Okay, so the title’s a little over the top but nonetheless we’re approaching the middle of May and you wouldn’t know it by the weather!
We did have that magical week of warm weather back in April when the whole town started rummaging in its garden shed for the barbecue set and rushed off down to the harbour to bag its place, Mediterranean style, at a table in the sun; but then the sun went away to be replaced with cold and rain. And here we still are.
Which means that growth has been slow in the vegetable patch.
There has been some growth just the same. Our spuds are now all showing, each plant present and correct in its allotted drill; the winter onions are beginning to swell and the first of them will soon be ready for pulling; and the broad beans that our four year old granddaughter helped me plant, “I did it all; Granddad only made the holes”, last October are now bigger than she is.
These beans are very much “hers”. When they germinated she came back to see the first green shoots; a few times over the winter to see them slowly getting bigger; then the first flowers; and now that the bees have done their bit, tiny little swelling pods. I’m quite certain that when it comes time to harvest she won’t let me anywhere near them.
She might even take an interest in eating them. If so I’m sure her mother who, like all mothers, struggles to get her children to eat vegetables will thank me for that. It’s a bit of a long shot given that no-one in the history of forever liked broad beans as a child, but you never know.
Elsewhere the fruit trees have set a goodly amount of fruit – we were lucky with the frosts this year – and the strawberries are flowering well. I’ve a feeling I won’t be let anywhere near them either if that certain little madam gets her way.
Other than that it’s pretty much a waiting game outside at the moment, but Met Eireann are promising the weather’s about to change this weekend, so fingers crossed.
Meanwhile we decided to tackle the polytunnel and get our tomatoes, peppers and what have you planted
We’d rather put this on the long finger because we’d still got some overwintered veg growing there, plus a load of strawberry plants which were supposed to give us an early crop this month.
We tried this last year with reasonable success. They cropped from very late April all the way through May before we, ingrates that we are, reefed them out and consigned them to the compost heap.
But this year it became evident that they weren’t going to do much at all for some reason. The plants were mostly weak and hadn’t rooted well; they had to go. So they did.
We’re trialling the No Dig method this year in the allotment.
No Dig is exactly what it says it is: you don’t dig the soil but spread compost on top instead and plant through that. The idea being not to disturb the living microbial and fungal ecosystem of the soil by cutting it all up and churning it about. By not digging you don’t activate dormant weed seeds, so not only do you avoid the heavy spade work but you have less subsequent weeding as well. At least, that’s the plan.
So having cleared out the beds and given them a light raking to even them up, it was time to apply 4″ of compost.
Actually, that’s not quite true. There was no room on top for an extra 4″ of anything, so we had to raise the beds. This we did, using reclaimed wood supplied FoC to anyone in the allotments who both wanted it, and was quick enough to grab it, by a cooperative neighbour (you know who you are Ken!), and the extra height will keep us out of trouble for a good few years. Then the compost went in.
This made serious inroads into to our supply of homemade compost, but at the end of the day that’s what it’s for, and anyway we’re only now beginning to get the compost cycle into full production. When fully up and running, which will be this year, we reckon to get the equivalent of four or five tonne bags annually.
The polytunnel should be about rather more than just raising seedlings in Spring and growing tomatoes in Summer, it’s also about extending the growing season and growing out of season produce. The trouble is that it’s hard to get the timing right and not have stuff in the ground still coming to fruition when the space is needed for something else. We get it wrong frequently.
Hopefully No Dig will help here as well.
This Autumn when the tomatoes and peppers come out we will again put in strawberry runners, along with carrots, cauliflower and other vegetables which we’ve found do well there over Winter, but this time we’ll plan the spacings so that the summer crops can be interplanted between them and get off to an early start. Overlap their growing time in other words.
Because we won’t be digging or rotorvating we won’t have to completely clear beds between rotations; simply plant beside and pull out as necessary. That’s the plan at any rate.
[Edit] Since writing this post the sun has come out and the weather warmed up. Hooray! Long may it last.