Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
As November settled in we had a
few nights of Frost that took the tops on my Yacon. However, because the
Frosts were only light and not penetrating, the tops died, but they
still protected the Crowns from any damage. So, I decided just to dig
the odd one up one at a time as I wanted them. As each one was dug, I
carefully washed the soil off the Crown and then chopped them up on my
Work Bench at home. In some ways they can be handled the same as you
might Rhubarb Crowns. You can be as rough as you like with them and they
don’t need to have any roots on each piece as you divide them. You can
use a Spade, a sharp Trowel, or even a Chisel to cut them up. As long as
each piece has some “Eyes,” or Buds on and is at least a 2 inch cube,
they will be fine. They need to be potted with their Buds just below the
surface of the Compost and kept frost free, but cool until Spring comes.
They should be kept fairly dry as well and then, as Winter passes, start
watering them a bit to encourage them into growth. Each piece of Crown
will need to be put into a pot about 5 inches across to give it room to
grow until the Frosts have passed after which time it can be planted out
- usually in about May.
The Frosts killed off the tops on the Cape Gooseberries as well, but the
Berries will keep on ripening, protected in their paper cases, (see
picture,) for weeks yet. Indeed, as long as the Frosts are not too hard
I will be able to go on picking and one year, some years ago, I even
picked ripe berries on Christmas Day. In theory the plants can be dug up
and over wintered somewhere Frost Free, but they grow so fast and so
easily from seed each year that I don’t bother. They put on so much
growth so quickly that they easily mature into a bush the size of a
Black Currant bush before fruiting in just one season. This year the
Cape Gooseberry’s seemed to fruit a little earlier than usual, because,
I started picking ripe Berries back at the end of September.
My Medlar Crop has been a waste of time this year yielding only a
handful of ripe fruits. I think the reason was quite simply that I gave
the tree a hard Pruning last year, even so, I had expected a bit more
fruit because there was some Blossom at the start of the season.
There are a few other things that I have been harvesting although it is
getting much colder now. The leaves and foliage on my Squashes died some
time ago, but I left the Squash themselves to ripen as long as possible.
I did take them in though before the first sharp frost was forecast as
it might have spoiled them.
On the other hand they always say that the flavour of Parsnips improves
with a good frost on them. Apparently, it helps make some of the Starch
convert to Sugar making them taste sweeter. Indeed, I will go on
harvesting them until I run out, however cold it gets, as long as the
ground is not actually frozen.
My Radish Mooli, or giant, white, Radish (Pictured) are something else
that will harvest into Winter, although, they can get attacked by Slugs
and may rot if left too long into the bad weather.
Now that the cold is coming, with Winter just round the corner, things
are starting to go dormant including all Herbaceous Perennials. And, as
my Liquorice plant is really an Herbaceous Perennial, the time has come
to sort that out as well. When I originally planted it, I lined the
planting hole with a cheap membrane which was a mistake as the roots
have started to penetrate it and pop up everywhere. (They are every bit
as bad as Raspberries, but go down deeper) Consequently, I will have to
dig the whole lot out and re-line the hole with some of the better
quality membrane that I had left over from re-doing the paths in my
front garden. It is time to harvest the Roots anyway, so I can happily
do the 2 jobs at the same time. When I remove some of the thicker roots,
I will cut a few up into 6 inch lengths to make into root cuttings. If
they are kept in a frost free greenhouse over winter they will slowly
root in a shallow tray of potting compost and I will be able to pot them
up in Spring to give me a few more plants for the Spring Plant Sale.
Another thing that dies down and goes dormant at this time of year is of
course Rhubarb, so I finally got round to digging that up and potting
the unwanted Rhubarb Crowns that had grown from bits of root that I had
discarded and buried when doing last years divisions. Recently, there
was plenty of Manure available, so I gave the remaining Crowns a good
helping, making sure not to actually get it on the Crowns, but spreading
it liberally around them for the roots to feed on and build up the
plants for next years harvesting.
Now that the Leaves have dropped you can see the shape of, and the
branches of, trees in more detail making it much easier to work on them.
One thing that needs doing is checking all of the existing tree ties to
see if any are strangling the Trees as branches have grown and swollen.
Obviously new ties will also be needed to tie in young branches to
encourage them to grow in the right shape. The odd post may also need
replacing and new ones may need to be added. Some pruning of things like
Apple Trees can be done as well so long as no hard frosts are forecast
for a few days after pruning. With that in mind I decided to take some
hardwood Cuttings from my Figs, Cornus, Kerria, Etc which I trimmed and
put in my Cold Frame. One fruitful Fig in particular, is very good for
Cuttings from around its base and I managed to get some 40 cuttings from
it this time. A few cuttings even had roots already starting to develop
on them, so they were potted up straight away. The rest will root very
slowly and probably won’t be ready for potting, or planting out, until
later next Summer.
On a recent visit to an elderly friend of my mothers I was asked if I
could prune a big Magnolia that was slowly being blown over by the
prevailing wind coming across her neighbour’s garden. It had just about
lost its leaves when I did the job, so it was an opportune time to do
it. Basically, I took the top off it and reduced it in size. I cut the
thicker branches up into short lengths and added them to the little log
pile in my garden to encourage Beetles and such like and then put what I
could through my little, domestic, electric powered, Shredder. The
resulting shreddings then went on my Garden as a Mulch. The lady will
lose most of the Flowers for the coming year on her Magnolia and the
tree will look a bit sad for a while, but when Spring comes and it
starts shooting again, it shouldn’t really be obvious that it was cut
If the homemade Wood Chippings hadn’t had so many leaves in them, I
could have used them on the Paths on my Allotment as their chippings
need renewing, but instead I will have to wait until we get a full load
delivered by a friendly Tree Surgeon.
Other maintenance jobs that I have been getting stuck into are skimming
the weedy surface off the Stone Chipped Paths around my Plot and
renewing some of the Pegs for the edging boards on my Beds. Manuring and
Mulching are more seasonal jobs for a cold day as is turning the Compost
heap which is fuller than it has ever been before at this time of year.
That is because I have been trying to get as much of the rubbish cleared
from my plot as I could so that the Compost heap could be put to bed for
the Winter without more fresh stuff being continually added to it. I am
hoping that by the time we get round to April/May, when I want to plant
out my dvarious Beans, the Compost will be ready to dig into my bean Bed
as I have done so for the last couple of years.
December is a quiet month as far as growing is concerned, but I have
been busy potting things for our coming sale in the Spring. Apart from
Rhubarb, Yacon and Raspberries, along with a few divisions of flowering
Plants, I have potted some Jerusalem Artichokes and Oca.
At the end of December I will sow some Onion Seeds which I have never
done before. Normally I grow Onions from Sets, but they seem to be
getting more and more expensive, so I thought I would try some from Seed
and compare how I get on. I suppose they will stay in Trays until I
plant them out in early Spring when things start to wake up again and we
start all over again.