Monday, 23 January 2012

New boots and frames

After a wet and especially windy weekend a bright, calm morning tempted us up to plot 18. A quick look around the hedge an the edge of the field beyond showed lots of small scrapings by an animal to get at the roots near the surface. It's probably the local rabbits, but might just be a badger. There is a clump of woodland at the edge of the field so there could be a set there, maybe I'll take a look. I could also put out a tray with sand in it to try to get footprints to examine.

I've made a couple more frames. this time they are quite short at only a metre long. They will be the ends of a rectangle made of frames that I will use to surround a carrot bed. I used longer frames for the sides last year and had to improvise the ends. The main job of the frames will be to support fleece to keep the carrot fly at bay. Last year's carrots were very good, so protecting this year's crop is certainly worth it. The frames are simple wooden sides made from pressure-treated timber used as roofing laths. The corners are reinforced with plywood triangles. They have plastic screwed to the ends to allow them to be pushed into the ground, but the plastic won't rot like wood. the whole frame is covered with a mesh, plastic in this case but others have chicken wire mesh, whatever is available. The frames make the plot much more flexible as I can use them where I like and move them each year. I use frames in parallel pairs with netting strung over the top and ends to keep birds off brassicas and legumes.  I may make more end frames if they work well.

Jean bought some more boots. Her old ones had been around so long that the sole came away with the weight of mud clinging to it. Good boots are important to an allotment holder, indeed good outdoor clothes in general. If you get wet and cold then any job seems too unpleasant and gets left undone.

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

The planting plan

Each year we make a plan of what to plant where. Like all good plans it is flexible but it gives us a place to start.

The plan layout started with a list of what we wanted to grow. The mainstays where there: broad beans, onions, beetroot, leeks and parsnips. We then add the things we have tried, did well and we liked. This gives us spinach, sweetcorn, courgettes and spring onions. Then there are the choices, French beans or runner beans, peas or mangetouts, and carrots or not?

Then the placement needs to be thought about. Try to avoid using the same plot as last year for most things. Some things don't move because they are perennials, like asparagus and the fruit bushes. Some things take up little space so they can be slotted into small areas like spinach. Garlic is already planted from last autumn.

I also wanted to think about reusing some of the ground that early harvests free up, like broad beans. Here I could plant something to stand over next winter, but in the end I just ignored that, too much changes to think that far ahead.

So here is the plan, I hope it works well this year.

Next is the choice of varieties and buying the seeds. It makes me excited for a new season of growing and of delicious home-grown fresh veg.

Saturday, 14 January 2012

Fence stakes

We mended a couple of fence stakes today. It was cold but beautifully clear and bright. The low sun hadn't quite thawed all of the frost by early afternoon. Jean took half a dozen leeks too.

The stakes just support the fence along the end of the allotment. they don't take much strain and they are a bit flimsy.  They were rotten at ground level. I bashed the stake further in and adjusted the way the fence was fastened to it. It will rot again, but not for a year or two. The main fence posts are at the corners and gates and they are much more substantial.