Yes it’s that time of year again, when I make up a hot bed (or homemade ‘hot box’), ready to help propagate heat-loving seedlings such as tomatoes and peppers. We put the frame back in the Little Tunnel a week or so ago so the wood could dry out after standing out in the cold for months; and then today I filled it up with barrow-loads of fresh horse manure, soiled straw and wood shavings from the nextdoor horse stables. I added a bit of water as I went, just to ensure that the straw wasn’t too dry for all that lovely biological activity to happen. Then I turbo-screwed in the ply-wood front, filled the frame up to the top with more manure and straw/shavings, and finally placed the old recycled door on top which acts as a lid/bench top for the module trays to stand on. Hopefully in a few days the heap temperature will have crept up to around 60-70C, then started to drop down again; to leave us with a nice warm 10-20C continuous heat for sowing the seedlings next week!
I was thinking of trying to call in the troops to re-cover one of the ripped polytunnels this Thursday; however the forecast is looking a little too windy for my liking, plus rain showers are due too. So I’m now hoping that the following Thursday (5th May) will be a bit nicer. This polytunnel covering or ‘skinning’ will need plenty of volunteers to help hold down corners and get the huge sheet of plastic over the frame; we’re hoping to start at 10am and it should just take a few hours to get it into place, dig in the edges and baton it to the doorframes. We will then enjoy a free, delicious lunch from the Kitchen at Hartley, while looking proudly at our hard work, hopefully in the sunshine! If you’re interested in coming along and getting involved, please drop me an email firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll keep you updated on the plans – and the all-important weather forecast!
Now the Elephant Polytunnel is finished at last, we finally managed to plant the tomatoes last Wednesday, phew! This means that the peppers are in, tomatoes are in, some cucumbers and climbing beans are in (the rest in the next 10 days); so the tunnels have now caught up at last (the tomato tunnel still needs some work asap though, since some don’t have the strings planted under their roots to grow up; and most don’t have straining wire in place for the string to tie on too, since I’m waiting for fixings etc to arrive). I also managed to plant out all the pumpkins and the majority of squash plants in the main field last week, after using Howard the rotovator to go over the patch again (bloody thistles!). However towards the end of the patch, Howard starting losing power (I think the clutch plate has gone again); so I now have the happy annual task of trying to find someone who knows what they’re doing and will help me fix him. Hmm…
Now I need to catch up on all the jobs that have been waiting while the tunnels and crops were being sorted: we did manage to keep the successional sowings (kale, lettuce, fennel, basil) going in between jobs, so that’s not too bad (although I haven’t sown any sunflowers yet); but round the tunnels and fields desperately need a strim (the mower is still not back from the mechanics, argh); the weeds in the umbellifer/beetroot patch have shot up, and the courgettes could also do with a hoe; not to mention planting out the first batch of fennel once the ground is hoed first; I need to drill more spinach and herbs; plus in a couple of weeks the leeks will want to be planted out.
Oh and really helpfully, we have been forecast 50mph winds tonight and tomorrow, AGAIN. This year has been ridiculously windy, not just the usual wintery gales: I remember the damage the winds did to Vole Tunnel’s plastic back in February, simply bursting through the plastic; and we seem to have had strong winds pretty much weekly since then. So I’ll need to go round making more stone bags to weigh down nets today; and try & work out how to secure the polytunnel doors as much as possible. I’d love to plant hedging right next to the tunnels, but I’m not sure how practical it will be on this rented land, or how effective – we are pretty much right on top of the hill above Bath. I did start planting soft fruit bushes (such as a few red currants, right) behind Vole Tunnel, which I might look into again. Heigh ho and fingers crossed; here’s to a calmer rest of the year: and if anyone still doesn’t believe in climate change… pah!