Onion and Leek Beds - Adding Fresh Seaweed
28th Oct 1999
That year the beds were just slightly raised above ground level with some old planks and the leeks were grown out in the open with no protection overhead. They did however have a metre high green mesh all round to prevent any wind damage on the foliage.
The beds were given a thick layer, about 6inches deep, of fresh seaweed that I had gathered from the Menai Straits which is only 5 minutes away from my house. The first time I did this together with a friend of mine, we both thought we would gather in the dry seaweed which is left in big piles at high tide.
What a drastic mistake that proved to be, particularly for my friend, as he had filled to the brim his trailer and dumped the lot in a huge pile on the concrete apron by his garage door and close to his front door. Within a few hours his wife was going up the wall, wherever she went in the house small black flies were everywhere, even in her bedroom. A small area of wall close to the front door that was painted white was now black, covered with these flies. My friend had no alternative, short of having a divorce, but to empty a whole gallon can of strong disinfectant on to the seaweed and within minutes he was literally brushing and shovelling up thousands of dead flies.
These had obviously taken refuge by their thousands in the dry seaweed at high tide level and when we were forking it into the trailer we never noticed. In my case, as I have to wheel barrow everything down a narrow side entrance to my back garden, they had been forked up into plastic bags and these went directly on to the beds. I repeat this story just in case any of you make the same mistake, this time I shall pick up moist seaweed close to the sea.
The seaweed will again be bagged up and will be dug straight in to the beds in a thick layer about 9 inches down. From my experience last time I left a thick layer of seaweed, between 4 and 6 inches, again about nine inches down and covered it over with soil. The bed was given a light dusting of lime in January and when it was forked over during early March I couldn't believe the fact that there was hardly a trace of it left in the bed. One good tip when you are applying lime to dug ground outside, wait until you have a heavy frost in January, the following morning you can scatter whatever lime the plot needs by walking all over it. As the soil will be rock hard you will do no damage whatsoever to the soil structure.
Giving this much seaweed to both the leeks and onion beds will mean that I shall dispense with the normal few ounces per square yard of Calcified seaweed. A question that I'm often asked is; shouldn't the seaweed be left outside exposed to the rains for a few weeks in order to wash out the salts? From my experience when the seaweed was dug straight into beds that were then outside, it was well washed out by the Winter rains. As the beds this time are under cover I shall have to make sure that they are regularly soaked using a sprinkler. However the beds will be turned over again in the Spring and I don"t think a little salt in the soil will do any harm to the leeks and onions.
As soon as the beds a re completed they will again be soaked all over with a strong solution of Armillatox as will the polythene covering the tunnels. This way any algae will be killed and any solution that runs off into the beds will do nothing but good.
Parsnip and Carrot Beds
The next task will be to empty out all the parsnips and carrot beds to prevent the sand inside becoming like concrete making the task of boring the holes later on in Spring much more difficult. When I constructed these beds two years ago I designed them in such a way that every bed along one side has been built up with planks on edge. This means that when I want to empty the beds out, I first remove the planks and a lot of sand will just fall out on it's own, the remainder I can then gaff out.
I did attempt to core as much of the compost out of the old bore hole as I could, however there was still a lot left down the lower regions. When I shall be emptying out the lower section with a shovel, you can often see the compost appearing in cone shapes, these will be thrown to one side and added to the garden soil. Once happy that I have got to the bottom of the pit the unenviable task begins then of shovelling it all back in. After completing the re filling the beds will be left to weather until next February.
This is your last chance to take up the few remaining places on my vegetable weekend which is being held at the beautiful Plas Tan y Bwlch study centre within the Snowdonia National Park from Friday 12th November to Sunday 14th. There are lectures by some top growers including an insight into GMO (Genetically Modified Organisms) and you will be entertained on the Saturday evening by a Welsh Male Voice Choir. The all inclusive cost for the weekend is £152.00, please ring 01248 714 851 for full details.