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Plough Field Allotments.


Wellington Field Allotments Hixon


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By Mrs FM


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Fashioned Fruit


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Alan J Hartley




Around Christmas I bought a few 8 foot Posts to replace some of those that had rotted and broken on my Plot. As with many things they had gone up a lot in price, so, after removing the old and damaged Posts, I inspected them carefully. It seemed that there was still plenty of strength in most of the posts that had been above ground, so I cut the rotten ends off each of them and decided to re-use them elsewhere. When I checked some of the smaller posts on my Plot that were holding up things like my Tay Berries, I discovered that the cut down 8 foot Posts were still long enough to replace some of the shorter ones that had broken. This saved me from buying a number of 6 foot posts, saved me a lot of money and followed the Allotment ethic of recycling. It is the same with broken 8 foot Bean Canes. I always save them and usually find a use for them until they get broken up into really small pieces. For instance, 4-5 foot lengths are used to support my Chrysanthemums and even shorter pieces, perhaps only a foot or so, are used to mark rows of Seeds, or Potatoes, etc.

I haven’t planted much on my Allotment over Winter this year, but talking of Bamboo Canes, one thing that I have put in is Bamboo. I should really say two things as I planted both a Dwarf variety and a tall one. No, I don’t have a Panda to feed, but I am hoping that I will be able to cut some Bamboo Canes from the taller one as it grows and bunches up. I will of course also be able to divide both plants, in years to come, so that I have some plants for future Fundraiser plant sales.

Towards the end of February I will have to give my Vines some attention. In particular my Grape and Kiwi Vines should be trimmed then. The Kiwi vines did get a lot of growth hacked off them to enable me to replace their Posts, but I will get some “Die Back,” from doing it at the wrong time so will have to tidy them up. I had flowers and Fruit on them for the first time last season, so am going to give them a bit more care and attention this season. The Grape vines did have fruit on as well, more than most Seasons, but the Autumn weather spoilt a lot of it with the wet causing mould to grow on the bunches of grapes. This year I may eventually get round to replacing a couple of the poorer vines with varieties that are more suitable for growing outdoors in the UK.

Apart from trimming my Vines I cut back my beautiful, dwarfed, grafted, red leafed, Twisted Hazel. The tree was creeping up slowly so I took a bit off its height to keep it within the 2 metre rule, but as it was also spreading well I cut it back to clear the path. The pieces that I cut off did not go to waste though as I gave some to a Flower arranger that I know and tried putting some in to root. Normally, hardwood cuttings should be done in the Autumn, but I understand that Hazel can be done just before the Buds start to break in Spring. Apparently this goes for Willows as well, so I Coppiced the Willows that I had grown in large pots to make them bushy. I think that they should be more appealing for the late summer, Fundraiser sale, with bushy growth on rather than the long, single, straight Stems that they had. The tops of the Willows didn’t get thrown away either as I put them in as cuttings that will hopefully root through the Summer and will maybe be ready for a sale next year!

Apart from the Willow and Hazel Cuttings I had some Cuttings of a short Euphorbia, Silene and lovely variegated Hebe in my Green House over Winter, and in my Cold Frame, with the Fig Cuttings on my Allotment, some cuttings of a tall Euphorbia, Weigela and red stemmed Cornus. Normal Hardwood Cuttings take much longer than many softer shrub cuttings like the Cornus and Euphorbias, so I am expecting that by the Spring some of these will be rooted. Winter is not normally a good time to root soft stem cuttings as they tend to rot, but hopefully, this is not the case with the Cornus and Euphorbias. The Silene was not really Cuttings at all, but more little bunches torn up from a patch that was spreading over the Path, so there would have been a few tiny bits already rooted in each bunch. The Hebe Cuttings were from the fancy one in my Garden that was caught by the Frosts, so I am keeping my Fingers Crossed for those!

Elsewhere on my Allotment my Sea Kale is always one of the earliest of the new Crops at the start of the Season and as usual I couldn’t wait to cut the first Stems. By mid January some of the Buds were starting to show colour and swell so I covered them with up turned Buckets. I do have to check the Buckets each year for holes though as they get used for all sorts of things and if any light gets in it turns the Stalks green. It doesn’t take long for the Crowns to shoot after being covered because they are protected to some extent from the cold by the Buckets and this thereby encourages them to shoot. I eagerly waited for the first picking and was soon rewarded. The elongated Stalks look like Celery, but cook and eat like Asparagus. Indeed they are often called an “Asparagus alternative,” although I have only ever seen them offered for sale in a Supermarket on one occasion. However, quickly boiled, or lightly steamed, they go down well with some melted Butter, or a Butter Sauce (Roux) drizzled over them.

In mid January we had another cold spell that lasted for quite a few days causing even more damage to tender plants in the garden and on the Allotments. My Hebes already looked sad from the earlier spell in December, but this time they really got hammered. The two Bay hedges on my Allotment Plot were quite badly burned as well and one of the two Loquats looks particularly bad. Even my young Passion Flower that was doing very well on my Allotment is not looking so good now and the Callistemon, or Bottle Brush in my Garden, along with one of my Eucalyptus, are both looking quite sad with the leaves all discoloured and going brittle. However, I will leave all of the plants intact until the weather really warms up before I cut out the dead wood as you can never really tell what will shoot and what won’t until the Summer comes. Plants will often surprise you by how they can come back seemingly from the dead. Eucalyptus and Bays in particular will re-shoot after very severe frost damage.

In my Garden the Blackbirds had not eaten all of the Crab Apples on my ornamental Tree before Christmas and they were starting to rot, but with the return of the cold weather in January the Blackbirds renewed their interest in the fruit with squabbles often breaking out over them. It is good natural food for them though. Better, I think than actually feeding them with nuts and seeds, etc.

After the Cod Spell was over we had some milder weather again and some of the Tree Buds started swelling. Indeed in the mild spell back in early January some Buds were showing signs of growth even then. We have always had changeable weather, but I think our Seasons are less clearly defined than they used to be when I was a kid. Personally, I think that this is why we are having so much trouble with imported pests and diseases. We are not getting a proper, prolonged cold spell in Winter to deal with them and keep them in check. Last year some plants were getting so confused with the weather they actually flowered 3 times instead of just once. I am hoping that we have had enough of a cold spell to “Stratify,” the various Tree Seeds that I am trying to germinate, but I guess I won’t know until Spring proper comes.
As we go through February and get nearer to Spring, I will put the old Chrysanthemums Stools, that are in my Green House, outside on the Yard to make room for other, more tender things. I will leave them in Trays though and watch the Weather Forecasts so that I can take them in for the night if necessary.
With the extra space I will start the Seed Sowing of regular Vegetables like Cabbages and Beetroot, etc, but it will still be far too early for tender things like Sweet Corn, Runner Beans, Peppers, Aubergines and Tomatoes unless they are going to be grown inside a heated Green House throughout the Spring.

Going further into February some things can even be sown outside and these include some varieties of Parsnips and Broad Beans and then Onion Sets can go in and it will be time to prepare the Runner Bean Bed and put up the Bean Canes.

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