Friday 20 November 2009

Blue Friday

Blue skies miraculously appeared over Edinburgh at 9am on the day I took off work to play catchup at the allotment - after a week of cloud and rain. Don't believe me? Well here's my proof:

Blue is today's theme as I have a lurid plastic blue sandpit to bury and fill with ericaceous compost to grow blueberries in next year. Why? Well you know what it's like when you come across some interesting information that sets you thinking. And then you hear about it from another source. And then another. Well just as I was "reaching for the seed catalogue" or (rather googling for it) I came across an offer for three blueberry bushes at a knock down price. I've been thinking about expanding my soft fruit production by adding raspberries alongside the strawberries and rhubarb. It just so happened that I also heard a Gardeners Question Time question about growing blueberries a couple of weeks ago. Bob Flowerdew knowingly advised that the best way to grow them was in threes (for cross pollination?)in a sunken bathtub (slow drainage) filled with ericaceou compost (they hate lime). Now I don't have a spare bathtub, but I do have a moulded plastic sandpit/paddling pool that has been clogging up the works in the skeleton of a greenhouse on my plot. It even has a plughole just like a bath. Perhaps a little precipitously, as I hadn't ordered next year's leeks, cabbages, lettuces etc, I placed my order for blueberries, along with a dozen raspberry canes and some shallots, over the net. Delivery is promised for next March. I have to admit that subsequently I have the vague feeling that I have become a fashion victim. However Mrs M buys them at extortionate prices from the supermarket and being the wonderfood of the decade they all get eaten, so I guess it's worth a try.

So here goes. Rather than digging in muck today I'm taking the net off the strawberry patch...

...digging down to the subsoil...

...and meeting the watertable on the way. It has rained alot even in the east of the country, but this seems to be clay underneath the loam. Perhaps I'm wasting my time burying the plastic liner as I already have the ideal conditions (clay under loam and my soil has a low pH)for growing blueberries. No don't even think of it. Ploughing on:

Bury that liner

and fill with ericaceous compost (3 bags for £12) I probably need one or two more bags to make it up to ground level without resorting to my common or garden topsoil.

I've kept any subsoil removed apart for relaying the path as Dr Hessayon (Dr Veg) advises that it's the last thing you want at surface level. The topsoil is going to fill the holes left where the old rhubarb root masses are being removed.

Now maybe tomorrow I'll turn my attention to the rest of the neglected plot!

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Beans means... finding space to dry them

The problem with the drying beans Canadian Wonder (aside from the poor rate of germination) has bean that they didn't dry before the winter weather arrived. I've accepted the inevitable and brought them home to dry. Now where can they go?

Remember the CD racks I set up in the shed to chit potatoes...?

...and those string vest bags that the shops have rediscovered...

Forget Christmas Pudding weekend, next weekend should be "podding weekend"!

Tuesday 10 November 2009

What the pH

I’ve just measured the pH of the soil across my allotment and I am a bit mipHed. The one area I limed at the beginning of the year showed little or no dipHerence compared to the rest of the plot! Either I’m wasting my time or the hungry brassicas have gobbled up all the lime I put down. The other pHinding is that it’s all too acidic - at a dismal pHive point pHive on average. (OK I’ll stop that now) Well at least I know how to provide the biggest boost to the veg next year. I’m going to dose it up big style with lime this winter (except for where the potatoes are going). Here’s a link to a site I’ve pHound (I lied) with some of the best grapHics demonstrating the effect of raising the pH into the zone where the soil nutrients become available.

Has anyone ever used the pH tester kit involving a test tube? It seems terribly fiddly to me, and requires some subjective judgement, although it is always the standard recommendation in books! I’ll stick to my probe and meter. It allows you to take as many readings as you want quickly and at no extra cost. It certainly reacts differently to different soil, but sometimes I do wonder if it is correctly calibrated, as I’ve had it for years.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Remember remember...

It's worth looking back.

Being a weekend gardener the winter is important if you are to keep ahead of the weeds in the summer!

I see I started my blog in January doing the work I should have done in November! So this year I'm going to start in November: digging in manure, liming and fencing off the brassica patch ready to be topped out with plastic netting.

Planning and ordering seeds. Now these are the fun part of allotmenteering! I'm going to treat myself to a few experimental purchases. Ooh it feels like Christmas has arrived early! I couldn't resist picking up a (tiny) bag of 'roseval' potatoes at Waitrose yesterday. I counted them first 15 tubers for £1.49 makes them cheaper than the potato day supplies. But I have to store them over winter safe from frost. Last year's Shetland Black and Edzell Blues from the same source did well so I reckon it's worth it and increases the variety of spuds I'm growing.

My recent activities have been to cadge some paving slabs and some bricks locally. So I'll be reinstating the path that runs the length of the plot.

Some people seem to thrive on building work and spend a lot of time on their projects at the allotment. I resent spending precious time on non growing tasks, but this task is long overdue as the few slabs I laid years ago have slithered sideways and all but disappeared under the weeds.