Sunday, 31 January 2016

Germinating seeds

Although they don't look like much at the moment, a lot of my seeds have germinated.  As I only have cold greenhouses at the moment and no propagator, I have to germinate seeds this time of year on the windowsills.

I have already transplanted the Alicante and Black Russian tomatoes into three inch pots.  I have put them into the cold greenhouse and into the plastic upright mini greenhouse that lives at the back.  The temperature in this mini greenhouse has not fallen below five degrees centigrade all winter.  If we don't get any very severe long lasting frost then I think that the tomatoes will survive until they are transplanted into their permanent pots.

Small plastic mini greenhouse in my 6X8foot greenhouse. I had been transplanting sweet peas.

I have a lot more sweet  peas transplanted now and I have had to move them around to fit everything in.  I will put some of the sweet peas into the little peach greenhouse because they will be fine in there.  Sweet peas are fairly hardy plants and given a little protection can survive temperatures below zero Celsius for a short time.
Most of the pumpkins and squashes have gone now either eaten or gone rotten.  They don't last forever but this year I still have the green crate full of them.  I washed down most of the glass this week so that all the seedlings get as much light as possible.

This time of the year the greenhouse gets very full and it is difficult to get everything in.  However, it is emptied at least four or five times as I plant into the allotment soil or put seedlings into the small greenhouse or cold frame to harden off.

On the left you can see my tray of small tools, for transplanting and writing labels, hanging from the greenhouse roof.  I like to label everything with the name of the plant and when it was sown.  I put everything into this hanging pot holder so that it is convenient;  all my small tools are to hand and I don't loose any. 

I like to keep the greenhouse as tidy as I can to avoid pests and diseases so all surfaces are swept as soon as I have finished jobs.  Hence the hand brush.  I had just used the knife to trim the leeks before taking them home.  The knife does not live in the greenhouse.  It lives in the shed locked away securely. 

All the sweet peas were taken out of the greenhouse for watering this week and I took the opportunity to wash down the big black trays.  I removed  two slugs while doing this.

Once all the seedlings have been planted out the greenhouse will be given over to tomatoes.  I will put six along the left hand side.  On the staging I will put the melons and cucumbers and grow them up strings attached to wires.  I did this last year and got some really good fruit off them.

I need six tomato plants for the big greenhouse and six for the small greenhouse.  I think that I transplanted twenty six Alicante and about ten Black Russian.  I may well have over done the seed sowing a little but you can't have too much of a good thing and you get so much good will when you give away your extras.

I have put the first sowings of onions and leeks in the mini greenhouse as well.  I haven't transplanted them into sectioned trays yet because I don't have any multipurpose compost left.  I will get some next week. 

The second sowings of onions and leeks have all germinated now and I will be transferring them to the cold greenhouse this week.

My two Crystal tomato plants are growing away well and will have to be transplanted into three inch pots soon.  I hope that all this effort is worth while.

As for the exotics; I have cucumber, aubergine and sweet peppers germinated and just pushing through.  The Blenheim melons have not germinated yet. Overall I am very pleased.  Just wait until I get my super duper propagator with overhead lights.  The only disappointment is that it doesn't have bells and whistles.

I had a propagator when I was much younger and grew all kinds of exotic seeds.  Looking forward to doing that again.

 I checked the seeds in the greenhouse and they were fine.  The minimum  temperature in the main greenhouse was 5 degrees Celsius and for the majority of the time I was at the allotment it was 15 degrees Celsius and a few degrees warmer in the plastic greenhouse.

I turned all the compost bins again but they do not seem to be decomposing as quickly as they were in the autumn.  I want the compost for the potato bed but it can be put on the top rather than dug into the top soil. 

The soil is very wet still and it is raining quite regularly every few days.  I wanted to plant  some onion sets in the new onion bed but this would just compact the soil as I walked over it.  My next door allotmenteer, Sue, said that I could use some of her boards and these would help to distribute my weight and prevent this compaction.  Four rows of sets were duly planted.  Probably more rows than I really wanted and I still have a lot of sets left over.  I am going to keep these left overs to replace any that do not grow. 

The sets were Stuttgarter and Sturon and were freebies.  I am going to give away any I have left over. 

Even though the soil was quite wet it was workable.   The sets will be able to deal with the dampness because the allotment soil is so well drained now.  The only reason it is not drying out a little more is the incessant rain.

Went down to look at the greenhouse that someone said I could have.  I cannot put any more greenhouses on my allotments because I have one on both of them.   So I offered it to Sue and she is going to have it.  A lot of the glass has been broken but there is enough to be going on with and she can get replacement glass or polycarbonate sheets to fill where the gaps are. 

So, although it is the end of January and usually the coldest and most inhospitable part of the winter, I feel that the new season has begun and life is beginning to stir.  I have snowdrops flowering under the hedge and specie daffodils flowering.  

Saturday, 30 January 2016

Just some January thoughts.

After finding several collections of sea shells from when I was a child, I decided to put them onto the compost heap at the allotment.  They are mostly made from calcium carbonate so will erode rather than decompose. They will last for quite a while if you don't crush them but they mix in well with compost if crushed. They will help to raise the pH of the compost so be careful not to put it onto things like rhododendrons or camellias. Be fine for brassicas they evolved from beach plants. Lots of shells on beaches. 

You have to start chitting potatoes as soon as you get them really. It is to stop them getting those long white shoots which fall off if you look at them. If you put them in the light then they make small dumpy shoots which are much more robust and will not fall off when you plant them. I'm hoping that JMB don't send me my seed potatoes until quite late because then I don't have to bother storing them by chitting for very long.

My little pond that now has frogs, toads and newts in it. No spawn yet but I expect it soon. It was a little overgrown by mint plants last August but they have all been cut back now. The water is very clear and has a lot of oxygenating native plants in it. It is right by my greenhouse and I have lead down a solar power wire to a pump in the pond from a panel in the greenhouse. 

My two Crystal tomato seeds have germinated and I am molly coddling them.  I know that the seeds were free but who puts two seeds into a seed packet? 

Thursday, 28 January 2016

What would happen if the world went vegan?

I am not a vegan.  I'm not really a very good vegetarian.  Which really means that I'm not a vegetarian.  I eat dairy products fairly often.  If you're one of the many that think that nothing gets killed by drinking milk, you really need to look into veal farming. 

I probably could be a vegan with a little more moral fibre.  However, what would happen if the whole world decided only to eat plants and plant derived food? 

I don't really think that much would happen.  I have had discussions with vegans about the use of animal manures to produce nutrients for vegetables.  Vegans do not use animal manures because this helps to support the exploitation of animals. 

Now I am very sure that no matter how vegan you are, you will still be using animal excreta as a nutrient source, if you grow your own food.  Unless you sterilise your soil, worms will be making a major contribution to recycling of nutrients.  Not only through their worm casts but they excrete urine through "kidney" type organs.  Urine is rich in nitrogen.  Wild birds will be manuring the soil as they fly across or forage on the allotment.  There are many more examples where animals will make a contribution to nutrient recycling. 

Yet animals can only recycle nutrients.  They cannot make them.  All their food has to come from plants so they will just be adding back what plants themselves have produced.  Animals can concentrate nutrients in their manures and this why farmers and gardeners use them but they cannot manufacture nutrients. 

So where do these nutrients come from?  I think that the major source of nutrients comes from the weathering of parent rocks.  While this is an extremely slow process, relatively high concentrations of plant nutrients can eventually build up and be repeatedly used as it is recycled through plants and animals over the years.  Over thousands of years nutrients can be imported through the action of glaciers, streams and rivers and wind depositing eroded material. 

I have used rock dust as an additive for improving the fertility of the soil but it will take years before the minerals erode enough to make a significant contribution to the soil fertility.  This does not stop me from doing it.  Investing in the future is one of the things that gardeners are good at. 

Before the Haber - Bosch  process was discovered, nitrogen could only be fixed by symbiotic and free living bacteria.  Legumes like clover, field beans and peas could be used to enrich the soil with nitrogen - an essential nutrient for the production of proteins and nucleic acid. 

For the symbiotic Rhizobium,  a major nitrogen fixing bacteria, it is only contact with a legume plant that will trigger the formation of nodules and nitrogen acquisition.  In its free living state it is heterotrophic, getting its nitrogen from dead organic material. 

A small amount of nitrogen fixation is done by free living bacteria.  A little more is produced by lightning which produces nitrogen oxides that dissolve in rainwater. 

When designing a completely animal free system of food production, composting must play a very important part.  Plant composts do not produce nutrients.  The nutrients are already there.  Composting just concentrates nutrients and converts them into a form that is easy to add to the soil and available to plant roots to absorb. 
In a similar way plant derived mulches, which contain nutrients, will eventually rot down and be incorporated into the soil. 

Composts do not concentrate nutrients to the extent that animal manures do.  However, the amount of nutrient that plants need to produce good, healthy vegetables is less than most people believe.

Composts do not only add nutrients to the soil.  They add an ability for the soil to retain nutrients and avoid leaching; they add compounds that improve the soil's structure by sticking particles together and compost provides food for soil invertebrates that aerate the soil and improve drainage. 

Some would say that burning woody material will produce nutrients that can be added to the soil.  This is incorrect.  The nutrients are there already in the plant material.  All that burning does is concentrate it in the ash that is left after driving off all the other nutrients as gaseous oxides.  Burning is not an efficient nutrient recycling process. 

The reason why gardens can be so productive, and they are much more productive than farms, is because gardeners can utilise many sources of imported organic matter.  In towns organic waste in the form of leaves, shreddings, weeds and prunings can be brought in from outside the garden and incorporated into the garden top soil.  Vegetables can be grown at a much higher density and diversity encouraging a diet that is richer in variety than one based mainly on animal protein. 

The production of food would become much more labour intensive.  People would have to become much more responsible for the production of their food and where it comes from.  Land once used for the production of animal feeds could be given over to planed forest gardens which would produce many more useful products than a rye grass monoculture. 

Planning for the sensible use of water and the prevention of nutrient leaching would become much more of an imperative and where the recycling of materials becomes second nature.

So changing our diet to one that consists completely of plants will not change the world.  It may well change us though and our relentless exploitation of the earth's resources. 

Monday, 25 January 2016

Allotment photographs for January 2016

It has been unusually mild this winter and today was no exception.  I went round taking photographs of the state of the allotment at the end of January.  

Allotment or kitchen gardens always look untidy at this time of the year.  Not much is growing so it is very grey and drab.

I have dug over most of the sweet pea bed and incorporated the green manure, compost and farmyard manure.  I mounded the compost around the leeks earlier in the year to blanch a bit more stem and it has done this job very well.  The leeks have got a little Phytomyza gymnostoma fly in them but not enough to spoil the leeks completely.  The miner fly has weakened the stems and a few of the leeks are lying on the soil unable to remain upright. 

I am going to put the tarpaulin over as much of the bed as possible to keep the rain off and protect the soil.  

The cherry tree has been planted alongside the path and support put up so that I can fan train it.  I have not headed it down yet but I will before it starts to grow and the buds swell. 

I have had to put stuff on the tarpaulin just to keep it from blowing away.  I have put a mulch of woody chippings around the leeks to give them additional protection.  The chippings have virtually rotted away completely but anything left will be dug into the soil. 

The sweet peas will be orientated north south on this bed in line with the greenhouse.  Alongside the path, but not over shadowing the cherry, I will plant a row of runner beans.  I like growing them here because it hides the allotment from the car park, protects the allotment from north west winds, it is easy to reach the beans and pick from the path and it is easier to water them if necessary. 

All the area that has been dug and that under the tarpaulin will be planted with sweet peas as a cut flower and break crop. 

 I have cut the black currants back to ground level so that they will produce new growth this season.  They have been mulched with farmyard manure and then with a thick layer of woody chippings. 

Cutting back the blackcurrants like this will encourage them to produce a lot of new wood.  This will probably not fruit this year but it will give me a bumper crop next year. 
There are some heritage rhubarb plants alongside the store shed.  These died back during November and are tucked under the shreddings.  The clematis growing up the store shed is already sending out large shoots.  These will get damaged if there are some late frosts. 

I have cut back the little leaning pear tree so that I can get along the path here.  I did not want to take too much off because it fruited so well last season.  Since I cut back the hedge so that it is no longer shading the pear tree, the pear has grown a vertical stem near the base of the trunk.  I am sorely tempted to cut the leaning part off and encourage a more upright tree.  However, if I do this I will loose the fruit bearing branches and the new growth will not fruit for at least another season.  I will let the vertical stem grow bigger and mature a lot more before I consider taking of the leaning branches. 

 After debating with myself over what to do with the cordon "Discovery" apple, I finally decided to make it into a kind of step over.  I have bent it down so that it is horizontal to the ground and tied it in to a cane.  It fruited really well last season so I am hoping that it does the same this year.  I have completed the winter pruning on the "Doyenne du Comice" pear and the "Egrement Russet" making them better shaped espaliers.  They will never be perfect but they are fine for me. 

 The old "Victoria" plum was on the allotment when I took it over.  and I under planted with what I thought were gooseberries.  However, at least one of the plants is the blackcurrant gooseberry cross called a jostaberry.  Confusingly, jostaberries do not have thorns and mine has thorns so I am wondering what it is.  I think that there are some American blackcurrants that have spines.   I'm not too bothered because the fruit is very good and nearly as big berries as gooseberry. 

The Lonicera nitidia cuttings next to the tree will be moved in the spring to make way for the winter brassicas.  I am going to use the Lonicera  at home for the flower garden.    

 The Dalek bins which I should be turning more than I am.  They are getting turned about once every three days at the moment because other more important jobs need to be done.  The compost is decomposing very slowly.  The large posts will be used to support the sweet pea canes so they will be put out in the next few weeks.  They still need a good wash off and clean so that I do not transfer diseases from last years plants.  The ground here is very wet because it is a low area.  I have been scraping up the floor of the composting area and putting it into the bins.  I am not too worried about it being lower than the car park and the big trackway because it means that any leachate that drains out of the bins will soak into the soil and flow down the allotment towards the hedge at the bottom.  This will draw nutrients leached from the bins into the growing areas so that it can be exploited by the growing vegetables.   In a similar way I have planted laburnum and lupins alongside the path so that any nutrients they fix will be taken down the slope through gravity. 

 I am espaliering the Laburnum anagyroides so that they do not over shadow any of the vegetable plants.  The area alongside the pathway was getting a little weedy so I dug out the soil alongside the concrete edging slabs and sieved it.  The soil was put on the soil next to the car park and replaced by stones.   I put a covering of woody shreddings over the top of the stones mainly for aesthetic reasons.

The bay cutting is surviving the winter and growing quite well.  I might move it alongside the other bay cuttings next to the big greenhouse.  The Russell lupins I planted along here are starting to show their heads.  I don't want them to grow too much because they can get cut back by a late frost. 

 I am hoping the "Opal" plum will have more plums on it this year.  It only had one last year.  Although the tree is a wine goblet shape, I think that some of the branches are at a very tight angle.  If the branches have a heavy load of fruit on them, they might break.  I might prune to improve this.  The rye grass green manure has farmyard manure between the rows.  I will not dig this green manure in until the spring.  This is where the brassicas are going this year. 

 I have cut the red grape back to two horizontal stems.  These stems have buds about fifteen centimetres apart and these will produce the fruiting stems.  The fruiting stems will be tied vertically to the top of the support.  There is a red grape rooted cutting planted a little further down.  I was going to take this out and plant it somewhere else but, after thinking about it, I am going to pleach it with the big vine and hope that this will add a little vigour to both plants. 

 I have put the scaffold netting over the supports mainly to protect the white grape from the frosts.  I think that it is in the wrong place because it is shaded for most of the day by the greenhouse.  It really needs to be in the sun all day.  I was thinking of swapping it for one of the espaliered apples alongside the path.  I will leave it one more season and see if it produces anything where it is now but will review it in the autumn. 

There are another two Laburnum anagyroides alongside the trackway, which I am espaliering.  The Russell lupins are under planted here too.  I nail a stretcher bar at the top of the supports to prevent the verticals from being drawn in when I tighten the wire supports.  There are three Sorbus vilmornii  trees growing here.  I grew them from seed and they are about three feet high now.  I am using them as a windbreak on the north side of the allotment.  

The green manure I sowed here has not germinated very well and has left the ground quite bare.  It might start growing when the weather warms a little in spring.  When the brassicas have been cleared off, this bed will be for the peas.  I have dug farmyard manure into the soil except where the cabbages and kale are growing.  The netting is to keep the pigeons from eating all the plants.  I'm not sure whether any of these cabbages will come to anything.  They are too small for eating at the moment. 

 This is a view looking back towards the new car park.  I split up the globe artichoke and took some for my daughter.  This is the best plant I have got now.  I am hoping that I don't have to move it again.  It is fine here because it is out of the way.  I might even have a go at eating one of the buds but not this season. 

 One of last year's grafts "Court Pendu Plat" apple, which needs to be headed down to force laterals to grow from just below the wire support.  You can see that the green manure has not germinated very well on this side of the brassica bed either.  This bed has had a lot of farmyard manure dug into it so I am not worried about whether the green manure grows or not. 

 I have given the "Court Pendu Plat" apple quite big supports mainly because these are the ones I had at the time I was planting it.  It is on M26 rootstock so it might grow this big.   I have cut the sage right back to one or two buds to make it bush out later in the spring.  It always looks quite woody at this time of the year. 

 I have taken a lot of the kale and some of the late planting did not grow very big.  The wind has blown the scaffold netting off the blue pipe supports but I'm not bothering to put it on the kale again the pigeons do not seem to be that bothered with the kale this year.  I will put the netting over the red grape to give it some protection.  The netting will also get washed in the rain. 

This poor apple tree will eventually be trained to espalier whether it likes it or not.  It fruited very well last year even though I was forcing it to be a particular shape.  It hasn't been in for that long though. 
Phacelia tanacetifolia green manure in the background.

The "Ribstone Pippin" and the "Conference" pear are the other espaliers. 

The last of the Brussel sprouts in the plastic bag hanging up.  The bed with the Phacelia tanacetifolia will be for the root crop and the leaf vegetables.  I will only be digging in the farmyard manure for the leafy vegetables.  The roots will get the green manure though.  We shall see if we get any forked roots. 

There is a small "Pitmaston Pineapple" grafted apple   in the middle of the supports.  Right next to the path are various different herbs.  The concrete edging curbs do not rot. 

Loganberries and blackberries.  I am not too sure about the concrete reinforcing wire.  It is perfectly secure but it does not look very aesthetic.  I have tied all the canes tight back against the supports so that they don't start to over shadow the other plants.  I am hoping to keep the plants very open to produce as much fruit as possible while allowing some light to penetrate. 

This will be the potato bed this season.  There are still a lot of vegetables in this plot.  Parsnips, carrots, beetroot, celery and celeriac. They will be eaten over the next few months and the farmyard manure dug in.  I am hoping to plant my early potatoes in this bed. 

There is some rye grass green manure next to the greenhouse. 

This is a "Ribstone Pippin" apple graft.  It is beginning to grow into an espalier but not very quickly.  believe it or not this little tree produced about ten enormous apples last season.  The farmyard manure pile is ready to be dug in for the potatoes once the roots have been taken out for the pot.  The manure is rotting away very quickly so it will be ideal for the potatoes.

This is one of the allium beds.  I have two rows of garlic, one row of elephant garlic and two rows of shallots in here already.  The ground was covered with a green manure of mustard, grazing rye and tares.  These got dug in last week together with a little farmyard manure.  I will cover the alliums with a mulch of woody chippings like I did last year.  The blackcurrant in the foreground was coppiced back to soil level this year after it had fruited.  It might produce some more fruit this year but the stems might be a little short. 
The carpet alongside the hedge is looking particularly untidy now.  I am thinking of seriously folding it down and putting it under the path.  There is no way that I am going to be able to get it out of the soil because it goes down under the stone I put below the path. 

There is a good view of the little leaning apple tree.  I think that it is a "Cox's Orange Pippin".  The apples do not store but they taste very good straight from the tree.  I had a lot off this tree last season and I am happy to leave it as it is.  It shows you just how far the hedge came over to shade it. 

I have put up high supports for the "King of the Pippins" apple graft.  I will try to grow it this big but it will take some time.  I am going to espalier all the apple trees on the allotment. 

I have moved all the lavender bushes down to this part of the allotment and pruned them back quite hard to make a ten centimetre edging hedge.  I kept all the prunings and put them to root in the cold frame.  I will continue the edging hedge right up the path.  There is an oregano and marjoram plant growing next to the path so I will avoid these plants when I am planting the lavender.  There are some rosemary plants at the far end of the edging hedge but I am not sure whether I will leave them here.  The don't get very much full sun next to the hedge.  I can always move them further up the path for edging. 
My "King of the Pippins" has thrown out two good laterals and a strong main shoot so it is perfect to espalier.  I have wired it onto the supports quite well to stop the stems wanging about in the wind.  You can certainly see the green manure stems and the farmyard manure that I mixed into the top soil here. 
There is a row of autumn fruiting raspberries under the woody chippings and nearer to the greenhouse path there are the summer fruiting raspberries.  They did not produce very good canes last season.  I am wondering if they were over shadowed by the hedge.  If they continue to perform badly here, I will take them out and plant them somewhere else.  I can put a couple of my apple tree grafts in to replace them.   The path looks untidy because of the carpet and the blackbirds that keep pulling the woody chippings off the growing area. 
Although it had been very wet because of the rain the ground was dry enough to work.  I used some boards to walk on so that I did not compact the ground too much I have some space here so I am going to plant the chrysanthemums here and maybe a row or two of dahlias. 
These are the summer fruiting raspberries and they have not done very well for plants that have been in for two years.  You can see the trunk of the little leaning apple tree.  It was struggling quite a bit to get out of the shade of the hedge. 
This is the new strawberry bed.  It has had a lot of home made compost put onto it.  This is the compost that I made from the dried couch, bindweed and mare's tail that I took out of the new half allotment.  It has produced an amazingly good compost.  I transplanted the box down to alongside this path and cut it back quite severely.  I am using the prunings for cuttings in the cold frame. 

There are three rows of two year old strawberries and two rows of one year old strawberries.  I will cover these plants with a net later on in the year to protect them from the birds particularly because they are so close to the hedge. 

The plant in the foreground is a Sarcococca hookeriana  cutting that I just stuck in and it grew.  Sarcococca doesn't mind the shade so it is ideal here next to the hedge. 

This path has been messed up by the black birds too.  I will have to sweep it when it dries out.  The blackcurrant and the rhubarb were planted before the path was put down.  I thought that I had been very clever and planted them in the right place.  Well, some measurement or other went wrong because they are butted right up to the path.  I don't really want to disturb them and they are not in the way so I am going to leave them. 

Although I painted the big shed last year it has still got a thick line of algae around the bottom.  I might have to paint it again this year. 

I have cleaned the pond out but it didn't really have much algae in it.  I took most of the water out and separated out the oxygenating plants to put back into the pond.  Then I filled it again with rain water.  I am quite pleased about how clear the water is.  I thought that I would have lots of slugs and snails under the rocks and ornaments around the pond but I could not find any at all when I lifted them.  I think that the frogs and newts are doing their job. 
One of the polycarbonate panes blew off during the storms so I have replaced them with two pieces of greenhouse glass.  They really need to be cleaned but they are doing the job at the moment clean or not.  The cold frame is full of hardwood cuttings from various shrubs and soft fruit. 
Although you can't see them at all well, this is where I coppiced down the blackcurrants so that they would throw up a lot of new wood to fruit in 2017.  I have given all the plants a good mulch of farmyard manure and then covered the whole area with shredded woody material.  There are two roots of "Champagne" rhubarb and one of "Timperley Early" under the shreddings here too. 

The greenhouse is full of the sweet pea seedlings and a few of the pumpkins and squashes that are still left.  The greenhouse glass needs to be washed down with soapy water and one of the vent panes needs replacing.  I will do these jobs when the sweet peas have been planted out.  The sweet peas will go out possibly as early as the end of February.  This will give me ample time to wash things.  However, I have tomatoes germinated already and these will have to be put somewhere to grow on before I put them in their final pots. 

The daphnia are surviving the winter in these pots.  I will leave them alone because they are starting to flower. 
The red currant did not grow very much this year probably because I dug out all the top soil to put on the growing beds and replaced it with subsoil clay.  I have given it a good mulch of farmyard manure and covered it with woody shreddings.  I will prune the red currant so that it is close to the shed and does not grow out.  I think that it will grow quite high and can be tied back to the reinforcing wire to keep it tidy.  I am just trying out the strawberries in the bag.  I was given the bag and the compost in it so it is no skin off my nose to see if I can get some strawberries from it. 
I have planted a gooseberry in front of the shed and am pruning it like the redcurrant.  Again it is not growing very quickly because I dug all the top soil out of this part of the path and put it  on the growing beds.  The top soil was replaced by clay subsoil.  I have given the gooseberry a mulch of farmyard manure and woody shavings.  There is also mint growing here and I will keep cutting it back to keep it low and as a ground cover.  The variegated ivy has come from a pot of Christmas plants.  It is hardy so I thought that I would put it over the shed.  It is not growing too bad for a plant that was going to be thrown away. 

I haven't got a photograph of them but I have moved the two wineberries to the other side of the shed and grown them up some concrete reinforcing wire pinned to the shed.  They will do better there than competing with the loganberry. 
This bed had potatoes on last year.  When they were taken out, I sowed a green manure of mustard, grazing rye, tares and clover.  This was dug in together with some farmyard manure last week in preparation for the onions.  I will put a couple of rows of sets in but the rest will be from seed.  I will fill the rest of the bed with leeks.  I have put the "Royal Reinette" apple graft in this bed on the other side of the path from the "King of the Pippins" apple.  Alongside the front of the bed are the autumn raspberries which I have cut right back and mulched with compost and woody chippings.  Someone has given me some more autumn raspberries and I have just heeled them into the soil for the time being.  There are a couple of Buddleia davidii  "Black Knight" rooted cuttings together with gooseberry and redcurrant. 

These are the blackcurrants that I coppiced last season.  They have had a year to grow some new stems and all of these should have berries on them.  I inherited these bushes so I don't know what they are called but I do know they were very good bushes and growing very vigorously until I started to mess them about.  They have had home made compost, farmyard manure and woody chippings as a mulch. 

This bed will have the "Kestrel" second early potatoes on this year.  The ground has had farmyard manure dug in and a grazing rye, tares and clover green manure cover crop sown.  Alongside the other path there is a pile of home made compost which will be raked over the bed before the potatoes are planted, 

Again this is the compost that I made from the mare's tail, couch and bindweed that I took out of this part of the allotment during January last year.  It has made some remarkably fine compost. 

 This bed has had farmyard manure dug in with a mustard, rye grass, tares and clover green manure cover crop.  This season I am going to attempt a three sisters grouping of plants with sweet corn making up a matrix of plants about 30cm apart, interplanted with squashes and small pumpkins and sown in between with climbing French beans. 
There is another "King of the Pippins" apple planted alongside the path.  I have not put any supports up for it at the moment so I must make every attempt not to tread on it and break the graft. 
I will not dig in the green manure until Aprilish time.  The sweet corn, pumpkins and squashes will be sown in pots in the greenhouse and grown on until they are quite big and less threatened by slug and snail damage.  These will be transplanted into this bed round about the middle of May. 
 The fan trained white and redcurrant have made some significant growth.  They did not fruit last season probably because I had only planted them in March last year.  I am hoping for a lot of fruit this year. 
If they grow any bigger, I might have to put some higher supports in for them. 

This bed did not produce much this year.  It had the winter brassicas but they all succumbed to club root.  The swedes have not done too badly and although I have been eating them I still have quite a few left in the ground.  In an attempt to improve the fertility I have dug in lots of home made compost and farm yard manure then sown with grazing rye, tares, clover and Phacelia tanacetifolia.  These cover crops will be dug in during March and then this bed will be planted with tall peas, Climbing French beans, dwarf French beans and broad beans.  When these legumes have been cropped they will be dug into the soil to enrich it even more. 
 I have put another "Pitmaston Pineapple" apple along the path here -  again without supports.  I think that I am tempting fate by not protecting it a little better.  I will put in supports as soon as I can. 

There is a Buddleia davidii "White Bouquet" in the very corner of this bed.  I have no idea where this came from but I didn't plant it there.  I am going to leave it to grow quite large and just prune it so that we can get up and down the path.  The original lavender cuttings are along the front of this bed.  I have not cut them back as much as the others.  There is a "Conference" pear alongside the main trackway but I have not put in any major supports for this.  It was transplanted from my old allotment and I did not think that it would survive - but it has. 
There is a fan trained white currant alongside the path.  It was transplanted about April last year so it did not fruit very much last season.  It may do a little better this year because it is much more established.  My last salad burnett is growing in the corner by the path.  I had a whole row of these but they died off when I transplanted them from the old allotment.  I will have to sow some more seeds.  The leaves are lovely in salads and taste a bit like cucumber.  In a normal winter the salad burnett would have died right down to soil level.  
The view down the main allotment path. 
I am hoping to get some fruit on the "Peregrine" peach this year.  I have carefully pruned it to a fan and there is a lot of fruiting wood on it. 

I have headed down the budded "Cox's Orange Pippin" and peaches to encourage the bud to develop. The M26 rootstock has been potted up in readiness for grafting at the end of March.  All the scions have come now and I will be cutting more from trees on the allotment. 

 There is a line of "Giant Victoria" rhubarb between these two beds but it has died right back.  I have put a thick farmyard manure mulch over them and hopefully I will get some really big rhubarb this season.  I have cut the rosemary edging plants right back this winter.  They look a little untidy but they will bush out a lot next spring. 

So that is the allotment in January.  Not a lot to see in the way of vegetables but the season is beginning to accelerate now and seedlings will need to be transplanted and put into the greenhouse soon.  With the weather being so strange this winter, I am thinking of starting things off much earlier than I have before.  However, I am not sowing all my seed.  I am keeping some to sow at the normal times just in case.