Allotment or kitchen gardens always look untidy at this time of the year. Not much is growing so it is very grey and drab.
I have dug over most of the sweet pea bed and incorporated the green manure, compost and farmyard manure. I mounded the compost around the leeks earlier in the year to blanch a bit more stem and it has done this job very well. The leeks have got a little Phytomyza gymnostoma fly in them but not enough to spoil the leeks completely. The miner fly has weakened the stems and a few of the leeks are lying on the soil unable to remain upright.
I am going to put the tarpaulin over as much of the bed as possible to keep the rain off and protect the soil.
The cherry tree has been planted alongside the path and support put up so that I can fan train it. I have not headed it down yet but I will before it starts to grow and the buds swell.
I have had to put stuff on the tarpaulin just to keep it from blowing away. I have put a mulch of woody chippings around the leeks to give them additional protection. The chippings have virtually rotted away completely but anything left will be dug into the soil.
The sweet peas will be orientated north south on this bed in line with the greenhouse. Alongside the path, but not over shadowing the cherry, I will plant a row of runner beans. I like growing them here because it hides the allotment from the car park, protects the allotment from north west winds, it is easy to reach the beans and pick from the path and it is easier to water them if necessary.
All the area that has been dug and that under the tarpaulin will be planted with sweet peas as a cut flower and break crop.
I have cut the black currants back to ground level so that they will produce new growth this season. They have been mulched with farmyard manure and then with a thick layer of woody chippings.
Cutting back the blackcurrants like this will encourage them to produce a lot of new wood. This will probably not fruit this year but it will give me a bumper crop next year.
There are some heritage rhubarb plants alongside the store shed. These died back during November and are tucked under the shreddings. The clematis growing up the store shed is already sending out large shoots. These will get damaged if there are some late frosts.
I have cut back the little leaning pear tree so that I can get along the path here. I did not want to take too much off because it fruited so well last season. Since I cut back the hedge so that it is no longer shading the pear tree, the pear has grown a vertical stem near the base of the trunk. I am sorely tempted to cut the leaning part off and encourage a more upright tree. However, if I do this I will loose the fruit bearing branches and the new growth will not fruit for at least another season. I will let the vertical stem grow bigger and mature a lot more before I consider taking of the leaning branches.
After debating with myself over what to do with the cordon "Discovery" apple, I finally decided to make it into a kind of step over. I have bent it down so that it is horizontal to the ground and tied it in to a cane. It fruited really well last season so I am hoping that it does the same this year. I have completed the winter pruning on the "Doyenne du Comice" pear and the "Egrement Russet" making them better shaped espaliers. They will never be perfect but they are fine for me.
The old "Victoria" plum was on the allotment when I took it over. and I under planted with what I thought were gooseberries. However, at least one of the plants is the blackcurrant gooseberry cross called a jostaberry. Confusingly, jostaberries do not have thorns and mine has thorns so I am wondering what it is. I think that there are some American blackcurrants that have spines. I'm not too bothered because the fruit is very good and nearly as big berries as gooseberry.
The Lonicera nitidia cuttings next to the tree will be moved in the spring to make way for the winter brassicas. I am going to use the Lonicera at home for the flower garden.
The Dalek bins which I should be turning more than I am. They are getting turned about once every three days at the moment because other more important jobs need to be done. The compost is decomposing very slowly. The large posts will be used to support the sweet pea canes so they will be put out in the next few weeks. They still need a good wash off and clean so that I do not transfer diseases from last years plants. The ground here is very wet because it is a low area. I have been scraping up the floor of the composting area and putting it into the bins. I am not too worried about it being lower than the car park and the big trackway because it means that any leachate that drains out of the bins will soak into the soil and flow down the allotment towards the hedge at the bottom. This will draw nutrients leached from the bins into the growing areas so that it can be exploited by the growing vegetables. In a similar way I have planted laburnum and lupins alongside the path so that any nutrients they fix will be taken down the slope through gravity.
I am espaliering the Laburnum anagyroides so that they do not over shadow any of the vegetable plants. The area alongside the pathway was getting a little weedy so I dug out the soil alongside the concrete edging slabs and sieved it. The soil was put on the soil next to the car park and replaced by stones. I put a covering of woody shreddings over the top of the stones mainly for aesthetic reasons.
The bay cutting is surviving the winter and growing quite well. I might move it alongside the other bay cuttings next to the big greenhouse. The Russell lupins I planted along here are starting to show their heads. I don't want them to grow too much because they can get cut back by a late frost.
I am hoping the "Opal" plum will have more plums on it this year. It only had one last year. Although the tree is a wine goblet shape, I think that some of the branches are at a very tight angle. If the branches have a heavy load of fruit on them, they might break. I might prune to improve this. The rye grass green manure has farmyard manure between the rows. I will not dig this green manure in until the spring. This is where the brassicas are going this year.
I have cut the red grape back to two horizontal stems. These stems have buds about fifteen centimetres apart and these will produce the fruiting stems. The fruiting stems will be tied vertically to the top of the support. There is a red grape rooted cutting planted a little further down. I was going to take this out and plant it somewhere else but, after thinking about it, I am going to pleach it with the big vine and hope that this will add a little vigour to both plants.
I have put the scaffold netting over the supports mainly to protect the white grape from the frosts. I think that it is in the wrong place because it is shaded for most of the day by the greenhouse. It really needs to be in the sun all day. I was thinking of swapping it for one of the espaliered apples alongside the path. I will leave it one more season and see if it produces anything where it is now but will review it in the autumn.
There are another two Laburnum anagyroides alongside the trackway, which I am espaliering. The Russell lupins are under planted here too. I nail a stretcher bar at the top of the supports to prevent the verticals from being drawn in when I tighten the wire supports. There are three Sorbus vilmornii trees growing here. I grew them from seed and they are about three feet high now. I am using them as a windbreak on the north side of the allotment.
The green manure I sowed here has not germinated very well and has left the ground quite bare. It might start growing when the weather warms a little in spring. When the brassicas have been cleared off, this bed will be for the peas. I have dug farmyard manure into the soil except where the cabbages and kale are growing. The netting is to keep the pigeons from eating all the plants. I'm not sure whether any of these cabbages will come to anything. They are too small for eating at the moment.
This is a view looking back towards the new car park. I split up the globe artichoke and took some for my daughter. This is the best plant I have got now. I am hoping that I don't have to move it again. It is fine here because it is out of the way. I might even have a go at eating one of the buds but not this season.
One of last year's grafts "Court Pendu Plat" apple, which needs to be headed down to force laterals to grow from just below the wire support. You can see that the green manure has not germinated very well on this side of the brassica bed either. This bed has had a lot of farmyard manure dug into it so I am not worried about whether the green manure grows or not.
I have given the "Court Pendu Plat" apple quite big supports mainly because these are the ones I had at the time I was planting it. It is on M26 rootstock so it might grow this big. I have cut the sage right back to one or two buds to make it bush out later in the spring. It always looks quite woody at this time of the year.
I have taken a lot of the kale and some of the late planting did not grow very big. The wind has blown the scaffold netting off the blue pipe supports but I'm not bothering to put it on the kale again the pigeons do not seem to be that bothered with the kale this year. I will put the netting over the red grape to give it some protection. The netting will also get washed in the rain.
This poor apple tree will eventually be trained to espalier whether it likes it or not. It fruited very well last year even though I was forcing it to be a particular shape. It hasn't been in for that long though.
Phacelia tanacetifolia green manure in the background.
This will be the potato bed this season. There are still a lot of vegetables in this plot. Parsnips, carrots, beetroot, celery and celeriac. They will be eaten over the next few months and the farmyard manure dug in. I am hoping to plant my early potatoes in this bed.
There is some rye grass green manure next to the greenhouse.
This is a "Ribstone Pippin" apple graft. It is beginning to grow into an espalier but not very quickly. believe it or not this little tree produced about ten enormous apples last season. The farmyard manure pile is ready to be dug in for the potatoes once the roots have been taken out for the pot. The manure is rotting away very quickly so it will be ideal for the potatoes.
This is one of the allium beds. I have two rows of garlic, one row of elephant garlic and two rows of shallots in here already. The ground was covered with a green manure of mustard, grazing rye and tares. These got dug in last week together with a little farmyard manure. I will cover the alliums with a mulch of woody chippings like I did last year. The blackcurrant in the foreground was coppiced back to soil level this year after it had fruited. It might produce some more fruit this year but the stems might be a little short.
The carpet alongside the hedge is looking particularly untidy now. I am thinking of seriously folding it down and putting it under the path. There is no way that I am going to be able to get it out of the soil because it goes down under the stone I put below the path.
There is a good view of the little leaning apple tree. I think that it is a "Cox's Orange Pippin". The apples do not store but they taste very good straight from the tree. I had a lot off this tree last season and I am happy to leave it as it is. It shows you just how far the hedge came over to shade it.
I have moved all the lavender bushes down to this part of the allotment and pruned them back quite hard to make a ten centimetre edging hedge. I kept all the prunings and put them to root in the cold frame. I will continue the edging hedge right up the path. There is an oregano and marjoram plant growing next to the path so I will avoid these plants when I am planting the lavender. There are some rosemary plants at the far end of the edging hedge but I am not sure whether I will leave them here. The don't get very much full sun next to the hedge. I can always move them further up the path for edging.
There are three rows of two year old strawberries and two rows of one year old strawberries. I will cover these plants with a net later on in the year to protect them from the birds particularly because they are so close to the hedge.
The plant in the foreground is a Sarcococca hookeriana cutting that I just stuck in and it grew. Sarcococca doesn't mind the shade so it is ideal here next to the hedge.
This path has been messed up by the black birds too. I will have to sweep it when it dries out. The blackcurrant and the rhubarb were planted before the path was put down. I thought that I had been very clever and planted them in the right place. Well, some measurement or other went wrong because they are butted right up to the path. I don't really want to disturb them and they are not in the way so I am going to leave them.
Although I painted the big shed last year it has still got a thick line of algae around the bottom. I might have to paint it again this year.
I have cleaned the pond out but it didn't really have much algae in it. I took most of the water out and separated out the oxygenating plants to put back into the pond. Then I filled it again with rain water. I am quite pleased about how clear the water is. I thought that I would have lots of slugs and snails under the rocks and ornaments around the pond but I could not find any at all when I lifted them. I think that the frogs and newts are doing their job.
I haven't got a photograph of them but I have moved the two wineberries to the other side of the shed and grown them up some concrete reinforcing wire pinned to the shed. They will do better there than competing with the loganberry.
Again this is the compost that I made from the mare's tail, couch and bindweed that I took out of this part of the allotment during January last year. It has made some remarkably fine compost.
There is another "King of the Pippins" apple planted alongside the path. I have not put any supports up for it at the moment so I must make every attempt not to tread on it and break the graft.
There is a Buddleia davidii "White Bouquet" in the very corner of this bed. I have no idea where this came from but I didn't plant it there. I am going to leave it to grow quite large and just prune it so that we can get up and down the path. The original lavender cuttings are along the front of this bed. I have not cut them back as much as the others. There is a "Conference" pear alongside the main trackway but I have not put in any major supports for this. It was transplanted from my old allotment and I did not think that it would survive - but it has.
I am hoping to get some fruit on the "Peregrine" peach this year. I have carefully pruned it to a fan and there is a lot of fruiting wood on it.
There is a line of "Giant Victoria" rhubarb between these two beds but it has died right back. I have put a thick farmyard manure mulch over them and hopefully I will get some really big rhubarb this season. I have cut the rosemary edging plants right back this winter. They look a little untidy but they will bush out a lot next spring.
So that is the allotment in January. Not a lot to see in the way of vegetables but the season is beginning to accelerate now and seedlings will need to be transplanted and put into the greenhouse soon. With the weather being so strange this winter, I am thinking of starting things off much earlier than I have before. However, I am not sowing all my seed. I am keeping some to sow at the normal times just in case.