Thursday, August 24, 2017

Harvesting the Winter Field Beans and Thanking My Lucky Stars for Florist's Offcuts

With a lot of water still in the riddling trench, I spent a couple of hours yesterday beginning the WFB harvest. Not a day too soon. The pods have almost all turned black and the beans inside are almost dry. But some have decomposed enough for the beans to fall out, or maybe they've been pecked open by birds. I hope the latter, because I don't want another crop of field beans in that area, following straight on from this year's.

I cleared about 8sq yards, 1/3 of the bed, or thereabouts, half-filling the big old fish-box. By the time I'm done, there'll be several kilos of beans. These will be sowed throughout the plot, firstly in the newly riddled earth in the long bed, which badly wants structure. As last year, I'll scatter on plenty of them, and then cover with a couple of inches of oomska, so that's killing several birds with one stone, and that soil should be good to go next spring.

Which left me wondering: what to do with the old 4th bed, now the north end of the long bed? I thought about Hungarian rye, but that was a total failure last year, I think the birds got it all, so if I were to try it again there'd be a substantial bird-netting task to protect an area of 15sq yards or thereabouts.

I think the answer is the florist's offcuts. Here we have a really good permaculture situation. Florists' produce lots of leaves and stalks as a bi-product of preparing bouquets and floral arrangements. The City Council charges all businesses in Glasgow for collection of rubbish by selling them marked bags at 75p each, which will then be collected outside the shop, probably en-route to land-fill. We can cut out the Council and recycle it all. So the florist leaves a bag or two a week outside the gate to the allotments.

It's all green, from a variety of plants. I've noticed palm and lily leaves amongst it. Some of it is a bit twiggy, rose stalks for example, but it'll all break down eventually.  The bags are for any allotmenteer, but nobody but The Secretary and I seems to be interested. I'd estimate I'm getting nearly a hundredweight of it a month. So far I've been composting it, turning the heap to get it to warm up and break down, but that process will slow naturally over the winter, though I expect I'll still be getting the hundredweight a month: people want bouquets throughout the year, after all.

So walking home from the plot yesterday it hit me: mulch the patch where the WFBs were this year with a thick layer of the florist's offcuts. There's already a population of brandling worms there. A succession of cold and cool days over the winter, it will be breaking down nicely, and hopefully slowing the weeds down in early spring. I've been googling for information on this, but there's very little to be found. It might provide a haven for the slugs and snails is all. But think about it: it's a very natural solution, if we consider an allotment as equivalent to a forest edge, leaves and other organic matter falls onto the earth and breaks up over winter.

If it works, it'll cut down on the amount of oomska I need, and it's free, (oomska works out at approximately £10 a ton, delivered).