It sometimes feels as though you never really stop experimenting in gardening. I’m always trying out new techniques, new varieties, and new products. Every year there will be some failure that calls for a bit of rethinking and a new approach for next years method, the wealth of vegetable varieties mean there will always be new ones to try out each year, and you’re always hopeful that some new gadget or product will be the answer to all your problems. I’m convinced that this never stops, you never get to a point of saying ‘that’s it, I’ve cracked it now, I know exactly what to grow and how, and I’ve learnt everything there is to know.’ I guess this is what keeps us going each and every year, it would be boring otherwise. Mother nature certainly keeps us on our toes.
So on Easter Sunday we headed down to a very quiet allotment, where I proceeded to try out two new sowing and planting methods. Firstly the potatoes. We planted 2 rows in trenches in the time honoured method – a shallow trench lined with some fertiliser, and then the potatoes spaced along the row and the earth pulled back over. But in the top square bed I decided rows wouldn’t suit the space and so I planted them french style in a block of 5 by 5, by simply digging a hole, throwing in a bit of fertiliser and then dropping a spud in, sort of like flower bulb planting. Interestingly our allotment neighbour plants all of his potatoes this way, because that’s the way his father always did them. There’s nothing like a bit of handed down tradition for a reason to sticking to a method. I can’t see there’ll be much difference really, but we’ll see.
Then I decided the weather had warmed enough to start sowing some root crops. Last years parsnips and carrots were not the most successful. The carrots started off well, but the net tunnel I used to keep them covered from root fly wasn’t tall enough, so as they grew the tops became congested and they suffered from a white rot on the roots. A bit of internet research told me the white rot is most commonly caused by a lack of air flow around the plants. So I did my best to cut the tops back and create a bit more air flow, but then the slugs attacked them! The final few were worthy only for the compost. The parsnips were left uncovered and they didn’t seem to get attacked by fly or even by the slugs, but my they were ugly. Forking isn’t the word, they were like something from another planet!
Hmm, time for yet another method in my determination to grow some decent root crops. This time around I have dibbed a series of deep holes in a block formation where I want the carrots and parsnips to grow, and these holes have been backfilled with a fine mixture of sand and loose soil. The seeds were sown towards the top each hole and then the whole bed lightly raked over and watered with some nematodes. I will also be constructing a little fence of environmesh around the perimeter of the square bed, once I’ve worked out how best to do it. Hopefully all of this madness will help me combat white rot, forking, slugs and carrot fly. Lets just hope they germinate now!
I also planted out my kale plants and sowed 3 short rows of beetroot. Pretty conventionally. Some methods are tried and tested, but I shall keep on experimenting, it’ll all be worth it one day when I get that perfect carrot.