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Getting Ready.

Apart from weeding out the last of the rubbish and tidying up, I finally got round to preparing my Bean Bed that will be used for Runner Beans, Climbing Borlotti Beans and Dwarf French Beans.
According to best Gardening Tradition, Runner Beans should be planted over a Trench part filled with things like old Newspapers, Vegetable Peelings, part rotted Compost, or Carpet Cleaner Sweepings. Although, it is perhaps not a good idea to use the Fluff from your Carpet Cleaner these days as it will no doubt have a high percentage of Plastic Fibres from the modern Carpets that are rarely made from pure Wool anymore. All of these fibrous materials will help to retain Moisture in the Ground around the Roots of the Runner Bean Plants. In fact, as all Beans like moist ground, I took it a stage further when preparing my Bed and removed the top few inches of soil over the whole Bed before spreading a thick layer from my Compost Heap and then carefully raking the soil back over. I dug out one half at a time, turning the soil from one side of the bed to the other and back again to do the second half. Several inches of part rotted compost went into the Layer and as the soil level in the Bed needed topping up anyway, it was a doubly good exercise doing two jobs at once. The Dwarf French Beans will be planted in a Block, but of course the Climbers will be in narrow rows, however, there was no point in just putting the layer of Compost where things were to be planted because the whole bed will be improved from the exercise for following crops in future years.

In a few weeks, after the soil has settled in the Bed a bit, I will put my Bean Canes up ready for planting at about the beginning of May, after all risk of frosts have finished. As usual, I will be using Soft, or Natural String to tie up the Canes so that I can easily Compost the dead Plants at the end of the Season without having to fish out bits of Plastic from the tangled mass.
The Mature side of my Compost Heap was as full as it has ever been, so I had some Compost left over that I used as a mulch to top up some other beds that needed it. I did save a few Buckets of it though to go into the bottom of the 3 Growing Bags that I was given at Christmas. This will save tremendously on the amount of bought compost that I would otherwise need to fill them as they are quite big. I imagine that each Growing Bag would need a whole bag, or more of Compost to fill them. The top, planting layer of Compost in them, will though, just be a Proprietary, branded type, to give the Plants the best start possible and to prevent Weed Seeds from germinating in the Bags.

Of course while topping up my various Beds I came across several retaining Pegs, that hold the edging Boards in place, which had rotted and broken off, so they were replaced. Also while going round my plots and checking on things, I found a few ties had rotted and broken away on my Fruit Trees so they too were dealt with. When the Trees burst into Leaf, as Spring comes, it will be difficult for me to see what I am doing so it is another little job that is best done in the Winter. The frequent winds that we tend to get more of in Winter, rather than Summer, also mean that they need checking more regularly.

Perhaps I left it a bit late, as the Rhubarb was already showing signs of ďBreaking,Ē with big, fat, pink Buds swelling, but I decided to dig up and move all of my plants to make room for 2 young Loquat, or Chinese Peach, that I had been growing on, in large Pots, on my Yard at Home. They can be a bit delicate as young plants and are not the hardiest of plants anyway, so I had kept them there, where it was a little bit more sheltered, away from the worst of the Winter, while they were very small. Because they are susceptible to cold weather, their fruit, if they have any, often drops in the UK, although they Flower easily enough and produce highly scented, white masses of Blossom. You do need 2 plants to enable pollination of their Winter flowers, so again with not many Pollinators about late in the year, a Crop is unlikely. If you do get fruit though, it may be worthwhile covering the plants at night with some Horticultural Fleece to keep off the worst of the cold air. My Mother had a lovely Loquat for years on the corner of her Garage that used to produce some lovely flowers that filled the air with a heady scent, each year, but we never had any fruit. The Loquat is an Evergreen with large, Laurel, or Viburnum like leaves, so as my 2 little plants grow they will eventually provide a wind break and some shelter for my slightly tender Olive, small Strawberry Tree, (Arbutus Unedo) and my Acca, or Feijoa Selowiana, commonly known as the Pineapple Guava.

Elsewhere on my Allotment I have been giving some attention to my remaining vegetables. My Leeks were quite late going in last year and were still very small going into the winter, but I had hoped for a mild Winter that would have let them catch up a bit. They have grown and thickened out a little, but I will leave them for a while longer to see if they develop further. As long as they donít actually go to seed they will keep growing, because unlike most vegetables they donít mind cold weather.
Parsnips are of course another vegetable that comes into their own at this time of year and when I sowed my Parsnip seeds last Spring I forgot to thin them out. Normally this isnít a problem as they can be a bit erratic in their germination and you often get spaces if you sow them too thinly. However, they came up particularly well last year and grew into many little bunches. Having dug a few out now though, they donít seem to have done too badly and I guess I will be sowing some more Seed in a week, or two, as they need a long growing season. Some varieties are earlier than others though and need to go in about now, (in February) whereas others can be sown a little later because they are quicker to maturity. The tops on my Parsnips died down and disappeared with winter a while ago, but have now started shooting again and they will go woody and to seed, if left too long, so I need to harvest the rest of them.

The Japanese, or Autumn sowing Onion Sets are shooting well in another bed on my Plot after not getting off to a great start. They just sat in the ground with the birds continually pulling them out until they really got some roots on to hold them in. They should harvest a few weeks earlier than Sets planted in early Spring. I am not sure when the Seedlings, that I sowed on my Kitchen Windowsill, a week or two ago, will mature, but I have just Pricked them out into Modules to grow on for a bit before planting out in the Spring.

It will still be too cold for most things to burst into growth for a while yet, but some things are already starting into growth apart from the Daffodils, Crocuses, etc. The pots of Alstromoeria divisions that I made before Winter have little green shoots on them. I have already given a few pots away to enthusiastic Plot Holders, but there are plenty left for our intended Plant Sale Fundraiser.
My old Chrysanthemum Stools, that have been in my Greenhouse all Winter, are also starting to throw out new shoots, so, hopefully, it wonít be long before I can take some cuttings to root for more plants. They root easily enough as long as you donít let them get too wet because they will rot.
It is still early for most Seeds as well, but this year I am sowing some annual flower seeds to grow on for cut flowers and maybe also to use to fill in one or two gaps in my garden although I donít usually bother. If you buy things like Rudbeckia, Aster, Scabious and Helianthius in particular, you may well pay several pounds for each pot even though they are only annuals. From seed they only cost coppers each and the extra plants will go for our plant sale. Looking at the packets I found that Asters and Lobelia can be sown quite early along with vegetables such as Rhubarb, (which was one of the first to come up that I have already sown) Curly Parsley, Cape Gooseberry, Asparagus and Aubergines. Most people donít think about growing Rhubarb from Seed and it does take a while to develop, but where you want a number of plants it is cheap and simple. The Aubergines go in early because they need a long growing time, but they do need quite a bit of warmth though to keep them going. In fact even though you can sow some seeds early in the season, while it is still cold, they will need protection from the frost until Spring comes and it warms up outside with no more cold nights.


 

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