Sunday, February 25, 2007

Rained Off

Well the weather has pretty much put paid to any work on the allotment for the last couple of weeks. I did manage a couple of hours down there last Sunday but even then the ground was pretty saturated. With the persistent rain Thursday and Friday, and the deluge Saturday night I didn't even bother today - which is just a well as it's near enough rained one hour on, one hour off since 11.00 this morning.
With no real work possible on the allotment I've turned my attention to other things. Having taken the day off a week ago Friday I cleared the green house of plants and things likely to be damaged by the sulphur candles, then fumigated it. According to the manufacturers instructions I should have used 4 candles but money's tight so I made do with 2.
Of course this meant that last Saturday I had to move everything back, in the process discovering that we had mice in my shed - the seed potatoes have thus been moved back to the greenhouse which I know is now mouse resistant.
I then decided to turn the raised bed inside over, leading to the discovery that it had been thoroughly infiltrated by new root growth from next door's silver birch. This led to a three hour digging escapade whilst I removed them and dropped some paving slabs in on their edge to divert growth around the bed. If I get a problem this year then I'm just going to have to use a concrete jacket.
Having nicely turned the bed over an leveled in out I took the opportunity to sow some of the carrot seed I'd saved. If it germinates I'll at least know its viable even if I don't get any decent carrots.
That was about it for last weekend. Yesterday I was working on the car, installing a new set of Turbo hoses and do the well overdue 6000 mile oil change. This morning I dropped down to the parents-in-law allotment and harvested a few more sprouts, the last but one brussel top, and the first of the purple sprouting. Next week will be the last of the sprouts and brussel tops. All in all a good result.
With the persistent rain I moved back into the greenhouse this afternoon. My onion sets are starting to sprout so I've planted them all into cell trays. This should enable them all to start developing roots. I'll transplant them into their growing positions when the weather warms up a little more.
With temperatures creeping up now, it hasn't been below 44f in the greenhouse for two weeks overnight, and with day temperatures picking up to the mid 60's (Fahrenheit), I've decided to try growing some onion from seed. I've got both Brunswick and Bedfordshire Champion, acquired as part of a job lot we brought last year, so I've sown about 20 seeds of each in 9cm pots with 2litre bottle propagators. I've also sown my F1 tumbler tomatoes in the same way. All I have to do now is wait and hope they germinate.
Whilst doing all this I noticed that the Lilies, I'd moved into the greenhouse last November to overwinter, had started to sprout. Their previous location, under the staging was no longer suitable, so I decide to move them out onto the back edge of the raised bed, so they can take advantage of the warming rays of the sun - when it decides to show itself.
Anyway the planter I planted three years ago with my bargain 50p for 3 bulbs end of season clearance Asiatic lillies was covered in shoots, with tiny lily bulbs pushing out of the compost. I decided to do a little thinning only to discover lots of small white grubs. Lily beetle I thought, but I was wrong, as pointed out to me by a couple of the very generous contributors on the allotment forum. No I've got vine weevil - not sure which is worse. Any way if you're interested in knowing more about either pest you can do no worse than go to the following two sites
Lily Beetle
Vine Weevil
Anyway, back to my planter and to cut a long story short, I spent a couple of hours extracting all the myriad of lily bulbs from the soil, and as many vine weevil grubs as I could find, then repotted the largest of the bulbs in fresh soil in the planter. The rest I planted in 3 new 12" diameter tubs, and 7 margarine tubs - not a bad return on £1.50. Once I've acquire some more margarine tubs I'll tackle one of the other tubs which is also looking a little crowded.
Anyway you're interested in growing lilies I found a really good web site on the subject, called Mike's Backyard Garden. Well worth a look.
Hopefully the weather will improve during the week and I'll get a chance to get back to the long dig, otherwise the potatoes will be going in late this year.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Slow Going

Well its been another hard weekend. This weeks deluge of water whether frozen or otherwise has made my life far more difficult, the plot being on clay soil.
My first phot this week show the progress I'd made by the end of Saturday, although I finish installing the second raised bed in the rain. I had thought the rain on Saturday night would make the plot unworkable on Sunday, but it didn't actually make much difference.

Just to show you what I'm up against I took some closeups, first of the couch on the plot so you can see just how dense it is, and then of the roots so that you can see how dense and matted they are.

With the ground as wet as it now is I've also had to change tactics, or risk losing too much soil from the plot, so I'm creating a couch root pile in the top corner. When the weather warms up and I've cleared the rest of the plot I'll return to the pile and sort it out - even if it means dowsing the lot with glyphosphate. I suspect I'm going to have to treat the new paths in this way to kill the couch under the bark chippings the council put down to mark the boundaries of the plot.

By the end of Sunday afternoon I'd completed the installation of the remaining raised bed that defines the lower edge of the plot. Next weekend I'll clean the excess soil out of the base of the compost heap and bring the soil level in the bed to the top; I can then plant the Jerusalem artichokes I was generously given in mid January.

Whilst on the subject of planting, I put my garlic in this afternoon. I'm just hoping it grows this year rather than just vanishing without trace like it did last year. Just as an illustration of the difference between the garden plot and the allotment it took me 15 minutes to fork through and weed the 2ft by 8ft section of bed for the garlic as opposed to 2.5 hours it took me to dig the 3ft by 6ft section for the artichoke bed.

I'm also indulging in another experiment. I acquired half a dozen steel waste paper bins 12" square and 16" deep from a skip before Christmas. Having sterilised them by soaking for 7 days in a strong solution of Jeys fluid and drilled 5 20mm drainage holes in the base, I filled two of them with compost and sowed Early Nantes. They are now in the greenhouse, with a sheet of glass over them. With a bit of luck I'll have a nice batch of carrots in about 12 weeks.

Anyway I'll leave you with another shot of the plot. I've set up a string line along the right hand edge of the plot in preporation for the big dig - getting a bed ready for my potatoes by Easter.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Welcome to Couch and Chaffer Central

Well its been a busy weekend. Yesterday I spent making preparations, cutting bits of timber I'd accumulated over the years to make edging for raised beds, acquiring a few pallets with which to put together a compost heap, and assembling some old scaffold boards into 1mx1m boxes to make the raised beds which my son and daughter want to grow things in.
With it brightening up after lunch and with my wife off to a craft day with my daughter my son and I made our way down to my new allotment. The council had dropped a load of bark chippings in place marking the boundaries between my half plot and my neighbours, and as you can see from the photo - my son is standing at the lower left corner of the plot - its been growing grass for some time. Talking to Sahra and Chris, my immediate neighbours on the right, the double plot, now divided into 4 half plots, hasn't been cultivated at all for 16 months and had been poorly maintained for a couple of years before that - they've only been on the plot for 3 years.
I had hoped to get a lot done but once I started I knew this was not going to be the case. I suppose it must have taken me a good couple of hours to laboriously dig the 1mx1m square into which I was going to place the raised bed, which in the fullness of time, will be the bed my son is going to cultivate (I hope :-)). Out of this square came 1 muck bucket of couch roots and enough chaffer grubs, leather jackets, and cut worm to keep several birds well fed for a week.
With time moving on and the continual sound of "I'm cold", "My feet are freezing", "When are we going home", ringing in my ears I decide that the second raised bed would have to wait as its frame is more transportable that the pallets for the compost heap.
Decision made I moved to the other corner of the plot and started on the space for the compost heap. I thought at first that this corner was a little better but a couple of muck buckets later in the fading light I'd managed to clear the bulk of the 1.5m by 1m space for the compost heap. Complaining as he had most of the afternoon he managed to extract himself from the car whilst I assembled the heap all for the chance to take my photo :-(.
Just to finish things off I took a photo of the whole plot again just for a record. Given the light levels I'll have to take a better photo next time I go down, probably next weeked if I'm going to stand a chance of getting the potatoe bed done in time for Easter.