Archive for May, 2013

Plastic bottle propagators and how to pot on from them

bottle propagators

This is how the propagators looked on 15 May

bottle propagators

And how they looked on 22 May

To pot on from a week-away propagator you need to remove the bottle cap and push gently on the soil and roots in the aperture, to get the whole plant moving out of the wider end.

To pot on from a week-away propagator you need to remove the bottle cap and push gently on the soil and roots in the aperture, to get the whole plant moving out of the wider end.

seedling root formation

Root formation is usually substantial, and it’s fun to be able to see the roots through the clear plastic but if you let the seedlings get too big, you’ll have to tease out the cotton wick from the roots, which can be faffy.

seedling roots

Even if the roots aren’t tangled with the string, it’s good to ease them out of the shape of the bottle top.

squash in flowerpot

Replant nice and deeply, in multipurpose compost and allow to sit in water so that the roots immediately start to reach out – don’t top water.

squashes in pots

And there they are, four Turks Turban and four Crown Prince in their new homes!

P.S. Instructions for making week-away propagators can be found in The Allotment Diaries!

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Spring allotment tasks – cauliflower planting

cauli planting 1Every allotment holder has to make some triage decisions. They might not know that’s what they are making, but they do.

Example – do you protect your plants from slugs? If so, how? Maybe you protect the most tender and valuable with slug pellets, the less valuable with various cheap and cheerful barriers like sand or salt and those you’re willing to sacrifice with nothing at all. That’s triage, it means focusing time and attention on what can be saved, or protected.

cauli planting 2For us, triage is applied in two main ways – keeping predators away from plants and keeping plants away from damaging elements. The former case involves examples like the fruit cages people place over currants, while the latter is what we do when we invest in greenhouses, cold frames, polytunnels etc.

We protect our purple sprouting broccoli and cauliflowers from cabbage white butterflies, but we let our kale and cabbages take their chances. I don’t actually care if I never harvest another cabbage, but I care like mad if I lose a single cauliflower!

Our system includes digging holes with a bulb planter, interpolating (posh literary word for inserting something between two other things) the cauliflower seedlings with bottle planters filled with stones, and covering with netting or fleece.

cauli planting 3Last year we used fleece and while we got a good set of caulis from the process we weren’t thrilled by the effort we had to put in – every time we wanted to check progress or water the seedlings we had to lift the fleece which was something of a hassle, and after a few weeks the fleece itself started to tear and at the end of the growing season we had to bundle it up and throw it away.

This year we’ve gone for netting. It’s the same stuff we use to cover the currants and the purple sprouting broccoli and we generally get four or five years good use out of it (by good use I mean that it covers two crops a year: one summer, one winter) and the best thing is that we don’t have to lift it to water.

The bottle watering system works for us in summer as it means we water directly to the roots of the plant and the lack of surface water reduces germination of weed seeds. Of course rain contributes to weed germination but the more we can do to reduce surface watering, the less we have to do in hoeing and hand weeding.

cauli planting 4As the cauliflowers grow, we take out every other plant when they are still quite small 10-12cm and allow the remainder to grow to full size. This means that if we are lucky we can plant closer than the recommended planting distance and get two harvests a few weeks apart. If we’re unlucky we get a glut of cauliflowers which all have to be eaten at once – but that’s the kind of bad luck I can definitely put up with!

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Allotment harvest 12 May 2013

103 allotment haul 12 may 13What a haul for a windy Sunday! We’ve got:

• one immense leek, the very last of the year – it will be a bit woody in the core but with that cut out it’ll make a great soup or pasta sauce
• at least a kilo of purple sprouting broccoli – which we love as much as asparagus (and a good thing too, as we’ve got plenty of the former and none of the latter for at least a year)
• rhubarb
• a nice big bunch of sage (for sage butter, and also fried sage leaves over pork – delish!)
• the first of the rainbow radishes

Not bad, not bad at all.

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Mountain spinach seedlings getting used to their new locations

mountain spinach seedlings

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Spring is finally here

Ramsons

Ramsons – aka wild garlic

Not everything on an allotment has to be cultivated – these ramsons were on plot #103 when we arrived, and with a little care they’ve become a fantastic crop for vritually no effort.

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Greenhouse growing update

greenhouse plant

Greenhouse plants like this Royal Black chilli often need hand pollinating

I use a small paintbrush to move the ripe pollen from one flower to another

I use a small paintbrush to move the ripe pollen from one flower to another

While the mature chilli gets pollinated, seedling royal black chillies are growing vigorously

While the mature chilli gets pollinated, seedling Royal Black chillies are growing vigorously

Update on the leggy celeriac - they're growing strongly but still need to be in the greenhouse at night

Update on the leggy celeriac – they’re growing strongly but still need to be in the greenhouse at night

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How plot #103 looks today

allotment long view
Very mellow in the afternoon sunshine.

Two back-aching allotment holders trudged home with a trug ful of purple sprouting broccoli and another of rhubarb, after planting three rows of broad beean seedlings, a row and a half of second early potatoes and a row of Little Gem lettuce seedlings … plus watering, weeding and general tidying up!

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