Weeds

It's amazing that, even with winter fast approaching, weed seedlings still manage to pop their heads up. Love or hate, their ability to survive is amazing.

Of course you could eat them. No joke, many of our weeds are edible and have been foraged for centuries. And you can't do better than use the Pocket Urban Foraging Guide, full of good advice, interesting facts and great identification photos.

Listed below is information on how to deal with weeds. Since I try to grow organically, there's no advice about using chemicals.

If you find yourself taking on an allotment plot that's gone to pot and is full of weeds, don't despair. Just tackle a little bit at a time. It's amazing how quickly the first small bed will become two, then three, then more. Accept you won't turn the whole plot into vegetable nirvana within one season. Prepare the rest of your plot for future development by covering with layers of damp cardboard interspersed with organic matter such as grass clippings. Not only will this suppress weeds, the topping will compost down and improve your soil.

If you want more information than that shown below, read the Illustrated Guide to Tillage Weeds, which gives heaps of information to identify and understand all our most common weeds.

Annual weeds
These germinate, grow, flower, and set seed all within one year. The seed can remain viable for decades in the topsoil until the right conditions exist for germination. Although a single weed can produce tens of thousands of seeds, not all are viable or survive.

Nevertheless, you must hoe or pull out weed seedlings regularly to avoid them setting seed and adding to the already plentiful reservoir waiting to pop up. So long as there are no seed heads, you can add annual weeds to the compost pile.

Ideally, plant vegetable crops once you've grown them on in a greenhouse or cold frame, so they are easily distinguishable from weed seedlings.

Perennial weeds
These survive for several years, overwintering by storing food in their roots. And it's the roots that make perennial weeds so difficult to get rid of. Some grow several metres in length.

If you're a fan of rotavating soil, you certainly don't want to do that if it contains lots of perennial weeds. By chopping up the roots you'll end up with hundreds of new weeds.

To eradicate perennial weeds, carefully dig out all the roots you can get to. You'll certainly miss some, so when more appear dig those out too. For a longer term strategy, chop off any growth the appears above ground. Gradually the roots will use up their energy stores and eventually die.

Never use perennial weeds for composting.

Sprouting garlic cloves

In the shortest, greyest days of December, on the allotment there are a few small signs of next summer popping up. The garlic cloves are sprouting.

Takes only a couple of weeks from planting for the first signs to appear. Needs some frost to encourage the fattening bulbs to split into cloves. Little work required to end up with your own sweet and juicy crop.

In the darkest days of winter, you can dream of a hot July day when the bulbs are gently pulled from the ground to dry in warm sunshine. For chapter and verse on growing garlic, it's history and health benefits click Allotment Heaven Garlic.

Mud, glorious mud!

Happy as this gent looks, mud is the bane of any gardener's life. At times conditions were not too far away from this on Hill Rise allotments. For anyone with a digging desire, heavy clay and rain are an unhappy combination. The only solution is to stay well away until things dry out.

Looks like that isn't a problem I'm going to encounter on the new bowls club allotment. Surprised how easily workable the alluvial soil was, in spite of heavy early morning rain. When it did compact down, only took a light application of the spade to recover.

Managed to get strawberries planted. Installed some poles to support the Glen Ample raspberries. Still got chives and leeks to replant before giving the whole plot a good tidy.

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