Spring Flowers and Snowflakes

Yesterday it felt like spring; mild air, a gentle breeze blowing up from the sea, buds beginning to burst on the flowering currants (Ribes sanguineum). A solitary bee drifted past. But, that was yesterday; deceptive. A cold northerly is blowing across the valley today, bringing with it sudden heavy showers. Definitely early spring.

We’re continuing to build a frame, up the valley side, for the roses & honeysuckle to ramble over, & wild pea, once they’re ready to plant out. The allotment association have had pallets delivered to the site recently & we’re using these, but keeping hardwood ones to build a shed. Slowly, we’re gathering these together & we’ll hopefully be able to start building soon. The aim is to use the small shed for tools & ‘bits’, the new one, complete with a wood burner made by one of our sons, for working in & drinking tea.
For now, I’ll sit here on the valley side with my tea & snacks; I’ve made a variation on my bread/cake. The birds are noisy this afternoon, the Robin loud and insistent, crows calling from the woods bordering the western edge of the site. The temperature is dropping and there’s a scattering of snowflakes.

allotment path [1]

Spring Tasks

We planted our potato tubers over the Easter weekend – traditionally, potatoes are planted out on Good Friday. Easter is the last Christian festival to be governed by the moon – Easter Sunday takes place on the 1st Sunday after the 1st full moon to occur after the Spring Equinox – hence why it moves each year. So, planting root crops on a waning moon fits with the tradition of planting potatoes on Good Friday. We were taking a bit of a risk, with the freezing weather right through Easter, so we’ve covered all the beds with builders’ bags to protect from frost and to warm the soil when the sun eventually shines.

covered potato beds

We’ve also been spring cleaning, tidying beds, covering paths with wood chip, terracing and creating new beds up the hillside, space neglected up to now. The back of the allotment is almost ready to begin laying foundations for another shed – we have old fencing ready and are on the look out for sheds on Freecycle. Better to find a shed that needs work doing to it than buy an expensive and flimsy shed from a DIY chain.

Our fruit cages all collapsed under heavy snow about 4 years ago and we were not able to rebuild them. We’ve now cleared most of that area and reorganised our fruit bushes, but tackling these neglected areas has uncovered some invasive and persistent weeds that we’ve not seen before. Over the past couple of years we’ve been invaded by a variety of Hogweed, and now find that we have a major task to dig out their large fleshy root systems.

hogweed [2]

We’ve done some searching to find out about this plant and discovered it’s a biennial:  apparently, Hogweed likes chalky soil, and we garden on chalk, in some places it’s only inches from the surface. Hogweed also seems to prefer perennial fruit crops, perhaps why we found it predominately amongst our neglected fruit bushes. ‘Based on the seed characters, Hogweed seed should persist for less than 5 years and does not form a persistent seedbank’: this tells us about the seeds, but it doesn’t tell us how long the plant is likely to last on our allotment. However, there is some indication that regularly cutting back should  ‘decrease its frequency’, which suggests it becomes weakened, over time.  But, we’re getting there, and will keep looking for seedlings and getting them out of the ground before they get too big. Although we should be grateful it isn’t Gaint Hogweed, only Common Hogweed.  Weeds, after all, are our own creations, plants out of place, obstructions in our cultivation plans.