Allotment Update

As always, Life gets in the way of plans. I forgot to take my phone with me on Friday night so didn’t get the pix I’d planned, and last night, having taken the pix, I was too busy at home to get round to uploading them!

They’re here now.

Lord Leicester tall pea

Lord Leicester tall pea

The peas are now all  planted out – the Lord Leicester have put on a spurt and shot up in size, so they’re now under bird netting and will get stakes to climb up before long – they’re a tall pea but I’ll nip the tops out at 6 foot so I can reach to pick the pods!

Bottle bank - Hatif d'Annonay early dwarf pea under plastic bottle cloches

Bottle bank – Hatif d’Annonay early dwarf pea under plastic bottle cloches

I need to encourage my daughter to drink more squash – not enough bottles for all the dwarf peas! The bottles act as miniature cloches, blocking the wind, holding heat and retaining moisture around the plants to encourage their growth. It will be interesting to see the difference between those lucky peas under bottles and the ones without.

Also now out (though not showing) are the first three rows of carrots , a row of beetroot, brussels sprouts, summer cabbage, Welsh onions and two varieties of kale along with some more radish. I use radish as row-markers for slow-germinating crops – the radish shoot up in just a few days, enabling me to see where I sowed the other seeds. Fortunately, I like radish.

Just showing yesterday were one of each of the first early and second early potatoes and the first of the artichokes, proving that the soil temperature’s rising enough to get them growing on.

At home, the leeks are growing on nicely and I’ve sown root parsley, courgettes, runner beans and a cactus-flowered dahlia. The dahlia is something of an experiment – I’ve read the roots are edible and, given that it belongs to the same family as sunflowers and jerusalem artichokes, I decided I’d give it a try. The root that we bought is now in a plantpot, and following guidance on the RHS website, I’ll split it once it has shoots 3 inches tall; it should then split to give multiple plants. It’ll certainly brighten up the allotment once planted out!

We’ve had a series of surprisingly hot, dry, cloudless days – tee-shirt weather in Aberdeenshire in April being something of a rarity – and it’s showing up the lack of humous in the soil; this is something I desperately need to work on. The soil is generally not that bad but it’s very short of organic material that would help retain moisture and provide more nutrients for the crops, so my main task in soil conditioning this year has to be to correct that. Until the soil has that rich reservoir of organic material, it’s prone to dry out too quickly and it won’t have the wealth of plant-food that will provide heavy crops. It’s not something I can afford to fix quickly – if I had a few thousand pounds spare I’d just truck in a hundred tons of compost and blanket the whole plot in 8 inches or so – but over time, with mulching, green manures, composted rabbit/chicken muck and patience, I should be able to build up the soil.

As the song puts it, you can’t have something for nothing (Rush) and before the land can support us, we have to nurture it and ensure it’s strong and healthy. Naure works in cycles and while I can take food from the allotment for us and the livestock, we also have to return those nutrients to the land, via composted muck, vegetable peel and so on. By avoiding bare soil and planting green manures, we can prevent the soil losing nutrients and moisture to the air and assist in retaining any moisture that does fall (rain or dew) in the soil for use by the plants.

Along those lines, we’ve now changed our strategy with removing twitch grass roots from the plot; the weeds are now shooting away on the sections that haven’t yet been dug so, rather than take away so much soil and green matter with the twitch grass roots and, literally, throw it away at the tip, we’re skimming off the top inch or two of soil, complete with weeds, grass etc, and turning the sods upside down as a turf wall along one side of the allotment. Over the next year or two they’ll decompose into soil again and then I can re-incorporate them into the growing area. In the meantime, I shall invest in some annual plants that will smother out the struggling upside-down weeds and give me a colourful, insect-friendly display.

At least, that’s the plan….

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