Saturday wasn’t quite the sunshine day the weathermen were promising but it was warm and dry, so headed down to the plot with a flask of coffee just after midday for a good session.
It was quite busy on the site, which is good. I was thinking back to when I first took the plot on after we moved here and how there were lots of empty plots and I was on my own on the site more often than not. I liked the solitude but much prefer to see the site thriving.
Allotments are changeable things, there’s the seasonal changes of course but also the changes as people leave and new people come on board. New people are always a bit of a worry, will they work the plot or have they some strange idea you throw seeds down and come back in a few months to harvest the bounty.
Anyway, we’ve lost a couple of people recently (and gained new ones). Strangely, both of the leavers have spent a lot of effort on their plots. The chap on plot 2 had dug it over so many times and added so much organic matter that the soil level is a foot higher than when he took it on. Good grower as well – his crops were never something to be ashamed of.
Lyn & Willy are leaving as well, which is a disappointment for us. They’ve put a huge effort into their plot building raised beds, fruit supports etc. Plus they’re really nice people and it was always a pleasure to have a chat with them. We’ll be sad to see them go but they explained they’re too busy to do the plot justice so they’re growing veg at home, having converted the lawn to a useful purpose.
I actually sold a couple of copies of the book on the plot as well! Ken, who’s a new grower bought one. He’s made a good start on renovating his plot and was asking about what to grow so just the person I wrote it for. Andy & Clare also bought a copy, not that they need guidance as their plot is one of the best on the site.
They had the children with them and a barbeque going so I was treated to a hot dog before I even got going. The children were enjoying a banana split down the middle with a twix inserted then wrapped in silver foil and cooked on the barby. I’ll take their word for it being delicious.
Carrots, Salsify & Parsnips
My first and very late job was to sow carrots and parsnips. The extra deep new raised bed I prepared with the Mantis the other day was the place. Ideal for large roots, deep friable soil with no manure. I might just be lucky and get some crop!
I’d sown some carrots in the border of the large greenhouse a few weeks ago and only had about two germinate so I’d assumed the seeds were no longer viable (old packet) and thrown away the rest of the packet. They’ve all shown suddenly, so maybe the time was just wrong.
I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so late with parsnips as I am this year but I don’t think that will matter. They do have a way of catching up and sowing in the wet cold soil of February has never worked for me. The entire packet of Gladiator went in, parsnip seed doesn’t keep so sow them or dump them.
Next a couple of rows of salsify went in. They’re a painful vegetable to prepare but I love the flavour and you can’t buy them in the shops. Well, the shops round here. I’d some seed over and I don’t know how long they keep so I gave the rest of the packet to Clare to try.
I’d got a half packet of carrot Senior so sowed those next and then Healthmaster went in. They’re a lovely carrot. Deep purple in colour and they grow well. They’re supposed to have a high level of beta carotene, which is good for you but I rather like the flavour which is a good enough reason to grow them.
Finally, for the raised bed, a couple of rows went in of a French carrot, Touchon. I do wish my French was up to working out if they’re an early or a maincrop!
Hadn’t finished with carrots, I’ve got the blue half barrels at the top of the plot. One had Nantaise, another French purchase. You do get a lot more seeds in the packet over there and the useby dates are far in advance of ours.
The next barrel had Touchon and the third had Nantes Frubund Fast Crop. I think the Nantaise is a Nantes early variety and with a bit of luck, I’ll find out. The Frubund could have gone into the ground in the autumn, but they’re a fast crop anyway and I sow more at the back end of the year for next.
Having got the carrots etc sown, I went into the greenhouse and sowed borlotti beans (firetongue) into 3″ pots. Last year my climbing beans were a bit of a wash out but I’ve high hopes for this year, Borlotti beans are grown for the bean rather than the pod and they need a long season in our cooler climate so an early start for them. I’ll probably have to fleece them when they get planted out as we always seem to get a sneaky frost at the back end of May.
The compost in the open bag in the greenhouse had dried out and wetting dry compost is a real game. I added a drop of washing up liquid to the can to help the wetting action but even so it was a lot of fuss to get it damp.
The last task was to run over plot 5 again with the Merry Tiller. I’d run out of fuel and cadged a fill from Larry and off with the Merry Tiller onto the plot. It was a lot easier this time, the soil being wetter and already broken up.
My soil is, like plot 2, about a foot higher than when I took it on so I’m going to have to keep my eye out for some planks or something to edge it. The paved path is level with plot 6, so raising the path isn’t on.
Moved over to plot 29 with the tiller and ran over the small bed by the compost bins. That was dead easy. The soil there had loads of sand added as well as lots of turkey litter, leaves etc over the last few years and it is really in good heart. I wonder if it would be worth buying a load of sharp sand from a builder’s merchant for plot five.
I wanted to do the large bed with the rotovator as well, the spirit was willing but the flesh was staggering.
As I write this on Sunday morning, it’s raining, I do hope that we get a summer this year.