Allotment update – 24/10/2018

My alloment is divided down the middle by a windbreak. Each half is further divided into two, creating four sections for my four year crop rotation. It happens that this year one side of the windbreak is almost empty, summer crops having been removed and nothing put in to replace them, while the other side is almost full.

On the empty side I have sown one bed with Italian Rye as a green manure, planted overwintering onions and mulched the rest. The green manure was sown late august and needed a couple of waterings to get it going. The plan is to cut it down in spring, cover it with Mypex to kill the grass, then plant into the undisturbed ground. I need to leave it as late as possible for maximum benefit but cover it early enough for the grass to be completely killed before I need the ground.

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Italian ryegrass two months from sowing. The enviromesh is over onions. The only other things here are carrots, parsnips and the remains of courgettes.

I want to perfect the use of green manures in a no dig scenario for a number of reasons: 1) I struggle to get enough organic matter to cover my whole plot with compost each year. 2)I think plant roots and especially grass roots, directly improve soil structure. 3)I think dense plant growth is the best possible protection for the soil surface in winter and the best reservoir for plant nutrients at risk of leaching, acting as a slow release nutrient source when it breaks down.
I sowed the same green manure crop a month or so later on a different piece of ground and it looks like it may have been too late, in that it is growing very slowly and seems unlikely to make a dense stand.

The mulch on the rest of the area has been a mix of fresh and composted material. When the two blocks of corn had finished I cut them down and shredded them, then spread it straight back where it had come from. Thus whatever nutrients had been taken from the ground got returned to the same place. Anything else available at the time, kitchen and garden waste, was mixed in and spread too. I then sprinkled a thin layer of compost over the top, mainly to keep it from drying out and blowing about.

I figure that if there is bare ground available, that is the best place to put the stuff that would normally go on the compost heap. There’s no loss of nutrients and all of the early stage breakdown involving worms and other invertebrates takes place where their activity will do the most good. Based on previous experience little will remain by spring, having either been incorporated into the soil by worms or broken down on the surface.

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Enviromesh over autumn planted onion sets and two areas mulched with fresh, shredded sweet corn, dahlias and kitchen waste.

The onions are the variety ‘Electric’, which another plotholder had done well with. It’s a red, autumn planted variety. I started them from sets in cells, as I do with spring sown onions. The sets were planted in cells on 19 Sept, then planted on the plot 15 Oct. I put fine mesh over them to trap a little warmth and divert a little rain. They are growing strongly so far.

At the other end of the plot I have a range of crops to supply us in winter. Brassicas dominate, cabbage, kale, kalettes and sprouting broccoli. Then there are leaks, perpetual spinach and celeriac. I need to grow more beetroot to stay in the ground for winter.

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L to R: Perpetual spinach, leeks, ‘Midnight Sun’ kale, ‘Rudolph’ purple sprouting broccoli.

I have a row of sorrel, grown as a perennial vegetable and used in salads, that I find is under constant assault by something that eats numerous small holes in its leaves. The bets approach seems to be to cut it to the ground and use the regrowth before it is attacked. By cutting down about a third of the row at a time I have been able to keep a supply of uneaten leaves going. I think a similar technique might work on perpetual spinach, maintaining a supply of good leaves for us to eat and grotty leaves for the compost heap.

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Sorrel, regrown after cutting and caper spurge, which I am growing because it is reputed to deter moles, which I am plagued by, presumably because I have lots of worms.

 

And finally, because I’m greedy and have two plots (there are more plots available, I’m not keeping anyone out), on my other plot I have things flowering.

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Camellia sasanqua ‘Tanya’ and battered but not beaten, my patch of seedling dahlias, both covered with bees and wasps in the sun this morning.

5 thoughts on “Allotment update – 24/10/2018

  1. I failed dismally with my green manure trial this autumn, A mixture of fodder radish, clover and field beans. The fodder radish has germinated but is still very small, No sign of the clover and the field beans got picked out by the crows! I’ve got quite a good crop of grass and buttercups coming up – does that count?

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    1. I tried field beans one year, hopeless. Grazing Rye, hopeless. Another plotholder had two or three things on her plot until recently, all grew poorly and she’s covered the lot with Mypex. Grass of any sort is good provided it doesn’t seed (and isn’t couch); buttercups I don’t like, they seem to create the conditions they want for themselves, relatively compacted soil, which doesn’t suit much veg. Also difficult to get rid of. All vegetation is green manure, including crops and weeds, the problem with the latter being that they seed as soon as your back’s turned.

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      1. The trouble is I was trying to keep clear ground between ‘honeyberry’ plants. Now I’ll either have to sheet mulch (and there are other seeds that I did want to keep) or hand weed. I think I was a little too late sowing. Although we’re still mild it got quite wet here by September.

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      2. I’m very conscious of how different your conditions are from mine. I have to make allowances for the climate of Cornwall when reading about the experiences of other people “up country” and you’re way further out than me. Have you seen the Veg growing guide from Kinsealy in Ireland? I’m making the assumption that many parts of Ireland will be somewhat similar to Skye. There’s an Allotments.ie website too, which I must return to. https://www.teagasc.ie/media/website/publications/2017/Veg_Growing_Guide_Edition_8.pdf

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      3. Yes Ireland is a bit similar, as are parts of Cornwall. Wind is our biggest issue. I mainly grow perennial crops, it’s quite fun finding new ones. Although people here do grow annual veg you have to ignore most of the advice given since the season is very short. I’m lucky to have a polytunnel which gives me sheltered conditions. Thanks for the link, that looks good reading.

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