Thursday, 11 February 2016

Starting to dig in the green manure.

As I have a relatively large allotment, I thought that digging all the green manure in would take some time.  If I started in March, as I had planned, then I might be pushed for time before I had to start planting in some of the growing areas.  Also, it is worth giving the green manure plenty of time to decompose in the soil.  Two years ago, I did not dig the green manure in until I was about to plant out the sweetpea seedlings and the seedlings were devastated by flea beetle.  Last year I dug the green manure in about six weeks before I planted out the sweetpeas and had no problem with flea beetle.  I think that they are living in the green manure and attack the seedlings because there is no other food for them when I have dug everything into the soil.  After six weeks of not having green manure the flea beetle either have died off due to starvation or moved onto someone else's allotment. 

 I decided to dig over the root and leaves bed.  It is probably a misconception but most pundits say that carrots and parsnips will fork if the ground they are grown in is manured.  So, I have not added any of the farmyard manure to that part of the bed.  The leaves growing area had a good dose of farmyard manure.  Last season this growing area was the peas bed and the pea plants were turned into the soil after they had cropped.  Peas fix nitrogen from the atmosphere and this is taken into the soil when they decompose in the top soil. 

I have tried to exaggerate the south facing slope down towards the hedge for a couple of reasons.  Sloping towards the south means that the Sun's rays are hitting the surface of the soil at a slightly more perpendicular angle and warming it very slightly more than if the ground was flat or sloping to the north.  The slope to the south allows me to control surface run off of water by using mini swales from east to west more or less on contour.  These are small ditches with the soil banked up on the south side and planted with trees or bushes.  As this is an allotment, the banks are not very high and the trees and bushes are either espaliered or fan trained. 

The surface run off and mass flow of water through the top soil is slowed and spread out. This means that any surface erosion by water is caught in the swales; mass flow of water is slowed and leaching is reduced; evaporation from the soil can be replaced and there is time for water to really soak the organic matter in the soil producing a reservoir of water available to the roots of vegetables.   

In the corner of the bed next to the big greenhouse the ground was particularly low compared with the surrounding growing areas.  It really needed raising up a little.  As I have been breaking up wood for charcoaling, which I still have not got around to doing yet, I have found pieces that I can't break with the bull hammer.  They really need to be sawn to the right size for charcoaling.  I wasn't too keen on doing that so they became a prime source of wood for any hugelkultur I was going to do. 

As is my want, I dug a big trench two spits deep and buried the wood.  There was quite a bit of it and I thought that it would make a good dent in the amount of organic matter I would have to put into the  trench.  I was sadly mistaken.  I needed two barrow loads of well rotted chippings to add to the trench as well.  After I had carefully replaced the subsoil and top soil it was evident that I had successfully raised the soil a bit.  I'm fairly certain that I have buried the woody stuff deep enough not to interfere with the parsnips roots.  In fact, I would be really happy if the parsnips grew that deep because I would have two foot long roots. 

I had a bit of farmyard manure left over so I just put it onto where the potatoes are going this year.  Potatoes cannot have enough manure. 

I checked on the apple root stock and they were fine in their pots.  I am really wanting to start on this year's grafting.  I will wait until the end of March though.  

I turned all but three of the dalek compost bins this afternoon.  Before I started turning I put a bit of old metal pipe in two of the bins to see if they had warmed up.  I had turned one of the big bins and the two small ones before I tested the temperature of the pipe in the other bins.  Remarkably, one of the pipes was quite warm but the other was as cold as a witch's whatever.  I don't expect my composts to warm up.  It is noticeable that the compost is not breaking down nearly as quickly as it did in the autumn.  But if I am getting a temperature change then maybe I will get a more rapid decomposition from now on.  Although there is a colour change to a dark grey, I can still see what the compost is being made out of.  Two bits of metal, an old tub handle and a bit of thin stainless steel, fell out of the compost today and were put into the rubbish bag.  I have turned this compost two times before but never noticed the metal. 

I dug out several volunteer raspberry canes from under the Victoria plum.  I don't really want them there and they were shading the redcurrant that I have fan trained against the compost area pallets.  A couple of the raspberries were growing out of the pallets so I just cut them off and left them.  I will cut them back when they start to grow again.

Checked the tomatoes and cucumbers in the cold greenhouse because there was quite a severe frost last night.  It would seem that the temperature in the greenhouse did not fall below ten degrees Celsius, so the temperature in the little plastic greenhouse would be higher than that. The only problem I have with my seedlings is keeping them moist enough.  Those sweet peas will have to be planted out soon.  They are the biggest I've had at this time of the year.

I have a solar pump and it is working really well at the moment.  I did take it out of the pond earlier in the week because I thought it was going to freeze but I put it back in again because it had warmed up.  I didn't take it out again yesterday so it got cold last night.  However, it was gently spraying water in a little fountain across the pond when I arrived at the allotment in the sunshine.   I should worry. 

Tomorrow, I will need to turn the compost in the last three bins and then I will have to decide which of the beds to dig the green manure into next.  

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