Category: Jobs for the Month

Allotment Jobs for March 2019

End of February 2019 - Plot #59

After January’s appropriate chill, February threw us a curve-ball in the shape of a blast of warm air up from the Canary Islands. A few days of positively June-like warmth saw weed seedlings shooting up, pear and apple blossom buds almost breaking (hopefully they’ll have paused again now the weather has returned to grey, damp normal) and the first insect-bite of the year (ouch!)

Now the calendar has turned again, and March presents us with new additions to the list of jobs to be cracking on with. It won’t be quite as busy as April, when the Propagation starts to ramp up and the seed-sowing production line really clicks into gear, but there are still plenty of maintenance and preparation jobs to be done on the plot.

Here’s a run-down of what’s on our to-do list:

Jobs On Plot #59 (main plot)

We’re pleased with the amount we were able to get done in February – in stark contrast to last year when we were stuck inside, sheltering from the Beast From the East – the highlights of which were undoubtedly starting off a hugelkultur bed, setting up and planting out the new raspberry section, dividing and replanting half our rhubarb crowns, and pruning the Plot #79 orchard. (If you’re interested in a more detailed run-down of activity last month, please see the Feb 2019 journal page.)

Next up:

  • Planting – two more step-over trained apples.
  • Constructing – a post-and-wire support for cordon apples, planting the six that I grafter last year, which have been growing in air-pots at home.
  • Sowing – parsnips (direct).
  • Planting out – potatoes. Er, if I remember to get hold of some seed spuds from somewhere, that is. And broad beans, once the plants in the greenhouse are large enough.
  • Greenhouse deep clean – I’ve done the the 10’x8′ at home but the 6’x6′ on the plot still needs to be citrox-washed and sluiced down. I’m hoping to get that done during the week.
  • Planning – for a pond. (We’ve been thinking of buying a plastic liner and putting in a small pond at the plot, just big enough to host a few frogs and their spawn.)
  • Central path laying – (still on the list…) there are another 7 or 8 3×2′ industrial-grade concrete slabs waiting to be bedded down, but the base needs digging out first and sand spreading.
  • Clearing grass – (ditto…) a lack of time at the plot last year has led to a resurgence of grass in a few places. I plan to scrape it back and use the rough turf on the aforementioned hugelkultur bed.

Jobs On Plot #79 (orchard)

My good mate Ian P and I took care of the formative pruning of the apples, pears, quince and medlar a couple of weeks ago, so that’s done and done well. Members of the Prunus family – our plum, gage and damson – will wait until late April or early May, once the risk of silverleaf disease has abated.

I’ve also weeded the tree circles, which leaves the following:

  • Additional stakes and ties – one or two of the young trees are growing away at odd angles. A fresh stake and a re-tie should help encourage them into a better growth pattern.
  • Tree circle re-mulch – add a bit more composted bark where needed.
  • Path repair – the flag path between plot #79 and the next-door neighbour is in a pretty poor state of repair. It needs lifting, digging out, re-sanding and re-laying.

Jobs at Home

With the main (10′ x 8′) greenhouse freshly scrubbed and hosed down, it’s ready for the seed sowing season to start. Although April and May are the main months for mass-propagation, there are a few plants it’s either wise or necessary to start off a bit earlier, or that we’re trying to sow and grow in waves this year, to avoid massive gluts. (Ha! 50p says nature has other ideas…)

On the list for this month:

  • Sowing – early cabbage, tomatoes, carrots, beetroot, first batches of salad leaves, squash (patty pan types), maybe a few others.
  • Re-Sowing – early / hardy herbs – The first batch did not work well. Old seed, maybe. I’ll check the dates on the packets, re-sow a few, see what happens.
  • Shed sort-out – ongoing. Still some rubbish to clear though.
  • Pot and label cleaning – (as per Jan / Feb) it hasn’t happened yet, but if the weather deteriorates it’ll be time to get out the scrubbing brush and mild detergent to clean up a batch of seed trays, pots and plant labels.

How about you? What are you planning to crack on with in March? Let us know, via the comments…

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Allotment Jobs for February 2019

January 2019 - Plot 59

January has finally delivered a spell of cold weather – essential for helping apple and pear trees to break dormancy and set blossom at the right time, and for killing off slugs and other pests – and as this photo shows, Plot #59 is hunkered down and riding it out.

The ground, when not frozen solid, is sodden and so shouldn’t even be walked on, never mind worked. Compacting the soil at this time of year will lead to all sorts of problems with poor aeration later in the growing season. Best to keep off and bide your time for now.

That said, there’s still work to be done, when the weather does allow it. Here’s what we’re hoping to push ahead with in February:

Jobs On Plot #59 (main plot)

Looking back at the jobs for January, I’m pleased to say we got a couple of them done: the willow has been coppiced, the raspberry and strawberry beds grubbed up ready for re-planting (if our order of plants ever arrives…) and the shallots are potted up in the greenhouse, putting down roots before they’re planted out later in the year.

Next up:

  • Soft fruit section re-planting – half the rhubarb crowns need to be lifted, divided and re-planted. The new plants will go in as soon as they’re here and it’s feasible to plant them out.
  • Greenhouse deep clean – I like to give both of our greenhouses – the 10’x8′ at home and the 6’x6′ on the plot = a thorough citrox-spray and rinse in February, in advance of the start of the growing season.
  • Central path laying – (as per January) there are another 7 or 8 3×2′ industrial-grade concrete slabs waiting to be bedded down, but the base needs digging out first and sand spreading.
  • Clearing grass – (as per January) a lack of time at the plot last year has led to a resurgence of grass in a few places. I plan to scrape it back and use the rough turf in a…
  • Hugelkultur-style growing mound – we’ve set one up at work, using logs, woody prunings and lifted turf. I’m planning the same sort of thing on a smaller scale using the material from the old log / branch pile at the plot.

Jobs On Plot #79 (orchard)

January 2019 - Plot 79 Orchard

Nothing happened in January. I did speak to fellow plot-holder Mike about the annual pruning, but the weather has been against us ever since. The to-do list therefore remains:

  • Formative Pruning – it’s the right time of year, as long as no heavy frosts are forecast – to carefully prune the still-very-young apple, pear, medlar and quince trees on our orchard plot. They were only planted last winter, so they’re still very much at the structural shaping stage.
  • Path repair – the flag path between plot #79 and the next-door neighbour is in a pretty poor state of repair. It needs lifting, digging out, re-sanding and re-laying.

Jobs at Home

January 2019 - Vitopod propagators and lights

Both our Vitopod propagators have been set up and the lights kit for the smaller unit has been set up and is helping our chilli, potato onion and goji berry seedlings grow strongly. Due to a stock shortage of the correct light tubes and unsuitable substitute being sent out (sorted out with minimum fuss by the supplier and as quickly as stock of the replacement light tubes would allow, I have to say) some of the seedlings ended up etiolated and leggy despite my best efforts to keep turning them, so we lost a few. But what’s left seems to be enjoying a 12 hour cycle of good growing light.

On the rest of the list for this month:

  • Sowing: early / hardy herbs – I’m planning to establish a small herb / tea plantation outside the back door this year. I’ll have a look at the seed stocks and see what can be started off early, get them in the Vitopod whilst the lights are on.
  • Shed sort-out – we’re having new fencing installed right around our boundary in a few weeks, so there’s going to be a lot of rubbish heading for the skip. Now’s a good time to have a clear out in the shed, see what else can join it. And to make room for all the pots, trays and assorted stuff that needs to come out of the greenhouse ready for the aforementioned deep-clean.
  • Sowing: windowsill herbs – (as per January) I’ve had a couple of packets of veg meant to be suitable for ‘microgreens’ in the seed-box for a while now, so I might give them a go.
  • Pot and label cleaning – (as per January) if the weather deteriorates it’ll be time to get out the scrubbing brush and mild detergent to clean up a batch of seed trays, pots and plant labels, ready for Spring.

That lot should definitely keep the pair of us busy. How about you? What are you up to this month? Let us know via the Comments…

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Allotment Jobs for January 2019

Plot #59 winter 2018/19

Apart from a frosty start this morning, we’ve had another mild January so far and it seems set to continue for the next week or so at least.

That means the ground is workable and although we’re moving more and more towards no-dig growing for our main plot, there are still some mildly invasive jobs that need to be done whilst the weather allows.

Here’s what we’ve been working on or are planning for this month (any links are to further blog posts on the subject):

Jobs On Plot #59 (main plot)

  • Soft fruit section re-vamp – we’re re-planting our strawberries and raspberries, dividing and re-planting some of our rhubarb and adding lingonberries.
  • Annual willow coppicing – every year we take it right down to the stump and every year it throws up 12’15 feet of new growth. Astonishing.
  • Central path laying – there are another 7 or 8 3×2′ industrial-grade concrete slabs waiting to be bedded down, but the base needs digging out first and sand spreading.
  • Clearing grass – a lack of time at the plot last year has led to a resurgence of grass in a few places. I plan to scrape it back and use the rough turf in a hugelkultur-style growing mound.
  • Plant shallots – I fully intended to get some shallot bulbs in the ground in mid-December but didn’t get around to it. Better to get them in a bit late than never.

Jobs On Plot #79 (orchard)

  • Formative Pruning – it’s the right time of year, as long as no heavy frosts are forecast – to carefully prune the still-very-young apple, pear, medlar and quince trees on our orchard plot. They were only planted last winter, so they’re still very much at the structural shaping stage.
  • Path repair – the flag path between plot #79 and the next-door neighbour is in a pretty poor state of repair. It needs lifting, digging out, re-sanding and re-laying. A gradual job to do over the next few months, I reckon.

Jobs at Home

  • Propagator setup – it’s time to get the heated propagators back out of the shed, give them a wipe-down with citrox and check they’re still in good working order.
  • Sowing: chillis – Capsicum annuum / chinense / baccatum all need a long growing season if they’re to fruit well here in north Manchester, so starting the seeds off now under heat and then growing them on in the protection of the propagator until summer is the way to go.
  • Sowing: onions – my dad-in-law swears by starting onions off early so I’m going to give it a go this year. I also have some ‘potato onion’ (possibly shallot, we’ll see) seeds from the US, courtesy of Alex Taylor the Air-Pot Gardener, although I’ll maybe wait on sowing those for a while.
  • Sowing: windowsill herbs – I’ve had a couple of packets of veg meant to be suitable for ‘microgreens’ in the seed-box for a while now, so I might give them a go.
  • Pot and label cleaning – if the weather deteriorates it’ll be time to get out the scrubbing brush and mild detergent to clean up a batch of seed trays, pots and plant labels, ready for Spring.

Coming Soon…

  • Greenhouse cleaning – the 10′ x 8′ at home and the 6′ x 6′ at the plot will both need a good scrub down to clear out the winter crud.
  • Sowing early herbs & veg – there are a few hardy or longer-season crops that can be started off in February or early March and it’s always good to feel like you’re getting going for the season.
  • Manuring for squash and beans – I’m planning to grow all sorts of interesting squash and bean cultivars again this year. They’re both hungry plants, so it’s worth manuring the ground well in advance. Not too early though as our soil is quite sandy, so there’s a risk that winter rain will leach a lot of the added nutrient from the soil before the plants need it.

How about you? What are you up to this month? Let us know via the Comments…

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