Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
It All Starts Again.
The Winter sees most growing
Beds on any Allotments empty and unused. It is always said that while
some people like the look of patches of black, weed free, bare soil, it
doesn’t stay that way for long. Even in Winter a few hardy weeds will
put on a little growth during the milder spells. To avoid this many Plot
Holders cover their Plots with Membrane of some sort be it Plastic
Sheets, or a much more durable and tougher, Woven and semi permeable
membrane. However this can be expensive, although it does have the
benefit of warming up your soil a little earlier than otherwise. The
real enthusiasts grow Green Manure that they then dig in, in the Spring.
This easily composted vegetation usually contains Clover that adds
Nitrogen to your Soil as well as other things that provide Humus. A
third alternative is to lightly cover your beds with Farm Yard, or Horse
Manure. Strictly speaking this should have been allowed to stand for 6
months, or more before use, although if you put it on your beds in the
Autumn and leave it over Winter before digging it in and Planting, it
will then have had 6 months to weather. Personally, I favour this last
option as we usually get an abundant supply of Horse Manure delivered to
the Site in Bags for free. However, the bags soon get taken, so if you
are not up there regularly, you miss out. One large bed that doesn’t get
the Manure treatment though, is my Bean Bed as I call it, where I intend
to grow my Runner, Borlotti and Dwarf French Beans. It is always said
that Beans like their feet in pert rotted compost that holds the
moisture. So, for the last few years I have removed the surface layer of
soil down about 4, or 5 inches and then barrowed most of my compost Heap
onto the Bed spreading it out before covering the layer over again with
soil. With this intention I have been building up my Compost Heap and
turning it regularly each time after adding fresh material. When I last
dug it out for use back in the Summer, it was lovely and Crumbly and
fairly dry after the dry Spring and Summer, but now it is rather wet and
even a bit sloppy. Continually turning it will help get some air into it
and dry it out a bit, but I an also keeping it covered with a small
off-cut of Membrane to keep out the worst of the wet.
I do try to Rotate my crops so the Bean Bed moves along the row of beds
on my Plot giving a different Bed the treatment each year. In this way
they all get topped up and refreshed with a large amount of Humus every
few years, from all my Tree prunings that go in the Compost. The tree
prunings take several years to completely break down so help to break up
the soil for some time.
The TV Gardeners say that you shouldn’t re-use old potting Compost
because for one thing, it will have little, or no goodness left in it.
Also it is asking for trouble with the possible introduction of Diseases
and Pests. However, I like to re-use what I can in the bottom of large
pots, or tubs rather than using enormous amounts of expensive, fresh
compost. If you are planting tubs full of Bulbs and Flowers especially
most of them don’t root very deeply so the roots don’t even reach down
into the bottom of large Containers anyway. With this in mind I will be
re-using the Compost from the 3 Potato Bags on my yard that a friend
gave me the other year. In one tub I grew a Yacon that grew well enough
and formed a decent crop of its sweet, edible Tubers, but rather
foolishly I didn’t harvest them before the sharp December Frosts that we
had. On a couple of nights at least the frosts were quite penetrating
and not only froze the surface of the soil in the Bags, but also froze
the soil a little way down and in from the sides spoiling some of the
Tubers. In the ground they would have got some protection, but the Soil
in pots always freezes deeper than in the open ground.
My Brother had
some lovely Cannas in large Pots that he had in his cold greenhouse and
he had the same problem resulting in their loss. Whereas, he thinks the
ones outside, in his town centre Garden, have survived so far. Another
exotic that has tubers susceptible to frost are the Cinnamon Vine
tubers, but they grow deep down in the ground and are kept safe by a
deep layer of soil that never freezes in our moderate Climate. The tops
die as soon as it gets cold in the Autumn, but they re-shoot every year
just as if they were Herbaceous Perennials. It is the same with My Oca,
although here again, some of the bright pink, little edible Tubers that
were close to the surface of the soil did get frosted and spoilt whereas
others deeper down were OK. I am informed that the same will be true
with the flowering bulbs called Roscoea that I am growing from seed this
Roscoeas come from China, are a member of the Ginger family and as such
they might be considered as Exotics and quite tender. However, if the
Dahlia like tubers are planted deeply enough, they can go through UK
Winters with no problems. There are some 17 species currently known, but
more may be discovered as China opens up.
Roscoea are perennials that have lance-shaped leaves which give them an
appearance a little like Irises and have some say, orchid-like flowers
in summer, or autumn. They need some moisture in the soil and actively
dislike dry weather, or hot sun.
Roscoeas leaf up a little later in the Spring than most UK plants and
thereby obviously have a short growing season. Plants will grow best in
a little shade, but should not be put in deep shade as that will
elongate the leaves and make them flop. Not liking dry shade they
probably won’t do well under Trees, but I have a border which is shaded
by a Fence that I am hoping they will grow well in.
Another exotic that I have just germinated from seed is a batch of
Passion Flower Seeds grown from a bright orange fruit picked off the
plant in my Brothers back Garden. I Potted up about 40 seedlings which
is probably too many for what I want, however, some won’t survive until
late Spring when they can be planted out, or as we intend to do – sell
some of them in the Spring Plant sale. Half will then be kept back for
the late Summer Plant Sale as well.
Last Summer I planted a young Passion Flower Plant out on my Allotment
and it grew very fast rewarding me with a few of its beautiful flowers,
but it looks a bit sad now after the cold Snap. They can be a bit
delicate until they develop more of a woody trunk and even then a very
hard frost can take them.
In last Spring’s Plant Sale we sold a number of Dwarf Bamboo Plants that
I had potted up from divisions taken from plants that I had at home.
However, they were not potted in the best of Compost and half didn’t
grow so I have just dug up and divided another plant that was getting
too big for its spot in my front Garden. I put a bit back in the ground
and potted about 20 pieces up. Hopefully, using better compost this time
more will take, although they do grow slowly so it may be a while before
I can be sure that they are OK.
Spring will be on us before we know it and it will be time to put in all
sorts of seeds. I have made a start by putting in some Onion Seeds, but
I don’t know how well they will germinate because the packet is 10 years
old! In a week or two I will have to sow my Broad Beans that I forgot
last Autumn. They will be a bit later than usual and I may have a bit of
a problem with Black Fly on them, but such is life. Along with the Beans
I will have to put in a few other early things like Parsley, Cape
Gooseberries, Asparagus and Jerusalem Artichokes. They will all be
started off in trays of new potting compost on my Kitchen Windowsill
where they will get some warmth and a bit of light. As soon as I can I
will then put them out in unheated Propagators in my Greenhouse where
they will get a lot more light.
Along with Seed sowing there will be lots of other things to do
including potting up some Jerusalem Artichokes and Oca to start into
growth for the May Sale.
I will also be dividing my Cannas as they start to shoot. There are 3
different varieties over wintering in my Green House now, if they all
survive. The original dark red leafed and bright red flowered one is the
largest and most spectacular, but I also have one with a very pretty
variegated leaf, although I am not sure how big that will get. Then
there is also the much smaller and more delicate, yellow flowered
variety. Apart from these coming back to life after a Winter rest I have
about 50, or 60 old Chrysanthemum Stools in pots that have never really
died off this winter. It won’t be many weeks before I can start to take
some cuttings from their new shoots.
Other potting that I will be doing will involve potting on all of the
Fig, Hazel and Willow Cuttings into bigger pots before they leaf up and
at some stage I will have to transplant my Onion Seedlings, but that
will probably not be until after February at the earliest.
At about that time I will have to put upturned Buckets over my two beds
of Sea Kale to “Force,” and “Blanche,” the shoots. I weeded out and
re-planted a few stray plants at the start of January and also topped up
the Beds that had become a little depleted of soil from the constant
weeding. After topping up the beds I gave them a liberal layer of “Shreddings,”
brought home from work where we had been cutting a Holly hedge. Indeed,
I have put a layer of “Shreddings,” over most of my garden at home and
several other beds on my Allotment. Following last years long and very
hot Summer I thought that a good layer of Mulch wherever I could would
be a good preparation for another dry Summer.