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Weekend on the allotment

Posted by Guy Barter on 12 Feb 2010 at 05:26 PM

Farmers hereabout have started tilling their fields.  The cold winds and lack of prolonged rain have let the sandy soil dry down to a workable moisture level.  The rotovator could be in use tomorrow if the grey clouds hold off and yet don’t thin so much that the soil freezes overnight.

• This means that the few remaining un-spread mini-piles of manure need to be pulled about and levelled with a heavy rake.  This can serve as a welcome periodic break from the back-breaking task of manipulating a rather powerful and headstrong rotovator.

• Ideally fertiliser, chicken manure pellets, should be spread beforehand and I have enough on hand do cover most of the work, but more bags will need to be acquired from the allotment shop on Sunday morning.

• Potassium levels are always a concern on sandy soils and potassium sulphate has been spread at 15g per square metre to provides a background sufficiency - the rotovator will mix this into the soil.

• Once rotovated the soil can be levelled and left ready for sowing.

• It is still way too cold of course to dream of sowing outdoors, even under fleece.

• Rotovated areas earmarked for early crops will be covered with black plastic to exclude rain so they can be sown as soon as spring arrives.

• It is worth using a tape measure and pegs to mark out the plot so that once sowing can commence it is clear where rows are to go.

• More seed potatoes have arrived and need traying up. And in fact the stored crop is yielding a few trays of once-grown seed in case suppliers fail to deliver.  Seed grown but once is usually quite disease free.  Round here in the warm south-east where aphids thrive, twice or thrice grown seed tubers are usually raddled with virus disease.

•  Pots and trays still need to be sterilised as sowing indoors is worth doing in the next week or so, although I prefer to buy in really early plants form the many good nurseries in the district as well as Wisley plant centre of course.

• Harvesting goes on rapidly – Celeriac is particularly good this year with little carrot fly damage and large roots due to using stronger plants from Wisley Plant Centre than I could raise myself.  Carrot quality is especially good – ‘Jeanette’ has been  lifted now and has produced a very good yield of medium sized roots.  Next on the list are blocks of ‘Nelson’, one of the top performing carrots in my ground, and ‘Ingot’, also well-suited to dry sandy soil.  Parsnips are beginning to suffer from canker as often happens by late winter.

• One good effect of cold weather this week is that produce remains sound. Leeks, savoys and Brussels sprouts supplies are holding out very well.  Also the purple-sprouting broccoli and purple cape cauliflowers remain ready to fill March and April supplies and won’t overlap late winter crops.

• Picking over stored onions, shallots, and stored apples to remove rotting specimens is hardly needed at the moment as produce is holding well.  Stored crops remain sound with potatoes and winter squash in very good condition, despite getting quite cold this winter.  All the same the squash should be used soon.

• With evenings opening up slightly I can now work the plot until quite with late dusk falling later and later – my favourite time of day for allotments.








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