Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
April - Lots of New Plants.
We have had a really mixed
Winter with spells that were very mild and others that were
exceptionally cold, and we have had very wet spells along with a few
drier ones. However, with all of the Covid closures and restrictions,
like a lot of people, I have had more free time that I could spend on my
Allotment and have therefore still been able to take advantage of the
spells of good weather and get things done. As a result of this I am
pleased to say that my Plot is in better shape than I think it has ever
been in at this time of year. My paths are all clear of weeds and my
beds well prepared having been cleared of old plants, weeded and manured,
in plenty of time ready to re-plant. All of the beds that is, except the
one where the Parsnips are soon to be sown, as manuring the ground
encourages them to “fork,” and then instead of nice straight Parsnips
you end up with big, many legged, spiders! At one time I thought we were
not going to get any deliveries of manure, but the “Horsey man,” started
bringing a regular supply of bagged manure again in plenty of time to
get things done.
Last Winter I spent a lot of time sorting out my various vines including
replacing all of the support posts for my Grape Vines and this winter I
replaced a lot of the taller, 8 foot, posts that my numerous Fruit Trees
were tied to. The posts are all pressure treated with preservatives
without which they wouldn’t last very long in the ground at all, but
they do still need replacing from time to time. I used to part dig and
part hammer in all of my posts until I found out about a superb tool
that is made for the job. You won’t see them on sale in Garden Centres,
but farmers have been using them for years, so most Farm Supplies and
even some builders merchants, sell them.
Basically the tool is a big,
heavy, metal cylinder with handles on that sits over the top of the
post. Then to use it, you simply lift it up and drop it down again on
top of the post and it hammers it in. I call it a “Fence Post Driver,”
but I don’t know if that is the proper name. It is very heavy to use and
takes a bit of getting used to, but really hammers posts in very
quickly, especially if you use a builders “Spike,” to start off the
hole. If you hit posts with a sledge hammer to drive them in, it is
almost impossible to do it without doing a lot of damage to the post,
but with this tool there isn’t a mark to the top of the post and if you
have the strength to use it, it only takes a few seconds to drive in a
post 18 inches, or more.
Apart from doing a lot of pruning and tying in my trees, I moved and
replanted quite a number, potting some up as small specimens in large
tubs as well. Happily, I was able to get everything done before the buds
really started to break as it is not a good idea to dig up trees when
they are in full growth.
Back in March I did a lot of seed sowing, but it was not until the end
of March that I put in my Tomato Seeds. It may seem a little late to
some, but my plants are intended for outdoors, so they will not go out
until later in May and if I had started them off any earlier they would
be too big, soft and leggy before they could be planted outside. I
remember that my Mother, who was a keen gardener, always said that
Tomatoes need about 6 weeks from sowing to potting on into big pots for
the Cold Greenhouse, or planting out. Likewise I didn’t start my
Potatoes off by “Chitting,” them as I hadn’t a clue as to what the
weather was going to do and when I was going to be able to plant them
out and we all got caught out by the late frost last year.
Again, as we are going into April, I am only just sowing my Courgettes,
Squash and Cucumber on the kitchen windowsill where they will get a bit
more of the warmth that they need to germinate, as they shouldn’t go out
until well into May either.
Going further into April I will start off in trays, my Runner and Dwarf
French Beans along with Sweet Corn. Hopefully, by then we will be
getting a few more sunnier days and the greenhouse will be warm enough
to get them going, especially if I put them in unheated propagators to
give them a bit more of a boost.
The young plants of my Hardy Chrysanthemums went outside a few weeks ago
to harden them off after being inside all Winter, but the old Stools of
the other Chrysanthemums are just coming back to life under the staging
in my greenhouse. I have recently started giving them a little water to
encourage some new growth so that I can get some cuttings from them. Not
many people over-winter old Chrysanthemum Stools these days as they are
afraid of harbouring diseases, but if you remove the new growth for
cuttings as soon as it comes in spring and then discard the old stools,
you should be fairly safe. Really, that is what most of the professional
growers do and consequently rooted cuttings will be advertised for sale
freely on the Internet for a week or two yet.
On the subject of rooted cuttings taken from old plants – that is what I
did with the Liquorice plant on my Allotment, and the root cuttings,
that I over-wintered in a seed tray, are just starting to shoot nicely.
I have done this before with some success, but you never really know
whether you are going to be successful, or not as the pieces of root
just sit there under the soil, all winter, doing nothing, until, as
Spring comes, little buds start to break the surface of the tray and new
plants develop. These will be potted, but will not go out until all risk
of Frost has passed. Indeed the experts say that young Liquorice plants
should be protected for their first Winter as well, until their root
system has had chance to develop properly, because really, they are
herbaceous plants and their tops die down every winter.
Indeed my little Greenhouse is rapidly filling up and things are
spilling outside, but I have to watch the weather forecast as we will
still get some cold nights until May starts, or even later. Some things
can go out already though and Cabbages and things like that can be
planted out now as they are pretty tough, but mine won’t be ready for a
few weeks as I am trying to time them for our Fund Raiser, if it goes
ahead, at the start of May.