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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Plough Field Allotments at Amerton

Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM

Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit

Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Vines And Other Climbing Plants.

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Alan J Hartley



Thinking Of Winter.

As we get nearer to Winter and the days start getting colder, with the occasional night frost, making an early start at the Allotments gets a little less appealing, and it becomes time to think about repair and maintenance jobs instead of growing things. One repair job that I did a little while ago was to help a couple of Lady Plot Holders with a shed that had started collapsing - concertina fashion, due to the effects of the wind on the ageing structure. The shed had been up since the Allotments were first set up over 10 years ago, so because of the constant battering of the prevailing wind, the Joints had started to work loose. A simple solution involved using some Planks that had been salvaged from a Plot that was vacated a while ago. All I had to do was to trim the planks and use them across the inside ends of the Shed in a diagonal, “Crisscross,” fashion to brace it. They were nailed into place using rather large nails, but they did the job, although I did Pre-Drill the Holes for the Nails with a tiny Drill to prevent splitting. Then as one of the Ladies said, “The ends will probably stay up now after the rest of the shed falls apart!”

Another recent little job that I did was to help someone else make a new set of Compost Bins for themselves out of a number of Pallets. Again the source of the Pallets was the same Plot that had been vacated earlier in the Season so it was a bit more Re-cycling. The Lady’s Husband was in charge of constructing the new Bays while she cut back a rather overgrown Apple Tree next to them that had a big Bramble rampaging through it. There had been a similarly made set of Compost Bins in the place that we were clearing, but they had had their day and were falling apart as some of the wood was quite rotten. As the Rubbish was cleared I piled it into barrow after barrow and wheeled it away. I did help with cutting the Bramble down as well though, because I have some lovely, big, very tough, gauntlet type gloves that claim to be Thorn proof and they even enable you to handle barbed wire as if it were just a piece of rope. They certainly live up to their claims and make the nasty job of removing brambles quite easy. With the Brambles cleared it was then a safe and simple job to prune the Tree and pick the Apples from it as it was time to do both. For my help, I was rewarded with a small crate full of what were lovely Apples.

With Winter not far away I always like to refresh some of my Wood chip paths and a timely delivery allowed me to do that. There were a few weeds to deal with before putting a fresh layer of Chips down and a small sprinkle of Salt in the crown of the plant dealt with the odd Dandelion quite effectively after allowing a few days for it to act. Some of the Pegs holding the edging boards dividing the paths and beds also had to be replaced to get things tidy again for the new Season that will be upon us sooner than we think. One or two of my Beds also needed topping up with Soil because the constant weeding, however carefully done, removes a little soil each time. Indeed, I persuaded one Lady Plot Holder to have a Tractor Bucket full, from the freshly emptied Communal Compost Bins, dumped on her Plot as there was so much soil depletion. The soil level had dropped 5, or 6 inches over the years with previous Plot Holders as it had never been topped up in the 12 years that the site had been operating.

One more timely Winter type Job that I am involved with is clearing the ground in preparation for putting down foundations for the Composting Toilet and Storage Shed that is a major project that, we, the Allotment’s Committee, are undertaking. Before any real work could be done though, the existing Plot Holder’s Raspberry Bushes had to be dug up, cleaned and tidied up, before being heeled in elsewhere until he is ready to re-plant them. It was a little early to disturb the Raspberries, but they had just about finished fruiting, so I hoped that by cutting them back it would reduce Transpiration and stress on the plants enabling them to cope with the upheaval. Whilst doing the job I did also manage to scrounge a number of roots to pot up for the Spring Plant Sale, so that was a bonus. After sorting his Raspberries I decided that I might as well cut mine down on my plot and tidy them up by removing stray “Runners,” as well. We don’t have electricity on the Site, so I roughly bagged my prunings and took them home to shred before putting the resulting mixture onto my ever growing Compost Heap.
Apart from the Raspberries, I dug up and potted 4 Large Gooseberries from the development site. They hadn’t dropped their leaves when I did it so I should have left them for a while, but they needed moving, so I cut them hard back and kept my fingers crossed. Again they will go in the Spring Sale, if they survive.

At home I was late putting up the Bubble Polythene in my Green House this year, but had done it by the end of October, although by this time we would normally have had a few frosts. Indeed, we had exceptionally mild nights and warm days in October, but it had started to get quite a bit colder and wetter by the start of November. In fact we had our first Frost of the Autumn, just a few days into November.
After insulating my Green house I decided it was about time to take in some of my Tender Plants like the Cannas, Banana, Palm, Citrus and Eucalyptus that had all been living quite happily for the Summer on my Yard. The cold nights didn’t really touch my Yacon on the Allotment, but after harvesting the first of them, I did divide a few Crowns and pot them before putting them into my Green House to over winter. The same went for my Chrysanth’s which I did very well with getting a lot of cut flowers from them. I was in no hurry to dig up the Chrysanth’s though, as they are quite tough and almost hardy standing up to quite a bit of cold, but they do not like the winter wet. After the old “Stools,” were dug up and the plants roughly potted, they went into my Greenhouse under the Staging where they will stay until early Spring when I will encourage them back into life and take some Cuttings from them to give me some more “Free,” plants for the Spring Plant Sale.

The wet spell proved a problem with my Beans that I was trying to dry on what was left of the vines on my Plot. After picking them and trying to shell them, I found that many of the Seeds had started to shoot inside the pods due to the wet and mild weather of October. However, I did manage to rescue a fair number that went into Brown Paper Bags before storing them in the bottom of my Fridge until they are wanted in late Spring. The old and dead Vines were chopped up with a pair of Shears and mixed into my Compost Heap before I carefully tied up the Bamboo canes in a tight bundle to stop them bending during the Winter.

I also cut down the tops on my Jerusalem Artichokes and shredded those. The stems are quite tough to cut with Secateurs as they are segmented like Bamboo, but they do rot down well and help make good Compost.
There were a lot of Leaves came down from my various Fruit Trees with different Trees dropping their Leaves on different weeks. I do like to Compost as much as possible of the waste vegetation from my Plot, but they always say that Leaves should be Composted separately as they take much longer to rot. However, if you spread them on your Lawn at home and run the Mower over them to chop them up they will Compost much more quickly. After doing this I then simply mixed my Leaves in with the rest of the waste. It will probably be 6 Months, or more before it will be dug into the Beds in early Spring and even then most of it will be put down as a complete layer in my Bean Bed before it is covered over with a good layer of soil. It is always said that Beans like to have their Toes in partly rotted Compost anyway. This means that it can happily go on rotting until the Beans are fetched out in the following Autumn and the Bed is dug over properly.
The TV Gardeners often tell People to use Compost as a Mulch to improve the Soil and help retain water, but I use all the Compost I produce in other ways, so I recently brought some shreddings from work. They were more woody than the stuff that I produce, but not Woody enough to call Wood Chippings. We had made a lot of Bags full of it at work from Hazel Branches where the Trees had been Coppiced. I used the shreddings as a Mulch on both my Garden and my Allotment Plot. Also at work somebody had cleared some big tubs and generated lots of spent Potting Compost that nobody wanted, so I brought a number of Bags of that Home as well. It will be useful in potting some of the many Plants that I am growing for the May Sale. You have to be a little bit careful using Spent Compost though and it is best used as a filler to go in the bottom of large pots that are then topped up with fresh Compost. I think some of the tougher things like the Fig Trees will be OK in just the rough Compost, but I will add a few Chicken manure Pellets to boost the Nutrient levels. Apart from topping up Nutrient levels that will be depleted in Spent Compost you must be careful not to reuse any compost that has had plants die in it from any disease, or infestation of any sort. If in any doubt do not re-use such Compost as it could well infect and spoil your new Plants.

I pruned most of my Fruit trees a few weeks ago, but usually put in some cuttings taken from around the base of my Fig trees about now. So, as I hadn’t pruned my Figs earlier, I decided to do them. This was at the start of November. It is totally the wrong time to do this and I am sure I will get “Die Back,” but I needed to reduce their size as I couldn’t get between the rows of trees. I also removed all of the larger undeveloped Figs, because these will rot after hard frosts and may delay, or even stop, the Fruit Buds from developing and producing new Fruit next season. At the same time as doing the Fig Cuttings I put in some other “Hardwood Cuttings,” of things like Cornus and Weigelas and I am going to try some mature stems of a lovely Euphorbia that I have got in my Garden as well.

Apart from Hardwood Cuttings, I have potted a number of Strawberry Runners that were running rampant as they do, and I also dug up a very large Rhubarb Crown that I divided as the leaves had gone down with the onset of the colder weather coming and Winter not being far away.
I don’t know what sort of Winter we are going to have, but one “Old Wives Tale,” says that an abundance of Fruit and Berries in the Autumn is usually a sign of a harsh and cold Winter to come. With Global Warming this may not be true, but we will soon see. Up until now it has been a mild Autumn and as yet we haven’t had much in the way of frosts.


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