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Wellington Fields Allotments - Hixon.


Wellington Field Allotments Hixon


Gardening Tips
By Mrs FM


Unusual & Old
Fashioned Fruit


Herbs & Other
Edible Plants.

Environmental Issues And Going Green.

Books By
Alan J Hartley



Cold Spells.

We have had several Cold Spells this Winter and just as we started approaching Spring we had another lasting from late February and going well into March. However, it was not too bad with just the odd few very cold nights and some snow that fell much more heavily in the North and even south of us with our region largely missing it. However, I had got some tender Seeds, including Peppers germinated, in unheated propagators, in my Greenhouse. It will teach me not to “Jump the gun,” as they suffered badly and I had to re-sow them along with one, or two other things. I remember that one year, at work I had a lot of trays of young vegetable seedlings that had just been pricked out, growing in a small, unheated, greenhouse and over night the wind blew the door open allowing the snow to blow in and give them an icy covering. Going back even further I remember that one year I was selling Goldfish from outdoor tanks at my Parents Garden Centre in what we thought was Summer, (in the middle of June,) when we had a cold blast and a sharp snow flurry. We got off lightly though as they had far more around Buxton with roads temporarily blocked and even more Snow fell further North. That year the Runner Bean plants that everybody had growing were killed with an almost total crop failure countrywide. People tried to re-sow, but that led to a dramatic shortage of Seeds and Customers were coming from 50 miles away to buy Seeds as we had over ordered!
With Global Warming and our seemingly mild Winters, we can so easily get caught out by assuming that it is time to sow and plant all sorts of things as the weather warms up and Winter finishes, but we can still get cold weather right up until May and even then it pays to watch the Weather Forecasts, because as I have said, the Weather can be very fickle.

At the start of March I did put my Chrysanthemums outside on the yard, but had to keep taking them into my Greenhouse over night when colder nights were forecast. I kept the Pots in large Trays so that it was a simple job to move them about quickly and easily. I didn’t bother putting them back onto the Staging, but simply put the Trays in the gangway down the middle of the Greenhouse over-night. Towards the end of March I will plant them out properly onto my Allotment. We may well get one or two colder nights even then, but they should be able to handle it better especially being in the ground.
Later this Month I will also plant my Potato Tubers. A lot of People like to “Chitt,” them first to give them a flying start when they do plant them, but I don’t usually bother. I do tend to put them in a bit too early though and then if they do shoot they are susceptible to frost damage. However, if you are careful remembering to “Earth Them Up,” regularly you can protect the tender young shoots from damage. (This also helps keep the weeds in check and improves Potato yields) I also planted out my Onions at the start of March. These were the ones that I had started off in Trays to get them going quicker in the Greenhouse. They had been a bag full that were reduced, at the end of the Autumn Planting Season, before Christmas. They were quite shrivelled when I put them in and I wasn’t very hopeful, but with a bit of extra TLC that they wouldn’t have got outside on my Allotment, I think nearly every one started into growth and had nice green shoots with plenty of roots on when I put them out.

Other things that have gone through the Winter and already started shooting include some of my Tree Seeds that were put in the Cold Frame on my Yard, outside my Greenhouse, at home. I hadn’t made much effort to carefully sow the Hawthorn Seeds and had merely squashed the Berries between my fingers rather than washing the Seeds away from the flesh of the Berry as they say that you should do. However, they were the first Tray to start shooting and it looks as though I shall have a fair number of small plants for the Charity where I Work so that they can use them to fill in gaps in the Hedges that occur from time to time.

At the start of March I began putting quite a few different Seeds in. Leeks, Parsley, Swiss Chard, Kale, Cabbages, Beetroot, Turnips and Swede were amongst the first to be sown and didn’t really need any heat to get them going other than a Frost Free Greenhouse. When they are big enough they will get planted out in my Plot after first hardening them off a bit.
However, the Sweet Peppers, Cape Gooseberries, Asparagus, Globe Artichokes and Aubergines did need the extra warmth of the house to start them off. They won’t be ready until the May Plant Fundraiser Sale as they all take a bit more time to grow and they will have to be kept in Frost Free conditions in my Greenhouse right up until they are actually sold in May.
Some varieties of Parsnip needed to go in, in February, but the variety that I am growing this time has a quicker maturation time so can be sown later in the Spring. Some People try starting them off in Trays, but I was always told that if you Transplanted Root Crops like Parsnips and Carrots they would develop “Forked,” roots, so I always sow mine directly in the ground where they are to grow.
My Greenhouse also has a number of large Pots of Jerusalem Artichokes in. The idea is not to grow them in the Pots, but just start them off so that they can be sold in the Plant Sale. In Pots the Tubers are susceptible to damage by Frost so I have to keep putting them in the Greenhouse over night when Frosts are forecast. Normally this is the time to be Planting the Tubers outdoors in the ground though where they will be OK with the cold.
However, my Cannas lilies definitely need to be kept warm even though they are starting to shoot. In a week, or two, as the Shoots develop, I will be able to divide up the Plants and re-pot them bulking up the number of Plants that I have. Several people have already asked me for Plants as they are ridiculously expensive to buy later on in the Summer. I have 3 different varieties if they all come through the Winter. I have one that is tall and very spectacular with large red flowers, along with a much shorter yellow flowered one and one with a lovely variegated leaf.

We have had large, Communal, Compost Bins for some years now and one of the jobs that I have taken upon myself as a Committee Member is to maintain them along with the Compost Storage Area. With this in mind I do all that I can to encourage Plot Holders to make use of the Compost on their Plots. As a consequence of this I often help barrow Compost onto other people’s Plots. The site is built on a slope that doesn’t look much, but when pushing a heavy Wheelbarrow up it, it is very tiring. So, when a new Plot Holder said that they were putting in a series of Raised Beds, I offered to help. They said that they had got a Motorised Wheelbarrow at the Stables that they could bring up to make life a bit easier and I was fascinated. They duly brought it up to the site on a small trailer with some spare batteries and we got to work with it.

A number of years ago one of the long running sitcoms did a skit on a motorised Wheelbarrow, so at the time, I never thought for one moment that they actually existed, but there it was, in front of me, and quite capable of powering up the slope with a good hundredweight, or more of Compost in it. I was told that the running time was anything up to one hour depending on its use and it had 2 forward speeds with a reverse as well. Travelling fully laden at a gentle walking speed with some sort of Sprung, or hydraulic tipping facility to empty the barrow, it did everything except fill itself! Costing around £500 new they are not cheap, but what a tool for the elderly of infirm, or just to make life easier!

My own Compost Heap had to be dug out and barrowed away by hand and after some 12 barrows had gone onto my Bean Bed I was quite tired, although the Beans will enjoy it as they like to get their roots down into a good, thick layer of Compost. The remainder of my Compost Heap was bagged up so that I could take it home and use it in potting my rooted Fig cuttings and also to use it to fill other large pots. It is a bit rough so I don’t actually pot in it, but use the compost to fill up the space in the bottom of large Pots, below the Plants roots. Then I top up the pots and around the Plants with some finer stuff.
Along with the Figs, I potted up some divisions from my Aronia bush that is well established on my plot. The Aronia is definitely a Multi Stemmed Plant and can always be relied on to provide partly rooted stems that are easily cut away from the bulk of the fruiting plant. They take a little while to root into the pots properly, but will happily do so as they leaf up. These will be added to my ever growing collection of Plants destined for the Plant Sale that will be upon us before we realise.

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