Saturday, 26 March 2016

THE MILE OAK ALLOTMENT

DECEMBER AND JANUARY ON THE ALLOTMENT


Between the gales and sleet and rain, there were a few sunny days.  November was time to prepare the beds for the early sowing of broad beans and we managed two double rows - Aquadulce and Sutton's Dwarf .  They were up in weeks and I gave them some protection with a mulch of bark chippings.  By January they were looking good - I suppose I should have given them some added protection from frost (and the birds) with a fleece covering - noted for next year!
The Aquadulce (left) seem to be doing better than the Sutton's (right)
In November I had dug a trench where I will grow my runner beans


 and have been filling it with kitchen waste. As March approaches it is probably time to fill them in.  Any compostible material can be added, especially shredded newspaper.  Apart from providing nutrients to the soil, the material will aid water retention which is of major importance for growing runner beans.

bean trench filled with kitchen waste

I turned over a patch in November where I intended to grow potatoes and covered it with a tarpaulin - a) to reduce weed growth and b) to warm up the soil.  On a plot with clay soil the task of digging is a hard one especially after a very wet winter.  My allotment is on the South Downs but any thoughts that there might be bands of willing helpers quickly disappeared when the snow came down and there were no offers of help from this lot



Devil's Dyke was clearly a greater attraction and although there was plenty of energy for throwing snowballs, sadly none for digging.



On the odd dry day, I did manage to get to the allotment, but drawing back the tarpaulin revealed that the couch grass and bindweed had appreciated their cosy home underneath and so had to be removed


underneath the tarpaulin

Breaking up the compacted soil was hard work and I did it in two stages.  Firstly I turned it over and then left it to the weather (hoping for some frost to  kill off some of the weeds and bugs) and then enlisted support to dig it over again, carefully removing any couch grass and bindweed and their spreading roots as well as digging out dandelions whose tap roots sometimes go down 10-12 inches. And here's the end result


A big thank you to Sylvia and Luke for helping with the weed removal - their assistance was essential.  We did repay the effort, however, by assisting Luke on his allotment (which, thankfully, isn't clay!)

Thank you Luke!
It's not all gloom and doom.  There were still crops to be harvested. We finished off the beetroots in November but throughout December and January have had a steady supply of leeks, Jerusalem artichokes,chard and kale (cavolo nero) 





We also harvested our purple Brussel sprouts in January - small but beautiful


And in my view, the Brussel tops were even better!

John Austin
February 2016, Hove

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