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Time To Get Organised.

Winter is a time on the Allotments, to tidy things up and prepare for the coming Spring, which always comes round sooner than you think. With this in mind I have been gradually clearing my empty beds of left over bits of vegetables that werenít harvested because they were too poor - things that hadnít grown properly, or things that had been badly eaten by slugs and so on. After giving the beds a bit of a weed and thorough digging to let the frost get at the soil and break it up into a fine tilth, I covered the beds with a good layer of partly composted Manure that will be taken in by the Worms over the rest of the Winter. The Manure may be a bit rich still at the moment, but it has got a good 2, or 3 months of damp weather to work on it before anything at all will be planted.
Brussels were one thing that I cleared picking 2 big carrier bags of Sprouts in the process, one of which went into my freezer and the other to my mate. The thick stalks were then chopped up into bits a few inches long with my loppers and mixed into my compost heap. They will take some time to rot down properly, but as the heap is mostly fresh it will be given a good 6 months, or more before being dug out. Indeed, after tidying up my other beds I turned the nearly full Compost Bin into the one that I had emptied a short while ago. It had started to compact a little, but turning it fluffed it up, which will encourage the rotting process as it puts air into it, which the Anaerobic Bacteria need to work. Turning it also helps to dry it out a bit as a poor mix of material can make it very wet. The Compost bin itself is made from Concrete blocks cemented together, but when I fill it I put a couple of extra layers of loose bricks round the top to build it up a little. However, within a few days of turning, the heap starts to sink rapidly enabling me to remove the loose bricks for safety. Then it is left, covered up with some ground cover membrane to keep the weed seeds out, until it is ready for emptying later in the year.

Moving dormant plants is another job that can be done at this time of year, so I planted a ďBare Root,Ē Apricot tree that I had bought Mail Order, in place of the Pear that died last year. The tree looked very small when I opened the package, but after buying trees like this before it looked good to me. Bare Root trees take longer to establish than pot grown specimens, but they are generally cheaper and there is always a bigger choice readily available than you could ever hope for from any normal retailer.
I also finally got round to digging up a Mulberry and Apple tree from my garden at home in an attempt to save them when I move house. I replanted the Apple in my plot after hard pruning it, as it was far too big, but potted the Mulberry into a very large pot. I did cut down the Mulberry hard as well, leaving just a few inches of stem showing above the roots in the same way that I did a Hazel earlier in the year. The plan is that when it shoots, low down, on what is left of the stem, I can top up the pot with soil so that the shoots are below soil level and thus, hopefully, they will root. 

Since last year several tree seedlings for work had been growing on in my plot, including a couple of Plums and some Hazels, so being the right time to move them I dug them up along with a Persimon that was for myself. The Persimon I potted to grow on in one of my Root Training pots that had been emptied earlier and was now spare. I also potted a self-rooted sucker - cutting from the Aronia on my plot and one from my big Strawberry Tree at home.

Wintertime is also the time to put in Hardwood Cuttings. Itís a bit late now as they should have gone in a few weeks ago, but I have put in quite a few cuttings of several things. I put in lots different Willow varieties at work to root so that we can grow stems to provide the new Willow Weaving Centre with material to weave. I suppose like most people I thought there were only one, or two different types of Willow with perhaps an upright, weeping and twisted varieties. So, I was amazed to unwrap the bundle of bought stems and find over a dozen straight types without counting the more ornamental types.

I also got round to thinning out the trunks of the big Hazel tree at home and decided to trim the poles to be used as posts for my Grape Vines on my Allotment. Some were not a straight as they might be, but carefully tidied up they are quite functional and add a ďRustic,Ē and more natural look to the Vines. Who knows, they may even root as itís the right time!
Sorting out my Grape Vines reminded my to check the ties on my various trees as well to make sure they were all secure and donít come loose in the remaining Winter winds. One, or two posts had started to rot badly, so here again the Hazel stems came in useful. At between 2 and 3 inches thick they will serve quite nicely as lightweight posts that should last for a few years.

Wintertime is an ideal time to sow most tree seeds, so recently, I cleaned out the large brick built Cold Frame that is on my Allotment and put in several plastic Propagators containing trays of various Tree Seeds. They included things like the usual Hazel and Rowan, but also more unusual things like Akebia, Persimon and Cinamon Vine as well. However, the Sweet Chestnut went into a propagator in my house, as they are a Mediterranean variety that came from a shop and they need the warmth. Hopefully, as Spring comes and the weeks go by, these seeds will start to germinate and can be replaced by vegetable seeds. Then it will be all go on the Allotment with everything starting to happen all at once.

 

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