Thursday, July 12, 2007

In the summertime (supposedly)

Hey Guys, thought I would put a mid-week update in for you, to show how things are going. Firstly a design issue. As you know, from the outset I started using raised beds on my plot, to try to make it easier for me to keep on top of. After the first year and a bit of doing this, I have decided to take the beds out, and work the full plot as open soil. There are a couple of reasons for this; one is having to keep the paths clear all the time, as they seem to constantly develop weeds. Now this doesn’t seem like much of a problem, but our site suffers from an infestation of Bindweed and Mares Tail, so even if I can keep the beds clear, it creeps in from the paths. The other is usage. Each of the nine beds has a path of 0.5 metres between it, just enough to get between the beds and kneel down. Doesn’t sound like much, but it equates to 4.5 metres of the plot, 18 square metres of wasted space. While we were walking home on Monday night, Paula and I were looking over neighbouring plots fences, seeing how they were doing, and I have to admit I was encouraged by the sight of so many open soil plots as against raised bed plots. So, starting with the right hand side of the plot, which is yet to be cultivated, I will start using open soil next year, instead of beds. Once the beds start to empty over the coming months, I will lift the wooden sides away and clear the paths. This will give me an opportunity to double dig the plot, clearing as much of the remaining rhizome and wicken from the weeds as possible, and get some manure dug in to the soil. Realistically, the beds that I am using at the minute haven’t had any ‘rest’ for a year and a half, and to be honest were prepared in somewhat of a hurry to enable me to get stuff growing. Now having a little experience under my belt, I am able to stand back and think long term, and plan for what will be the best way of doing things in the future. One thing I have learnt from the last eighteen months is that having and working an allotment is no where near as daunting as you first think when you get your plot, and see this vast expanse of weeds that are almost as tall as you are. I’ve also learnt that no matter how hard you try, it takes time to get results, but those results are worth waiting for.

Anyway, back to matters in hand. The extra couple of weeks that I had left the Harlequin early potatoes in the ground for have done the trick. They have gone from cherry tomato size to a nice decent size potato. They are a slightly waxy variety, with a purple/pink tinge to the skin, and taste delicious, so a couple of boilings of these were removed on Monday night, along with another few handfuls of the Charlotte potatoes. The main crop potatoes are looking very healthy, with good growth above ground. This brings me to another dilemma though. Paper sacks or Hessian sacks. Now from my days of running a supermarket fruit and veg department, I can always remember getting potatoes in 3 ply paper sacks, so would tend to lean towards them, but a lot of people seem to be using Hessian these days, so what to do. I would tend to think that the paper sacks would degrade over a period of time, so Hessian would be a better long term bet (putting the environmental hat on there, recycling and all that), but would that be detrimental to the storage of the potatoes. Your thoughts and experiences on this would be welcome, so I will start a thread on the forum regarding this, (assuming there isn’t one already, will do a search first).

The peas are coming on nicely at the moment (Greensage), with the first real picking of the pods coming on Monday night as well. There is something about fresh peas straight from the pod that takes me back to my childhood, and spending time at my Nana’s house (God, that makes me feel old, I am only 33 you know). Now I know I keep saying this, but I just can’t get over the taste difference between my own veg, and the stuff the supermarkets are selling. Why have we put up with this stuff for so long? The French beans are slowly catching up, after a very slow start (and a few nibbles from some unwanted guests), and are now starting to flower. The courgettes have suffered slightly however with the wet weather, and a couple have succumbed to blossom end rot. These have been cut off the plant, and the rest seem to be doing ok.

The greenhouse crops are coming along nicely, with all the tomato plants bearing fruit, albeit very green still. The cucumber plants are flourishing this year, after last year’s poor showing, and have plenty of fruit on. Also, the aubergine plants have started to flower, large purple flowers which look fantastic, with little aubergines poking through.

The Sweet corn and Butternut Squash plants are coming on slowly, and were treated to a feed of Fish, Blood and Bone last night, to try to help them along a little.

And finally, we had the first of the Strawberries this week as well. After a little battle with slugs and birds (I won), the plants are producing lots of Strawberries, which are ripening daily, lovely.
Well, that’s it for now. Paula and I are on holiday next week, so weather permitting, we will be spending all week on the plot, so watch out for hopefully a sizeable update next time.

Cheers Guys.