Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
Some Seasonal Work.
The allotments have a big communal compost heap that gets everything thrown into it – even weeds like Nettles and Docks. The Committee try to discourage the tougher, perennial weeds like this from being added to it, because they take quite a bit to kill them and rot them properly. However, the farmer, who’s land it is, adds some fresh manure to it occasionally and this seems to have helped the heap to generate enough heat to deal with them as it has just been dug out with his tractor and looks good. There is barely any trace of any weeds with even things like Raspberry canes broken down. Admittedly he has turned the pile occasionally with his digger and this must have helped, but from the first turn out since it was built, it seems to be doing the job of composting and breaking down everything. The two new replacement bins are much, much bigger than the old pallet built ones and there was probably something like 3 or 4 tons of soil that came out of the heap. To be honest, it has rotted down so completely, it looks more like Top Soil than compost, but without the bins all of this soil would have been taken off the site if plot-holders had taken their weeds home with them. Talk about losing topsoil through cultivation! A lot of people have started to put in raised beds after the success that one or two had with them in the first couple of years of the site, so, the soil is getting put to good use and helping some people out. One or two are a bit wary of it because they think weed seeds will germinate in it and some probably will, but there are so many weeds around the site on paths, surrounding fields and hedges as well as a few unkempt plots, that the few seeds that do germinate won’t really be noticeable.
As usual there are a good seasonal crop of Dandelions on and around the site. The problem with them is that their roots go down so deep that they are difficult to dig out, especially in paths etc, because with the Hardcore you just can’t dig down. Some Plot-holders have been putting wood chip down on top of them in the hopes of smothering them with others laying newspaper down first. The paper does help with ordinary weeds, but dandelions will still push their way through. We do try and cover vacant plots with tarpaulins, which also helps, but does not completely solve the problem. A few people, including myself have resorted to using Systemic Weed Killer that is pretty harmless to the soil and wildlife when it’s used carefully and it has dried safely on the weeds.
I have even used it in my Cold Frame as I had a problem with squitch in the soil. Talking of the Cold Frame I have been trying to decide what to do with it for the summer now that the Chrysanthemums have come out and been planted in my plot. Previously I have tried using it for propagation and growing Melons and Sweet Potatoes, but foolishly, it seems, I made it facing due South so that it gets the full Sun all the time and it just gets too hot. Also with the heavy, but fragile glass lid, I am afraid of leaving it propped open to ventilate it to prevent rotting and Mildew etc, although, I am going to try putting greenhouse shading on it. One plant that might cope with the conditions is a Pineapple. It will have to be removed for each Winter and taken inside for warmth, but it should like the hot, humid conditions. You are supposed to be able to grow them from the cut off top bit of the fruit, so I am going to give it a go. Apparently, they take 2 or 3 years until maturity and perhaps I am being silly, but it might be a bit of fun.
On the subject of fruit, my Strawberry plants look a bit weedy, so, I don’t know if I will get much fruit this year and I may have to wait for the plants to mature again after their big upheaval with the creation of their new raised beds last Winter. The raised beds do look nice though and there will be a little bit of fruit. The plants do need Mulching about now, so maybe I will do it with straw, the traditional method – or maybe I will use wood chip as I have done before with great success.
It is not really the best time to be planting fruit trees, although most people do plant them in the growing season. The best time is of course through the late Autumn and Winter when they are dormant, but if they have been pot gown it is O.K. to do it now with some care. Recently, I bought a “Twisted Hazel,” and did not know where to plant it until I saw it was actually grafted and then read the label finding it to be on a dwarfing rootstock that should restrict its height to only 2 metres. They are normally small trees, but this is very small even for a Hazel and makes it ideal for planting on my Allotment with its height restriction of 2 metres and I always wanted a Hazel up there. With it being dwarfed it maybe that its nuts will be small, but hopefully not and we shall have to wait for a couple of years to see.
There are less weekly bonfires at Oak Tree now and some time ago I had been told to watch what I was burning as I get a bit too enthusiastic at times with things getting burnt that perhaps shouldn’t. So, I have been trying to salvage some of the waste wood and recently I found that an old bench had been put out for burning. As it was not in too bad a condition I decide to try and save it. The idea was to take it up to the Allotments in the good old Allotments tradition of salvaging odds and ends and making use of them. However, I really struggled to get it in my little car, even with the back seat down and the front seat pushed forwards as far as it would go. I was squashed up in the drivers seat so that it would go in, but I managed to get in and safely up to the Allotments in the end. Sanded down and treated with stain and preservative, which is always a good idea to do annually in the Summer when it is a bit dryer, it should last a bit longer and look all right. A few days later a friend gave me an old tub of Wood Stain that will easily do the job and coat both of my benches. It may be the middle of June at the time of writing this and Summer time, but it has been so wet just lately the benches will have to wait awhile for things to dry up!