Sunday, January 15, 2017

Picardy Wight v. Carcassonne Wight; or, Softneck Garlic v. Hardneck Garlic

Six rows of garlic were planted during the 2nd week of October 2016. I regret to say that I didn't make a note or blog post to record when they germinated, but from memory it was approximately 4-6 weeks later. 3 rows of softneck Picardy Wight to the left, and 3 of Carcassonne Wight to the right. The Picardy were first to appear, couple of weeks earlier than the Carcassonne, and are now about twice the height of the hardnecks.

There's a (North American) discussion of the difference between hard- and softnecks here. Essentially, softnecks produce more cloves and store longer, but are more difficult to peel. This last point I don't take lightly: I love garlic, but find peeling it the most tedious possible job the kitchen can offer. (Cooking for myself alone, I don't bother; but family and friends don't like the skins, I've found.)

There's something magical about garlic. We associate it with the Mediterranean, where of course it's a staple of most savoury dishes, but it actually benefits from growing in a cold climate. It was plentiful and cheap to buy in Libya, for example, but was very mild - I'd use an entire bulb when cooking for myself. And here it is now, in Glasgow, growing up through snow.
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
And it's years since I've grown it. I tried over winter in our old Pig Sty Avenue allotment, and it seemed successful until harvesting it when it turned out to be badly effected by onion white rot - that whole allotment had it.

This current crop was quite expensive, £5 or more for a couple of bulbs, but if successful I'll keep back a dozen or so bulbs to plant in October this year. Also, where it's planted now, I was taking a punt on the ground not waterlogging, - that my drainage works would work, - because this time last year this particular area was under an inch or two of water. So far, so good.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Happy Birthday, Pond

Well, it's kind of a year old. The first inundated panic driven hole in the ground was dug in December 2015.  It was taking shape early last January. And it was assuming it's current shape before the end of that month.

During a lot of the intervening year, the levels have been much lower. 48 hours of steady rain will fill it. But from full, it takes about 2 weeks of drought to drain - but even after that there'll be wet sediment in each of the 3 main ponds. That happened once all year, back in May. Most of the time, the 3 ponds are spearate, each of them maybe 1ft deep. There's a 4th, very small, pond at the SE end, (top left corner in photo.

In the photo above the water is as high as it's been since last winter. It gets no higher than this, because of the overflow into the Council drain, (at the red marker in the very forefront of the photo) is set to this level. I'm curious to see how it's flora will do next Spring when the level drops again.

For example, in the middle pond there's a dock growing at such a level in the bank that its foliage would be inundated frequently, but not for more than a few days. It's roots must have been below the water level most of the time. Now, it's completely submerged, and will likely remain so most of the Winter. Ditto clover and grasses.

This is a (very) rough sketch of the pond in section, (L to R = N to S), where the darker blue is the summer level, and pale blue winter. I have thought about excavating it evenly, taking the time to puddle the clay, so that it doesn't almost dry out in the Spring, (when it's liable to have frogspawn, though there was none this year).

But then, so far it seems to be doing its day job - keeping the beds from water-logging - very well. And it's only a year. So I'm going to leave it to its own devices for now. I've sprinkled on some pond margin plant seeds - 99p on eBay, no idea what they were. There's also the typha latifolia, and I'm hoping that will do well next year.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Allotment: The Latest Plan

A clockwise rotation. Next year, 2018 that is, peas will follow onions and roots; eventually, some years from now, chickens will follow potatoes. This year, beds 2 & 5 will be green manures, give me time and space to get on with riddling.

The 5th Bed

During the 1st few days of 2017 I made a start on the 5th bed. One of the things I love about an allotment: it's mutability. This area was somewhat wasted with the misplaced shed, an earth path around it, weeds and rubbish. But clear the shed and rubbish, dig it over, and it's transformed into a bed for growing things.

Kind of. This is going to take some work. So far, I've dug over about 75% of it. I've got 40 full wall bricks out of it, and a barrow-full of rubble, but it wants riddling before I could plant anything except a green manure. For example, the corner by the gate, 2 or 3 sq yards, is full of what I'm guessing is crumbled tarmac. Of course, I take out what rubble (and of course the ubiquitous, bastarding broken glass) I can by hand, but an awful lot will have been left behind.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

2017 Crop Rotation Latest; Chickens

  • No. 1 bed: spuds;
  • No. 2 bed: vetch;
  • No. 3 bed: carrots & onions;
  • No. 4 bed: brassicas
  • No. 5 bed: vetch.
 Mind, all of the beds have to be riddled. So, for example, when I lift the garlic from bed 3, I'll riddle that area before planting carrots there. And in bed 2, I'll gradually dig in the vetch, riddle the soil, and then plant another green manure on the riddled ground.

And the rotation can proceed now in a clockwise direction, with a four bed system, (spuds, peas, onions/carrots, brassicas). The 5th bed will be a green manure for now, but eventually I want to introduce chickens into the rotation.

To do that, I need to build a chicken house and run which is the right size for the beds, and which I can disassemble, move, and reassemble all myself in half a day. I'm thinking 10-12 chickens, enough to get all our eggs and a chicken for the roast once a month at least.

This is several years away, but you heard it here first. The benefits of a chicken run in the crop rotation should be enormous. Apart from the eggs and meat, there's a good supply of manure, and it'll stop the build up of pests in the ground, but the rotation will inhibit the build of any chicken pests in the ground. Not bad, eh?

All Around My Plot...

... I shall wear the green willow.

I took a few small branches from an overgrowing willow tree by the allotments' gate, which yielded about 30 willow whips. I put 10 in the hedgerow, and the rest along the boundary between beds 2 & 3.

The plan is to keep them cut low, to avoid giving shade, a miniature hedge. The main reason is to help the drainage - mind, in this area last year, the phacelia all faded and died in late August, which I'm pretty sure was because it was still getting waterlogged there somewhat. The new French drain plus the willow... we'll see.

There's been quite a lot of rain the last 2 weeks, as Glasgow was on the fringes of storms Barbara and Conor. The pond is full. And the garlic patch is NOT waterlogged, which is a relief: that area had standing water on it last January, (to the left in the 1st photo in that post). Planting garlic to over-winter there was a bit of a punt, but it seems to be paying off, so far anyway.

"If you're walking down the right path and you're willing to keep walking, eventually you'll make progress."

I've re-laid the middle path, the part that had been obliged to snake to the west because of the old shed being misaligned, built across the middle of the plot, where of course a path should run. Straight this time, of course. Well, more or less, it wavers a bit, as good allotment paths should.

For the first time, one can now walk on a path from the gate right down to the fence at the northern end. This has re-framed the plot: it's clearly five beds, plus space for shed and poly-tunnel, plus pond.

And as for the beds, I'm going to number them from here on in: the compass points used hitherto were a mouthful. So the old SW bed is now no. 1, Midwest, 2, and so-on clockwise round the plot, so that the "new" bed, by the gate in the SE corner, is no. 5. 

Thursday, December 08, 2016

A Peculiar Green Path; Cultivation, Cultivation, Cultivation

This is the view from the gate, so that's the SE corner of the plot. I was preparing to excavate an area by the gate, a yard or so square, to lay bricks down, and then lay a path across to the middle path, (another story). But there's already a path there, covered until today in a couple of inches of loamy soil. It's a strange, green, crumbly concrete.

I'd planned another brick path, leaving a foot or so of earth for the hedgerow between path and fence. Instead, I've got this peculiar green edifice, and an inch or two of soil by the fence.

Heigh bloomin' ho. I was going to have pyracantha all the way along the S. boundary. But it looks as if it's going to be ivy, now. Which is fine. As you can see the fence there is an allotment-chic palette construction, constantly leaning towards my side of the boundary because stuff is stacked against it on my neighbour's side. Well, we'll see how the ivy deals with that situation.

The next job is to straighten the path, which had been obliged to wander of to the west because the old shed was off-centre.
And then I want to get that SE bed dug over. Just rough, just to get it levelled and, well, get the ground broken, see what it's like. I don't think it's been cultivated during the Predecessor's time, so that's 30 years. If my theories about the plot's history are right, it hadn't been cultivated for decades before that. It was mostly a midden when I took over, (and it's not much better now, with the debris scrap metal from the bonfire).

But that bloody old shed is gone. I can see where I'm going. And it's dig, riddle, dig, riddle. A whole year of that. Loads to do, but light at the end of it. Paradoxically, I need to do a whole load of digging before I can get to no-dig.

The Final Bonfire

It felt like the end of an allotment era: apart from the few items which I can recycle, like sheets of metal for the new shed, that's all of the useless old stuff gone. And it was a hell of a bonfire. Being missives day, there were plenty of people around, and several of them visited, some bearing beer. The fire was lit at 3.30pm, and I left, a tad unsteadily, to walk home around 7. When I went back this morning, Thursday, I was pleased to see it had burned down really well. Some scrap metal, and a big heap of ash, but very little wood left behind.

With the rubbish and the old shed away, I now have a 5th bed.