More soil preparation

Weeks 6 and 7 – Sunday 5 May to Saturday 18 May 2013

It has been a mixed couple of weeks.  I have continued to be frustrated by the condition of the soil in Bed C as many of the root vegetables I plan on planting here need fine soil. Accordingly, early in the first week I had to dig over the plot for the 5th time and dig in some peat and “Growmore” fertiliser.  I then had to leave the soil for 7 to 10 days before planting so I have still not finished my planting.  However, more positively I have seen some results of my earlier labours.

Firstly, as I was digging over the soil I noticed that the sub-soil was finer and had turned a grey colour, like cement or volcanic ash.  This suggests to me that the addition of lime has paid off and the fresh addition of acidic peat will neutralise the alkaline effects of the lime.  More satisfying is that there is now much more growth on the allotment. The Anya potatoes are now visible and there are some signs of the Swiss Chard appearing.  The broad beans and rhubarb are flourishing and the 2nd block of mangetouts have come through.  However, there are still no signs of the artichokes and more worryingly, no sign of the peas.  I wonder if I put them in when the soil was too cold or could the mice have taken them?  They are meant to be an “early” so I may have to replant if they don’t come through next week.

Notwithstanding my difficulties with the soil, I have braved the wind and the rain to achieve some planting in Bed C as follows:

Parsnips

I have planted 4 rows of “Gladiator” parsnips.  These are an F1 hybrid and according to Dr Hessayon, resistant to canker.  My hope is that they will help break up the soil.  Moreover, I love roast parsnips and parsnip wine.  I have not gone for a longer variety as I fear they would not penetrate the clay sub-soil.

Carrots

I have chosen “Early Nantes 2” as it is a short rooted variety that can be harvested early.  I should really have planted these in succession to achieve a regular supply of carrots through the Summer.  However, I hope to use much of the crop for wine and to sow another variety of main crop carrots later in the year.

Onions

I have planted two varieties of onion, “Stuttgarter Giant” and “Red Baron”.  I have chosen the former for no other reason than we have some sets left over for sale in the garden centre.  The latter are a red onion and according to Dr Hessayon they store well.

Shallots

To complete my onion planting I have planted one row of “Golden Gourmet” shallots.  As these were the only variety we had in the garden centre I had little choice.

As well as the outdoor planting outlined above, I have also started to do some sowing indoors as follows:

Celery

On the advice of Dr Hessayon I have selected the “Lathom Self Blanching” variety.  Apparently it has a yellow stalk, is less likely to bolt and has good flavour.  As it is self blanching it means there is no need to earth them up to cover the stalks.

French Beans

Again I have taken Dr Hessayon’s advice with my choice of “Tendergreen”.  It is a pencil podded, early, variety that is prolific, stringless and freezes well.

I am pleased to see the asparagus is now nearly 18″ high.  I have been banking it up to provide more support to the stalks but may have to put in some canes. Unfortunately the bed is starting to produce weeds and weeds are also appearing elsewhere on the allotment so next week I will have to put in few hours with the hoe.