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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

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By Mrs FM

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Alan J Hartley



Late October.

This last 2 years, because of Covid, the various restrictions, and the resulting extra time it has given me, I have definitely been more on top of My Allotment and kept up with my jobs as the seasons have changed. Most years I struggle at times to keep up with Weeding in particular and some jobs that should be done get pushed back. Quite often, I have, in the past, forgotten to put Grease Bands on my Fruit Trees in the Autumn, but this year I think I am a little early. They can be put on with some benefit in the Early Spring, but are more effective in late Autumn. Grease Bands, or as they are now often called, “Glue Bands,” are especially important on Apple Trees as they stop crawling insects from climbing the Trunks and getting into the Buds before they develop in the Spring and Summer. This prevents the Grubs from growing in the centre of the Apples when you pick them later on next Autumn. The Coddling Moth can also be a problem in some areas for which you can buy hanging traps that you put amongst your trees, but I have never bothered at all with those.

With all the problems that Covid has brought us one unexpected problem for gardeners has been the shortage of Bamboo Canes to use as supports for things like Runner Beans and flowering climbers like Clematis, Jasmine and Honeysuckles. Of course in olden times many gardeners used Hazel Rods that they cut from their own Hazel Trees and some of the TV Gardeners still promote this old and trusted idea, but I guess not many people have the opportunity to do this as they don’t have big gardens with their own Hazel Trees in them. However, as we are all being encouraged to plant more trees, perhaps people should re-consider planting a Hazel. Ordinary green leafed Hazels are good for the Wildlife, but there is a Purple leafed variety that is quite ornamental as well. It has dark purple leaves that are a similar colour to those of Copper Beech Trees, but of course the individual leaves are much bigger and for most of the year they hold their colour well creating quite a show amongst other greenery. The red Catkins hanging on the bare stems in the Winter, that lead to Nut production, are also quite colourful and just as a point of interest, the Nut Clusters are also red.
Yes Hazel Trees can get very big if allowed to fully develop, but if you employ the traditional method of stunting them called “Coppicing,” they can be easily be kept to a height of some 8 – 12 feet and yet still be productive yielding a very useful Nut harvest. Of course the act of Coppicing them, or cutting out any wood that is over 3 or 4 years old, every year, will also give a number of straightish poles, or rods, for use in the garden. They won’t last as long as bamboo canes before they start to go brittle and they are much thicker, but if you replace them every couple of years or so, they will do a great job of supporting all sorts of things. My Brother has a tree in his garden that is long established and over the years he has often given me rods that he has cut, which I have used in training the Fruit Trees on my Allotment.

Having been in my Bungalow for some 3 years now, the Purple Leafed Hazel tree in my Back Garden is about due for some pruning, so I will have a few of my own Rods this Winter.
As with many trees these days, you can buy Grafted Hazel Trees that are on a dwarfing rootstock, and so are even more suitable for a back garden. They, like Apple Trees, never reach their full potential, but always stay much smaller. In the case of the Grafted, Twisted, purple leafed Hazel that I have on my Allotment, its size has been restricted to about 2 metres. However, even that could now do with some stems being cut out from it, but I guess that those Rods won’t be much use as supports, or will they? A Flower arranger might want some of the thinner bits I suppose!

Some weeks ago I took up a slabbed path in my Garden at home and re-laid it to make a new length of path on my Allotment. The path has proved very useful and tidied up a messy part of my Allotment as well as making a very clear border to the end of my Neighbours plot and mine. At the time I said that I would like to extend the path across the Plot, that is also mine, immediately behind the two plots that it divided. Having more time now that things are slowing down on the Allotment, I decided to try and continue laying the Path.
While wondering around the site at work recently, I spotted an untidy pile of old slabs that were gradually getting broken. So, I asked the Manager if I could make a small donation for some of them to which he agreed. With a lot of effort, I managed to get them home and laid, and as luck would have it, there was just enough to complete the job nicely. In levelling the ground and laying them though, I had to remove several Buckets of Woodchip that was mixed with soil, from the old path, At first I was going to just tip the waste soil mixture onto my Compost Heap, but instead decided to add it to the Bed that my Potatoes had been removed from. The Woodchip was partly Composted as it had been down for a couple of years so I felt that it wouldn’t hurt the Soil in the Bed and it would not be a problem. Fresh Woodchip will take Nitrate from the Soil that it is buried in, until it starts to break down, but many people, rather foolishly, think that it will poison the soil just by being spread on top of it when you use it to make paths, or suppress weeds round Fruit Bushes. Properly composted, it is a good addition to Sandy, or Clay soils by adding Humus and Fibre. Indeed, some of the newer, “Green,” commercial Composts are made using Woodchip.
I was going to plant Broad Beans in the old Potato bed and they are Nitrogen Fixing Plants, so they would counter any Nitrogen depletion anyway. The Soil in the Bed wanted some more Humus adding to it as well and the actual soil level wanted topping up, so the waste from the Path did very nicely.

At the beginning of October I actually sowed the Broad Beans of the Aquadulce variety, in Modular Trays rather than risk the Mice getting them if I had put them directly in the Ground on my Allotment. With the Soil still quite warm they would have come up quite quickly in the ground, but were even quicker in my Greenhouse and were ready to plant out after a couple of Weeks. So, later in October I was able to plant out a number of healthy, home grown, young plants. I put them into the Bed that I had cleared of Potatoes and before planting dug in the Compost and Woodchip, but also added some Processed Chicken manure Pellets. These plants will grow slowly on the warmer days of the coming Winter and more importantly will put down a good root system that enables them to get off to a flying start as spring comes round next year. This should mean that they will be mature and be ready to harvest a few weeks earlier than February sown plants. I should be able to pick the early plants before Blackfly become a problem in late Spring/early Summer. I will put a second batch in though, at the beginning of February, but will have to pinch out their tender tips to keep them tidy when the Fly start. Some people spray their plants with Garlic/Soap Sprays to keep the Blackfly away, although I don’t know how effective that is.

Another thing that I did plant in October was my over wintering Onion sets. Most years I put in this type of Onion that used to be called Japanese Onions, because they will harvest a few weeks earlier than Spring plantings. This in turn means that afterwards I will be able to plant a second crop of something else that is tender like Squash, Courgettes, Tomatoes, Yacon or Sweet Corn in the space that they come out of. However, with the steep increase in the price of so many things recently I have decided to sow some Onion Seeds in a tray in my Greenhouse, at Christmas, to see how they do. I have never grown Onions from seed before although my Mother used to do it. As they develop I will need to transplant them and plant them out in their final growing positions. Hopefully, they will get to a decent size, but they will need a longer growing season so will harvest later in the Season than those done from over wintering Sets and possibly even a little later than Sets planted in the Early Spring.

With most of my Over Winter planting done now, more of my time will go into maintenance jobs around my Allotment and simple tidying up.


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