Tuesday, January 22, 2008

A New Season - A New Half Plot

Its always the same. When you want to take a picture of something you never have a camera with you - or in my case keep forgot to take it with you. I had wanted to start this update with a picture of the new half plot but may be next time.
Anyway its a lot cleaner than my existing half plot and its not on clay, but on a nice medium loam at the top of the plots, so despite the rain of the last month was nicely workable last Sunday.
My intention was to clear a couple of the "raised beds", although raised is the wrong word - surrounded by 5" boards would be closer to the truth. I'd actually cleared on of the 4ft square one last November when I put the last of my over-wintering onions in, but hadn't had the chance to return since - decorating and Landrover problems kept getting in the way.
Anyway the onions hadn't faired that well - something had either dug or pulled over half of them out. Still it was better than them going to waste.
My main problem with this half plot is that the former owners had covered large portions of it with carpet many year ago, and that the carpet has now become the problem not the solution, being the receptical and conduit for the couch grass roots.
During my visit in November I'd removed the worst of the carpet and repositioned what was left to actually suppress weed growth. My first task was therefore to reposition it yet again so I could get at the two beds I wanted to work. This also involved removing the strips that formed the paths so that soil spilling over the beds didn't coat the carpet - and yes I forgot to take a broom with me.
Having done this I realised that not only was I going to have to dig the beds but also the paths as they were nearly as badly infested. Anyway having dug one bed and its surrounding paths I stopped for a bite to eat, before planting my garlic and shallots, all last years crop that hadn't reached a suitable size for use in the kitchen or hadn't been used yet. Strange isn't it when you grow things, harvest them and leave them in the veg rack they don't get used, but when you break them up, put them in a tin in the cupboard they do.
Planting complete I moved to the second bed. Having started in one corner I quickly discovered I had a major bind weed problem as well. The problem was most of it was under the path and the 4ft square bed on the other side of it. Leaving this bed I cleared this section of path and the square bed, before returning. Failing light and my back put paid to me completing it however, although I managed to complete 3/4 of it. I'm also refilling the beds making the plot look less like the Somme in the process.
In the greenhouse this are also progressing. The Musselburgh sown two weeks ago are now about 18mm tall and doing well away from the propogator. The Atlanta sown at the same time are doing nearly as well although the germination rate has been a little less. Also sown at the same time were Bedforshire Champion and Mammoth onions, but the germination of these has been very poor compared to the leeks and both trays are still on the propagator. The Greyhound are also doing ok, but have gone a little leggy. These were sown as an experiment so we'll have to see how they do.
With space in the propogator, I've now sown another batch of Musselburgh, half the Up-To-Date heritage onions, and a batch of Alisa Craig.
My seed potatoes, ordered from Edwin Tuckers, in November have also arrived and are now sitting in seed trays in the workshop chitting. I'm trying three new varieties this year, Estima, Cara, and International Kidney. The latter are supposed to be the equivalent of Jersey Royals, which are salad/new potatoes. It was interesting to note that most of the seed potatoes were bigger than those for the main crop Maris Piper.
With this order came the bulk of my onion sets, Red baron and Sturon. Following on from last year I'm planting these into cell trays, and now have approximately 50 of each in the greenhouse. From a message on the BBC Allotments forum it seems I'm not the only one to have discovered this method for getting ahead with your onion crop.
All I have to do now is ensure the plots are all dug in time, although I shall be racing the weather again with the Bracknell plot to get it cleared in time for planting potatoes - this is the bed I didn't get done last year and only started digging in October.