1 April 2023

Wet chips | March

By Mary Beton, F3 plot jotter

Rain poured in but progress continued

Opportunity is everywhere, if you look for it; it pops up, bursts forth, unspools, expands like a spring leaf before you’ve time to work out what’s happening.

Not that this happens without effort. For the F3 Project, Mark and Sue (project founders) doggedly knocked on dozens of metaphorical doors to get anywhere. But some people – the volunteers, the team who created the website, the school who own the land – will give more than you expect. You just need to ask.

The latest gift came courtesy of the Environment Agency, who delivered two truckloads of fresh golden woodchip (created during Salisbury’s River Park Project).

Woodchip was sorely needed – the alternative was plot quagmire. But the chips were delivered and volunteers willingly trudged barrow after barrow from car park to plot, spreading it thickly down paths.

And suddenly the plot just looks…a little bit more inviting, too?

Other March occurrences

Mark ordered raspberries for the plot

Speaking for myself, I will not be present on site when these are harvested, because the temptation of fresh raspberries plucked under a warming sun (one hopes) will be too much to resist.

Fifteen canes of three varieties arrived, with the aim of spreading fruit across as many months as possible. The choices were:

  • Glen Ample (summer fruiting), a fruit popular with professional growers which produces large fruit on spineless canes from late June to the end of July.
  • Autumn Bliss takes over from August and keeps going up until the first frosts in late autumn – it’s super hardy and won’t need much support.
  • Polka, an autumn-fruiting raspberry, is renowned for its sweet flavour and superior keeping ability. It crops from midsummer to October but in mild years can produce two crops a year.

All three are RHS Award of Garden Merit winners and hold Plants for Pollinators status. As you’d expect, they’re all sweet tasting, heavy cropping and easy to grow. They’re also self-fertile with excellent disease resistance.

Fingers crossed for a good first crop. Picked by someone responsible.

Gooseberries will join the raspberries

Yeah, I reckon I could harvest these safely. The plan is to plant the raspberries between three gooseberry bushes. Again, three differerent varieties were chosen (Invicta, Hinnonmaki Red and Hinnonmaki Green) for flavour, crop size, and disease resistance. Eventually, when they’re bedded in, we will start cordon training them.

Radio famous

Yes. That heading is not a lie: we were featured on BBC Wiltshire. Listen here to hear Mark’s explanation of why he and Sue started the project, interspersed with birdsong, the murmur of passing trains, and the crunch of spades in soil.

We’re moving into spring now. A bit of a fiddly time in the gardening year – you want to kick off summer, but can’t. Frost threatens.

The school, very kindly, have been lending us their greenhouse, but it’s a greenhouse they need from time to time, so we’re taking our precious seedlings out. They’re moving into a coldframe, and we’ll spread a couple of fleece rolls across the beds to protect anything we plant out. There’s a lot riding on those seedlings.

The broad beans, however, have already started the process of hardening off. Some plants will tough out what the weather throws at them.

Till next time. Maybe I’ll see you on the plot?

– Mary

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