Dry soil halves the work and a recent run of dry weather has left the ground easily workable. The remnants of last year’s sweet corn were carefully hand dug incorporating a light sprinkling of compost. This is for a planting of raspberries, but as the raspberries will take a year to reach a sensible size, there is scope for a crop of March planted onion sets between them and the nearby row of loganberries. Leaves, weeds and other debris from beneath the soft fruit were raked out and incorporated while digging to add organic matter and save the trouble of conveying them to the compost pit.
The strawberry bed dug over the winter and left as a ridge was raked level. Raspberries were to have gone in here too, but the level of bindweed infestation is too high for a successful long term crop. To clean the soil up a crop of broad beans will be taken. The ridge was raked level removing yet more bindweed and 15g per square metre of sulphate of potash sprinkled evenly over the bed, along with a modest amount, 100g every square metre, of dried poultry manure pellets. A sheet of black landscape fabric, with holes every 25cm, was secured over the bed and ‘Witkiem Manita’ broad beans seeds sown through the sheet, two beans to every hole. With luck the bindweed will die a lingering death beneath the sheet or if not, can be treated with glyphosate weedkiller in late summer, ready for some fruit planting in the autumn. Weed control is the most tiresome part of allotment growing and the landscape fabric will save hours of weeding.
The land loosened last week with a fork but not inverted, was also raked level and again 15g per square metre of sulphate of potash sprinkled evenly over the bed. Half of this was sown with tough round seeded peas – ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ for mange tout, and ‘Douce Provence’ for shelling. These sturdy round-seeded peas can survive late winter conditions that are fatal to lesser peas but, it has to be said, lack the true pea sweetness – nothing a little sugar at cooking cannot put right. The other half of the plot will be sown with the less robust wrinkle-seeded peas next month.
Other land previously prepared with fertiliser and covered with fleece was sown with lettuces (‘Little Gem’, ‘Cobham Green’ and ‘Tom Thumb’), radishes (‘Crystal globe’) and spring onions (‘White Lisbon’). The soil is also fairly warm after a few days of mild weather and chances of a successful ‘take’ are quite high beneath the fleece tunnel.
Gaps in over-wintered garlic and shallots were filled with shallot ‘Delvad’ to ensure the best use of space.
The last twenty barrowloads of manure were wheeled out to fertilise the ground destined for beans and to where the root crops are finally finishing. A trench was dug across the raised bed being used for roots and carrot and parsnip debris raked in, manure added and the soil turned over burying waste roots and manure as I go. As soon as the roots are finished the digging will be done.
The other areas are now dotted with little hills of manure every 1.5m. The manure is still very lumpy and will have to be spread before it can be rotovated. A heavy mattock proved to be the best tool for the job and a day’s work should see all the muck spread.
Two compost pits remain to be emptied, but these are light work compared to the dense manure.
Debris was burnt. The dry weather meant that a vigorous blaze consumed the crop debris very quickly with little smoke to annoy the neighbours.
The plot is still yielding beetroot, carrots, cabbages, celeriac, Brussels sprouts, Jerusalem artichokes, leeks, salsify, savoy cabbage and Swedes. These have been joined this week by lambs lettuce, purple cape cauliflowers and white sprouting broccoli