I really like the idea of green manures. I don’t like seeing bare earth, and I like weeds even less, so the thought of covering the ground with Red Clover, to carry on the good nitrogeon-fixing work of the peas and beans, or Rye Grass with its allelopathic qualities, really appeals. I had visions of all soil nicely covered by either over wintering crops or green manure, of happy soil, and next year, happy crops. Hah! I sowed Red Clover on the bean and pea bed in early September, and I thought it had germinated well.
Spot any clover? No, me neither. Either the annual weeds have completely smothered it or it never germinated in the first place. At the moment I am thinking the latter. As for the rye grass, well, just look at all that lovely weed-suppressing nutrient-fixing growth.
Yep, total failure. I feel humiliated. It’s too late to sow more red clover, even if I hadn’t already sown what seed I had. I do have more rye grass, and I will try again, but honestly! I fear I got the sowing depth wrong on the rye grass, but can only think that I just didn’t water the red clover enough. What a waste. I may try Field Beans as an alternative to the clover.
As if all that wasn’t enough, various “stuff” got in the way and I missed the opportunity to sow Spring Cabbage and calabrese. I really want the allotment to be as productive as possible for as much of the year as possible, so I decided to get some plug plants. It certainly decreases the cost savings, but that is only a small part of why I am growing my own, and even then, if I compare the cost (£1.75 for five plants) with that of buying organic cabbage from the supermarket, it still makes sense.
After looking around at what was available I decided to try Delfland Nurseries. WellyWoman (what a great blog name!) had blogged about buying from them, they seemed to have a good reputation, and the delivery charges weren’t too bad. So, I ordered 5 plugs of each of spring cabbage ‘Duncan’, spring cabbage ‘Spring Hero’, calabrese ‘Pacifica’ and perpetual spinach.
They arrived quickly, in good health, and with nicely moist and well developed root systems. So, on one of those lovely autumn days earlier this week I trundled up to the allotment to plant them out.
It was impossible to stay down on such a beautiful day, despite the green manure failures, and despite the fact that buying plug plants felt like cheating. Given the pigeon problem up here I put the cabbages in the same bed as the purple sprouting broccoli and netted the lot.
Thankfully there was very little wind, so the netting went OK, although I think the end result would have been tidier if I hadn’t been doing it solo. It seems extraordinary that such tiny plants could survive, let alone thrive, over winter. ‘Duncan’ in particular has beautiful leaves, so I shall keep my fingers crossed. It will be all the more disappointing if these fail, given the added cost as compared to sowing my own.
Oh, and if you are wondering why I created such a tall cage for such tiny plants, the netting is too wide really, so this way there is less excess to deal with, and in theory the sprouting broccoli will grow taller. In practice I don’t seem to be having much success with brassicas, so who knows…
The calabrese went in under a fleece cloche with the perpetual spinach. It seemed like a good idea at the time, the fleece will keep the birds, butterflies etc out and the spinach should have more tender leaves with the added protection. I’ll have to watch out for weeds and slugs though. I ran out of time and energy before I got as far as sowing my early broad beans, so that will have to wait for another day. I was slightly cheered by the lush health of the various lettuces I am growing.
The Lollo Rosso in particular is growing really well still, and is very tasty. At least it proves I am not totally incable of sowing seeds direct and having them flourish. I just appear to have a few issues with green manure…