And sow it begins

Had a very interesting few days both here at the home garden and in work. I had recently been researching Rock Dust and its ability to re-mineralise soils, providing many of the minor but necessary elements to plant health. Rock Dust is a by-product of quarrying and can be sourced cheaply if directly. The best types are Volcanic based rocks eg. Basalt and it’s best to avoid granite. John who presents “Grow your Greens”, a U.S. based youtube channel is a big advocate of using rock dust. The link is: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xYV_HK0cTFc. He explains the benefits in more detail. Nearer to home its use in Scotland and just look at the resulting ” taties”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=163n2n7Bm5I. Interestingly I think they have managed to grow tomatoes on the same ground for 8 years with no ill effects and put the sucess down to the presence of the rock dust. Worth a look!

I,m not saying this is sustainable practice( bringing in this stuff), i,m just interested to know if there is something to it as there is a logic as to why it should work in principal. If you think about it we’re all growing on a bed of rocks and plants with deep taproots can do our mining for us on site as happens in nature.

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This little tub was from Quickcrop.ie and is supplied to them from Rockdust.ie ,costs about 33 euro including shipping.

The recommended application rates from Scotland and the U.S. are 445grams per square foot,( 1 pound) approximately 20 tonnes per acre. This initial application lasts up to 10 years as rock dust does not easily wash out of the soil like seaweed dust etc. It could be very expensive covering a large area buying in small buckets but not necessarily so. This 20kg bucket for example will cover 4.16square meters or a little over 2 ( 4X8) foot beds. It is possible to order by the tonne or mixed with compost at a rate of 9kg per tonne.

In the end I applied the dust at 100grams per square foot to the tunnels and some raised beds, lightly forking it in.This is just under a quarter pound and enough for this year. If it goes well then I will apply a full re-mineralising application. It will take some time to take effect so ideally apply in the Autumn.

The Chitted First Early seed potatoes were planted in the small greenhouse over the weekend at 1 foot spacings and 500mm between the short rows. The varietys are Land leaguers and Home Guard. I’m planning on following these quick croppers with tomatoes.

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Mid Febuary is about right for sowing, tomato, peppers, and aubergines those plants that need a long growing season. This year I’m planning on growing about 50 tomato plants at 500mm spacings covering just under 1/4 of the large polytunnel in work. We have sown 10 seeds to each 3 / 4 inch pot at about 2cm spacing. It really doesn’t seem like a lot but that’s all we need. When the seedlings are big enough to transplant (when the leaves begin to touch) they will be re-potted and sideshoots taken using willow water or rooting powder to pot up. These trays have been placed on a sunny sill indoors with good heating, watering from below using the trays and draining after 20 or 30 mins.

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Most of the seeds are open pollinated varieties sources from seedsavers, brown envelope seeds and other Irish suppliers. It’s really important to support these guys. I’m Looking forward to the brandy wines and mexican midge this year. I usually record the date sown, variety and method of sowing eg. Tomato Moneymaker 9×1 in 3 inch pot . This way you can monitor the viability of older seed and adjust the sowing method or other variables if there is poor germination.

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As well as onion sets we are trying some onions grown from seed. I’ve read they taste better, grow better etc etc but we shall see. Its hard to get good onion sets with a round shape as descibed in books, most are elongated, too big or too small (rubbish)

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In general there’s a massive cleanup on site in preparation for the growing season. Here we cleaned up a small potting area in the polytunnel.  We put down mypex covered with wood chips. I think this is better than dry dusty bare soil Bit by bit the work is getting done..

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We decided to dig in the green manure in preparation for  planting some first early potatoes. For a later sown crop we could have simply covered and waited longer. The sets arrived today and are chitting awaiting planting on Thurday.

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Pruning out the last of the Autumn raspberries. This should have been done in the Autumn after fruiting but better late than never.

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I,m learning the basics of pruning on a variety of apple trees, cordons, espaliers and free standing. My little fruit trees back home are all on dwarf and extremely dwarfing root stocks so it’s a treat to be able to work on these trees. Again a bit late.

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Apart from tomatoes, aubergines, peppers, early potatoes, onions and shallots and early carrots i,m gonna hold off sowing or planting any more “annuals” untill March. The reason is that we have quite a bit of over wintering salads in the tunnel and their will be nowhere to move them onto indoors.The last thing we need is leggy plants needing to move on and it’s still too cold outside. The main sowing will be done in March. In the meantime we are setting up an outdoor perennial area to include strawberries (Elsanta), asparagus, rhubard, and lots of other goodies in time.

pat

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