Archive for the ‘Allotments / Community Gardens & Plots’ Category

Hi everyone, It’s been ages since I have posted anything, as you may be guessing, it’s because of the growing season! Being the owner of two gardens (one is an allotment) you can mostly understand that I have my hands full!

In the meantime, other than the news that things might go quite well for me this year on the allotment side, I have gotten hold of a nice handy little A4 companion planting guide which can be printed out and stuck at the back of a shed door, inside a greenhouse or in a gardening notebook.

Companion-Planting_afristar

Unfortunately when printed out (at least with my printer), the black text seems to be a little faded.

I hope this helps you out with your planting in the meantime whilst I spend time away from the interweb, many updates are in the pipeline, but for now …

We are approaching the point where the average Last Frost Date for our respective regions / areas will pass and we can start placing more sensetive plants outdoors for hardening in Polytunnels and greenhouses etc.

Here is a great image you can refer to, it is a zoomed out map of the UK with coloured areas indicating temperatre changes and the subsequent expected annual last frost date.

Last Frost Map PNG 1

Whilst this map is useful in checking your general area, you may want to zoom in and confirm exactly where your land sits, on This Site (< Click) you can zoom in further and also click on either the name where you live or another local name which is listed…

If you are in the Northern Hemisphere then some of you may still either be waiting for Dandelions to flower or may be seeing the last flowers become seed heads, for those lucky enough, you still have time to collect the flowers for the following Recipes.

dandelions

Once you start to see the flowers appearing, a good rule-of-thumb is to keep in mind that on average, you only have a 3 week window to pick and use for your recipes, so that means multiple trips if you want to follow more than one recipe.

This was the first time I have used Dandelion for culinary purposes and started first with the Jam Recipe:

What’s Needed:

  1. A grocery store shopping bag Half Full of Dandelion flowers,
  2. 3 x cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped,
  3. 3x squeezed lemons,
  4. 600ml boiling water,
  5. 725gm jam sugar.

Method:

  1. Put the Chopped apples and around 3/4ths of the flower heads into a pan with the hot water and simmer for 10 minutes,
  2. After 10 minutes, strain the remaining results through a sieve or similar and push as much pulp through as possible using a spoon,
  3. Add the strained liquid back into your pan together with the lemon juice and sugar,
  4. Dissolve the sugar by cooking on low heat and stirring regularly, add the rest of the dandelion heads (petals only, cut off the green parts with scissors),
  5. Boil on high heat until you reach the setting point (Click here to find out how to find your setting point in jam making),
  6. Ladle into your prepared jars, this recipe made me 3 standard honey jars and 2 smaller speciality hex jars I bought online.

I really, really like the end product! This jam is delish and makes the harvesting well worth it in my opinion, this is a plant that should not be killed off and considered a weed, every part of this plant is edible and it is a perennial!
– Jeff Permie

In the coming days, I will post a Dandelion Wine Recipe, I am currently fermenting my first ever batch of this wine and so cannot give you full information right through to the taste of the end product, I am halfway through the fermenting period and will be bottling the product up in another two weeks. I feel like sharing this recipe because of the fact that some readers may still be able to harvest the flower heads, this is a proven and common recipe and I feel that it will definitely be worth it …

Some of you may have heard a few people making the statement: ”I am a no dig / no till gardener” what they meant about that is that they do not follow the standard of turning or rotavating their soil every year especially in the Winter.

serveimage

Woodchip Soil Amending – year 1 and 2 onwards

No Dig gardeners do a little bit of digging, but only what is necessary such as digging a hole to place a plant in it’s final outdoor location. They Do Not however, systematically dig / till the soil every year.
One of the arguments used to justify this ficticious practice is that they are bringing up nutrients which are / have leeched deep down.
Gardeners the country over, including very experienced people on Allotments have no actual clue about the sub surface bacteria and how they are exposing these beneficial organisms to the elements and also burying them too deep which kills them off!
In permaculture we call it the Soil Food Web and it comprises the entire system from soil microbes, to fungi mycelium, the plants, moisture, decomposing matter etc…

Nature does the work for us, we just need to learn to observe and only intervene by taking advantage of the observed clues, one good example is with the Austrian Farmer Sepp Holzer, he noticed as a boy that Strawberries grow much better and produce larger / jucier fruit when stones were placed beside the plants, he also noticed how White Clover also helped (Nitrogen Fixer).

The below image describes a better understanding of exactly how the different organisms in the ‘Soil Food Web’ play their roles which interact with other organisms in the system:

soil food web

If for example, you buy a house or start a garden somewhere and you find that the soil is heavy clay, you will of course need to dig and place soil amendments (preferrably natural) in the first year on a once off occasion, thereafter only an annual surface layer of mulch is needed to feed the system with fresh compostable material, nature literlaly does the rest and after a longer period of time you will have a very healthy soil system on that particular patch of land.

So, a few bags of clean sharp sand to help break up the clay, perhaps a few bags of compost and I would say as much woodchip as can be obtained, these materials should be worked into the soil up to the depth of perhaps of one spade blade. If your woodchip is fresh, you should not grow anything in this soil for at least a year, so this year you could at least use the space to host a row of pots which will hold plants for this one season, next year you will grow directly in the ground.

Rotovating or working the soil every year destroys the food web and basically resets it everytime, in the case of using a rotovator on heavy clay, the blades actually compact the ground under the bed being prepared and pretty much can cause this layer to become a water barrier, this I have seen first hand and the plot in question was always flooded at certain times of the year … In my whole opinion, using a rotovator is only necessary in the first year of soil amandment.

If you have a perennial weed problem (weeds which die down in winter and re-sprout from sub surface root networks in spring) you can use sheet mulch (aka lasagna mulch) after your soil amendment is added and then your final layer of the woodchip or mulch layer of your choice.

I challenge any skeptics to do a control experiment where they dedicate half of their beds to a no dig with mulch method and see the difference year after year …

March and April both have basically the same crops that need sowing and are concidered shared months, it really all depends on your location, if you are in a zone in your country which is warmer compared to other parts, then it is likely that you can sow in March as opposed to your country men and women in colder areas …

purple beans

Outdoors (depending on weather and soil conditions)

  • Root crops including the first sowings of carrrots, parsnips, beetroot & turnips,

  • Mangetout & podding peas, also broad beans – although there’s less chance of pest problems if started in trays rather than right in the beds / ground

  • The first sets of summer salads such as lettuces, rocket, radishes, endive & cress,

  • Brassica crops for eating this summer & also through into the winter – kale, summer and (early) winter cabbages, brussels sprouts, purple sprouting broccoli, calabrese and cauliflowers

  • Swiss chard & leaf beet

  • Spring onions
    Leeks

In trays or pots (Outdoors)

  • If you have slug or weed problems, then you may find all of the brassica crops, leeks and salads do better started in trays/modules and then planted out when they are better able to withstand them.

  • Similarly broad beans and peas may have to be started indoors if you have trouble with mice

Indoors somewhere warm (germinator / good windowsill close to a heater)

  • Tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, ideally by the end of March.

  • Celery/celeriac (again need heat to germinate)

  • Courgettes, squashes, cucumbers and melons (but not too early, or they will get too large before the weather is good enough for them to go outside)

In a polytunnel / greenhouse direct into the border or pots

  • Summer salads

  • French beans for an early crop

  • Herbs such as basil, coriander & parsley

 

Happy Sowing! …..

Woodchip is a great soil amendment and adds nutrients into the soil slowly, I have observably proven this to myself last year on my Allotment where I stashed a few wheelbarrows of woodchip on a section of my plot because otherwise the communal woodchip would likely have been finished by the time I needed some.
Once I dug my pond out, I covered the mound of woodchip with the soil from within the pond, about 6 months later I finally started a new project in the place of the mound of soil where I discovered the very well composted woodchip and noticed when digging that the topsoil layer was darker within a few inches under the topsoil line, when I compared this to a section just a meter away, the soil was lightly coloured and only darker very close to the surface line…

Below is a great video proving and showing from day one to 8 years on, the soil is even dug down seriously deep to prove how far the amendment reached until the soil quality becomes poor again.

 

Important Note: If you obtain free woodchip from your local Tree Surgeons, always ask what tree/s were chipped! Basically, Broad Leaf are usually Alkaline or Neutral PH (Oak is Acidic though) and Coniferous are Acidic PH, So use Conifer Woodchip for pathways as less weeds will germinate amongst the mature rotting chips as well as a mulch for Acid loving plants like strawberries and Blueberries. Use the Broad Leaf for your beds and as a soil amender!

Video courtesy of youtube channel OneYardRevolution

There a are a number of plants due for sowing in February, as well as some which show up in the Janurary list, these too can still be sown now …

baby-carrots

Young Carrots Growing In A Container

Indoors:

  • Round Seeded Peas (See explanation / description in January Sowing Calendar – Click Here),
  • Aubergines, Tomatoes and Peppers (Especially Aubergines, these plants really do need a good early start in order to have a chance of baring fruit in our climate), Peppers take long to germinate (Sometimes almost a month so going by what a general seed pack says will almost always spell disater) and Tomatoes can always do with an earlier start – just be sure to have a nice indoor spot for them to grow on in whilst waiting for the last frost date,

Outside (Polytunnel or Green house):

  • Oriental Greens and Winter Lettuce Varieties again for planting in March, (See varieties list in the January Sowing Calendar),
  • If you are in a warmer part of the country, Carrots can be sown inside Greenhouses and Polytunnels to produce an earleir Crop – you can consider these ‘Early First Earlies!’
    NOTE: I would still reccommend experimenting though, I have some carrots which were sown late outdoors with no cover at all and I am in what is considered a ”warmer part of the ountry” these Carrots have survived well on a windy site without top cover, albeit looking worse for wear, they are alive and will definitely improve when the weather gets better