One of the Joys of having an allotment is recycling waste. Yes, we should all recycle our vegetable scraps, small weeds etc to make compost, it's good for the ground, saves money and you know what you are getting. An earlier newsletter details making compost and also leafmould. Leafmould is a wonderful resource that is free, just collect the leaves in the autumn. It is not rich in nutrients, but is one of the best soil improvers that you can give your soil.
I am going to try to make seed compost from mine, by mixing it 50:50 with perlite. My leafmould from last year is good enough to try this. It will save me buying seed compost. I will still need to pot up into a multi purpose compost when they germinate as the seeds only have a limited supply of nutrients built in to them, and leafmould and perlite have virtually none.
You can also make fertilizers for free! I make wood ash in the winter, it contains minerals and up to 3% potassium, needed by plants to enhance fruiting. I had a wonderful crop of strawberries last year after applying it in January. Do not use it on acid loving plants like blueberries, as it contains lime.
Something that I have not tried, but people swear by it is comfrey plants or nettles teas. Basically, you add water to comfrey or nettles. Let it brew, then collect the tea. Dilute the tea by about 1 in ten, then water your plants with your homemade liquid fertilizer. Be prepared to put up with the stink of the brew.
An old method of getting a free liquid feed was to place horse manure in a hessian sack. Place in a barrel of water. Then dilute the brew 1 in 10 with water.
We get deliveries of green waste from "roots and shoots". You can supplement your compost heap with this, it is a mixture of greens and browns, I made some nice compost from this.
Your crops will need protection from pests and support during the season. You can do this on a budget. You do not need anything flash. I use small branches to support my peas, they are happy to climb up these. I cut some this year from the felled trees by the main gate in Milk Street this year. Some of the bigger branches may be of use to support bigger plants like beans. It's a double win as I am getting my pea sticks for free and helping to clear the area. At the end of the season, I burn my pea sticks to make wood ash. The blue plastic water pipes that you see around the plots do a great job supporting your netting. Sometimes when they are laying pipes the builders have off cuts left over, that you can get for free. You can use the smaller pieces to make circlips to hold your netting in place. See me and I will show you one.
An alternative support for your netting is canes, with an upturned plastic pot or plastic bottle on top. I use old fertilizer bottles, pill bottles and plastic milk bottles with just the top and handle left on. I stick the cane up the handle.
The debris netting aka scaffolding netting that you see around is in my opinion superior to the butterfly netting that you buy. It is easier to handle, lasts longer and has a finer mesh to keep out butterflies etc. Often obtained free if you ask, as the builders cannot reuse it to protect the public from falling debris encase it has any holes in it. You can make a cloche from old pieces of corrugated transparent plastic, as mentioned last month. Also, if you get something large delivered like a mattress, then use the plastic it comes in, as the covering for a cloche, with either cane support or stiff wire bent into a semi-circle and pushed into the ground. Big lemonade bottles are very useful. Cut the bottom off and you have a mini cloche for a plant. Alternatively, you can fill it with water and use it to weight your netting down, or use stones or planks of wood or scaffolding poles to hold the edges down.
You need very few tools to manage an allotment. I have a spade that I have not used in two to three years as I am no dig. A garden fork which I use to turn my compost heap, and collect manure, or loosen the soil to get my parsnips out. I have an old rake which I spread my manure with and an old hoe to weed. I also have a trowel. On one of my allotments last year I managed it with a hand trowel only, something I could do quite easily with no dig.
Seeds are expensive to buy from the shops, there are a few cheap and good websites for seeds. I use premier seeds direct, you get a good quantity of seeds at a cheap price, but no growing instructions.
You can also try saving your seeds. The golden rule is not to save seed from F1 hybrid seeds, they will not breed true. I suggest that you save runner bean seeds to get started, these are usually a more expensive seed packet and easy to save. If you use heritage seed i.e. seed that was open pollinated then you have a better chance of success. Realseeds on the internet have a good name, I have not used them. All their seed can be saved and they give you instructions how to save them.
I have saved my runner beans and parsnip seeds (Tender and True) with success, and you know your seed is fresh. This year I am expanding this to Cobra climbing beans and some Dwarf French beans. I will know in a few months if the varieties I chose save true to their parents. Next year I am considering to save some carrot seeds. It also adds to the fun to grow from seed that you have saved. Proceed with some caution, and see that your seed breeds true.
Lastly pallets make great compost bins, just tip them on their side and join them together to make your compost bin. Do not use the pallets painted blue. They have preservatives that may leach into your compost. If you are handy with your hands, then you can use them to make a cold frame, seat or table or whatever else you can think of.
Things to sow in May.
Dont forget with some plants like lettuce sow in small batches fortnightly. Then you can enjoy a succession of crops instead of a glut.
Also you can interplant quick growing vegetables like lettuce with slow growing vegetables that need more space. The quick growing vegetable being harvested before the slow growing vegetable is big enough to compete for resources with the quick growing plant.
French Beans Runner Beans Beetroot Broccoli and Calabrese Cabbage and Cauliflowers Chicory Kale Kohl rabi Peas Turnips and Swedes Lettuce and Leaves such as Rocket Radishes Spring Onions
Sowing under cover Sweetcorn Courgette Marrow Pumpkin Squash
Plant out Brussels sprouts Summer cabbages Celery Celeriac Leeks. Aubergine more likely of success in a greenhouse Peppers Cucumber Tomatoes A special thank you Claire for the idea of this topic and Dorothy for last months topic. If any of you would like me to write about a particular topic, please reply to this email with your suggestion. Also, all previous newsletters are on the Hallsfarm website.