March 2011 Allotment Diary

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March Allotment Diary

Today we have snow flakes falling and on Saturday, 18th February after some lovely spring like days, we had a couple of inches of snow. You really never know what to expect and this means you need to be on your toes when growing things.

This past month has been wet but we have managed to start on a number of winter projects that we need to finish before the hectic period of manuring, seeding, weeding and planting are here.

The pond is still in building stage – though we hope to have it finished this month. Maybe we will be in time for frog spawn which would be absolutely fantastic – we certainly have a lot of slugs for them to feed on. The pond needs to be deep at one point, at least 70 cm would be ideal. Having it deep means it is less likely to freeze all the way down to the bottom, and so any animals overwintering in the pond (like frogs) will be safe from being frozen to death. Otherwise you will have my parent’s heartbreaking task of having to bury frogs found dead in the pond.

One of our jobs at the moment is trying to make up our own potting compost for the many seedlings which we need to start.  This potting compost is not always a success as for some reason ours seems to retain the clayey-ness of our soil.  Our allotment is on the floodplain of a small stream, and the soil texture is very clayey in parts, and grey in colour. This kind of soil is prone to waterlogging and forms a very hard surface when dry. Over the years we are adding more and more organic matter to it. What we hope to end up with is soil that is brown or black, with lots of organic matter, and which does not form permanent balls if squeezed together (this is one of the features of clay soil). Still we keep on trying.

For the last couple of days we have been riddling our compost. As the picture below shows, this is when you put the compost in a big sieve and shake so that the smaller material falls through. It is great upper body exercise and is vigorous enough to keep you warm on a cold day.  So far we have riddled all our home made compost from early last year.  We still have the leaf mulch to do.  The bigger material that is left over we will dig into the soil.

March is a time to start seeding up your greenhouse plants inside.  We will do this in the first week and will as always do chillis, peppers, aubergines, cucumbers and tomatoes.  They will be started off in the house in some of our own compost.

We have recently seeded up some broad beans in the greenhouse, as the photo below shows. These plants are very hardy as so can be seeded up even when it is cold.

Our garlic has finally made an appearance.  This is an incredible plant – we planted it in early December and then we got the snow, as a result our soil was frozen for about 6 weeks.  Then as it thawed the garlic appeared!!!!  You can still plant it now.  Just buy some organic bulbs and plant the segments into the soil, pointy end upwards!  So little work involved and you need do nothing till July or August when you harvest, dry in the sun and store.

If you intend to plant potatoes now is the time to buy them and get them chitting. This means putting them in a cool but light room to allow them to grow ‘shoots’  like fat white stalks. For those who don’t have space in the garden or don’t have the time or inclination to put them there you can grow them in potato containers.  These are 1m high flexible thick plastic bins. Put some soil and compost at the bottom, put the potatoes at the top, say maybe 3 to 4 per pot. Cover them with more soil and compost. Then as they grow, keep on covering them with soil until you get to the top. Make sure you keep them watered. You don’t need much space to do this, nor do you need to weed them so much.

Happy Gardening

Richard and Kaivalya

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