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Plant making

Posted by Guy Barter on 07 May 2009 at 08:17 AM

Recent dry, sunny weather allowed the slugs and the first wave of weeds to be tackled.  Subsequent rain restored soil moisture leading to ideal seed bed conditions.  The downside was that weeds germinated in hundreds, but just in time the weather turned dry and vigorous raking again polished then off.  The chickweed, annual meadow grass, shepherd’s purse and fat hen that predominated earlier have now been replaced by annual nettles and cleavers, with the dreaded galinsoga just beggining to show.  All die well when raked as seedlings. 

My sheet of black plastic have been out on loan to new allotmenteers to keep their undug areas clean.  The sheets are coming back now and covering the bare areas that will be planted up with tender crops such as courgettes and sweet cown as soon as frosts no longer threaten.

The last of the potatoes, the maincrops, were planted in warm moist soil and are now emerging.  The previous planting, second earlies, emerged two weeks ago and as light frost was forecast the three-prong cultivator was used to work the potato plot which dislodged the weed seedlings, removed footprints and scattered a little soil over the emerging potato shoots. A little soil is all that is needed to exclude light frosts.  Frost damage was seen on other potatoes beneath fleece but only on those leaves actually touching the fleece.  My heart has been in my mouth on some cold nights but luckily no damage has resulted.

The first of three great sowings (February/March) in the propagation area has now been potted up with trays and crates of potted aubergines, cabbages, calabrese, cauliflowers, celery, celeriac, Brussels sprouts, kohl rabi, leeks, lettuces, peppers and tomatoes all growing away and taking up most of the available space.  This investment in containers, fertiliser, fleece, potting media, seed, space and time is another anxiety; how relieved I will be when they are in the ground, watered, fed and defences in place against the birds, deer, slugs and other pests that relish tender young plants.

The next great sowing of autumn and winter cauliflowers and cabbages as well as follow-on sowings of calabrese, courgettes, French beans, pumpkins, squashes and sweetcorn is well underway.  Space also has to be found with for flower seedlings.  At least the sweet peas are planted out.

As greenhouse and cold frame capacity is used up, any spare sunny space in the back garden fills with plants all suitably defended against aphids, mice and slugs and covered with fleece.  To save space the later sowings are done in cell trays, 24 cells per seedtray.  These need very careful watering and feeding.  However with the weather warming these mini-plants should be out in the ground by June, just in time for a short holiday before the final sowing of plants to set out to follow early crops as they mature in July.

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