Monday, 25 April 2016

April Allotment Photographs.

This is by far the most busy part of the year.  Seeds are sown, transplanted and grown on.  Finally they are planted out in the growing beds.  The only disappointing part of this year's plants is the devastation wrought by flea beetle on the sweet peas.  It has never been so bad as this year and it makes me think that starting sweet peas off in the autumn is not a very good idea.  If they are left unsown until March then the flea beetle will not be about when the sweet peas are planted in May. 
Netting over the onion to protect the onions from Phytomyza gymnostoma
Whether the net was put over the onions in time is debateable.  Phytomyza gymnostoma is laying eggs during April and I put the net on at the beginning of the month.  It is amazing that this much protection needs to be given to onions and leeks when in the past they were just planted and left very much to their own devices.  A thick layer of woody shreddings has been put between the rows to suppress weeds.  The net should not come off until well into May even to weed.  The supports are for the net that is going over the leeks. 
Leek bed

The leeks are in pots in the greenhouse.  They will not be planted out until the end of April and then covered with scaffold netting to protect them from Phytomyza gymnostoma  the miner fly.  This year Blue Solaise and Musselborough are being used.  The big exhibition leeks will not grow well under the protective netting.  The Cox's Orange Pippin budded last summer has been planted in this bed and  some support put up to train it to espalier.  In the old Victorian walled gardens they used wooden supports like this.  As the tree gets bigger the supports will have to be extended but they are more than adequate for the moment.  There are redcurrant and buddleia cuttings alongside the path that were just stuck in last year.  There was no expectation that they would do anything but I hate to throw away cuttings like this when they could be tucked in in an out of the way place.  The soil here has had green manure and farmyard manure dug in and a top dressing of sieved top soil from a very old compost heap.  The soil still seems to be lacking organic matter. 

Blackcurrants between the onion and potato bed.
 These blackcurrants were planted and coppiced last year.  They have thrown up very healthy new shoots which will fruit this year.  There are quite a few flowers on them but not as many as I would like.  They have had a mulch of farmyard manure, woody chippings and worm bin compost.  The worm bin was cleaned out during the winter and a new set of worms and vegetable peelings added to the bin.  It is probably best to refresh worm bins after a year. 
Potato bed.
This is one of the potato beds.  There are a couple of rows of early potatoes and the rest are Kestrel second earlies.  Although the bed looks empty and the soil exposed to the elements, the potatoes will soon be poking themselves through and growing on.  When that happens the plants will be ridged up and a thick layer of woody shredding mulch will be put over the whole bed.  This bed had crop residue from the pumpkins, squash and sweet corn dug into it during the autumn.  Green manure was sown and dug in with farmyard manure during March. 
Pitmaston Pineapple apple tree grafted last year.
One of the Pitmaston Pineapple apple trees has been planted in the potato bed.  It could get shaded by the potatoes but they can be tied back.  This plat has had a mulch of farmyard manure and shredded woody material.  The slabbed path is not very good along this side of the allotment and really needs to be redone but it is doubtful whether it  will be done this year.  More slabs are needed to finish it off and there does not seem to be any available at the moment.
Giant Victoria rhubarb just beginning to grow.
The Victoria rhubarb has just begun to throw up some leaves.  The Timperley Early has been growing leaves since the beginning of March but the Victoria will produce some very big petioles during the summer.  I eat them all summer and into the autumn in pies, crumbles and on their own with a bit of custard.  They have had a thick mulch of farmyard manure and compost put over them during the winter. 
Three sisters bed.  Sweet corn, squash and pumpkin together with French beans.
Although this looks like another empty bed it had green manure on it until March when it was dug in with farmyard manure.  Over the last week it has had a thick layer of compost spread over it ready for the three sisters plants.  All the plants are growing well in the greenhouse but they will not be planted out until the middle of May if this cold weather persists.  After they have grown on and obtained some height and strength, they will get a thick mulch of woody shreddings.  This will reduce evaporation and reduce the need for watering.  It will also protect the soil structure from rain impacts and prevent wind erosion.  Mainly though it will reduce and suppress weeds and weed regeneration or that's the theory anyway. 

The peach greenhouse is at the original soil level of the allotment and thus in a hole. It is not worrying because it means that surface water run off will flow into the greenhouse and keep it damp.  Any excess of water will be able to drain away through the soakaway under the allotment path.  The peach has had very little watering.

King of the Pippins apple tree.
There are two successful King of the Pippins apple trees but this one might be grafted to another variety.  It is growing well and is being trained to espalier with two good lateral branches and a leader so it will be a shame to cut it back.  It has had a mulch of farmyard manure and woody chippings. 
Blackcurrant in corner of three sisters bed.
This is one of the two blackcurrants that were bought last year because they came with the white and red currant.  It is doing very well and will fruit this year.  It has been moved during the winter so that it is in the corner and out of the way where it will not be trod on. 
The red and white currants bought last year and fan trained. 
Both the red and white currant that are being fan trained have been retied and trained.  A lot of the ties came loose last year and the branches were growing too close together.  Now they are much better spaced to allow air and light into the bushes.  They have a lot of flowers on them but whether this translates into lots of fruit ...  They have not had to be pruned very much during the winter and have kept their shape very well. 

Broad beans my own seed. 

Two lines of my own seed broad beans were sown alongside the Pitmaston Pineapple apple tree but most of them have been eaten by mice. They have been consolidated into one line and dwarf French beans will be planted  alongside later in May.  This bed has had a lot of compost put onto it and dug in together with farmyard manure.  It did not produce very good crops last year so I am hoping that the legumes planted this year will help to add a little nutrient to the soil. 
This is Pitmaston Pineapple three successfully grafted last year.
There are three Pitmaston Pineapples that were successfully grafted last year and I am not sure that I want them all.  This one will probably be grafted to some other variety next year.  It is growing well though even though it is small and can't be seen very well in the photograph. 

Lavender alongside the trackway.
It is a conundrum whether to plant eatables next to the trackway where cars continually go backwards and forwards.  I have planted lavender here for a low hedge, to protect the vegetables  from the car pollution - a bit - and as a decorative plant. 

I was looking for my hand fork.  I wonder if it is still here. 

The stones are in a small ditch alongside the trackway so that I can collect hard surface rain water run off.  The lavender roots will slow down the soakage of water from the ditch.  The stones will erode - slowly I admit - but not as slowly as some might think - due to carboxylic acid in rainwater and mycorrhizal fungi oxalic acid exudates and provide mineral nutrients down the slope.  The sweet cicely and comfrey planted along the ditch will be used in the comfrey bins to make liquid fertiliser. The comfrey and sweet cicely in the stony ditch will also act as stop dams to prevent water from flowing down the track.  There is a white buddleia in the corner that is self sown.  It is a lovely plant. 

Conference Pear and French bean supports.
This conference pear was planted on the old allotment and it had grown into the compost heap.  I didn't think that I would be able to get it out to move it here.  However, remarkably I did get it out although it did not have many roots on it.  I didn't really think that it would survive but it has and now it is growing away well.  It was one of my Dad's trees and it pleases me that it has not given up the ghost.  I don't really mind if it does not produce any fruit being right by the trackway.  It will give a little protection to the vegetables growing in the bed when it grows up and is espaliered. 

The trackway needs to be weeded a little more but I am using the weeds to slow down the flow of water from the trackway
Tall peas Alderman and Champion of England.
Three rows of tall peas planted this week.  They have a strong plastic net around them slightly buried in the soil to prevent the mice from eating them.  The old net was put on  just for tradition but it is falling to pieces. It will give them something to grow up.  I will be able to put my arm over the plastic net and under the old net to pick the peas. 

Not doing very well with broad beans this year.
Planted out the broad beans and they got caught by the frost. The net was put over them temporarily to protect them a little.  They will recover and grow away but they are suffering a little now. 

The French beans have been sown in the greenhouse but the cane supports have already been put up.  Alleyways have been dug along side the canes and the soil thrown up onto the beds.  The top soil was  replaced it with woody chippings.  This has raised the beds a little more. Only a foot has been left between the rows and it is a little difficult to get along the alleyway but there is not much reason to go up and down the alleys especially if the beds are mulched with woody chippings.

Fan trained white currant.
The last remaining salad burnet plant is in the corner of the bed. There is a blackcurrant cutting growing in the middle of it.  I will get some more seed to sow because salad burnet makes a very good addition to salads.  It has a cucumber like taste.  The white currant is flowering and it might have quite a lot of fruit on it. It was cut it right back last year so that it could be fan trained.  This set it back a lot and it did not grow very much last year. 

I don't think that the two budded peaches in the pots are going to be successful because the buds are not growing at all at the moment.  If they do not grow I will put them into the compost and use the pots for the tomatoes. 

That is the extra half on the side of the main allotment.  Not sure whether I am going to keep this half but it is useful for overflows when I have too many plants and nowhere to put them. 

So now the main allotment.
Globe artichoke lupins and laburnum growing alongside the trackway. 
The globe artichoke is an unusual dwarf one.  It only grows and flowers to about three feet.  The lupins and laburnums have been planted alongside the small ditch to slow water soakage into the allotment from the hard surface rain water run off from the trackway.  They are also perennial nitrogen fixers and will add this nutrient to the allotment soil.  They are at the top of the south facing slope so any nitrogen they fix will flow into the allotment.  The laburnums are being espaliered to make a hedge to provide a windbreak on the north side of the allotment. 
Sage plants alongside the allotment path.

Herbs have been planted alongside the allotment path.  These sage plants look the worse for wear but they will perk up later in the spring.  There is a Court Pendu Plat apple tree planted behind the sage.  I will espalier this using the post and wire supports.  The path gives the herbs a little more reflected light and warmth and remains warm into the evening.  Under the path is a soak away drain full of stone sieved from the allotment when it was being initially dug over.  This keeps any excessive water off the allotment.  I don't like wooden curbing but I only had enough paving slabs to do one side of the path.  The wood is still surviving but I doubt it will be for much longer.  I will not replace it. 
Pea bed
Alleyways have been dug alongside the pea beds and the soil has been thrown up onto the beds replaced with woody chippings to make pathways.  It has raised the beds a little.  Some of the pea supports have been put up and the peas are growing in sectioned trays in the greenhouse.  The peas will be grown in succession so that there will be fresh peas throughout the summer and autumn.  The grape is in the background protected by the scaffold net.  The grape has been pruned to the guyot system more or less and will throw up side branches every ten centimetres.  I will let them grow to the top of the supports and then cut them back. 

Pea bed looking down the allotment.
Espaliered little apple tree.
This tree is on a M9 rootstock but I cannot for the life of me remember what variety it was.  It grew as a bush on the old allotment and I transferred it to the new allotment and planted it here.  It has been espaliered as best could be so that it will not take up as much room as a bush.  Last year it had enormous apples on it.  It has been labelled a Discovery but that is just a guess.  Now I come to think about it, I think that it might be a James Grieves.  One of the grafts that I did this year is a James Grieves but I don't think that it is going to be successful. 

Espaliered Ribstone Pippin apple tree. 
The Ribstone Pippin was the first successful graft that I made.  This tree, like all the other apples, are being espaliered so that they can fit  into the allotment.  This apple has been trained a little more successfully but I still need to hone my skills in pruning and training a little more.  To be able to learn by making mistakes or not

Espaliered pear tree. 
The espaliered pear tree is another tree from my Dad's garden.  It was growing as a bush but I have pruned and trained it as an espalier. Pear trees seem to be much more amenable to being trained than the apple trees are.  There is no blossom on this tree and it did not fruit last year either.  It could be  another Conference pear but I am not sure.  All the trees have been well mulched with woody chippings. 
Parsnips in the roots bed.
Two rows of parsnips and a row of beetroot have been sown but they have not germinated yet. The soil here only got the crop residues from last years peas dug in and a top dressing of compost.  Parsnips take a long time to germinate but they will do well here.  The chicken wire leaning against the back of the greenhouse will be used to protect and support the peas when they are planted out. 
Carrots under the mesh.
Four rows of carrots have been sown under the mesh.  The mesh goes over the carrots as soon as the carrots have been sown and the sides of the mesh buried in the soil.  This is protection against carrot root fly.  Due to the effect of eddies of wind the flies will be blown onto the carrots whether they are weak fliers or not. Only a complete cover of enviromesh protects the plants from root fly. 

Leaf vegetable bed.
Although it looks empty and the soil exposed to the elements it will not be for long.  The chard, spinach, etc. are already sown but not germinated.  The globe fennel, celery, celeriac and lettuce are growing in the greenhouse and nearly ready to be planted out.  So this part of the bed will be full as soon as the weather becomes warmer.  This soil had the crop residues of last year peas , green and farmyard manure dug into it.  A small amount of compost was put over the top as well. 

Pitmaston Pineapple grafted last year.
The Pitmaston Pineapple apple tree has been headed back and two of the lateral shoots will be trained horizontally along the wires.  One shoot will be allowed to grow vertically and will give horizontal shoots higher up the stem.  The tree is still very small but I am more concerned about pruning it correctly than getting fruit at the moment.  I want really good espaliered trees from these grafts. 

Blackberries "Adrienne" and Loganberries LY654
My curious supports for the blackcurrants and the loganberries.  I have got used to the concrete reinforcing wire but I still don't like it.  I am hoping that the loganberry will cover it during the summer.  A two foot wide and one spit deep trench was dug alongside the blackcurrants and loganberries and the top soil added to the growing area.  The trench was filled with woody chippings and acts as a pathway.  Surface water run off will be slowed, spread and soaked into the allotment soil.  I am hoping that this will slow the rate of leaching of nutrients. 

Blackberry Adrienne
The blackberry is not the best one but it provides a few fruit during the summer for pies and fruit salad.  The fennel got cut back by the frost and cold weather we are having at the moment.  It has recovered but it is not happy at the moment. 

The peach tree greenhouse.
The peach tree greenhouse has been filled with tomatoes because there is no room for them in the big greenhouse.  The tomatoes have been put into large pots using grow bag compost.  The tomatoes have been planted on top of one of the ends of string supports.  They will be tied onto wire stretching the length of the big greenhouse.  Some of these tomatoes have been tied up in this greenhouse.

More tomatoes
The ones along the side of the greenhouse with a mulch of woody shreddings will stay in this greenhouse.  The peach blossom has gone over now.  I am hoping that some of it has set and will produce some fruit.  The two laterals are throwing out some good shoots which will be tied in to fill the space in the middle of the tree. Several over vigorous stems had to be pruned out during the winter because they would have spoilt the shape of the tree and made it very difficult to keep it in a fan shape. 
Lemon balm and rosemary.
The rosemary was pruned back last autumn and it does not seem to have liked it very much.  It is beginning to grow now but it is struggling in the cold weather we are having.  I have been given several new rosemary cuttings so the rosemary edging will be continued down the path. 
Potato bed on the other side of the path.
This potato bed has mostly early potatoes planted in it.  They have not come through yet but this is a good thing because of the unseasonably cold weather.  They will be earthed up as soon as they poke their heads through the soil.  When they emerge the rows can be seen and can be earthed up accurately.  If there is a frost the earthing up will protect the young plants.

As soon as the plants are earthed up the whole of this bed will be mulched with woody chippings.  If the potatoes need to be earthed  up again they will get both top soil and chippings.  The bed will then get a second layer of woody chippings mulch.  This bed has had green and farmyard manure dug into it. 
Sweet cicely and Ben Sarek blackcurrant.
I have been using the sweet cicely in salads since it started to grow in March but I do not like the texture.  It has soft furry leaves.  The taste is quite sweet though and if put with other leaves does give the salad a sweet taste. 
The Ben Sarek blackcurrant was cut back very hard last year and is only just recovering.  I will not get any fruit off it this year. 
Ribstone Pippin graft from 2014
The Ribstone Pippin graft has begun to throw out horizontal stems that can be tied in to form the espalier shape.  It has been well mulched with farmyard manure and woody chippings.  The pathway has been dug out and filled with woody chippings.  I was given two gooseberry bushes during the winter and planted them next to the apple tree.  They did have their label on them but I seem to have lost them so I don't know what variety they are.  I stuck in a cutting from the Ben Sarek and it has taken and grown on quite well.  I will see if I get any fruit off it during the summer. 
Onions protected by the enviromesh.

'Golden Reinette' apple tree graft from last year.
King of the Pippins that I want to keep.  I will not graft this over to anything else.
More lavender edging planted alongside the path. It will be kept cut back to a low hedge. 
This is where the red onions will be planted.
I am going to plant at least two rows of red onions here and cover them with scaffold netting.  If there is any room I will plant the cucumbers here as well.  The oca has already been planted alongside the King of the Pippins apple tree supports.  It looks empty but it will be chocker block in a couple of weeks.  
Shallots under the netting.
There are two rows of shallots, a row of pickling onions and a row of elephant garlic under the net.  I have thickly mulched with woody shreddings mainly to keep the weeds down.  I don't want to keep taking the net off to weed. 
Garlic and Elephant Garlic.
All the allotment will be mulched like this with woody chippings.  This will be done primarily to keep the weeds down.  The ground is very moist under the chippings.  This bed had green and farmyard manure dug into it during the winter. 
Strawberries and little leaning apple tree.
The strawberries were planted last August and have been top dressed with a thick layer of compost.  They will have a net put over them when they have set their fruit.  I had a lot of fruit off the little leaning apple tree last year and I expect a similar amount this year. 

A small hedge of box has been planted along the path here.  It has been a very good leaf and silt collector.  Leaves and silt are swept up and put onto the compost heaps. 
Raspberries alongside the path.
These raspberries look a lot better than they are.  They are very scraggy but for freebies I don't really mind. They have been planted here for under a year but they have not grown very well.  
The Malin's Admiral and Glen Ample Raspberries.
I cut the hedge today and it is beginning to look well managed.  I am hoping that regular clipping with thicken it up and make it a better barrier between the allotment and the road.  The hedge is a good source of nutrients for the allotment.  It drops a lot of leaves and dead twigs throughout the year and these can be swept up and put onto the compost heaps or put onto the raspberries as a mulch.  The bird droppings make the soil very fertile and this can be picked up by the comfrey. When bird droppings fall on the path it can be swept up and composted or washed into the raspberry bed.  It might only seem to be a little to add to the soil but every little helps. 

These raspberries are not doing very well.  It may be because they are so close to the hawthorn hedge.   I only like to plant a single row because they tend to spread and one row is easier to manage.  It is quite a long row.  With the path being alongside it is very easy to pick the raspberries even when it is wet weather. Comfrey planted under the hedge is growing well and I will soon be able to crop it and put the leaves into the comfrey bin to make liquid fertiliser.  The store shed needs painting again!  The loganberries that I planted around the store shed are growing remarkably well and I am hoping for a good lot of fruit. 

 The leaning pear tree has a lot of blossom on again.  It fruited really well last year.  The coppiced blackcurrants are beginning to put on some growth now in spite of the cold weather.  The plants were mulched with farmyard manure and woody chippings during the winter. 

Gooseberry cuttings of Xania
The Xania cuttings have been in the ground for about three years now and they still haven't grown very big.  I will keep them though and wait until they decide to grow. 
The Timperley Early and Champaign rhubarb are starting to be cropped now.  The Timperley Early is starting to grow over the path again.  I don't mind this but it reminds me that you should put the path in and then plant the rhubarb rather than the other way round.  I thought that I had been cleaver and put the plant in exactly the right place before laying the slabs.  The measurement was quite accurate but I didn't consider the spread of the rhubarb leaves. 

Greenhouse is full of seedlings. 
Once the weather has warmed up a lot, I will continue to plant out the allotment seedlings.  A mouse has got into the greenhouse and is reeking havoc.  I will catch him with a Longworth live trap.

I have sown some cucumber and melon seeds and they are germinating now.  When they are big enough I will transplant them into three inch pots using some general purpose commercial compost.  They are inside the plastic tent greenhouse which is inside the main greenhouse.  Remarkably the temperature of this greenhouse has not fallen below freezing for the whole winter. 

Some of the cucumbers will be planted outside in the natural soil and I have some wire frames that they can grow up.  I have several varieties and some will have to be kept in the greenhouse for a little protection.  The ridge cucumbers are fine outside. 

I have attempted, not very successfully, to make hotbeds to grow cucumbers and melons.  A source of fresh horse manure needs to be carefully prepared.  The manure that has a good moist steamy heat and is a mixture of bedding and droppings.  You need enough to make a pile about three and a half feet high and four or five feet long.  The manure should be turned and then left for about a week so that it can decompose a little and get to a good temperature turning it over once or twice during the week.  However this is not the only way the Victorians made hotbeds.  They also used oak bark chippings from the tanning industry.  They found that after they had been used to tan leather they could be used to make hot beds.  I have seen big piles of woody chippings steaming with warmth so I thought that I would try and use this to make a hot bed.

Hot bed on a pile of woody chippings. 
The frame has glass lights but I have added an old fleece because of the very cold weather we have been having.  It has snowed the last two days and it is forecast for today as well.  The Victorian Kitchen gardeners used to put reed mats over the hot bed frames to keep the frost away from them.  The chippings warmed up really well for the first couple of days but now seem to have cooled down again.  I was going to put some comfrey liquid over it to see if I could get it to warm up again. 

Piled up chippings in an attempt to make the pile warm up.
I have lined the sides of the frame with chippings to see if I can start the heating process up again. 
The  chippings pile is about four feet high. 
I have used the compost bins to keep the pile within its bounds.  The compost in the bins has heated up and is quite warm so why the chippings aren't warming up is a bit of a mystery. 

Poor sweet peas.
The sweet peas have been devastated by the flea beetle and then the very cold weather.  I doubt if I will be able to save very many of them.  I will be sowing some more seeds if I can find them I have put them away somewhere and for the life of me I can't find them.  These sweet peas might pick themselves up if the weather starts to warm up a bit but I will probably have to consolidate them into one or two lines of surviving plants and find something else to grow up the canes.  I have sown a couple of rows of runner beans at the back and protected them with some netting.  I have some sown in the greenhouse too so that if the outside seeds don't germinate I have a back up of the greenhouse beans - if the mouse doesn't eat them. 

This year's grafts and cuttings.
I have put all the grafts out of the way by the shed so that I don't tread on them, tip them over, trip over them or otherwise cause damage.  I will leave them alone here until they start to show signs of life and even then I will be particularly careful to not damage them. I have lost so many grafts just because of my clumsiness. 

Brassica bed with the Egremont Russet apple espalier. 
 The brassica bed has had some green and farmyard manure dug in during early March and a top dressing of compost.  I have put some lime on this bed too.  I know that it is not good practice to add lime and manure in the same season but I decided that the brassicas needed it to protect them against club root.  The pipe supports will be used to cover the plants with the scaffold netting that is protecting the grapes at the moment.  The apple and pear espaliers are growing well and have a lot of flowers on them.  The cold weather might mean that they do not set much fruit this year. 

Only swedes and kohlrabi sown at the moment.
I have covered the swedes and kohlrabi with enviromesh to protect them from cabbage root fly.  They haven't germinated yet so I have not secured the net very well.  I want to plant some cauliflowers near them and cover them as well.  If I wait until the seeds have germinated, I will be able to cover the soil with a mulch before securing the net over them and the cauliflowers. 

Victoria Plum.
I have cut all the canker out of the old Victoria Plum and reduced its height.  There is still a fair amount of blossom on it but I doubt if it will fruit well this year because of the weather.  The large gooseberry under the plum is not a jostaberry as I thought.  It has thorns.  It must be one of the American gooseberries.  It doesn't fruit very well and has black currant like fruit.  It is very invasive and an effective ground cover where it is shady under the tree. 

Well, that's the allotment at the moment.  A bit of a struggle keeping things alive with the mouse, flea beetle and the cold weather.  Time for a cup of tea and a biscuit.