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. 

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