Field Allotments at Amerton
By Mrs FM
Herbs & Other
Issues And Going Green.
And Other Climbing Plants.
Alan J Hartley
December means harvesting
things like Brussels Sprouts, Kale, Chard, Parsnips, Jerusalem
Artichokes and Leeks, but also on the better days, it means getting
stuck into all the maintenance jobs that you have been putting off.
Fertilising your allotment while your growing beds are empty, or at
least emptying, is one job that now is the ideal time for. Spread and
dig in some farmyard manure and ideally, the manure will have been
allowed to stand in the open for a few months, but at this time of year
it doesn’t really matter if it is fairly fresh as you won’t be planting
anything into it for a good while. This means it will be able to weather
over winter on your plot just as well as it would in the farmer’s
fields. The neighbours at home don’t appreciate me using manure on my
garden though, so I am going to feed the Garden with Organic Chicken
manure Pellets and then give it a Mulch over the top with Recycled and
Spent Potting Compost to keep down the smell from the pellets!
Personally, I don’t think that there is much to choose between the smell
from the pellets and the manure, but the pellets are cleaner to handle
and psychologically the nicer choice.
One job that I finally got round to doing recently was cutting down all
my Chrysanthemums (including my Korean) and my Herbaceous Perennials. A
lot of people like to leave the old seed heads on the plants until it’s
nearly Spring with the idea that the birds can feed off the seeds in a
natural way instead of putting out bird seed on a feeding table. Other
people say that leaving the old and dead plant growth intact gives some
protection to the crown of the plant against the harshness of winter.
Both are good ideas, but I simply like to tidy things up and get my
compost heap filled up early in the winter so that come the Spring it is
just about ready to empty on to, and dig into, my growing beds in
preparation for my young vegetable plants. I lost count of just how many
bags of rubbish went onto the heap, but by the time I had cut down and
shredded my Autumn Raspberry canes and added those to the heap along
with some large pots of spent compost from my greenhouse at home that
had contained Aubergines and Peppers, the compost bay was looking nicely
full. Obviously as time goes by and it all starts to decompose the level
in the heap will drop markedly making room for a lot more. It will also
give me a little winter job occasionally as it will need turning a
couple of times before Spring comes to keep it working and make it rot
Incidentally, as I had never grown Aubergines, or Chilli Peppers before,
I was surprised at how well and easily they grew. In the past I have
never done very well with Tomatoes in my greenhouse due to my erratic
watering, but neither the Aubergine nor Peppers seemed to mind that so
much. Next year I will also try some Sweet Peppers as they are expensive
to buy in the shops.
With no surprise, the cold nights last month took the tops of my Yacon
plants which are related to Dahlias, so I harvested their edible roots
getting quite a nice crop in the process. You can buy “Buds,” over the
Internet to start off, to give a new crop for the next season, but I
like to prepare my own. Although the roots will stay in the ground for a
while after the first frosts, the “Crowns,” need to be dug up, or else
the “Buds,” will die from cold in the same way that Dahlias are not
fully hardy. However, unlike Dahlias you don’t need to keep all of the
large Tubers intact, but instead only need a small part of the “Crown,”
that contains the “Buds.” that will over-winter in pots of compost in a
greenhouse to be started into growth in early spring to give next years
plants. Each “Crown,” will easily cut up into small pieces giving maybe
half a dozen “Buds.” As I say, they do need to be kept frost free and
last year I nearly lost the lot because I left it very late to dig up
the Crowns from my Allotment and some very cold nights nearly did for
all of them.
With everything that was going on this year I neglected my grape Vines
on my Allotment and many of the posts gave way from a combination of
rotting and all of the frequent stormy weather that we had.
Consequently, I have bought a whole load of new, treated, posts to
replace the old, homegrown, Hazel stems along the whole length of the
vines. The Vines were thickening out quite nicely, so when they were
properly supported I was able to completely remove all of the training
wires between the posts and just tie the vines in to each post. If I say
so myself, they really do look the business now and have the appearance
of a little bit of a French Vineyard about them!
The Grapes didn’t get picked when they should have, but a friend
recently took them for Wine making as they were still on the vines, but
unfit to eat and still OK to make wine. They say that a bit of mould
after frosting makes them better for wine!
After sorting out my Grape Vines I am getting stuck into replacing other
broken posts and tying in my many fruit trees including the new Peach
Tree. It is the wrong time to prune stone fruit such as Peaches, Plums
and Cherries, so I can’t actually trim the Peach, only tie in the
selected branches and then leave the others until Spring before cutting
them. You can prune Apples to shape them up now, but do remember that if
you cut off all of the tips of the branches you will be removing the
fruit buds and will get no fruit next season. You should just trim the
odd straggly branches to shape up the tree and remove any branches that
are damaged, or crossing.
While working on the fruit trees I will replace the Grease Bands, or
sticky traps on the stems to prevent the crawling pests from getting
into the buds of next years fruit. They should have been done a week, or
two ago, but better late than never and it is said that even putting
them on just before Spring is not too late to do some good. You can also
hang special moth traps to snare another pest, but I don’t usually
bother with those.
After sorting out all my fruit this month, next month, January will
bring colder weather and I will have to resort to spending more days in
my Greenhouse at home and spending time on the computer browsing the
Internet looking for interesting things to grow.