Thursday, 15 March 2012

4 jobs at the plot today

It's tempting to be lulled into a false sense of spring during this extraordinarily mild, indeed warm, week at least down in the South East of England. 17 degrees C it might be during the day, but there are still frosts at night sometimes, albeit not the really deep hoar frosts of mid winter. But they can still damage tender plants.
I spent nearly three hours at the allotment this morning. First thing, there was a thick fog and it was quite spooky down there. Later as the sun burnt through the fog it became quite warm by 11 ish.
What was I doing?
First I wanted to dig out all the strawberry plants that had spread far and wide across the plot during the autumn and early winter. They had to come out - I need the space.
So out they all came - and onto the compost heap.
Then I raked out all the dead leaves and runners - all brown and crackly now - from the two rows of strawberries I want to retain for fruiting this summer. These dead remains contain toxins that inhibit fruiting if they are left to rot around the strawberry plants. Mixed with all the other compost material, and plentiful farm manure, and left to rot over the summer, the resulting compost will benefit the rest of the plot no end.
Then I looked at the other compost bins and forked through them to turn the material a little in each one, to promote faster rotting down. In a couple of them I noticed the tell tale little runs of field mice - no harm there - they like the warmth and no doubt the vegetable peelings etc brought from home. Now rats I would be more worried about - but no trouble with those so far. The biggest problem with vermin at the allotments comes from wood pigeons. They will strip bare any sprouting broccoli, cabbage, and other brassicas unless the crop is completely covered with netting to keep them off. Some plotters have covered their whole plot with a fruit cage to tackle this problem.
So - to carry on - I then lugged umpteen barrow loads of manure from the communal pile and spread this all around the plots - except for that part where I plan to sow root vegetables this year. Fresh manure and root vegetables don't go well together, unless you want to see how grotesque you can grow your carrots!
All in all a good morning's work. The other day I bought some Broad Bean seeds and must sow them soon! Also the seed potatoes need chitting and planting - more about that later. Traditionally potatoes are planted on Good Friday - I don't off hand know why - but this year that will be 6th April so I have a few weeks in hand yet.
Good gardening!

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