Subscribe with Bloglines At last I've got my plot!: January 2009

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Too wet!

It was very soggy when I went to the plot this afternoon. It was too wet to dig or weed, so discretion prevailed over valour and I came home to get on with other things.
I'll try again tomorrow.
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Caliente Mustard

On Monday this week I visited Wisley and found seeds for this in the shop. Regular readers may remember me mentioning a trial bed that I saw at Wisley a year or so ago (just was actually March 29th 2007...doesn't time fly!!!).
I was delighted to find the seeds (£4.99 for 200g, sufficient to cover 100sq.metres), with an informative leaflet. I have copied the leaflet here for you....both photos will enlarge for easier reading if you click on them.

I need to study this a while to see how to fit it into my rotation plans. It might be difficult with the new Gertrude Franck method I will be following this year so it may have to wait until next winter. The Gertrude Franck method does actually have some rows sown with mustard if they are for later crops....that may be where it fits in...I'll see.

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Seed Sorting

I had to be inside this morning to listen out for the phone , so I decided to sort through my seed drawer, and organise it. The polytunnel handbook from Amazon came in a small cardboard package which provided perfect dividers for the drawer.

I also sorted out the seeds I need for the January and February sowings....these are bulldog clipped now.Along the windowsill in our sunroom (north facing so never hot!) I keep the squashes and pumpkins from last year's harvest. We still have 10 left....of all sorts of varieties. I display them like this because they look good and I like to show off!!! The pelargoniums are ones I grew from tiny seedlings last year. They will go into the garden this year and I'll start again with more when they come into the garden centre

So....this is how it looks now! A productive morning! (I should have done some before shots but I always forget.)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

A Busy Day!

I had a bad head day today but went to the plot anyway. I had a bit of a tidy up.
I pulled up the dead marigold plants around last year's carrot bed. Then I cleared all the little weeds that are already germinating.

Then I pulled up all the Brussels plants. The sprouts had all "blown" and so I chopped up the hard stems with a spade and added it all to the compost. Then I weeded and tidied that bed too.

I also took up the netting over the small cabbage plants. The pigeons had had these even through the nets!. And took up the cloche hoops and the netting from the carrot bed (Jermor sown in the Autumn as they are for that time of year). Nothing except weeds had germinated o this bed!

The leeks are looking very healthy, as are the broad beans.

Over the next few weeks I am going to dig the whole plot ready to start the Gertrude Franck Companion Planting method (see previous post) at the end of February.

This afternoon I spent in the polytunnel. I received a copy of "The Polytunnel Handbook" from Amazon this morning and have decided to use on e of the suggested bed layouts shown in there. This invloves altering the present two wide beds arrangement, and making three narrower beds instead. I took up the strawberry plants that edged the beds and these are now in pots. And I have reduced the RH side bed from 3 ft to 2ft wide. I will be able to care for the whole bed without standing on it, or having to overreach myself. I will reduce the width of the LH bad tomorrow. Then with the excess soil I will create a 2ft wide bed down the middle of the tunnel. This year that will be the tomato bed.

I have ordered some grow Bag Supports called A-tom use for the tomatoes this year. These are novel in that the grow bag is used hung up on its side in order to get depth of root run, and to facilitate watering. The frame also supports canes to hold up the plants.

This should all make my tunnel experience a bit better this year.

Tomorrow I'll take pictures of all my efforts and the state of play in my kitchen garden, and at the plot.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Try again!

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Have a look at these....!

In the Times this morning.
If you can't read the print it says...
"Hens rescued from a battery farm sport 'chicken jumpers' knitted by members of the local WI. The battery hens, which are kept on an allotment in Blisworth, Northamptonshire, have fewer feathers than their free-range counterparts and need the sweater to adapt to the outdoor life".

I bet the jumpers don't look like that for long!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Seed Swap

I read in the Sunday Times today about a website where we can swap surplus seeds......

I visited the site and although there are not many seeds there as yet I can see that this could be a wonderful resource for those of us who only use part packets.
I spotted some that I want and have been looking for since hearing about them on Gardener's World last year. Joy Larkom swears by Squash "Crown Prince" as being a long keeper. I have hunted in vain for these seeds here on the island and at last have found them on the seed swap.....brilliant.

Now I must look through my surplus seeds and enter them on the site..... (Then I must get hold of some of those tiny cellophane packets, or some brown paper wage packets ready for the expected rush for my offerings!)

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

OK. I've had enough of it now!

The weather that is........ I just want to get on with my plot now the soil has dried out at last. But it is too cold for digging as the soil is just below zero temperature, and I believe I have read that you shouldn't turn soil over if it is that I'm being good and waiting.

Meantime I am busy reading up my gardening books and I have pretty much decided to follow Gertrude Franck's "Companion Planting" method on the allotment this year. This means doing away with the beds, loosening up the soil in the paths that I have had for the last two years, and just having one large patch of soil.

The system then is that at 50cm intervals spinach rows are planted as markers, and shelter for other seeds. The spinach is allowed to grow tallish and is then hoed off and left in situ to act as sheet mulch and compost, and to form little paths between the individual crops. The intervening spaces have rows of companion planted veg in them along with herbs and flowers, to fool the insects and other pests and to attract bees etc. She gives precise suggestions for the varieties to plant together, and I will follow these and post about them as I go.

The first stage will be sowing the spinach....which can be done as early as the end of Feb here. That is why I am longing to go and start my soil turning and loosening now. The trodden paths need a good loosening and turning over, and the beds need weeding again as some weeds have come up since my autumn tidy up. Gertrude Franck only recommends digging once before you start the system, after that it just requires a stir with a fork after a crop is harvested. My Garden claw should be the perfect tool for that job.

I have also decided to grow just early and mid season potatoes next year. This will fit better into the new system as it will mean I don't have to have too much of the garden down to spuds. Growing maincrop was taking up a whole quarter of the plot and was beginning to make rotation difficult. Rotation with the new system is a lot easier as the spinach rows are moved across the garden by 25cm each year and thus it is some time before the same crops get grown in the same spot. The crop rows are labelled A, B and C rows and these are planted with either long term crops, short term crops, and large plant crops which also move across the garden each year. I will have to make a lot of pegs to mark what happens each year to make sure that the movement does actually take place properly.

There are two real benefits to this method that I have been interested to read up about today. One is that compost is made all summer in the sheet compost rows between the crops.....(Gertrude Franck suggests that even manure is sprinkled into the weed tops, spent crops, grass cuttings etc). This will cut down a lot on the compost work of turning and sieving the heap that I find I have to do to end up with decent compost.

The other is that the ground benefits from the channels left by the spinach roots which rot and disappear very quickly when the crop is hoed down. This allows air and worms to do their job better.

I have had my copy of this out-of-print book for 25 years and only now realised that I should be doing this with my plot. I'm getting very excited about the year to come.

Oh! And today my Heritage Seed Library free seeds came...... I got all my first choices...Hurrah!
These are.....
Runner Bean "Inchley's White" (A late, white-flowered runner bean that produces a huge crop of long, irregular shaped pods of white beans. Does well in hot, dry conditions. Easy to care for; this variety is particularly productive and the pods are tender when picked young. 10 seeds)

Pea "Purple Podded"(Introduced before 1911, but dropped from the National List and donated to the HSL by a member. Produces plants of variable height with exquisite bicoloured purple flowers and fleshy purple pods, perfect as mangetout when young. The peas are also excellent for drying. 10 seeds)

Onion "Up to Date" (Originally from R Brittan Seeds in Northampton and at least 80 years ol. In 1948 the Ministry of Ag announced its good white rot resistance (Maff Bulletin 2, 1948) However it was deemed that "Up to Date" was the same as"Bedfordshire Champion" and was discarded. Apple shaped with yellow skin, rather square shoulders and a rounded base. A good storage onion. 50 seeds)

Kale "Asparagus" (Listed in "The Vegetable Garden"(Vilmorin-Andrieux 1885), this variety is reputed to be one of the tastiest of Kales. The violet tinged, fringed leaves are mild flavoured and in spring the young, tender flower shoots can be blanched and eaten like asparagus. It also shows some resistence to clubroot. Compact, hardy and very productive. 50 seeds)

Climbing French Bean "Lazy Housewife". (A German heritage variety popular there since the early 1800s. Thought to have earned its name as at the end of the season the leaves wither and expose the pods, making them easy to pick. Hardy and resilient, it copes well with hot and dry conditions. Seed Guardian reports "It's a real belter! No strings when eaten green and very easy to cultivate, harvest and store. Our Spanish stews wouldn't be the same without them." 10 seeds)

Cabbage "Portuguese". (Our donor acquired the seeds from a Portuguese allotment neighbour. It is a tall, dark-leaved, non-hearting type, reliable and completely hardy but "will never win any prizes for beauty". It does however appear to be resistant to clubroot. 50 seeds)

And I also got a bonus lucky dip packet of
Climbing French Bean "Bridgewater" (Given by a donor from Somerset, the bean originally came from Bridgewater. A vigorous variety, producing tall (1.8 to 2.4 m) plants and attractive pods heavily mottled with purple. Beans can be used fresh or dried. 10 seeds)

With all the beans I plan to harvest regulaly from all but one of the plants and leave the pods on one to ripen. Then I'll have a proper crop's worth for sowing next year.

I suspect that anyone who has read this far will have got the message that I really want to get out and at it......I've done enough knitting now!!!