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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


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Time for Beans.

As we started to go through April I began moving some of the tougher plants outside onto my yard to harden them off and to make more space in my little Green House for other things. Some plants such as the Chard had to go into my Cold Frame and be kept under Fleece to keep them a bit warmer and to keep the Pigeons off them as well. A few of the plants had to be taken back inside on the odd frosty night and stood, in trays, in the gangway of my green House, before putting them outside again after the Sun had started to warm things up again the next morning. We only had the occasional Frost in early April and a late one that took the Potato tops towards the end of the Month. As always I had put them in too early, and although, I had earthed them up in rows, the tops were shooting through the soil ridges and were vulnerable to the Frost. Hopefully, the Potatoes will shoot again, but it may make them a bit later than normal. This April was one of the driest Aprils of recent years, although I must say that the soil was still quite damp a few inches down all throughout the month. Around the middle of April I planted out some Beetroot, Turnips, Red Cabbage and Chard making sure to water the planting holes before I put the Plugs in as well as giving them a good soaking afterwards.

After making some space in my Green House I then sowed my Beans - that is to say Runners, Dwarf French and Borlotti. Usually, I make a point of buying fresh Seed every year when I place my Annual order with the Allotments, but this year I was able to Sow all my own Beans that I had saved and dried from last years Crop. After keeping them all Winter in brown paper bags, inside a tin, in the bottom of my Fridge, germination was quite good with only a few not taking. It may seem that I was Penny Pinching by saving, my own Seed, but Packets of Bean Seeds are much more expensive than ordinary vegetable seeds. Vegetable seeds may be less than a pound a packet whereas Beans are generally 2 or 3 pounds a packet. Another reason for saving my own was that it meant that I could sow a lot for our Annual Fundraiser without any expense to myself. It will be well after the start of May though, before I can plant them out, although the Garden Centres have been selling them for weeks which isnít fair on people as they will then plant them out not realising that a late Frost will take them. As we get further into May other tender things like Sweet Corn, Squash, Pumpkins, Courgettes, Ridge Cucumbers, Tomatoes and Cape Gooseberries, can also go out.
I did put up my Bean Canes a little while ago though when I was looking for a nice lazy job to do. I used some Hazel Rods from my Brothers Garden to mix in and make my 8 foot Bamboo canes go further. Of course, as always, I used soft, natural, string to tie up the Canes so that when the time comes to dismantle it all at the end of the season, I can just pull everything off the Canes and tip it all into my Compost Bin with no need to worry about having to sort out bits of Plastic String.

At about the same time that I sowed my Bean Seeds in my Green House, I pricked out my Tomatoes, Aubergines and Sweet Peppers, most of which will be for growing in my Green House, although some of the Cherrola and Gardeners Delight Tomatoes will be able to go on my Allotment Plot.
With April being so dry I have had to do a lot of watering on all my Pots and Trays of Plants that I have been growing on for the May Fundraiser. Most of them have been coming on very well and I seem to have got the timing correct for them so that they will all be at the right stage of growth for them to sell. One thing that I did that has made a bit more work for myself though, was mixing Allotment Soil with the bought Potting Compost that I used to pot everything up in. I thought that it was a good idea to help make the Compost go further and still maintain some quality in the Pots for the Plants. From that point of view it did work as they have grown well in the mix and watering has been easy whereas normally watering pots full of Garden Soil is not easy to do. However, I didnít expect quite so many weed seeds to germinate in the Pots, so it has been a bit of a job to keep the Pots tidy and keep the Weeds at bay. On Balance though, it has saved me a lot of money for just a bit more effort and some of the new style, bought Potting compost, is of questionable quality anyway.

On my Plot the Broad Beans have been developing nicely even though it has been so dry. Both the first batch that I planted at the end of last Autumn, and the fresh sowing that I put in before Spring really started, are doing well. By the end of April the first batch were bulking up well and in flower with the others starting to develop. I like to treat Broad Beans as an early crop so that I can replant the space with a later planting of - either tender things like Squash and Courgettes, or else I put in Leeks that have been held back in trays. However, some varieties of Broad Beans can be sown much later in the Season and some varieties can even be sown right through the Summer. If you do plant them later though, you will be pestered by Black Fly that love their growing tips making them very sticky to handle. Pinching out the tender tips when the Plants have grown is one simply way of dealing with this rather than resorting to Sprays, although Garlic and Soap Sprays are said to work and be safe for the Environment.

It hasnít been all growing in April as I have done some harvesting as well. My Leeks went in very late last year, and I didnít even think about harvesting them until well into the New Year. In fact it wasnít really until the end of March and into April before I started digging them up. Surprisingly, they werenít really going to seed even by the end of April when I dug up the last of them. Normally, by this time they would be going skywards and have woody centres, but they were all fine and most had taken advantage of the late harvest by thickening up quite nicely.
My Sea Kale harvest was quite good as well with a good pulling of their Celery like Stalks that actually cook like Asparagus. They did start going to flower quite quickly though, as I harvested them, so I removed the upturned Buckets covering them letting the Flower Stalks start to develop before cutting them all down. This encourages their thick and fleshy Leaves to develop for the rest of the Season. These leaves will then feed the roots and Crown ready for next years harvest early next Spring.

As usual several Plot Holders kept inspecting their Asparagus Beds to see whose was going to be first to start into growth. This year I think it could be called a mass dead heat because everybodyís seemed to start shooting at the same time with a few fat, green, shoots breaking the soil on each Plot. However, I certainly didnít have enough growth to make my first harvest on the traditional start of the Asparagus Season which is St Georges Day, or April 23rd.
My Globe Artichokes were hit hard by the weather at various times throughout the Winter with fresh growth appearing and then being cut back by a sharp Frost only to reappear again a week, or two later. This happened several times, but by the end of April they seemed to have settled down and I hope to get a good harvest at their proper time that more or less follows the Asparagus harvest, although some years the timing does get mixed up.
Then as we go through the end of May the main activity will be to keep on top of the Weeds!


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