I intend to plant the garlic, elephant garlic and shallots fairly soon and need some room to plant them. Most of the allotment is covered in green manure and this needs to be dug in now on the allium bed to give me space.
It has been raining quite hard for several days and the ground is very wet so I have been leaving this task for later. However, it is later and I really should have the allium bulbs in the ground.
So I have dug over half of the new onion bed incorporating some very well rotted farmyard muck. together with the mustard and grazing rye green manure. This will give me quite a rich topsoil that will break down into a fine tilth that can be worked and the alliums planted into.
Originally, I was waiting for the frost to cut the mustard back but there have been no frost so all the mustard is green. It will not hurt to dig this in. The green manure needs a few weeks to rot down in the soil before planting but the bulbs will not grow substantially until March time so they will not be affected by the decomposition of the green manure.
I have three garlic bulbs and these can be taken apart giving a number of small bulbils. Each bulbil can be planted and will develop into a new plant. I will plant all the bulbils from the three garlic bulbs about one foot apart with the rows being a similar distance asunder.
I am going to use last year's elephant garlic to give me this year's plants. I got some big elephant garlic bulbs and these can be taken apart, like the garlic. I doubt if I will plant more than 15 bulbs.
The shallots are just like small onion bulbs and I might get a couple of rows out of them.
So, if the weather stays at all clement, I will plant the bulbs tomorrow.
I decided to tie the last of the concrete reinforcing wire to the loganberry and blackberry supports to give extra height. It doesn't look very good because the tree stakes are too small. I really need bigger stakes to support the whole structure. It will be interesting to see if it will last the rest of the winter. I took off all the stems and fixed the reinforcing wire to the frame supports with blue copper wire. I have used this wire throughout the allotment when fixing structures together. It gives more flexibility and enables me to take supports down easily if necessary. I have been tying wooden structures together for years and it was part of my job at one stage so I know how to do it without them falling apart as soon as I construct them.
I tied up all the loganberry and blackberry stems again giving them much more room to develop. The additional height and width will allow me to easily tie in all of next years stems giving me the potential of a lot more fruit.
It was much colder today and my fingers were getting very numb. However, I could not do the job properly with gloves on. I decided to give the tying up a rest and go and do some digging to warm myself up.
The other half of the onion bed is also covered in green manure. Although the onions and leeks are not going to be planted out for another month or so, the green manure needs to be dug in to allow it to decompose before anything is planted.
In order to warm myself, I started digging this new bed. I put on a little cow muck in a pile alongside the big blackcurrant bushes and used this to dig in with the green manure. The bed had been manured last year for the potatoes but before that it has been left fallow and was covered in couch grass, mare's tail and bindweed. I thought that it was imperative that I built the soil up with more organic matter.
I suppose that if you add too much undecomposed organic matter then you could theoretically put too much onto the soil. However, I have never encountered any problems adding copious amounts. So, digging in lots of green and muck eventually warmed me up. Hands were in the gloves and this always warms them. The soil in the bed was very good, which is quite remarkable because it has only been cultivated for one year.
I have kept the greenhouses open as much as I could during the early winter. I like to give all the plants as much air as I can. It helps to dry the soil in the pots and keep fungi off the seedlings. Damping off is a major threat to the sweet pea seedlings during the winter unless you keep them relatively dryish.
I have given all the compost bins a good turn and will do it again tomorrow. Some of the bins were a little dry so I watered them with comfrey liquid. This does seem to speed up decomposition. I have put some large pieces of ivy into two of the bins. They were covering large pieces of outdoor ply wood which made up the boundary of the allotment. I took all the boards out and I have used them as weed suppressors under the path alongside the allotment covering them with shreddings. You can't tell that they are there now.
Previously, the ivy has rotted down quite quickly and I think that it will do the same this time. However, it will have to be broken up into smaller pieces as soon as it begins to rot. The large pieces of branches have rotted enough to be easily broken up with the cast iron shovel. Eventually the branches get very friable and fall apart making some really good compost.
I will finish digging the onion bed and planting the alliums but after that there is not very much to do until the weather gets warmer. I will probably be sowing sweet pepper, tomato, lettuce and possibly celery and celeriac in the next few weeks. The onions, tomatoes and leeks already sown have not germinated yet. If the weather does get cold this week, I will bring the onions and leeks home and keep them inside until it gets warmer.