21 October 2007

A 'proper' allotment

Managed to visit a few times this week and am now the proud owner of a large pile of leaves and an even larger pile of manure!

The valley below the allotments is a great source of leaves and I have added about 10 compost bags full of leaves to the leaf mould basket now. Which when compressed down fills a surprisingly small space, and no doubt will make a significantly smaller amount of leaf mould.

My leaf supplier

Saturday I shared a delivery of cow manure for the local farm with my allotment neighbour Dan. The farm is where I regularly buy our meat from and has a policy of rearing their animals using non-intensive methods that "forbids the use of growth promoters and antibiotics". Much credit to the tractor driver for first managing to reverse onto the lane and then actually getting as far down as my plot to dump it all - but I guess when you're driving a tractor you don't care much about overgrown hedges scratching the paintwork!

The farm fortunately has a huge supply of the stuff which has obviously been around for sometime. Now allotments are very popular again, they're getting through it. Ours was still last years stuff though, which you could tell by how good it looked, and more importantly how little it smelled! Ah who'd have thought I'd be sitting here raving about cow manure...

It's all piled up at the (newly cleared) top end of the allotment. It does look fairly well rotted down, but still some straw in parts of it. Can I use this now to add to empty beds or should I wait for it to rot down further? Any advice greatly received.

In between collecting leaves and shifting manure I've also done a bit of tidying up. Note to self, try and keep on top of the weeds when they are small...! Spent a couple of hours weeding and digging over the bed where I grow the daffodils and tulips, and planted some more in there. Attempted to control the mint in this bed too - no laughing at me next summer when it takes over again!

Closing the stable door...
My miniature Brussels are still surviving despite the attentions on the local pigeons and pheasants, and in an attempt to actually get something off them I have constructed some bird scarers (tip from Grow Your Own magazine) using some string and the collection of naff CDs from the newspaper. This may be a little late in the day for them, but it we get anything off the plants they will have done the job.

Finally managed to get one bag of the 'home grown' compost down to the site to use as a mulch for the raspberries - now sadly at an end with the frosts. Could do with another bag as I had to spread it quite thin, but it will do until the next visit. Fortunately I have a few more bags at home to add round the raspberries and also the strawberries - although they need weeding first. Planting the strawberries between the comfrey and rhubarb doesn't seem like such a good idea now either. Still undecided on which will be moving.

The courgettes and pumpkins have now been added to the compost but I'm still hanging on to the sweetcorn. Not sure why as it's obviously not going to do anything now the frosts have arrived, it's just one of the few things still growing (well it's alive, maybe no longer growing). The Jerusalem Artichokes have flowered as well, and I discovered just what happens when you leave them in the ground on a walk to the local cafe the other day. I could be wrong and the allotment holder really likes them, but it doesn't look like the site has been cultivated much recently. Difficult to judge the distance from the picture but I'd guess this 'row' is about 15m long!

The green manures have been mixed. The buckwheat fed the pigeons and pheasants nicely, but the crimson clover did eventually grow well. I'm probably supposed to dig it in now, but I haven't got anything to put in this bed yet so will leave it for now. Never got round to planting any Hungarian Grazing Rye though and probably too late now.

The plan for the winter is to get as much as possible dug over and to add various nutrients to the soil to improve it. One thing I have noticed is that most of the stuff I've grown has been quite small and I'm sure it's down to a lack of soil improvement. I'm looking at getting in some volcanic rock dust - anyone used it? - together with the usual manure, lime and the seaweed meal I've got left into the appropriate beds. I will be planting some garlic shortly, and possible some broad beans but not sure if I'll get enough space cleared to get them in.


lilymarlene said...

I think it's ok to spread the manure now on plots that you're not going to use until the spring. But for any beds you are planting up I'd prefer older manure if it was mine.
I had a load of beautiful cow manure this time last year. I stacked it as I hadn't time to spread it then. What I have left of the pile is just wonderful stuff.....well worth the wait.

threadspider said...

I'm just clearing a neglected plot and have dug manure into the area where I am going to plant the potatoes next spring. I couldn't bear to wait until next spring and then have to shift about 100 barrows of the stuff! I figured the worms would help me out over the winter if I spread it now.