Thursday, May 26, 2016

SW Bed "16SWFabaceae"

Done. Though, there was a bit of rush towards the end as it began to rain in earnest, which is why I hit on the wheeze, (which I might regret before the growing season's out) of sowing the "Kleine Rheinlanderin" peas as a broadcast. And I still need to work out some climbing arrangement for the runner beans.

crop rotation & plant taxonomy 0.1 in practice

This is where we can see the benefit of ascertaining the family of each and every plant, because already, (prior to starting this new system), I've made a blunder. You'll see I've got Apiaceae in all 3 of the West beds. That's because they've each got a row of coriander, which should of course have gone with its cousin, carrot, in the Midwest bed. Lamiaceae also appears in two of those beds, because I've planted sage in the Midwest, and oregano in the NW.

See?  It does work. The coriander, sage and oregano bungles probably won't matter long term, and have taught a valuable lesson, (the puzzle over where the hell herbs fit into a rotation got me thinking about this in the first place). The point is now to make sure no bed has the same family planted in it 2 year's running, but should get a break from it for as many seasons as possible, preferably 2-3.

The schemes for crop rotation you can google online try to be simple, but, paradoxically, are hard to understand. This way, it's a question of puzzling it all out each spring, paying regard to what families been grown in previous years, including winter crops and green manures. You need a way of keeping a record, such as a blog, and be able to identify any plant's botanical family, which is easily done with Wikipedia.


Wednesday, May 25, 2016

crop rotation & plant taxonomy 0.1

Inserting tables into a blogpost is do-able, but you have to do it all the long way round, after already doing the work in a spreadsheet. So for now, here we have most of the plants I plan to grow, in their families. This is done by screen grabs from the spreadsheet, so I can update them as necessary.

So that's voila, kind of, for now. I've already realised there are omissions of plants I definitely want to grow, (valerian, st john's wort, feverfew), but it should be a matter of just checking which family they're in and adding them to it, or introducing a new family if necessary. And it'll be complicated but not too difficult to juggle the families around rotation, companions, and winter crops. 

On a simple level, it's a good wish-list of what I plan to grow in the next few years.

Comfrey & the common carder bumble bee

The comfrey plants on the Rediscovered Path edge are nearly 3ft tall. They were the first to be planted in early spring, having been dug up from their bed in Autumn. Coincidentally, that bed was in the vicinity of the Rediscovered Path and Tattie Bed. Numerous volunteers spring up from this area, with new ones almost every day. The process seems to have been, when I dug them up fragments of root left behind grow new plants.

Comfrey, with (accidental) foreground bokeh.
The flowers are drooping, and the bumble bees get at them upside down.  I tried to get a photo of them, but the view upwards towards the sky makes the exposure difficult on the iPhone's camera. Here's the best effort of several:

So it's not a great photo, there's some way to go yet as an iPhone wildlife photographer. But you can just about tell the that the bumble bee in question is rather kind of blond or pale ginger, which means it's likely to be Bombus pascuorum.


Intention of banking up the 2nd early potatoes, which I did, and maybe also sowing a row or two of seeds, which I didn't. The reason was, I got a visit from a neighbour, who clearly likes to talk. He showed me the plot he works with his brother. They have a photo pinned up of how it looked when they took it over, and it was a bloody mess. So they've done a lot of work, but the overall effect was to make a suburban back-garden, koi pond, dahlias and all. Other people's allotments are as mysterious as other people's choice of life partner.

Anyway, when I was extending the path I came across a number of corms of a type unknown to me - not bulbs or tubers. I asked the Suburban Garden Neighbour if he knew what they were and, God bless him, he opined that they were Crocosmia. Looking at the photo on wikipedia, I think he's probably right. I gave him a few, then went through the rest and discarded any that weren't showing new growth. The remaining 14 I planted on the inner skinnny path edge on the SW bed, just where it meets the lumpy concrete New Shed Path.

These are the corms which don't seem to be for coming back to life this year.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

crop rotation & plant taxonomy

The information online about crop rotation is not adequate. It doesn't take much account of perennials, green manures, herbs or other companion plants. And it doesn't usually use the proper botanical taxonomy, which you need if you're going on to Google Scholar to seek out research.

Family plants plants
Fabaceae pea winter field bean

mange tout alfalfa

french bean gorse

runner bean lupins

broad bean clover

So, for example, the family Fabaceae (in the table above) is usually referred to as "legumes" or the "pea family". And yes, we know that's peas and beans, but it also includes the gorse in the hedge and the lupins you might use in a fallow year.

So I've put together a spreadsheet with 13 plant families containing ALL of the plants which I'm likely to want to grow, (I might have to include other down the road, of course). Having done that, I then encountered another learning curve, namely, adding a table in blogger. I've only managed the crude job included here this evening, and I'll come back to this in due course with a table of all 13 families.

To be continued...

How many pallets can you fit in the back of a Fiat 500?

At least 1. Maybe I could have got 3 altogether, at a pinch. Also 200+ gorse seeds, which have begun to look in danger of damping off, so I'm thinking they'll be better off at the allotment in the fresh air. I'm worried about slugs, snails and woodpigeons, though, so I put them in a wheelbarrow, covered with a net.

Also this morning, planted a row of beetroot detroit.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Allotment Panorama II

This is from the West side of the plot, the ash tree's point-of-view. To the right is the SW bed, planted today with a row of coriander, and another of peas. To the far left is the Mid- and South West beds. The bed this side of the skinny brick path to the left is the odds-and-sods bed: hawthorn and alder, wildflower mix, and papaver somniferum seeds.

Dead ahead is the famous "old greenhouse foundations" aka "concrete and brick structure", (hereby re-named "new shed foundations" - with straight ahead the pile of rubble which will mostly be deployed to level them).

The panorama photos won't be possible next year, the views straight ahead being blocked by the new shed and the poly-tunnel.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

...and this just in from our hedgerow correspondent...

Figs, now. The old Pig Sty Avenue allotment had a fig bush growing on its boundary, planted by don't know who, don't know when, but it was mature. No fruit from it, maybe it was a male tree, maybe its roots weren't confined or chopped through. But the thing that has stayed with me: right up to November, its stubby wee flowers would be a like a flying insect Piccadilly Circus; I particularly remember hover-flies. 

And any meaningful assemblage of trees must have a few figs. There's Adam & Eve's pinnies, for one thing. I sowed the seeds from a fresh fig once, and was impressed by how easy it was. Can't remember now what happened to the plants. Years, and years ago, I had a friend who kept a fig as a houseplant, growing on the corner of the fireplace, a proper coal fire, 10ft or so from the windows. It wasn't putting out much new growth, as I recall, but the fact that it was living under such circumstances was itself remarkable.

So, figs are tough as old boots, and have both a general and a personal history. Yesterday in Asda I bought a packet of dried figs (Produce of Turkey, yet more personal history), and this morning cut one open, excavated the seeds out, separating them from the pulp (footery), and then leaving them in cooling warm water for an hour or so. They've sunk to the bottom of the glass, so are probably viable. Maybe 100+ seeds. I'll sow them later today on the surface of a tray of vermiculite covered in clingfilm, to maintain a warm, damp micro-climate; no compost - to avoid damping-off and other mouldy hazards.

Meanwhile, no sign of any roses germinating, apparently after 3 weeks...