Getting up to date.
Up to March 20th.
I probably should have started writing this a few weeks ago but didn’t so you’ll have to forgive me if I am a few weeks ahead of other people (or indeed behind others).
It’s been a very unusual year so far. Like most of the UK we had a lot of snow at the start of the year, but apart from that it’s been very dry for most of the year. This does mean that for the first time that I can remember I have managed to get my entire allotment dug before St Patrick’s Day. I’m not complaining, far from it. I feel really happy that I have managed to get it all weed free, turned over and nourished where needed. I think that it took me about 30 hours to weed all of it (I did have a few afternoons off work to help). So I am most definitely NOT complaining. I did manage to get on the land and start digging at the back end of February and was amazed at how easy it was, and luckily the good weather stuck and for once was on my side.
While digging this year I discovered that some garlic I had left in last year that I thought had rotted away. It had started to shoot so I dug that up, split it and re-planted it with about 6 inches between each clove – food for free is always best.
Anyway the plot is all dug and is ready to go… the only thing planted so far is the ‘free garlic’. The rhubarb is starting to grow and the fruit bushes are showing signs of life.
I haven’t been sitting on my hands though, we do have another greenhouse at home and also the back bedroom does get turned into a glorified propagator seeing as it’s a lot warmer than outside. Currently being brought on are various seed trays of:
cabbages (red cabbage – ‘red flare’, cauliflower – ‘all the year round’, kale – ‘darkibore’, summer cabbage – ‘golden acre’, calebrese – ‘Monterey’, spring cabbage – ‘greyhound’ and cabbage – ‘Marner Large White’)
lettuce – ‘cos’ and ‘iceberg’
broad beans – ‘witkiem manita’ (about 32 plants)
spinach – ‘polar bear’
leeks – ‘Autumn giant’
tomatoes (an unknown variety from a tomato from the market in Thirsk that we liked)
chilli peppers – ‘jalapeno’, ‘demon red’, ‘Hungarian hot wax’, ‘Anaheim’, ‘Tabasco’, ‘DT Browns hot mix’.
carrots – ‘Amsterdam Forcing’ and ‘Autumn King’
parsnips – ‘gladiator’
The chillies have come from a kit that a friend bought me for Christmas, so it would be rude not to plant them. I’m not sure if this friend of mine realised that I normally grow a dozen or so chilli plants but hey, at least now I have a good variety. I planted all the seeds from the kit and without fail all of them have come up.
The carrots and parsnips are not in seed trays. Years ago my Dad told me that during the war (that’s World War 2 – yes my Dad is that old) people would grow carrots in guttering and then transplant them direct to a furrow in the ground. I didn’t have any guttering but I did have some plastic box section from the base of a greenhouse I built, so I cut off the top to leave a ‘U’ shape. Then I made a cut at the base so you end up with 2 pieces shaped like an ‘L’ and an ‘I’. Cut some chocks of wood to go at the end so that the section does not close. Put the wood in and tape over them to hold everything together and you have a nice little trough to grow in. I grow my carrots and parsnips in these (following the normal instructions on the packet, naturally).
I’ve had potatoes chitting in the garage since the end of February. I sit them on trays and let them do their own thing. I do remember ‘Gardeners World’ on BBC2 a few years ago having an experiment to see if there is any difference in chitting. Their results was that there was a difference for firsts and seconds but no difference for main crop.
March 21st to March 27th
Now that the weather is definitely improving I spent a bit of time turning my compost heaps over. I have two heaps. I turned one over and then augmented it with the body of the second heap. The well rotted compost went straight onto the plot and into the ground. This left one full heap and one empty heap that I can now fill.
On the subject of compost we have a very good thing going at home. We have a wormery, so during the year a proportion of the vegetable waste from the house goes into that, but the rest gets puts in a bucket and brought to the allotment. The worms don’t like egg shells, onions and citrus so that all goes straight into the bucket. In the late Autumn and Winter months we save up the vegetable peelings to make stock for soup (but never the potato peelings). The weeds from the house, any cut flowers and the grass cuttings all end up on the compost heap. We haven’t really got the room at home for a big enough heap for all the grass cuttings so the allotment benefits.
When I lived in Sussex I would always say that new potatoes could be planted on the first weekend after St Patrick’s Day. Now I am up further North I know the growing season is shorter by a few weeks so I normally leave it for a few weeks. That being said I have been lulled by the warm weather and decided that I’ll risk a row. This weekend I planted my row of first earlies – ‘maris bard’. I’m not a trench digging person, I dig a hole about 6 to 8 inches deep and put the potato in the bottom, then cover them over, for first and second earlies I leave about a foot between potatoes and 2 feet between rows. I learnt a few years ago about the benefits of marking at both ends of a row when I put in some peas at an angle (as a mistake) and they went into my potato row. It made picking peas very interesting. So as a result, anything that is sown into the allotment gets marked at both ends.
Whilst I mention peas, I’ve also put in 2 rows of peas – ‘hurst greenshaft’ and a section of mange tout – ‘Oregon’. They are both done in the same way, I dig a slot the width of the spade and about 2 inches deep. In to the bottom of the slot I scatter the peas randomly, and then cover them over. As always I mark at both ends of the row.
Last year I planted early and main crop peas but they somehow seemed to merge into one and ended more or less at the same time, so this year I have just gone for one variety, the early, as it seemed to crop for longer.
As an experiment I planted two potatoes in a large metal barrel I have. It’s still outside.
Now that all the major clearing is over I can say that it’s going into a quiet time with very little to do on the allotment, so I also replaced the guttering on my shed and moved the existing water butt to the front of the shed rather than the back. I also bought a new water container to go near the fruit bushes. So I built a stand for that and filled the butt. I also cleaned out the greenhouse and got some grow bags in preparation for the tomatoes I will be growing.
I cleared out the excess strawberries that had expanded over the edge of my strawberry bed into the surrounding area and the path. I managed to get another 55 strawberry plants out and used some of them to fill gaps and the rest I took into work and gave them away to a few of my work colleagues, they’ve ended up in various gardens and some of them have ended up in a school. And I get regular updates now on how they are doing
- 17 Apr, 2009
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