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Archive for October, 2008

Apologies/manure lore

Allotmentality has not gone fallow, I have been away earning a living (sailing a bunch of kids around an arctic Northern Ireland) and while helming a boat into horizontal hailstones driven by 30 mph winds in 3 metre waves and I was worrying about what the week when winter really arrived has done to the allotment in my absence.  We’ll see in the morning.

In the meantime, first time allotmenteers may be interested in this bit of manure lore, picked up from the gurus of No 1 allotment: brassicas and potatoes like well-manured soil, root veg do not.

So don’t just spread the stuff around all promiscuous.

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Manure day.

The Hinderwell Allotments manure collective delivery arrives.  As Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park says on surveying a pile of Triceratops poo, “That is one big pile of shit.”

The first of three deliveries of well-rotted manure from a herd of pedigree cows from nearby East Barnby.  Our allotment is 50 rutted weedy yards away from the pile.  Many have taken on derelict allotments scared by the first flush of recession, and failed to do anything with them.  I slalomed eleven barrowloads of muck to allotment no 16, expecting my 10 rods to be knee deep in rich manure when I’d finished.

Not a bit of it.  Ten barrowloads have vanished onto the surface of the bed on the left, one makes a modest heap on the bed to the right.   My share of the rest is another fifteen or so barrowloads.  This heavy soil will eat all the muck we can throw at it.

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Getting there.

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Mid October jobs…

As a new allotmenteer bringing a neglected patch of ground back into use, Allotmentality’s jobs aren’t those of one who is smugly into their annual cycle of planting and harvesting.  We still have about half of the allotment to clear.  My feeling was that leaving it under grass and mowing for the summer was preferable to clearing it and battling the weeds that must surely follow.

The soil here is heavy, with clay aboout 30 cm below the surface, so this autumn and winter we are on a campaign to dig manure and organic matter in to open the soil structure up.  But there is one bed which has been dug, weeded and hoed since May: it is already providing some very tender baby leeks.

That bed is earmarked for an experimental mini-polytunnel to force some winter greens and salad leaves.  Everyone else around me is planting very protestant looking spring cabbages and cauliflowers.

The opened up soil will be roughly forked over every week or so to allow frost and birds to get at the pests, then in spring hoed down to that enviable fine tilth that exerienced gardeners seem to be able to produce without apparent effort.

If you haven’t, it’s time to sow Japanese onion sets (done) and broad beans (if you like them – I am not sure anyone does – they seem to be most actively traded crop on the allotment site, withpeople growing them because they feel they have to).

Other jobs on the list:
• Shift and stack the turves ‘scutted’ off to expose the soil
• Clear the ‘administrative area’ for a greenhouse and shed
• Make a plan, so I know what’s going where and when, and what needs doing to prepare the soil

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