Friday, February 02, 2007

Wednesday 31st January 2007 - Weather: frosty start, brightening later

At last, some time on the allotment. Not masses to do really, but the brassicas needed a serious talking to. Anything looking scruffy or scrawny came out and onto the compost heap. Next, staking. No matter how well I drive the bamboos into the ground, a windy day has them all laying flat again, so this time I used metal stakes - old tent poles. They ain't goin' anywhere, nohow! Finally, reassemble the netting which had all blow off in the gales. The pigeons had already started on my purple sprouting, and I could hear them coo cooing in the oak tree behind my plot, all eyeing up their supper, so if nothing else, I needed to get that net back in place. I picked a bowl full of sprouts, some cavalo nero kale and 3 heads of calabrese, Perfect for Sunday lunch. I hope the purple sprouting sprouts soon. Some of the plants are way over 5 foot tall and reaching for the heavens.

Next I planted my shallot sets and red onion sets. I know this is probably rather early, but as I have to try and fit the allotment in around the rest of my whirlwind life, they have to take their chances. The Japanese onions that Growmore sent me are looking great and are all growing strongly. I don't think I have ever had so many good looking hunions before. I will have to ask him where he gets them as it is obviously a very good source. I dug up about 6 leeks, all with at least 8 to 12 inches of thick white stem. These have only been 'earthed up' using mulches of straw or shredded paper. It's meant the leeks are very clean which is handy in the kitchen.

Next on the agenda, runner bean trench. I am moving the location of my runners this year purely because I want to swap them with the tomatos. The beans are grown up one side of my tom house, toms along the other, but I don't want to grow toms in the same place year in and year out, so they will swap with the runners. I dug my trench and filled it with soaking wet shredded paper and 2 sacks of shreddings that the boss gave me from one of the jobs. I backfilled the trench and that should provide the runners with a moisture retentive foot hold. I also plan to mulch the runner bean plants when they go in during May. I am shredding all the junk mail we receive and am keeping it bagged. When I plant, I will water the young plants well, then mulch them with wet shreddings to try and keep the moisture trapped for longer. The runners do great at the start and the end of the season, but in the middle, because we don't have access to water, they fizzle out and the beans don't always develop properly. I need to try and combat this problem, so the mulching and fresh bean trench are this years trial.

The last job was planting 3 Jerusalem artichokes that Supersprout sent me. I didn't want loads as I don't think they will be a family favourite, however, they are a good winter staple so a few will go a long way. Plus, once I have a harvest, I can multiply my future crops from my own stock as I see fit. The tubers were lovely and plump with fresh buds on the tips and they weren't too nobbly. I have planted them right at the start of the first plot, down by the shed. It is in dappled shade there, so although they might not perform as well as they could in full sun, I am sure they will do well enough for us.

That was it - I headed for home at lunch time. I then spent the afternoon making a start on my seed sowing. I will add a list over the weekend as my book is downstairs. However, I sowed toms, chillis, sweet peppers, aubergines, caulis 'all the year round' and leeks. At last it feels like spring is just around the corner.


Melanie Rimmer said...

Sounds like you had a productive day. I drove for an hour to get to a dolls-house shop which turned out to be shut. Hope I can get to the allotment tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

Hi Emma, Machman5 here from A4A. Just read what you said about mulching the runner beans and though I would pass on a tip I found last year. I was growing my toms using a 'no water' method (because I would be leaving my lottie in the care of my 2 teenagers while I was in Turkey for August!)and discovered that the best mulch to use is 'dry dust' mulch. To do this you need to keep up the hoeing to create a loose dusty layer. Apparently this works better than any other mulch because in extreme dry spells, other mulches will 'leach' moisture from the soil with a capillary action and cause the soil to dry out even more. Not sure how true this is but it seems to make sense. Dry hoing also cuts back on the weeds because it is too dry for them to take hold. By the way, I didn't water the toms once after planting them out and all summer and I had a bumper crop! All they had was a pint of liquid with tom feed in, delivered via an upturned bottle next to each plant once a week (apart from Aug of course!).
Hope this helps, Donna

Emma Jane said...

Hi Donna, I like the idea of the dry dust mulch, my only problem is I find is impossible to use a hoe! Sounds ridiculous I know, but I cannot get to grips with them.

I don't water my toms as a rule, they don't even receive a feed other than the compost and manure that is added to the bed during the early spring. However, I am planning to do the upturned bottle thing by my squash this year because altho they do really well, I know they have the potential to do better.

Thanks for reading my blog Donna, hope you enjoyed it.