Harvest Time

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The microgreens that I have been sowing weekly the last month or so are doing well and ready to harvest.  Although the leaves are still so small that a lot of leaves have to be cut to make a meal.

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Chris cutting some leaves for a delicious salad for tea.

In the foreground you can just see one tiny tomatoe seedling.  The ones that I showed you a week or two ago have made a great recovery and I have now pricked most of them out.

Other crops that we are harvesting now are some fresh herbs that we have overwintered in the conservatory.  The most successful of these has been the mint which has been a very welcome addition to our salads.

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I put a few roots into a bag of compost that had had tomatoes growing in it.  I added a handful of seaweed meal too as mint is a hungry plant.

We have also harvested the first of the forced rhubarb and had a delicious crumble for tea on Sunday night.

With luck there should be many more pickings of rhubarb this year.  I moved two pieces of the crown to a new site in December.  The plant that is left is going to be dug up at the end of this year.  This means that we can keep on harvesting it for as long as we want.  Usually we would stop by early summer in order to let the plant replenish its stores ready for the following year.

 

Preparation

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I want my soil to be ready to start planting within a few weeks.  The garlic is sprouting strongly and the roots are already showing underneath the pot.  Most of the broadbeans have now germinated and they too will want to be in the ground.  However, the soil is still cold and wet at the moment; not at all a welcoming for young plants.  So today I decided to do something about it.

First I prepared the soil in three of my beds by adding products that claim to improve the soil structure and microbial activity.  To the bed above I added calcified seaweed meal, growchar and compost left over from last years tomatoes.  I worked it into the top few inches of soil before covering with some empty compost sacks to keep off the rain and start to warm the soil.  Adding both products was not a particularly scientific thing to do; if the plants grow well I will not know what has caused the effect.  However, I will prepare other beds with just one or the other additive, or nothing at all, so that I can make a comparison.

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I also prepared the beds that I have earmarked for broadbeans.  One of these has been double dug (the one on the right), and the other has had the compost added to the surface.  Because I am comparing these different preparation methods I have made sure to do everything else exactly the same with these two beds so I added the same amount of calcified seaweed to them both and working that into the surface before covering them both.

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I hope that when I take the covers off in a couple of weeks time the soil will be warm and welcoming for my broadbeans.

 

 

Allotment Walk

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Today the soil was too wet to work on so I went for a walk down the allotments instead.  I love allotments and always look out for them when I am on the train or in the car.  Many years ago Chris’ grandad and parents had an allotment on this site so I have been visiting them since I first met him.  They are a favourite place to go for a walk.

I love looking to see what crops are in the ground.  Look at those lovely brussel plants and a mat of healthy looking strawberry plants.

 

I should think that the netting over those splendid young cabbage plants is to keep the pigeons off.  Someone else has made bird scarers out of bottles.  However, I did not see much evidence of slugs or slug damage.

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Maybe it is because of the different way they arrange their crops.  There aren’t so many places to hide as in my garden with the its paths (or slug hotels as they might more properly be known).

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Or maybe it is becuase they don’t have a heavy clay like I do.  Look at that lovely dark brown soil; it is a rich fertile loam.

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I saw one plot which someone had spent ages making into small raised beds.  Maybe they will have more problems with slugs?  Look at all the lovely places for slugs to hide.  A bit like my garden.  I look forward to seeing how this plot progresses over the course of the year.  I hope that I am mistaken.

I love finding little nooks and crannies where the allotment holders have arranged all of their materials and tools so neatly.  Apart from a solitary gardener there was no one around today.

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There were quite a few chickens though.

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I love allotments!

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Ta Dah!

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Today I am delighted to announce that the compost bins are finished!

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To think that when he went out this morning Chris still had a shrub to dig up, as it was growing exactly where we wanted to site the heaps.

After a busy day digging, sawing, hammering and screwing the heaps were finally complete.

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Now we need to lay some slabs in front of them ……

Breaking News!

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I am excited to report that the garlic is now sprouting!  Above is the Red Duke that I planted on the 10th January, and below is the the Solent White that I planted on the 17th.

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The broad beans are still tucked under their compost duvet.

Rhubarb Worry!

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I am a little worried about my rhubarb!  The mild weather has brought it so far on that it is more advanced than it would be if I had forced it.  Earlier this year I dug up part of the root and moved it to a new site where it will have a bit more room to grow.  The two newly planted crowns do look a bit exposed and I think that I may not have planted them deeply enough.sunday 17th January 006

Perhaps I should find something to mulch them with?  What do you think?

Growing Garlic

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I missed the boat planting garlic before Christmas, so today decided to play catch up by planting some in pots ready to plant out once the soil is a little warmer.

First I mixed some garden soil with some peat free potting compost, rubbing the two together rather like rubbing fa into flour when making pastry.  This made a lovely crumbly mixture.

Then I planted the cloves in 4″ pots.  I bought two bulbs from Garden Organic and was surprised that there were only 11 cloves in the two bulbs;they were so large and plump.  I should imagine that they should make lovely healthy plants.

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Then I put the pots in the cold frame so that they could start growing.

 

Double Digging

My soil is a heavy clay.  Although I have been adding home made compost to it for the last twenty years since we first made these deep beds the soil remains dense; cold in winter and like concrete in summer.  Today I took a new approach as I prepared the bed that I have ear marked for runner beans.

First I dug a trench at one end of the meter square plot.  I put all of the soil into a wheel barrow as I removed it.  As I did this the soil was mixed with the layer of home made compost that I put on top of the bed earlier in the week.garden 3.01.16 002

Then I forked over the bottom of the trench.  You can see the more yellow clay sub soil, I needed to be careful not to mix this with the top soil.garden 3.01.16 003Then I added a layer of compost material, this included kitchen waste and some half rotten material from the compost heap.  Usually it is important to only add well rottend compost to the soil because of the ‘nitrogen robbery’ which occurs when micro organisms break down organic matter. However, because I am planning to plant beans which can fix their own nitrogen this is not an issue in this case.  I forked this into the sub soil.garden 3.01.16 004

Next, I filled this trench by digging a new trench alonside the first one.  I then repeated the process until I had got to the end of the plot and was able to fill the last trench with the top soil from the wheel barrow.

garden 3.01.16 008The finished bed was noticeably higher than the bed next to it.  In the next few days I plan to top dress it with some more compost and cover it with a layer of cardboard.  I have half a mind to plant runner beans as well on the adjacent plot (currently underneath the pallets) so that I can compare the effects of double digging compared to my usual approach of applying a layer of home made compost once or twice a year.

Here you can see the profile of the soil prior to double digging.  The organic rich layer and the humus does not seem to be very deep at all before the clay is reached; this is clearly an aspect of the vegetable plot which needs a lot more effort!garden 3.01.16 006