Don't Lose the Plot

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Rooko's October Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. Many squashes and pumpkins should be mature enough to harvest this month. If the skins cannot be punctured using your finger nail they should be ready to harvest. Cut the vine/stalk (away from yourself) about an inch or two above the pumpkin/squash.

2. Keep your lawns, borders and growing areas free from falling leaves to alleviate the spread of diseases. Leaves could be left in heaps in sheltered places as a place for hibernating animals to use, during the Winter.

3. Cuttings can be taken from Currant, Blueberry and Gooseberry bushes this month.

4. Check and maintain any equipment you may need to use over the Winter months such as greenhouse heaters. Remember, if you have petrol driven machinery stored away for the Winter, such as a rotorvator, unleaded petrol will start to "go off" after about 3 months, possibly giving starting problems later.

5. Although the weather here in U.K. is still sunny and warm at the end of September this year, it may well change to wet and colder in October. Now would be a good time to bring, tender/half hardy plants, inside, to protect them from frosts/cold winds.

6. October is usually a good month to plant out strawberry runners and also to split rhubarb crowns for re-planting.

7. Plan your garden/allotment sowing/planting areas for next season as well as ordering seeds, plants and seed catalogues.

8. Although asparagus ferns can be cut off after they have started to die back they can also be cut back this month. Add a good amount of compost/manure around the plants after cutting back the ferns from them.

9. Just a few plants that can be pruned in October but beware of hard frosts when pruning. Blackcurrant, Birch, California Lilac, Common beech, Dogwwod, Evergreen clematis, Firethorn, Hydrangea, Lilac, Nectarine, Roses, Rowan, Tamarisk.

1. Japanese onion sets can be planted in October.
2. Broad Beans can also be planted as well as Garlic and Shallots.
3. Hardy Lettuce can still be sown.
1. Pull and store Carrots.
2.  Lift any remaining potatoes.
3. Manure empty areas of the plot as required.
4. Clear away dead/decaying foliage.
5. Tidy fruit beds removing dead leaves from Strawberries. Re-plant runners.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

The Plot Thickens

With most of my Summer crops harvested, used, languishing in my freezer or better still in their final stages of development, it was time, last week, to take on the mammoth task of clearing the drainage ditch bank of vegetation before the Winter rains?? set in. The drainage ditch runs past the lower end of my plots with a large hedgerow well established on the opposite bank. This area behind my fruit trees gets overgrown with many wild plants and weeds. Some of the annoying ones being, brambles, bindweed, couch grass, dandelions, creeping clover, docks and nettles. Left to their own devices a combination of these "weeds" would quickly invade the lower reaches of my plots. Although the drainage ditch is almost devoid of water at present, when it is flowing it runs from west to east along the ditch. At present another invasive plant is making its way towards my plots, following the same direction as the water would, and will soon become a problem if not kept in check, (the dreaded mares tail).

Drainage Ditch Vegetation
Drainage Ditch Lower End of N2 Looking East (Uncleared) Sept 2014
Starting last weekend I began by pruning back the larger bushes, trees and brambles on the far bank, using a telescopic pruner to reach across the ditch. The ground level vegetation on both banks was then raked loose and bagged off into potato sacks and other containers for disposal. The mainly larger wild plants/flowers were left intact apart for trimming their foliage back somewhat, using garden shears. After 3 days work, the banks and bottom of the ditch were clear of weeds, cuttings and debris. A couple of years ago consignments of animal manure to our allotments was found to be contaminated with pesticides. Since then, finding a regular source of manure has been hit and miss. Taking this into consideration I decided to clear out the humus rich mud from the bottom of the drainage ditch and deposit it onto my vegetable beds, in lieu of manure, as well as keeping the ditch clear for water to run off from. Using a walking board on top of the thick black mud I began to dig it out, starting work last Monday.

Digging Out the Mud
Vegetation Cleared Mud Digging Started Below N1 Plot Sept 2014

Digging Out the Mud Sept 2014

Walking Board Sinking in the Mud Sept 2014

Mud Dug Out
Mud Removed Lower End of N1 Plot Sept 2014

Mud Spread on Vegetable Beds
1st 4 Barrow Loads of Mud on No1 Bed N1 Plot Sept 2014
 Once the vegetation had been removed the full width of the ditch was about 1 and a half meters with the useable mud being about half a meter deep, thick black and very smelly due to its high nitrogen content from rotting vegetation. Each spadeful had to be wrenched out and thrown up the bank into my wheelbarrow. With the mud sticking to just about everything it came into contact with, progress was slow but to date I have completed approximately 10 meters along the length of the ditch.
Its now Sunday afternoon 28th September 2014 and clearing of the drainage ditch has finally been achieved.

Ditch Cleared
Drainage Ditch Clearing Finished 28 Sept 14 Photographed East to West From Lower End of N2 Plot
The Marrows Kept On Growing Whilst I Worked In The Ditch Sept 2014

 There's always tomorrow!!

Friday, 12 September 2014

Cheap Bulbs

Just a quick message for my U.K. readers. My local Lidl store was selling (U.K.) daffodil bulbs today @ £5 for a 5Kg bag.
Maybe yours is too.

There's Always Tomorrow!!

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Septembers Spuddling

A relatively slow, quiet and relaxing month so far down my plots, apart from harvesting a variety of different vegetables, some for immediate use, with others prepped and crammed into my freezer. Due to potato blight still rearing its ugly head around the allotments, the mountain of potatoes stored in plastic trays in my garage have been checked regularly for it. Any potatoes showing signs of blight have been disposed of because if they were to come into contact with other tubers they would quickly pass the blight on, another reason the potatoes are stored in trays this year rather than in bags or sacks, less contact between tubers and the ease of being able to spot any disease at a glance. My early sowing of runner beans this year were not up to their usual standard but a second later sowing is now producing an excellent crop due to the much improved weather conditions of the past fortnight or so. With temperatures just short of 30 degrees C in my poly tunnel today, tomatoes and cucumbers are in abundance, although my water melons (sugar babe) are dire. Over the past couple of days more spring onions, along with lambs lettuce and senshu onion sets have been sown/planted at the upper end of N2 Plot into No. 2 bed. Daffodil bulbs have been added to the upper end of No 1 bed on N2 Plot with tulip bulbs being added to 1 of my raised beds, which will eventually be filled with more bulbs.
Harvest Sept 2014
Another Good Harvest (Sept 2014)
 The re-designing work I have been doing to both plots this year is almost finished and a high percentage of the beds are, or soon will be ready for next years sowing/planting, after some compost or manure has been added to them. 2 areas from 3 where potatoes were grown this year will need the soil cleaning before they are used again, to guard against any blight spores that may remain. A relaxing afternoons painting last Sunday saw a new coat of paint/preserver mix applied to the shed on N2 Plot and at the same time to the adjacent water storage tank, which is now darkish brown rather than a light grey colour, (along with the t-shirt I was wearing at the time). The idea being for the tank to soak up more sunlight rather than reflecting it. If so, when the rainwater is applied to plants/seedlings it may be slightly warmer giving less "shock" to the plants. With a couple of days of pruning and general clearing up of rubbish and vegetation that cannot be composted the plots are looking in a reasonably tidy condition prior to the onset of Winter. I expect the Autumn leaf fall will alter that somewhat.

Grilled Cucumber??
"Grilled" Cucumber September 2014
Common Frog
Keeping The Bugs Down in My Poly Tunnel Sept 2014
Potato Bed Covered Sept 2014
This Years Main Potato Bed Cleaned & Covered N2 Plot Sept 2014
Rotavating Strawberry Bed Sept 2014
Old Strawberry Bed N1 Plot Rotavated Sept 2014
Cabbage Sept 2014
Most Brassicas Looking Good Sept 2014
Painting Sept 2014
Water Tank Painting Sept 2014

Re-Designed N2 Plot September 2014

Re-Designed N1 Plot September 2014

There's Always Tomorrow!!

Sunday, 31 August 2014

Rooko's September Top 10 Tips & Tryouts

1. With Septembers weather forecast to be warm and sunny here in U.K., don't forget to keep watering veggies that are not yet ready to be harvested (other plants too). Give plants a good watering, perhaps once a week, rather than little and often.

2. If you are short on animal manure for your allotment, think about sowing a green manure such as mustard which can be dug or rotavated into the soil later in the year or next Spring.

3. Make "a re-cycled items list" of useful gardening items you ran out of this year. Examples, plastic bottles and other containers, bits of string for plant ties, jam jars, egg boxes for chitting potatoes. Etc etc.

4. September is probably the prime month to be stung by wasps. At this time of year wasps start to feed on fermenting/over ripe fruit so be wary of drunken wasps.

5. Sow some of the following crops in September. Spring onions, radish, Winter hardy onion white lisbon, Spring cabbages, Japanese onions. Autumn onion sets, garlic.

6. When lifting potatoes, spread them out on dry soil, to allow them to dry out before storing them.

7. If you are left with any diseased plant foliage don't compost it, burn it or dispose of it responsibly by other methods.

8. Strawberry runners should be ready for potting up at this time of the year.

9. New trees and shrubs can be planted in September helping them to become established.

1. Winter hardy lettuce can be sown in September as well as hardy Spring Onions.
2. Spring Cabbages can be planted out now.
3. Parsnips will taste better if left in the ground until after a frost.
1. Prune Summer fruiting Raspberries.
2.  Runners from Strawberries can be planted now.
3. Add manure, lime or green manures to your soil, depending on each beds condition and your crop rotation.

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