Sunday, January 25, 2009

And so it begins....

It's now the end of the third week in January and for me at least this years season has started, albeit slowly at present.
One third of the garden plot has been dug, mainly to turn in the remained of the manure I got last weekend. Primarily the manure was for the greenhouse, to refil the beds with some goodness; and as the manure was steaming warm and barely 3 weeks old it should do the job nicely.
The section of the garden plot dug will take this years first earlies, and knowing my soil there will be little evidence I manured it when I come to plant in about 8 weeks time ... boy doesn't time fly.
I also cleared the brassica's from the beds on the Sunningdale plot, but the soil was just to saturated to warrent digging it at this time. That's one of the dig differences between all threee of my veg plots. My garden plot I can dig as soon as the surface water is gone without noticing a huge difference in texture or effort. The Sunningdale plot requires a week or so to dry, depending on the time of year, although it's somewhat flooded at the moment, and my plot is at the "top" end of the site. Digging the last of my father-in-laws potatoes out this afternoon was a slurping experience.
My Bracknell plot I avoid at this time of year, it's heavy clay means, that even with the raised beds I shall have to wait until the middle to end of March before I can do much. Having said that I did foray down their last weekend to dig out the Jerusalem artichokes, and returned with half a 40litre full. Some are already spoken for but as we don't like them I shall have to find a home for the remainder. Hoepefully I got them all out this time.
In the greenhouse I've started this years sowings with onions and leeks. If I had more space in the propogator then I'd be able to sow more varieties early, and as I haven't I've had to limit myself to the remainder of the Mammoth onion seed, the remainder of last years HDSL pick up-to-date , another onion, pandora, which if I remember is a late leek, one head from the leeks which flowered this year, the problem being I'm not sure which variety it is, and lastly the first of this year's sowing of greyhound, which is a pointy summer cabbage.
I sowed them this time last year as an experiment, and they produced a better and earlier crop than the Excel brought as plug plant from Marshal's. Given my Olympia (calabrese) also did better then Marshal's variety, and the cauliflowers were a disaster, I shall not be buying plugs again.
Now I have to count the weeks until I can free up the propagator and make the next sowings. In the mean time I have plenty of digging to be permitting.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reflections on a New Season

Well as usual I'm behind, the recent old snap having helped none.
My Bracknell plot is still much as I left it in November, bed 3 still incomplete, and bed 2 still requiring half to be dug and cleared of couch grass and bind weed before this years potatoes can go in. I've also yet to manure any of it or finish digging out the winter crops or this years crop of Jerusalem Artichokes, grown from those I missed when digging them all out last year.
My Sunningdale plot fares better, although this has progressed little since the beginning of December. The potato plot is covered in 4" of manure, and has been for about 6 weeks now. This is also true of the area I used last year on my father-in-laws plot. However I still haven't managed to get all his potatoes dug out. I think there's about half a row of what I believe may be Maris Piper - not sure what state these are going to be in now though.
What I really need to get done is the asparagus bed - the manure is all piled up waiting and the plants are enjoying their sojourn in the greenhouse and/or cold frame, although most are showing little inclination to wanting to die back. Still they don't need to go in until late March, like the potatoes, so I'm going to be fire-fighting again then I think.
Having just check last years entry for January I'm already late in sowing this years leeks, onions, and cabbage from seed, although considering the prolonged cold snap we've just had I'm inclined to think not. I'll see what the weather does though this week and weekend before deciding whether to sow then or not.
The cold snap did enable me to get one job partially done - concreting in the deep bed in the greenhouse. I should have really done this when I built the foundation, but didn't, hoping the silver birch in next doors garden wouldn't cause a problem. But after 4 years of having the bed invaded by its roots and the failure of the paving slabs to make much difference I've given in. The bed was dug out to 16" below floor level, shuttered, and a 2-3" wall and floor of concrete poured to completely enclose it. I've refilled it with soil to floor level, but as the soil is completely dead I now need to put a good 6" of manure into the bed before completing the refill. Hopefully this will regenerate it's fertility and allow me to grow anything other than silver birch roots in it.
In other respects I'm more organized. I've 95% of the seeds I need for this year, and having ordered onion sets, garlic, and shallots, have just been given a load by a friend. Most of these are autumn planting varieties that should have gone in in October, but I'm going to put them in anyway. Nothing ventured is nothing gained and they wont keep till next October.
I've also changed my potato regime slightly this year. I'm only growing one early variety, and one second early as a second early. All the rest will be grown as maincrop. As usual my early is Maris Bard, with Charlottes my choice as 2nd early - mainly because I like them and they do well both in the ground and in tubs. My maincrops are therefore Maris Piper, Cara, Estima, and Rooster. This is the first year of growing the latter so I'll be interested to see both how it does and what it's like. I'm also going to plant a row of Pink Fir Apple from this year's left over.
One of my trials last year was Mayan Gold in a tub, from 3 potatoes I was given. Having been really impressed with them, even though I harvested them a little early, I'm going to grow them again this year, mainly in tubs, despite the fact that they're more expensive than most other seed potatoes. If you're interested in growing these then you'll need to order them from Alan Romans.
Away from the allotment I've managed to get a few other things done. I've re-potted a number of the cacti that needed doing including my mother-in-laws-tongue. This had gotten to the state where it was distorting the pot it was in, not bad considering that when I got it 2 years ago, whilst collecting some other freecycle goods, it was in severe need of some tlc. So my one mother-in-laws-tongue has now become 9, and given that to buy any one of these would cost between £1.99 and £25 in a garden center I think I've done quite well out of the deal. I don't have a picture of mine I'm afraid so I'll have to make do with a link to a library picture for those of you not familiar with the variety, Mother-in-laws-tongue.
On a completely different note, if any of you are interested in dragons, have a passing interest in role-playing games, and have some time to waste, I've been playing an on-line game for a while now. It's called Dragon Hearts, takes a little getting used to and is far more complex than it first appears. If you're interested click on the following link - dragon hearts. If you decide to play and want help or guidance then my Dragon Name is Pyrocantaes - just click on my name in either players on-line, chat, or send an email to ID 11549.
For those of you who may want to try something along a gardening theme why not try MoleHill Empire.
Both of these games are free, other than at the expense of time.