Friday, 9 July 2010

Around the garden: sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

The broadbeans standing proud.

It's officially the dryest start to the year in the UK since 1929. And I live in the dryest part of the country, so while many areas have had some rain, things are starting to get dire where we are. We put in a 1,000- litre water tank in the spring but it's not had a chance to fill past 6 inches or so. Despite being frugal I emptied the last of it last night, so we'll be tanking water down to the allotment from today on. It's going to be a very hot weekend and the tomatoes need water. I don't water the allotment garden itself, but the plants are surviving. The clay soil of the allotment has turned into concrete and I've put off all of the mid-summer sowing and planting out until I know we'll get some rain to support it.

There's a thunderstorm and a couple of inches of rain predicted for Sunday night/ Monday morning, and I'm planning to have a sowing and seedling planting frenzy over the weekend, then cross my fingers firmly for rain.

The wheat, which showed such promise all the way through winter and spring, has had several setbacks. This should have been a stirling year for wheat but we've suffered predation. The image above shows the wheat two weeks ago. It had already had some predation before that photo was taken, when one of the horses from the neighbouring field jumped the fence and had a lovely day nibbling on the tips and pulling plants out.

Last weekend, the wheat looked like this:
You can see where it's been flattened in the middle of the bed and crushed to the ground. When I looked more closely at it, I realised that the grains had been eaten individually off the stalk, in some cases leaving the chaff behind, so I suspect pigeons. Even though it wasn't quite ready I harvested what was left, to try to salvage some of the harvest. Lesson learned: we'll sow wheat again in September, and I'll net the wheat after it's flowered next spring.

It's not all bad news though. Some of the comfrey roots we planted around the edges of the allotment have come up and are doing well. There are enough. We'll divide them a bit further next spring. The plan is to have a wall of comfrey around the edge of the allotment, to keep the weeds from encroaching.

The runner beans are flowering and the french beans are coming away nicely despite the lack of water. In the foreground is a mix of borlotto, venezia and brown rice beans. The netting is to cover my green leafy veg and protect them from pigeons and rabbits.

The onions/carrots/parsnips/shallots/radishes (left-hand bed) are thriving despite the pack of water. We sowed onions, carrots and radishes together in each row as they have different lengths of growing time. I've pulled out almost all of the radish now and have started to thin the carrots where they're sown thickly and are large enough. By the time the onions are bulbing and need the space the carrots will be mostly out - and the smell of the carrots and onions confuse the respective pests of each. The right-hand bed is the potatoes, which I hilled up for the final time last weekend. I sowed those with the early spuds at the front of the bed and the later maincrops at the back. I've started to harvest the first earlies at the front of the bed. The garlic, at the back of the onion/carrot bed (where you can see the fork handle) has been the big success story of the year. I intend writing more about the garlic and the broadbean trials next week.

This weekend, I shall be:
  • Harvesting some more new potatoes
  • Sowing the leek seedlings in the space left by the harvested potatoes
  • Hoeing the autumn-sown onion bed at the "far allotment" (in a friend's backyard)
  • Bending over the onion tops so they concentrate on making bulbs rather than making flower heads
  • Picking the flower heads out of the pak choi to increase its lifespan
  • Digging out the last of the garlic at the allotment before the ground gets too moist - the garlic in the back-yard veg garden can stand to wait another week or so
  • Plaiting the garlic harvested last week and hanging to finish its drying (post to come)
  • Planting brussel sprout and cabbage seedlings in the space left by the garlic
  • Watering! Lots of watering. And giving the tomatoes their weekly feed.
  • Sowing more french, borlotti and venezia beans, as well as more spinach, chinese greens, swedes, turnips and other root veg for autumn cropping and planting out some soya bean seedlings
  • Planting some advanced aubergine, tomato and okra seedlings into grow bags
  • potting up chilli plants
  • Painting a room at the flat (Sunday afternoon when it's too hot to work outside)
  • Hopefully mowing the tall weeds on the land (job potentially delegated to Mr. G)
  • Sitting back in a deckchair in the garden at some stage with a book and a cold drink, to just enjoy it
And despite how long that list of jobs looks, I intend spending most of Saturday enjoying attending my local spinning group's meeting!

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