Like many of these blogs I suspect, entries go in fits and starts as there is something to write.
I’ve spent a number of hours at the allotment over the past few weeks digging the beds in preparation for spring. I’m about 80% complete with just the “awkward” beds which still have overwintered veg. in them (Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Swiss Chard) left to dig. The soil is certainly drying out but its still heavy and sticky. I dig because my shed isn’t safe for a rotovator and the thought of dragging one too and from the allotment has never been something I fancy doing.
Now whether its because I don’t dig it thoroughly or for some other reason, digging the allotment takes a long time because I seem to spend much of my time on my knees sorting out the couch grass and the dandelions. However, they go into the compost heap and that gets put back onto the soil to try and improve the fertility.
The bokashi bin has been back and forth a few times over the winter and the contents buried in one of the beds. It doesn’t appear to have encouraged any extra vermin (the foxes have dug at all the beds and not specifically the one that the Bokashi waste has been buried in). My plan is to grow the peas on that bed.
Today I succumbed to sowing some seeds. I’ve tried not to sow anything too much (except peppers and tomatoes for the greenhouse) but today with the weather sunny but windy and not fit for gardening outside, my fingers got the better of me and I sowed some seeds for the allotment.
The ground at the allotment is clay (I probably complain about it all the time). The result of that is that its “not kind” to seeds sown directly. Either the ground is too cold and wet (as now) or its baked hard. There are two solutions I have found. One is to sow everything into small pots or plugs and then transplant the seedlings when they’re large enough to battle with the soil at the allotment and the other is to make a compost furrow and sow into that so the seeds have a chance to get started before they hit the clay.
Today I took the start of the former route, sowing cabbages and beetroot (mainly) in small pots so that they can be pricked out once they have germinated into pots that can then be planted out at the allotment.
I have decided to reduce the allotment in two directions. Firstly I will not grow things that mean I have to go over to the allotment during the winter to harvest them. (That means no parsnips and no Purple Sprouting Broccoli) and secondly I’m not going to grow any alliums (garlic, leeks or onions) at least this year. The allotment has gathered whiterot and (unless I’m lucky) the onions and garlic don’t store well. Leeks have got less worthwhile over the past few years as leek moth has come further north. The last couple of years, our leeks have grown relatively well and then been hit hard. The solution is environmesh, but I don’t like to smoother the whole allotment in blue netting as many of my neighbours do so, no more leeks for me.
I’ve also decided that I will grow only one crop in each bed, rather than trying to follow through with early crops and later crops in the same bed.
What these changes mean, are:
- I’ve got more space for simpler vegetables and my plans this year include significantly more peas and replanting the summer fruited raspberries into a bed of their own;
- I can dig over the beds once the crops have been harvested and plant green manures;
- I probably won’t have to go to the allotment between October and February.
Anyway, that’s the plan. What will be interesting will be to know when it breaks down because I’ve got a load of plants with nowhere to put them.
Finally my tomatoes. This year I have decided not to grow so many and to restrict the number of beefsteak tomatoes to only one or two varieties. I’ve also set myself the plan to only grow “saved seeds”. Either mine or from a seed swap. The combination of all of these things has made choosing the varieties much more difficult. Seed only remains viable for about three years so I’ve got to keep growing the varieties I like or I won’t have viable seed. I like to try new varieties and I’ve “swapped in” six or seven new varieties so I’ve got to grow those. I want to grow some at the allotment which means I have to try the newer blight resistant varieties (everything else dies a swift death). Finally, I want to keep going with my grow out of Oleron Yellow to see if I can get a couple of stable varieties. However, I’ve made my choices (see here) sowed them a couple of weeks ago and they’re up already, ready for the new season. Now we’ve just got to see how they go.
So that’s it, the greenhouses are (more or less) ready, the allotment is nearly ready and the new season’s about to start.