Mid April is really late to make my first proper visit to the allotments but the cold weather – including the recent snow – put paid to any plans to go earlier. The only previous trips had been to drop off kitchen waste for composting and check for damage! But the potatoes were waiting to go in and so I decided that this Friday – nearly mid April with rain forecast – would be best, and I spent quite a few happy hours up on my plot here in Cumbria.
First off was to check for damage – the rhubarb had come up early and has suffered from some ice and frost damage – not too bad – one of the other gardeners had wrapped their crop in straw, which is something I might do next year. Otherwise the plot was in quite good shape. The new fruit bushes I had planted last year (red and black currants and a third gooseberry bush) all had tiny buds forming, and the raspberries looked healthy enough, with no wind damage. Then I pulled back the black fabric covering which had been over my asparagus bed and the bed where the spuds will go – always satisfying to see the fresh spill – although there was evidence of ‘mole’ earthworks – but moles dig up good soil and so this was something to be lived with!
I managed to dig and put in 14 short (2 metre) rows of potatoes – with the seed potatoes 30cm (1ft) apart in each trench, and the rows about 60cm (2 ft apart) – to allow for earthing up which protects new growth against frost. I added plenty of well rotted horse manure to the trenches so the soil has been improved (again) and is now a far cry fro the barren rocky weed infested plots we took on 4 years ago. This year I planted two varieties of second earlies – Kestrel, and Maris Peer, one early maincrop, Maris Piper, and two main crops – Setanta and Sarpo Mira. I have prioritised ‘blight resistant’ varieties (especially (Sarpo Mira)- which seem to do a lot better up here and fight of viruses.
I have about 24 pots with broad beans (Jubilee Hysor) waiting to sprout and go out – again far later than usual: broad beans are fairly hardy and sometimes I plant out out seeds directly into the soil in November or late February – but frozen ground prevented that this year, and as everything is at least a month later than the last years, April will have to do. Quite soon – but not yet – I will be planting out peas (Misty), and growing courgette plants in pots (Defender F1, Venus F1 and All Green Bush) and runner beans (Scarlet Empire and Firestorm) in pots. That should give them a head start for when it gets warmer. Along with those plants, I will squeeze in some cabbages and carrots (maybe) – that will be about it: I have a productive strawberry bed along with the other soft fruit, a plot of mint – and the main problem there is containing it (!) – and the rhubarb – so lots of tasty things to come.
I really didn’t want to hope for rain, but the soil was very dry – but JUST as I finished the last row of spuds, the heavens opened for a good old downpour. There again, going on last year’s erratic weather patterns, its quite possible that deluge will come soon! Now off to Helen’s wedding with the rest of the AGF team – nursing a sore back – from all that digging!