Archive for the ‘progress report’ Category

Today's 9 (ish) yards of weeded and edged bed.

Yards of couch grass roots hoiked out and gleefully burned on the bonfire in the background. Seed rows watered and neigbours’ chickens looked at with envy. Except the one which has escaped and had clearly been pecking around my cultivated beds, wreaking the havoc. Most of the allotments are back to full life, with the owners determined to catch up from the ravages of a long winter. The more lackadasical ones neglecting their plots as fervently as ever.

We have sadly neglected plots on either side of No 16: the one in the background of the pi above has lain abandoned for the three years we’ve had No 16 and the one behind where I stood to take the pic has sprouted an illegal chicken city and a splendid crop of assorted weeds. Both cheerfully supply windblown weed seeds and couch grass roots to my plot and I am getting somewhat pigged off with both the eyesore and source of weeds. T’committee (a bloke called Dave, a benign dictator of the finest sort: he has a dicky hip) should intervene.


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Raised bed stomped into place, filled with loam (from the turves I scutted off two years ago when I got no 16) and strawbs planted, a row of garlic (Solent Wight) and a row of chard alongside.

Today's planting progress.

However, the satisfaction of that was offset by turning another patch of ground and encountering a snake’s honeymoon of couch grass:

Weeds of satan.

And yes, that’s the setting sun on the piles of turves behind. The couch grass roots are going onto a bonfire. 12 more sweetcorn seed were planted in fibre pots, 50 basil seeds planted and…this is entry is smelling of things-accomplished self righteousness. Time to stop.

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planted 12 sweetcorn seeds (it went dark, and planting sweetcorn in the dark probably violates several health and safety directives). More will be dibbed in tomorrow.

Last year’s sweetcorn efforts looked like I had ‘tended’ them by hitting them with a spade twice daily and three times on Sundays. Turns out that sweetcorn are delicate things and must be handled with care – these ones have been started in fibre pots which will be planted directly into the soil when the seedlings are established and hardened – the pots will rot away allowing the roots into the soil without my paws mangling them. My next allotment neighbours also say that sweetcorn like partial shelter so the sweetcorn patch will be close to the hawthorn hedge and neighbours’ Taj Mahal sized polytunnel.

OK. Let’s hope for better sweetcorn results this year.

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There hasn’t been much point in posting because the past five months hereabouts have been snow, snow, snow, hard frost and rain respectively. We did venture up to the allotment a couple of times, but there was damn all even the most determined gardener could do. When No. 16 emerged from winter it was a depressing weedy sight but three days of manic digging and two burst blisters  later something resembling usable beds emerged…

No 16 after a few days of graft.

In the foreground early new potatoes and red onions, the bed behind has two more rows of spuds (maincrop Maris piper) then a row of rocket, lollo rosso, purple sprouting broccoli and fruit canes. The long row to the right has had vast amounts of compost and manure dug in over the past two year, so is ripe for pea and bean planting – experimental borlotti beans went in last night, peas will follow and French beans are being sprouted. After two stuttering years when No 16 showed only a fraction of its potential we are on track for bringing all the opened beds into production for 2010.

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Everything is growing like crazy.  Including the weeds, obviously, although after this afternoon’s hoeing action (soundtrack Kate Rusby and a compilation from this gentleman)  a lot of them have gone the way of the less popular wives of King Henry VIII.  The purple sprouting broccoli just keeps on giving: a huge bunch of it is going with today’s beef, while cousins, aunts and uncles are getting theirs.  And it’s lovely: steam, butter, sea salt.

The early spuds are peeking through the soil, the shallots (bunching onions in the local tongue) and garlic are coming on, the rows of seeds are putting up -lings in defiance of the coarse clay soil and near-bloody drought conditions of the last month (about an hour of storm shower yesterday, that’s all the rain for month in the north of England – it barely dampened the surface).  Lollo rosso has come through and will be planted out in a raised bed, the sweetcorn are starting to sprout under cover.  Preparing a bed for those tomorrow.

The overwinter onions are there, but straggly.  I don’t think no 16 is good onion soil.  Yet.

Front to back: early potatoes, shallots, cauliflowers.

Front to back: early potatoes, shallots, cauliflowers.

Meantime, two fellow allotmonats came over and enquired about the Phaecelia.  One thought they were weeds, another pegged them as green manure right away.  One bed I will cut down and dig in, the second I will use the cuttings soaked in water as liqui fertilizer and see what happens.  I’m also going to be interested to see what the roots have done to the verdamt clay that wantons mere inches below the surface.

Phaecelia tanacetifolia AKA green manure.

Phaecelia tanacetifolia AKA green manure.

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…the allotment was not the weedy hell I had feared.  What few had poked their chlorophyllous heads up were swiftly deheaded (h/t) and a fair bit of compost trenched, manured and forked over ground was hoed into something resembling tilth, the fine seedbed soil which other allotment owners seem to be able to produce without effort.

It doesn’t look very interesting, so no photo. The purple sprouting broccoli hath sprouted and will shortly be harvested and ate.  Tomorrow some rows of carrots, beetroot and spinach will be going in, and I’ll be prepping yet more ground for the early potatoes.  One compost bin has been emptied into a wheelbarrow and will be used to line to the bottom of the the spud trenches.

Actually, there is something to see: my late-planted winter cover crop/green manure (Phacelia tanacetifolia) is growing like topsy.  I’m going to leave those beds until last: I’ve been told by an experienced allotment gardener to let the stuff grow a while, cut the green stuff off, steep it in water and water spuds with this.  Organic liquid fertilizer which Alf (who do all allotmenteers of a certain age have three letter names?) swaers gave him the best crops of spuds EVAH.

So we’ll do that.

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A good sesh tomorrow and we’ll be done, all the ground broken we need for this year.

OK, it doesn't look very exciting but I'm proud.  The wilderness is almost tamed.

OK, it doesn't look very exciting but I'm proud. The wilderness is almost tamed.

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