Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
When our Allotments were set up we were encouraged to apply for ¼ plots and then reapply for more at a later date as plots became available. The idea was to satisfy as many as possible with the initial, enthusiastic demand. I did eventually obtain 4 X ¼ plots to give me an area the size, nationally recommended, for an allotment plot, but not all together in one solid block. This Winter the opportunity has come up to swap one of my ¼’s for one adjacent to two that I already have. The new plot is rather neglected and full of weeds, although it has been dug periodically over the years. The official changeover doesn’t happen until the New Year, but I have started to dig it, so that I can have it all clear, manured and prepared in time for next season.
After I had got stuck into the patch and cleared a small area, I dug out, my, by now, mature compost bin which was then unceremoniously tipped onto the clear patch and left for digging in later. The recently filled compost bin that had had the Tomato and Runner Bean stalks piled into it along with a lot of other “rubbish,” was then turned into the now empty one and covered with ground cover membrane to mature. The empty compartment didn’t stay empty for long though with all my work on my new plot and quickly started to fill with piles of Nettles, Docks and Squitch. Most gardeners say you shouldn’t try composting these particularly insidious weeds, but I am hoping that given enough composting time they will rot and die properly. I kept putting in bag after bag of grass cuttings scattered throughout the weeds as the bin started to fill to try and kick start the composting process. A lot of fresh weeds going in together should also help to get things started and generate some real heat to help deal with the weeds.
The plot was largely covered in nettles that had helped to keep most of the other weeds down and the sandy soil just fell off them, when you could manage
to prise loose a fork full, so clearing the plot didn’t prove as bad as it might have been. However, at times, I almost had to cut out squares of Nettles with my spade to lift out the tangled roots. Nettles do make good plant feed if put into a bucket water, so they should also enrich the compost as long as they do rot and don’t start sprouting in my compost bin!
After clearing one decent sized patch by my newly acquired shed, I decided to move some slabs from another plot to make a new path across the plot to give a good surface round the other side of my compost bin where I was now working. The strip where the slabs came from was then recovered with old newspaper and a good layer of wood chip over that to remake a “greener,” path between some of my fruit bushes and the field fence.
I have been saying for a few years now that I would stop growing vegetables between my fruit trees and put it all down to woodchip and I am finally going to do so. However, I have decided to plant spring flowering bulbs/corms for cut flowers under them instead to continue making use of the space. The bulbs won’t need to be dug up all the time, unlike the vegetables, so the tree roots won’t get disturbed and what could be more natural for most bulbs than to grow under trees. Admittedly, some bulbs do want more sun than they might get there, but hopefully they will get enough, especially those that grow early on in the season before the trees get into full swing. A bag of mixed Daffodil’s was one of my first choices to go under the Medlar tree that is being moved to an area between the shed and the compost bins. Camassias are another Spring flowering bulb that should be ideal. Summer flowering Liatris are fairly short so should grow underneath
the trees and another cut flower that I have put in, although it is not a bulb at all, is the Alstoemeria which has gone in, in front of the new shed where it should get some shelter from the prevailing wind. I did come across a new variety with very pretty green and white variegated leaves that give plenty of “show,” even after the flowers have been cut! Next I moved, divided and replanted a patch of the traditional orange, self-set, Crocosmias, along with a new Yellow variety called “Paul’s Best Yellow,” and the ever popular vivid red one called Lucifer.
My Autumn flowering Nerines are just coming into flower elsewhere on one plot, so I can’t move those to their new home yet. They are unusual in as much as the flowers come up before the leaves. Another flower that is good for cutting, but not a bulb, is the Agapanthus. They are also late summer flowering, but all the experts say their roots need to be restricted for them to flower well, so I probably won’t bother with those. I have put in some Alliums that flower in late Spring which should also be good for cutting. However, I got a bit carried away and bought quite a few other lots of bulbs that I am not sure will all be so suitable for cutting. Mom was always the gardening expert and like most people I have a lot to learn and frequently get things wrong! Ixias are another bulb I considered that have long lasting flowers, but apparently are short-lived perennials, so I may not bother with them. A bag of mixed colour Anemones, that I bought, turned out to have fairly short stalks, but hopefully will be ok for cutting. The particular packet of Sparaxis I bought also had short stems, but another variety called “Grandiflora,” has 18 inch stems that would have been better. It always pays to read the packet of whatever you buy before you do! The packet also said that they need to be dry over Winter, but they maybe alright in my sandy soil. Apparently they are best for containers where they can be taken inside and dried off properly. Anemones were a better choice, but they don’t like being disturbed and again I could have bought a taller variety, so again I should have checked the packet!
Another bulb that I came across was the Dutch Iris. They grow to about 2 feet, but unlike common “Bearded Iris,” which grows from a Rhizome, they are just like any other bulb. A packet of Ranunculus added to my haul, but before planting them they needed to be soaked for a few hours.
From Oak Tree Farm Rural Project I also bought some Schizostylis, or Hesperantha, commonly called the “Kaffir
Lily.” However, when I looked them up another plant seems to bear the same name and that is a member of the Clivia family. The Schizostylus is a late autumn flowering bulb that will often stay into flower late into December and lasts well as a cut flower. Colours go from white through pink to red.
With this mixture of bulbs for cut flowers added to my plots, I should be able to cut, both a better selection of flowers for the house and to give away, and also be able to keep cutting them over a longer period of the year. Lets hope that my visiting Squirrel and the abundant Mice don’t find
them before they start growing!