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.
|Lots of flowers but no pods yet.|
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|
|Available fraction compost heap|
|Recalcitrant fraction compost|
|Sweet Pea cut flowers|
|New area in September 2013|
|Purple sprouting broccoli|
|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.
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.
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.
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.
|Greenhouse with Outdoor Girl Tomatoes|
|Squashes, courgettes and pumpkin|
|Herbs alongside the path|
|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.
The herbs look much tidier when they are cut hard back and are growing in tight clumps.
|Chocolate mint, thyme, fennel and rainbow sage|
|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.
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|
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.|
|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.
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.|
|Progress No.9 Pea|
|Douce Provence and Early Onward Pea|
The broad beans have done particularly well.
|Broad bean Bunyards Exhibition and|
another with black pods
The area where the white seat is will have the greenhouse on it. This will be my next project.
|Loganberry and Dewberry.|
|Climbing French Beans with Tomatoes|
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
|Cucumber and lettuces|
|Carrots and Salsify|
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.|
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.
|Raspberries along the back path|
|Path along hedge in April|
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.