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Apr 2 2009

Posted By: Paul 08/05/2009 07:21:00

What a difference this week with the clocks changing, lots of time in the evening to get out and work on the allotment. What's more the weather has been kindwith some well forecasted frosts. I had used up all of my fleece this week covering all the delicate crops, so when I heard there was a frost on the way I had a mad panic looking for something to protect the remaining plants. I finally settled on some wood shavings we use as bedding for the chickens, and I sprinkled a small pile on to each plant at dusk, then first thing in the morning I uncovered the leaves but left the shavings to act as a mulch around the base. As the shavings are brand new the rotting down process will remove some of the nitrogen from the soil, as is the will of wood in it's early decomposition, but I figured I have dug in a ton of manure over the winter so the plants won't mind giving up a little bit. I'm also hoping the wood shavings are going to be good Slug and Snail deterrent.

While I was covering the plants with wood shavings, I came up with a idea to keep the netting off the plants. I have previously used wooden triangles I made to suspend the netting over the seedlings, but they take a while to build and I wanted a cheaper option. I have a coil of fencing wire left over from building the chicken run, I'm not sure what gauge the wire is but it's about 4mm in diameter (SWG 9 or 8, AWG 6 or 7, U.S. gauge 8 or 9). Without straightening the wire I cut a 900mm or 3 foot sections of wire and as it's still coiled up I end up with an almost perfect arch (you may need to bend it a little if it was coiled tightly). With ten of these I can stick the ends into the ground along the row of plants and then cover with a sheet of polythene or netting. I priced out the materials and the most expensive I could make it was 8 to cover a 5 metre row with netting, or 11 with a polythene sheet.

This weekend is a Leaf weekend so I will be sowing salads under cloches, and some cabbages too. I am also planning out the structure for a forest garden around the house. The concept is quite straight forward in that every plant in your garden is edible or forms a part of a symbiotic relationship with other plants which are. Also the plants used in the garden should fall into one of seven layers, Tall trees, short trees, shrubs, herbaceous, vertical layer, groundcover layer, and the root layer. It's a concept documented by Robert Hart in his book "Forest Gardening: Cultivating an Edible Landscape" and I think one which more of us should be following. It doesn't require a large garden, in fact Robert's garden was 1/3rd of an acre and it supplied him and his brother with food all year round.

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