23 November 2015

A few words from Mike on his first day !

Dodging the showers, it’s time to put the garden to bed, and a mild November helps.

It’s starting to get cold and wet, but the soil is still dry enough to shake off the old plant and weed roots. Leaving weeds now can give pests and disease somewhere to hide out for the winter, so removal is advised.

When the ground freezes, it’s hard to work with. If we wait to clear up in the spring when the soil is wet and heavy, it sticks to roots and tools, and makes the job harder. Doing it now means we can focus on planting in the spring, which is easier and more rewarding.

Potato harvesting today. Now where are those leeks?

Maybe next year? Leek and potato soup makes a tasty and super cheap dinner.

A good harvest of spuds

I ended up with a bin bag full and only a few had been eaten into by cutworms (there’s another reason to clear the space of weeds). There are no poisons to control cutworms and no reason to consider it. Best to unearth them as passing birds aren't stupid and they know a good deal when they see one. I noticed mistle thrushes in the area; these birds love to feast on cutworms and can somehow spot them moving around under the soil. Sorted, a natural balance is achieved. We can encourage birds more by having a shallow container to hold water for drinking and bathing. Refreshing the water and keeping it clear of ice is important. A fresh water source is as important as putting out bird food, particularly on the allotment. Bathing water is especially important in winter too. 

The picture shows the offending grub and its food source. I found a good few today.

Two hours later and the job is done; the soil has been loosened and the old plants and weeds removed. I decided to leave the salad rocket for the flowers, which can also be picked and eaten, although the leaves will be too bitter now. The flowers look amazing in a salad and have sugary nectar in them which tastes delicious, a sweet rockety flavour. I do recommend tasting before use as even the flowers may be a bit bitter this time of year, but if you like rocket I am sure you’ll love them. There are plenty of seed pods which can be collected when ripe and dried. Once dried, separate the seeds, pack in an envelope, label with the plant name and date and save to grow next year.

We have some curly parsley which I will cover with fleece, allowing light through and protecting from frosts. This will be nice chopped finely into buttered potatoes.

There are a few plants left in the beds, (lettuce and chard), which should keep going if covered with some fleece for protection.

Time to pack the tools back onto my bike and take the harvest, including the pumpkin back to the office.

Mike McGrath