Monday, May 16, 2011

Conspiracy theory

We British are obsessed with the weather. 
We talk about it all the time. It is the basis for polite conversation on the commute to work..."Morning! turned out nice again" is one of very few accepted phrases exchanged by strangers on the 6.32 to London each morning.
And yet, somehow, the total lack of mad March storms and April showers have gone unmentioned, perhaps even unnoticed!

That's just weird!

We still have not had a single drop of rain round our way. Not one. April is always the wettest month of the year so to have absolutely no rain, you would think, would be news.
Not world news, I'm not suggesting for one moment it's as serious as the flooded Mississippi, the Spanish or Japanese earthquakes or the American typhoons, but locally I feel it deserves a mention.

 My allotment is on clay.
Thick, claggy, orange clay and it's a bit of a nightmare.
Three seasons in it's not really improving at all and I'm starting to get discouraged.
I've imported manure, double dug, trench composted, made mountains of leaf mould, mulched heavily with straw, turned over rough for winter, and still each spring I'm planting into builders rubble.
These photos (ignore the date, they were taken yesterday) show what I mean.
This is never going to be a 'friable loam' is it?
Whatever I add, this is what I get, fist sized chunks that stick to spade when wet or unbreakable as concrete when dry.
Either way, it's bloody hard work.

The books keep telling me that clay is full of life and potential, that with some organic matter will be unlocked....but I've been piling on organic matter for three years and nothing is happening.
In the garlic bed, where I dug out the first layer of clay and replaced it entirely with compost and manure (topped up twice a year) the clay foundation is sucking the moisture down to leave great chasms on the surface.
I would normally mulch this bed in April when the soil has had a chance to warm and the ground is good and wet, but I'm still waiting for the good and wet part.

Another casualty of this dry spell, my comfrey has developed rust. It grows just near the tree line and I hoped it's long taproots would be able to find moisture but it has really been struggling for a few weeks. I've tried watering but the water just runs straight off down the hill. It was wilting for a while before the rust arrived.
I just hope the young oak tree behind it is coping better.

One or two of the shallots in the raised beds are bolting and going to seed.
I'm thinking I might let this one go and harvest the seed for a bumper crop next year. These are the legendary 'Banana shallots' absolutely massive and easy to peel. I couldn't get hold of them from any seed seller, garden centre etc. Folk advertised them but when they arrived they were bog standard so I bought these from a greengrocers.
I put them in their own little raised bed so that any disease on them wouldn't contaminate the whole plot, it's always a risk with 'shop bought' and they're doing really well.
I've never grown shallots from seed before....if it works though I'll be well happy!

And still, I'm worrying about this weather....or rather, I'm worrying about the silence about this weather. By now we should be getting those public information adverts from 'Thames Water' on how to conserve the stuff. There should be talk of hosepipe bans and the papers should have headlines misquoting the met office. This is, after all, the driest spring certainly of my life.
Agriculture in the South East must be suffering, surely there will be price hikes and shortages later in the year so why so quiet? hmm?
It's making me paranoid.


Heiko said...

No tells us anything! Spooky! I also have clay soil and little I can do, because it's also on steep terraces and with the rain any topsoil piled on top runs off. However we designed a garden for some friends on pure dead clay. Even weeds wouldn't grow on there. So we made raised beds and piled a foot of horse manure on top and a few inches of top soil. We did this in January and now there veg grows better than ours.

sunflower said...

Hello Heiko!
Have you got your caravan in place yet?
I've made some raised beds with varying degrees of success but I really want is to unlock the the nutrients in the clay!
We finally got some rain yesterday and there are clouds bubbling up as I type so maybe things will recover!