January 16

Six new things on Saturday 16/01/21

I haven’t been out much in the garden this week so have decided to write about new things I am growing this year from seed or tubers. (The photos are not mine.)

My first is Asclepias tuberosa or butterfly flower and I bought it for the wildlife garden. It has come as tubers but I note that the RHS website says that you can propagate from seed so will do that. The wildflower plot doesn’t seem to have many bright flowers and I rather like zingy colours so this is the start of a move that way.

 

 

I have grown cauliflowers before, not easy on sandy soil, and prefer to grow a lime green one called Romanesco but this year I am also going to grow a purple one called Graffiti as well. It is supposed to tolerate heat. The colour is supposed to deepen with more sunshine so it should suit our climate.  I think you would have to steam it to save the colour.

 

 

 

 

Verbena rigida Santos is a drought tolerant plant that will go well in the back border at home. The border is a hot border in terms of colour – oranges, reds, purples and yellows. I grow Verbena bonariensis all over the garden, self-seeded but this is much shorter. Again it likes a well-drained soil (there is a bit of a theme emerging here!)

 

 

 

 

It is years and years since I have grown Limanthes douglasii or poached egg flower.  I am going to sow it liberally around the fruit cage and like eschscolzia it will probably grow all year round. They are great for bees and hoverflies and so if there are any seeds left over I sow them on the wildlife plot.

 

 

 

 

 

And finally. Yes, I do have a bag of mixed daffodils from a well-known supermarket that I haven’t planted yet but will do this week. I bought them to be part of the plant guilds around a white plum and cooking cherry trees donated by other allotment holders for the wildlife plot. There aren’t many daffodils on the plot so will add a bit of colour early in the year.

 

Dahlia Totally Tangerine caught my eye on Sarah Raven’s website. I have quite a few dahlias because they do not need digging up and storing over winter here but can stay in the soil. I have three tubers which will make a good sized clump in the back border.

Are you growing anything new this year?

This post is hosted by The Propagator along with lots of over SoSers.

January 10

Harvesting rainwater part 2 – observations

This is the second in a series of four posts about harvesting rainwater on my allotments using the permaculture phrase of sink it, slow it and spread it. You can read part 1 here with this post following on by sharing the observations and research I have done regarding my specific site and strategies that might be successful.

The first thing I looked at is the average rainfall for the area in the last row.

 

 

I recently started to use a rain gauge at home and our rainfall in October was exactly 80mm but December 20 had 145mm of rain which reminded me of the wet parts of my plot and garden. The chart shows that we get approx. half the rainfall of the winter in the summer. So, where are the wet parts on the plots? The first is behind my polytunnel.

Most of my paths are woodchips and some have black woven plastic underneath them to stop the weeds.  This path becomes very soggy in winter, it is now, and sometimes water can sit on it after a heavy rainfall. This is because the guttering is only on the ends of the tunnel and the middle has none so  rain slides down onto the path.  The rest of the allotment slopes gently down from this point to the fence at the end which separates the plots from the gardens of the houses behind us. In his book Harvesting Rainwater Vol 2 by Brad Lancaster, Lancaster mentions that soil beneath plastic becomes anaerobic and you don’t get the soil organisms you are after for good drainage so it probably does need to go.

As you can see, I have a water butt on each corner of the tunnel but two of the gutters need to be replaced. I would do it now but actually they stick better when it is warmer so that job will need to wait. The warmth also means that the guttering is easier to straighten. It comes in a coil and needs to be manipulated to ensure that it makes a good contact with the plastic sheeting and flows over the hoops smoothly.

There is capacity for more water storage by adding another water butt linked to each of these and this would capture more water in winter but I don’t know if they would fill during the summer.  A few calculations about surface area and rainfall would help me decide that.

The second damp place is behind my polytunnel on a bed which I don’t use much with a path into the tunnel. I only use this path if I have to get water from the tap. I recently decided to put these beds back into use. They are shaded for most of the day so I will need to plan carefully what to plant there. To get the beds ready, I covered the ground with cardboard, watered it and then put compost on top. When I watered the cardboard, I watched it run straight down, across the path into the tunnel and onto the next bed so there is definitely a slope there which could be used to slow the water down and sink it into the ground.

The wind can be quite strong on the plots because we are towards the top of a hill that comes straight up from the sea (both land and wind).  Wind maps show that we get wind from all directions with most coming from the west and certainly at home we have a large sheet of glass (window) at the end of our lean-to which stops the westerly winds hitting us.  I would say that most of our winds are southerly to westerly and I particularly like this little widget which shows what the wind is doing now – strength and direction.

As I write this post, the wind is southerly but has quietened down from earlier this morning.

The final thing I needed to do was to find out how steep the slope is on the allotment. I used an app on my phone and just put it on the ground at various points. Not  very accurate but it will do for my purposes – the slope averages about 5%, more in some places and less in others. This measurement is important because certain water management involving moving soil is not recommended for slopes that are more than 5% such as swales.

So, my plan of action:

  • Remove the plastic from the path alongside the tunnel, dig a small ditch towards the beds and then put in a mountain of shreddings. This will mean the water from the tunnel will drain into the ditch but I can still walk on it. The water can then work its way down the slope in the soil. Over time, I will remove the plastic on all the paths.
  • Add a second water butt to each one with a hose pipe to siphon the water between the two. This stored water will be used during the dry spells and will probably last me 4-6 weeks if I only water the tunnel, but far less if I have to water plants outside, which I do some years. The allotment shop is open again in February so I will get three more water butts.
  • To explore the best times to water fruit and vegetables so that if I do have to water them, I get maximum bang for my buck (or water)
  • Continue to mulch the beds each year to increase their water-holding capacity. The soil is sand on a bed of stones and so drains very quickly and retains little moisture or goodness.
  • To remove the black plastic under the plum tree, clear the weeds and plant a guild around it so that it can access more water. I don’t irrigate the tree but I know that other fruit trees on the plots perked up and grew more vigorously when I removed the black plastic underneath them.

I’m off to dig a ditch!

Are you able to store enough water so that you don’t have to use tap water?

January 9

Six on Saturday – Green shoots 09/01/21

I start to get twitchy fingers at this time of year and am desperate to sow seeds but apart from a few peas and beans it just isn’t worth it.  The seedlings get leggy and then cold, or the other way around, and do not produce great plants so I must wait until the middle of February. However, it doesn’t mean that things are not growing all around me.

And don’t think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It’s quiet, but the roots are down there riotous.

Rumi, The Soul of Rumi: A Collection of Ecstatic Poems

This post is part of the wonderful Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator. Thank you all for the very warm welcome.

My first plant is the hellebore that my Mum collected seeds from in her local Sainsbury’s carpark. When we had to sell her house, I took a few of the plants from her garden and planted them in mine despite the fact that we had completely different soils. They took a little while to acclimatise but once they got going, they were off.  I doubt that they are a fancy variety but they are important to me and they are almost here.

Second are my cuttings from Buddleia colvilei. I bought a plant and put it somewhere where it is completely covered by another large shrub. By the time I realised, it was a bit too big to move so I took some cuttings in the hope that I could create more plants. 3 out of the 4 cuttings have taken and roots are now poking out of the bottom of the pot.  The leaves are felty and grey, like many plants that are relatively drought tolerant, although they lose some of their feltiness as they mature. The flowers are tubular bells, similar to those on a penstemon.

I have a large perennial Cottager’s Kale on the allotment that at this time of year gives many, many leaves. The plant is rather large and a bit of a slug magnet but invaluable. I took these cuttings in September and they are in a sheltered space in front of my greenhouse at home and look to be doing well. I am going to put  couple on the wildlife plot as I need to grow more food on it and then give the rest away to the allotmenteers.  They are a much sort after plant on our site.

I love the flowers on Miscanthus sinensis Morning Light. The plant is at the front, north facing, of the house in the only little bit of heavier soil that I have in the garden and it seems to do fine. The shape of the whole plant is great – like a fountain – and it is prolific enough to split every two years. This means that I have it all over the garden.

Some plants are really tough. Who would have thought that a lettuce would have survived being frozen every night for the last four nights and still look perky and pickable the next morning.  This lettuce is a self-seeded plant growing in the wood chip path of the vegetable beds at home.  It is Rouge Grenobloise but I also have a black-seeded Simpson lettuce in another path.

My Mahonia Charity is just coming into flower. It is full of them and the blackbirds seem to be having a great time picking the flowers off and throwing them around the plant. I sat and watched them this morning but I am not sure why they are doing it. Vandals! The label on the plant says that it is Charity but the flowers do not stick up in the air like the photos on google but droop down. It is one of the few shrubs that I still have that was in the garden before we moved in over 20 years ago. The shrub can be hacked right back and still it sprouts forth. (I’ve just noticed a bramble in the picture growing away quietly through the Mahonia!)

Do you have green shoots in your garden?

 

January 5

Managing water on the allotment – part1

Winter is a quieter time on the allotment in terms of sowing and planting but not in terms of planning.  After a couple of hot summers I know that I  do not collect enough water when it does rain. I have 4 water butts on my polytunnel, one at each corner and one water butt behind my shed and can empty these in about two weeks if it is very hot.  Water butts are not the only way of saving water and I can’t have the plots covered in blue butts so need to think about other ways of too.

This is the first in a series of posts about  water management on my allotments.

I like the permaculture phrase about water of slow it, spread it and sink it as it rains with this being the number one way of managing water. The cheapest method of storing water is to store it in the ground.  The secondary aim is to capture as much water as is reasonable to use during dry periods. How you use these strategies completely depends on the site.

Things to think about are:

  • How and when does your water fall? Is it consistent throughout the year, during the winter or from large summer storms?
  • How does water move across your plot? Does it sit anywhere during rainfall? Do you have slopes on your site?
  • What type of soil do you have? This will affect how much soaks in and how much runs off. A sandy soil has a lot less run off than a water-logged clay soil.

We also need to consider all the ways in which we can sink, slow and spread water across the allotments. The following are a list of things we could do – some may not be appropriate but at this stage I don’t want to rule anything out.

  • Swales. These work best on a slope of 5% or less where a trench following the contour of the land is dug out and the soil piled up on the downhill side to make a raised edge or berm to hold water back.  They don’t work particularly well on small watersheds, sandy soil and forested areas as there won’t be much run off.  If you are still not sure about them, the video below explains them clearly.

  • Hugelkultur. This is a bed built out of waste woody material, and other things, that is drier on top and wetter lower down the slope.  I built one of these in my garden last spring and it definitely does not need as much watering as well-mulched beds built on the flat. I watered those at least once a week throughout the dry spring and summer but only watered the hugelkultur bed twice during the whole season.
  • Stones.  Sepp Holzer uses stones, probably more like rocks, to provide microclimates on his farm. They reflect the sun and enable him to grow crops that wouldn’t normally grow up in the mountains in Austria, such as lemons, but also keep the soil moist underneath and around them. It is true that if you turn over a stone/brick on the plot it is usually damper underneath. The downside is that you can also find slugs and snails there too.
  • Ollas. These are unglazed  pots sunk into the soil near the roots of plants that are filled with water. Because they are unglazed, they gradually release the water or actually, the plant pulls the water from the pot and grows around it. An olla has an opening at the top which is slightly proud of the soil where the water can be topped up. This short video shows a container being planted up with an olla or as we might know it, a terracotta plant pot. All it needs is a lid on top and the bottom hole sealed up.

How do you store water in your soil so that you can make the most of this resource?

Useful resources

  • Gaia’s Garden by Toby Hemenway: Chp5 is an excellent overview of water and how it can be managed.
January 2

Six on Saturday – 02/01/21

This is my second Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator, the first one for 2021 and there are certainly things I will not miss  from last year. However, what this time has meant is that I have had much more time in the garden and on the allotments and this has been to their and our benefit. So, here are my six for this week all based on new year resolutions linked to the garden and allotments.

My first resolution is to be more organised. I realised the other day that my blog is littered with phrases such as I don’t know which variety they are, I didn’t label them or I have forgotten what they are.’  I have used Access and so now I can type in a  month and up will pop all the seeds I need to sow that month.  I have then created, on paper for the moment!, a bed plan that is month by month so that I don’t have any spare beds hanging around empty at any point during the year. Last year I thought I didn’t have enough space but with 2 plots and a large garden that is ridiculous. These two things need integrating but that was beyond me at the end of December.

In order to support resolution number 1, I have bought some very fancy labels – metal hooks which you stick in the ground and slate labels that you hang from them.  This was a present to myself and they will be used specifically for veg or flowers that I want to collect seed from.  Even if the writing wears off, I will at least know which plants to collect seed from. All I need now is a marker to write on the slate – note to self! The whole system could come crashing down for want of such marker.

I will make hot compost this year, before July.  At present I am not building the heap big enough and do not have enough greenery and manure in it.  This will be remedied in January’s pile. (You can see November and December’s attempts but they are not pretty!) I have agreed to create a pile each month to see what happens. I am learning a LOT. What I am finding is that it is far more work in comparison with the way I normally make compost. The videos I have watched about it all have volunteers on training and they build and turn the pile. We hold a sort of allotment school on the plots to help new members and I am one of the people that helps to run it so that has given me an idea 😉

We so rarely have heavy frosts on the south coast but have done so for the last 2 days with more to come. These are my new strawberries – Malwina – a late type, but they have an absolutely delicious taste. I bought my first lot a year ago because the catalogue said that the taste was exceptional but they were too dark red for supermarkets and had a white line just underneath the leaves which doesn’t turn red. Why wouldn’t you try them? Anyway they are so good I have ordered more along with some hanging baskets. I will pot them up into the baskets and then at the end of January/start of February hang them in the polytunnel to force them and try and get some a little earlier.

 

 

The Bergenia are flowering on the wildlife plot and look fantastic. I am not sure what variety they are (I didn’t plant these before you say anything!) but they are a welcome sight especially for the queen bumble bees which fly around when the sun is out.  I took over the wildlife plot in September 20 and decided to list everything that flowers, fruits and seeds on the plot each month and then aim to increase the numbers of each in the years thereafter as we have lots of beekeepers on site.  We have three things flowering this month, the Bergenia, Jasminum nudiflorum and a Viburnum. We can surely do more than that next year; I am thinking of Winter Honeysuckle, Christmas Box and pansies which can also be eaten in salads.

 

 

And finally, with no resolution attached to it is the orchid in my bathroom which has a very long stem of flowers this winter. I have learnt: feed it all spring and summer and it will flower all winter for you. Beautiful.

Happy New Year everyone and do you have any garden resolutions?

 

 

 

 

 

December 21

18 day compost – December’s attempt

This post is part of my trial to build an 18 day compost heap each month of the year to see what happens – I wasn’t sure that it would work during the winter as the videos I had seen were made in Australia and other much hotter countries than the UK.  You can see November’s results here.

The issue in winter is gathering enough green material to make the heap  big enough and I didn’t manage that last month. So, I am no longer making the heaps on the beds where I want to spread the compost but on a spare bit of land I was going to turn into another bed but haven’t done so yet.  This gives me more space to turn the heap and to build bigger.

 

6th December 2020

I can see why it is suggested that you have all your manure, brown and green materials and water at hand when you build the pile. I must have walked 10,000 steps getting everything in place as I built the heap; a lesson for January!  I did mark out the size of the heap with pallets this time but realised after I had lugged them around that I could just use 4 poles pushed into the earth next time.  Anyway, as I built the heap I also found that I didn’t have enough green material and so needed to cut down a bed of phacelia that I had sown at the beginning of October.  I had originally planned for this to flower in the spring and then cut it down because it was sown on a bed that had had strawberries for about 5 years and the bed needs a serious bit of work on the soil. I also managed to find a few comfrey leaves to add to the pile to kick start the process and I wetted the materials a LOT more than last time.

The pile is as big as I can make it and it is still not a cubic meter.  The limiting factors at this time of the year are green materials and if I am to make a pile in January, I am going to have to go out on a scavenge. I spotted some younger nettles and weeds on the way into the plots yesterday so will harvest them over the next few days to start my January pile.

 

 

 

 

10th December 2020

The heap had sunk quite a bit and was about 8.5°C which is no where near hot enough. Everything still looks the same and was damp enough so it was turned and covered for another two days.

12th December

I forgot to take my camera with me but really the compost didn’t look any different to the previous turn. What was different, however, was the temperature. The heap had reached a high of 12.5°C, an increase of 4°C.  The next turn will probably need more water and I may add more green material and manure to see if I can get a greater heat. It will mean adding another 2 days to the making.

14th December

The temperature has gone up 0.5°C to 13°C so at this rate it will take me another 70 days to reach 50°C!  The materials still look the same and I am now half way through the 6 turns. I have decided not to do anything to this pile but to just leave it. I know I need to add more green material and manure which means that thirds of green, brown and manure are not the right proportions for this climate at this time of year.  Is it thirds by volume, which is what I do, or by weight? The manure is obviously heavier than the other two materials.  I will experiment a bit with the January pile and add a LOT more green material. I am the mad, scavenging woman out around the town picking nettles and dandelion leaves so that I am ready! Oh, and there were two worms in the pile.

16th December

I think I might go as far as to say that the temperature is now up to 17°C, up 4°C on yesterday.  It all still looks the same although a little more brown and I have removed the thick stalks and whole beetroot. Those were just wishful thinking!

I have been out and collected the nettles and weeds outside the allotment gates and there is quite a lot. If the January pile doesn’t get quite hot with all of these nettles, I don’t know what will.

19th December

The weather was so bad on the 18th – 30mm of rain throughout the day – that I couldn’t/didn’t want to go down to the allotment so the turn of the pile was 1 day later.  You can no longer identify the phacelia but the weeds which were not ripped up are still visible as is all the brown stuff although all are much more mixed up now.  The pile is wet enough because the tarpaulin is woven and quite a bit of rain from yesterday go through.

The temperature is down half a degree to 16.5°C so I am wondering if peak temperature has been reached or whether the lack of turning yesterday has slowed the process down.  There were three worms in the pile. These are worms from the ground and they are only really in the lowest layer but every little helps!

21st December

 

 

 

 

 

 

The temperature is going down now – 14.5°C  today so unless I add some more green to the pile it will not get any hotter. For the final turn, I moved the heap to a dalek bin, or as we call them at home rat bins, that is on the bed where I want to use the resulting compost eventually.  I will leave it in here a couple of months, still taking its temperature every week or so just to see what happens.  The bin is full to the lid and the compost is quite wet – probably as wet as it should be because I could squeeze out a drop of water but it is wetter than I would normally allow compost to get. Maybe that will stop the rats taking up residence in it over the next month!  It also smelt a bit which tends to suggest it is a bit anaerobic which is not helpful.

So, what am I going to do differently with January’s pile?

  • Make it at least a cubic metre, all packed down. No airy-fairy trying to make it look like a cubic metre when it isn’t!
  • Chop everything up quite small. This is not the sort of compost making that will rot down large roots, whole beetroot and Spanish radish. This needs premium materials in premium sizes which means I will need to take the leaves home and run them through the lawnmower to chop them up and add a little grass.
  • If it doesn’t show signs of getting anywhere near the heat needed, I will add more green and manure and a couple of turns.

Happy Christmas to you all.

December 19

Six on Saturday – 19/12/20

Six on Saturday is new idea to me but a friend pointed me in the direction of The Propagator blog and suggested I join in. It was after a whinge about blogger’s block, so here are my first six:

The seeds on the golden rod are full and ready to blow away . This is a plant that self-seeds all around my allotment and it is either chop the seed heads down or spend time in the spring weeding. Laziness now means weeding in the spring – as usual.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am trying to make hot compost and failing miserably because I just won’t make it exactly as it says on the tin. This is December’s pile and I have not built it big enough or put enough green material in it to achieve the heat. January’s attempt will remedy this rather pathetic temperature.  They do say it takes 10,000 hours to become a master at something. I have a little way to go with the compost.

 

 

The fennel in the polytunnel is ready to provide a crisp aniseed flavour to the winter salads over the next few months. It is one of the few vegetables I have managed to grow throughout the year. Spring’s fennel is on the other side of the tunnel and still quite small.

 

 

 

The catkins are already out on the hazels, dangling in the sunshine and these have survived the massive coppicing that we did at the start of the month.

 

 

 

 

 

 

This massive beetroot is still lying around and I was right that it wouldn’t make good eating because not even the slugs and snails have started on it. I didn’t aim for massive beetroot, I just wanted to save some seed and this grew.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And finally, lambs lettuce as a filler for my salads. I actually managed to plant these early enough for them to grow to a reasonable size before it got too cold.

 

What are your six for Saturday?

December 14

Different ways to make compost

I have become obsessed with compost this winter. I think it is because I don’t dig, just put compost on top of the beds each year. I garden on sand so the normal 3-5cm placed on top of the bed is not usually enough to last a year and so I go for 5-7cm+ and I never have enough!

By the end of the year on beds where I have added less it looks like nothing, zero, nada has been used.

I make compost in three ways and use each slightly differently: cold compost, hot compost and worm compost.

The cold compost is the way I usually make compost – I just fill up my compost bays and wait a year or slightly less to use it.  I didn’t realise that this way of making compost was also called the Lazy Method but having just started to make hot compost, I can see why it is called that.

This video from Huw Richards explains exactly how I make it apart from the jumping up and down on it.

The advantages of this method for me are that it involves less work, I don’t turn it at all and I put all the couch grass and roots and bindweed in it and they do not cause a problem. I also put all my tomato and potato plants in blight or not as blight is an air borne disease not soil borne.  The disadvantages are that my heaps do not get hot enough to kill all the weed seed and so, I get weeds germinating when I spread the compost. The answer would be to remove all the weeds before they start to flower and every year I try but fail at some point.

Charles Dowding also makes compost in this way but turns his twice. Once into the next compost bin and once when he moves it and stores it ready for the winter-time spreading.

Then there is hot composting which I am trialing at the moment.  I make this and use it on specific beds because I don’t have any other compost left and only have to wait 18 days to make and use it this way – in theory. It’s not turning out like that at this time of year but it might also be that I haven’t refined what I need to do well enough. This video by Richard Perkins shows the Berkeley process really well and having watched it, I can see where I have gone wrong!

The advantages of this type of compost are that it is quick and weed seeds are killed. The disadvantages are that it is a lot of work turning the pile every two days, especially when the pile is not in the back garden. The other disadvantage is that I am struggling to get enough green stuff at this time of year (winter) and in summer I may struggle with the brown stuff.

The final type of compost I make is worm compost or vermicompost. I make this at home where I have two specially made bins.  This video by Geoff Lawton shows how to make worm compost on a large scale and I would like to try this on the allotments if I can find an old bath.

The advantages of this method of composting are that you get the two products – a liquid feed and compost or really a fertiliser that you can use on plants that need it or things like tomatoes, cucumbers and aubergines. The disadvantages are the scale of manufacture – my two bins don’t produce anywhere near this amount and the worms do need insulating during winter as they stop working/die if it is too cold.

You can try worm composting on a very small scale with a worm tower. I might give this a go near to a plum tree which I have recently had to move and put in soil which does not look to have had much added to it in the way of compost in the last few years.

How do you make compost and can you make enough?

November 30

Harvest Monday 30/11/20

It’s that time of year when I start to make a list of everything that can be harvested this month or that I have in storage just to make sure that I use it. I hate getting to March/April and finding that I have squash that have rotted or potatoes that have sprouted because I haven’t used them in time. I walked around the allotments and made my list and then took it home to plan the menus for the week. It really cuts down on the shopping list and time I spend faffing around thinking about what to eat.

I listed:- leeks. spinach (maybe a bit too much), fennel, Black Spanish radish (I don’t like them. They taste soapy.), parsley, coriander, sprouts, red cabbage, savoy cabbage, hispi type cabbage, leeks, lambs lettuce, lettuce, parsnips, chinese cabbage, chard, celariac, two types of kale, carrots, mustards, landcress, rocket and chervil.  In store I have winter squash, potatoes, onions and garlic.

So for a sausage casserole today one of the things I  picked was some fennel. I have settled on growing Rondo as it seems to be slower to bolt and grows well both outdoors and in the polytunnel. The outdoor fennel is finished so it is on to the first group grown in the polytunnel. I have a second group but they are for next year as they are still very small at the moment. I have always wondered what to do with the fronds as it seems such a waste but a friend showed me a recipe for fennel pesto and to that is now in the freezer ready to use when we next have pasta.

If it isn’t too cold we still have a salad at lunch time. If it is cold we have soup, but today was a sunny, bright-blue-sky type of day so to bulk out the lettuce, landcress and rocket, I picked some lambs lettuce.  This is Favor and in my normal, slightly slapdash way, I am not sure where I got the seed from. I buy as much seed as I can from Kings because we do this as an allotment association and get the seed quite a bit cheaper. However, as I am on a seed saving mission, I bought some from companies that sell open pollinated varieties especially so that you can save the seed such as Real Seeds, Vital Seeds and The Seed Cooperative.  I’ll save some seed and see what happens anyway.  Favor has quite big, dark green leaves and grows into a dense, compact plant so we only need two of the plants for the salad.

The celariac, Prinz,  needs harvesting. Last winter I left it in the ground as I am in the south and the winters are mild but the woodlice got into them and were a complete nuisance, going right into the middle of some. Charles Dowding harvests all his in November and stores them in a cold shed so I will do the same.

I have also harvested a LOT of twiggy peasticks and bean poles this week by coppicing the hazels on the wildlife plot. I can probably provide supports for all 300 allotments as there were about 9 hazels which had not been cut for quite a few years. Some of the wands are more than 5m long. I will write more about this during the week.

What is really good in your garden at the moment?

.

November 29

18 day compost in November – really? Update

On the 6th of November I created a compost heap and followed the Berkeley method of hot composting as I was sceptical that it could be made in that time in November in the UK.  Well I was partially right and partially wrong!

These pictures show you how the compost looks now and I can’t deny that it looks a lot like compost that is ready to use. There are a few elements that look like they originally did and I removed those as I spread the mound over the bed.  I made it on the bed I am using it on to save barrowing ‘stuff’ around and because I would have to find space if I didn’t. However, the heap did not heat up anywhere near the necessary temperature so I would say that means that the weed seed in it is still viable and will grow when the conditions are right.  I will come back and update this post when I know how that goes.

I can think of two reasons why the heap didn’t heat up.

  1. It wasn’t big enough. It needs to be at least a meter cubed and mine wasn’t.
  2. It needed more moisture. I watered it several times but could not get a single drop of water out when I squeezed it.
  3. Oh – there’s a third! It might have needed a bit more green in it. Green is in short supply at this time of year and brown is in the summer. You just can’t win.

To prevent the weed seeds germinating, I have covered the bed in woven black plastic that I keep for just such an issue. (No need for a picture of this. You can all imagine it!) For some reason, an overwinter cover seems to inhibit weed germination once the plastic is removed.

So, I will gather all the stuff together for another heap. I have a cleared bed I can make it on and try to remedy these three problems. I wanted to make a heap each month but it might take me a little longer than a week to get enough green. I am going out on a nettle hunt over the next few days to see what I can find and I probably do have some weeds somewhere! I could also cut the lawn on a dry day.

One other thing I will do differently in the next heap is to think about what I include. When I looked again at Geoff Lawton’s video it did all seem to be leafy material, both green and brown, rather than twigs, large clumps of grass etc. I can put those things into my cold heaps where they will rot down. I will document more clearly what goes into my next heap and by the end of 2021 I should have got to grips with hot composting.

See the results from December here.

Have you tried this method of composting? How did it go?