This week we got our main crop onions, garlic, and shallots planted. Usually, we would have an autumn sown crop running along the side beds of the polytunnel, where they produce well, especially the garlic. As we did little in the garden last year, we are missing out on this crop, but have planted two beds outdoors from spring sown sorts. March is a good time of year to do this and we have been waiting for the last couple of weeks for the weather to turn; the weekend weather was good so we got this task done. It is quite a big job as some three hundred or so sets needed to go in.
The beds had been covered with weed fabric since they were heavily manured last autumn. When we uncovered them, they looked in good condition, although there were still some lumps of manure on the surface. We lightly turned over the top couple of inches with a fork and then used the rake to prepare a good surface. The onion sets, shallots, and garlic cloves were laid out on the surface before setting them in. For the shallots we used a trowel to set them in rather than pushing them into the soil, which compacts it and can make it difficult for the new roots to establish and lead to the bulbs lifting from the ground. Similarly for the garlic, but the onion sets, which are small, were wobbled into place in our fairly light soil, and they should be fine. This year we are growing Sturon and Stuttgarter Giant onions, Vigamor shallots, and Arno garlic. Once planted, we covered the beds with the mesh covered frames we use on the carrots and parsnips to keep carrot root fly from the crop. For now they will do a good job of preventing birds from pulling up the young onions as the shoots emerge.
After the onions, we prepared the first of the outdoor potato beds. This is perhaps a week or two early, but the weather is good at the moment and the potatoes were well chitted. We planted fourteen tubers of Sharpe’s Express, which should be ready when the pot grown potatoes currently in the glasshouses are finished. We ridged up the whole bed, so it will be easy to plant out the next batch when the time is right – we put twenty tubers of second early Wilja to chit. We plant fairly deep in troughs, then earth up a couple of times as they grow. That way, we can plant more closely without getting small tubers.
A couple of weeks ago we sowed two lengths of guttering with peas, which were ready to be moved on. We dragged out a more or less matching hollow with a draw hoe and slid them into place in the polytunnel. We then filled the gutters back up with compost and sowed a second batch, this time with our favourite mangetout, Carouby de Maussane, which bears the most attractive flowers of any pea I have seen as well as the largest flat pods.
Finally, we replaced one of our orchard trees – an old greengage – which died last autumn. The orchard trees are only young, but this one did not get established. We bought a replacement when we ordered the trees for our new plum and gage cordons. When we dug out the old tree, we observed some signs of disease – most likely canker – below the graft union, where the trunk was split. Signs of disease progressed down the trunk to soil level. The graft was not the best, either, being rather lopsided.