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Wellington Field Allotments Hixon


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Things Are Getting Better.

After the rigours of the Winter it is only just becoming apparent as to which plants have survived and which may not. I say which may not because some plants are notorious for coming back from the dead as they will shoot from the base of the trunk and even from underground. Bay Trees are a case in point as I have seen a whole row growing as a
Hedge decimated by a very hard winter only to see them shoot up from the soil and very quickly look as good as they were. The small Bay Tree in my front garden has not been touched by the cold, but two small hedges that are more exposed on my Allotment were both quite badly burned. The difference was that we get quite a strong wind coming across the Allotments that would have chilled them a lot more than in my sheltered garden and also both hedges had recently been cut down hard, so there wasn’t really any mature growth on them which is a lot tougher than the young shoots that they would have had. The Callistemon in my Garden may not have survived as it looks very bad, although here again they can surprise you. The Eucalyptus Gunnii wasn’t touched, but the larger leafed, Eucalyptus “Snowgum,” proved a bit more tender and the main trunk split which is never a good sign, but it may yet shoot from the ground. On my Allotment the smaller of my Loquats looks very bad, but the bigger one may survive. However, as you need two plants to produce fruit on some varieties I am not sure what to do. Some types are self fertile though and flower in the Winter producing a heady scent and showy white flowers. They do need a mild winter for the fruit to set anyway so here in the UK they are unlikely to fruit without the protection of a Fleece covering.
The young Passion Flower that I planted up some trellising on my allotment also looks sad, although my Brother’s, very large one, looks fine in his garden. He lost his Cannas that he was over-wintering in a cold greenhouse, whereas mine all seem ok having had just that little bit of extra frost protection with an over-night heater. Hopefully the Palm, Banana and Citrus, that were in the same greenhouse, will be OK, although they haven’t gone outside yet and probably won’t until May.
Variegated Myrtle can be a bit tender, but the one in my front garden seems ok and the Fatsia Japonica is quite damaged, but should be ok, I won’t know about my two “Hardy?” Fuchsias, until they are supposed to shoot a bit later on in the year and I am giving one of my Hebes a little longer before I remove it. Last year it was badly damaged, but came back so I am still hopeful and I have some cuttings growing to replace it if needs be. It is always a good idea to take cuttings of any tender plants like Hebes, Pentstemons and Salvias, if you can, because then if the worst comers to the worst, you will be OK and can replace them. As Spring started, I cut my Salvia – “Hot Lips,” hard back to remove the dead growth, but I don’t know if I did the right things as I cut hard back into the old wood, which for many things, they say you shouldn’t do.
The Globe Artichokes on my Allotment were badly hammered by the Frosts, but I am pleased to say are now shooting again and will hopefully put on enough growth, quickly enough, to give a Harvest. It may be a poor harvest and it may be late as it was the other year. However, the Artichoke Seedlings that I started off some weeks ago at home, as they need a long growing season to get going, look good and are coming on well. They have been pricked out into medium sized pots, are outside in the daytime, but still go into the greenhouse when a cold night is forecast.

The Asparagus seeds went in at about the same time and the seedlings were potted up into 3 ½ inch pots that are also put outside in the day and taken inside when there is a cold night ahead.
The Swiss Chard Seed can go in throughout most of the year, but I put some in early. The Seedlings were also pricked out, but put into 6’s and put into my Cold Frame, not so much for protection from the cold, but to keep off the Pigeons who would otherwise decimate them. My Trays of Beetroot, Turnip, Kale, Kohl Rabi and Swede have also had the same treatment, although they went in much later and indeed you can go on sowing those for weeks yet. When they are just a little bit bigger they will be transplanted out into my Plot and in fact I have already transplanted my Leek Seedlings to a spot where they will be left until harvesting sometime at the end of next Winter.

We had a very wet March, indeed it was one of the wettest on record, although it was badly needed to top up the Reservoirs and even the water table in some areas as last Summer was so dry. I don’t know how effective it has been at doing that, but I think the reservoirs are looking in better shape, or at least the one near to me is. We still had a few odd, cold, nights going through March and into April, but as the weeks went by the Frosts were not as sharp and most of the time I didn’t need to put my Greenhouse Heater on.

The days started to get some warmth in them as well and the milder weather helped my early sowings of Broad Beans come through, outside, on my Plot. The Parsnip Seeds went in at the start of April, unlike previous years when I have put in an older variety that needed an earlier sowing and longer growing period. Many newer varieties of all sorts of Seeds harvest more quickly than some of the older ones so it always pays to read the back of the Seed Packet carefully. As always, I planted my Potato Tubers very early, at the start of April, although the old fashioned Pink Fir Apple that I put in should be a “Main Crop,” and go in much later. Only the “Earlies,” should really be planted at the start of April. If you plant the later varieties they may not shoot early and may rot in the ground.

With the weather starting to improve I planted out my old Chrysanthemum Stools in about Mid March keeping half of them back for sale at our Fundraiser in May. However, I knew that I was pushing my luck with cold nights always a possibility, so when one was forecast, I put large, upturned Plant Pots over the Plants and for good measure, I placed a brick on top to stop them blowing away. Of course this meant that I had to go up to my Allotment last thing at night and first thing the next day to uncover them and stop the Plants from being “Drawn Up,” and getting “Leggy.”

Elsewhere on my Plot I thought that it was about time I dug up and divided my Welsh Bunching Onions. They are in a little Bed half of which contains the Onions and Chives and the other half my crop of Oca. I always think of Oca as being like Lemon flavoured Radishes although they are not and they grow more like miniature Potatoes. I had dug over the half of the Bed that had the Oca in earlier when I replanted those ready for the next harvest, but I had left the Onions and they had got badly weeded up. The Bed was originally filled using Grass Turfs some time ago and I couldn’t really dig it before as they had not rotted down properly when I made it. However, with the extra 6 months, or so, they have now broken down properly and turned into fine soil. Grass Turfs are one of those materials that just take a long time to rot and break down properly and you can’t hurry the process.
My Welsh Onions harvested well this year, due I think, to catching them nice and early, because if you leave them too late before harvesting them, they get woody inside, although you can then leave them a bit longer still to bulk up and then harvest the fresh tops the following Spring. As they had been left, they had made big Bunches, so I was able to eat plenty, give some Bunches away, and still have plenty to re-plant and Pot up for the May Sale. While re-doing the Bed I found a few “Egyptian,” or “Walking,” Onions as well that were duly re-planted along with a couple of Bunches of Chives. In future I will make a bit more of an effort with that Bed I think.

Elsewhere, in early March, I made my first harvest of Sea Kale, but it was all over too quickly this year, because by the end of the first week of April, that was it. I had 3, or 4, good pickings though, before the shoots started to lift the buckets. So, I removed the buckets to let the plants grow a bit before cutting the tops off completely. This was done by mid April allowing the plants to leaf up properly putting on large, thick, fleshy, big, cabbage like leaves that will re-energise the plants ready for next years brief harvest. While tidying up the 2 Beds I was able to remove a few random plants that were coming up where they shouldn’t. Some were in the surrounding Paths and some just growing too densely. It is the same sort of problem that you have with Raspberries, although, they do root somewhat more deeply. One or two shoots were re-panted in the odd space with some more “Slips,” that I had taken during the previous winter, being potted. This gave me a few more pots of Plants for the May sale.

I also began harvesting my Rhubarb that I had moved the other year. Last year I left them alone to settle back in after their brutal transplanting and dividing, but this allowed them to bulk up again giving me something worth harvesting this time. The first shoots were very short, but they soon lengthened as the new seasons growth developed. Now they are all looking good for the future.

Like the Globe Artichokes, the Asparagus will start a bit later. In theory the first harvesting should be made on the first day of the season, in the UK, which is traditionally St Georges Day or the 23rd April. Several Plot Holders grow Asparagus on our site and it is always a bit of a competition to see whose Asparagus shoots first each year!

Life is definitely returning again on the Allotments with a few early harvests, but at home I am having to be wary with the tender plants in my Greenhouse even as we approach May. The Sweet Peppers caught a cold one night and half also got eaten by Slugs that hadn’t been properly cleaned out of the Propagator. However, the Sweet Corn, Tomatoes, Courgettes, Squash and Outdoor Cucumbers, are all up, potted and in cold Propagators overnight just in case. Hopefully, as we go into May, the nights will warm up a bit more and by the sale day in mid May, they can all be planted out properly.

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