Sunday, 18 December 2016

A new way of doing things.

Well, it's been ages since I posted on here. I suppose that's the flow - the days become weeks and before you know it, blogging doesn't become part of the routine as other routines take over. 


I have recently changed careers. I am no longer doing the thing that the blogging originally led me to do. Which means I can enjoy gardening and particularly food growing for the pleasure again. Rather than it and the associated complications being a burden. 

Whilst we were sorting out the first community garden that we took over, in year 1 all we did was garden - clearing, digging, shredding, knocking stuff down, making the ground safe and removing unsafe structures. The next year however, once we started to have students on site, we ended up doing just 5 days of actual gardening. 

So onwards and upwards. 

 I like many of my organic gardening friends, take it as read that the year's gardening starts with this. 

The Heritage Seed Library catalogue dropping through the door. 

Last year, one of my images was used for the cover which was a great honour. 

If you are not a member, then you unfortunately do not have access to these wonderful seeds, which have been grown and saved by the staff at the Heritage Seed Library, and by Seed Guardians for many years. The difference with HSL seeds, is that they are not grown and saved in a seedbank, but they are grown across the UK and the best examples - ones which survive our weather patterns, pests, diseases - are the ones that are saved and so the seed is evolving each year and thus more likely to give you a fantastic harvest on your plot. 

If you want to join in with this you can join Garden Organic with an option to add the Heritage Seed Library. 

So this year I'm growing for me, and have picked the following: 

Avon Early Beetroot

Bossingham Long Pod Broad Bean
London Market Carrot
Armenian cucumber
Guernsey Parsnip
White Serpent Squash

I've chosen crops that I know grow well on my plot, apart from the carrots which I am determined to get a harvest from this year by growing in a sandy raised bed with lots of coriander to disguise the smell. This variety has some Carrot Fly resistance so am trying to hedge my bets with it. 

The last lot of White Serpent Squash germinated blind, that is with only the two seed leaves and never grew a centre stem. It was very disappointing but I am hoping that a new batch of seeds may be from a difference source. 

I have been an Seed Guardian for HSL for a while, but have found in the very recent past that the harvests have been poor so am going to just save from one crop as a Seed Guardian at the most for a while. I have some Sim Segur leek seeds that have come good this year, but whilst they were drying out a mouse has eaten most of them. which is a little annoying as it took me about 4 years to get a good harvest off them. 

To be a Seed Guardian you need patience. 

I have some fantastic yellow beetroots at my allotment. 

These are Burpees Golden - I love yellow beetroots for roasting, and also because they do not incriminate you should a visitor knock on the door whilst preparing them. 

So I will leave 3 over winter. Then in the spring when they start growing again, I'll dig them up and move them the back of a bed in the corner, and replant them in a triangle with three large canes around them and leave them to flower. 

The flower stems can grow up to 8 feet high so they need quite good staking. I'll also tie twine around them at intervals to try and contain their long dreadlock-type stems which droop as the seeds ripen. 

They are biennials which flower in their second year. I find that because I do not clear my plot during the winter, I am quite good at biennial seed saving. 

This year, because of the clay soil at our allotment, we have decided to really go for it in attempting to improve the soil quality. I managed to get a huge load of woodchip delivered for free [thank you Dave at Eco Tree Company] and spent many a happy evening moving woodchip around the plot as a mulch and getting bitten to shreds which I will talk about in a minute]. 

This has now been put onto as many beds as it will fill, to do the rest I am looking for another load so will contact the local tree surgeons again after Christmas. I have tried to give a good 12 inch mulch on top of the soil. As it breaks down over the next 18 months or so, the worms take down some of the woodchip into the soil, it transforms clay into loam and creates a network of mycelium in the soil which plants use to extract more nutrients from the soil. Basically, how forests work.

Which for a plot that is so clayey is a wonderful prospect. 

However, 2 months later I found two of these...

These are pea seeds that have been hidden by some critter and because of the warm weather have germinated. Bearing in mind this woodchip only went down at the end of August and during September, they have been hidden in September and October in order to be germinating by the end of October. 

Where some critter got the seeds from, is anyone's guess as I thought i had collected all mine!

So I have taken one batch of these and replanted in a mushroom container in my greenhouse for early peas [thank you critter] and this one above I am leaving to see what happens. 

Before I sign off for 2016, ready for a fresh new 2017 growing year, I just want to put a note about my new shed. 

We had a shed when we moved here, 10 years ago. It was pretty rum back then so I decided that this year I wanted a new one. I also wanted it to be bigger so that I could do woodwork in it. This was met with a wry smile, as Mark suspected I'd never use it for woodwork at all. 

So I bought a shed and we got the delivery and installation date. And then we both promptly went down with the flu. And we had to go out, in the bitter cold, and dismantle the old one, and help a couple from Freecycle to load it into their van, dig and level the extra footprint with no feelings in our fingers and completely fogged up heads, and lay two new strips of slabs after a very late cold trip to buy the slabs. We were very ill. 

But the new shed is fab. I spent a while fitting it out and painting it [once I was recovered], and it is now our tool shed but my woodwork shed. And as we redid our garden last year I have the most amazing view from it. I do woodwork, with my Solar DAB radio playing 6 music, and looking at this. 

At the end of the garden is the canal, and boats pootle up and down all summer long. The garden is full of lovely wildlife, and the trees we planted are growing strong. It is glorious. 

And in my little woodwork shed I make things like this:

Seed flats for my greenhouse made out of old pallets. 

What is not to like? This first one is already being used for cut and come again salad.

Just need those seeds now, to get sowing in 2017. 

Happy Christmas everyone, and hope you have a cool yule and a marvellous new year. 

And remember, drink responsibly.

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