I’m Sorry Monty Don, I Think You Are Wrong…

I’ve had another busy week at the allotment, though it has been a bit murky at times due to the cloud of pollution over the UK.  I thank my lucky stars that I don’t have asthma, as I know I wouldn’t have been able to work outside if I had.  Many asthma sufferers have been struggling this week with high level of pollution in the air, which is apparently due to “a mix of local and European emissions and dust from the Sahara”.

By Thursday this week, I had begun to miss the sunshine and was hoping that things will get back to normal very soon.

The flowers at my allotment haven’t been bothered by it all though and they are giving a lovely Spring display:

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I am also really pleased with my woodland area this year too and I have already seen insects buzzing around the flowers:

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The last photo shows my ‘Forget-me-nots’ which I planted in the hope that they will self seed all over my woodland area, as I dedicated this area to my good friend who passed away last year.  I don’t want to forget her, which is why I planted the ‘Forget-me-nots’.

When I first took over this plot, the area was full of couch grass.  The previous plot holder (my dear friend Eric), told me that vegetables do not grow well around the tree, as the tree roots take all the moisture.  This is the reason why I decided to make it into a sort of Spring garden / woodland area.

I took this plot on in January 2012 (plot number four) and it looked like this:

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I quickly covered the area under the large old plum tree, with weed suppressant.  I left it like this until the Autumn:

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I then removed the weed suppressant, which had killed all the weeds and started planting Spring bulbs.  From then on I have been dividing and transplanting any plants I can find, to fill the area.  Last summer I also gave the plum tree it’s first big prune, though it will take a few years to get the tree back to how it should be.

This photograph below shows how the area looks now.  You can just see the Bluebells growing around the tree, which will hopefully flower soon:

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Before I start to talk about the jobs I have been doing at my allotment this week, I thought I would just show you something I noticed on my broadbeans:

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If you look at the edges of the leaves you will see little notches.  I have been asked on various occaisions what causes these notches.

This is the work of the ‘Pea and Bean weevil’.  The adults are beetles that are approximately 4-5mm long, but they are very hard to find as they drop to the ground when they are disturbed.  Their larvea eat the root nodules of the plant in the soil.

I have never yet lost any plants due to the Pea and bean weevil as most broad beans seem to tolerate the damage, but in theory a bad attack could kill your plants.  I make sure that my plants are healthy by feeding them in the Spring with a general purpose fertiliser (I use blood, fish and bone) and if the weather is dry then I water them.  This way I ensure my plants can cope with an attack, as I garden organically and don’t use chemical sprays.

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At the allotment this week I have been spreading compost around my summer raspberries and my autumn raspberries and around my fairly young fruit trees.  By spreading compost, I am adding nutrients to the soil, conditioning my soil and it also helps to retain water when the weather is dry.

I think it also gives the area a ‘neater’ feel to it:

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Last Friday on Gardeners world, Monty Don talked about his compost heap and once again told us not to put perennial weeds in our compost bins, which is advice that is always given in books and on the TV.

  I think Monty Don is wonderful.  He is so gentle and his passion for gardening really shows through the program (and I adore his dog too).  However, on this occaision I have to disagree with you Monty, as I know for a fact that you can compost perennial weeds, as I do it all the time.

  It does take three or four years for perrenial weeds to turn into lovely compost, which is why I have a separate compost area for my perennial weeds, but it is worth the wait.  After filling my compost bin, I just cover the top with weed suppressant and wait.

If there are any weed seeds in my compost after I have used it, then I just hoe them off, once a week when I am routinely hoeing my plot.

This week I finally finished emptying one of my compost areas.  This compost area was nearly four years old and you can see in the photo below what lovely compost it made:

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If you want proof about using compost made with perrennial weeds, then take a look at any of the photos on my blog…it really doesn’t spread weeds, provided you hoe every week in the growing season.

Incidentally, the weeds have started to grow here in the Midlands and so my weekly hoeing sessions have begun:

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This week, I also spread the above compost in my polytunnel.  Sadly the mizuna and corn salad were both flowering and it was time to prepare my soil for new crops:

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You can see in the left hand photograph below, that the soil looked quite worn out with lots of old roots in it, so I gave it a really thick layer of compost:

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Another job I completed at the allotment this week, was to finally dig up my remaining Jeruselum artichokes.  I normally complete this job in February or March, but I am a little bit behind this year.

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Jerusalem artichokes are one of the easiest vegetables that I know of to grow.  In February or March, I dig up any that remain in the soil and replant the biggest ones, approximately 30cm apart and 30cm deep.

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Every other year I dig manure or compost into the bed before I replant them and in November, I cut down the old stems so they don’t suffer from the wind dislodging them from the soil.

 You can dig them up all through the winter when you need them, as they store really well in the ground and they rarely suffer from any pests or diseases.

One thing to be noted though, is they are thugs and once you have them you will find it hard to get rid of them.  So make sure you plant them in an area away from the rest of your vegetables, or you will regret it.

My Jerusalem bed

My Jerusalem Artichoke bed

My family love Jerusalem artichokes roasted in olive oil and my daughters eat them like sweets….but be warned, they make you a bit ‘windy’ and I have never dared to make ‘Jerusalem artichoke soup’…I wonder if anyone reading this blog has made it?

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I also finished putting the plastic coated chicken wire over my swing at the allotment this week, so it is now ready for a plant to grow up it.  I simply tied the chicken wire on and used three canes to hold the chicken wire up at the top.  I can’t wait to see my plants growing over it in a couple of years.

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And finally this week I completed a job that Mr Thrift has helped me with over the last few weekends.

Remember recently I coppiced the Hazel to use, well it left the area kind of bare.  I decided to make this a smaller woodland area, so we collected a few bags of leaves that were going spare at our allotment site (the council bring them in the Autumn for people to use) and spread them deep around the trees.  This should help to stop the weeds.

I also used some old wood that I painted with wood stain, to make a barrier so the leaves don’t edge over onto our grass area (and this will make it easier for Mr Thrift to mow the grass in summer).

  I made a mental note to myself, to plant lots of Spring bulbs in the Autumn.  I do hope I remember.

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Well that’s enough for today (I’m sorry I do pack a lot into my blog, but I do love writing it).

Thank you for reading today.  I will be back on Monday at my usual time.

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19 thoughts on “I’m Sorry Monty Don, I Think You Are Wrong…

  1. I’m so pleased to come across your blog via Frugal Queen. What a fantastic blog, so much information and lovely photos too. Last year me and two other families took on 2 allotment plots. It’s been hard work as we’re learning as we’re doing it, but it has been worth it. I can’t wait to show them your blog as it will be so beneficial to us. Thankyou.

  2. What a lovely way to remember your friend – under the tree looks lovely. I love reading your posts, there is so much information in them and lots of handy tips, thank you.

  3. Never apologise for a long post, it is great to see what you are doing and compare it to my jobs, your allotment looks brilliant, you work so very hard on it and are reaping the rewards.
    Sue

  4. I sympathise with your murky air 😦 Is it clearer now, or will it cler soon? Why is it so thick at the moment? Does this happen very often?
    Oooh, the tree area is gorgious!!
    I have tried jerusalem artichokes a couple of times, but they never came up.
    I think the swings are gonna be quite grand when the plants grow over them.

  5. I really enjoyed this post, and it’s great to know that perennial weeds can be composted. I always hate taking the beautiful soil away from my plot on their roots, so from now on I will be making a separate compost heap for them. You’ve made me very happy! I think you should write in and tell Monty too.

    • Lol, I don’t think Monty will any take notice of me. The perennial weeds will take three or four years to compost down fully so you need to wait. It’s worth having a few compost heaps scattered around so when you fill one you can cover it with weed suppressant and start another. You will be pleasently surprised when you reap the benefits.

  6. We have a perennial weed ‘bin’ too covered over with weed control fabric. Nigel is definitely the star of GW.
    We were lucky in that although murky we didn’t suffer the pollution as badly.
    Love under your plum tree!

  7. Thank you so much. I too compost some evil weeds. Couch grass in particular we, like you, had tonnes of it. We spent a good deal of effort getting on top of the stuff and bagged and removed loads. But now if I have a bucket of weeding with some in it then it goes in the compost. The roots are easy to filter out when I use it. Really enjoyed reading your update.

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