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On the allotment this weekend

Posted by Guy Barter on 05 Feb 2010 at 09:50 AM

Last weekend frost hardened the soil; this is ideal for fruit pruning.  Soft fruit pruning was finished with the winter trimming of gooseberries and the cutting back to ground level of the autumn fruiting raspberries.  Last year crops were enormous – the productive potential of soft fruit is amazing.  I have a gap for another hybrid berry – I find these so easy to grow compared to raspberries.


Despite winter having several more weeks to run, frost is not expected this weekend:


• After heavy rain last night digging will be slow going but time is slipping away and a few seedbeds still need to be readied.

• Mild conditions encourage me to apply top dressings of nitrogen-rich fertiliser to spring onions, over-wintered lettuce and spinach.

• The same goes for the purple-sprouting and the spring cabbages.

• Winter crops, Swedes, sprouts and savoys need no fertiliser but manure is being spread lightly between them to be rotovated in once the crops are cleared.  This sandy soil needs all the organic matter it can get and I like apply at least some to the entire plot each year (except the carrot/parsnip bed). 

• As the broad beans thaw causalities become apparent.  On some people’s plots up to 60 percent of the plants have perished – they were sown a wee bit too early.  I too have had losses but by holding off sowing until late October I am hoping my plants will be less affected.  In any case the survivors often fill out to take advantage of space and of course you sow on the thick side of overwintered crops to take account of likely frost and rain damage.  All the same I might need to be ready to re-sow in a couple of weeks.

• Ditto over-wintered peas but these now have a tunnel of fleece, mainly to exclude pigeons.  The fleece promotes growth but also disease and slugs so it will be removed as soon as I dare.

• Harvesting is in full swing again with stocks of ready to use leeks and parsnips to be lifted to replenish ready to use supplies held near the back door at home.

• Shallot sets have now mostly arrived and if the soil drains down sufficiently these will be planted through the polythene mulching sheet already positioned over fertile soil.

• If the soil remains workable the mulching sheet for the onions will be laid as well, but only after a modest dressing of general purpose fertiliser is added to the already very well-manured soil. The sets should go out in 3-4 weeks time.

• The shed was finally cleared up with the material from last year sorted and put ready to use in 2010.  Amongst this was some clear polythene that has seen service over peppers and bush tomatoes and will now be used to warm the soil.

• Clear polythene to warm the soil for early-sown (late Feb/early March) carrots, parsnips and peas remains to be laid – it was not possible to get it onto the frozen ground last weekend.

• Indoor sowing will start next weekend, but first potting media will have to be bought.  After careful experimentation last year, I am ready to go peat-free this year and have bought a carload of New Horizon media from Wisley along with plenty of vermiculite.

• The bonfire heap grows and grows as the pruning progresses and crops become clear – as soon as the wind is away from neighbouring houses and when the weather drives people indoors it will beset aflame and no one will be inconvenienced.

• It is fair to say the plot looks a mess with nets, fleece, crop debris, weeds and baulks of timber, bags and pots of soil holding everything down against the wind, deer and pigeons.  But within three weeks all this will go and all will be pristine with the tat stacked under the trees at the end of the plot ready for next winter.



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