Down on the Allotment

Matron grows vegetables and fruit in a courtyard garden. Which edibles will tolerate less than ideal growing conditions. Discovering how veggies can grow in partial shade.

Friday, June 27, 2014

London Clay Soil

 These runner beans Aeron Purple Star are enjoying the warm weather. I make sure they are well watered and that the flowers are sprayed regularly to help the flowers to set.  In warm, dry weather runner beans need rain to help set the flowers so a regular mist or light spray can help this.
 My first tiny courgette is starting to develop on the plant. I love these Black Forest Climbing courgettes. I grow them up a trellis to save space. Always a good do-er.
 In the greenhouse my Italian melon cucumbers are beginning to climb up the trellis. They are growing several inches each day now.
 These are little Sweet Potato cuttings that I managed to take last Autumn. I kept the cuttings in a glass of water on the windowsill all Winter, then potted them up in the greenhouse. This variety Beauregard does well in the UK climate.  Now looking good and the soil has warmed up so they went out yesterday.
 Now here comes the challenge!  I have never been able to grow carrots successfully.  I love fresh carrots, and Leo loves them too.  I have very hard London Clay soil here and carrot roots need an open, light, sandy soil to put down long tap roots.
 In this hard London clay the carrot roots just cannot go down. I end up with badly mis-shapen and forked carrots. I have been digging this plot for more than 30 years and despite regular additions of compost and organic matter it is still like digging through cannon balls of clay sometimes.
 Digging, weeding, removing stones and the addition of some sand to loosen up the soil just means I am gardening on hard tennis ball lumps of clay covered in sand!
 Even using a sieve just puts a small crust on top of the soil and these little golf balls of hard concreted clay are impossible to break. I have been watering this patch for several days to try to make it easier to work but it is just so hard still.
So I managed a small patch of reasonable seed bed. Left uncovered the neighbourhood cats would just dig it up and use it as a toilet! grrrrrr! So here is my attempt at some Autumn King carrots.  Let the battle commence!

11 Comments:

At 8:08 AM, Blogger Dewberry said...

Lovely veggies you have there :)

My runner beans are probably growing backwards :) because of the cold weather. They're stalling. Today I'm going to visit my plot, so I'll check them.
The last time I visited the plot I also saw a tiny courgette, I hope it's now ready to harvest :)

Greatings!

 
At 11:40 AM, Blogger Mark Willis said...

If growing the carrots in your new raised bed is unsuccessful, why not try some in pots and containers? There are some very short varieties that do well in pots.

 
At 11:46 AM, Blogger Stewart Dorman said...

I was thinking a raised bed over the clay might work. That stuff looks dreadful.Good luck.

 
At 9:14 AM, Blogger Carrie said...

I'm so excited about the sweet potatoes!! Everything looks great and what a lot of hard work you have put in to make that soil plant friendly! Every best wish with carrot growing (Autumn King are lovely) - I'm on your side in this battle :)

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Damo said...

Good luck with the carrots I admire your perserverence!

 
At 10:04 PM, Blogger ~Holly~ said...

I love the pretty flowers on the bean plants! I live in oregon and also have bad clay soil! I grow my veggies in raised beds and containers.

 
At 1:51 PM, Blogger Rich said...

Good to see someone else growing sweet potatoes. My Malaysian mother in law had tons of them in Malaysia so I thought I would try them here last year. Quite successful, lots of leaves for stir frying and the potatoes themselves when the weather got cold.

 
At 9:05 PM, Blogger Kelli said...

I've had my first flower on a courgette this week as well. Great to see.

 
At 9:18 PM, Blogger Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Good luck with the carrots Matron. We have mixed results with them here. I sowed a whole loads of seed (different varieties) in Autumn and have had hardly any come up. Very disappointing. Previously we've had quite good crops. I find also that just sowing lots of seed in a patch rather than rows also works better. They definitely prefer a light soil though!

 
At 6:01 PM, Blogger Catherine: Made with love and garlic said...

We're on the London clay too - but you've done so much more with yours! Watching with interest to see how your carrots come along - I've given up the fight and reverted to bringing in soil but if it works it'd make life a lot easier!

 
At 6:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Matron,
I have just discovered your blog and I am working my way through all of your posts. Originally from Cambridge G.B., I have been in the U.S.A. battling New York State weather for the past 25 years.

We too have solid clay soil that is so bad we use a pick axe to move. I have finally resorted to using raised beds for vegetable growing. You might want to try this for carrots.

I would recommend that you do not add any sand to your clay soil. The University of California Agicultural Extension and the U.S. Department of Agriculture have discovered that adding sand turns the clay into an even harder soil - like concrete. The recommendation is to add more compost, manure and gypsum if your soil is alkaline.

I look forward to continuing to read through your posts. Thank you for all the useful information. Deb

 

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