from being attacked again.  There is a row of late All The Year Round cauliflowers under the enviromesh cover.  
Some Outdoor Girl tomatoes 
These are the Outdoor Girl tomatoes that were grown from seed.  They are looking very vigourous at the moment but they have been sprayed with Bordeaux mixture against blight.
Greenhouse with Outdoor Girl Tomatoes
One of the reasons for digging over this area was to put up my new old greenhouse.  It still needs the sides and roof glazing but I am thinking of using poly carbonate sheeting rather than glass.  It is nearly as good as glass but it also has the added advantage of not being as brittle.  The glass that I was given to glaze the sides and top does not fit so I am using it as cloches.

Squashes, courgettes and pumpkin
The rest of this bed has the squashes, courgettes and pumpkins interspersed with french beans.  I doubt if I will crop the beans but they will add to the nitrogen in the soil.  As you can see the soil is very thin here and needs a lot of organic matter even though it has been fallow for about two years or more.  The carpets will be left on the bed until the autumn when the project to clear this area and the next allotment down will be started.
Herbs alongside the path
I have cut the herbs hard back and this seems to have produced a bushy shape that looks good.  The sage was getting very leggy but now is tight clumps.  The courgette in the corner seems to be growing well and the Sorbus vilmorinii has more than doubled in height so far this summer.

September 2013

bay and box
The bays have been grown from cuttings and I am now training them to be standards - although there is always one that is difficult.
Chocolate mint, thyme, fennel and rainbow sage
The herbs look much tidier when they are cut hard back and are growing in tight clumps.  
Turnip, kohlrabi and swede

The turnip, kohlrabi and swede look very squashed under the scaffold netting.  It is there to keep the pigeons from eating them.  However, there is also ordinary netting covering the Brussel Sprouts so I will be taking the scaffold netting off them this week to enable them to have a little more room to grow.  They have been thinned out to about nine inches apart and this will give me decent sized roots.  
Brussel  Sprouts.
The Brussel Sprouts were severely cut back by the pigeons and have had to be carefully netted.  They were the only brassicas I had not used the scaffold netting to cover.  The pigeons at the new allotment site are much more irritating than the ones at the old site.  
Calabrese and winter cauliflower
The scaffold netting will prevent cabbage white and cabbage root fly from getting to the plants.  The winter cauliflowers are right in the middle of the bed again and will be in the way when I plant the peas here next year.  The cauliflowers will mature at the end of April and beginning of May 2015.  However, if the pea rows are planted in succession I can use this area of the bed last.  Shows you that you have to be aware of what and where you are planting so that you don't upset the rotation plan.  

Romanesco cauliflower and cabbages

Excluding the insects and pigeons using the netting shows just how brassicas are supposed to grow.  These are very healthy and vigourous plants.  The ground here had a great deal of shredded woody organic matter added to the subsoil.  I don't think that it has robbed the soil of nitrogen, produced any allelopathic chemicals that are affecting the brassicas - or the weeds or made the soil difficult to work.

So what is the fuss all about adding lots of carbon to the soil?  I can't see any positive noticeable effects  at the moment but this might be because the organic  matter has not rotted down sufficiently yet.  As it has been a particularly wet year  the organic matter's ability to soak up and store water has not been particularly needed over the past few months.  When the decomposed organic matter has been incorporated into the top soil  during the winter it will begin to alter the structure of the soil aggregates making the soil much more friable and easier to work.
Flamenco cauliflowers and of All the Year Round
I have planted a lot of summer cauliflowers this year primarily to see whether they can grow well on this soil. They are nitrogen hungry plants so any nitrogen deficiency will show up quite quickly in producing small stunted plants with no vigour and yellow mature leaves.  These Flamenco and All The Year Round cauliflowers seem to be doing relatively well.  Therefore, no nitrogen deficiency here.

The pumpkins have been planted under the grape supporting wire.  The garlic, shallots and elephant garlic will be harvested fairly soon and the ground will be bare and open to leaching and rain compaction.  The pumpkins will grow over this area, protect the ground and produce lots of big pumpkins.  Six plants were put in and that might be too many so they either need to be thinned out and transplanted to the overflow bed or left to see what will happen.  I think that they will seriously overtake this area because pumpkin can be a thuggish plant.
Garlic and shallots.
While these garlic and shallots were growing particularly well until May, they have suffered from Phytomyza gymnostoma during June.  They have recovered a little now but it shows how important it is to cover the alliums against this pesky fly.  
Onions under the enviromesh.
 Even when the onions have been covered by enviromesh since they were planted out and copious amounts of water and comfrey liquid once a week, they are still not growing with any kind of vigour.  The ground here is friable and has a lot of added green manure so there should be enough nitrogen for them. These are February sown plants believe it or not. I have no idea why they are so poor.  Next year I will use sets as well as seed.  Now that the threat of Phytomyza gymnostoma has passed (they are laying eggs during April and May) , I will take the netting off and allow the plants to get some more sunlight and see if that will improve them at all.  
The leeks are fairly small at the moment but that is normal.  I want them to mature in the winter so they can develop more rapidly later in the summer.  I will not take the netting off even though the threat of Phytomyza gymnostoma has passed because these flies have a second generation in September time.  While the onions will have been harvested by then, these leeks will still be vulnerable.  The gooseberry is growing over the leeks a little but the branch overshadowing them has quite a lot of gooseberries on it so I will only cut it back after the gooseberries have been harvested.

Moving down to the pea and bean bed, the pigeons have been eating the dwarf and climbing French beans. This is the first time I have seen this in 52 years of gardening but there is always a first. However, as you can see in the photograph the plants have recovered and growing quite well now.
Dwarf at the front and climbing French beans at the back.
Pigeons have been eating the peas as well as everything else.  They are eating the foliage rather than the pods.

Lincoln Pea
The peas need weeding a little mainly because the weeds are growing out onto the pathway.  If they say in the rows I can't see them.  I am not feeding the Lincoln peas because I want a clear succession and feeding will speed their growth up and they will catch up with the Progress No. 9.
Progress No.9 Pea
Although the Progress No.9 was sown a good month before the Lincoln,  they have not really developed very quickly.
Douce Provence and Early Onward Pea
The Early Onward pea pods are filling out now ready to be picked next week or so.  The Douce Provence has been harvested for over a week now.  I have had about five pounds of peas off this row.  According to the "Gardener's Pocket Book" Page 84 says that a 30 ft. row of peas you should get 12lbs of peas.  As these rows are about 15 feet long, I think that five pounds is just about right, although there are still quite a few pods still to be harvested.

The broad beans have done particularly well.

Broad bean Bunyards Exhibition and
another with black pods
As you can see from the white garden chair, these are well over five feet tall and producing a great quantity of pods.  Some of the pods will be kept for planting in the autumn and overwintering as green manure.  There is evidence that in some conditions Vica fabia can fix 267 lbs of nitrogen per acre, which is the highest fixation rates of all the legumes.  It is so easy to grow as well.  

The area where the white seat is will have the greenhouse on it.  This will be my next project.  

There are still tadpoles in the pond which I hope will turn into frogs that will eat all the slugs on the allotment.  The nematodes applied earlier in the month are beginning to die back and there is evidence of slug damage appearing again.  The frogs will just add to the predation of the slugs.  I still have to get some more pond creatures to add to the pond's flora and fauna, however it is doing quite well as it stands now.  I am going to make a water feature out of the old metal watering can using a solar powered pump.  This will add a little more oxygen to the pond.

Blackberry Adriene 

Loganberry and Dewberry.
These Rubus cultivars have done remarkably well because they were planted in March and April this year. The loganberry has produced copious amounts of berries.  It is not my favourite berry but it goes with raspberries and blackcurrants to make a very acceptable desert with yoghurt.

Climbing French Beans with Tomatoes
This is the main row of climbing French beans.  There are three different varieties all saved from seed grown last year.  I have planted some Gardener's Delight tomatoes between the beans which I had earmarked to go in the greenhouse but they are far too large to transplant now.  They are growing up strings attached to the horizontal cane at the top of the wigwam cane structure. 

Remarkably, my trusty bread tray sieve is still fairly intact after sieving all the soil in this allotment and part of the next one.  I hope that it survives to sieve the soil all the way down to the shed on the next allotment because there are some major mare's tail and bindweed problems in that one.

Cold Frame
The cold frame now has radish, mixed leaves, basil, spinach and lettuce in it.  The mixed leaves can be harvested now but the radish have not bulked up yet.
Cucumber and lettuces

 The cucumbers will grow up the mesh frames so that the cucumber fruits are straighter.  If they are grown on the ground the fruit are curved. These look like healthy plants at the moment.  The glass is the panes that don't fit the greenhouse so I have made "cloches" out of them.  The ones over the lettuce have catches on them that don't really work very well however they are surviving at the moment and protecting the lettuce from the pigeons.  I will take the glass off the cucumbers when they start to climb up the mesh frame.

Pear Tree
The leaning pear tree has a lot of fruit on it some of which will have to be thinned out if I am going to get large fruit.  The teasle is starting to flower now and will produce seedheads that the birds can eat during the winter.  The blackberry and gooseberry cuttings are now beginning to look like bushes.  I will have to do some formative pruning during the winter but they can grow on now.

Carrots and Salsify
The carrots have outgrown their enviromesh and I have had to put larger blue water pipe supports and the big enviromesh over them to give them some more growing space.  A mighty good crop though.  I will start to harvest them soon and grate them into salads.  This will thin them and allow some to grow large for the late summer and autumn.  There is a clump of lemon balm in the salsify row.  I think that I left it in the pot when I planted it so that it does not spread.  
This is the poorest row of parsnips that I have ever grown.  I am fairly sure that they are infested with carrot root fly.  I have been watering and feeding since I took this photograph and now they look a lot better. However, I will not get very good roots and resowing seems to be the most sensible thing to do.  I will still be able to get reasonable sized roots from seed sown now.  

Beetroot are growing very well.  The slugs don't seem to bother with them on this allotment whereas on the old allotment the slugs devastated them.  

Mixture of leaves here. 
I have celery, camomile, coriander, lettuce spinach, fennel and Good King Henry Chenopodium bonus henricus  in this bed.  Not as many leaves as I usually grow but a good selection.  There is also asparagus pea here too because I don't have anywhere else for it to go.

Even though the little leaning apple tree has very little foliage, it is still producing a good crop of apples.  I have pruned away all the dead, diseased and damaged branches and there are none crossing now.  There are few if any woody shoots so there is no necessity for summer pruning.  Depending on the June drop, I will thin out the apples to get some big ones this year.

Although they look quite healthy in this photograph, the potatoes have been affected by blight.  You can tell because the stems are falling over and there are gaps in the canopy.  The symptoms of necrosis patches on the leaves and yellowing of the lower leaves started during the middle of June and I have sprayed with Bordeaux mixture in an attempt to mitigate the effects.  There will be a reduced yield this year but that's gardening.  Next year I will get a bumper crop.

Raspberries along the back path 
The two raspberry varieties planted in January to March have done particularly well and have grown lots of new canes.  I will be tying these in when the old canes have finished fruiting.  I have set up the comfrey butt by the little shed and filled it with comfrey from the old allotment.  It is producing a lot of liquid which is being used constantly to feed the allotment.
Path along hedge in April

More raspberries.  
 The two raspberry varieties that I planted in April and May have not done so well.  I would like to keep these varieties but may loose the majority of them.  I want to plant some autumn fruiting raspberries along here as well and this will be done during the autumn.  Hopefully, I will be able to sort out the path by then so that I have the space to put them in.

So that is the allotment in late June.  I am cropping peas, strawberries, loganberries, raspberries, lettuce, mixed leaves, camomile flowers, spinach, sweet pea flowers and various herbs at the moment.  I am looking forward to harvesting a lot more in the following months.