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Weed bothering

Posted by Guy Barter on 01 Apr 2009 at 08:51 AM

There is real warmth in the sun now.  After raking and stirring the soil to harry the slugs last week, weed seeds germinated and the uncropped ground began to green.  Another raking laid waste the weeds.  Their silvery stems were exposed to sun and drying.  As a bonus the twice raked ground is in perfect condition for sowing and planting.

Although the last set of sowings are now through they are not yet far enough advanced for the next successional sowing of lettuces, radishes and broad beans.

The broad beans have had a very chequered time.  The mice ate most of the November sowing.  A second sowing in December emerged, with heavy casualties after the severe cold this winter.  There were still gaps, so yet more seeds were patched in a few weeks ago – these are now emerging.  At last there is a full ‘stand’ of plants.  The many Italian plotholders have a more robust method fo growing beans – rather than sow rows they plant clumps every 18 inches or so, making a hole with a mattock and casting eight or nine seeds in each scrape.  These come up as clumps and their clumps, although somewhat depleted by mice and weather, will make a full ‘stand’ as the remaining plants send up shoots or ‘tillers’ from the base to fill in gaps.  The downside is that seed costs are higher, but they buy their seeds in Italy where they cost much less.

Of course with a wide range of ages my bean plants will crop over a long period, but the seed used to fill in, ‘Witkiem Major’ is much quicker growing than the robust ‘Aquadulce’ sown in Autumn and I will still get an early picking.  With luck the crop will be clear by early July for a second crop of dwarf French beans.

Now that the first set of carrots have emerged it is time make the second sowing – by doing them in dribs and drabs there is not a rush period to thin and weed them.  Long ‘St Valery’ and shorter autumn king ‘Campestra’ were put in this weekend, and more remain to sow before the end of April.

It is still cold at night and to take some of the risk out of early sowings, the slow-germinating carrots were protected with fleece.  Peas are also vulnerable to cold soil.  However now that the soil is warming and with the help of fleece early pea ‘Avola’ and mange-tout ‘Oregon Sugar Pod’ were sown.  The fleece also excludes pigeons which would quickly shred tender young pea seedlings.  On the other hand mice will seek out the germinating seeds.  The mouse traps deployed in winter to protect the beans were carried off by foxes to consume the captured mice elsewhere on the site.  The traps are gradually being returned by other allotment holders, baited with peanut butter and reset amongst the peas.

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