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First and Last Crops

Posted by Guy Barter on 05 May 2009 at 09:32 AM

The first of the 2009 has arrived on the dinner plate – spinach ‘Napoli’ sown in March as a thick row was gathered by cutting off plants at ground level leaving  a plant every 20cm to grow larger for the next cutting.

My sandy soil can make leaf crops very gritty, so at least 3 washes are needed to get spinach ready for the table but with the patio plants beginning to need frequent watering the washings were put to good use.

The last of the 2008 leeks and purple sprouting broccoli were gathered and the remnants, and any debris and weeds, consigned to the compost.  Every spring the plot has to be scoured for dandelion and dock seedlings, each one being loosened by the fork and then tugged out.  As neither dandelion nor dock has been allowed to seed for several years this is now a minor task.

Stakes and netting was gathered from the brocc and transferred to the new cabbage plot so that double handing of material was avoided saving much time at this busy season.

The leek bed had been richly manured and fertilised, and what with this and the earthing up the leeks the soil is in very good condition to prepare for June plantings of tender crops such as runner beans and courgettes.  The fertiliser for these crops was applied to the standing leek and broccoli crops leaving a very rich soil.  The ground was raked to a fine tilth with rake and three pronged cultivator. Weeds will germinate freely and will be polished off without disturbing the soil bringing up more weed seeds which should greatly ease weeding of subsequent crops.

The purple sprouting area on the other hand required repeated maintenance to repair pigeon defences over the winter and remedy damage caused by heavy snow.  Trampling the soil when wet has done it no good and a more thorough cultivation regime was required.

Loss of soil moisture is very quick at this season so rotovating or digging is best avoided.  Instead the soil was loosened with a fork and a tilth was prepared by mattocking shallowly, followed by vigorous stirring with three pronged cultivator and then a landscape rake and then a seed rake.  Again fertiliser for subsequent crops had been applied to the standing brocc, avoiding the need to spread fertiliser at this busy season. . Some home made compost was still available so a light covering of this was incorporated at the same time, leaving number two compost pit ready to receive this summer’s wastes.

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