Quick Update – Weeds & Vermin

I realise I haven’t posted here in a few weeks – life is pretty busy at the moment, and the patch is definitely a big part of that! Suffice to say that I have pretty much sown I am going to sow – the last sucessional broadbeans, snap peas, peas, dwarf french beans and carrots have gone in. I have also sown butternut squash (F1 Cobnut) and more corgettes.

The labour of love this past 3 weeks has most definitely been ‘dealing with things not wanted in the patch’.

The first being WEEDS – so many they deserve capitals. If I had twinkly lights I’d drape those over the word as well. The very first sowings we made way back were competing with the weed seeds already in the ground, and of coursem we couldn’t weed around our seeds until they showed themselves, so May was a good time to lay into the neat weed carpet around our pickling onions, spring onions, carrots and main crop potatoes. I kid you not we have filled at least two compost daleks with weeds, with the later stuff alreday in flower going straight in the brown bin – I’m not composting potential seeds to put back in the ground! My least favourite weed, as you may already know, is twitch, but we have none of that in the beds we’re using. We do however have heaps of chickweed – fun stuff to pull out if you get it right, groundsel, shepherd’s purse and my favourite – wild pansies. They are gorgeous little things but I console myself that for each one I pull out there are hundres more to replace it in the grazed parts of the field. There are others I don’t recognise yet – anything I don’t know gets brown binned in case!

The chickweed in the grazed area is being dealt with by sheep – both local farmers reckon it’s the best way to deal with it without resorting to chemicals, so I bow to their combined 150 years of wisdom. The chickweed around the veggie patch is being mown short regularly – I’ve heard regular short mowing is best for it, but we’ll see – I’m not so sure. Many a time I’ve gone out to mow, and end up crawling around the place, tearing chickweed out as the red mist decends.

The next pest are the flying types…wood pidgeons and a resident pheasant accompanied by his 3-strong hareem has managed to devoid farmer John and Gary next door of their beetroot. Luckliy we’re at the end, so our beetroot has been nibbled, in places to within an inch of its life, but it has survive d and now lives under a cosy net tunnel. Sweet, beetrooty, dreams. They have also had a bit of a bash at the peas and cabbages, but my old cover CD collection is now happily flapping in the breeze, tied to old willow sticks I have left from last year. It seems to be working.

Slugs are making a pathetic attempt to nibble the snap peas, but they’re large enough now to shrug it off I think, and black fly are starting in the broad beans. I need to figure out what to do here – last year I used ecover washing up liquid mixed with water on some veg with green and white fly, but it seemed to burn the plants more than rid them of crawly nasties.

The last unwanteds are the walking lawn mowers I’ve borrowed from a local farmer – the escapologist lambs who’ve decided that not only is the grass greener in the vegetable quarter, but so is practically everything else, and have managed to nibble practically everything at least once to try it out. Let it not be said they’re not adventurous beasties.

I’ll pop some pictures of how it’s all looking these days – much different and half-decent if I do say so myself!

Successional Sowing & Brassicas

Today I managed to get the final batch of mangetout sown. The first batch is suffering a bit from hungry slugs so I’ll start to save some plastic bottle tops to make mini-cloches to go over them at night. Once we have some tree growth – in a few years – we’ll be able to encourage the birds to loiter around the patch. It worked wonders in the first veggie patch – after a year of encouraging the birds the slugs were virtually nil!

I also picked up some brassica plugs from the local market gardener who produces them by the hundreds and thousands for their own use. £5 bought me 50 plants:

  • 20 pointy cabbages
  • 20 round cabbages
  • 10 brussel sprouts
  • a couple of hanging basket tomatoes

In some ways I feel like a charlatan for not having grown them from seed, but then the seed would have cost more for the amount we want to plant!

Weeds and Potting-on

An unpleasant job today – I tackled the weed issue on the old acre field headland, or ‘adlan’ as farmer John pronounces it. With years of non-ploughing it is full of many weeds, the majority being cleaver which is working its way up the hawthorn mix hedge, and twitch (couch grass) which is spreading into the field by about 20 foot. As the allotment quarter has been affected by the twitch, making the planting of any long-term plants such as fruit bushes a bit risky, we’ve decided to use Roundup weedkiller on this particular patch of headland to remove everything. I don’t like the use of chemicals but all the local farmers suggest this is the only way unless I can plough the area constantly over the space of a year. I’ve left the headland as is where the orchards will be, but under the existing hedgerow that needs maintenance I’m clearing the weeds.

Once the weeds are cleared, under the existing hedgerow I’ll plant new hawthorn whips to fill the gaps. Over all the cleared headland area I’ll sow a grass/meadow flower mix to replace the food supply for the birds that I’ll have removed to an extent by killing the weeds off. Hopefully this mix will supress any particularly viruelnt weed, such as the cleavers and twitch, from becoming too dominant again.

The next job was to pot up the tomatoes and chillies. Due to the size of our greenhouse I’m putting off sowing the butternut squash, pumpkins and sweetcorn until I can sow directly into the soil where they’ll grow. I also sowed in a greenhouse tray a packet of Loretta celery seed.