Thursday, November 29, 2007

The waters are rising...

About this time of year, things get distinctly soggy up at the allotment. This is typical: the last trench of the bed I'm double-digging at the moment, about a spade's depth and dry when I left it, but a day later the water table is high enough to fill it from underneath.

I've also got soup-plates attaching to my wellies every time I go in there, and I keep having to take days off because the soil is simply too wet to work. It does it no good in any case - as soon as you tread on soggy soil you squeeze out the air pockets, compacting it so that when it dries out it becomes a hard pan that nothing will grow in (and which is murder to cultivate).

Luckily though my allotment has a split personality: on one side (the lower side - particularly the end that's towards the middle of the site) it gets like this very very quickly in the year - that's where the double-dug bed in the picture is sited. At the other end, on the left-hand side, though, it stays more or less dry-ish until about February, so I've now transferred to that end and am double-digging another bed there. Nice to have a choice in the matter!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

PSB disaster

I haven't been up the allotment for a couple of days as it's been raining stair-rods - and when I arrived this morning in brilliant sunshine, I discovered the pigeons have snaffled my prize PSB plant.

I had a fairly Heath Robinson contraption of netting and bamboo canes over the top of a row of plants, of which this one was the biggest at about 4'6" and already showing signs of deep purple sprouts in the leaf joints (why is it always your best plants that get clobbered?!). Anyway, it must have blown off at some point, as it was all tangled around the bamboo and nowhere near the PSB. The pigeons have been having a field day and though they haven't exactly stripped it to a skeleton, it's looking really sad. To add insult to injury, they've even pooped on the netting where they perched on it to enjoy their feast in comfort.

Just goes to show - you really do need sturdy netting cages, not just a bit flung over at the last minute (my other row of less impressive PSB and a line of winter cabbage and sprouts are doing just fine - because I went to the effort of making a proper netting cage for them out of 2x1 timber). Honestly, you turn your back for a minute....

Friday, November 16, 2007

The new season starts here

It's November, so it must be time to sow broad beans and peas to overwinter as early crops for next year.

I've learned my lesson from last year, when I sowed my broad beans much too early (in October) so that by this time they were long, leggy and very susceptible to rotting off. These little babies should be up by the end of the month, with a bit of luck and not too much more frost, and shouldn't be more than a couple of inches of sturdy shoot come late February next year, when I'll plant them out.

As you'll see from the picture, I sow my broad beans into toilet roll inners. These clutter up my house all year as my poor family is forbidden to ever throw them away, but then I get to see the point of it all at this time of year as I need 44 of the things for one sowing of beans - two 11ft rows with one plant every 6". The toilet rolls need standing up in something - I use wooden fruit boxes from the local greengrocer - but after that it's simplicity itself: just fill with multi-purpose compost, sow one bean to each roll and water in. You don't even have to take the loo roll off when you plant - it just rots away into the soil (and provides a bit of organic matter while it's at it). Easy-peasy!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Blackcurrant boogie

I have a couple of blackcurrant bushes in my back garden which have been here since I got here (about 7 years now) but have always been in the wrong place - a bit too shady and too crowded, being in the corner between the fence and the greenhouse. Now at last I've got space (and time) to get them onto a far nicer spot on the allotment.

I'm putting them into 1mx1m raised beds - partly because I can't really be bothered to double-dig anything bigger than they actually need, partly because I got given a Link-a-bord raised bed to trial, so I thought this would be a good way to test it out (it's the green one in the front in the picture). So far the verdict is: really easy to install, but a bit on the flimsy side - I had a job to get it level as it doesn't have enough weight to sit steadily on the ground by itself so it moves around all over the place. and for the same reason I'm also a bit sceptical as to how efficiently it'll stay in place (the pegs used on each corner to anchor it keep rising up).

Anyway - so I've dug the space out to a spade's depth, loosened the bottom with a fork, and then filled in with 2 barrows of stable manure and 2 barrows of the compost from my allotment compost bins. Mixed it up thoroughly, put in the edging for the raised beds (the other one's more straightforwardly made of gravel boards) and then replaced the topsoil. It looks dead smart - next step is to hoick out the blackcurrants and shift them over.