Its been an interesting and productive week. I usually complain (bitterly) about the soil at my allotment. One spit down its thick and heavy yellow clay and, whilst the layer above is good soil, it quickly goes from heavy, damp, sticky lumps (where the Mantis Tiller gets bogged down) to rock hard “boulders” that are virtually impossible to break up (and the Mantis bounces off the top).
However, this year (through good luck or judgement) Wednesday this week was that perfect day when the lumps break up when they’re hit and the Mantis ploughed through turning the top six inches or so into a relatively fine tilth and letting me dig down to make the trenches for the potatoes. So, in no more than a couple of hours I was able to cultivate the beds, incorporating the compost from the compost heaps at the allotment and also from home.
I went back today and planted my first early potatoes (Red Duke of York), some broadbeans (the Sutton) and some strawberry plants (Sonata and Korona from Lidl plus runners from the existing plants). My plan is to have another bed of strawberries and to clear out the oldest bed at the end of the year.
I also finished emptying the first compost heap at the allotment, moving the compost on to the beds and working it in with the Mantis.
At home, the tomato and pepper seedlings are being marched in and out to get the sun but avoid the cold and the tomatoes will get potted up into 7cm pots during the next few days. I’m not growing as many different varieties of tomatoes as I’ve done in previous years (see here for the list) and I’ve yet to sow the two outdoor varieties as they can’t go to the allotment until early June at the earliest. The brassicas I sowed late March have all germinated, the lettuces sown at the same time have been pricked out and the Mizuna and Rocket sown at the end of January are in their position in the Polytunnel ready to follow-on from the lettuces which were planted at the end of last year and are cropping now.
The Early Onward Peas that I sowed at the end of March have germinated and the bed at the allotment is ready to take them when they’ve grown a little larger and I’ve hardened them off. I’m thinking of sowing some of the Deliket and Greenshaft in the next few days to organise my succession of plants.
The fruit bushes are also showing life with flowers on the gooseberries and the black currants thinking about bursting into bud. The cooking apple at the allotment is also showing signs of bud burst.
In terms of crops we’re a little less overwhelmed. The Swiss Chard is producing a small amount and the purple sprouting has given one small crop (with secondary growth probably ready next week). We’ve also been picking some rhubarb.
Going on to wildlife in the garden. There’s a bluetit going in and out of the bird box (not the usual one which got blown down over the winter and hasn’t yet been replaced) but one slightly farther away which has always been empty until now, the ducks have been coming to the pond (but I’m afraid we’ve scared them off to protect the frogspawn). The Rooks have had a good go at the frogs in the pond (I haven’t seen any frogs at all this year although we’ve got more frogspawn than the last couple of years) as has the heron. All the normal birds are in the garden and it looks like we may have some long-tailed tits nesting in the hedge. Now, I know that for many this may not be exciting BUT, … we’ve had some starlings in the garden. When we first moved here, nearly 30 years ago, starlings were common with flocks of 20 or 30 patrolling the garden. However, over the years they have decreased to the point where I don’t remember seeing any for a few years. Common they may have been but their metallic shiny coats have always made me think that they are one of the brightest British birds. I hope this is a sign of recovery. (As I write one has landed on the hedge).
Insect life is also becoming active with Brimstone, Peacock and Small Tortoiseshell butterflies showing themselves between the showers as well as Bumblebees and seven spot ladybirds (not harlequin beetles, they’ll be slightly later).
So all in all, spring is most definitely on the way, the March winds are stopping (not quite stopped) and we are getting April showers (heavy at times but sunny in between).
We’re looking forward to a productive and enjoyable year.