Thursday, 15 June 2017

Allotment photographs for June 2017

The allotment from the car park.

After quite a difficult beginning of the year, I have eventually filled the allotment and am getting some good crops.  The Victoria plum tree had canker in its trunk but under the canker it threw out a water shoot.  I decided to take the top of the tree down to the water shoot and allow this to become the main shoot of the tree.  The plum was quite large and over shadowed quite an area of ground which I have now recovered for vegetables.  It meant that I could plant the runner beans where they would not have thrived otherwise.  I have four good gooseberry bushes alongside the path but they do not have any fruit on them because the pigeons have stripped them completely.  The gooseberries that I have netted all have a really good crop.  The green netting around the runner beans was to protect them from the cold winds in May but I have left it on because it helps to direct the beans to the canes so that they can climb up, I put some seed in the ground but the germination was very poor because of the cold weather.  I put some seed in pots in the greenhouse and they all came well.  I have about six different varieties in this row.  The more diverse the varieties the more likely you are to get one that will crop really well for you.
Runner beans and tall peas
The tall peas have done very well this year; much better than the garden peas.  I will plant more of these next year.  The blue butt was given to me with three others by my next door neighbour allotmenteer who is get older and finding the allotment too much for him.  I got a lot of stuff given to me by people who were giving up their allotments.  To get stuff like this you just need to be around at the right time.
Opal plum tree and climbing french beans.
The pigeons were having a right go at the Opal plum tree until I threw a net over it.  The net stops them from flopping down on the branches.  Otherwise they will take off all the leaves and the fruit.
I made some cane pyramid supports for four different french beans.  I didn't want full rows of them although I do have full rows of another two varieties.  All these seeds I saved from last year's plants together with some that were given to me.  I have bought no bean seeds this year.  There is a small row of dwarf french beans under the fleece.  The fleece is primarily there to keep the pigeons off.
Fan trained red currant against the compost area pallets.
I have put nets over the red currants and have a really good crop this year.  I want to make cordial from them as well as jam.  They are a little tart for me to eat raw.  The willow is sending up some good pole making shoots.  I will let them grow on this year to get some poles for next year.
There is a good row of Onward peas in the background.  These are the only row of bought seed that have done well.  I sowed the seed in the ground this year but the germination was very poor.  I will go back to sowing them in sectioned trays in the greenhouse next year.  There is a clump of Alstromeria aurea on the corner of the compost pallet.  This is getting in the way a bit and I will transplant it into another spot in the autumn,  There is one of the bay trees that I grew from a cutting in the foreground.  I thought that it might get cut back by the frost but it does not seem to have been affected even slightly.
View along the main trackway
I have planted quite a few lupins along the trackway as perennial nitrogen fixers.  They are at the top of the slope so any root exudates will flow into the growing beds rather than into the path.  There are several laburnum trees planted here too for the same reason.  I have squeezed in three apple espaliers as well; a May Queen, a Claygate Pearmain  and a Kidd's Orange.  I nearly lost the May Queen but it has thrown up a good shoot from the graft.  There is a fan trained gooseberry against the compost area pallet which has been netted and has given me a good crop of fruit this year.
Compost bins in the compost area.
The bins are full of new stuff because I sieved out the previous batch and put it on the grow beds before I planted out the seedlings from the greenhouse.  I didn't think that I would have much waste this time of the year but they are all full and need to be turned.  I am trying to stick to the every other day but to be honest I have not been able to keep strictly to this schedule.  It has stretched to every three days some times.  Still with this new batch I have turned them twice already.  I did try the windrow method earlier in the year but I could not keep the pile damp enough even with a thick tarpaulin over it, so I have reverted to the bins again.  This time of the year I can get them fairly hot and the compost is made in about four weeks.
Broad beans and mange tout peas.
The broad beans have grown about four feet tall and have produced a lot of flowers.  These were from saved seeds from last year.  I will do the same this year and leave on the pods that I do not use in the kitchen and allow them to develop for next year's seed.  A very poor row of mange tout peas in the chicken netting.  They did not seem to want to grow.  The remaining plants are good enough so I will leave them to flower.
The grape
The grape got cut back very severely in April and lots of the shoots died back.  It has recovered to some extent but I doubt if I will get any fruit off it this year.  I am keeping the shoots to the top of the supports and not letting them grow any longer.
Three sisters 
I have planted the three sisters together again this year.  This is one of the grow beds where I put a lot of top soil sieved from the weeds someone gave me and compost.  We shall see if it has improved the yield.  I have planted maize, squash and climbing french beans together so that each will support the other.  I doubt if I will be able to see any bare ground in a couple of weeks.
Carrots under the enviromesh.

The carrots have been sown under the enviomesh to keep the carrot root fly away from the plants.  It is a bind when you need to weed them but the only way if you want a good crop of carrots.

Cardoon or globe artichoke?
I think that this is a cardoon and I am only growing it for the flowers which are spectacular and very attractive to bees.  I think that it is not liking the position that I have planted it in because the ground is very dry here.  I have been watering it but it is still shedding leaves.
Beetroot, chard, spinach, rocket, Florence fennel and good king Henry.

I have been cropping all of these leaves for salads.  The pigeons have had a right go at the rocket but they have left everything else alone.  I will be resowing the spinach, rocket, good king henry, radish and camomile in this bed next week.  The spinach and the good king henry has gone to seed but I think that I will leave them and collect the seed for next year.
Sorrel, parsnips and carrots under the scaffold netting frame.

Someone gave me the scaffold netting frames and I decided to grow some carrots under them.  They have a double layer of netting and this cuts out a lot of the light.  Also, the frame is rotting and falling apart so I don't think that I will be keeping it for next year.  It is doing a job now so it is safe for the moment.  I have been taking the small leaves off the sorrel and mixing them with the other leaves for salad.
Dad's little pear tree.

Dad's pear tree is growing well this year.  I thought that I had killed it when I transplanted it from the old allotment but it seems to be going from strength to strength.  It is starting to throw out stems that I can espalier and eventually it will make a good specimen.  The lavender that was here was taken out and composted because it had died back.  I used the opportunity to put in some big boards to retain the soil.  The boards have been given to me by another of my neighbouring allotmenteers.
Herbs along the path.

All the  herbs alongside the main allotment path are growing well.  I have allowed the sage to flower this year and the bees love it.  Every time I walk down the path, I get the strong scent of sage and then the scent of mint.
Behind the sage and he lupins is a Christmas Pearmain and Court of Wick grafted apple.
I have planted the lupins around the apple to give it some nutrient support.  Hopefully the lupin nitrogen rich exudates will be useful to the apple tree.
I have decided that this is a James Grieves apple.
Changing apple trees from bush to espalier doesn't really work.  This James Grieves was a standard tree but to fit it into the allotment I had to espalier it.  It produces lots of fruit but the shape is not very good because the stems are in the wrong place.  I am waiting for it to throw out stems in the right place so that I can make a better balanced espalier.  I should worry though; it produces a lot of apples.
Ribstone Pippin apple espalier.
This is the first graft that I did and it has always been trained as an espalier.  Although it has a lot of woody growth it is throwing out stems at more or less the right places.  I am going to let it get bigger and put up some more supports but at the moment the leader is shooting away much higher than I envisioned I would let it grow.  The theory is that it will throw out stems more or less at the right places if you let the leader grow on like this.  I am just worried that it will snap in the wind.  It was windy today and that is why it is leaning over.  I will make decisions about its height when I do the summer pruning and can see the stems that are in the most appropriate places to tie in.  Then I think I will stop the main leader.
Another of Dad's pear trees.  I don't really know the name of this one but I always call it a
Conference pear.  
Pears are so much more easy to espalier than apples.  This one has thrown up a lot of woody stems so these will be cut out when I summer prune.  I will allow this one to get a little bigger too and put up some supports to train it to.
Potatoes have grown quite big.  The compost that I put on the soil seems to have made
an impact.  
The potatoes are Charlotte in the foreground and Kestrel in the background.  There is a hugelkultur trench this side of the bed where I buried the Victoria plum and the pear tree branches together with the logs from the shreddings man.   I also covered this grow bed with lots of sieved compost.  It seems to have benefited the potatoes because they are growing more than four feet high.  The Kestrel are not growing quite as high as the Charlotte.
Looking down the line of espaliers to the peach greenhouse.  
Looking back at the fan trained white currant.  
The white currant has been netted this year and has an enormous number of berries on it.  I will have to pick them soon.  They will probably be made into cordial or jam.
Peaches on the peach tree.
Kestrel potatoes on the grow bed on the other side of the path.
Poor old Mosses seedling not thriving.  
The loganberries' and blackberries' new canes are tied up to stop them getting too untidy.
Onions and leeks under the netting to prevent infection by leek miner fly.  
Onions, red onions and shallots under scaffold netting.
A good crop of blackcurrants.
The row of large blackcurrants.
Newton Wonder apple espalier.  
Sweet Peas
More sweet peas.
The fan trained red currant trained to the side of the shed.  
Fan trained gooseberry on the shed.  
Lots of berries on the bush.
More blackcurrants
Lettuces in the cold frame.
Sempervivum aracnoides 
Cucumber and melons on the slabs, cherry
tomatoes on the staging and celeriac underneath.
That is the allotment at the moment.  Now just the harvesting.

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Second week in May

I can't believe it is the middle  of May.  The cold east winds have kept me from sowing seed and planting out.  I am quite grateful for this because there have been some significant frosts.  The only things that has been cut back are the grapes.  I am not too sure whether I will have any fruit this year because everything was flowering.  The apples particularly.

The winter and early spring have been particularly dry  and this has lead to me loosing four of my apple grafts and they are the ones that I didn't really want to loose.  Two May Queens, a Queen Cox and a Orleans Reinette.  There is always next year and more anticipation to look forward to.

Got most of my seed sown.  The only seed that has not germinated are the carrots.  I think that they need a good dose of water to get them started.  So we have parsnips, beetroot, chard, spinach, dill, chamomile, tarragon,  Florence fennel and Good King Henry.  I am going to put some more carrots in just in case the others don't germinate.  The sweetcorn has begun to grow in the greenhouse but with  poorer germination than I wanted.  I have used last year's seeds so I should not expect too much.

Lots of squashes have germinated and have been transplanted into three inch pots.  Leeks are coming on well and will need to be transplanted soon.  I already have some planted in the onion bed.  Garlic and Elephant garlic are growing and not being eaten by the Phytomyza gymnostoma.  The onions are fairly securely protected by the scaffold nettling stretched over the blue water pipes.  I have buried the edges of the netting in the soil.  Thankfully, I had just hoed up the potatoes before the worst of the frosts and they have survived unscathed until now.

I have planted all the early sweet peas and am starting to plant the later ones.  They are being watered in with comfrey liquid but I am not giving them any other nutrients except what was in the soil from the green manure.  I planted them as late as I could to avoid the flea beetle and I seemed to have missed most of it.

The tall peas and the ordinary ones have germinated and I have put up the mesh for the Alderman and Onward to grow up.  I will wait until the others have got a little bigger before I put up the mesh for them.  I dug down at least three feet to get out some old curbing  that was concreted into the soil in the pea bed.  Who buried it here is anybodies guess and I could have ignored it, however it was annoying me and I could use it for edging the path.  So I dug down and hit it with the bull hammer.  Remarkably, it came away without a fuss and now lives on the edge of the main allotment path.  The bits of old scaffold boards that I had there originally had rotted away and were just good for slug homes.

Sowed some swedes in the brassica bed.  I don't really think that I will sow any kohl rabi this year.  It is good to put into stews, vegetable curries and soups but I had far too much last year.  I don't have any seed left so I will have to buy some more if I do decide to sow some.  The other things I have not sown this year are American land cress, Hamburg parsley, salsify and Scorzonera.  Got a few herbs sown in the greenhouse to replace the ones that are getting a little moth eaten in the allotment.  The thyme and sage are already germinated.

Being so late with everything this year, I have decided to buy tomato plants.  I always did in the past and it is much more convenient unless you want to grow specific varieties.  I have Alicante and a couple of others making twelve plants in all.  They will easily fit into the two greenhouses.  I am only going to have two tomato plants in the peach house.  Mainly because I don't really need that many tomatoes but also because it shades the peach tree and that is the main plant in this greenhouse.  The peach has quite a few fruitlets.  This never usually converts into ripe peaches but you can always hope and that is what I do.

I need to transplant out all my brassicas into three inch pots - I told you that the I was behind - and plant out the beans.  After I plant out all of these, the allotment will be full.

Sunday, 5 March 2017

Finishing off the hugelkultur in the potato bed.

Due to the inclement weather recently, which has cost me the roof of the peach greenhouse, I have not been able to complete the hugelkultur I started a couple of weeks ago.

The was no rush to finish it but I wanted to make sure that I had enough time to prepare some of the other beds for planting and sowing.

I had to clean the crumbs out of the bottom of the trench because the rain had washed the sides in.  Two spits of top soil were taken out of the trench and put onto the side in separate piles.  The bottom of the trench was carefully forked over another spit deep.

Then brushwood, weeds, crop residues, and logs were put into the bottom.  Composted woody shreddings were then put over the logs until the trench was nearly filled.  I got the woody shreddings from under the frames.  I moved the frames in front of the greenhouse, which will be their permanent location for the rest of the season.  Quite a few of the lettuces were still growing well but not big enough to make a sizeable meal yet.  I decided to put them into the frames about a foot apart to grow on into the spring. The radish, which was still growing well and forming good roots, I have taken home to eat.

I will have plenty of composted woody shreddings so I will not have to use any of the fresh material in the piles by the gate.

I have planted several of last year's grafts alongside the growing beds but not put espalier posts in to train them to.  I was going to have to buy them from Dobbies.  One of the blokes along the way is giving up his allotment and he came over to see if I wanted to take some of the stuff off his allotment so he did not have to take it home or to the tip.

There were several good posts which I could use to make espaliers out of plus more that I can use to support the sweet peas.  Sometimes you just need to about at the right time on the allotments.

Fetching the stuff off his allotment meant that I did not have time to complete the hugelkultur.  It just needs filling in with the topsoil now.  Although the hugelkultur will be raised I will still plant across it.  The high end alongside the espaliered fruit trees.

I have  made he high side two feet away from the trees so the base of their trunks will not be buried in the mound.  I will slope the other side into the growing bed so that I can plant at right angles to the trench.  This is so  I am able to plant the potatoes northish and southish and get the full benefit of the warmth and light from the sun.  It will also enable me to see the effect of the hugelkultur because the potato row will start on the raised area and go down into the ordinary soil of the bed.

While doing all of this, I have continued to turn the compost bins and even though they have not really become very hot during the winter, they have produced some reasonable compost.  I am going to sieve it and put it onto the top soil piles before they go into the hugelkultur trench.  It will mix in with the topsoil as I drag the soil in.

I have also planted the garlic, elephant garlic, shallots and red onions in the allium bed.  I still need to plant the onions but that can be done tomorrow.  I am planting them in planned four foot beds with a two foot shredded woody material path between them.  I am only putting a thin layer of shreddings down for the path because I did get some nitrogen drawdown last season.  Digging a trench and filling it with shreddings for paths is a little excessive.  Four or five centimeters is more than enough to keep feet clean and dry.

Furthermore, I have put concrete reinforcing wire over the pond to make it a little safer for the grandchildren.  I thought afterwards that it will be difficult to get a net through the mesh but I am not going to take it up now.  I will have to put the wire through a pipe to prevent the mesh from breaking it.  I took the opportunity to clean out the bottom of the pond and put the sludge on the compost heap with the thinnings of the water plants.  The mint around the sides of the pond have been cut back quite hard and I have taken out some of the other plants.  More rocks have been put around to cover the plastic sides.  I looks a little more presentable now and will look good in the summer when all the plants grow up.

So really, I have a good excuse for not finishing off the hugelkultur - as well as the rain.

So if the rain keeps off I will complete the hugelkultur tomorrow and then go onto planting onions.  I may use some of the composted shreddings to mulch the onions with.  They did particularly well with fresh shredding mulch last year.  I will also cover all the alliums with scaffold netting.

It was a lovely day today but rain is forecast again for tomorrow.