Monday, 7 May 2007

Army wanted: apply within

The hot dry weather continues (stupid weather for April!) and our pond is really suffering; if it carries on like this I'm actually gonna have to start watering the pond plants! Not only is the water level getting incredibly low but the tadpoles we imported from Mum and Dad's pond two weeks ago are today mysteriously absent... I knew there was a danger of water boatman eating them but I didn't think they'd get the lot! I think a new shipment might be in order... The water boatmen, actually, are thriving with tiny baby ones appearing everywhere (though I can't imagine one of those teeny things taking on a big fat tadpole!).

Although I'm really struggling with the rest of the digging now, we've been trying to get down to the allotment to water every two days at least, and we've been battling with the weeds coming up on patches already dug. Turns out Eddie is a high-speed-weeding-machine; he did a great job of clearing one of the troublesome onion patches and is half way through the rest!

In fact, the plot itself has been working much harder than I have; the potato plants have all popped up nicely (and I can tell now which row is the new potatoes, as the foliage is different - phew!) so today I earthed them up, completely covering all but the biggest plants.
This is supposed to make them put out more roots - and therefore more potatoes - higher up the stem. I thought it was going to be really difficult and I'd have to bring earth from elsewhere on the plot to cover them, but in fact it was really easy to just rake the soil from in between the rows up over the leaves. I was worried the beans and peas would be too dry to sprout in this weather (the red onion and marigold seeds certainly seem to be struggling), so I'm relieved that they've now started to emerge, albeit patchily so far. The bird netting seems to be doing its job too. There's also a bramble trying to grow in the middle of the bean patch which I keep digging out only for it to come back in four different places...

We have our first strawberry flower, which is quite exciting even there's no sign of any others... I'm not sure whether to leave it or pinch it out; the first year you're supposed to stop the plants from fruiting if they're "not growing strongly", but what does that mean? They're perfectly healthy little plants, putting out plenty of new growth, but they're still very small, so should I or shouldn't I?The asparagus plants are turning into pretty little ferns and are covered in buds - I can't wait to see what they're going to do next 'cos I haven't a clue! I've been trying my best to earth them up as we've had some strong winds in the last couple of days and I think they'll start to suffer, but there isn't much earth going spare and I've had to borrow it from other corners of the plot. I must admit I'd expected more foliage from each plant, but then it doesn't really matter what they do this year I suppose; it's next year that counts!

Finally, I've planted out some nasturtium and borage seedlings; borage between the bean rows and next to the pond, just to fill in some space, and trailing nasturtiums around the compost bin - hopefully they'll climb up and over it and make it look pretty - and in a few other gaps. I'll keep a couple in pots too to plant out in the border further down, when we've dug it...

That leaves our kitchen a little clearer of seedlings but there are still dozens of tomato, sweetcorn, cucumber and squash plants waiting for a bare bit of earth! I've been cutting down the biggest weeds and nettles on the untouched part of the plot but with the ground so dry I feel like I need an army to conquer the rest. We actually have rain forecast for the next few days so (if it happens) maybe it'll be easier after that. My anti-slug nematodes go out of date in a week too - they need moist earth to get established so if it doesn't rain soon they're doomed to die either frazzled in the dust or in a plastic packet in my fridge, poor things!

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