now where’s the mayonnaise…

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Biodynamics and Hope

Having applied a biodynamic horn manure preparation to the soil some weeks ago, I now imagine a sparkling invisible web of life enlivening the huerto…

“Spring drew on, and a greenness grew over those brown beds, which, freshening daily, suggested the thought that Hope traversed them at night, and left each morning brighter traces of her steps.”  Charlotte Bronte

Certainly the signs are of good health and life springing forth, despite capricious frosting and cruel winds. The sweet peas are happily taking to their customary arch alongside self-sown calendula and borage, tomatoes planted deep in the soil of the greenhouse, broad beans growing, bean structure built, quince tree in flower, peas climbinging away protected from pigeons by carefully positioned sticks and rose James Galway responding to a massive chop by almost visible growth up the side of the shed.

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blossom

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‘beach hut blue’ this year

Although propitious for planting roots and flowers today, my lunar calendar warned of the ‘worst Saturn‘ aspect so I contented myself with a short inspection of the emerging asparagus and then set to work on the shed. I much prefer this new blue to last year’s ‘seagrass’. Cheaper too; good old Wilko!

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seeds and auriculas

Acquiring the greenhouse has set in motion other developments: I’m now also the proud owner of a heated propagator and have been busy planting seeds today, now that the moon is waxing again.

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The various old tins and boxes in which had accumulated masses of seed packets in various stages of deterioration were simply no longer acceptable in my posh new set up. So I bought a CD storage container and managed to fit in plastic index separators and a little inner box for labels etc. Then threw away all the out-of-date seeds (an embarrassing number, some mouldy!) and put the current packets in alpha order. Very satisfying.

The auriculas are now starting to flower for the first time – it’s exciting to see the different colours emerge as I had no idea what they would be like when I rescued the poor things from a dank final sale corner of a hideous garden centre last year…

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greenhouse (contd) & black gold

A trip to the glazier sorted out the broken panel and after a lot of pinging of fiddly wire springs and throbbing fingers the greenhouse is fully glazed – & washed inside and out. A kind addition to the ebay purchase was a set of four shelves, which is wonderful as it means there is no need to get staging and will allow more growing space.

And to make me even happier, my very kind friends recently delivered a surprise load of wonderful ‘black gold’ – rotted horse dung from their equestrian mum’s fields. What a gorgeous present! I spread some on the greenhouse growing surface and made 2 narrow pathways with my beech leaf mould – and mulched the quince tree and James Galway rose with some more. Precious stuff.

And the last of the flower sprouts – delicious and beautiful. Must grow lots more this year.

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greenhouse – the story so far…

You can infer the drama between images… (paving slab cutting with mallet and chisel in particular being left to your imagination – a horrid job; no wonder Jude the Obscure was such a misery)

Then there was a rather  nasty crash……. and pause for a couple of million pieces of glass to be picked out, latterly in the dark!

To be continued…

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snowdrops and a new leaf mould path

Transplanted from my parents’ garden a couple of years ago, these clumps of snowdrops are a lovely welcome to the allotment site, planted underneath my damson tree.

A productive day, and a delightfully warm one, sufficiently so to have lunch in the garden of the roundabout pub – a lazy trundle up the path away. And I managed also to:

  • plant a standard rose ‘Boscobel’ in the flower bed – I have high hopes for her!
  • plant a little pear tree grafted with five different varieties – in the absence of any available space on my plot I daringly planted it in a wild area of the site and hope nobody will mind. I had to dig out lots of nettles and brambles to make space.
  • finish weeding out all the tiny strawberry plants from one fruit bed
  • prune the gooseberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant bushes
  • mulch the fruit beds
  • consolidated two raised beds and a path into one large bed – and moved one of the inner planks to replace a rotting one in the fruit cage
  • then I lifted and turned the turf (heavy work, that) and laid out a pathway with all the cardboard I had been storing for the purpose and topped the lot with three bags of compost and finally a bag of beautiful leaf mould to top the pathway down the middle of the new bed.
  • cleared the debris from the strawberries in grow-bags on their shelf in the fruit cage
  • … and picked a bag of wonderful flower sprouts for supper!

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feed the soil, not the plant

Still committed to the no-dig principle, I increased my order of composted manure to 30 sacks and managed myself to trundle them from the gate where they were delivered all the way down to plot number 10. Whew.

I’ve now spread most of it on the beds to a depth of about 2″, which is pretty good especially as my own home-made compost had provided a good layer below that on at least 5 beds in the autumn.

The final job before I can mulch the fruit cage has been to cut down the autumn fruiting yellow raspberries, thin the summer ones and weed the thick matting of weeds and wild strawberry plants that have spread relentlessly over the past year. Four pairs of soggy gloves and gooseberry-spike lacertated wrists and arms later, I’ve done most of it:

It’s been raining ever since, but will get back and finish this as soon as I can. Meantime, the quince tree has also had a major pruning as it was becoming way too big. Last year’s crop was tiny – in contrast to the bounty of 2015. I hope this, plus mulching, will help to restore a better balance. You can see below it’s jostling with my neighbour John’s plum tree on the right….. Oh dear, I’m running out of allotment space!

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what I learned this year

As I shovelled this year’s precious harvest of compost from the bin to mulch the raised beds, I pondered the allotment year that’s ending and what I have learned:

>> The no-dig method has completely won me over, supported by what I learned way back in March at Charles Dowding’s veg growing course at his inspiring garden ‘Homeacres’ near Shepton Mallet. My experience of that day and Charles’s various books as well as his website and that of his partner Stephanie Hafferty have all provided a wealth of practical guidance and good sense that have convinced me to follow the no-dig method which I started this year. It’s less work, there are already considerably fewer weeds and the ground is much less claggy when wet. Productivity seemed about the same so I look forward to next year and seeing the quality of what is grown in this way when the soil structure has had longer to establish.

>>Romantic notions of ‘heritage’ and ‘open source’ seeds led me to spend a disproportionate amount of time and money chasing down seeds and tubers from various arcane sources. Despite almost obsessive nurturing (or perhaps that’s the problem??), the results have been generally disappointing – specifically with red sweetcorn, oca, crosnes and mashua.  I don’t really  have enough space for such fancies and will instead grow (though I’m sure I will be seduced occasionally) what I know will work. AGM status is not given for no reason.

>>The morello cherry tree established well but the entire crop disappeared overnight and I don’t feel like making little net sleeves for the branches to protect future bounty so I have decided to cut my losses and ordered a pear tree to replace it. The cherry tree will go into the wild part of the site for the birds to enjoy.

>>I must net seedling pea plants immediately or the pigeons will get them!

>>Magpies can evidently find their way into spaces that even a micro carrot root fly cannot, so I must bring a darning needle & thread to sew up the micromesh rather than relying on string ties. (Why magpies would want to go into a cloched carrot patch is beyond speculation.)

>>Strawberries, wild and cultivated, spread everywhere given half a chance, and slugs just love them, so I must be much more ruthless in weeding them out and abandon all idyllic notions of sweetly jewelled & orderly clumps bordering my beds. Though I do intend to keep the high-rise shelf in the fruit cage with Mara des Bois strawberries in Moorland Gold ‘grow bigs’ which were really successful.

>>Golden beetroot are delicious and don’t get woody when big. Grow more of them!

>>Salvia ‘Amistad’ becomes thuggishly large towards the end of summer. I will leave them in situ in the flower bed for now in the hope that the roses can do their thing in early summer before the salvias get too big, but may have to transplant them back to the garden.

>>Flower sprouts are easy to grow and delicious – as well as looking great.

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