Friday, 23 April 2010

Little Brother

Good news of the Rhubarb front. The rhubarb plant I thought had died has just shot out a single, tentative red stem. When I dud it up I had noticed that there was some early signs of life, although nothing to compare to the other robust specimen. Thinking that it was worth giving it a shot, I spared it from the compost bin and roughly shoved it into a pot of muddy soil. It rewarded me for my effort, although it has a long way to go to catch up to it's big brother!

Big Brother

Saturday, 17 April 2010

Spring Progress Report

I continue to make progress in this lovely warm weather we are currently enjoying- the ground is beginning to dry out a little, and so I have managed to doe some more planting. The two central raised beds are in the best condition. I added the bulk of last years compost bin to these two beds, and dug them over. I planted one with potatoes- Charlotte and Maris Piper. The other contained strawberries that I planted last year. A few of these had died so I replaced them and added some protection in the form of clonches made from pop bottles. Hopefully that will help them catch up. I also had a bit of room left over so I planted up a few first early potatoes- I forget which type.
Corinne helped me dig over one of the beds at the wetter end of the allotment- the ground was still sticky and heavy, and so I added a lot more soil and compost to try to raise the surface up and dry it out. I planted onions in this bed. Normally onions don't like a wet spot, but I am hopeful that they will enjoy that location as it is now high and dry.
Struggling with the heavy, sticky wet soil

Charlie and Eleanor came down to 'help', which seemed to consist of jumping in muddy puddles and playing in the car. Not actually that helpful.

Experimental Carrot Bed

I have finally completed the Experimental Carrot Bed (E.C.B). This is something I blogged about a while ago, and is the natural evolution from my Bucket-of-Carrots experiment last year. The principle is simple- Build a wooden frame to support two deep containers. The legs of the stand must be 2 1/2 foot high. Fill the bottom of the containers with a layer of grit, for drainage, then fill the rest of the container with a mixture of soil and compost. Add a net to keep off the pigeons, sow in some carrot seeds - Autumn Gold, which worked well last year.
The rational for this is that Carrot Fly, the principle pest for carrots, hovers at no higher than two foot, and so will be unable to attack the carrots, as they are above this height. It should also be an effective deterrent to mice and slugs- I hope. It has the added advantage of being a good height to work without bending down. I sieved the soil to remove any roots and small stones- even small stones can deflect a carrot root. leading to misshapen veg.
I covered the container with plastic sheeting to act as a mini-poly tunnel to increase germination, to gain another head start.

As this is an experiment, I also planted a control (ie, a line of carrot seeds in the soil, not enjoying ant of the protection and advantages of the ECB. If the ECB proves a success I will make a much larger one next year. If not, well there's no harm done, as I made it entirely out of recycled and reclaimed materials.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Well it's April already and I have broken my new years resolution to post on my blog every month. In my defence the weather in February was so bad that it put me off, and March has flown by in a whirl of rainy days, over time, weddings and other distractions. But now April is here I am once again reaffirming my vows to post at least on a monthly basis.

I went down my allotment today. It is Easter bank holiday weekend, and I expected it to be very busy, but I was the only one there. I think the forecast of a wet rainy day must have put some people off, even though it was very pleasant this morning (in between the April showers), and perhaps some people were away. I too the chance to take stock and have a good look around at what was growing, and importantly, what wasn't.

I managed to harvest some leeks and spring onions. The leeks, I have to say, have been a bit of a disappointment- and it is quite hard to tell them apart from the spring onions. The bed the leeks were in is very wet and boggy- so presumably that had something to do with it. I have considered turning it into a paddy field and growing wild rice, but I think it might be more practical to build it up into a raised bed. The garlic I planted at the end of last year is sprouting, and one of the Rhubarbs is doing amazingly well (the other has died- I won't be buying any more of that type). Some of the strawberries have survived the winter, but are not really thriving. A few were not so lucky, and I have some gaps in my strawberry bed. Likewise the raspberry bed is filled with nothing but dead canes. The whole bed will have to be dug out, more soil added to improve drainage, then put over to some other purpose.
My plan for April is to plant the potatoes- I have been chitting them on my study window sill. This year I am planting a lot more than last year, with the hope of a much higher yield. I have also decided to stick to well known varieties we like, so I have gone for Maris Piper and Charlotte, as well as a variety of early cropping new potatoes too, just to get us in the mood. I will be planting more strawberries to replace those that died during the winter. I have a new raspberry cane from ALDI that will go where the dead rhubarb plant was. I also have carrots, radishes (two types- purple and red), yellow courgettes and red and white onion sets.

I want to build at least three more raided beds, and my carrot bed, and press on with digging out the paths. I think that I might have to compromise my morals and buy the timber I need to build the raised beds I as I have just not been able to get my hands on exactly the right type of wood for the job. I also need to transfer my compost from one container into the other to help speed up its composting proses. I think I might be busy in April.


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