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April 2011 Allotment Diary

Posted by on March 27th 2011

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April Allotment page

Amma Quote

In reality, Nature is nothing but God’s visible form which we can behold and experience through our senses. Indeed, by loving and serving Nature, we are worshipping God himself”.

Soil improvement

The soil is warming up with more sunlight hours.  This is what all the plant and seedlings need.  Too cold and the seeds will just sit there and do nothing, or rot. Some people, and we may do this, put garden fleece down, a thin material, to help warm up the soil whilst still letting the spring rain in.

Spring is also a time when people dig in manure or other organic material into the soil.  This is desperately needed as our soil, as we have repeatedly and self pitying said, is clayey.  Although clay soil is great at holding in the minerals its fine particles means that there often can be little space between the particles and therefore little air.  It holds onto moisture so can become waterlogged, as it is difficult for the water to drain out. Sandy soils, on the other hand, have the problem of the nutrients leaching, so need this replenished more frequently, not holding water well but have lovely air holes and water drains away.  Organic matter helps both the soils by breaking it up, adding much needed organic matter.

We have been having free manure drops to the allotment site.  Luckily, or not, as Kaivalya is not working at the moment she has been there when it has arrived and has rushed out with a wheelbarrow to bring it in.  So far we have had 30 barrow loads full and this has to be dug in.  We have dug it into the potato bed, and the sweetcorn and pea bed.  We also need it in the squash/courgette beds and….. so 30 is not enough and we are thinking of ordering our own trailer full to supplement this.  Crazy but it does make a difference. Wonderful stuff.

The leaf mulch, which we talked about last month, has been riddled and it is fantastic. Smells like a woodland and will be great mixed up with all the other organic compost we already have.  We also brought leaf mulch collected on our streets in autumn to the allotment.  We cannot emphasise enough how worthwhile it is collecting leaves, chopping them, watering and then storing them.

Pond

Yes finally we have the pond in.  After many arguments and mistakes it was put in two weeks ago.  We needed to make the hole much bigger, then we lined it with old carpet to make sure sharp rocks don’t make any holes.  It looks, as you can see, very new at the moment.  We do intend to cut away some of the carpet and then put turves on it so it will be a gentle grassy slope.  We needed two bits of straight wood and a spirit level to make sure it went in as flat as possible.

Then the very exciting part.  We asked one of our allotment neighbours if we could have some of his frog spawn, as his pond is usually heaving with it.  So the spawn is now in, the eggs have started to elongate and it is wonderful. We have also bought some oxygenating pond plans..  These are pond plants which are submerged but are essential as they contribute to the oxygen levels in the pond for all the life that is there, reducing stagnation and also great for tadpoles to hide in.

Seeding up

If you have not already done so get those tomato, chilli and any other greenhouse plants seeded up.  You can also start on French beans, courgettes, squash, sweetcorn etc… All need to be done inside as they are sensitive to cold and as we all know relying on this wonderful spring weather continuing is not sensible.  By doing them early you give them a great head start, not only for size but also theoretically the bigger they are the less vulnerable they are to attack.

Like all seedlings many of them prefer not to have their roots too disturbed when you are transplanting them.  So if you are using grow bags or containers and they are inside try to seed directly into them.  We use old loo roll, which we have found works really well, for seeds like beans and peas.  This year we also intend to try sweetcorn in them.  They don’t take up much space and decompose in the soil.  Our broad beans are germinating in them and will be going out in 3 weeks or until they are at least 12 cm high.

Fruit

A friend has just bought herself two cordon Victoria plum trees and two blueberry bushes.  These latter two are going into containers, where she has been reliably informed they will grow successfully.  She only has a small yard so the trees are dwarf and cordon.  Cordon are types where there is a central trunk and then all the way up are fruit spurs, so it does not take up much space horizontally. These are ideal where space is limited and we are tempted to get ourselves one and put it somewhere, though really it is not a great time to be fiddling round with trees as they are starting to leaf and blossom.

When you do have fruit trees in the soil it is best not to have grass growing up right to the trunk, as it competes for nutrients.  We have added a top dressing of manure and then mulched it with wood chip.  This ensures the nutrients are not washed away, stops weeds growing and retains moisture. We have done this to our raspberries and gooseberries.

April is a busy month what with getting the soil ready, seeding up on your window ledge or conservatory and putting your potato and onions in.  Remember potatoes can grow well in containers, so won’t take any room up.

Nesting, nesting, nesting.  The birds are going mad, dashing around arguing with rivals, courting partners, choosing a nest site and building.  We have put out old sheeps’ wool which we gather on the moors whenever we go for a walk. The food is still there as it is still a hard time with few or little insects, and not much in the way of seeds.  Today I saw a tortoiseshell butterfly, which must have been hibernating somewhere for the winter. We are so lucky to have this allotment and to be able to enjoy the wildlife that share it with us.

Happy gardening

Kaivalya and Richard

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