Allotment jobs this month: May the force be with you

Getting ready for the brassicas and legumes
Getting ready for the brassicas and legumes

I never stray too far from Alan Buckingham’s Allotment: Month by Month but if you do not want to get the most out of May here are some links and videos to help out this month.  Plus some important dates to keep you busy for each of the 31 days.

Jobs This Month Directory

RHS

National Allotment Society

Gardeners’ World

Sarah Raven

Thompson & Morgan

Suttons

Charles Dowding

Useful Videos for May

How to tie in your sweet peas (Sarah Raven Video)

Direct sowing carrots (Quickcrop Video)

Growing and planting courgettes (Quickcrop video)

Important Dates

International Dawn Chorus Day 7 May

RHS Malvern Spring Festival 11-14 May

RHS Chelsea Flower Show 23-27 May

Day out: Loseley Park Spring Garden Show

Loseley Park Spring Garden Show; A day of inspiration, colour, plants. and gin  We are fortunate to have Loseley Park around the corner from us.  Each time we visit there is something new to see amongst the now very familiar five gardens.  The plans for the allotment this year have been touched by the white and vegetable gardens.  Next year we will try and capture the colour they have achieved this April.

This weekend is the Spring Garden Show with approximately a dozen nurseries and Loseley’s own.  This Saturday we picked up some bronze fennel, some replacement borage which we were too quick to remove last year, Rudbeckia Goldsturm which is to make up for the failed germination in the growhouse this year and a bottle of Silent Pool gin to help avoid dehydration.  However, we were tempted by plenty of herbs, sweet peas and seedlings but did not have enough hands to take them all back.

Jobs for the month at the allotment – don’t be an April Fool

Tulips at the allotment
Tulips at the allotment

I never stray too far from Alan Buckingham’s Allotment: Month by Month but if you do not want to be an April fool here are some links to help out this month.

Jobs This Month Directory

RHS

National Allotment Society

Gardeners’ World

Sarah Raven

Thompson & Morgan

Suttons

Sowing seeds in the Spring sun

Potting Bench in the Spring Sun
Potting Bench in the Spring Sun

Sowing seeds in the Spring sun.  There is something about the first sustained Spring sunshine which you can take advantage of, not trapped behind a desk admiring it from a distance but standing free amongst it.  Seed compost, seeds, pots, potting bench and starting something new – the best parts of Spring.

The positive mental effects of gardening are well publicised but the flip-side of having a passion for gardening which is sustained in the dark days where activities are limited is hard on the soul.  I think the dormant seasons, where sunlight hours are few and far between, affect gardeners more as they are finely attuned to the wonders of what can happen when the sun comes out.

Today was a day of sun and being out.  The morning was spent sowing seeds into pots and trays, lunch lying on the grass eating sandwiches in front of the tulips (our mini version of Keukenhof) , afternoon sowing carrots as the next stage of Experiment 17.1, tending to the garlic, onion and shallots, removing brambles which had spread while we were looking the other way and removing the horticultural crimes of the previous owner of the plot.

Today was a day of sun and being out.  The day before the timekeepers artificially give us a day of sun.  A spring day of sowing, sun and sandwiches. Spring is special.  Every day is special but the dark days of Winter make the light days of Spring extraordinary.

First tulips on the plot
First tulips on the plot (also enjoying the sun)

Experiment 17:2- Three ‘pain free’ approaches to improving soil and braving the stranger things in the allotment

Stranger Things digital-print by charamath @ etsy
Stranger Things digital-print by charamath @ etsy

After several months getting the majority of the upside of the plot into shape I have now got the courage to take on the upside down of the north west corner – here there be monsters.

The previous owner was obviously aware of the monsters as he used several nefarious methods to keep them down.  However, after several years of neglect by the previous occupant, and it seems just giving up and retiring to a safe distance, the monsters are most definitely winning.  The tarpaulin that he had put down has taken into the Upside Down and assimilated.

My first incursion will be to try and separate the weeds, brambles, grasses, tyres, concrete slabs, ants nests etc from the aged tarpaulin then working on and improving the soil without removing what goodness still persists there.  The ultimate aim is to create raised beds where vegetables and flowers can be grown without too much soil depletion or letting to many of the monsters get through.

Because of the desire to grow plants at the earliest opportunity and to find ways to reduce what is a momentous undertaking I am going to try and clear as many offending items as soon as possible and then try three ‘pain free’ approaches to develop beds that share similar DNA.

Venn diagram of no dig methods
A basic Venn diagram of three types of no dig methods

The three methods are No Dig championed by Charles Dowding, Sheet Mulching with a cardboard weed barrier and Lasagna Gardening which shares many of the characteristics of the first two and is often used online interchangeably with the term sheet mulching.  I believe, however, that there are important differences between the three.

At a glance all three share a focus of minimal disturbance of the ground, killing weeds by depriving them of light and  building soil fertility on site through control and maintenance of layers of organic material.  However, I believe they also have important differences.  The Lasagna method can be differentiated from the other two by a greater intricacy of layers and a predetermined focus on varying layers of nitrogen and carbon, while sheet mulching has a prerequisite of a biodegradable weed barrier and a lesser focus on intricate combination of layers.  No dig in contrast shares elements of both but in most cases the weed barrier is removed by hand or planted through rather than let to degrade naturally.

It will be hard to make any initial predictions on which will give the greatest short, mid and long term benefit.  Therefore, as I clear the bad lands of the north west corner I am going to create three different beds with one for each method, report on my findings and see if any general recommendations can be made.  No pretensions of science just anecdotal evidence and to see what might help the new plot owner who takes over a wilderness rather than an allotment plot.  I will try and grow something in each bed in the first year, not because I think it is a short term solution but to see what benefits can be achieved in each stage.

Therefore, one of the major experiments of the year begins with the scaling of the north west corner and the improving of the upside down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evening school – learning new things – sowing for the cut flower garden

An evening sewing - root trainers, pots and trays
An evening sewing – root trainers, pots and trays

Tonight was part self-education and part catching up.  The pile of seed packets that I needed to sow with the passing of every week wasn’t getting any smaller and within that pile there was nothing familiar.

Last year I self-taught myself about sowing vegetables and became a little bit wiser.  This year I am continuing my education and trying to learn about cut flowers for additional credit.

I started confidently, filled the various root trainers, pots and trays with Grochar Seed Compost opened the first packets and boom . . . what the hell.  Everything was different.  Gone is the familiarity of vegetable seeds, the simplicity of one seed one mini pot then pot on etc.  Now I was faced with what looked like dust, kernels and alien spawn.  I was not set up for this.

So day 1 of Cut Flowers 101 I realised that I need a few new approaches, I am going to learn a lot and I may have to add vermiculite to what feels like a ever growing science lab in the shed..

 

 

Celebrate the return of Gardeners’ World on BBC 2 this Friday

Gardeners’ World is back on our screens this Friday @ 8pm (GMT).  A joyous moment worth celebrating.  A key date in the gardening calendar.

To celebrate the best tv on the BBC we play Longmeadow Lotto at our house and fancy dress as your favourite presenter.

Join in, download your Longmeadow Lotto form, play along and see who is the ‘best in show’ in your house.  We would love to hear your scores and find out how you celebrate Gardeners World.

Longmeadow Lotto Forms

Longmeadow Lotto (PDF)

Longmeadow Lotto (Word doc)

Rules

Floral fun for all the family.

Select 3 areas of Longmeadow which you think will be focused on this week’s Gardeners’ World.

Score every match, an area selected is featured in the programme, and discover who the best in show in your household is.

Longmeadow Areas

Beehives Jewel Garden
Box Ball Yard Long Walk
Compost Bins Mound
Coppice New Fruit Garden
Cottage Garden Orchard
Damp Garden Pond
Greenhouse – Heated Potting Shed
Greenhouse – Tall Spring Garden
Greenhouse – Top Veg Plot (Either Family or New)
Hen House Writing Garden
Herb Garden


Point System

5 points for every matched area

3 bonus points if Nellie appears in the matched area of the garden with a tennis ball

3 bonus points if Monty links to Jobs for the Weekend in the matched garden.

www.hardyperennial.com

Please note that this is just for fun with no prizes.

Celebrate the joy of Gardeners’ World with Monty and all the team.

New series starts Friday 10th March @ 8pm on BBC2