st_ouennais (st_ouennais) wrote,

In the Field

This morning  I felled a couple of  4 metre sycmores.  It only took half an hour.  Believe me it is less arduous than taking a sickle to bracken.  Practice is needed to get accustomed to handling the axe, but once you have the feel for it....  Washington of course is famous for taking  down a cherry tree, and Gladstone took it up as a hobby when an M.P. and was still doing it in his 80's.

We have plenty of trees around the field, especially sycamore, but also sweet chestnuts, elders and oaks.  That means plenty of leaves for leafmould .  But sycmours are prolific seeders and trees are liable to pop up everywhere.  Those on the veg beds get weeded out asap, but  at the north end among the bracken I let them grow a couple of years.  Apart from sequestering a bit of carbon, it also provides a nice size of ramial like branches to use as a base for compost heaps. It is best to let the dry a year before using.  You do have to think ahead to do this.

I had forgotten to mention a little informal experiment I did last year with leafmould.  I planted a few of my Lady Balfour potatoes under the chicken wired area when I started filling it.  I was a bit dubious thinking the rodents would probably eat all the tubers, but I persisted.  The bin ended up about a metre deep in leaves by the end of November.  However leaves contract in volume very notably as decay proceeds and by April there were potato shoots up through the  remaining  layer.  I didn't get round to harvesting until late.  Truth is I forgot amongst the other jobs and only got to it when I wanted to bag up the leaf mold and dismantle the bin so I could plant out  stuff.

I was peasantly surprised.  They were easy to lift - just scrape away the leaf mold with the fork.  They were much bigger than my normal grown tubers.  Yes there wes some evidence of  slug damage and rodent gnawing  , but  plenty were good enough to  harvest.  My normal planted potatoes struggled with the lack of rain.  I did water them but the process is too slow by hand to make much difference.  The result I would say the leafmould bin potatoes were better and certainly  less effort.  That probably just reflects the remakable  moisture retention capability of leafmould.  Given I was going to collect  the leaves and make the bin anyway a harvest of minimum effort potatoes was a big bonus.  

Elsewhere the outdoor  tomato harvest has gone from  looking  unbelievably good to  almost a write off.   Unusually for outdoot tomatoes I had quite a bit of greenback.  That is caused by  excess strong sunlight and too high heat.  It is much more common I think in greenhouses.  Then the rain came.  Too much water after a dry period  causes the fruit to burst.  There's still enough salvageable for cooking down for passata, but we probably won't have as many bottled as last year despite growing twice the area.

Tags: in the field, leafmould, potatoes, tomatoes, trees
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