Tag Archives: potatoes

Digging in the rye

Planted: potatoes, main crop (Rooster)

Seeds sowed: peas, herbs

We’ve just cut the winter rye grass that we sowed last autumn in three of the beds, prior to digging it in once it’s dried. Rye grass helps to protect the soil from erosion during winter and its extensive root system is adept at dredging up the minerals that otherwise would be washed away by winter rains. Rye is particularly good at lifting the nitrates in the soil and releasing them slowly (once dug in) to the following crop.

Rye can be combined with Red Clover as clover is brilliant at collecting nitrogen but when dug in it rapidly decomposes and quickly releases the nitrogen. This is great for nitrogen hungry crops like brasssicas that are planted straight after but by combining with Italian Rye the rate of release is slower even up to 6 months later. (A ratio of ¾ Italian Rye to ¼ Red Clover is recommended). Red Clover also has excellent ground cover and weed suppressing properties to help smother weeds. Note:  Red Clover is part of the Legume family for crop rotation purposes.

 

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Summer bounty

We’ve started to draw the dividend from the work so far on the plot – we’re inundated with tomatoes, potatoes, courgettes (especially courgettes!), beans and peas.

These photos give some impression of the summer bounty – and there’s more to come from parsnips, carrots, runer beans and raspberries.

The big dig

There are two things going on at the allotment this month.  One the one hand there’s the harvesting of the crops sown in the beds to the right of the photo above – potatoes, broad beans, peas, salad leaves, courgettes and strawberries – and the regular weeding and maintenance of the established beds.  On the other, there’s the big dig – turning over the area to the left and ridding it of bramble, bindweed and couch grass roots ready to assemble the rest of the deep beds (hopefully, in September).

The runner beans and carrots are doing well (above), though two sowings of French beans have come to nothing, sadly.

Already we’re swamped with courgettes.  What to do with them all?  The BBC has some tasty-looking recipes on its Good Food website.

The old shed looks a little brighter with the nasturtiums growing up around the door.  I’ve just been reading that the trick with nasturtiums, to get the seeds to sprout faster, is to soak the seeds, which are large and pretty hard, in some warm water overnight and then plant directly in your chosen spot. Nasturtiums are annuals so plant the seeds in spring when the danger of frost has passed. Once they are established, nasturtiums continue to spread and bloom until the first frost, with very little work or water required.

The iGrowveg website has an article, Five Reasons Why You Should Grow Nasturtiums Near Vegetables.  These are:

1. They are well known for attracting aphid infestations

2. Cabbage White Butterflies like their large leaves.

3. Slugs go to nasturtiums like a moth to a light bulb.

4. They protect your vegetables from predatory insects

5. Nasturtium leaves and flowers are edible.

Meanwhile, beyond the shed, the area behind the raspberry canes has been cleared of standing growth.  We’ll cover it and dig there in the autumn.  Beyond there, I’ve cleared the path of brambles so we can now see clear to the top end of the plot!

Midsummer bounty

There’s such great pleasure in seeing the first crops emerge on the land that was covered in brambles last September.  These photos show the broad beans, onions and potatoes doing very well,

 

We’ve already lifted the first crop of garlic, and we’ve also enjoyed the first raspberries and strawberries off the plot.

Meanwhile, in the greenhouse the tomatoes are drinking water and liquid comfrey (donated by our kind neighbour) and thriving.  Comfrey is a valuable plant on the allotment, and we plan to start a bed this autumn. It can be used in these ways:

  • As a mulch and as a liquid feed for tomatoes, runner and dwarf beans.
  • As a compost activator – comfrey is so rich that it not only enriches your heaps but encourages them to heat up.
  • The first cut of the year, in spring, should go in to the furrow before the potatoes. The liquid feed will also be good for potatoes as will chopped wilted leaves as a mulch – before the foliage gets too dense to effectively spread it.
  • Mix with leafmould to make a base for potting compost.

Here’s some more information from the Allotment Vegetable Growing website:

Comfrey is a pretty tough plant that will grow from small pieces of root so do choose your location with care. It is easier to kill most weeds than comfrey. If you do need to move a comfrey bed the old bed will need to be killed off. Your best bet will be to use a weedkiller like ammonium sulphamate .

Comfrey will thrive in full sun or in partial to near full shade – there is usually a disused corner that will make a great site for your comfrey bed. It doesn’t like thin, chalky soils and the roots go down a fair way so dig deeply and break up the subsoil to get it off to a good start. Light sandy soils will benefit from organic matter. Being a fleshy plant it will need a lot of water and a soggy patch will be a plus.

Turn the soil over and remove any perennial weed roots. Comfrey grows very densely and will be difficult to weed. It does tend to shade out most weeds once established. If you have any manure – even poultry manure – fork this into the top 6 inches of the soil.

Digging and first plantings

A spell of good weather has spurred us on to making progress on the plot.  In the last fortnight used patio flags were sourced from a yard in Birkenhead, and the new patio laid in front of the shed.  Then, it was on with the digging, working on the section that will accommodate the potatoes and beans.  To speed things up, we decided to plant this section without making deep beds – instead, we’ll return to this area in the autumn, re-laying and straightening  the central path at the same time.

Yesterday and today the sky has been clear blue and the temperature has reached 21C (70F).  The potato patch dug over, most of the seed potatoes went in.  This is what we’ve planted so far:

  • Potatoes: 2 rows of Pink Fir in deep bed wit 1 row of Kestrel (earlies); 2 rows of Maris Peer in ground, plus some Pink Fir (they’re salad potatoes).
  • Onions: 1 row of Centurion so far
  • Broad Bean: 2 rows of Hyssop
  • Kale: Cavalo Nero
  • Garlic: 2 rows
  • Peas: 1 row Misty
  • Salad: Rocket and Mixed Lettuce

We’ve been given a 6′ X 8′ greenhouse frame, so the next task will be to dig out the bramble roots and other weeds from the existing brick base, and get the frame erected and glazed in time to plant tomato plants.

Levelling the area in front of the patio resulted in clearing the ground to the side, allowing for some improvements to be made there.  A water tank collects rainwater from the gutter, the storage chest from home has been moved here, and we’ve bought a wheelbarrow (fed up of having to wait for one of the collective ones to become available).