Posted in : 2009 Season
Now that the weather's starting to get a tad warmer, just a tad mind, things have started to happen faster, it won't be long before I have to start putting stakes in to support the peas, and I still need to make a Munty frame for my runner beans which will be going in next month, but I'm getting a tad ahead of myself. Before I could plant anything I needed to get the 4 beds in the large greenhouse and the 3 beds in my own little plot sorted out. For most of them this meant rotavating them and adding a liberal amount of chicken shit to them, apart from the bed that I'll be using for carrots and parsnips as they don't like rich soil. The good news was, I didn't need to rotavate the brassica bed, as they like firm soil, so I just tidied up the surface and called it done.
The first bed to be ready was my pea bed, probably because I had some company whilst I was doing it, even if that company was an ugly frog So now I have ½ a row of peas ( Kelvedon Wonder ) and ½ a row of Sugar Snaps growing merrily away under some netting to keep the foxes off. Some time in the next week I'll be doing another ½ row of each of them so I should get a reasonable cropping period. Not long after they popped up I had a visit from DD who's known as the Pea God on the allotment forums that I'm a member of, so I got the chance to point proudly at my 2" tall peas
As I mentioned, I didn't rotavate the bed where my brassicas are going ( Calabrese : Quick Heading, Broccoli : Summer Purple Sprouting, Cabbage : Greyhound & Rouge Tete Noir ) as they like really firm soil, so firm in fact that you're advised to walk on the beds and then walk around the plants after you've planted them. Normally you're advised to avoid walking on beds at all costs as it can damage the soil structure, which is never a good thing. To plant them I just dug a hole slightly bigger than the pot they were in, slapped them in the hole, sans pot of course, and then did a kind of shuffle around the base of them to really firm the soil up, I must have looked like a demented Indian who'd forgotten the steps for the rain dance, but if it works then it's worth it. A couple of days later I had to replace one of the plants with a spare as it had keeled over, and I had plenty of spares so it was easier to just replace it than to try reviving it.
The next bed to get planted up was the onion bed, it's now chock full of onions! 200 Red Barons, the few Ailsa Craig & Bedfordshire Champions that had germinated. I also went out and bought some onion sets to fill the rest of the bed due to the naff germination of the Ailsa & Bedfordshire, these were planted at the same time. Along one edge of he bed I left a strip so that I could successionaly sow some pickling onions ( Paris Silverskin ), about a 1⁄3 of this strip has now been sown, I'll be sowing another 1⁄3 every couple of weeks so I should have a continuous supply.
Sounds like the title of a porn film huh, but it's actually a planting arrangement that's meant to really work, I guess time will tell. Basically you throw sweetcorn, runner beans and squash in the same bed, and they kinda get on in a beneficial manner. The corn becomes poles for the runners, although I'll be adding a Munty frame, and the squashes roam through the bed space between the corn so you get a decent return from a single bed. I decided to use the longest bed for this and put 2x7' rows of broad beans ( Super Aqualduce ) at one end, and a 2' strip across the bed for successional sowings of beetroot ( Pronto ) at the other end. This leaves me with 20' of bed space which I'm going to be doing the 3 sisters with, Runner Beans : Cherokee Trial of Tears & Borlotti, Squash : Butternut & Courgettes, Sweetcorn : True Gold. I'm also going to be using the spaces between the squashes for lettuces ( little gem ) and Pak Choi until they get so big that they fill it all.
As 20' of sweetcorn would be a tad much to eat/preserve all in one go I've sparked some off *really* early, and I'll be doing another "slightly early" batch next week, and then a "normal time" batch some time in may. If they all live then I should have hopefully spread out my harvesting period over the space of a couple of months. If they don't live then I'll just sow the whole 20' space at the correct time of year and then hope like hell I can cope with the glut when they harvest I've also sparked off a couple of squash and a couple of courgettes early as well, so that the sweetcorn doesn't feel all lonesome in the bed by itself. I was tempted to start some of the runners early as well, but I don't have a lot of the seed so I'm not going to risk it. I'll be saving my own seed at the end of the year, so if I have enough space I'll be able to play with more early stuff.
If my experiment had been successful then the small greenhouse would have had a dozen or so tomato plants growing in it by now, but it wasn't so there isn't. The main reason for the failure was that the heated beds in, the potting shed, didn't get turned on as early as usual and I couldn't provide enough light at home in my little lightbox. Ah well, there's always next year huh? The good news is that some of them survived and I still had the other half of the seeds, so I sowed them a few weeks ago and most of them are now coming along nicely, they just won't be as early as I was hoping for. Rather than just stare at an empty bed I decided to throw in a couple of rows of radish ( Cherry Belle ), beetroot ( Pronto ) and lettuce ( Little Gem ) and they're all growing nicely, although not quite as fast as they'll do now that it's started to get warmer and lighter.
I've also been using the small greenhouse as a kind of giant coldframe for the seedlings that didn't need as much heat but, now that it's getting warmer, most of these are being moved outside to the large greenhouse. We've also started moving the first batches of Dahlias into the small greenhouse where they'll stay until they're ready for planting, sometime near the end of May, so it's rapidly beginning to fill up and will soon be very over crowded. I've also lost a few feet of the bed in here as Barry needs it for one of the varieties of Dahlias, it'll only be a few plants so I'll probably just grow a few less tomatoes ... and it makes me feel less guilty for extending my beds in my normal lil veg plot in the corner
Last year I decided to join an allotment forum, although I'd been lurking there for a fair amount of time already. After reading about how other people lay out their plots, and why, I decided to re-arrange my lil patch in the corner, I also took the opportunity to square it off, which has gained me a few extra feet of length on the beds. I'd already decided to get rid of the bed that ran across the top of the patch as it was a nightmare to rotavate and maintain but, after all my reading, I'd now decided to rearrange my current 3 beds into 2 wider beds and to put a path along the side fence, instead of having a bed tight against it. The end result is, I now have 2 x 15' x 4' beds with a net gain of 20'2 of bed space, although the real gain is much more as I can now get 3 rows of spuds into one bed instead of 1 row of spuds each in two beds. I still need to finish sorting out the second bed, it'll be used for carrots ( Lisse de Meaux ) and parsnips ( Tender and True ) which means that I need to rotavate the arse off it and remove all the stones, which will involve me sieving all the soil ... all 15' x 4' of it!
I've mentioned successional sowing a few times now, it sounds really easy in theory, you just make successive sowings of seeds to extend the cropping period. For example, my radish take approximately 6 weeks to crop, so if I want to have a continuous crop of radish I'd sow a new batch every couple of weeks and Bob's yer uncle, you have fresh radish every day for the whole season. In reality it's a lot harder than that, mainly because you forget to sow a new batch until you've harvested the last batch! So, this year I'm determined not to forget and I've put aside various bits of bed space specifically for veg that I'm going to sow successively ... I guess I'll find out soon enough how successful I am
Considering the size of our tiny lil back garden I'm pretty impressed but what we've managed to cram in so far and we've still got more to put in. The garlic and shallots are coming along nicely especially since I gave them a high nitrogen feed, which has reduced the yellowing of the leaves and the Egyptian Walking Onions have just started to poke their noses through. The rest of the bed has some spring onions in, which have just started to germinate. I can't wait to be eating my own garlic and I can use some of them for growing next years crop. About the only thing I'm missing in the Allium family is some Welsh Onions which I'd love to grow, so if anyone's got any that they can let me have then let me know.
The strawberries, which did crap last year, have got some flowers on (yay), they must have known that I'd intended digging up the whole bed so that I could make a decent raised bed that I can turn it into nice sized greenhouse. Now I'm going to have to wait until a lot later in the season, and I'm going to have to find a new home for them ... which is going to be a challenge in itself! So far my Asparagus hasn't put in an appearance, it didn't do so well last year either, so if it doesn't have a blinding year this year then I'm either going to re-home it or bin it and use the space for something that works. I'd hate to give up on it though, so I'll probably think of somewhere I can home it, and maybe get a few new plants at the same time.
I've not really done that much with the other beds at home yet, mainly because I'm going to be dropping the coal shed some time in the next couple of weeks and I'll have to redo those beds when it's done. Once I've finished them I'll be using them to grow a few salad crops and herbs as it's always good to have a few handy for a quick meal without having to traipse back to the field because I forgot the lettuce
I must ask Barry if he minds me starting a couple of compost heaps, made out of pallets of course, as we easily produce enough compostable waste and it means I could slowly raise both the beds in the field which get pretty waterlogged in winter. I also need to clear the space on the concrete beside our lil greenhouse so that I can stick a raised bed in there, which I would either use for my strawberries or the asparagus. The good news is, if we use all the bricks on building work I'll be able to slap in an 8' x 4' raised bed and still have room for my water butt.
At home I want to knock the coal bunker down and convert the strawberry bed into a raised bed / greenhouse, I've still not worked out a good design for it though, and it's been delayed by the strawberries actually looking like they'll make an effort this year. At the same time I'll finish laying out the salad and herb beds which means I'll then be able to sort out the tiny bit of green stuff that we call a lawn. I'm also considering building a couple of large planters for under the front windows but the Mighty V's not entirely convinced ... yet
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This is a diary of all the vegetables I'm growing.
With a tad of luck this will help me learn from my mistakes