The composts are always an ongoing job and I have been given a variety of different materials to put into the compost bins. Many allotmenteers will have been taking down runner beans and I have been going round asking if I can have the old plants for the compost bins. It seems that people are only too pleased to get rid of them and it avoids them being burnt and messing up the fresh air. I have also been given rabbit bedding which is a mixture of sawdust and hay intermixed with rabbit droppings and urine. These additions to the compost heaps will break down and form a good compost to add to the soil. I will probably add the compost to the surface rather than dig it in primarily to avoid unnecessary soil disturbance.
Another item that has been added to the compost bins is the charcoal I made last week. This charcoal is very alkaline and full of concentrated nutrients. It really needs to be composted and diluted to make it more suitable for adding to the soil. There is a danger that adding the charcoal to the soil directly would produce an excess of nutrient salts and damage plants. Added to the compost and mixed with various other constituents will enable it to become less concentrated and more appropriate for adding to the soil.
I am adding shredded material to the compost bins. The load that has just been delivered is full of leaves and this will aid in its decomposition. The more leaves and green stems the more nitrogen there is in the shreddings and this helps with the decay process. I needed to get rid of some subsoil when I was triple digging during January 2015 so I stored it under the hedge behind the shed. It is amazing how much room this took up. I am now using this subsoil to add to the compost bins. Mixing in a great variety of different organic matter together with various nitrogen sources will turn the subsoil into a more top soil like soil. I also added a douche of dilute comfrey and urine liquid particularly to the dry ingredients.
All the bins were turned and they will be again in two days time. The woody material that I put back into the bins, after sieving the compost last time, is beginning to go very brittle and easily broken up into smaller and smaller pieces. Although they will not be fully decomposed, they will go through the bread tray sieve and this is my criteria for putting it onto the soil surface as a mulch.
It was a warm beautiful afternoon last Thursday and I decided to have a go at grafting the apple scions that I have been given. Some of the root stock was particularly large so I had to try some different grafts. I think that I have some good grafts but I will wait until July/August before I review how many have actually taken.
After planting the sweet peas, I had all the root trainers left empty and rather just putting them away, I decided to use them for the leeks. So all the root trainers have had a replenishment of potting compost and a leek transplanted into them. The Musselburgh and Blue Solaise I sowed earlier in the month have grown into quite strong seedlings and needed to be transplanted.
I have planted some of my own seed sweet pea plants to grow up the wire supports that I put up for the loganberries and blackberries. This will do two jobs. One is to produce more nitrogen fixing bacterial which will provide a little nitrogen for the potatoes and another is to make the allotment a little more colourful. I will not take off the tendrils or side shoots but just let them clamber over the wire mesh as they will.
I sowed parsnips Pastinaca sativa and skirret Sium sisarum today. I sowed them in the soil that had not been manured this winter. I had dug in the pea plants from last season and put a top dressing of compost on the surface to improve the soil but nothing else. It is said that if you dig in compost or manure then the parsnips will fork and form distorted roots. I don't know if this is true but it is no difficulty in taking this into account in preparing the soil. It is a lot easier to prepare a smooth thick root for cooking than one that has numerous side extensions. Apart from mulching them when they have grown about six inches tall with shreddings, I doubt that I will do anything else to these plants until I harvest them. I expect I will have to do some weeding along the rows but I am hoping that I will have very little weed this year.
I have moved all the apple grafts over to beside the little shed. The idea is to stop me from fiddling with them; stepping on them and to put them out of my mind so that in June or July I remember they are there and I will be surprised that they have all taken. Although they will be in the shade for most of the day, I will have to make sure that they are kept moist but that is all that they will need until they get planted in the growing beds. Where I am going to plant them is a good question because I have no room at all for this many apple trees espaliered or not. I may see if I can cordon them or make them into step overs. Probably the only way I can keep them all.
I have put the big green tarpaulin on the big shed roof because it was leaking. I folded it into four and it fitted onto the roof almost exactly. I had to weigh it down because of the strong winds this weekend but it is keeping the shed dry. I will have to get some more shed roofing felt and redo the roof before next winter but until I do the tarpauling can be safely stored on the roof.
I have had to put a centimeter square net over the broad beans to keep the mice off them. I have pegged it down with the tent pegs that I found in the compost I made from the weeds on the carpark allotment area. I am glad I kept them because they are becoming very useful.
I shall have to buy some more steel tipped gardening boots because mine are becoming more and more ragged. I know that I use them almost every day but I would have hoped that they would be a little more robust than this. However, I was looking at my gardening gloves as well and they do not seem to last more than one winter's hard work. So really the boots have lasted me a good three or four years and I have to be grateful for this.
The jobs that I still have to do are:
Continue digging out the subsoil from behind the shed and composting it. Then rearrange the storage area to give me more room for the comfrey and worm bins.
I might plant some of the early potatoes although it is forecast for some frosts on Thursday and Friday so the potatoes might be best left covered in fleece and bubble wrap in the greenhouse. I think that I will plant some more elephant garlic because I use a lot of this in stews, curries and soups. I just have to leave some room for the red onions to go in. I am planning to plant the oca tubers in this growing bed too.
I need to continue putting in paths between the pea beds. I have dug out some paths putting the soil on the growing areas to raise them a little. I put cardboard at the bottom of the shallow trenches and made up the level with shreddings. I have some newspapers that I will put at the bottom of the shallow trenches for the next paths. I'll cover these with shreddings and hopefully this will suppress the weeds a little.
I need to sort out the peach greenhouse and put the ring culture pots along the walls. I will not fill these with compost until the tomato plants are ready to be transplanted into them but it means they are ready and not taking up room in the store shed. (I need to tidy the store shed).
I need to check that the giant Victoria rhubarb is growing directly under the dustbins. As they had died right back I just made a guess to where the plants were when I covered them with the dust bins.
I need to tie in the redcurrants I planted next to the composting area. I want to keep them to the fan trained shape so I will tie them in carefully.
Although there is not much to see, I might take a few photographs for the end of March.