Sunday, February 24, 2008

Whot No Title?

It's been a busy three weeks, and after another 3 hours on the plot today I can't think of a clever title for the post.
Things have been progressing. On the Sunningdale plot, photos right and below, I changed tack and rather than dig the remaining two raised beds, the two in the foreground covered in carpet, I decided to move onto the main section of the plot, starting at the far left hand side. It took me 3 two hour digging sessions to dig through an level a 4 foot wide bed the length of the plot, which I guess is about 25ft. Depending on what the weather does I may get back there next Sunday, after I've pruned my mother-in-law's bay tree. Apparently somebody has complained to the council and it's now going to have to be pruned back hard, which is probably going to kill it. I've got a few small ones taken as root cuttings, but they only grow slowly, and my mother-in-law's is about 40 years old so is a nice size now.
Anyway with the dry weather we've had during the past three weeks I decided to take a look at the Bracknell plot this weekend. Unlike the Sunningdale plot which is on a nice rich loam, the Bracknell one is on heavy clay, and doesn't really become workable until late March, but if I left it till then I'd have no chance of getting this years potato bed ready. So I spent two and a half hours digging yesterday, and another 2 today. I managed about 3 feet yesterday, I'm digging a 6' wide strip as the raised bed will be 4' wide with a 2' path, but today was spent weeding and breaking up the clods I dug out last thing last night, which had dried out enough in the overnight wind and morning sunshine, and then turning out another load of clods, adjacent to the section I'd done yesterday and at the top end of the bed near the couch root pile I created last year. I had hoped to be able to clear this last summer but as the weather didn't co-operate, ie it wasn't blazing hot like the year before, I never got around to it. I'm now going to have to sift through it as I go, but that'll be in a few weeks yet, weather permitting of course.
Things are also progressing in the greenhouse, although the continues mouse presence is making like difficult. I've had about 30% germination of the sugar snap peas, and about the same again for the second batch of sweet peas. No sign of any of the Early Onwards though.
The second batch of onions, sown three weeks ago are now up have have more or less caught up with the earlier batches. Shame I forgot to label them. The rest are progressing, and are in the colder environs of the main section of the greenhouse, on top of the raised bed. Once I get around to repairing the cold frame I'll move them to it along with the rest of the onions which are now all sprouting nicely. I should note that my overwintering onions on the Bracknell plot are doing Ok. I've lost one or two, and there are about half a dozen which appear to be "slow". There is no sign yet of whiterot though so the bulb planter/top soil plug seems to be working.
I've now sown my asparagus, which is cluttering up the propagator, so it's going to be 3 or 4 weeks before I can start the cucumbers/tomatoes/courgettes/squashes unless I use the top of the boiler. I must check last years planting schedule and see what else should be going in as we advance into March.
On a non vegetable note, most of the lilies have started sprouting so I planted the ones I rescued from the vine weevil/lily beetle larva in the autumn. I've had them under saw dust all winter which seems to have prevented them drying out too much. Provided I can work out which ones are which I'll have a dozen or so crowns I can sell in 2 or 3 years time.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Best Crop of the Year?

Like a lot of allotmenteers I'm always experimenting with new crops either to see if they'll grow, find new varieties we like better, or to try something new. This year it was Jerusalem artichokes, supplied by another allotmenteer and orchid grower in Marlow. Having grown them, and harvested a few at Christmas we decided we didn't like them, so today I managed to get down to the plot and clear the 1.5m x 1m raised bed I'd planted them in - I knew they'd spread if not contained so I took the precaution. So having taken about a pound off at Christmas and knowing they were quite densely packed I was expecting quite a bit, but not the 56lb sack I ended up with. Since we're not going to eat them I've done the decent thing and offered them on freecycle. All I have to hope now is that I've got them all out otherwise their going to have an interesting time competing with the Autumn Raspberries I shall transplant in about a month.
On other fronts, the ******* mouse is back, although I'm better prepared this year. He got what was left of the sweetpea seeds, and about 10 of the Early Onwards, I'd left to soak overnight - they'd absorbed more water than I expected and hence were accessible - the mangetout survived intact. These have now been sown in rootrainers which are covered so he can't get at them. I've also used two of the old windows I'd acquired to turn my staging into a greenhouse inside a greenhouse, and sealed the ends with some 10mm square wire I acquired by chance from a skip this morning. We'll see if this stops him from eating the onion and leek seedlings.
I also managed to get two other jobs done last weekend, although one is only partially completed. Sunday I spent at my Sunningdale plot, cleared the couch grass reservoir that had doubled as the compost area, constructed two new compost bins from reclaimed pallets, the heavy blue ones are the best, and finished digging the bed I'd failed to complete the week before. Hopefully the weather will be ok and I can get down there next weekend and dig the two remaining raised beds. This will mean I've got 30% of the plot done and therefore be just under halfway to the required target of 65% cultivated. Although the inspection isn't until the end of April, I suspect I'm not going to be able to spend much time there in March as I shall be frantically trying to get the Bracknell plot sorted so I can plant my main crop potatoes.
The other job I'd almost completed was the manuring of the garden veg plot on the Saturday. I'd collected a standard builders bag worth in the morning, but it didn't go as far as I'd hoped. Another job for next weekend, which sort of fits since I want to manure the bed that had the Jerusalem artichokes in as well as the two 1m square beds I'd prepared for the kids last year. Perhaps they'll show more interest this year and grow something.
Following discussions on various fora I also took the plunge an sowed this years peppers in the propagator, and another batch of onions to keep the mouse fed ....