12 Mar Plot Update – Mid March, 2019
The unusually warm February weather had me panic somewhat. Across social media, people were busy sowing seeds at a pace. I hadn’t even sorted through my seed packets yet. March arrives, and we’re back to cold and wet weather, the panic subsides.
However, I have now sorted through all my seeds – arranged into numerous envelopes labelled with sowing months. I have a copious amount of seed tins, but none are big enough to accommodate my seed collection. Subscribed to numerous gardening magazines until late last year, the collection grew at a dozen or so packets monthly. Realising that there was no way I was ever going to need more Kale or Broccoli seeds than I already had, I switched to digital versions of the magazines last December.
I do kind of miss the ‘surprise’ of discovering which new seeds I’d get each month. However, aside from the occasional ‘new’ or ‘interesting’ packet, they were usually things I already had in abundance.
Onions & Garlic
I planted out Onion sets and Garlic cloves in February. Returning the following day I discovered they’d been removed from the beds. I replaced them, same again the next day. I decided to bring them into the Polytunnel, pot them up and let them develop some roots before replanting. Hopefully, they won’t be quite so easy for the birds to pull out.
The garlic developed at a fast pace. Half of grew so fast I had no choice but to plant them out or pot them on. I chose to plant them out. So far, they’ve all remained in place. 80% of the onions are also ready for planting out now too, but the weather hasn’t been ideal.
Having sorted through my collection, I did begin sowing a few seeds. Four varieties of Rhubarb – Lider, Glaskins Perpetual, Canadian Red and Early Red. Oddly, I thought I already had some Victoria seeds too, but it would appear not – those are on my ‘to buy’ list. For now, I’ve sown 12 of each. I will sow more, but space limits the amount I can sow at the moment – most of the staging is full of the aforementioned onions!
Also sown are some Leek (Elefant), Brussels Sprouts (Evesham Special), Spring Onion (White Lisbon) and Beetroot (Heritage – Dobbies Purple). Sprouts and Beetroot both went into trays, while Leek and Spring Onion were sown into modules. Rhubarb seeds got an individual pot each – previous experience has shown the germination rate to be almost 100% for those.
In years gone, I’ve used Westland Seed and Cutting Compost – usually with good results. When it came to sowing this year though, I really struggled to find it at a ‘reasonable’ price. A 10-litre bag doesn’t go very far, and at a minimum of £3 per bag, the cost soon mounts up. I would usually buy it in 50-litre bags, which I’d previously found on a ‘3 for £12’ deal.
Last month, another plot holder gifted me an 80-litre bag of Elcef fibre after a discussion about using Coir for potting, something I’d done with Rhubarb successfully in the past. Elcef fibre is typically sold for spillage control but is perfectly safe for potting too. I’ve used coir as a means to bulk-up compost in the past, as well as increase moisture retention, but I’ve always used the ‘Coir Blocks’ you typically find in the discount shops for £1. Those have been perfectly fine, in my experience. Elcef fibre though is on another level – it comes ‘ready to use’ and is extremely fine – almost like very lightweight sand.
I also bought a few bags of multi-purpose compost – this time from Asda under their ‘3 for £10’ offer. I sieved this to achieve a fine grade compost and mixed in the Elcef fibre on a roughly 50/50 basis. Sieving works well – but it’s hard work, a rotary sieve is definitely on my shopping list! The Asda compost didn’t leave a huge amount behind after sieving – a few small clumps, but not as much as I expected. I’ve put that to one side and will apply as a mulch.
The staging I mentioned in my last update is still standing (hooray!), though it does need to bracing to increase stability. The recent high-winds were a huge concern – especially when the top shelf was full. As a temporary measure, cable ties were used to affix the back of the staging to the Polytunnel frame. That increased the stability quite substantially, though I’m still viewing it as a short-term fix.
The bottom shelf of the staging is purely being used as storage at the moment – tools, pots and various ‘odds & ends’, which I currently have nowhere else to put. The fact my top shelf is already full and I’ve barely started has pushed me to move forward with other plans…
A Second Tunnel
I always planned to buy another Polytunnel, but the ‘immediate’ need for more space means I’ve made that a priority. At the time of writing, my second tunnel is out for delivery and should be arriving today – though the weather forecast means it’s likely to remain boxed for another week, unfortunately.
My existing tunnel is the same size as the new one – 3m x 2m. However, while the existing one has the door to one side, the second one has the door in the middle. There are a few reasons for this – firstly, it was cheaper. Secondly, the main reason I originally wanted another tunnel was for Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Peppers – the middle door layout allows me to plant on both sides, rather than only one.
I will add staging to the new tunnel too, though it obviously won’t be as deep as the existing – it, however, will be on both sides. I’ve recently stumbled across another method of creating polytunnel staging that I’ll try too – more on that when I do it.
The new tunnel will sit opposite the existing, so I can walk from one to the other quickly. As the tunnels are the same length as my beds on either side, aesthetically it ‘works’ too. I will, however, site both tunnels slightly closer to the beds – at the moment there is a 2-metre ‘path’ between where the last bed ends and the tunnel sits. Reducing that gap increases the space behind the tunnels, which leads to the area I ‘inherited’ earlier this year. I have some outline plans for this area, but it’s still a work in process and is unlikely to come together until late in the year at least. In the short term, when the weather improves I’ll weed and cover that area.
On the Outside
I didn’t actually think a great deal had been done since Mid-February, but looking back I’ve managed to get more done than I realised. The ‘fruit’ garden area is now in place – some beds have been filled with manure, though I need to get some ericaceous compost for the blueberry beds. Edging for the ‘flower garden’ has also been put in place and the soil turned over, along with the shed path and cold frame area. While roughly laid-out, there’s still some work to do on those. Paths around those new areas have been laid with woodchip – the fruit garden area fully, the rest partially. I, unfortunately, depleted all the woodchip we had, so I wasn’t able to finish those fully. We have however had another delivery, so I’ll finish those as soon as we get a reasonably dry day.
I enlisted the help of a friend to advise on the best way to set bases for the shed and greenhouse. I’m keen to get those in place before any planting is done due to the risk of damage and access. Material requirements are being calculated and will be ordered soon so we can get those done as soon as possible. Whether either structure is in place shortly thereafter is unsure for now though – costs and time are both an issue at the moment. As we move towards April, time is increasingly going to be an issue as the focus switches to planting.
Until next time…
For the most part, the design and layout of the plot I’m happy with – especially the areas already laid out. I’ve been working up plans for the ‘spare’ areas – around 45Sqm on either ‘side’ of the plot. At this point, I’m fairly sure what I want to do but have yet to formulate a definitive plan. The likelihood is that both sides will be weeded and covered in the short term.
A dry, a less-windy spell of weather would be nice soon though.