Sheep!

Finally – we’ve got sheep in the acre field 😀 Happy, grass-munching sheep who finally decided that the grass was indeed greener the other side of the fence. Free lawnmowers who’ll cut the grass down for us, tread the grass roots in, help keep the weeds down and manure the whole place, all in one go! And no petrol used or time wasted – perfect 😛

General Update

Today was quite a busy one – the fencing is finally finished and after more advice over the weeds in the field, we’ve decided to ask a local sheep farmer to pop some sheep into the field to eat it down and tread over the grass to firm the roots up. Today the sheep weren’t too accomodating in that they ran in the opposite direction when  we tried to lure them with a bucket of grain. The fact that the bucket was empty might have had something to do with it.

On the sowing side of things, the first row of Dwarf French Beans went in – Ferrari. The strawberries also arrived this morning so a quick 30ft long trench had to be dug over and old horse manure mixed in. Four varieties were planted in total:

  • Korona
  • Honeoye
  • Hapil
  • Florence

Topping & Potting

Today was all about a bit of lovin’.

The poor chooks, whilst happy with their new palatial grassy space, were having to combat excessively tall grass (about 5″), so raising the mower to its highest cut setting I mowed their paddock to a better 3″ height – they do love the lower grass to graze on, and longer grass is more likely to cause an impacted crop.

The second bit of lovin’ was to pot on the various seedlings covering the windowsills. The marigolds went into 3″ pots, the nasturtiums went into 4″ pots and the cucumbers went into 5″ pots. The tomatoes really do look ready to go into bigger pots but I’m hoping I can blag it for another fortnight as they’ll be in growbags soon enough once mid May has come. I’ll probably give in and repot them though – I don’t fancy them getting leggy.

This photo shows our mini greenhouse with a selection of each type – the rest are in the house and back cluttering up the windowsills as they should do. It’s a little experiment to see which survive the happiest 🙂

On another plus-side – the corgettes I sowed back whenever it was, have all germinated, so I ended up pulling out the second from each station. I’ve transplanted those into new positions outside of a cloche – again, just to see if it works! The forecast is good for the next week, so it may prove a good bet we get no more frost this year. We’ll see 🙂

Fruit Cage

As a 40th birthday present, my parents and Suz clubbed togther to buy a fruit cage for the patch – a fantastic present that I am so grateful for! Whilst the soft fruit we’ve planted there probably won’t fruit this year we thought it made sense to get the frame built – one less thing in the garage and it was a fun thing to do anyway! Here Suz struggles with the instructions, whilst I capture the moment and Clive, the fencing guru, does his magic in the background!

You can see here the 9m x 3m cage extends a few feet beyond the end of the raspberry row – this has nothing at all to do with my method for converting from meters to feet (multiply by 3) – honest. Lucky I don’t work for somewhere important where it would really matter eh? Like NASA for instance…

Asparagus & Potatoes

Possibly a bit late – we’ll wait and see – but seed potatoes arrived from Dobies to fill the space we’ve left in the allotment patch. I put in another 4 rows of:

I think it’s safe to assume there will be garden-gate sales of potatoes this year!

The last, but most definitely not least, thing to go in was two varieties of asparagus:

  • Stewart Purple
  • Pacific 2000

Having never seen an asparagus root, it was quite a fascinating process planting them and they look pretty weird as well – a cross between an octopus, a dreadlock wig and and alien! If looked after well this bed will last around 20 years, so whilst they’ve been slotted in to the proposed brassica patch they’ll sit tight, along with the Jerusalem Artichokes next door, for several years. Below is a series of photos showing the planting process – a trench 12″ wide and 8″ deep is dug, a 4″ high mound if made in the middle over which the asparagus crowns are draped, then soil backfilled to around 2″ over the crowns and patted down gently. As the spears start to show, the remaining soil is earthed up over them.

Fruit Patch

The twitch issue in the original fruit patch meant a quick scrabble to find a place to put the fruit netting cage, and patches for the gooseberries, rhubarb and strawberries that had already been ordered from Pomona Fruits and had arrived that morning!

The space which was provisionally kept free for a storage shed was perfect as it faced south, so today Suz and I set to, digging holes and trenches, turning the turf upside down after filling the base with well rotted horse manure, and planting the fruit.

In went:

  • Glen Ample Raspberries
  • Tulameen Raspberries
  • Malling Jewel Raspberries
  • Ben Connan Blackcurrants
  • Big Ben Blackcurrants
  • Jonkheer van Tets Redcurrants
  • Rovada Redcurrants
  • White Versailles Whitecurrants
  • Timperly Early Rhubarb
  • Hinnonmaki Red Gooseberries
  • Hinnonmaki Yellow Gooseberries
  • Invicta Gooseberries

The raspberries and currant bushes will be kept under fruit netting. The strawberries, which are yet to arrive, will have their own smaller netting, and the rhubarb and gooseberries will be left to fend for themselves in the open…poor things.

Field Fencing – Quarters being Quartered

With a long stretch of warm weather making us long for G&T evenings, the ground in the acre field was dry enough for the fencing contractors to drive their post driver on to the field to divide the acre field up. It’s funny in that it makes the field look smaller in some ways, but it’s great to really see the plan on paper start to become reality!

Digging & Sowing & Digging

The weather has been incredible the last few days – today literally no clouds to be seen – even contrails were nowhere to be seen thanks to the volcano eruption in Iceland stopping the planes from East Midlands Airport taking off – hurrah 🙂

Suz and I hoed over the soon-to-be brassica patch for the first time, to let the sun do its job on the weeds, and rehoed other bits – any excuse to stay out in the sun! After a few hours of digging and sowing, the picnic hamper Suz brought down to the field was oh-so welcome 🙂

After lunch, as part of a staggered sowing I sowed more carrots (F1 Maestro), Beetroot (F1 Kestrel), Peas (Hurst Green Shaft), Broad Beans (Imperial Green Longpod), and Mangetout (Oregon Sugar Pod). As a sidenote, the broadbeans and mangetout are doing ok, but the first sowing of Hurst Green Shaft have been quite disappointing – only 5 shoots are visible. It’ll be interesting to see if this sowing is any more successful in germinating.

The digging continued with forking over the old chicken run area and regrassing it – it’s good to feel like you’re on top of things!

Talking of being on top of things – the twitch issue in the part of the allotment that was destined to be the fruit area has put a spanner in the works. We already have fruit bushes on their way – raspberry canes, currant bushes, rhubarb, strawberries and gooseberries – so a home is needed for them elsewhere. In the meantime, the twitch is so bad down the side where the existing hedgerow and headland are, that we’re going to resort to using Roundup on it. Having cleared anything green poking through the surface in preparation for planting, we now have to wait for the twitch to regrow enough leaves for Roundup to be effective, so I’ll put off using it until July-ish. Come autumn I’ll dig over the cleared patch, and see what grows there weed-wise next spring, to see if we’re clear.

Rollering the field

Local farmer Ken offered a while ago to roller the grass once it was dry enough. Well after the inordinately long winter we’ve had, the ground has only just had enough sun on it to dry out, so a phonecall from Ken to say he was on his way over was fantastic! The wide wheels on the tractor meant the tyres marks would be less visible, and the 4 tonne water-filled roller did an amazing job! Now all we need is some rain to perk the grass up, but I’m happy to have another week of sunshine as it means we can get on with the ever-growing list of things to do! More sowing at the weekend, and the discovery of twitch (couch grass) in the proposed fruit patch means we’ll be siting the fruit somewhere else until I get time to sort that out.

Hoeing fruit patch and twitch!

Agh! The last plot to hoe and turn over is was the fruit patch. Having spent a couple of days double digging the grassed section of it, and hoeing the surface weeds out of the rest of it, we discovered twitch (couch grass) spreading into the patch from the headland and hedgerow. I thought we might be able to salvage some of the prepared ground to plant something, but it’s so far in that, having talked to farmer John, we decided to leave that patch to regrow its weeds and use Roundup on it. I hate the thought of using chemicals, but with so much else going on I feel it’s necessary. He talked of the old way of doing things would be to plough the land seven times in one growing season, which would eventually chop the rhizomes up into pieces too small to regrow…eventually. That being said, it lost them a growing season on the affected land in the process.

Meanwhile, on Gary & Liz’s patch, Gary just played chicken with the water sprayer thingie. Kids!