Grow it yourself diary: week 81
IT REALLY is hard to believe that we're in December and approaching the end of the 2013 growing season.
The countdown is on now to put the veg patch into hibernation for the winter, and this year I am determined to get that done before Christmas. So I was pleased that after a couple of bad weeks, where I couldn't find the time or motivation to get to the veg patch, last weekend I put in some long hours.
I got the majority of the veg patch beds cleared and weeded, and got seven of them covered down with barrows of compost from the compost heap and then a layer of black plastic. The former will help return fertility to the soil after a long growing year; the latter will keep the worst of the weather off the soil over the winter and help the soil warm up a little quicker in the spring.
Getting the plastic in place is a bit of a chore, to be honest, wrestling with huge sheets of it, but my seven-year-old Nicky was on hand to help, putting bricks in place on the sides to prevent the wind from blowing the sheets away. Time spent now, getting it neat and secure, lessens the risks of some of the plastic taking off in a winter gale.
My friend Feargal and I were debating the pros and cons of the black plastic during the week – once a fan, Feargal has opted instead this year to use straw as a covering on top of compost or seaweed. The straw, he reckons, provides a similar level of cover as the plastic, and also starts to decompose over the winter. He takes what's left of the straw off the beds in the spring and puts it on the compost heap – a good way to bulk out this heap early in the year. Though he has to buy in a bale of straw from a local farmer, he reckons the straw is a prettier and more organic option than plastic. Perhaps he's right.
Finally this week, I also had to take some remedial action on my kale plants, which had been bent over somewhat by recent winds. I tied the plants to a bamboo cane and earthed them up well at the base. Kale plants are going to be important in the coming months, so it's worth doing what you can to protect them.