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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.

Fish Ponds

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Alan J Hartley



It All Starts Again.

The Winter sees most growing Beds on any Allotments empty and unused. It is always said that while some people like the look of patches of black, weed free, bare soil, it doesn’t stay that way for long. Even in Winter a few hardy weeds will put on a little growth during the milder spells. To avoid this many Plot Holders cover their Plots with Membrane of some sort be it Plastic Sheets, or a much more durable and tougher, Woven and semi permeable membrane. However this can be expensive, although it does have the benefit of warming up your soil a little earlier than otherwise. The real enthusiasts grow Green Manure that they then dig in, in the Spring. This easily composted vegetation usually contains Clover that adds Nitrogen to your Soil as well as other things that provide Humus. A third alternative is to lightly cover your beds with Farm Yard, or Horse Manure. Strictly speaking this should have been allowed to stand for 6 months, or more before use, although if you put it on your beds in the Autumn and leave it over Winter before digging it in and Planting, it will then have had 6 months to weather. Personally, I favour this last option as we usually get an abundant supply of Horse Manure delivered to the Site in Bags for free. However, the bags soon get taken, so if you are not up there regularly, you miss out. One large bed that doesn’t get the Manure treatment though, is my Bean Bed as I call it, where I intend to grow my Runner, Borlotti and Dwarf French Beans. It is always said that Beans like their feet in pert rotted compost that holds the moisture. So, for the last few years I have removed the surface layer of soil down about 4, or 5 inches and then barrowed most of my compost Heap onto the Bed spreading it out before covering the layer over again with soil. With this intention I have been building up my Compost Heap and turning it regularly each time after adding fresh material. When I last dug it out for use back in the Summer, it was lovely and Crumbly and fairly dry after the dry Spring and Summer, but now it is rather wet and even a bit sloppy. Continually turning it will help get some air into it and dry it out a bit, but I an also keeping it covered with a small off-cut of Membrane to keep out the worst of the wet.
I do try to Rotate my crops so the Bean Bed moves along the row of beds on my Plot giving a different Bed the treatment each year. In this way they all get topped up and refreshed with a large amount of Humus every few years, from all my Tree prunings that go in the Compost. The tree prunings take several years to completely break down so help to break up the soil for some time.

The TV Gardeners say that you shouldn’t re-use old potting Compost because for one thing, it will have little, or no goodness left in it. Also it is asking for trouble with the possible introduction of Diseases and Pests. However, I like to re-use what I can in the bottom of large pots, or tubs rather than using enormous amounts of expensive, fresh compost. If you are planting tubs full of Bulbs and Flowers especially most of them don’t root very deeply so the roots don’t even reach down into the bottom of large Containers anyway. With this in mind I will be re-using the Compost from the 3 Potato Bags on my yard that a friend gave me the other year. In one tub I grew a Yacon that grew well enough and formed a decent crop of its sweet, edible Tubers, but rather foolishly I didn’t harvest them before the sharp December Frosts that we had. On a couple of nights at least the frosts were quite penetrating and not only froze the surface of the soil in the Bags, but also froze the soil a little way down and in from the sides spoiling some of the Tubers. In the ground they would have got some protection, but the Soil in pots always freezes deeper than in the open ground.
My Brother had some lovely Cannas in large Pots that he had in his cold greenhouse and he had the same problem resulting in their loss. Whereas, he thinks the ones outside, in his town centre Garden, have survived so far. Another exotic that has tubers susceptible to frost are the Cinnamon Vine tubers, but they grow deep down in the ground and are kept safe by a deep layer of soil that never freezes in our moderate Climate. The tops die as soon as it gets cold in the Autumn, but they re-shoot every year just as if they were Herbaceous Perennials. It is the same with My Oca, although here again, some of the bright pink, little edible Tubers that were close to the surface of the soil did get frosted and spoilt whereas others deeper down were OK. I am informed that the same will be true with the flowering bulbs called Roscoea that I am growing from seed this year.
Roscoeas come from China, are a member of the Ginger family and as such they might be considered as Exotics and quite tender. However, if the Dahlia like tubers are planted deeply enough, they can go through UK Winters with no problems. There are some 17 species currently known, but more may be discovered as China opens up.
Roscoea are perennials that have lance-shaped leaves which give them an appearance a little like Irises and have some say, orchid-like flowers in summer, or autumn. They need some moisture in the soil and actively dislike dry weather, or hot sun.
Roscoeas leaf up a little later in the Spring than most UK plants and thereby obviously have a short growing season. Plants will grow best in a little shade, but should not be put in deep shade as that will elongate the leaves and make them flop. Not liking dry shade they probably won’t do well under Trees, but I have a border which is shaded by a Fence that I am hoping they will grow well in.

Another exotic that I have just germinated from seed is a batch of Passion Flower Seeds grown from a bright orange fruit picked off the plant in my Brothers back Garden. I Potted up about 40 seedlings which is probably too many for what I want, however, some won’t survive until late Spring when they can be planted out, or as we intend to do – sell some of them in the Spring Plant sale. Half will then be kept back for the late Summer Plant Sale as well.
Last Summer I planted a young Passion Flower Plant out on my Allotment and it grew very fast rewarding me with a few of its beautiful flowers, but it looks a bit sad now after the cold Snap. They can be a bit delicate until they develop more of a woody trunk and even then a very hard frost can take them.

In last Spring’s Plant Sale we sold a number of Dwarf Bamboo Plants that I had potted up from divisions taken from plants that I had at home. However, they were not potted in the best of Compost and half didn’t grow so I have just dug up and divided another plant that was getting too big for its spot in my front Garden. I put a bit back in the ground and potted about 20 pieces up. Hopefully, using better compost this time more will take, although they do grow slowly so it may be a while before I can be sure that they are OK.

Spring will be on us before we know it and it will be time to put in all sorts of seeds. I have made a start by putting in some Onion Seeds, but I don’t know how well they will germinate because the packet is 10 years old! In a week or two I will have to sow my Broad Beans that I forgot last Autumn. They will be a bit later than usual and I may have a bit of a problem with Black Fly on them, but such is life. Along with the Beans I will have to put in a few other early things like Parsley, Cape Gooseberries, Asparagus and Jerusalem Artichokes. They will all be started off in trays of new potting compost on my Kitchen Windowsill where they will get some warmth and a bit of light. As soon as I can I will then put them out in unheated Propagators in my Greenhouse where they will get a lot more light.
Along with Seed sowing there will be lots of other things to do including potting up some Jerusalem Artichokes and Oca to start into growth for the May Sale.
I will also be dividing my Cannas as they start to shoot. There are 3 different varieties over wintering in my Green House now, if they all survive. The original dark red leafed and bright red flowered one is the largest and most spectacular, but I also have one with a very pretty variegated leaf, although I am not sure how big that will get. Then there is also the much smaller and more delicate, yellow flowered variety. Apart from these coming back to life after a Winter rest I have about 50, or 60 old Chrysanthemum Stools in pots that have never really died off this winter. It won’t be many weeks before I can start to take some cuttings from their new shoots.
Other potting that I will be doing will involve potting on all of the Fig, Hazel and Willow Cuttings into bigger pots before they leaf up and at some stage I will have to transplant my Onion Seedlings, but that will probably not be until after February at the earliest.

At about that time I will have to put upturned Buckets over my two beds of Sea Kale to “Force,” and “Blanche,” the shoots. I weeded out and re-planted a few stray plants at the start of January and also topped up the Beds that had become a little depleted of soil from the constant weeding. After topping up the beds I gave them a liberal layer of “Shreddings,” brought home from work where we had been cutting a Holly hedge. Indeed, I have put a layer of “Shreddings,” over most of my garden at home and several other beds on my Allotment. Following last years long and very hot Summer I thought that a good layer of Mulch wherever I could would be a good preparation for another dry Summer.


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