Monday, 9 June 2014

ALLOTMENT LIFE



ALLOTMENT LIFE

This is the time of year when we reap the benefits of our garden and allotment, in theory.
Most crops will have been sown or planted, the flower beds full of flowers and so we relax on our sun loungers, enjoying the warmth of the early summer on the patio as the scent from our climbing roses wafts over the scene. Ok, now let’s get back to reality. Tayside has had too much cool easterly winds and not enough warmth this spring, at least up till the end of May. This has been fine for cracking on with the digging and soil preparation ahead of sowing and planting, but not great for those seed crops trying to germinate. Carrots, pickling onions, spring onions and even my leeks are all looking proper miserable. Germination on all, except leeks has been very poor, though parsnips, turnips and beetroot have excelled. I have used the clubroot resistant swede Marion this year. You do not get many seeds in a packet, and the germination has been a bit wanting so I may have to fall back onto a standard variety if I don’t get a few more seedlings appearing. Last year I used the other clubroot resistant variety Gowrie and got great results.

A lesson for 2015, or change my seed supplier as too many packets gave poor germination.
It has been too cold to plant out sweet corn, courgettes or pumpkins. The latter were outside hardening off from early May, but looked really sad, so I had to pop them back into the greenhouse to cheer them up. They will get planted out sometime in June when warmer weather arrives.
This will give my green manure crop of clovers and tares more time to rot down after I dig it in ahead of planting. The pumpkins and courgettes will get extra compost worked into their patch before planting as they are both gross feeders and require ample moisture all summer. This year I will separate my planting of pumpkins and courgettes just in case I get some cracking pumpkins and wish to save the seed. Previous experience has shown that bees have no respect for my horticultural principles in preserving a good strain of pumpkin. They are quite happy to jump onto my large golden yellow pumpkin flowers after first visiting my courgettes. This cross pollination does not show up in the developing pumpkin, but it does give you quite a surprise the next year when the pumpkins all grow very oval in shape and are useless for a lantern.

Numerous wee tasks
Turnip Golden Ball and Purple Top Milan have now been thinned out to four to six inches apart and kept weeded. Parsnips have also been thinned out to six inches apart.
Blackcurrants and gooseberries needed another spray to kill greenfly which seem to be in plague proportions this year. However there are no signs, yet of any gooseberry sawfly, and it seems the cabbage white butterfly is a bit slow of the mark with its egg laying so caterpillar removal has not yet started.
Peach leaf curl is still a big problem so infected leaves still need removal as the disease appears.
The wet cool spring has not been favourable for my pear tree. Conference and Comice shoots have now been infected with scab and opened up wounds allowing bacterial canker to girdle a couple of shoots. These had to be pruned out.
Wallflower seeds have been sown in between the rows of cabbage and cauliflower as they all like the same type of soil, (limed) to prevent clubroot. Hopefully I will be lifting and transplanting the wallflower as young sturdy seedlings before the other brassicas need the space.
Later sowings of cabbage and cauliflower in small batches have now been planted in the ground dedicated for my brassicas rotation. This will give me a succession of cropping as the young plants are about two months later than my first batch. They have all got protection from the war against pests and diseases which brassicas suffer from. The ground has been limed in winter and dressed with Perlka before planting. Perlka is a nitrogenous fertiliser high in lime content which helps ward off clubroot. Nets will keep the pigeons and butterflies away. All plants have collars around them to prevent the cabbage rootfly laying eggs which then hatch out into root eating maggots, and slug pellets have been spread for slugs and snails which after the mild winter seem to be very numerous.

First harvests
Low polythene tunnels planted with lettuce, radish, spring onion and beetroot are now giving us our first tender delicious salads, and hopefully by the time this appears in the magazine I will be sampling my first strawberries also grown under low polythene tunnels.
The wind has just turned around and now a warmer breeze is blowing up from the south, high pressure is overhead so the sunny spell could last a good few days. I am well ahead with garden tasks so now it is time to relax on the patio and maybe open up a wee bottle of Saskatoon wine to see if it is ready yet.

Plant of the week

Lilac Michel Buchner has warm purple coloured flowers. Most lilacs are very scented and give a great show in late spring before other summer flowers appear. These large shrubs or small trees are very easy to grow, so even those with a small garden can usually find space for one.


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