Friday, 26 February 2016

Humus does it exist?

Many gardeners consider the term humus synonymous with that of organic matter, however most soil scientists would suggest that there is a definite difference between the two types of organic carbon.

Humus was always described as a black amorphous colloidal substance that has gone through decomposition and was the final product. Soil organic matter was described as material that had not fully decomposed.

As you might imagine this causes its own problems of definition.

Where does charcoal fit into this? There are lots of natural sources of charcoal and charcoal is particularly resistant to decomposition.

There seems to be controversy about whether humus is a separate identifiable material found in the soil. By definition humus is not water soluble and has to be extracted using high pH solutions of chemicals like sodium pyrophosphate or sodium hydroxide. These harsh chemicals must have a profound effect on organic molecules in the soil.

So is humus just an artefact of the extraction process? Scientists are wondering if this extraction process is one that produces artefacts – humus is just an artefact of the extraction process.

I find this very plausible. A much better explanation of the decomposition of soil organic carbon is one of breaking down to smaller and smaller molecules with the final product being carbon dioxide or methane rather than a slow process towards large recalcitrant organic molecules. Is this thermodynamically viable? The principle of Occam's razor might lead us to think that a simple breakdown of organic molecules would be the best explanation.

I have often wondered what the biochemistry of mineralisation is especially if the final product of decomposition is recalcitrant large molecule humus that also contains nutrient anions and cations. A decomposition of organic matter into carbon dioxide or methane as final product would allow nutrients to drop out of molecules and be made available to plant roots. While it is understood that a wide range of organisms will utilise this pool of nutrients and immobilise it for a time, the fact that these nutrients are available to soil organisms and plants means that there must be a process of breakdown rather than synthesis occuring. There must also be a recycling of carbon into the bodies of these organisms and the use of organic material for both mass and energy means that carbon can remain sequestered in the soil for some time.

The production of large recalcitrant organic chemicals by microorganisms needs a firm biochemical and evolutionary basis and I cannot find any in the literature. Why would bacteria make these molecules - what are their purpose? If they are produced then they should have some value to whatever produces them.

I find the argument that there are some minerals in the soil (Manganese oxides) which can catalyse the production of complex molecules interesting, and if this can be explained within the restrictions of thermodynamics then fine. There are complex organic chemicals on and in asteroids and meteorites. However, as far as I can see (and that is not very far) entropy always wins out.

The decomposition to carbon dioxide and methane may explain why there is no evidence of a steady build up of humus in the soil. If it is recalcitrant then there should be great thick seams of it in the soil. There is not; even after thousands of years. Where has all this humus gone? By definition it cannot be broken down any more. It can’t be leached out of the soil because it does not dissolve in water and it is suggested that some of it is hydrophobic.

Strong chemicals are used to extract "humus" from the soil because it is tightly bound to soil mineral particles. Yet over the millenium all possible sites for humus attachment to soil particles must have been taken up.  Does this mean that humus is washed through the soil in a similar way to water eroded silt?  If it is so, why is there no indication of dark staining  in the subsoil and for that matter why is it not forming such tight bonds with the subsoil minerals?   

If it is not soluble in water how does it move through the soil and coat mineral particles? This could be done by soil animals but there seems to be little evidence of this. If it is a non Newtonian fluid maybe gravity has a hand in the process? However, it is recalcitrant, so why is it only seen at the top of the soil profile? Surely, if the movement of humus through the soil is dependent on gravity, then after thousands of years its black colour should be seen throughout the subsoil.

There is a mounting level of evidence that indicates that fungi and bacteria have the ability to decompose some very polluting toxic industrial chemicals. Petrol and petrol derived chemicals such as pesticides can be included in this list. These chemicals are said to have a similar structure to that of humus. If these chemicals can be broken down into their constituent parts, why is humus so recalcitrant?

The properties of humus, such as its CEC are so similar to that of ordinary organic matter that it is difficult to separate the two. Except that, if humus is not water soluble and may be hydrophobic, how does it help to retain water in the soil?

Is it in the leachates of compost, manures, comfrey liquids and worm bin liquids? This dark liquid could well contain colloidal particles suspended within it and this may give us an indication of how humus moves through the soil.
Comfrey liquid
However, if it is this easy to extract, why are scientists using a very severe set of chemicals to isolate it?

Have we got an Emperor’s new suit here? Are we just chasing shadows? Does it really matter to gardeners?

I’m not at all sure. I wonder how the companies selling humus extract it because it does not seem to be an easy procedure. I doubt very much whether it is worth buying. Adding lots of cheap organic matter like compost, manures, comfrey, worm bin liquids and shredded woody material seems to be a much better way of adding humus to the soil if indeed it exsits.

Thursday, 25 February 2016

General Feburary Allotment Tasks.

I worked quite hard on the allotment today.  I decided to put one of the large pieces of outdoor ply wood on the path and cover it with shredded woody material from the pile in the other car park.  The other car park is quite far away from my allotment but it is where the shredded woody material is usually put.  The car park is down the hill which means that I have to go up the hill when the wheel barrow is full.  I also use a large plastic tub to put even more shreddings onto the wheel barrow.  I got two loads of shreddings and bought them up the hill to the allotment and covered the large piece of outdoor ply.  I thought that I had done a good job but I  would have to get some more to mulch around the redcurrants.

I had moved four very large redcurrant bushes that someone had given me onto the car park bed.

Redcurrants planted alongside the car park.
I planted them here for several reasons.  They would give the allotment a little protection from north east winds but  would not shade the allotment being relatively small;  they would supplement my redcurrant harvest; they would help to reduce weed regeneration;  they would help to stop pollution from the car exhausts from  getting to my allotment and they would help to regulate hard surface water run off from the car park. I like it when I can use a plant for a variety of design objectives. 

Stunning red bark of the redcurrants with the sunlight passing through them.
I have removed the cabbage and kale plants from the old brassica bed so that I can dig it over and level it.  I will be planting this with peas.  There was a large net over the cabbages and this was put onto the new brassica bed in preparation for putting over the brassica seedlings.  The blue pipe supports were put away next to the big shed and these will be washed and used for supporting nets over the onions.

I have also taken out all of the carrots, parsnips and beetroot.  The small ones I put into a tub and the larger ones I washed and put into the wheel barrow.  Even though I threw away quite a few roots, there was still enough to last us until April.   I was thinking of composting all the roots that I had put into the tubs but had second thoughts because of the amount of pest damage on them.

So, I dug a trench across the new potato bed two spits deep and buried all the roots there.  Burying the roots this deep means that they will still rot down and any pests would not be a problem.  I thought that a good long trench like this should not be wasted and went looking for other stuff to bury.  I put in all the rotten pumpkins and squashes - which was all the uneaten pumpkin and squashes and then when to prune what I thought was a jostaberry.

I am not too sure what gooseberry this is.

Jostaberries are not supposed to have thorns but this plant has many and they are pretty lethal too. So I am not thinking jostaberry but one of the American gooseberries.  I'm still not sure which one though and it may be another hybrid with more gooseberry than blackberry.

I am pruning it back because it is a large bush and it is tending to shade the growing bed.  It is planted under the canopy of the Victoria plum tree.  It seems to like it there and has grown about four feet high.

I still need to take off the damaged branch of the Victoria plum. 
Damaged branch on the Victoria Plum.

The advice is not to prune until the spring to avoid silver leaf disease.   So, as soon as the weather changes and gets a little warmer this branch will be pruned off.  It means that a lot of fruit will be lost but this tree produces more plums than I can deal with anyway. 

The trench was filled in and I continued to dig the ground without trenching but adding lots of farmyard manure.  I have and have seen other people plant potatoes in fresh manure without any detrimental effects on the potatoes so I had not reservations about adding a lot of this fairly well rotted manure into the soil.  There is still some of the early potatoes' bed that needs to be dug over and this will be done today. 

I really need to get some multipurpose compost to sow some more seeds and to transplant the ones that have germinated.  My pepper and melon seeds did not germinate and I would also like to resow these.

Getting towards grafting time and Stephen Hayes said that he would let me have some scion wood and I have given him a number of varieties that I would like to try.  I am more interested in the heritage varieties than the modern ones.  The reason why heritage varieties are heritage varieties is because they are subject to diseases and they don't crop very well.  However, the heritage apples are not like that and the old varieties are, in my view, better than the new varieties.

When I have become fed up with grafting desert apples, I will start to graft cookers and cider apples.  Furthermore, if the peach budding is successful - and that is still in doubt - then I will start to graft other fruit trees as well.

Monday, 15 February 2016

February allotment photographs.

 February is the month where the allotment is at its bleakest.  All the plants have died down and there is little growing. Everything looks very grey.  Allotments don't look very pretty at the best of times but this time of year they are at their worst.  However, for a seasoned grower the sight of newly dug soil is the excitement of future harvest of beautiful and tasteful vegetables.

This is my allotment plan for 2016.  I usually keep to the plan but sometimes I will  add things.  I have just been given three gooseberry bushes and have planted them on the allotment.  However, fitting them into an over crowded plan like this is not easy. The rotation is anticlockwise around the big greenhouse. 

Allotment plan for 2016
Regardless, of whether you follow a plan or not, it is always best to do one.  The measurements on this plan are to scale and give me a good idea about where all my vegetables will fit into the garden.  It is also best to keep the plan so that you can remember where you put everything.  It is easier to remember if you rotate plants religiously because they will just move on one bed.  This is the first really detailed plan for the allotment.  I am still putting in a lot more fruit and cutting down on the amount of vegetables.  I am not going to cut down on the variety of vegetables though.

Bay trees alongside the greenhouse. 
With the cold weather, I thought that the bay might be affected by the frost but they do not seem to be at the moment.  I am trying to grow these as standards with a round head.  The stems are not that straight so I might let some of the suckers grow on because they always seem to grow straighter.  The other alternative is to tie to a stake.  They will double their size in the next season.  I will keep them to about four feet.  They seem to be very tolerant of severe pruning and this means that they can be easily shaped.

Compost bins.
I should have turned the compost bins today but I was busy making charcoal so I didn't.  I will have a go at turning them tomorrow.  This time of year there seems to be very little decomposition going on so the compost can have more time in the bins before turning.  I would like to have the compost to put onto the potato bed but, if I can't put it on before I plant them, I will put the compost along the furrows of the ridged up potatoes.
View across to the charcoaling bins.
I lit the charcoaling bins on the car park to make sure that it was safe and supervised it carefully.  The bin was merrily making charcoal when I took this photograph.  Notice no smoke at all.  I have to admit it did produce some smoke when it had almost burnt through but I don't know why.  The bin had gone out before I left to go home.  I decided to leave the tipping out of the charcoal until tomorrow, mainly because it was too hot to do anything with it today.  I will probably put all this charcoal straight into the comfrey liquid dust bin to marinade for a couple of months.
Making charcoal - notice no smoke.
Not bad if I do say it myself.
The inside retort made out of metal dustbins
The outer bin.  
Charcoal marinading in the comfrey liquid.

I will put the marinaded charcoal on the soil during the spring and summer.  The charcoal will be damp when I take it out of the comfrey liquid and this will make it easier to crush up with the bull hammer.  The fine charcoal dust is easier to spread over the surface of the top soil and hoe in.  There has been quite a lot of research done of the effectiveness of adding charcoal to soils based on the terra preta black earths of the Amazon.  It would seem that most of the research did not demonstrate a significant increase in the fertility of soils.  However, I thought from the beginning of using charcoal that its effectiveness lay in the way charcoal can provide a very large surface area for cations to adhere to.  If this is so then the nutrients in comfrey will be adsorbed onto charcoal surfaces and will be delivered to the soil so that they can be released slowly.  The pH of charcoal is surprisingly high showing that cations have not been driven off by charcoaling.  The nutrients in the charcoal will also be released slowly into the soil.  As the pH is relatively high, I will probably use this primarily on the brassica bed.
Stella cherry tree - my Christmas present.
I still haven't headed down the "Stella" cherry.  I will do it soon because it will soon start to grow and I want it to put all its energy into growing the two laterals I am going to train rather than the main stem that will be cut back to the two buds.  I have used canes as supports rather than wires and the supports are far too small.  They will do for a while until the branches get too long.  I will put up much more sturdy supports when that happens.  Although the cherry has been planted in almost neat rough compost, I think I will mulch it with woody chippings too.  There will be a path the other side of the tree because I will need to get to the runner beans and pick them.  So I will have about a two foot wide area of chippings going alongside the path. 
The leeks are going to be harvested this week and made into leek and potato soup.  They were ridged up using the rough compost and when the leeks are taken up I will be able to rake the compost over the rest of the bed.  I have covered some of the sweet pea bed with the tarpaulin to try to protect it from the rain and this seems a good place to store the supports.  I will be erecting the runner bean supports parallel to the Stella cherry.  I think that I will just about fit four or maybe five double rows of sweetpeas in the rest of the bed.  I am going to dig small trenches alongside the sweetpea supports and put the soil onto the sweet pea row to increase the level of the top soil.  I will fill the trenches with woody chippings to make a path.  This worked really well last year.  After the sweet peas have been planted out, I will put a mulch of woody chippings around them.  Last year, I put an understory of annuals to cover the ground and keep it damp.  I will not do this this year.

The shredded woody material mulch has done a really good job of keeping the weeds at bay.  The blackcurrants have been coppiced and the new growth is not showing yet.
The new sweet pea bed.
This bed had a cover crop of grazing rye and tares which has now been dug in together with some farmyard manure.  It has also had at least eight barrow loads rough compost put on it.

Tarpaulin protecting the soil.
Some of the sweet pea supports on the tarpaulin.  
 I will be putting up the supports for the sweet peas very soon.  The sweet peas are growing away in the greenhouse and need to be put out.  the cold frosty weather means that they shouldn't be planted at the moment and the cold will slow their growth anyway.
Clematis growing up the small shed.
The clematis have made quite a bit of new growth during the very mild winter and I am hoping that the frosts will not cut them back.  They are very good at covering the shed and making it look much more presentable. It is quite shady here and ideal for the clematis.  They say feet in the shade and head in the sun for clematis.   Someone was throwing away the wooden trellising so I thought that I would add it to the concrete reinforcing wire to add more climbing potential.  There is a little variegated ivy that I grew from a cutting growing under the clematis.  It was one that was growing in my dad's garden.  If the clematis fails then I will have the backup of a variegated ivy. 
Loganberries growing up the back of the shed.
I took these two loganberries out from the main row of blackberries and loganberries because I had planted too many too close together.  These do not fruit particularly well and will easily cover the back of the shed.  It is a little shady here but they will be able to grow up into the sunlight.
This area of the allotment was quite a mess last year but since the car park has been made, I could get round to it and tidy it up.  The large pile of soil and weeds has gone and I have taken down the out door ply wood fencing.  Although it is still shady here, it is much better than it was.   I am storing the blue water pipe supports behind the shed.  They are big and clumsy and fall about with abandon so tucking them away around here seemed the best option.  They will all be used soon. I have washed them with soapy water.  I doubt that it will make much difference, but I like to think that I am preventing disease spreading around the allotment.

Discover apple cordon.
As Discovery is a semi tip bearing apple, it is not well suited to pruning to cordon.  However, it has grown long and thin itself and produced a lot of apples last year.  I have been undecided how to train it but finally come down to training it as an almost step over.  It is about two feet off the ground so you would have to take a large stride to step over it.  I will leave it like this now and see how it grows.
The espaliered trees.
The espaliered 'Doyenne du Comice' pear and 'Egremont Russet' apple are almost the right shape and growing the way that I want to.  I think that they are far too close to one another and I will eventually have to move one of them.  I put a lot of the rough compost  around them as a mulch and this has rotted down a lot now.  I will replace the decomposed compost mulch with woody chippings.
Lonicera  nitidia cuttings.
I am growing the Lonicera nitidia cuttings for edging plants.  These will be removed later in he spring and this area will be planted with Brussels sprouts. I sowed the green manure quite late in this part of the allotment and it has not germinated very well.  The cuttings just help to cover the soil against the most severe of the weather.

Victoria plum tree and gooseberry bushes. 

I am convinced that the 'Victoria' plum has silver leaf disease.  However, I will give it another season before considering what to do with it.  One of the branches has a large gash in it and needs to be taken off.  I will do that in the spring.  I put the gooseberries under the plum canopy because there was a lot of shade.  The gooseberries are growing and fruiting well so it must be a good strategy.  I have another pile of woody shreddings.  These will be used as a mulch around the allotment. 
Laburnum nitrogen fixer.

Rye grass and tares green manure. 
The green manure on the new brassica bed is growing really well.  I don't want to dig this in just yet although I will before the middle of March. 
The new brassica bed with the standard 'Opal' plum tree

The scaffold netting is over the red grape.
 Initially I just wanted to put the scaffold netting on the supports to wash it in the rain and then to dry it in the sun.  However, I thought that it might give the grape a little more protection during the winter so I left it there. 
I put another net over the white grape.
This path will be redone with chippings.
I have quite a bit of cardboard at the moment - much more that I want for the compost heaps.  So I am going to use it along the paths and then cover it with chippings.
Another espaliered laburnum nitrogen fixer. 
 I have left the supports and the netting over the winter cabbage but they have not grown very much.  I think that I put them in too late for them to head up.  The kale will be taken out as well because I have had several meals off it and there are not many useful leaves left on it. 

I have moved the globe artichoke near the track way.

The successful  'Court Pendu Plat' apple graft.
 I will prune the 'Court Pendu Plat' and the other grafts to three or four buds to encourage them to produce laterals so that I can espalier them along the wires.
Sage plants with the 'Court Pendu Plat' behind.
I have cut the sage right back to its bare bones which is quite unsightly at this time of the year.  However, it forms a tight dome of foliage in the spring which looks quite impressive.  I will not let it flower this season because it will get scraggy and loose its tight shape if I do. 

My original three espaliers.
 These are my original trees that first interested me in developing some espalier fruit trees.  The apple this side was a standard that I have attempted to prune to an espalier but not really very successfully.  It is on a M9 rootstock and will not grow very big.  I don't really want it to go back to a standard because it does not impinge on the growing area at all.  It also cropped really well last season.  The middle tree is a 'Ribstone Pippin'.  This was my very first successful graft.  It is not throwing out as many laterals as I would like but it will during this season.  The tree on the far side is a 'Conference' pear which came from my Dad's garden.  It was originally a standard but I have pruned it to espalier.  I find the pears much easier to espalier than the apple trees. 
One of last year's grafts.
I have planted last years grafts alongside the path but behind the herbs.  I did mulch this tree with farmyard manure but it seems to have rotted away quickly.  I will put some woody chippings around it in the next few weeks.  
The root veg and leaf veg plot.
This bed is ready for the roots and leaves.  The far side will be for the roots and did not get any farmyard manure.  This side of the bed is for the leaves and got farmyard manure.  Both sides got green manure.  Last season's peas plants were dug into the soil as well. 
Logan berry and blackberry
I am still not sure whether I am going to leave this concrete reinforcing wire to support the loganberry and blackberry stems.  It looks so unsightly.  However, if they cover it, which they are  capable of doing this season then it will probably look a lot better.  The canes are tightly tied into the supports to stop them encroaching onto the beds.

The new potato bed.
I still have to take the rest of the beetroot, carrots and parsnips out of this bed so that I can dig in the farmyard manure.  The seed potatoes have come and I will put them to chit in the greenhouse.  I will plant the earlies in next to the green house and work my way planting in rows until I reach the path.
One of my bay tree cuttings. 
This is another 'Ribstone Pippin' apple espalier
 My second successful graft was another 'Ribstone Pippin'  and it is espaliering really well.  It will grow much bigger this season and I will be able to tie in the laterals. 
'Ben Sarek' blackcurrant.
 I coppiced the 'Ben Sarek' after it had fruited.  It has thrown up a lot of new growth but I doubt if it will fruit this year.  I will let it grow on this year and see what it does next season. 
The 'King of the Pippins' grafted apple.
Another of last year's grafts 'King of the Pippins' planted alongside the path.  It has already thrown up two good laterals that I can train along the wires. 
The garlic, shallot and elephant garlic bed.
 The garlic, shallots and elephant garlic have been planted but I still have some room in this bed for something else.  I think that I might plant some oca here because I don't have anywhere else earmarked for it.  This ground was well manured last year for the potatoes and I put some more farmyard manure in while I was digging in the green manure.  It gets shaded by the hedge during the winter but this is less noticeable in the summer. 
Raspberries alongside the path.
 I am not sure that this was the best place to plant the raspberries.  They may be too shaded.  They certainly have not produced the canes I was expecting.  I have mulched them with farmyard manure and covered this with a layer of chippings.  This may help them a little.  The hedge bank looks unsightly at the moment because all the comfrey plants have died back.  It looks much better when they have grown up.  I have carefully swept up all the leaves that have fallen off the hedge plants and composted them.  It is another addition to the nutrients I can add to the growing areas. 
The little leaning apple tree.
 Although the apples on this leaning tree do not last very long, they are very tasty.  It is leaning because the hedge had so overgrown it was covering the tree.  I have cut the hedge right back and this has given me at least twelve feet of good growing area. 
 The strawberries have not lost their leaves for the whole of the winter.  I don't know if this will affect the fruiting but it is unusual.  I will net these plants soon but I want to give them a good mulch of woody shreddings before I do.  They were mulched with the rough compost last autumn. 
The coppiced blackcurrants again.

The pond with the solar pump
 The solar pump was working when I took this photograph but you can't see it.  You can see the damp paving slab where the wind has blown the water from the fountain though.  The water was very clear and sparkling until I lit the charcoaling bin and then it got covered in burnt flecks.  I will skim the surface of the water to get rid of them and replace it with more rainwater. 
The cold frame
The experiment to make a hot bed for the frame out of woody chippings was not a success.  I think that I would have to build a pile about four feet high to make it decompose and produce some heat.  I have replaced the polycarbonate panel that flew away in the wind with glass It makes the lights much heavier and less likely to blow away.  The frame is full of cuttings in pots at the moment and these can be put outside when I want to use the frame for salad sowings.  I am going to put a layer of compost at the bottom of the frame to improve the soil.
The greenhouse with the frame on the left and pond right.

The small plastic greenhouse with tomatoes and cucumbers
 The small plastic greenhouse has even more sweet peas and the onions and leeks.  There are four root trainer trays full of sweet peas. 
Sweet peas that need to be planted out. 

More sweet peas and the last of the pumpkins

Even more sweet peas

Some of the pumpkin and squashes are going off now. 
I will put the rotting squash on the compost heap because nothing goes to waste on the allotment.  I will probably have to wash the outside of the glass again because the charcoaling bin deposited a lot of burnt ash over the greenhouse.
The daphnia in the pots. 
 In the background is the new onion and leek bed.  There are four rows of sets already planted and room for the onions grown from seed and the leeks to go in next to them.  There is also a row of autumn raspberries alongside the path which have been cut back to soil level and these will begin to push up shoots fairly soon. 
The trained redcurrant growing up the side of the shed.
 I am keeping the red currant trained tightly to the supports because I want the room on the 'patio' for seating and drinking my cup of tea.  I have noticed that the slabs are beginning to go a little uneven due to settling but this can easily be rectified.  I will have to raise the slabs to do it though.
Wine berry growing up the side of the shed. 
 I have moved the wineberry to the side of the shed.  Again I have trained it tight to the supports so that I can get down this side of the shed without any trouble. 
The onion bed looking down the path.
 This will be where the leeks are going this year.  I have some autumn raspberries heeled in here that someone gave me.  I am not too sure where I will put them but I don't just want to compost them.  I have run out of slabs for the moment so this part of the path will just have to be wood chipped for the moment. 
 These blackcurrants were cut hard back last season because I had moved them.  They have grown on and I am hoping they will be my main crop of blackcurrants. 
This will be my second early potato bed.
 This will be my Kestrel potato bed.  It has been well mucked and then sown with grazing rye, tares and crimson clover.  I cleaned out my worm bin and put it on this bed.  I will spread this out when I dig the green manure in. 
Supports for espaliering the 'Pitmaston Pineapple'
 I know that these supports are too small for the espalier apples but they will suffice for a year or two.  I am using canes rather than wires just to compare. 
Pitmaston Pineapple apple tree graft.
I will cut the head off this tree to the level of the cane to encourage it to send out laterals to tie in.  I should not have to do this again because it will naturally send out useful branches that can be tied in to make the espalier.  I am mulching all the trees with woody chippings. 
The mustard green manure has died off now.
 I am not too worried about digging in the mustard haulms because this bed will not be used until May.  I will plant sweet corn, squash, pumpkin and climbing french beans in here.  The giant Victoria rhubarb has had a big pile of farmyard manure put on it. You can see the fan trained white currant and redcurrant in the background.  They have been carefully pruned and tied in so that they do not overshadow the growing areas.
Another of the blackcurrants I want to crop well this year

I'm not sure I want two 'King of the Pippin' apple trees
 This 'King of the Pippins' apple tree graft may be regrafted to another variety next year.  However, I will give it a couple of seasons to see how it grows.  I would like the largest number of different apples as I can fit into the allotment. 
Ebony blackcurrant. 

 This is the top bed next to the path.  I don't think that it is particularly fertile area.  It is going to be covered with dwarf french beans, climbing french beans, broad beans and tall peas.  After cropping these, I will dig in these haulms to add nitrogen to the soil.  I has had farmyard manure dug in and compost spread over it before the green manure was sown.  I am going to dig in some of the green manure so that I can sow the broad bean seeds.  The last of the swedes will be composted because they are not very good. 
Another 'Pitmaston Pineapple'
I have three 'Pitmaston Pineapples'  but I am going to keep them.  I think that these are a little more rare than some of the other varieties I have.  It will be espaliered like the other apples. 
This poor 'Conference' pear has been in the wars.
 This is one of the pears that my dad gave me and I planted it at the old allotment.  It grew into the compost heaps there and was doing quite well.  However, it was a bit of a struggle to dig it out of the compost pallets.  It has survived but it did not throw up much growth last season.  I am hoping that it will produce some more growth this year.  It has had a good mulch of farmyard manure which was covered in woody chippings. 
One of my two fan trained white currants. 
 This 'Weisse Veersailler' white currant was given to me.  The roots were riddled with horse tail and bind weed.  To get all the weeds out of the roots I had to wash them in the water butts.  It seems to have done the trick because no weeds have regenerated.
Fan trained 'Peregrine' peach in the small greenhouse.
 I thought that the peach was going to flower soon because its flower buds were swelling.  However, this cold patch has set it back and I doubt that it will flower before the end of February. 
The M26 root stock ready for grafting in March.

The budded 'Cox's Orange Pippins' and 'Peregrine' peaches
 I will probably only plant out one of the 'Cox's Orange Pippins' and graft the others over to another apple variety.  I have no idea where I am going to put the peaches if their buds develop. 
Other side of the sweet corn bed. 
I forgot to take a photograph of the fan trained redcurrant and white currant. They are in the background.  They made a lot of growth last season but didn't produce any fruit.  I am hoping that they will this season.
Some of the rough compost on the kestrel potato bed.
This is some of the rough compost that I have made in the dalek bins.  It was made in about eight weeks of turning every two days.

So that is the bleak midwinter February allotment photographs.  The new season beckons and I think will be fruitful.