Thursday, 26 November 2015

Moving the lavender.

I dug over the strip of soil along the new onion bed beside the path.  This was just to turn in the green manure that was growing there.  I took out the lavender plants and planted them right up to the curbing along the path adding some mychorrhizal fungi to the planting holes. 

Green manure before I dug it in. I didn't dig any
manure in keeping it for the onions. 

I started to clip the plants with a pair of secateurs but I was not achieving the effect I wanted so I got out the garden shears.  I got a much straighter edge along the top and both sides with the shears.  I cut the plants back to about 5 inches high and 5 inches across.  It has made a very tidy edging to the bed.  I  don't think that they used lavender as an edging plant in the Victorian kitchen gardens but I may be wrong. 

There was enough room at the end of the row to put some more plants in alongside the path.  Two  rosemary plants were being overshadowed by the big Victoria rhubarb plants so the rosemary plants were taken out and added to the end of the lavender row.  They were clipped to the same size as the lavender.

I also went up and clipped the rosemary by the small greenhouse to about the same size.  It is a little more scraggy than lavender and does not make as good edging plant, however I am growing the rosemary as a herb rather than an edging shrub. 

Rather than throw all of the clippings onto the compost heap, I put some of them into the cold frame as cuttings.  I have just planted them in the cold frame soil rather than in pots because I am not too worried if they do not take. If they do root, I will put them as an edging along the path on the far side of the allotment. 

Although it was quite wet, the path was swept; picking up the soil that had fallen from the beds and leaves that had fallen from the hawthorn hedge.

I am going to plant one of the apple espaliers behind the lavender; probably "King of the Pippins".  With that in mind, I painted the tree posts with the Cuprinol I had left over from doing the sheds.  I doubt very much if the paint will make the posts last any longer than if they went without, especially as the posts are tanninised.   However, it does make them look better and blend into the allotment a little more than if they weren't painted. 

Also, if I don't use it on the posts, I have no other use for it and it will fester, taking up space in the shed, until I decide to take it down to the tip.  So, I am trying to use it up, so that I can take the empty tin, with the rest of the tip stuff, to the waste disposal site. 

I still have to get stretchers to put at the top of the posts to stop them leaning in when I string the wire across and pull it tight. 

One of the scaffold nets had been put over the green manure on the old brassica bed and the green manure was starting to grow through it.  If the green manure plants get too big then they get stuck in the net and are pulled out when the net is taken off. So, I took the net off today and put it over the white grape.  This will protect the grape a little and also enable the rain to wash off the soil from around the edge of the net.  I have just draped it over for the moment but I will have to tie it in with some wire before the next storms come.

As I am following Geoff Lawton's method of composting, the compost has to be turned every two days.  It was raining yesterday so the compost was not turned so I did it today.    I turned seven of the eight bins before it got too dark to carry on. 

Six of the compost bins.  I added two more
last week.
So, why am I turning the compost? 

I'm not really sure.  Looking at various books they all recommend turning compost but don't really explain why it is worthwhile to do. 

The first explanation is that the cooler parts on the outside of the compost can be turned into the middle and start to heat up.  Heating up the compost can destroy weed seeds and diseases, however I don't think that my composts heat up nearly as hot as necessary to achieve this. 

They do heat up though, although now it is getting into winter they heat up even less than they did during the summer. 

The second reason they give for turning the compost is that it introduces oxygen into the heap and allows aerobic decomposition.  Turning certainly keeps the compost open and friable with large air spaces.  This obviously encourages the worms to enter the compost and to reproduce.  There are certainly a lot of worms in the bins. 

I think that turning also helps to distribute water through the heap and eliminate dry spots.  It is easy to add a little comfrey water to the bin as it is being turned, if the compost is too dry. 

Turning certainly seems to speed up the decomposition process and produce reasonable compost in about a month.  However, if I was to look at a normal, unturned  heap after a month, could I still sieve out some good well rotted compost?  Probably so. 

So I turn to the final reason why the compost the compost should be turned.  It provides some good exercise for the person doing it.  It is relatively easy using the composting bins because they can be taken off and moved a little before they are refilled.  Also the compost is relatively light compared with topsoil.  However, it makes my muscles ache a little doing it every two days. 

In the Victorian kitchen garden, compost was carefully made because it was used as potting and seed compost.  It was important that weeds and diseases were destroyed by the heat of the heap.  Nowadays we can buy sterile "seed compost" and "potting compost" from the garden centre and we don't need to be quite so particular about how our own compost is made. 

It is interesting to note that turning the compost, which I would say is very similar to digging in the garden, seems to increase the number of worms.  Furthermore, as the increased rate of decomposition demonstrates, there must be a rise in the population of microorganisms and fungi.  Why are we warned that digging will destroy soil organisms when it obviously doesn't in a compost heap or bin?

I would suggest that there is  a similar increase in microorganisms in the soil, after turning over during digging, decomposing organic matter that was previously chemically or physically protected from decay.  There are several studies that suggest that there is a rise in the volume of carbon dioxide given off after digging and this also indicates a rise in the number of microorganisms decomposing organic matter.  There is also evidence that digging reduces the amount of organic matter in the soil. 

So I would suggest that digging does not destroy soil organisms rather the contrary.  However, digging does reduce the level of organic matter and this is a very serious matter.  Organic matter does many things in the soil and its loss will tend to reduce the fertility of the soil.  This is why lots of organic matter should be added throughout the soil profile if you decide to dig. 

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Fan Trained Peach

I took all the tomatoes out of the peach house, which gave me room to dig out the borders and remove all the old woody chippings.  The chippings were put into one of the compost bins.  Although they were about a year old, they had not rotted down as much as I thought they would. 

I put about four barrow loads of new woody chippings into the borders and another as a mulch for the peach tree. 

So once I had given myself room to look carefully at the peach tree, I had a careful look to see how I could improve its fan training.  One of the branches had grown particularly strongly and was growing almost vertically.  It had a lot of fruiting wood on it so I did not really want to cut it out. 

So it took a lot of effort but eventually I decided to remove it.  The tree is much more balanced now with two relatively large branches trained to about 35 to 40 degrees and smaller fruit bearing branches growing out of them.  The centre of the tree is empty of branches after cutting the big one out, however I should get some smaller verticals growing from the big branches next year.  On the whole, I think that it has made a better looking tree. 

If you want a more detailed description of how I prune fan and espalier trees look at the left of this blog and find the page about pruning and training fruit trees.

I have put the grafted tree pots back into the small greenhouse to keep them out of the way.  I didn't realise that I had budded so many Cox's Orange Pippins on the M26 rootstock.  I will have to decide whether I want to keep them all or maybe graft something else onto the rootstock.  I could leave the buds to develop a Cox's and graft another variety to make a family tree. 

I think I have about five Cox's.  They don't store more than a week and you have to eat them straight from the tree to get all the amazing flavours.  Five Cox's Orange Pippin trees might just be a little in excess of what I can reasonably eat.  I could use them for cider, or juice or even cook them and freeze but it would be more fun to graft the rootstock to a new variety.  That's the fun of grafting; you can make mistakes because you can rectify it the next year by grafting a new variety where the old is not suitable. 

I budded the Cox's and the Peregrine peaches round about August time.  Remarkably, one of the budded Cox's seems to have formed a union already.  The grafting tape has broken away and left a bud firmly attached to the rootstock.  The other trees still have the tape securely around the bud. I will leave them in the greenhouse until next spring and have another look at them then.  When the bud begins to grow, or maybe just before, I will have to head the rootstock down to just above the bud. 

It is the first time that I have budded anything so any successes I get will be amazing. 

Although the grafted trees will be fine in the little greenhouse, I would like to get them planted as soon as possible.  I still have two Pitmaston Pineapples, a King of the Pippins, a Sturmer Pippin and a Golden Reinette.  The Blenheim Orange did not take and believe it or not I stood on the Norfolk Royal and broke the graft. 

I would not have minded but this is just what I did last year and I had resolved to take much more care of the grafts this year. 

Regardless, I have five trees to plant out and to do this I need more tree stakes, stretchers and wire.  My next job is to go and get this stuff from the garden centre. 

I sorted the grape vine out as well today.  I cut out all the verticals, and tied in the horizontals.  I put a rooted cutting of the red vine in along the support and it has grown well.  However, it is in the wrong place.  It is too near the main red vine and is blocking the expansion of the white grape.  My first thought was to take it out and plant it to grow over one of the sheds.  I might still do this.  However, my second thought was to pleach the cutting onto the main red vine and maybe the white as well. 

Will I get stronger plants if I do?  Doubt whether it will do any harm and it would be fun to see if I can do it.  I pleached two of the apples during August to see what would happen but I have ignored them since.  I find that things like this work much better if you don't keep looking at them to see how they are doing.  I will have a look again when I winter prune the Ribston Pippin.

The white grape suffered from the frost earlier this year and I am wondering if it is an indoor grape.  I was given several cuttings and this is the only one that has survived.  If it is cut back hard by the frost next spring I will have to consider replacing it.  There are several people growing vines on the allotment site and I am sure they would not mind me taking a couple of cuttings. 

I find that vine cuttings are very easy to strike. 

I tied in two long stems from the white grape horizontally along the wires.  Hopefully next year, I will get some vertical stems growing and producing grapes. 

I cut off all the asparagus stems for the compost.  I cut the vine and asparagus stems into five centimetre lengths so that they would rot down in the compost quicker.  Furthermore, it makes turning the compost easier if there are no long woody stems. 

I started to dig over the ground that I am going to move the lavender to.  It has green manure on it at the moment.  I  will also plant one of the apple grafts here. 

Tomorrow I will turn the composts again, finish digging over where I am going to plant the apple grafts and then go and buy some poles to make espaliers. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

November photographs; I have put the allotment to bed.

The allotment is never a very beautiful garden, although sometimes neat rows and healthy looking plants are a real pleasure to look at. However, at this time of the year the allotment gets a little more untidy. Putting it to bed for the winter involves covering the soil with either green manure or the tarpaulin and both can look a little messy.

It is one of the moans of allotmenteers (and believe me they have a lot of those) that people take over allotments for a couple of weeks and then give them up. The problem for the rest of us is that they have paid their rent for the whole year and the allotment cannot be reassigned until they officially give the allotment up. Meanwhile lots of weeds are growing and distributing their seeds throughout the allotment site.

There should be some way of showing people what to expect when they take over an allotment. If your expectation is that it will take some time and hard work to turn an untidy allotment around then you are much more likely to continue to cultivate the allotment.

I want reasonable expectations and no more rosy spectacles.

Therefore, this is a warts and all blog and it shows the allotment as it is in November. Furthermore, if I don't do it this way, I forget what I have done and either repeat or plough through areas that I should leave well alone.

Make no mistake cultivating an allotment is hard work but incredibly rewarding.

I have taken all the bean canes down now and stored them behind the shed. I still need to sterilise the bottoms so that I don't get the sweet pea yellowing disease on them. I mix the canes up each year and some of them might be used for supporting the sweet pea plants next year.

I took off all the seed that was left on the runner bean plants and then dug them into the soil together with some farmyard manure.  The plants will have decomposed by next May and added any nitrogen fixed from the atmosphere to the soil.  I will plant the runner beans in the same place next year so I want to keep the fertility of the soil quite high where they are growing. 
The old onion bed.
I covered the area that I had dug with the tarpaulin to protect it from the winter rain.  It has rucked up in the recent storms we have just had but it did not blow away.  I have put some seriously heavy stuff on the tarpaulin to keep it down and hopefully this will suffice until I take it off in the spring. 

Unfortunately the leeks have been attacked by the leek miner fly and the grubs are eating the stems.  I thought that I would get away with not putting a net on in September but I was sorely mistaken.  Still it is a lesson learnt and I will be putting the nets back on during the early autumn next year.  The old onion bed is covered with various green manures.  The main one for overwintering is the grazing rye grass.  The other is mostly Phacelia tanacetifolia and I am expecting it to die back when the really cold weather sets in this winter.  The whole lot will be dug in during March next year. 

 The onions had a thick mulch of woody chippings this year and these have been dug into the soil rather than being scraped off.  They don't seem to have done the green manure any harm. 

I will be planting sweet peas in this bed next year so I don't want to add too much manure.  The sweet peas are a break crop to give the soil a rest from growing vegetables.  The sweet peas are legumes which have bacteria nodules on their roots which fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.  At the end of their flowering season the plants can be dug in increasing the amount of soil nitrogen.  Or that's the theory anyway. 

I've put a lot of woody chippings on the fruit bed. 

 I've coppiced down all the blackcurrants but they are growing back very quickly.  However, I doubt if they will fruit next year.  Farmyard manure was dug in between the plants and then a thick layer of woody chippings was used to mulch the ground. 

The leaning pear tree has sent up two vertical stems on the trunk close to the ground.  My inclination is to prune the tree to these uprights to straighten the tree.  It is blooming irritating having to skirt round it whenever I need to get past.  However, I has fruited really well in the last two years and, if I do prune it hard back to the uprights, I will loose all of my fruit bearing wood.  I might just grin and bear it - for now.  Once my espalier pears start to fruit, I might look at this tree again. 

All the water butts are full from the rain we have been having.  The overflow will go into the big sump I put under the shed and along the hedge under the slabbed pathway. 
I  will put a little of the farmyard manure on the sweet pea bed.
 I put a couple of barrow loads of farmyard manure by the side of the green manure and by the cold frame to dig into the sweet pea bed just to give the plants a little boost. 

The greenhouse is in full sun for most of the day and this means that the plants growing inside are very healthy.  I am beginning to realise how important gaining maximum light is when growing in a greenhouse. 

The espaliers and cordon fruit trees.

Post and wire construction for espaliers.
I may well have planted these fruit trees too close together and will have to work quite hard to maintain their fruitfulness.  However, I am not going to move them or do anything drastic with them until they get much bigger. 

The stretcher batons at the top of the uprights has prevented the posts from leaning in when I tighten the wire.  It is quite effective but it means that the posts can only be eight foot apart.  The fruit trees may not be so vigorous because they are planted so close together and I will be able to keep them within the bounds of the espalier. 

I will leave winter pruning of the espaliers until much later in the winter.  They are growing more or less how I want them to which is fairly good when you consider they were trained as bush trees when I bought them.  I am only growing the Discovery apple as a cordon because it did not want to throw out any laterals. It has produced a lot of fruitful spurs along the stem though, which is good for an apple that is said to be a partial tip bearer.  I will have to monitor how this tree develops to make sure that it continues to produce fruit. 

The idea is to leave the espalier horizontal branches to grow as far as the space allows.  The verticals, according to Abercrombe's book "Every Man His Own Gardener." written in 1787 should send out laterals without any further pruning.  Well Abercrombe my trees have not been told this and leave great voids along the main stem until they decide to send out laterals.  I do tend to top the verticals so that they will send out stems that I can train horizontally.  But I am going to give Abercrombe a chance next year and not top off any more of the vertical stems. 

Growing espaliers is a new skill that I am beginning to learn and having great fun with.  It will be easier to train the newly grafted apple trees because I can head them back at the right time and hopefully they will then send out laterals at more convenient distances along the main stem. 

Using espaliers and fans means that I can fit a large number of different variety fruit trees in a small area without them taking up too much space and shading the vegetables growing near them. 
New cabbage bed.
This is part of the new cabbage bed where I have just dug in farmyard manure and seeded it with green manure.  The green manure is germinating but only just and might be set back now that the weather is turning considerably colder over the weekend. 

The chrysanthemums have been blown over by the wind but I am not too worried.  They were not doing too well and I am going to take some cuttings from them.  I am going to concentrate on chrysanthemums next year making sure that I stake them very securely. 

It would seem that I have a jostaberry growing under the Victoria plum tree.  I don't know where it came from but I was under the impression that it was a green gooseberry.  However, it does have thorns in the leaf axils so it might be one of the American gooseberries. 

I have mulched around the Victoria plum and gooseberries with woody chippings.  This was quite successful this year.  They comfrey grew through the mulch and produced a lot of leaf for the comfrey liquid bin. 

Compost bins

The compost bins have just been put back into the composting area.  I took them out and put them along the path next to the car park to get them out of the way.  This bay was used for the farmyard manure and now that the muck has been spread around the allotment I can continue with my turning every two days routine.  I don't know where all the material comes from but all the bins are full again and making very passable compost.  I cannot say that I am getting the heat from the bins that I would like to destroy seeds and disease but it still makes good compost.   I have now added the two small compost bins to the bay and filled them with the old tomato plants from the peach greenhouse.  I have also added quite a bit of the woody chippings to see if it will rot down quickly to make compost.  If it does then I will start using more of it in the bins. 
I have put carpet under the bins because I was scraping up the floor of the composting area and making a hole as I turned the compost.  The carpets will show me where the bottom of the compost is and I will not dig into the floor any more.  I don't like using carpets on the allotment but these are ancient ones that I found where the new car park has been made and any nasty chemicals that the carpets were covered in when they were made have been leached away by now.  
Grape grown to the guyot system

The wind has blown the grape stems about a little and some of the ties have come off.  However, all these vertical stems will be removed during the winter leaving buds to develop new stems from the horizontals.  I got a bunch of small grapes off all the upright guyot stems on the vine.  The sweet pea plants were dug in during the autumn and green manure sown.

The green manure on the new cabbage bed is grazing rye, tares and clover.  I have put farmyard manure between the rows to dig in during the spring. 

 I have put laburnum espaliers alongside the path and then planted lupins in front.  They are both legumes and have nitrogen fixing bacteria in nodules on their roots.  The slope is downwards toward the hedge so any residual nitrogen will be washed through the allotment soil by rainwater flowing down hill.  This will make the nitrogen available to vegetables growing down the slope. 

There should be a depression on the trackway side of the curbing but it has become full of stones and choked with weeds and mint plants.  I will dig it out again during the winter to make sure that it is doing its job properly.  The idea is that the ditch will collect the water running off the hard surface of the trackway, to spread it along the ditch and allow it to soak slowly into the allotment soil. 

Slowing mass flow of water, spreading it and allowing it to soak in will reduce leaching; dilute nutrients so that they can easily be taken up by plant roots;  reduce erosion of top soil, help to dilute and wash nutrients down the allotment slope and allow water to remain in the soil and available for plants to take it up. 

Winter cabbages.

Kale under the scaffold netting.

 I still have some kale and winter cabbage on the old brassica bed.  I have dug in farmyard manure in the gaps between and then sown green manure as a cover crop.  I have had to leave the nets on because the pigeons like to eat the green manure seed. 

 This part of the allotment did not produce very much at all.  A lot of the soil was recovered from the back of the shed and it may not have been as fertile as I expected it to be.  I have put compost, farmyard manure and green manure on it to see if I can turn it around.  There is a very poor showing of Brussel sprouts and a few swedes left.  Next year this will be covered in peas and beans and that might help it to become a little more fertile. 
Fan trained currant bushes.
The fan trained white and red currants have grown much larger than I expected.  They were very good plants to start with but they have excelled my expectations.  They did not fruit this year but I am expecting a good harvest next year.  Some of the more vigorous stems will have to be trained down to slow their growth and other stems will need tying in but apart from that there is little more to do.

I have taken all the tomatoes out of the peach greenhouse and composted them with woody shreddings.   The peach did not fruit this year but it has a lot of fruiting wood on it now so it should fruit next year.  Some of the branches have become very vigorous and will either be taken out or tied down a little more horizontally to slow their growth. 

I am going to replace the woody shreddings in the peach greenhouse and compost the old stuff.  The tomato ring culture on the chippings worked much better than I thought it would so I will do it again next year with fresh chippings. 

Old pea and bean bed.

 All the old pea and bean plants have been dug in and green manure sown.  The green manure is mustard and grazing rye in the foreground and grazing rye, tares and clover towards the back.  I am planning to cover this in a three sister culture next year.  I will plant the sweet corn first followed by either squashes or small pumpkins and finally climbing French beans.  As you will see later, I have grown far too many pumpkins and squashes this year so I need to restrict myself next year. 

The mustard has blown down during the storms. 

 The mustard has blown down in the windy weather, however this is not worrying me.  I want it to be cut back by the frost so that the undersowing of rye grass can come through for the winter.  The cucumber supports are leaning up against the peach greenhouse.  They were really good and allowed the cucumbers to climb up them.  The outdoor tomatoes did shade them a little and I will make sure that they have more room next year. 


 The large Victoria rhubarb has had a mulch of farmyard manure.  It did not grow very large this year and I am hoping that the manure might give it a boost so that I can have the 2 foot long petioles next simmer.  I was going to cover the rhubarb with the composting bins in order to blanch them when they started to grow next spring.  However, I needed these two bins to make compost and they are now back in the composting area full of tomato plants and woody shreddings. 

New potato bed. 
I have not touched the oca yet.  It is the plant growing alongside the path in the background.  The tubers will be stored in an old paper potato sac when I lift them after the frost.  I am looking forward to tasting them because, although I have been growing them for two years now, I never have enough to eat and plant for the next year.  Until this year that is. 

This bed had been manured and sown with green manure ready for the potatoes next year.  I will probably be planting kestrel potatoes here and put the early potatoes the other side of the path.  I didn't finish clearing this part of the allotment until May 31st this year but it produced a lot of pumpkins and squashes.  Hopefully it will produce some good potatoes too.  The green manure will be dug in just before I plant the seed potato tubers. 

The green manure is grazing rye, tares and clover and it has germinated well.

During January and February this year I  trenched the bed that I grew potatoes on adding lots of woody organic matter.  Lots of processed wood, cardboard, paper, woody chippings, logs and woody prunings were put into the trench. 

Adding lots of organic matter to the bottom of the trench in January and February 2015.
This was the first trench on the potato bed but I have done this on all the beds in the allotment. 

Putting lots of woody chippings into the trench. 
The orthodox theory is that this woody material would lock up the nitrogen in the soil as microorganisms decomposed the wood depleting the soil of this nutrient.  However, I have had a bumper crop of potatoes. 

Also, I have a bumper crop of mustard green manure which has been blown over in the recent storms.  It grew about 4 feet tall.  I sowed an understory of grazing rye and I am hoping that this will grow through the mustard during the winter.  The mustard should die back with the frost. 

Old potato bed

Rampant rank growth from the mustard green manure.
I also dug in the thick woody chipping mulch that I covered the potato bed with.  So maybe the orthodoxy that woody material depletes the soil of nitrogen may not be completely true.  I have left some piles of farmyard manure around this bed to dig in during the spring.  This will give the onions a little more of a boost when I plant them next year. 

So regardless, the orthodoxy that woody material will deplete the soil of nitrogen is not necessarily accurate.  There may be a small reduction in nitrogen due to immobilisation by decomposer microorganisms but I think that 'small' is the important word.  The decomposition of woody organic matter is a slow process and this may mean that nitrogen immobilisation is slow too.  Also if your are adding lots of organic matter to the soil then you must be adding some nitrogen as part of it. Maybe, if you keep the soil fertile by adding nitrogen rich organic matter like green and farmyard manure, the amount of nitrogen depletion can be held within acceptable - maybe even negligible- limits. 

My experience is that it does not reduce yield of potatoes or green manure. 

Indeed, the Victorian wall kitchen gardeners increased the depth of their top soil considerably by trench digging although they had copious amounts of horse and farmyard manure and did not need to add woody material to their trenches.  Also they added their spent hot bed manure to their top soil and this would have increased the depth each year. 

The increase in volume of soil by the addition of lots of organic matter, the mixing of the soil and the sieving to subsoil level seems to have made a soil similar to my old allotment soil and that took over thirty years to produce.

My conclusion is that digging the soil to two or three spits deep, sieving out large stones and perennial rhizomes,  mixing copious amounts of woody organic matter into the subsoil and adding farmyard manure to the topsoil only goes to improve the soil structure, improve the drainage and improve the fertility of the soil.  While there may be a slight dip in the population of soil fauna such as worms because of digging, this seems to disappear during the year and the population, anecdotally, either returns to its original level or increases as the summer progresses. Even Charles Dowding says, sometimes you have to dig when you first take over a garden. So for my maritime climate at my latitude and with my sandy clay soil digging is not as destructive as in other areas of the globe. 

Having said this, I am impressed with the effect of mulching; particularly on the suppression of weeds.  So I will be mulching all the allotment with woody chippings next spring after plants have established themselves.  If it is anything like this year, I doubt whether I will need to hoe or weed much next year. 

Black currants.
 The line of big blackcurrants that I planted to separate the beds has grown about two feet since I coppiced them in February.  They did not fruit this year but I am hoping for a big harvest next year.  There is no big bud on them.  They have had a couple of barrow loads of farmyard manure covered by woody chippings as a mulch. 


This is a better picture of the oca.  I must admit that this is the best oca I have ever grown.  The plants are very big and growing right over the path.  I will be keeping some of the larger tubers to plant next year. 

Old pea bed.
The green manure on the old pea bed is growing quite large.  I am going to dig in some farmyard manure to some of this bed because it has not had much organic matter added to it.  The old pea plants were dug in when they went over and this must have added some nutrient to the soil.  I will be sowing the roots on this bed so I will not be manuring that half of the bed.  The roots tend to fork if you add manure to their soil. 
Pitmaston Pineapple

I have planted one of the grafted apples in the old pea bed.  I am going to grow all the grafted apples on espaliers alongside the path like this.  The poor Pitmaston Pineapple is buried under the green manure at the moment but you can just see the white label for it.  Various herbs are growing alongside the path although the mints seem to be taking over.  I will have to cut them right back during the winter to give the other herbs a chance. 
Court Pendu Plat

I have given the Court Pendu Plat higher posts but not for any particular reason apart from it was what I had to use.  I will head it down so that it throws out some lateral stems to tie in on the first wire. 

The sage plants are doing quite well.  I grew these from seed. 

White currant

This white currant is in the wrong place because I want to plant one of the grafted apples here.  However, it is growing well and is trained to a fan so I am loath to move it.  More green manure, hyssop and a little salad burnet. 

Loganberry, blackberry and wineberry

I have pruned the loganberry, blackberry and wineberry quite hard and trained them in.  The supports are really too low and I need to put higher posts in.  This will be done next year.  The plants have had a mulch of farmyard manure covered with woody chippings.  The manure pile over the top of this is for digging in to the bed in the spring. 
 I still have parsnips, carrots, beetroot, celery and celeriac in the ground for the winter. I have put piles of farmyard manure on the free ground to dig in when the ground becomes free. 

Parsnips alongside the path.
Believe it or not there is a line of lavender alongside the path under the parsnip foliage.  I am going to take the lavender out and replant it further down the path.  Next year this bed will have potatoes and they will grow right over the path smothering the lavender if I leave it where it is.  The parsnip foliage is dying down now but it was quite large.  I have found over the years that the size of the foliage does not say anything about the size of the roots.  I will take a couple out to have a look at as soon as there is a frost. 
New garlic and shallot bed

I dug in the field bean green manure after taking off and storing all the seed and put some farmyard manure to dig into the rest of the bed.  I am going to dig in the green manure alongside the path and plant another of the grafted apples here.  I still need to get some posts and wire to make the espalier but that will be no effort.  More mustard with a grazing rye understory in the background. 
Autumn raspberries.
I'm not sure why the autumn raspberries have not done very well here.  I am hoping that they will improve next year.  They will be cut right back to ground level during the winter allowing new canes to grow next summer.
The new strawberry bed has had compost and farmyard manure dug in and as a mulch.  The box was moved from alongside the trackway and cut very hard back to make the edging alongside the path. 
Coppiced blackcurrants.

The coppiced blackcurrants have started to grow back.  They have been given a mulch of farmyard manure covered with woody chippings. 
A very thin amount of canes produced this year and I don't know why.  Hopefully I will get more next year.  A bit poorly this year. 
Champagne Rhubarb

The Timperley Early and Champagne rhubarb has died back now and I have cleared away all the dead leaves.  They were given a mulch of farmyard manure and woody chippings. 

I still need to wash down the greenhouse and clean the windows. I am saving that job for a rainy day.  At the moment the greenhouse if full of sweet peas. 

And a lot of pumpkins...
Lots of pumpkin pie I think.

Apple Grafting.

The apple varieties that I am going to use for grafting this year are:
Sturmer Pippin (1800) which is spur bearing apple that can be stored for about three months. 
Mosses Seedling (1953) which is spur bearing and can be stored for a relatively long time.
Claygate Pearman (1820) a spur bearing desert variety; can be stored for a couple of months. 
Bardsey (1953) spur bearing cooker which will store for a couple of months.
Court of Wick (1790) probably a spur bearing desert apple which will probably store for a couple of months. 
Gala (1949) a heavy cropping, possibly spur bearing which can be stored for a couple of months.
Christmas Pearman (1893) Not sure if it is spur bearing.  I hope it is. 
Kidd's Orange (1924) Spur bearing will keep until Christmas if kept in a cool store.
Coeur de Boeuf (1200s ?) Not sure if it is spur bearing.  Cooking apple
Ellis Bitter my first cider apple.  It really needs to be blended with something else so I will be using one of the other apples to mix with it. 

I am going to put them all onto M26 rootstock and then prune them to espalier to about 8 feet tall and 15 feet across.  I doubt if I will get them any bigger on M26 rootstock. 

Sunday, 15 November 2015

The allotment in November.

We have had an incredibly warm October and November.  I used to have to remind myself that October was a growing month where lots of vegetables could still be grown and harvested.  Now it seems that November is becoming a month where fairly hardy vegetables could be grown and harvested. 

I still have tomatoes growing and producing in the small greenhouse.  I cleared them out of the big greenhouse at the end of  September.  Maybe I should not have been so hasty. 

I mulched nearly the whole of the allotment  in woody chippings during the summer and I found this to be very successful.  It kept the soil damp and deterred the weeds.  The fruit trees seemed to have benefited the most producing a big harvest even from quite small espaliered trees.  I was considering scraping off the mulch and digging in some farmyard manure, however this was a thankless task, as most of the mulch had disintegrated and decomposed into the soil.  I finally gave up and just dug manure and chippings in together regardless.  I have dug manure into most of the allotment and sown green manure on top and where I had already sown green manure I have put farmyard manure between the rows ready to dig in during the spring together with the green manure.  So most of the allotment has had year old chippings, farmyard manure and green manure applied ready for next year. 

The mustard I sowed on this year's potato bed has grown particularly tall - about four or five feet.  I was hoping that it would be cut back by frost before now so that the under sowing of rye grass and clover could develop.  While the mustard is still growing, it has not retarded the rye and clover too much and they are growing to cover the bed quite well. 

The blackcurrant harvest was quite good this year but the white and red currants did not fruit at all.  The only "gooseberry" that fruited this year was the jostaberry and this did not produce very much.  I have grown all the gooseberries from cuttings and they seem to need a few years to grow into a fruiting bush.  After spending many years getting scratched while picking gooseberries, I have tried to produce bushes on one main trunk and in a goblet form.  I have a long way to go yet before I achieve this ambition with the gooseberries. 

The summer raspberries, after fruiting quite well, have not produced many canes for next year and I am not sure why.  I have molly coddled them a little this year; feeding and mulching them.  Maybe I should have neglected them like I usually do.  I will just have to wait until next year to see if they produce any fruit and if they don't then I will have to think what my options are. 
The autumn raspberries fruited much better than I would have expected because I transplanted them in January.  They have only grown to  about two feet tall, however they will be cut back to ground level and next years canes will come in the spring and should grow at least four or five feet tall. 

The new strawberry bed has developed well.  The strawberry plants started to grow again and some of them have flowered.  I doubt if they will produce any fruit and maybe I will take the flowers off to conserve the plant's strength for next year.  I have put some of my compost between the plants and this does not seem to have done them any harm.  I also put compost around the coppiced blackcurrants and they seem to have benefited from it as well. 

I doubt if anyone will believe me but the compost was made from bind weed, mare's tail and couch grass together will other general garden waste.  Surprisingly, it makes good compost.  I must admit that I was not expecting it to.  I have made several batches over the summer and used the compost as a mulch. 

The making of this compost is quite a strenuous task because I aim to turn it every two days.  I use the big black Dalek compost containers to keep the composting area tidy.   They are great because, as they do not have bottoms, you can take the Daleks off the compost easily leaving a neat pile of compost; like a sand castle from a seaside bucket. 

If the compost is turned every two days, it should change colour to a dark brown or black after about four days - and it does.  Individual items should start to loose their shape after about a week - and they do.  By the second week you should not be able to tell what the compost was made from because it has broken down so much.  Well maybe for some parts of the compost, however I would say that in the British climate this takes a little more time.  Even so, fairly good compost can be made in about a month especially if the larger, undecomposed material is sieved out. 

I have tried composting virtually everything from the allotment and the things that seem to take a long time to decompose are; strawberry plants, suberized roots, brassica roots, live couch grass rhizomes, live mint rhizomes ( I will need to dry these before putting them in the compost bins) and thick pieces of wood over about four inches in length.  While they take a relatively long time to decompose, they do eventually so I just put them back into the next batch  of compost.

When we made the new car park I said that I would compost all the weeds that they dug up and this is what I did.  Previously, I had dried the rhizomes of couch, bindweed and the rhizoids of mare's tail, however I did not dry them this time and they have not composted as well as they did before.   I will take them out when I sieve the next batch of compost and make sure the rhizomes are carefully dried before I return them to the compost bins. 

I cut the raspberry canes and the blackcurrant branches into 4-6 cm lengths before adding them to the compost and they seem to have disappeared into the compost just like everything else. 

I have still got carrots, parsnips, beetroot, celery, celeriac, cabbage and Brussel sprouts growing in the ground and apples, potatoes, pumpkins, squashes, onions, garlic and elephant garlic in the store shed. 

Jobs that I still have to do include pricking out the sweet peas into individual root trainers or three inch pots; cleaning out the pond and replacing the water with rain water from one of the butts; planting this years grafted apples after putting up posts and wire to train them to and generally washing stuff like pots and labels.  I also need to sterilize the bottoms of the canes to prevent the yellow disease in sweet peas. 
I have put nets over the green manure to keep the birds off and these nets will have to be removed soon or the green manure will grow through and it will be difficult to take the nets off without pulling the plants out too. 
I need to prune the grapes and this can be done soon.  They still have leaves on at the moment and I wanted to leave them until the leaves had all fallen.  The pruned grape stems will be cut into 4-5 cm lengths and put into the compost bins.

I have never been this far ahead of myself ever in November.