My Week On The Allotment – Preparation For Spring
It suddenly feels like Spring is well and truly on its way here in the UK. Daylight hours are increasing noticeably fast and we have finally had some warmer weather after a bout of unusually cold temperatures. It’s a very exciting time of year for a gardener as you finally start sowing some seeds and doing final preparations for the growing season ahead. If you’re like us, you probably still have a lot to do to prepare your garden for the growing season. I thought I’d give you a little insight to what we have been doing on the plot this last week or so, which may help prompt you too.
Sheds & Greenhouses
Whilst the weather has been dry I’ve used the opportunity to start painting our sheds. They are second hand and in need of some TLC. I’m trying to get them done now before the growing season really gets going, because I fear that I will just not have the time later on. I will also use the dry weather as a chance to clean my greenhouse glass so I can see through them in the new season. We just did not have a chance last year to do this so they are in need of a good scrub.
A little bit behind schedule (thanks to frozen ground), but I have finally planted out my broad beans that I have been growing in the greenhouse. I grew some in the greenhouse because I was concerned about mice eating the seeds. We had a family of mice move in to a compost bin near to where I am growing my broad beans. Some have been direct sown because I just didn’t have the pots (or patience) to sow them all inside. You might find it gross but to deter the mice from our direct sown ones, we just pee in a bucket, dilute it with water and water them once a month with this liquid gold. It seems to have kept the mice at bay despite their close proximity.
This week I have pruned my blueberry bushes and pear tree. If you have any autumn fruiting raspberries prune them back ASAP (I got excited with my new secateurs and pruned them early but they should be fine). Apples and pears should be pruned now, however hold off pruning any stone fruit trees until the weather warms up- they should be pruned in the spring or summer. Pruning stone fruit trees now will put them at much greater risk of disease.
It is becoming an increasingly common problem for bought compost or manure to contain the weed killer aminopyralid. Unfortunately, it is used by farmers and indirectly works it’s way into our gardens. Aminopyralid is bad news for home growers. It is most detrimental to your tomatoes, potatoes and beans.
There is only one way to find out if your compost/manure contains this nasty weed killer, by testing it. I have used broad beans for this because of their cold hardiness. Sow a couple of broad bean seeds in the compost you are testing and a couple of seeds in ‘safe’ compost. Let them grow, and if all the plants look healthy then great, go ahead and spread your compost. If the plants in the compost/manure you are testing are looking distorted compared to those in the safe soil/compost then this is a sure warning sign. Be careful where you spread it, and either dispose of it or only use it around fruit trees and brassicas which are more tolerant of aminopyralid.
I decided it was time this week to clear my carrot bed. It has served us well through the winter and we only started buying carrots when the ground was frozen and we were unable to harvest. The patch had become over grown with weeds that were starting to flower too. I was pleasantly surprised by my final harvest. I thought there were just a few carrots left in the ground due to their tops dying back and the weeds taking over, but there was actually quite a hefty harvest hiding from me! They will be stored unwashed in cold storage while we work our way through them in the next few weeks.
Weeding and maintenance
On top of this the plot still needs maintenance. Warmer weather means weeds are starting to pop up again. I have been carefully weeding the beds with plants in. Throughout the winter I have also been hoeing any empty beds to keep them weed free. Because I am using the no dig method, I am hoping any seeds on the surface will germinate and can mostly be controlled before my plants go in the ground. It is much easier to hoe bare ground than it is to keep weeding between plants. We decided not to cover our plot over winter for this very reason, to allow the weed seeds to germinate.